Tony Colman MP for Putney writes

In this week's diary for our MP covers statistics, the Budget, cuts in Wandsworth services, St. Cecilia's School & Rwanda Drummers visit to London........


Last weekend I attended the packed Wandsworth Pensioners' Forum Annual General Meeting. I heard a talk by Wandsworth's Director of Public Health, Professor Rawaf. His talk included some very interesting statistics on the demographics of the borough which I thought readers might be interested to read. 61% of the population of Wandsworth are aged 25-45. This is the highest proportion of any borough in the country. Conversely, the proportion of children aged 5-16 is one of the lowest, which I am sure is at least partly due to the high cost of property in the area and the number of pensioners is also very low. One of the largest pocket of pensioners is found in Roehampton.

Some statistics about public health in Wandsworth are very worrying. HIV/AIDS levels in Wandsworth are amongst the highest in the country - a sobering thought in Condom awareness week. Smoking continues to cost dear: in 2001 there were 120 smoking related deaths in Putney, this represented 18% of all deaths. There were 580 smoking related hospital admissions in the constituency, occupying 14 hospital beds a day at a total cost of £1.3million pounds.


Last week saw this year's successful budget from Gordon Brown. Included in the announcements were:
· £8.5 billion extra for UK education in 2007-08 compared to 2005-06, an average annual increase of 4.4 per cent in real terms across the Spending Review 04 period;
· £100 payment to pensioner households with someone aged 70 or over, to help with their council tax bills;
· an updated economic forecast which shows the economy continues the longest sustained economic expansion since records began and that the public finances remain sound;
· a new National Minimum Wage for 16-17 year olds of £3.00 an hour and a further increase in the National Minimum Wage to £4.85 for adults and £4.10 for young people from October
· Proposals to boost productivity and growth in the economy, through a New Deal for Skills, and a ten-year framework for investing in the UK's science and innovation base;
· A package of measures to extend the support and help provided to people on incapacity benefit and lone parents, who want to return to employment.

I was particularly pleased that the Chancellor confirmed the £50 per week tax -free for childcare announced in the pre-budget report. The most interesting aspect of this is the fact that the Government is looking at extending this scheme for parents to contribute to the cost of nannies and of grannies or other family members caring for children and not just nursery places and registered childminders. I hope that this goes through. One small caveat being, of course that health and safety does remain an issue in informal childcare - we must ensure our children are well cared for in appropriate surroundings.

Wandsworth Cuts

There is already much on the site about the cuts announced to Wandsworth Social Services. I am on record on my opposition to these cuts, as are Martin Linton MP and Tom Cox.

Eddie Lister has widely publicised that Wandsworth's Council tax next year will be the lowest bill in the country with no increase in the Wandsworth part of the tax. We all like a low Council tax and Cllr Lister is right to point out the increasing dissatisfaction at very high charges in some areas of the country. Gordon Brown himself noted the problems that some pensioners face with rising council tax with the announcement of a £100 payment to pensioners over 70 in last week's budget. As constituents, the people of Putney have a democratic choice in choosing their Council and therefore the level of their Council Tax. But we should all acknowledge that council tax would only have had to rise by 2% in order for Wandsworth's schools to have had full passporting of Government money for schools this year and the Council could have continued to fund the cuts to social services from its substantial reserves. Will Eddie Lister please explain why schools and voluntary groups in Putney have to suffer in this way?

St. Cecilia's School

It was a joy to attend the official opening last Tuesday by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. My son Alexander is a music scholar there and sang at the service. This school (which replaces the Wandsworth School previously closed on the site) has been very controversial and I am pleased that Central Government , Local Government and the Anglican Church managed to come together for this celebration.

Rwanda Drummers in All Saints Church

They finally came 24 hours late due to delays at Kamfala Airport but Monday evening was a tour de force enjoyed by many, many children (and the adults). Congratulations to Boris Hunker who is masterminding the visit. April 7 is the 10 anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide and will be remembered by a ceremony outside Westminster Abbey at 5.30pm.

For more information about what I've been up to and how to contact me go to my web site

Tony Colman MP

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March 20th, 2004

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