Last night Cllr Simon Wales, Sutton’s lead member for Resources, presented an historic 28th Liberal Democrat budget for approval by full council.
Even in difficult times we were able to present a balanced budget that focused on the key values of this council and its residents – being Safer, Fairer, Greener and Smarter.
Cllr Wales explained how we would achieve this by focusing on four key areas: prevention – protecting the most vulnerable before problems occur; supporting and growing the local economy through our Opportunity Sutton work; empowering residents to manage their own lives and reduce dependence on council services, and delivering those services at a more local level; and delivering changes to the council to find ways to reduce costs, manage demand for services, and get things right first time.
My speech aimed to explain how our Opportunity Sutton economic development work will help us continue to offer those services to residents that they most value, and also touched on the potential of our Life Sciences Cluster site:
Why is growing the local economy good for Sutton?
As our budget sets out, a key priority for this Liberal Democrat council, is to encourage economic growth and investment into the borough.
And in order to deliver this economic growth, we have set up an ambitious programme of work under the banner of Opportunity Sutton.
The name has now come to embrace all of the work undertaken by our Economic Renewal and Regeneration Unit, and for a short name, it actually represents a significant amount of work, and is already delivering millions of pounds worth of new investment, hundreds of jobs, improvements to our district centres, and a lot of excitement about the potential growth areas for our borough.
And I would like to talk briefly about one of those exciting potential growth areas, our Life Sciences Cluster.
In Sutton we have the unique co-location and partnership of two world class institutions: the Royal Marsden, and the Institute of Cancer Research. By working together these two cancer specialists have establishing an international reputation for excellence.
Our Opportunity Sutton Team, together with our Leader Ruth, has been working with these two organisations to understand their growth plans and ambitions. And as a result of that work we have all realised the potential to provide a cohesive, integrated world class life sciences cluster on this site.
Developing this vision has the potential to attract millions of pounds of investment, new homes and thousands of jobs. Not to mention the new cancer treatments that will significantly improve the lives of patients. An extended tram link could unlock that potential even further.
Thanks to the work of Opportunity Sutton this project has attracted the interest of the Treasury, and the London Mayor, and we have been encouraged to bid for LEP funding to unlock the potential of this world class vision.
We are also separately, but with an eye on this potential, making the case to the mayor to extend the Tram from Wimbledon to Sutton.
But it is all very well getting excited about the potential of these projects, and celebrating the successes Opportunity Sutton has already achieved – achievements like unlocking the North Sutton Gas Holder site; like the reinvigoration of North Cheam and Worcester Park district centres; like the investment secured to develop a decentralised Energy Network; like the establishment of the Successful Sutton Business Improvement District; and like our trend-bucking success in getting young people into employment or training.
And if Councillor Crowley can wait until the next Strategy & Resources Committee, he will hear more of the real and tangible achievements of Opportunity Sutton in the last year. Because his comment that Opportunity Sutton is just an empty phrase from me is an incredible insult to the enormous amount of work the small Opportunity Sutton Team have undertaken in the last eighteen months, and he owes those officers an apology.
But how does Opportunity Sutton benefit our residents, and why is it a priority for this council?
Well first of all bringing new businesses into the borough also brings new jobs. Growing our existing businesses also creates new jobs. That means more employment opportunities for our residents. And a key project under Opportunity Sutton is our Business-led Skills Match work, to ensure that local people have the skills necessary so that they can take advantage of those new jobs being created.
It will deliver additional housing, so that our children can afford to purchase their first home, so that overcrowded families can find a bigger house they can afford, so that there are the quality smaller homes available for people who want to downsize.
And new development also brings with it additional funding to invest in additional school places, improved parks and open spaces, and major highways schemes.
More housing also increases our council tax base, spreading the burden, but increasing revenues for the council.
Business growth brings an increase in business rates.
