Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Bridge Road barrier repair

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I reported this damaged barrier in Bridge Road off Ross Parade to the council earlier this week.

I am advised that the bollard has been removed for safe keeping as the base plate is damaged beyond repair and a new one has been ordered. In the meantime plastic barriers are being used to prevent vehicular access until the bollard can be reinstalled.

August 11, 2016 Posted by | Information | , , | Leave a comment

Local Conservatives’ grubby campaign of lies and smears

poison penOnce again our residents here in Sutton are being fed toxic literature from our local Tories full of lies and smears against the Lib Dems.

We saw these tactics in the Wallington South by-election, and observed the ruthless Tory in-fighting during and after the EU referendum, so perhaps we should not be surprised when the local Conservatives employ them here yet again.

Deliberately misleading

In the Wallington by-election they circulated made up stories of high rise buildings planned for the car park, the selling off of heritage buildings, and removal of pedestrian crossings, none of which proved true.

Now they are peddling lies about The Lodge claiming the council sold it off when in fact it remains in council ownership and has been leased to a local charity to retain it in community use – just as residents asked us to.

The Conservatives also claim in their leaflets that the Belmont site is too small for a secondary school despite knowing that plans are being drafted to build a 6-form entry secondary school that will offer fantastic opportunities for our young people due to its co-location with the London Cancer Hub. Sutton actually has an excellent track record for delivering school places at its award winning and high performing schools.

A smear campaign 

Worse still is the Conservatives’ deliberate and grubby smear campaign to trash the reputation of hard-working local Lib Dems. They slyly insinuate that the allegations against the councillor who resigned is connected with the council, and leak internal email conversations to imply Cllr Mathys meant something she didn’t in a campaign that amounts to bullying. Anyone who works with Wendy knows she always has the best interests of the borough’s young people at heart and fights tooth and nail to get the best deal for them despite the Tory cuts imposed on councils. Nor does our MP Tom Brake escape from their malicious smears, or indeed ex-councillors who are no longer around to defend themselves. Legal action has had to be taken against the Conservative libel because it is pure fiction.

Tory resignation in disgust

So unpleasant have Tory tactics become since the last election that one of their own Cllr Graham Whitham, twice the leader of the Conservative council group, resigned his membership of the Conservatives in absolute disgust at the nasty party they had become both nationally and locally. Cllr Whitham was one of those Conservatives who always conducted himself with honour and reasonableness and with whom I have been pleased to work. It is sad for him that he felt that his party had strayed so far beyond the pale in its tactics that he could no longer be a member.

So when the Conservatives come knocking, be sure to ask them if they condone the use of smears as campaign tools, and stand by the lies in their leaflets.

A high performing and caring Council

It is also a shame to see the public misled when the council has such a fantastic reputation for being a  good and innovative council that delivers for its residents.

The Liberal Democrat run Sutton council is regularly quoted in best practice examples by the Local Government Association and others and receives awards. It’s recent peer review was glowing and we have one of the highest resident satisfaction ratings in the UK.

Our residents tell us the reason they keep voting The Liberal Democrats back in here is because they trust us to do our best for them, and be honest with them about the issues we face. We engage widely and regularly with our residents, work alongside them in the community ourselves, and we are not afraid to consult on the difficult issues as well as the good ones. And we listen, because we are here to try our best to deliver the borough our residents want.

 

July 17, 2016 Posted by | Liberal Democrats, Opinion | , , , | 4 Comments

Sutton CAB new service

Citizens Advice Sutton is the lead agency for Advice Link Partnership Sutton (ALPS). ALPs is a partnership of local Not for Profit organisations providing free, confidential, independent and impartial advice for people who live or work in the London Borough of Sutton. You can contact Citizens Advice Sutton, Sutton Carers Centre and Age UK in the following ways:
Alps Web site – www.suttonalps.org.uk –No email address is needed as we can call you back.
By Telephone call 020 8254 2616 between 9.00 and 5.00 Monday to Friday. Sutton Library & Heritage Service provides local community information from this number Monday – Friday from 9.30 – 5.00 pm.
The ALPS number also provides access to the following national organisations:
• Samaritans
• Citizens Advice Consumer Service
• National Domestic Violence Helpline
• Age UK Advice line
• Carers Direct Helpline

Citizens Advice Sutton, Sutton Carers Centre and Age UK Sutton are established registered local charities who have served the people of Sutton for many years providing free, confidential, independent and impartial advice on issues such as welfare benefits, debt, housing, employment and social care issues.

