The key to our success has been that as a Conservative council we keep to our word. We do not make promises we can’t keep and we will never take risks with our finances that could jeopardize our ability to deliver top-quality services. And yes, we keep the Council Tax down – but we never let a commitment to a low tax get in the way of delivering excellent local services.
We are also a borough that gets the basics right. That means great schools – 97 per cent good or outstanding – clean streets, refreshing parks and commons, bustling town centres and safe communities.
I also believe it is also our job to do everything we can to even out the playing field across the community and to create an environment where everybody can succeed through hard work and endeavour. The Tory Party has a long and rich tradition of providing support and helping to unlock the potential of every citizen. This is what drives so many of us into active politics. This is what brought me into local politics. The wish to make a difference is what motivates me every single day of the week.
This philosophy is embedded in everything that we do at Wandsworth Council – from our ever-improving schools, helping the youngest get the best start in life, through to leading the regeneration of areas like Nine Elms. Our success has been recognized by the Social Mobility Commission, chaired by former Labour Cabinet Minister Alan Milburn, who regards Wandsworth as one of the best places in the country for people to get on in life. At the same time, PWC showed our borough to be the best borough in London when it comes to the factors that are critical to success; including employment opportunities, health, income and skills. Not a bad record…
The imminent arrival of Apple’s UK headquarters to Battersea is further proof of our success and a massive endorsement of our vision for the borough. This combined with other major new arrivals (Penguin Random House) and expansions (Royal College of Art’s Innovation Centre), will spur on the growth in new businesses and job opportunities of tomorrow. These institutions are not just good for our borough. They are also good for our residents.
In Wandsworth we strive to ensure that nobody is left behind. This is at the heart of our “Aspirations Agenda”. Its aim is to drive cooperation across council departments and indeed other public agencies to ensure this goal is met; bringing together everyone’s work and thinking in the areas of education, health, housing, employment and skills.
We can never rest on our laurels, however, and this is why we are investing so heavily in improving housing conditions on estates such as The Alton, Winstanley and York Road; investing £150 million to build new homes that are more affordable to the people who live or work here. This is an estate regeneration plus programme – as well as providing more and new homes, we are also working to improve outcomes in health, education and employment.
Wandsworth is famed for its “hidden homes” initiative. We have developed that vision further and committed ourselves to delivering 1,000 new homes – financed by the council and built on council owned land.60 per cent of these homes will be affordable homes – these will be homes for people who live or work in the borough. No wonder Sadiq Khan is such a strong admirer of our housing agenda!
Only a strong, well-managed council could afford to make a commitment on that scale. All communities benefit when we tackle the disadvantage and lost potential in our midst. We are committed to ensuring that life chances become a reality for all our local residents.
It is also why, as mentioned before, we are leading the regeneration of Nine Elms which is bringing a whole new world of opportunities for young people. And it is why we are not content that 97% of our schools are good or outstanding because we want 100 per cent.
To illustrate our vision and commitment on an individual level, let me share with you the story of a young man from Tooting. By his own admission, his life had continued to head down a path of crime until he encountered the council’s Workmatch Scheme. Just as the name suggests, Workmatch matches a person’s desires and ambitions with the skill, training and job opportunities you need to achieve them. The direction this service provided helped this young man to secure an Advanced Electrical Engineering Apprenticeship at Nine Elms giving him the focus to turn his life around and he is now well on the way to becoming a qualified electrician. He can earn up to £1,000 a week.
Helping to unlock the potential of people, like this young man, is what my council is about. It is very exceptional ….