We have heard from Councillor Wales about the pressures our budget is under from the devastating cuts being imposed on us from central government. Growing our local economy will be a key source of future funding to mitigate those budget cuts and help us to continue to provide those universal services that our residents so value: well maintained highways and streets; beautiful parks and playgrounds; quality, resident-led public realm projects, as well as being reinvested into our preventative work to protect the most vulnerable members of our borough.
That is why we are being proactive and ambitious with our Opportunity Sutton programme, seizing control of our own future and funding, so that we can continue to be a borough that people want to live in, where people feel confident to bring up a family, and where all our residents can experience a high quality of life.
I ask you to support this responsible, and forward-looking budget.
Help is wanted to clear up rubbish from points along the River Wandle so it is clear for the Big Green Fund capital works to go ahead. The idea came from a local resident at the Sutton Local Committee and has been turned into the Mega Clean Up Day.
Meeting point is KNK Stadium Car Park, Bishopsford Road, Mitcham SM4 6BF from 10.30 am for an 11am briefing.
The work will take place in teams to clear waste from Watermeads Nature Reserve, Poulter Park, Bennett’s Hole Nature Reserve, KNK Stadium, and from the river itself.
You will need tough boots, waterproof clothing and strong gloves if you have them, and also your lunch. Bags, litter pickers etc. will be provided, as will refreshments.
For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I had been invited to give evidence on the impact of the Welfare Reforms on London Boroughs to the London Assembly Housing Committee on 12th February. I attended as representative of a Liberal Democrat-run borough alongside my Labour counterpart from Hackney, Karen Alcock, and Conservative Dudley Mead from Croydon.
Private rents increasingly unaffordable
Despite our political divergence, it was clear that we were all experiencing similar effects as a result of welfare reform. We were all seeing increased demand for private rented accommodation, but increasing rent levels are putting inner London properties outside the affordability of the majority, and as a result outer London boroughs were seeing increased migration from inner London as people seek to take advantage of the lower rents here. However even in outer London the discrepancy between Local Housing Allowance rates and actual rents was proving too large and this means that tenants are being forced into overcrowding as they cannot afford the larger houses they need. In Sutton the difference between the Local Housing Allowance rate and actual rents averaged 14% – a gap that is just too wide for families to cover, or for the Local Authorities to plug. I concurred with Cllr Alcock’s description of the pressure on the private rented sector as ‘the Perfect Storm’.
It is also clear that working people are finding the rents as unaffordable as those totally dependent on benefits.
I was able to point out that Local Housing Allowance is meant to be set to cover private rents falling within the 30th percentile of local Broad Rental Market Areas (BRMA), however steeply rising rents meant that properties renting in the LHA range were becoming rarer than that. I also questioned the accuracy of the calculation of the BRMA rates on which the LHA rate is set. If the basic calculation is flawed, then the books don’t balance.
Children & disabled face biggest impact
Another undesirable effect of the ‘Bedroom Tax’ and transfer of the Council Tax Reduction scheme from central to local government is the disproportionate impact on households with a disabled member, and families with children, most particularly single parent families. In Sutton we have 350 families who are impacted by this double whammy to the tune of more than £25 per week.
Increased pressure on cash-strapped councils
The fallout as a result of these pressures is that we are seeing an increase in people struggling to pay their rent and council tax, and starting to fall into arrears, and an increased number of applications for Discretionary Housing Payment Support and to our local Crisis Loan and Grant scheme. In Sutton we are putting increased effort into helping to prevent tenants falling into arrears, and invested in a Welfare Reform Outreach Officer to work with those people affected by the reforms and help them budget and adapt to the changes. However more and more work is needed to be put in to support those affected, whilst at the same time councils are facing cuts to the funding available for this work, as announced by Eric Pickles recently. The pressure on staff to administrate and mitigate these new burdens passed on from central government was echoed by my colleagues giving evidence. Then there is the increase in homelessness applications, and the additional work necessary to prevent homelessness and maintain our good relationships with private landlords by offering financial incentives. And all of this pressure is likely to increase with the introduction of Universal Credit.
