Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Whose future are the Tories planning to invest in?

I have to take issue with our local Tory leader’s latest rant against the Sutton Life Centre. The modest £4 million investment by Lib Dem led Sutton Council in a new community facility, matched by a grant of £4 million from the Big Lottery Fund is described by Councillor Scully as “a terrible waste of taxpayers’ money”. This is an interesting criticism when compared with the staggering £450 million spend on new infrastructure being made by neighbouring Tory-led Croydon Council, a large chunk of which will go towards providing extravagant new council offices for themselves. The Tories took control of Croydon from Labour at the last election.

The last time the Tories had power in Sutton they built the existing Civic Offices. Cllr. Scully makes a point of highlighting the poor state they are now in. Is this an indication of where Tory interests truly lie?

Ah now I see the light: are the local Tories cross with our plans to upgrade the library and youth facilities in the Stonecot area because they want the money kept for their own ends? The Tory opposition are arrogantly convinced that they will grab power in Sutton at the next election, so are they already planning to celebrate with a refurbishment of their assumed seat of power? Would a Tory administration bring with it grand plans for its own  ‘Tory Towers’ in Sutton?

 I see that within the foam of vective poured on the Life Centre Cllr Scully repeats the claim that funds to build this have been diverted from the schools repairs budget. At the recent council meeting this statement so outraged Lib Dem former leader Councillor Tope that he publicly denounced it as an outright lie; it would be impossible for this council to use revenue funds to finance a capital project like the Life Centre.  I see that the Tories are continuing with their usual tactics that if they repeat a slur often enough the public will come to believe it.

Cllr. Scully even goes on in his comments section to complain about the local press coverage the council debate on the Life Centre received (obviously it did not give sufficient weight to the Tory views). Could it be that the Sutton Guardian journalists have taken offence at Scully’s article on Conservative Home where he dispenses advice on how to manipulate local press coverage?

 Obviously Cllr. Scully believes himself a master of this dark art as he is dispensing guidance to his colleagues in this way!

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May 6, 2009 - Posted by | Opinion

10 Comments »

  1. A couple of facts to enliven what I’m sure will be a worthwhile debate:

    The £4m grant for the Life Centre comes from the myplace fund. This is administered by the Big Lottery Fund but the money actually comes from the DCSF. It’s taxpayers’ money, not lottery money.

    Sutton Council has recently published a consultation on the “regeneration” of Sutton town centre which includes, among many other things, the demolition and rebuilding of the Sutton Civic Offices, the central library and SCOLA to create a new “civic quarter”. While Sutton is a smaller place than Croydon, the scale of ambition (and doubtless, expense) in these proposals is comparable.

    I’m sure the Tories can speak for themselves about what their plans might be should they gain control of the council. In the meantime, it’d be nice if sitting councillors from the ruling group had a better grasp of the detail of the phenomenally expensive projects they’re proposing and voting for.

    Comment by Adrian Short | May 6, 2009 | Reply

    • Compare and contrast: after many years in administration the Lib Dems in Sutton recently put out a consultation on proposals to regenerate the town centre, which is far more in need of it than Croydon. In the consultation it includes the possibility of a new civic building. In Croydon the Tories’ plans for their £450 million pound project were apparently approved and finance found within their first term of office.

      Comment by jaynemccoy | May 7, 2009 | Reply

      • You’re a mile off. You’re speculating that the Tories in Sutton might have plans for rebuilding the Civic Offices while the LibDems in power, which you represent, have a well-advanced plan for doing exactly that.

        The Sutton town centre consultation is more than just blue-sky thinking. It’s the second stage of the process which is looking for specific feedback on the council’s own “preferred options” (that’s what they’re called) for future development.

        The council’s preferred option for the “civic quarter” is the demolition of the existing Civic Offices, library and SCOLA and their replacement with a cluster of buildings, the main one of ten storeys to house the council and several other lower buildings for other things. The only sense in which this might become “Tory Towers” is if the Tories take control of the borough and implement the LibDems’ existing plan.

        I assume you must have voted in favour of this plan at some point as I doubt the council puts out 120-page preferred-option consultations for demolishing and rebuilding half the town on an officer’s whim. Or is the council’s preferred option not your own?

