Local elections 2018 Preview: Wandsworth Borough Council
Labour councillors in Wandsworth are determined to end the 40-year streak of Conservative control on 3 May.
Although President Donald Trump recently described Wandsworth as an “off location” it seems for this election councillors are concentrating on location above all else.
The last time most voters chose councillors was 2014, exceptions being by-elections in Earlsfield ward in 2015, Tooting in 2016 and Thamesfield in 2017.
There are 227 candidates standing throughout the borough.
As it stands in Wandsworth, the Tories hold 39 seats; Labour 19, and the Wandsworth Independent Alliance have two.
Putney is definitely a ward to watch. Conservative Justine Greening rallied local enthusiasm with her fervent remain views (75% of Wandsworth voted remain) and her rejection of the Heathrow plans. But her recent resignation may have undermined Conservative confidence.
Battersea is a site of contentious development debates. There are calls from Labour to halt planning applications from Battersea Power Station, unless the developers reinstate plans for 250 affordable flats that were dropped last year with the Conservative council’s approval.
The split wards of Earlsfield, Bedford and Queenstown straddle between Conservative and Labour with representatives from both.
In the 2014 elections Labour were just 4.3% behind the Conservatives in West Hill.
Councillors are steering clear of national issues and paying more attention to bins rather than Brexit.
Housing in Wandsworth is the principal issue for most campaigners.
While London has excelled in creating jobs, there’s a demographic of young professionals who are priced out of the housing market.
Conservative campaigner for Tooting, Dan Watkins, said: “Building more new homes will be key to resolving this issue and that’s why I’m supporting the re-election of the Conservative council in Wandsworth.
"Not only have they built more new flats and houses than other local boroughs in recent years, but their new housing plan is very ambitious, including the construction of 5,500 affordable homes in the next four years.”
Labour Assembly Member Cllr Leonie Cooper, who represents Furzedown Ward, said: “The main issue is housing. There is not enough, it is too expensive for many people to buy, it is really expensive to rent. The local Conservatives record is appalling.
“Lots of expensive luxury flats – but so little done for everyone else.”
Latchmere Labour Cllr Tony Belton said: “The availability of affordable housing is far and away the number 1 issue.
And that means genuinely affordable and not the current accepted government definitions which are 80% of free market rental or purchase prices.”
Wandsworth Labour insists that it’s their top priority to clean up our streets and tackle fly-tipping which has tripled in recent years.
Wandsworth Conservatives have promised to plant 1000 trees every year.
The felling of 140-year-old trees at Totting Common under the Conservatives was poorly received.
Cllr Cooper expressed her frustrations with the council and said: “I handed in a petition from 5,000 people (now signed by 6,500) but the council went ahead and ripped out 80 well-loved chestnut trees.”
Cllr Candida Jones expressed concerns that many young people living in Wandsworth are suffering.
She said in the past few weeks she has received letters from her children’s schools explicitly begging parents for money.
Councillor for Roehampton & Putney, Jeremy Ambache (formerly a Lib Dem, now Labour representative) pointed out that under the Tory council, Ofted rates the fostering services in Wandsworth as ‘Inadequate’.
However, Conservative councillor for Fairfield, Will Sweet tweeted: “24,000 children have benefited from ‘Outstanding’ schools in Wandsworth since 2014. Half our schools are Outstanding (5th best in country) and 98% Good or Outstanding (also 5th best).”
Predicting election results seems foolish in the wake of recent political surprises but if the Conservatives lose Wandsworth, one of the eight Tory flagships, the Prime Minister will be undermined and this could lead to the end of May come June.