Services from Citizens Advice Sutton
Citizens Advice Sutton holds the Advice Quality Standard for Advice. Our services are provided by both paid staff and volunteers.

Citizens Advice Sutton also provides various specialist services:

Pension Wise

Pension wise is a new, free, impartial and confidential guidance service from Government, to help people understand their pension choices. If you are aged 50 or over and have a Defined Contribution pension you are eligible for a face to face appointment. You can book an appointment by visiting http://www.pensionwise.gov.uk/ or telephone 0800 138 3944

Debt Advice
The Capitalise team at Citizens Advice Sutton provides advice on all aspects of your debt and money issues. We are part of the Capitalise partnership and funded by the Money Advice Service.

We can help you to budget, maximise your income and provide you with all the options available to you to deal with your debts. We also have approved debt relief order intermediaries within the bureau to process debt relief orders (DROs).

We are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority FRN 617761

You can contact us on either online http://www.suttonalps.org.uk
or telephone 020 8405 3552 Monday- Friday 9:00am – 5:00pm.
You can also directly access debt advice from debt hotline located in the Jubilee Health Centre.

Specialist housing advice
The housing solicitor at Citizens Advice Sutton can assist clients entitled to legal aid with certain housing issues including possession, disrepair, homelessness, anti-social behaviour and eviction To book an appointment please call us on 020 8405 3552 between 9.00 and 5.00 Monday to Friday or submit an enquiry via our website http://www.suttonalps.org.uk

Carers Centre – outreach sessions
Citizens Advice Sutton offers appointments at Sutton Carers Centre ,on Wednesdays and Thursdays between 9am & 5pm at 12-14 Benhill Avenue, Sutton SM1 4DA · To book an appointment call the Carers Centre on 020 8296 5611 or call 020 8254 2616 .

Sutton Mental Health Foundation (SMHF) – outreach session
Citizens Advice Sutton provides advice at Sutton Mental Foundation on Thursdays for people experiencing mental distress. SMHF is at 63 Downs Road Belmont, Sutton SM2 5NR and Cheam Resource Centre, 671 London Rd, North Cheam SM3 9DL. To book an appointment to see a Citizens Advice Sutton adviser at SMHF telephone 020 8770 0172

Direct into advice line (DiAL)
DiAL is funded by the big lottery to provide priority access to telephone advice for those in urgent need or those with difficulty accessing advice services. You can get immediate, direct telephone advice from Citizens Advice Sutton, Age UK Sutton and Refugee and Migrant Network Sutton by asking staff to connect you at Homestart, Children’s Centres, Sutton Mental Health foundation and the Womens Centre. It operates Monday to Friday between 10.00 am to 12.30 pm and 1.00 pm to 3.00 pm

Royal Association for the Deaf (RAD)
RAD provides a drop in service and appointments on Mondays between 10am and 4pm at Citizens Advice Sutton, St Nicholas Way, Sutton, SM1 1EA. An RAD adviser provides BSL advice on benefits, employment, debt, form filling and understanding correspondence. Text 07749965727 to book an appointment or call 0845 688 2525. Email advice@royaldeaf.org.uk

