Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Thursday 11th September 7.30pm

Health and Well Being Scrutiny Committee

The two main issues to be addressed at this meeting were the Elizabeth House regeneration scheme and the Mental Health Trust’s application for Foundation Trust status.


I was pleased to find the audience area filled with residents of Elizabeth House and their representatives, as that had been the intention of holding the meeting in Cheam.


I had seen the list of twenty questions that had been submitted to the committee by representatives of the residents and it gave me a good insight into what particular issues were most concerning them. I had therefore prepared questions to solicit the information that would address some of those concerns.


I was able to determine that the Council would gain nothing financially from the regeneration project; I received clarification that all residents would be given the right to return to the improved housing, and learnt that the temporary re-housing was expected to take between 12 and 18 months, with residents moved to other housing as places suitable to their needs arose.


I was saddened to hear that the current wardens would not have any right to return to the site, and I know that many residents will not be happy to hear this either. We were reassured that suitable alternative placements would be found for them.


I asked about whether similar regeneration projects had been undertaken by this Council and was told about Belsize Court. I have heard very good things both about the quality of the accommodation here and about the way residents and carers were involved in the project. I recommended that current residents be involved in the design of the new accommodation at the Elizabeth House site and throughout the regeneration programme.


Conservative Councillor Cliff Carter wanted assurances that every new accommodation would have emergency Safecall facilities. The response was that each resident would be assessed on their need and Safecall or a similar service provided to those who needed it. Bizarrely during the course of the meeting Cllr. Carter asked the same question at least twice more. He wanted a commitment for every household to have this facility, but as many of the current tenants are neither old nor disabled it seems to me that it would be inappropriate and expensive to provide this service to everyone.


The residents were obviously restless, I suspect because they were wondering if they would have the opportunity to speak. However the representative who had submitted the questions on behalf of residents was invited to the table and she read out a prepared speech. She was angry, and received applause from the audience. I was saddened that even though most of the concerns she expressed had been addressed by the committee’s questioning she refused to acknowledge this. Written answers to all of the twenty questions were also distributed to all members of the public, but concern was expressed because in the hurry to photocopy enough copies one of the sheets had been missed out of some copies. One resident appeared to suspect that this was deliberate.


I was reassured by the responses to my questions that the project was necessary, and indeed the Council had been criticised for not addressing the problem sooner; and also that the aim was purely to improve the living accommodation of both the current residents and to provide high quality sheltered living accommodation for the future.


However I accept that the way the project was first presented to the residents was unhelpful and may have contributed to the distress felt by them. I will be making recommendations for improvements to similar future communications.


The questioning of the St George’s Mental Health Trust about its application for Foundation Trust Status ranged from how the membership would be made up, to how the trust would be held to account. I learnt that the cost of making the change in governance structure could cost in the region of £250,000. I also sought reassurances that the quoted ‘improvements to the trusts buildings and estate’ would not mean closure of facilities at the expense of patient services.


September 29, 2008 - Posted by | Committee Meeting


  1. I am afraid the removal of Wardens is as a result of a vicious piece of legislation from the Government whereby Housing Benefit no longer goes towards Warden support. This is now handled by SPAAs who will not pay for Wardens. Thousands of pensioners across the country opted into Sheltered Housing because it had a Warden, some even selling their own homes to enter this type of accommodation. In a sense they have been tricked and as many have told me ‘I wouldn’t have moved here at all if it had not got a Warden.

    Do not forget that these people have vacated family sized homes to move into Sheltered Housing and , as a result, as many as 300,000 such homes have been released back into the national housing stock for the benefit of younger people.

    If you take away the incentive to move into Sheltered Housing then people will not move into it.

    Unfortunately , regarding the statement that many of the questions had already been answered, should be be read . The questions had been answered to the satisfaction of the Committee (Not it seems, to the satisfaction of the residents) who are understandably not keen to lose their Wardens…….Let me end with a quote from many of the members of the Sheltered Housing UK Association. ” I would not have moved here if I did not wish to live in Sheltered Housing”



    Comment by Vernony | September 30, 2008 | Reply

  2. Thank you for this insight into the issue of wardens. I had accepted the answer as meaning that the current wardens would not have the right to return, and had not considered whether it meant that there would be no wardens in the new facilities. I will follow this up to determine what the intention is in regard to wardens at the new build.

    Comment by jaynemccoy | September 30, 2008 | Reply

  3. I have received this response to my enquiry on this issue:
    “There will be a full time staff presence on the site located within the extra care facility which will also provide services to other older persons living on the site.”
    I hope that this clarifies matters.

    Comment by jaynemccoy | September 30, 2008 | Reply

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