Wandsworth has enjoyed a reputation over the past 30 years as reforming council that delivers the best value local services in the country. We will continue to do this while developing a new agenda which addresses the challenges and issues of today.
A big part of that agenda for me is extending choice and opportunity across our communities. Having arrived in the UK from Uganda at the age of 17, following the expulsion of Uganda Asians, you may not be surprised to know that I place a high value on individual freedom, choice and opportunity.
I would like hard working families in our borough to have the choice to own a stake in their own home. I would like parents to have the choice on which school their child should attend. I want to improve the link between our neighbourhoods and job opportunities. These are issues which I feel passionate about.
For example, I do not think it is right that people with jobs are effectively pushed to the back of the queue when it comes to council house provision. Currently in Wandsworth our available data is showing that less than a third of social housing is being awarded to people in jobs. Having housing estates where the majority of people are out of work is not good for the local economy and it is not good for people living there. I strongly believe that social housing should be an aspiration – just like it was back in the 50s and 60s. Of course we need a safety net for people who, often through no fault of their own, find themselves out of a job. However, we also need a local lettings policy that encourages work rather than worklessness alone.
I also believe we need fresh new ideas to help people into low cost home ownership. We all know that back in the 1980s ‘Right to Buy’ broke down the economic divide that surrounded home ownership at the time. I am keen to develop and lobby Government around a new set of ideas to create a new generation of home owners. We will look at trying to implement a local deposit scheme – funded from housing receipts and development levies – which gives our tenants and young people a vital leg up on to the property ladder with the deposit repayable once the property is sold. With average property prices in Wandsworth being around £475,000, our young people can no longer rely on the Bank of Mum and Dad.
Finally, I want to focus on delivering more educational choice. We are fortunate in Wandsworth to have some fantastic schools but I want every parent to know that they have the chance to do something different for their child. If they want to start their own school we should be there to help them – wherever they live. Free schools are not just for the more affluent areas they should work in all parts of the borough.I would say that better parental choice and higher standards are even more important in the less affluent areas – opening up opportunities that can lead to greater good.
By working hard with central government and our local communities and partners, I believe we can pioneer a new sense of radicalism Wandsworth and in doing so, breaking down the barriers to opportunity, choice and personal freedom.