Benefits of welfare reform hard to identify
One Assembly member asked what we thought were the benefits of welfare reform, and there was a long period of silence. Eventually I volunteered that we had seen an increase of people getting into employment in Sutton, however it would be hard to directly attribute this to welfare reforms because under our Opportunity Sutton Economic Programme we have been making a concerted effort to bring new jobs into the borough through inward investment, and to skill-up our residents to enable them to take advantage of those employment opportunities through our Skills Matching work.
I was keen to highlight the equally damaging, but less easily quantified social impacts of the reforms. The financial pressure on families to seek out cheaper accommodation is leading to the break up of communities and local support networks. Families are losing the informal childcare arrangements with family and neighbours, they are finding it harder to maintain school places, employment and health & social support. They may find themselves paying less rent, but have additional travelling costs to work or education. This is particularly the case for low paid workers, who are effectively being banished from inner London.
Financial stress can manifest itself in domestic violence, relationship breakdown, debt and mental health issues. If the problem then has to be picked up by the NHS, the Police or social workers, then the reforms are a false economy and are just cost shunting onto other services. It can also unravel the complex multi-agency work being done under the Troubled Families schemes. We can also expect to see an increase in anti-social behaviour where communities are broken up and people feel less connection to an area.
The solution: more housing
When asked what the solutions were, all three boroughs agreed that increasing the supply of housing across all tenures was the key, as the issue was essentially affordability of housing. We also agreed that the way to assist in that was to devolve greater freedom and powers to Local Authorities by increasing our borrowing powers, and having less caveats on grants & borrowing. I disagreed with my Conservative colleague that the planning system was a blockage, as in Sutton we offer a facilititive approach with the aim of bringing forward development that works for the area, as well as for the developer. The Hackney member & I also agreed that councils could take over the work programme as we have shown in many areas that local government can implement these initiatives more efficiently and cost effectively than central government.
I additionally pointed out the disconnect between rent policy and housing policy which needed to be properly addressed to enable new measures to work effectively.
Our evidence was part of a piece of work being done by the London Assembly Housing Committee and a report will be forthcoming on completion.
The Conservative Housing Minister Kris Hopkins made a visit to Sutton with Paul Scully, the ousted local Conservative council group leader, now with ambitions to be MP in Sutton; and spent his time criticising Lib Dem-run Sutton Council, as reported in the Sutton Guardian. However the minister proved to be ill-informed, and his criticisms unjustified. I have therefore written to him directly to advise him of Sutton’s excellent track record on delivering affordable housing, and pointing out how his colleague in Planning, Nick Boles, is making policy that undermines councils’ efforts to deliver affordable housing and jeopardises town centre viability. The content of my letter is reproduced below.
To add to my indignation is the fact that it was local Tory Cllr Shields who publicly called for the council to allow the Sutherland House development without asking for any affordable housing, and opposed the council’s stance at appeal. So the only people not pushing hard for affordable housing in Sutton are Mr Scully’s own party colleagues. However nor do our local Tories appear to have a joined up approach as their much more rational colleagues, Cllr Malcolm Brown, and Cllr David Hicks, who sit on the Housing, Economy & Business Committee, were supportive of the council’s implementation of an Article 4 Direction.
Kris Hopkins MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Department for Communities and Local Government, Eland House, Bressenden Place, London, SW1E 5DU Re: Public criticism of Sutton Council’s approach to affordable housing
I was very disappointed to read the report in the Sutton Guardian 16th January edition about your recent visit to Sutton where you express criticism of Sutton Council, and in an overtly political way.
Not only is the criticism unfounded, it is also contradictory.
Sutton Council has been actively encouraging inward investment into the borough through its Opportunity Sutton Economic development programme which has attracted £322million of new investment just in the last 18 months. Much of this investment will result in new housing for the borough. Our track record on securing affordable housing exceeds the London mayors’ 50% target with 53% of all dwelling completions in the last four years being affordable.
