THE WANDSWORTH VOICE 

Green by name, Grim by nature …

Here’s a personal missive to the Wandsworth Borough Council Leadership from the editors of The Wandsworth Voice – this will also be a subsequent letter, in truncated form, to the local South West London press …. it’s all about the role and the responsibility of Wandsworth for looking after the health and well-being of those people who choose to live here …

It’s fairly long – please bear with it …

Dear Sir

As concerned local residents we feel that we need some form of reassurance from the senior officials of Wandsworth Borough Council as to the current status of their Environmental Health Services. 

Its terms of reference are relatively clearly stated on the Wandsworth Borough Council website – but we sense that there are some rather hollow and jargon-based phrases being used – so we need to know in very practical terms the following:

– what do Wandsworth Borough Council want their Environmental Health Services department to stand for?

– has its mandate changed over time?
   (If indeed it ever had one)

– have its terms of reference been modified?

– are its quality performance and levels of service monitored on both a regular and frequent basis by senior executives and officials?

– what are its reporting lines within Wandsworth Borough Council?

– is Wandsworth Borough Council Environmental Health Service bench-marked against any other London boroughs

That’s not bad for a start ..

And of course we have a couple of even more fundamental and existential questions:

Are staffing and competence levels within Wandsworth Borough Council Environmental Health Services being reduced or down-graded as part of the well-charted budgetary pressures and restrictions that are being applied to all councils in England and Wales?

Is the role of EnvIronmental Health Services any greater than merely being a ‘watchdog’ on urban health issues – do they have any forms of jurisdiction or are they merely advisory?

Guidelines

We assume that carefully and precisely-worded guidelines exist – but can we equally assume that these guidelines are being policed, administered and adhered to in an appropriately competent manner?  As we believe that they were in the past.
However – it’s not just about the past – it’s about today, tomorrow and the day after. 

Would the high-profile (increasingly high-rise!) developments in the Embassy Zone, Battersea Power Station, Lombard Road, Battersea Reach, the Ram Quarter and along the Upper Richmond Road have been quite so readily and enthusiastically snapped up if potential residents were aware that the appalling levels of road-noise and particulate pollution are approaching those of the Isle of Dogs here in London in the 1960s and those of Shanghai today – and are, as far as we observe, left unmonitored.  And unreported. 

To this sadly ever more polluted ‘zone’ we can now add the re-development of the York Road Homebase site – we surely want the budding ballerinas of the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance), who will be moving in soonfrom their charming site in Battersea Village, to be able to breathe more than a little cleanly as they practise their pirouettes and croisées. 

(Separately we shall be asking if Battersea really does need another 21-storey building as part of this site.)

Conclusion

In an initial conclusion – what is the point of encouraging businesses and private individuals to move into Wandsworth Borough – into any one of its many soi-disant  ‘grands projets‘ – when the quality of their lives (and their investments) may well be compromised by poorly monitored and poorly maintained environmental standards?
Finally – back to today’s reality – our recent experiences suggest that many of the front-line staff in Wandsworth Borough Council Environmental Health Services and their office-based support teams appear under-qualified and under-trained in terms both of their ‘technical knowledge’ and ‘customer service’.

So we really do need to know what to expect these days.

How can we help? 

How can we local residents bring examples both of good and bad practice to the attention of senior council members and officials? 

Is there any form of ‘borough-wide residents’ consultative committee’ that we could contribute to?

We have no intrinsic wish to be confrontational – we merely want the services of our Brighter Borough to be operated and delivered by Brighter People.  

As two long-term local residents (our combined years of residence is a mere 119 years) we observe how much our Borough has changed and is changing – indeed many of the changes are for the better – but we see no reason why there should be any deterioration in or diminution of Environmental Health Services. 

In our increasingly ‘on-demand’ lives we cannot see why the services offered by Wandsworth Borough Council should be getting worse and slower – rather than better and faster. 

The current levels of service appear totally reactive – no preparedness for likely short-term or longer-term issues. Could not some of your more willing citizens help on the ‘proactivity front’ – identifying and reporting on potential and actual problems and issues?  Many of us would be pleased to play such a helpful role. Including of course the writers of this letter.

The Ultimate Irony

Finally – for now – in terms of the current levels of ‘service’  …. there is a supreme irony in that our esteemed Local Environmental Health Services are apparently compromised by unfortunately high levels of ‘sickness’. So ‘Physicians Heal Thyself’ – or better still – why not consider applying forms of ‘preventative medicine’? 

With that in mind, Sir, both your current and future residents and employees might enjoy better health and a better quality of daily life. 

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