Councillor Lister writes to Putney
Balancing planning priorities & the future for Wandsworth Museum............
As part of its consultation on new planning priorities for the borough the council has been listening to local opinion on the way forward for Putney's vibrant office sector.
Not surprisingly there are a variety of views - some want to see the existing accommodation preserved to provide affordable space for small, local businesses while others argue that fresh investment is needed to respond to a growing demand for modern, flexible units.
This is a difficult balance to strike and planning officers have been careful to take on board the views of all the different town centre interests. One thing all sides agree on however is the vital importance of this sector to the local economy.
The planners expect to publish their proposals in April which will then be opened up for further consultation during the early summer. These will involve some key judgements which will help to shape the future of our town centre.
The council has made no secret of the financial pressures behind the proposals to close the museum. Put simply, while the effect of inflation on the council's costs is adding £8m a year to our spending, we have only been given an extra £3m by central government.
Wandsworth's grant this year has in fact been set at the lowest possible level - with every sign that it will continue to be cut in real terms in future years.
As a council we have an absolute obligation to ensure that we can fund the essential local services on which the most vulnerable members of the community depend.
Raising the council tax by itself is not the answer - even at the maximum level this would still leave us way short of the kind of money we need. Nor would it have made any sense to have set higher levels of council tax in previous years as we could not have sustained the extra spending this would have generated.
While the museum may close we will provide a local heritage service from Battersea Library which will be able to host visits from schools. We also hope to come forward shortly with plans for the museum building which could become home to a new town centre library for Wandsworth.
January 17, 2007
Edward Lister is the Leader of Wandsworth Council and a member for Putney's Thamesfield ward.