During this recession all local planning authorities have had to consider claims of financial unviability from developers seeking to provide less than the required amount of affordable housing in new residential developments. In Sutton we consider each case on its merits and seek strong evidence to support financial viability claims. We recently challenged the developers of Sutherland House, a major scheme proposing to change derelict offices into residential units without offering any affordable housing units on the site. Our challenge was upheld by the Planning Inspectorate on appeal. A new application for this site which did include an element of affordable housing was recommended for approval by our planning officers, however the application was withdrawn by the developers at the very last minute. It is assumed that the developer now wants to make use of the Permitted Development changes allowing the change of use to go ahead without the requirement for planning permission, or affordable housing.
Which brings me to the contradictory element of your comments. You criticise the Council for challenging this Permitted Development ruling, however it is this ruling that enables developers to get out of any requirement to provide affordable housing in an office conversion to residential. It also prevents the council from negotiating any financial contribution from the developers to provide the local infrastructure necessary to support the increase in population or traffic resulting from the conversion.
The council’s challenge to this ruling through an Article 4 Direction does not presume refusal of office conversions to residential, it only requires that a full planning application be submitted so that consideration of the need to protect employment land in the town centre can be undertaken, and where permission is granted an element of affordable housing can be negotiated together with s106 contributions to mitigate the local impacts of the development.
As we are already seeing commercial tenants being evicted to enable viable offices to be converted to residential, and developers deliberately circumventing planning procedures to avoid providing affordable housing, I fail to see how you can publicly state that the council is not doing enough to encourage affordable housing and then criticise the very measure we are introducing to seek to protect it.
Instead I would call on you in your position as housing minister to challenge the Permitted Development changes insofar that they undermine the ability of local planning authorities to require a proportion of affordable housing in office to residential conversions, and to support our Article 4 Direction for the Sutton Town Centre area.
It would also be helpful if you would encourage those landowners and developers who complained to you to get in touch with me. We consulted widely on the introduction of the Article 4 Direction and received no objections. We pride ourselves on our enabling approach that has proved successful in bringing forward development in a way which meets the Council’s objectives, as well as acknowledging the commercial drivers of developers and landowners. If your contacts do wish to take advantage of our ‘open for business’ approach, please do encourage them to get in touch with me and I will arrange for senior officers to make contact.
We would also like to see a challenge from your department to the changes to the New Homes Bonus you also referred to, which means that London boroughs’ incentive has been reduced by the top slicing of the Bonus to be pooled into a London pot, overseen by the Mayor, and which means we no longer get the full benefit of schemes we have worked to bring on, but instead have to see it distributed elsewhere at the Mayor’s discretion.
Yours sincerelyCouncillor Jayne McCoy Chair of the Housing, Economy & Business Committee, LBS
Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, paid a visit to Hackbridge today to announce that Sutton Council had been successful in securing Government funding for a feasibility study into creating a local heat network.
This funding is a fantastic boost for our plans to deliver sustainable and cheaper energy to local homes and businesses, and we are pleased to be working with our partners at BioRegional to develop a network using heat derived from the planned Energy from Waste Facility in nearby Beddington. This funding will also enable us to work towards addressing some of the fuel poverty residents in our borough are experiencing.
Local Grammar Schools Nonsuch High School for Girls, Sutton Grammar, Wallington County Grammar School, Wallington High School for Girls and Wilsons School are currently consulting on changes to their admissions arrangements from September 2015.
Selective school Glenthorne High School is also consulting on proposed changes.
In essence the proposals are that year 6 pupils will need to sit and pass a common Selective Eligibility Test in order to be invited to sit the Second Stage Examinations for the individual schools.
You have to respond to each individual school on their proposals, and the deadlines for responses varies from school to school:
Wilsons responses deadline 12th February 2014
Wallington Boys deadline 6th February
Nonsuch Girls deadline 14th February
Wallington Girls deadline 28th February
Sutton Grammar School deadline 14th February
Glenthorne deadline 27th February
The Council is also consulting on its admission arrangements for the borough’s community schools and this can be accessed on the same webpage.
