Update: Council Budget Cuts – More Pain on the Way!

Budget cuts affecting Wanstead

As of 13th January the local newspapers are quoting further reductions in budget cuts. These include:

1) A reduction of street sweeping in residential roads from every 5 days to every 10 – meaning your road WILL become a lot dirtier, with more litter, and the potential to increase the rat and fox population blighting Wanstead.

2) Cancellation of street sweeping of all smaller shopping areas.

3) Cancellation of street sweeping in Wanstead High Street in the early mornings between 6 and 8 am. This means the High Street will become much dirtier, and with no litter picking services on Sundays rat and fox populations will increase as a result.

4) Reduction in the size of staff responsible for enforcement, so more abandoned cars, less adherence to shop front signage regulations.

5) Reduction in Parks Police. One Sergeant and 4 Constables to be sacked! Crime will increase as will anti social behavior.

AND FOR LESS, YOU PAY MORE. COUNCIL TAX IS DUE TO RISE BY 3.1% FROM APRIL 1ST 2012!

Budget cuts – worse off in Wanstead!

Budget cuts affecting Wanstead

Redbridge Council has begun a programme of sustained cuts to the tune of £25 million that will have a huge impact on Wanstead. To put it in context, Redbridge has an annual budget of around £90 million. Around £6 million has already been saved in the current financial year, which leaves about £19 million to go.

Admittedly, the Council faces an unenviable task. Its grant has been reduced from central Government, and no one wants to see an increase in Council tax just as we exit a recession. Faced with tough economic circumstances, the Council has had to make tough economic decisions.

However, there is no getting away from the fact that over the next 4 years, we, as tax payers and residents, will be getting less bang, for our hard earned Council Tax buck.

The Wanstead Society has set out below what some of these cuts will mean specifically for Wanstead. Although, the Council won’t fully decide its budget for 2011 until March so the below will be subject to decisions taken then.

The Good News

It’s not all bad! From 1st April 2011 a pot of £300,000 is being made available for works in the area of the High Street. These works are Highway related. This could mean new lighting, signage, better pavements, road surface improvements etc. The idea is to improve our street scene.

Got any ideas on how it should be spent – contact your local Councillor sue.Nolan@redbridge.gov.uk or Chris.Cummins@redbridge.gov.uk

The Bad News

£117,000 reduction in planned road maintenance this year, increasing to a reduction of £150,000 in 2011/12 – which means larger pot holes, less resurfacing of roads and pavements and potentially damage to vehicles.

No street sweepers/ bins emptied in parks on Sundays: More litter, increase in rat and fox population in Christchurch Park.

70% Reduction in flood defence spending: Increased risk to flooding in river Roding, and damage to surrounding properties and infrastructure, e.g. roads.

Reduction in street cleansing staff: Toilets not staffed fully.

Not recruiting Lolly-pop men/ women: Possible loss of lolly-pop man outside Wanstead C.o.E Primary when he retires.

Reduction in planning officers: Slower planning process, possibility of planning applications not being given full attention, increase in enforcement notices.

Removal of opening times at weekends for payments and benefits office: Greater inconvenience to public.

All of the above represent in year 2010/11 savings. There are further reductions for 2011/12 and 2012/13.

There is much pain due still to come – we will keep our members informed!

Sunday Farmer’s Market – For or Against?

Wanstead Farmer's Market

Most of us agree that the monthly Sunday market creates a buzz and brings people to Wanstead, but what’s it doing to our regular shopkeepers?

If it’s denting their trade, they’re keeping mum… But how can it not affect them when staples like meat, cheese, eggs, bread, cakes, sauces and pickles are bought from the stalls? Surely that must affect the shops’ takings.

“If the market benefits the coffee shops, I wouldn’t oppose it,” says Nish of Londis stoutly. But if the shopkeepers themselves are prepared to keep a stiff upper lip, some of us who live here are more outspoken.

“We want our shops to survive because they’re here for us all week, not just once a month like market people,” one worried resident said. “If the Sunday traders brought us things we can no longer get since Dunhams the drapers, Andrews the builders’ merchants, Zone the household shop and, of course, Woollies closed, well then we would welcome them with open arms.”

