Last Friday Lord Tope hosted our annual business networking event at the House of Lords. This is always a popular event with businesses and we send out invitations to businesses linked to our theme. This year’s theme was Supporting Small Businesses and a number of small firms from Cheam, Worcester Park and Rosehill came along to enjoy the event.
I gave a speech on the theme of how Sutton was helping small businesses survive and thrive, text shown below, and was followed by Dean Murphy the Director of Sutton’s Metro Bank, who talked of why they had wanted to open a branch here and how they were able to help small businesses; and Matt Cooling of Soundbox, an exciting new business venture incorporating a recording studio, rehearsal space and live music venue looking to establish in Sutton.
Sutton helping small businesses to survive and thrive
We have over 6,000 small businesses in Sutton, from one-man or one-woman bands, to well established thriving businesses. And in Sutton we want to support those businesses. We want to help them survive through the difficult times, and then help them thrive when opportunities arise.
We want to help small businesses because small employers are usually local employers, which benefits the borough in a number of ways. Often small business owners live in the borough, so we also have a responsibility to them as local residents, and in Sutton we know the importance of keeping our residents happy! And small businesses add to the range and diversity of the borough’s economic offer.
So the council has a number of initiatives to support small businesses: some that are already in place, some that have been recently implemented, and lots in the pipeline.
All of these initiatives have either the aim of providing the right conditions for small businesses to start up, thrive and grow, or to provide key advice and new opportunities to grow small businesses into larger ones, creating yet more jobs for local people.
To provide the right conditions for our small businesses we have invested in our district centres, our local high streets. Wallington, Worcester Park, Rosehill, North Cheam, Hackbridge, all have seen funds put into improving the high street, and the nature of those improvements has been led by the local businesses and shoppers. We have seen new trees and benches, free parking, improved shop fronts, better accessibility, and festive lighting, to make these areas more attractive to shoppers and bringing customers to your doors.
We have been working towards improving the transport links – an essential for business. We have succeeded in getting the Sutton Tram extension included in the London Mayor’s plan, successfully lobbied for retention of the Thameslink loop line, and we have exciting plans to improve Sutton station to make it a fitting gateway into our town.
Sutton was the first borough to have an industrial Business Improvement District – at Kimpton Park, and last year we saw the initiation of the Sutton Town Centre BID: Successful Sutton. Business Improvement Districts are proven to be successful in improving the economic prosperity and resilience of an area, and we are now looking to see if another Industrial BID would work in Beddington.
And we have also worked to ensure that small businesses can compete equally with larger firms to win council contracts. Our Procurement Strategy was redesigned to create a more level playing field, and now 82% of our contracts are awarded to SMEs, amounting to 51% of the total value of our awarded contracts. We also require our larger contractors to use local suppliers and sub-contractors, to make sure that small businesses can still benefit when they win a tender.
Under our Opportunity Sutton Economic Action Plan we have a wide range of other activities going on to support small businesses, including Start-up Hubs, Meanwhile Space ventures, district roadshows and local market events.
But I want to talk to you in particular about our bigger plans, plans that will bring new opportunities, new supply chains and new customers for your businesses.
As you may know, we are actively seeking new investment in Sutton. Investment in the form of new development, new business, and anchoring growth within the borough. We have been promoting the charms of living and working in Sutton, and declared our borough Open for Business. The conditions were right for us to do this when we launched our Opportunity Sutton Strategy over a year ago, and as a result we have seen a lot happen. The gas holder site in Sutton has put in a planning application with huge plans for the site, Sutton Point is being redeveloped, Sutherland House is in hand, and of course Subsea 7 are moving and expanding their headquarters within the borough. In total, in just a year we have seen £317 million pounds of new investment brought into the borough, with the potential for 1,700 new jobs, not to mention the extra business for you, and increased town centre footfall.
And then we have our Life Sciences Cluster. How many of you realised that we have the Royal Marsden Hospital within our boundary or that the worldclass Institute of Cancer Research is located here – just next door to the Marsden?
These two beacons of cancer research and medicine have big plans for growth which we can accommodate on the adjoining Sutton Hospital site. The ambitions of these organisations, working in partnership with Sutton council, could see an international centre of excellence in life sciences on our doorstep, bringing business and prestige to the borough. Investment our local businesses and residents can benefit from, particularly in terms of the jobs this will create, at all levels.
So as a council we are doing our best to make the conditions right for small businesses to grow and thrive, but it is now up to you to grasp those opportunities and profit from them. It is up to you to be ambitious.