I was out and about delivering in Wallington yesterday and managed to get drenched in a downpour. However it proved a useful exercise in checking for blocked drains and gullies.
I identified some flooding in Wallington Square and have arranged for the drains here to be cleaned, and I had reported to me blocked drains in Avenue Road and Hall Road, which I have also asked to be investigated.
A good chunk of the money that was spent on Wallington town centre was for five large soakaways. These are a less evident part of the improvements but it is very pleasing to note that they are doing their job well and we have not had a recurrence of the major flooding under the railway bridge since they were installed.
I also came across the signpost for Mulberry Mews pointing in the wrong direction, and flytipping in the alleyway in Ross Parade, both of which I have asked to be addressed by the council. The flytipping of rubbish in the Ross Parade alleyway is a continuing and pernicious problem and is causing great concern to the residents who use this public walkway to access their properties. Various measures have been undertaken but it is proving difficult to identify who is responsible. If anyone does have any information please do contact the council. This is unhygienic, unsightly and unfair to others who do dispose of their rubbish responsibly
We met recently with our local Police Safer Neighbourhood Team
Sergeant Suzannah James who updated us on the work they are
undertaking to deter and detect crime over the Christmas period. We
also received some helpful advice to pass on to our residents.
As in previous years the local teams will be focussing on Operation
Santa – increasing the police presence in the smaller shopping centres
to deter shoplifting, and deal with any incidents.
Sgt James also brought our attention to a series of local burglaries
where Asian households have been particularly targeted, with the
burglars looking for gold jewellery. These have taken place during the
day, with access from the rear of properties. These households are
being advised to be extra vigilant, especially when it is likely to
be obvious when they are out, at Friday prayers for example.
Burglaries are more of a problem over the Christmas period, and if you
are going away, or are even likely to leave an empty house until later
in the evening, the police advice is to make sure it is not obvious
that the property is empty. Leave a light on, or put them on a timer
switch, cancel milk and deliveries, let your neighbours know if you
will be away and ask them to push through any post left sticking out
of letter boxes and replace your wheelie bins. We can help by looking
out for each other in this way.
There are also a number of scams being run by unscrupulous people,
particularly courier scams targeting the elderly & vulnerable. If you
have any doubts about people calling at your house do ring the police.
Have a lovely time this Christmas, and keep safe.
Jayne, Colin, Monica & Muhammad.
I have just now received a letter from the Post Office advising that following the consultation the move will go ahead exactly as specified.
At our public meeting on 20th November with the CWU and Tom Brake we learnt that residents were confused by the consultation which was not about whether the Wallington Crown branch should be taken over by WH Smiths, but about how it should be configured in its new location. The majority of residents who have contacted us or attended the meeting were concerned about how the current service would fit into what is already a cramped WH Smith store, without compromising the service offer. There were concerns about queues and accessibility.
At last night’s Strategy & Resources Committee we had two representatives of the Post Office, and Ian Ward from the CWU, to talk about the proposed changes to the Post Office branches throughout the borough, and in particular the St Nicholas Centre proposed closure – although this is now being described as a ‘merger’ into the Grove Road branch. Members, including myself, expressed concerns that the changes were ‘a done deal’ and that considerations of improving customer service were more of an excuse, rather than being evidenced by any real drive to better meet customers’ needs. This came out when the Post Office claimed that waiting times would be improved by the changes, only for it to be revealed under questioning that they didn’t keep any record of waiting times, so there was no way they could compare waiting times before & after the changes, making this a hollow claim.
The Post Office representative did respond to my offer to meet with council officers so that we could explore ways in which we might work together to help maintain the standard of service from the Post Office in Sutton, however I am worried that the moves towards closure of the St Nicholas Centre branch were already too far progressed for them to think about more innovative solutions, just as we found with the Wallington branch. I expressed regret that they had not approached council members before changes were determined, as this would have been a better time to explore the options.