Sutton Uplift
Sutton’s Primary Care Mental Health Service, Sutton Uplift, hold a Wellbeing Drop in Clinic in the Sutton bureau every Monday between 9-5pm. The Wellbeing Navigators will be able to offer information, and advice around wellbeing and practical issues that may be impacting on people’s daily lives, including offering ongoing short term one to one sessions if needed. Sutton Uplift aims “to help people to connect and access activities and resources to meet their physical, social and emotional needs. Our team are experienced in supporting people with their Wellbeing, either professionally or through lived experience.” Contact them on 0800 032 1411 or 020 3513 4044, lines are open 9am to 6pm. Website http://www.suttonuplift.co.uk/

July 13, 2016 Posted by | Information | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

African and Caribbean Heritage Musical Picnic

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July 11, 2016 Posted by | Information | , , , | Leave a comment

What is Sutton Council delivering for you?

All the work the council does and the decisions it makes are in the public domain and largely accessible through its website. However as this is often embedded in committee reports and paperwork you need to know what you are looking for or put in an FOI.

So in an attempt to make it simpler I thought I would do a series of posts setting out current activities in the areas covered by my committee portfolio.

I will start with HOUSING

New build for Fellowes Road

New build for Fellowes Road

Sutton is building council houses for the first time for many years

Previously the government took money away from Sutton to pay for housing in other places. When the rules were changed we immediately took the opportunity to start building again. We now have planning permission to start building 93 new homes across three sites.

Council housing protected for Sutton residents

You need to have lived in Sutton for at least two years to be eligible for council housing in the borough.

Council tenancies for Life

When councils were given the freedom to do away with tenancies for life we consulted with tenants and abided by their wish to retain lifetime tenancies. Unfortunately the Housing & Planning Bill recently passed by Parliament no longer allows us to do this so new tenancies granted will not be for life.

Chaucer House

Improving existing council homes

The council has spent £140 million over the past 4 years improving people’s council properties. This has included installing new kitchens and bathrooms, new windows and doors, and major renovation projects like Balaam House and Chaucer House. Many of these measures will improve the energy efficiency of these properties resulting in lower heating bills.

Increasing the number of houses for purchase and rent

The council has been encouraging developers to build new homes in Sutton. We have done this by marketing Sutton and by having positive working relationships with developers. This has enabled us to ensure family houses are built as well as one and two bedrooms flats, and that developers make contributions to improve the area around their development. We have also worked hard to get a good amount of affordable homes delivered as part of private developments.

The work on delivering a new Local Plan means our planning polices will direct housing development to suitable locations and demand high quality, sustainable design that works well with the area.

Estate regeneration

The regeneration of the Durand Estate is now in its third phase with a total of over 700 homes (250 net additional homes) due to be provided under the Partnership working with Affinity Sutton, Rydons and the residents. The area has been transformed and renamed The Lavenders.

Setting up a council owned housing development company to deliver homes

Called Sutton Living Ltd this company means the council can buy empty properties and rent them out, build new homes for sale or rent, or partner with house builders or social housing providers to help deliver additional housing. As the council knows what type of housing residents need in the borough it can use Sutton Living to deliver the right type of housing, and keep prices affordable. It also has a policy of ensuring new properties, whether to rent or sell, are offered to Sutton residents first. It also enabled the council to get extra help from the London Mayor through becoming a Housing Zone. Any profits generated will either be reinvested in delivering more housing or given back to the council to spend on services for residents.

New specialist housing

Dymond House

Dymond House

This year the council opened Dymond House, a new facility especially to house people with Dementia, as well as people with learning disabilities and a reablement centre.

In Cheam Elizabeth House was rebuilt to provide high quality sheltered housing for older people replacing the outdated original building which had no lifts and communal bathrooms.

And it was not long ago that bespoke-designed housing was built for people with learning disabilities to enable them to live more independently outside of institutions following the closure of Orchard Hill.

Helping people into the private rented sector

The council works with good landlords to encourage them to offer quality accommodation to residents. The council can help with deposits and housing allowance transfers.

The council also takes a hard line against landlords that break the regulations they must abide by and put tenants at risk. We have had a number of successful prosecutions against such landlords.