        Returning to the Life Centre, in what sense is shrinking the size of the library and putting it under the same roof as what will presumably be a very lively youth centre an “upgrade”? As a resident of Stonecot ward I like my libraries to be places of quiet study and contemplation. The existing Ridge Road Library does just fine for that. I very much doubt the same will be true of the Life Centre.

        Comment by Adrian Short | May 7, 2009

      • I was not required to vote on the plan going out for consultation as it is a working document developed from previous informal consultation. The decision making will come when the responses to the consultation have been received and the plans amended to take account of the views submitted.

        As to the library within the life centre, there is already an example of this combination working in the Phoenix Centre. I assume that soundproofing is involved somewhere.

        Comment by jaynemccoy | May 8, 2009

  2. Jayne

    That’s the first that I have seen of Croydon’s plans. It’s also the first time that I have seen £4million described as ‘modest’. The point of complaining about the state of the drain outside the Civic is that it is all very well talking about building new things but what we have is not looked after.

    I think you will find that Lord Tope objected to our statement that the LibDems had raided the Adult Social Services budget rather than education. This example also shows how you can turn revenue into capital. The Adult Social Services budget has been overspent to the tune of £3.5million over the last couple of years. That money did not stay within the department but was added to general reserves which have just been raided to the tune of £5million.

    The budget entry that you are looking for with regard to the schools’ repairs is Government Supported Capital Expenditure (Revenue). This may have Revenue in the title but the report goes on to say “Nearly all the
    SCE (R) is announced as Education capital expenditure but under the ‘single capital pot’ arrangements can be used for any purpose.” This was reduced by £1.3million.

    Just as an aside, the Big Lottery Fund administer the myplace grants but the £4million has actually come from the Department for Children, Schools and Families and so, ultimately, the taxpayer.

    Comment by Cllr Paul Scully | May 7, 2009 | Reply

  3. I was just visiting to tell you that extravagant new council offices was in fact a priority for the Chief Executive, set this year by your senior councillor colleagues. However, I see that I have been beaten to it by Adrian Short.

    The current Civic Offices are in a poor state and make lousy use of the space. Denmark Road, The Grove, Stonecourt and many other council buildings are in the same situation. There will be no Conservative vanity project should we win the election. However, efficient use of council resources should include assessing whether we are getting the most out of our buildings. The recent staff survey which has had the highest response in recent years, indicates that council employees are dissatisfied with their working environment. This is at the same time that your colleagues have slashed the repair budget for council buildings by £2million.

    We are looking after the resources for the residents of the Borough. Many of the people who work in the Civic Offices are residents as well and we have a duty to look after them as responsible employers.

    Comment by Cllr Paul Scully | May 7, 2009 | Reply

    • I see that you are making your case for it already.

      Comment by jaynemccoy | May 7, 2009 | Reply

  4. On the electoral mathematics of the borough, the LibDems polled just 6% more votes than the Tories in the council elections in 2006. I’d say that makes it a marginal council and it would be arrogant for anyone to assume they’re going to win it.

    Of course, the electoral system which the LibDems oppose nationally meant that the LibDems got 42% more seats in Sutton than the Tories for their 6% extra votes. It could easily shake down on the other side of the line next time.

    http://suttondata.blogspot.com/2009/05/council-election-results-2006.html

    Comment by Adrian Short | May 7, 2009 | Reply

  5. Adrian, it is a shame that you don’t apply similar scrutiny to Cllr. Scully’s blog. Take for example his deliberately inflammatory statement in the same posting that “Cheam Baths will close by 2015.” He forgot to complete the sentence as the full story is, “Cheam Baths will close in 2015 when replacement facilities are planned to be in situ.” Unfortunately I don’t have the time to pick up on every misstatement and half truth that he makes and so I have to make do with a little light teasing about his possible motivations.

    As Cllr. Scully has quoted directly from your comments on my blog to make his case in Council debates perhaps I should assume that you are working as a team.

    Comment by jaynemccoy | May 11, 2009 | Reply

    • Jayne

      Adrian and I are only working as a team in so much as it’s you versus the world. I have absolutely no knowledge of Adrian’s political allegiance, should he have one. I seem to remember quoting Lord Tope to make my case in another Council debate.

      Tell you what, if I quote you, will you join my team? :)

      Comment by Cllr Paul Scully | May 13, 2009 | Reply


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