As far as the Wallington branch is concerned, we are pleased that we will still have a Post Office in a prominent location within the district centre, which is better than losing it altogether, however we still have concerns that the service offer will be less than at present, and accessibility will be poor. We would be pleased to be proved wrong. The franchise arrangement also offers less certainty over the future of the branch as it will now be under the control of WH Smiths.
The text of the letter advising of the changes is shown below:
Wallington Crown Post Office® branch
1-2 Ross Parade, Wallington, SM6 8QL
Decision – move to new premises & branch modernisation
I’m writing to confirm that we will be proceeding with our proposal to move the above Post Office branch to WHSmith, 92 Woodcote Road, Wallington, SM6 0NG, where it will be operated by WHSmith High Street Limited.
The move is part of the transformation and modernisation of the Post Office network, helping to create a network of viable and sustainable branches that is no longer reliant on Government funding.
We received a number of comments and over 20 pre-printed comment cards from customers and local representatives during the local public consultation period. We also held a customer forum at a local venue, to tell customers about our plans and answer any questions. In addition, prior to consultation, we received a letter from the local MP, enclosing a number of comments from his constituents, objecting to our plans to look for a third party retailer to operate Wallington branch. The main feedback related to space, possible congestion and the internal steps inside the WHSmith store. Comments were also made about car parking, particularly for disabled drivers and the distance to the new site which is uphill with a main road to cross. Other feedback supported our plans, saying that the new location was more central, closer to bus stops and car parks and the longer opening hours would be advantageous. All of the feedback helped me to understand customers’ concerns and to make sure that all such information was taken into account before finalising our plans.
As part of the consultation process, Post Office Ltd meets with Consumer Futures, the statutory consumer watchdog for the Post Office network, to review all the consultation responses and to ensure all relevant feedback is taken into account in finalising our plans.
We know that the Post Office plays an important part in the lives of customers, including our elderly and disabled customers and we want to make our services as accessible as possible.
I am pleased to confirm that customer access both into and within the store will be compliant with Post Office Limited’s own standards of accessibility and all applicable legislation.
Externally the store front will have a projecting Post Office sign, a service menu and opening hours board and Post Office fascia. There are two entrances to the store; the right hand door is already automated and the left hand door which will be nearest the Post Office area will be automated before the new branch opens. The Post Office will be at the back of the store to the left hand side and signage will be displayed at the entrance on that side along with directional signage inside the store. This will provide a clear pathway from the entrance door through the store to the Post Office area, so that customers can find the Post Office without difficulty. This will include a Post Office logo on the entrance door, overhead signage through the store and fascia signage for the Post Office itself. Customers using the left hand entrance will not need to negotiate the two internal steps.
The entrance and shopping aisles will be kept free of obstructions, existing fixtures and fittings, including retail tills and free standing marketing displays will be removed or repositioned as needed, helping customers move easily through the store to the Post Office and to provide sufficient space and turning circles for wheelchair users.
WHSmith will carry out works in the store to fit out a dedicated Post Office area, which will be built to Post Office specifications. Post Office accessibility standards will also be applied to that area of the store – this includes requirements as to the width of the counter and queuing area, with relevant turning/exit spaces. There will be adequate space for people to wait for service and customer seating will be provided. The Post Office counter will be purpose built to Post Office specifications, with low level writing counters and hearing loops also available. Lighting in the Post Office area will be improved to meet industry standards, providing the best levels of lighting for customers to carry out their business and for those working in the Post Office.
The new branch will have one traditional style, floor to ceiling screened serving positions and three open plan positions. Open plan serving positions are successfully used across our Post Office network, as an alternative to the more traditional style positions. There is still a partitioned screen but this is lower, helping to provide for a more personal service and discreet conversations when needed. To help customers know about our great range of financial products, including savings and insurances, a Financial Specialist will be on hand to talk to customers on an individual basis, in a private consultation room.
In respect of a post box, the built-in wall post boxes at the current branch will be closed once the building is vacated, however there is a post box in the High Street approximately 30 metres from the WHSmith store.