Lobbying Government on behalf of Sutton residents

We responded to consultations on the Housing & Planning Bill highlighting that it would make finding local affordable housing even harder, cause council tenants to face insecurity and eviction and reduce the amount of social housing available and deter social housing being built.

Elizabeth House

Elizabeth House

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Information, Liberal Democrats | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Second successful Wallington Music Festival

IMG_0013Organised by the community for the community, our second free music festival set Wallington rocking once again. The sun shone for us, whilst the threatened thunderstorm decided to give Wallington a day off.

The people we need to thank for organising the day are exceptionally modest so I will take this opportunity to make sure they are acknowledged: Ric Adams who had the original idea; Colin Wadeson who ensured we had a bandstand in the Library Gardens in the first place; Andy & Thea Brook from the Brook for booking the bands, arranging PA equipment, acting as MC, letting us meet at their venue and without whom the festival would not be the success it was; Christine Lindsay for her event management skills and expertise; Sue Spenceley Burch for her fabulous design work; Emily Nicholls & the Duke’s Head for their venue and printing flyers; Alan Fitter for organising the food stalls and publicity; Sizzle n Shake, The Woodcote Flying Club, Byrnes  Pie & Eel House, The Brook and the Wallington Arms for hosting musical acts. All of the above and AndrewIMG_0012 Langley, Robert Landeryou, Joyce Melican, Carolyn Churchyard, Sally Byrne, Charlie Ardley and my fellow ward councillors Steve & Muhammad for setting up/clearing up or helping plan the event.

I would also like to thank the stalls who provided fantastic food on the day: Byrnes Eel & Pie House, Chef RF, Chilli Chilli Cha Cha, Mosaic not forgetting The Brook mobile bar, Tropical Ice ice cream van and Anna’s – the library cafe. Also thanks to St John’s Ambulance for attending.

FullSizeRender (14)And finally thanks to Carpenter & Co Solicitors, The Woodcote Flying Club and Kamsons Pharmacy for sponsoring the event, and Arts Network Sutton and the Gary Mason Charity for also funding us.

But the people who actually delivered the goods on the day were the fantastic musicians themselves, a good few of whom we expect to be hearing a lot more of as their careers take off:

St Elphege’s Choir, Firehorse, The Choir at The Brook, Mr Grimez, Lindsey Simpson, Anne Sumner, Grace Harris, Amelia Langley, Cameron Moon, Nicholas Highton, Paul Captain Watson, Jack Bennet, Tanya Pemberton, Dieselle May, Jenny Lockyer, Dan Davison, Taikonaut, ELTEL, Dystopia, Chloe Ray, Craig Mac, Chris Sheffield, Nina Alawo, Chris Jewell, Lola Young, Scott McFarnon, Baz Francis, Charlie Ardley, McVicker, Papa Ratsy, Front to Back, Neil Mack, Karen Fox, and Wayne Woodward.
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June 27, 2016 Posted by | Information | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Art exhibition to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme

 

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Acid Drop Copse presents “The Somme”

Evil and the incarnate fiend can alone be master of this war, and no glimmer of God’s hand can be seen anywhere. Sunset and sunrise are blasphemous, they are mockeries to man, only the black rain out of the bruised and swollen clouds all through the bitter black of night is fit atmosphere in such a land.

Paul Nash

A group of diverse artists who go by the name “Acid Drop Copse” come together in an exhibition to commemorate the Battle of the Somme at Honeywood in Carshalton, Surrey from 22nd June until 31st July 2016. The show will then transfer to the ArtMoorHouse Gallery in the City of London in November for Remembrance Day.

In disciplines ranging from sculpture, metal casting, encaustic art, oil painting, print making, ceramics, floristry, collage and contemporary jewellery, these practitioners are united by a desire t0 examine and reinterpret the events that began on July 1st 1916 in Picardy.