Which it is why I am very pleased to welcome Dean Murphy of Metro Bank, and Matt Cooling of Soundbox who represent businesses that have already grown very successfully, and are prepared to share some of their experiences and advice with you tonight.
The festive lighting agreed at the Beddington & Wallington Local Committee out of public realm funding is due to be put in place this week.
It will be the first time Stafford Road has had festive lights along its length, and we hope it will bring some festive cheer to local residents, shoppers and businesses here.
The consultation on the initial proposals saw a large number of residents opposed to the one-way element of the scheme, as this would push rat-running onto nearby roads. At the local committee discussion where the results of the consultation were presented there was a desire expressed to investigate a mini-roundabout option. Traffic & Highways officers agreed to undertake further investigation and design work on this alternative. An update was presented at last night’s Beddington & Wallington Local Committee.
Four options had been investigated: a single mini roundabout; a double mini-roundabout; a compact roundabout; and a non-standard mini-roundabout.
The non-standard roundabout was expected to be the most likely solution, and officers will continue to undertake further analysis and modelling of the options including a full assessment of the safety and traffic impacts, queues and delays.
If a robust and suitable option is forthcoming, and there is agreement between the relevant ward councillors, committee chair and local resident groups, then we will be able to proceed to implementation of a scheme.
I will keep you posted on developments.
The hunt is on to find the people who make the most difference to their communities in Sutton.
Sutton Council’s 2013 Community Awards are now open and nominations are being encouraged and invited.
The awards, which are run annually, are designed to make sure that local “heroes” get the recognition they deserve for what they do.
They could be a volunteer, a charity worker, someone who organises events, a carer or just a good neighbour.
There are five categories and nominees will need to be someone who has:
- Given outstanding service to the borough by keeping Sutton safe
- Made a difference to peoples’ lives by going the extra mile
- Brought the community together through local events, clubs or projects
- Increased prosperity, employment or access to the borough through business initiatives.
- Brought credit to the borough through outstanding achievement (this could be academic, sporting, artistic or cultural.
Nominations have to include a short explanation of why the person is being put forward for a community award.
The closing date for submissions is Sunday 5 January 2014.
There’s more information and a nomination form on the Sutton Council website at sutton.gov.uk/communityawards
The winners will receive high street shopping vouchers worth £100.
A Wallington Hero?
If there are a lot of people who want to support a particular unsung local hero then please let me know and we can work together to put in a strong submission for them.
It will take place on Wednesday 20th November at 6.30pm in Wallington Library.
All welcome. Cllr Colin Hall & I will also be attending.
Sutton Council is supporting Small Business Saturday by organising an event on 7th December for small traders and social enterprises to showcase their businesses to residents and shoppers in Sutton.
The event will be held in the St Nicholas Centre, Sutton High Street running from 10am to 15:00pm.
What is Small Business Saturday?
In the UK, Small Business Saturday is a grassroots campaign to support local independent businesses. Small businesses of all kinds are taking part in a variety of activities including planning special deals for customers, showcasing events, taking place in joint marketing with local media and much more. Small Business Saturday works when small businesses take action. For more information about the campaign visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-supports-first-ever-small-business-saturday
To book your place at Sutton’s event contact the council via:
Opportunity Sutton: email@example.com Tel: 0208 770 5070
Please ask for Sarah Lomax Economic Regeneration Officer or Martin Furtauer-Hayes Town Centre Manager
Last night I moved a motion to Full Council: Stronger economy – Supporting Business, Creating Jobs; seconded by Cllr Richard Clifton.
The text of my speech was as follows:
We are ambitious for Sutton. We love Sutton. Like our fellow residents we know it is a great place to live, and to work, and we have worked hard to make it that way.
But the recession has meant that local businesses have had to work harder just to keep afloat, that people have stayed home and saved rather than take risks with their money and investments.
And during these lean times the council has worked to provide the support and environment necessary to help our businesses through the recession. Indeed our ten point plan was picked out as an example of good practice for local government.
This may be part of the explanation as to why Sutton has weathered the recession well, with our employment rates continuing to remain above the London average, and lower numbers of businesses going into administration.
But we also need to look forward, to seize the opportunities available to us so we don’t just stand still, but we are able to create more jobs and more prosperity for the future.
This is as important for the council to ensure it is able to continue to provide the services our residents’ value, as it is for individuals and businesses.
And that is because the future for local government is changing significantly, and we can no longer rely on government subsidy to fund our operations, that way lies uncertainty and a massively shrinking service offer. Instead we need to take control of our own destiny and secure our local funding base. In future we may be solely reliant on business rates & council tax income to fund our services.