WHSmith have satisfied us that they are equally as committed to delivering excellent customer service as we are. Over recent years WHSmith has seen a steady improvement in performance and waiting times in its Post Office branches, with service standards now comparable to our Crown branches. We are satisfied that any person employed to work in Wallington Post Office will be trained to the highest Post Office standards, which includes classroom and on-site training. And it doesn’t stop there. Just as with branches we run ourselves, staff will receive on-going training on products and services. This may be through face to face training, printed hand-outs or a mandatory electronic tutorial, as well as regular internal communications on general operational and service related matters. Post Office area managers will work with WHSmith and the branch team to provide support, in the same way they already do in existing Post Office branches operated by WHSmith and our Crown branches.
In respect of people working at the existing branch, we have a strong track record of supporting our people through change. There will be no compulsory redundancies and our staff have several options available to them. We will do all that we can to find a solution that works for each individual – whether that is to transfer to WHSmith under TUPE (the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment) regulations and which they have the legal right to do; to look for redeployment elsewhere in the Post Office; or they may wish to leave the business and we have agreed terms in place to manage that process.
Although the Post Office is not responsible for the provision of public parking or any local traffic restrictions/regulations, these are some of the local factors that we take into account when considering the location of any new premises. To this end, when developing our proposal, we visited the area to find out what public parking is available, including disabled spaces, as well as local bus services and to take account of any specific local road traffic related matters. A number of people have commented on car parking and that there is a main road to cross, if travelling from the current post office to the new location, and this is one of the specific areas that have been further reviewed with Consumer Futures.
I can confirm that there is time-restricted roadside parking in Woodcote Road and the Library car park is approximately 100 metres away with about 100 spaces and 3 disabled bays. There are loading bays on the same side of the road approximately 10 metres from WHSmith and 3 disabled street bays on the opposite side of the road. I acknowledge the route to the new branch is uphill, however the WHSmith store is located close to many other High Street retailers, so customers are likely to be visiting this area for their other shopping requirement. I can also confirm that there is a pedestrian crossing directly outside the WHSmith store and the nearest bus stop is approximately 30 metres away.
It would be fair to say that with any change of location there may be some customers who are more inconvenienced than others, whether they have to walk a little further or use a different bus stop,. Equally, there may be other customers will find the new location easier to get to. Having reviewed these matters further, I remain confident that following the move the new branch will remain accessible for customers.
I have carefully considered my original proposal and the feedback received during the public consultation period. I am confident that the new branch will be suitably located and that WHSmith will continue to meet customer needs and deliver an excellent service, whilst helping to provide future sustainability for the branch and maintaining a Post Office presence in Wallington. The change also means that customers will benefit from longer opening hours, including Saturday afternoon and Sunday opening giving customers more flexibility to use our services at times that suit them better.
The current branch will close at 17:30 on Wednesday 19 February 2014, with the new branch opening at 09:00 on Thursday 20 February 2014. Further details of the new branch are provided at the end of this letter.
You can also find a copy of this letter on our website at postofficeviews.co.uk. When entering the website you will be asked to enter the code for this branch: 017013.
This change to the Post Office network is being carried out in accordance with the Code of Practice for changes to the network, as agreed with Consumer Futures the national consumer organisation. A full copy of the Code of Practice is available on our website at http://www.postoffice.co.uk/transforming-post-office, or by contacting us at the address provided at the end of this letter.
Franchise Project Manager
The Wallington South monthly Ward Councillors Surgery is held on the third Saturday of the month and is usually in the Wallington Sainsburys near the lifts to Wallington Square. As this December’s surgery falls on Saturday 21st December the store needs the space for its Christmas displays so we will be holding our surgery in Wallington library in the small meeting room on the first floor.
As usual no appointment is necessary. Of course if you can’t get to our surgeries you are welcome to contact us by telephone or email. We will be having a break like everyone else over Christmas & New Year.
From all of your Wallington South Liberal Democrat Team: myself, Colin, Monica & Muhammad, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Enjoy the festivities!