Acid Drop Copse was a wood in the battlefields of the Somme, destroyed by the war and so nick-named by the soldiers after the tart acid-drop boiled sweet they knew from home. The art collective was inspired by this name, and like the confection, is a complex mixture of bitter and sweet surprises, promising to make for a diverse and thought-provoking exhibition.

June 11, 2016 Posted by | Information | , , , , | 2 Comments

Wallington flash flooding

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The flooding under the railway bridge in Manor Road, Wallington has made the national news with pictures of the submerged cars and the dramatic rescue thanks to a quick thinking local man.

The reason the road dips so dramatically here is that it was lowered many years ago to allow double decker buses under the bridge. However this dip means that in severe weather all the local runoff gets directed into the dip and there were a number of occasions when significant rainfall resulted in floods under the bridge.

A major part of the 2011 improvement works involved addressing the flooding issues under the railway bridge. This involved installing four new soakaways* in Beddington Gardens, Ross Parade and Woodcote Road and improving the existing one under the bridge.

These five soakaways appeared to have addressed the problem, until Tuesday’s rainstorm.

We know that exceptional amounts of rainfall does lead to some drains being unable to cope with the volume leading to what is known as flash flooding. Apparently the rainfall this time was so torrential that elsewhere the sheer force of water gushing through the drains pushed the drain covers off, including in Stafford Road.

Sutton Council does undertake a program of gully & drain clearing – look out for a small lorry with a tube going into the drains, but I don’t know when the soakaways were last checked. As your ward councillors we will of course be finding out whether there were any issues with cleaning that may have contributed to the situation.

Update 10th June – feedback from council on gully cleaning:

Roads noted as high flood risk have a gully cleanse quarterly. The most recent gully cleanse of Manor Road from Wallington Green to the traffic lights at Sainsbury’s was on 14th April 2016.  It is on the high flood risk list so is cleaned quarterly and would be due again in July.  No issues were noted on last clean. All the other roads in the town centre were done in mid May around the 18th including Ross Road, Ross Parade, Elgin Road to the east of the town Centre and Shotfield, Parks Hill Ave and Beddington Gardens to the west.  These roads all feed down to the sewer under the bridge.

The crew use a gully tanker to suck all the silt and debris out of the gully pot, clear debris from the grill and then flush the system.  They check the gully pot is clean and working efficiently.  If they detect a blockage, they use a jet to try to remove the obstruction and get the gully and connecting drain that links it to the Thames Water main sewer running again.
If they are unable to get the system working, they note this on their report sheet.  Defects are then reported to the Highways Service so they can instruct their contractor to investigate further and make a repair.
 Update 23rd June – further work on Ross Road area drains to be undertaken
Thanks to an impromptu survey mid-rainstorm by a public spirited resident we have learnt from the council that at the last gully cleansing there were problems accessing some of the drains and gullies due to parked cars. This means that they cannot be certain that all the gullies in the Ross Road area are completely clear of blockages, and certainly the information supplied by the resident and checked on myself would suggest that there are some issues that need to be addressed and liaison with Thames Water as necessary.
To address this the council will seek to suspend parking for a day in relevant areas so that they can have a good look at the missed gullies and clean them out as necessary.
We appreciate that any suspension of parking is very inconvenient, particularly in Ross Road and surrounding streets, but it is the only way that the drain cleansing can be addressed, so when you see the parking suspension notices go up, please obey them. If people park and prevent access to the drains then it means that the crews have to keep coming back which means more days with parking suspended.

*According to Susdrain Soakaways are square or circular excavations either filled with rubble or lined with brickwork, pre-cast concrete or polyethylene rings/perforated storage structures surrounded by granular backfill. They can be grouped and linked together to drain large areas including highways. The supporting structure and backfill can be substituted by modular or geocellular units.

Soakaways are a sustainable way to provide stormwater attenuation, stormwater treatment and groundwater recharge, are installed underground and are not visible.

June 9, 2016 Posted by | Information | , , , | Leave a comment

Wallington Music Festival 25th June 2016

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June 8, 2016 Posted by | Information | , , | Leave a comment

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