Such things as? Easy: those little usefuls like socks and slippers, bras and knickers, baby clothes and bath mats, tea cloths and tin openers, screws and screwdrivers, pillowslips and pinafores, tee-shirts and tights.

We could go on – but what’s your view?

Demolition/collapse* of 46-48 High Street

Wanstead's oldest shops have been destroyed

May 2009 saw the demise of the very old and picturesque but unlisted cottages converted to shops in the heart of the Wanstead Village Conservation Area.

These cottages were demolished/collapsed* (*read according to your views) without either planning permission or conservation area consent; permission had been granted for works to the roof and front gable only. The scaffolding was wrapped in polythene sheeting so no one could see what was going on behind. LBR have informed us that the building owner’s defence is that it fell down during the works.

The Wanstead Society have been following this case closely; below is our ensuing correspondence with LBR in an endeavour to reconsider resurrecting the prosecution and secondly in the hope that this lame approach won’t be repeated in future similar circumstances.

Whilst the correspondence is with Mr. Broad, we understand that the decisions were taken by his predecessor Emma Watson:

Our ref: E0565/09 29/06/2010
Date:  29 June 2010

Dear Mr Wernick,

Complaint in relation to 46-48 High Street Wanstead

I refer to your letter of complaint dated 26 June 2010 in relation to the Council’s decision not to proceed with the prosecution over the alleged unlawful demolition of the building at 46-48 High Street, Wanstead. Your letter contained three specific questions and I will answer each of these in turn.

1/ Expert commentary was sought and considered in relation to the structural engineer’s report prepared on behalf of the defence.
2/ No other prosecutions are to be brought.
3/ There are no plans to resurrect the case.

In terms of costs, running a case which not longer meets the evidence test set down in the code for crown prosecutors, runs the risk that in the event of an acquittal, the Court would take the view that the prosecution was brought unreasonably or even maliciously. In those circumstances an order for costs would lie against the prosecuting agency as opposed to central legal aid funds.

While I understand the Wanstead Society’s frustration at this outcome, the decision to discontinue the prosecution was firmly based on the advice of the Council’s legal team and on the desire to protect tax-payer funds against an award of costs.

Yours sincerely,

Murray Broad
Acting Head of Development Control

—————–

2nd July 2010

Dear Mr. Broad,

Re: Stage 2 Complaint concerning 46-48 High Street, Wanstead, E11

Thank you for your letter of 29/06/10.

The Wanstead Society are extremely disappointed to learn that LBR did not instruct a suitably qualified independent expert witness; providing a commentary in response is unlikely to be a substitute for an expert thoroughly investigating the matter.  Accordingly, it would seem to us that the Defendant’s testimony may not have been robustly tested.

We reply using the same numbering:
1) Please disclose the ‘expert commentary’ and defendant’s expert report.  We are disappointed to learn that no expert was appointed by LBR.  Please explain why LBR did not agree a Single Joint Expert (or a Party Appointed Expert if a single expert could not be agreed) in accordance with The Criminal Procedure Rules?
2) We will only be satisfied that this proposed (in)action is appropriate upon production of the above.
3) We will only be satisfied that this proposed (in)action is appropriate upon production of the above.
4) Surely no view can be sensibly made as to the risk of an adverse costs award without knowing the strength of the Council’s case (strong in our opinion), and in the absence of eyewitness testimony the commission of expert witness evidence is key to a case such as this.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Wernick
On behalf of the Wanstead Society

The Corner House Mystery Man

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We wonder how many of you have noticed the figure, somewhat reminiscent of an Oxford gargoyle, perched on the gable of the porch roof of the Grove Park entrance of the Corner House. 

The porch roof seemed to take an inordinately long time to finish during the renovation. The reason for the delay was the making of this ceramic figure of a man holding his head in his hands, with something obviously on his mind!

The potter is Ted Harris, father of Jason Harris of Orient Design, the firm of architects who now own the Corner House.  The house is already so full of delightful bits of quirkery and now we’ve got an extra piece.

Apparently Jason took a ridge tile to his father and asked him if he would make a figure to sit atop the ridge. There was no discussion (trust indeed!) and eventually the figure came back and was duly cemented on the porch roof. Ted Harris took up pottery after his retirement and Wanstead residents are the beneficiaries.

We’d like to give this fellow a name and would welcome any suggestions.

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