But our ambitions are also bigger than that. Our innovative Opportunity Sutton economic strategy sets out our plan to bring new business and investment into the borough. New investment that will bring jobs, housing, funding for schools, healthcare, transport and public realm schemes. All things that local people will get direct benefit from.
I can’t underestimate the importance to us of bringing that job offer to Sutton.
With our poorest residents facing an ever increasing squeeze on their income with the welfare reforms, the only way out for them is through finding employment, quality, fairly paid employment. Telling people they cannot expect to be dependent on government handouts is not enough, in fact it amounts to cruelty if they are faced with no alternatives, so it is incumbent on us to make sure that the alternative is out there in the form of jobs and training. This is why we are working so hard with our key partners on our Sutton Skills Match programme, to ensure local people have the skills necessary to take up the new job opportunities we are helping to create.
The other big crisis that the country is facing is the lack of housing that people can afford. Opportunity Sutton also involves ensuring that our strategic planning together with our inward investment drive will deliver the new housing that we so desperately need.
Any type of additional housing will help reduce the pressure on the market, but we are also adamant that new development ensures the delivery of social housing too.
This is why we have railed hard against the government’s extension of permitted development rights allowing offices to be converted to flats without any requirement to provide an affordable element. Yes we are happy for unviable offices to convert to residential accommodation, but not for those flats to only be affordable for commuters and city slickers.
So we are ambitious for Sutton because we are ambitious for our residents. We do not see the council’s role as subsidising our residents’ lifestyles, or as doing everything for them, we see our role as empowering and enabling people so they can take advantage of the offers and opportunities available to them.
If you are ambitious for Sutton and ambitious for our residents, please support this motion.
Other Liberal Democrat councillors spoke about the various projects impacting on their area under the Opportunity Sutton banner where we are already working to make our ambitions reality, and Councillor Clifton spoke in more detail about our innovative Sutton Skills Match programme and the new jobs that our work has already secured for the borough.
The Tory opposition had tabled an amendment which simply added to the motion an acknowledgement that the Outer London Funding was thanks to the Conservative London Mayor. As this was correct for two of the Opportunity Sutton projects falling within the ‘Improving district centres’ programme and didn’t take anything away from the work the council was doing in making use of that funding to deliver welcome improvements in Hackbridge and North Cheam & Worcester Park I had no quibble with that. However when speaking in the debate the opposition councillors Tim Crowley, Tony Shields & Peter Geiringer spoke so vehemently against the work the council is doing under Opportunity Sutton, claiming that none of the jobs and investment we had already attracted to the borough was due to local efforts but entirely down to national and regional policy, a point totally disproved by our comparative economic & employment statistics, that we felt to accept their amendment also meant accepting this perverse perspective. Coupled with the opposition’s uncomplementary descriptions of Sutton, hardly the way to win over new investors, we agreed that it would not be right to accept the amendment.
Surprisingly, having not had a good word to say about it, the Tory opposition then voted in favour of our unamended motion, with the exception of Cllr Crowley who had flounced out of the meeting by that point.
Tonight the councillors on the Development Control Committee unanimously refused the proposals for a two-storey McDonalds restaurant and drive-through on Stafford Road in Wallington.
There was a huge turnout of local people for the protest and around 200 people stayed for the duration of the meeting.
It has been officially confirmed that the Wallington Post Office branch is proposing to be run by WH Smith and to move into their unit in Woodcote Road.
Information produced advises that the same range of services and products will be offered, but with increased opening hours aligning with WH Smith’s hours of operation. The intention is for four serving positions and a private consultation room.
There is a 6-week public consultation on the proposals ending on 25th November. You can feed in your views through an online questionnaire: postofficeviews.co.uk, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or writing to FREEPOST Your Comments. In all cases be sure to note the code of the Wallington branch: 01701399.
The Post Office are holding a Customer forum at The Cricket Centre , Plough lane, Wallington , SM6 8JQ on Saturday 26th October from 09.30-12.30
The Communications Workers Union are also arranging a public meeting with Tom Brake MP on the proposals planned for 20th November. I will provide further details when they are finalised.
Sandy Lane South is currently closed to traffic near the junction with Stafford Road due to a collision between two vehicles outside Bandon Hill Primary School this morning.
Fortunately the school has its target setting day today so there would not have been the usual throngs of parents and pupils trying to get to school at the time the accident occurred.
1.30pm Sandy Lane South is now open to traffic.