Cllr Will Sweet is the Leader of the Conservative Group on Wandsworth Council.
Labour passed its 100th day in control of Wandsworth Council over the summer. It’s been a lesson in how quickly a Labour administration can unravel 44 years of good Conservative governance.
Since I was elected the new Leader of the Opposition in May, I’ve said we’ll work with Labour where it makes sense for residents – continuing the investment in parks and the environment that we started, for instance. And our hardworking Conservative councillors are still delivering in their communities.
That doesn’t mean letting Labour off the hook. Residents are tightening their belts and the new Council should do the same. Instead, the Labour Council has dropped value for money like a stone. We’ll be working constructively to get them to change course.
Labour’s £1 million vanity project
In its first 100 days, Labour allocated £1 million to give its Leader four extra staff for the next four years. We were prepared to give them a fair hearing, but – despite us repeatedly asking for the detail – it’s unclear what these staff will do – that hundreds of existing council staff don’t do already. It’s a £1 million vanity project.
The only local resident whose life that £1 million is going to improve seems to be the Labour Leader’s.
Labour’s promises on Council Tax
In its first 100 days, Labour has backed away from the biggest promise it made during the election – to cut council tax next year. It’s always important to keep promises, and especially during elections, when residents place their trust in politicians.
Wandsworth famously has the lowest Council Tax in the country. With neighbouring Labour boroughs charging twice as much, Council Tax became the battleground issue of the election. Labour stole our clothes by promising voters the “Same Low Council Tax”.
But with days to go and barely a whisker between us on the campaign trail, Labour raised the stakes by promising to cut Council Tax by 1 per cent next year. In such a tight election, it made a difference.
In its first 100 days, Labour has, astonishingly, twice refused to confirm they’ll make that cut.
In its first 100 days, Labour has been on a spending spree. But spending money is not the same as getting results.
Labour can’t explain how their £100,000 “citizens’ assembly” on pollution will actually make the air cleaner or what their new “champions” (Labour councillors paid £2,800 extra each year) will actually do. Nor have they justified £100,000 in new grants to be doled out by a Labour councillor without the usual checks and balances by the cross-party grants committee.
Labour has shredded our flagship policy to build 1,000 new homes at no cost to taxpayers by building a mix of shared ownership, market and social housing. They’ve switched the shared ownership and market homes to social rent and now they’re planning to cancel our amazing Alton estate regeneration project, disappointing thousands of residents.
Labour’s summer of strikes
In its first 100 days, Labour marched with the GMB union. The same GMB union whose parking warden strike is said to have cost the Council hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost revenue. Labour also joined the picket lines of the rail and Tube unions, siding against local residents who wanted to get to work, school or hospital.
Labour’s magic money tree
In its first 100 days, Labour has begun to plunder the Council reserves to fund its spending spree. That’s money we need to protect residents from debt and to manage emergencies, as we did during covid.
When we ran the Council, taxpayers’ money was not spent without us being sure it would make a difference for residents. We aren’t against supporting the new Council where it helps residents, but Labour’s approach is to splurge without explaining value for money.
The Wandsworth motto – ‘We Serve’ – is a reminder of the job politicians are there to do. Labour must keep their Council Tax promises, ditch the £1 million vanity project, and focus on value for money.