Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Tories Against Fun in Sutton

The local Conservatives came out to protest against last weekend’s ‘Art of Suburbia’ street festival celebrating the (nearly finished) town centre refurbishment. Whilst residents were thrilled by Bollywood dancers, Titan the Cyborg, and a custard pie fight our grumpy Tories handed out leaflets pointing out how much it was costing to entertain them.

In their leaflet not only did they begrudge residents having fun, they also set out their resentment at the investment in the high street. Seems Sutton residents are not allowed anything nice.

However their sour note was a bit off message as the festival had been partially funded by the Arts Council and the refurbishment is part of the London Mayor’s Great Spaces projects. This is a £220 million scheme to rejuvenate and revitalise more than 50 of the capital’s public places. Boris had even sent his Arts & Culture Advisor to show his support for the festival.

Whilst the Tories staged their demonstration (if you can call three middle-aged men handing out fliers a demonstration) residents held their breath as they watched a Transe Express artist perform high above their heads on a trapeze hoisted tremulously in the air by a crane, whilst drummers similarly suspended beat out a hypnotic rhythm. Meanwhile the discarded Tory leaflets were trampled underfoot.

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September 27, 2010 - Posted by | Opinion

8 Comments »

  1. Jayne

    I know that part of your role is to champion Sutton to attract inward investment. It’s a shame that your first project shows what Sutton Council does with that money. I noticed the Mayor’s adviser left pretty sharpish after seeing the patchwork quilt of the High Street. The new bricks look older than the originals, the wooden sculptures are positively comedic, the bins look ancient already, the varying layers of the new Trinity Square has already claimed one victim, a lady in a motorised scooter who required medical treatment when she drove off the stage. The workmanship all told is terrible. Who checks this stuff? Who makes sure the work is being done to the highest standard and holds the contractors to account?

    You claim that the Arts Council have paid for the launch of the revamped High Street in its entirety. Can you confirm exactly how much they gave for this? No-one minds people having fun. However you and your colleagues are charged with making some difficult decisions over the coming years. Attracting some 250 people to watch a few people dangling from a crane is an extravagance that I suspect will come back to haunt the administration.

    Comment by Paul Scully | September 28, 2010 | Reply

    • You obviously didn’t stay around to watch as over the course of the two days an estimated 25,000 people came to enjoy the festival. That is a lot of extra business for the local shops, which is probably why we have had the support of the businesses and traders for both the refurbishment and the festival.
      Yes there is a fair bit of finishing off to do around the High Street and I will be accompanying officers this week on one of a number of snagging inspections until everything has been completed satisfactorily.
      I hardly expected the opposition to say they liked anything about the improvements, but it seems that the Tory mantra is that we should all be wearing sackcloth & ashes rather than investing in our local economy.

      Comment by jaynemccoy | September 28, 2010 | Reply

  2. Hi Jayne

    This has nothing to do with fun. More to do with financial accountability.
    I hope everybody who turned up to the “festival” last weekend enjoyed themselves.The real point is whether it should have taken place for the cost attributed to it at all?
    This isnt a tribal issue,merely one which shows that some of us wish to make every penny count when spending taxpayers money wherever it comes from.
    When the council start making people redundant and cutting back on grants to the voluntary sector residents will not understand how the council looks profligate by holding a festival where the mjority of performers were not even from the locality.

    Comment by Tim Crowley | September 28, 2010 | Reply

    • Attracting more customers to the high street and raising the profile of Sutton to attract new business is exactly what is needed to help local shops and traders through the recession. Not to mention the employment provided by the refurbishment itself.
      I think you will also find that we see the voluntary sector as our partners in delivering cost effective services rather than applying the more brutal approach taken by, ooh, let’s say….Croydon Council who have severed most of their grants to the voluntary sector.

      Comment by jaynemccoy | September 28, 2010 | Reply

      • Hi Jayne
        My point here is that the benefits to the economy from this project are not very quantifiable.
        I have tried and will continue to look at this forensically rather than tribally as i said in my last comment.
        I really dont care about Croydon but i do know that whatever you say now the savings we are going to have to make as a borough will unfortunatley hurt the voluntary sector as well as everything else.I am sure when LBS signed up to be the Big Society pilot they thought that it would come with money attached.Well we both know different to that.
        There are in my view real question marks over the way the high street project has been designed and managed as evidenced by the lack of sequential working throughout the works and the fact we are in a prolongation situation.
        This i dont blame you for as you are not a construction project manager but someone needs to take a long hard look at themselves for the way events have been allowed to unfold.

        Comment by Tim Crowley | September 28, 2010

      • The project has faced its setbacks and will be subject to review as standard good practice. Not least of the problems is EDF failing to turn up to connect the new lamp columns. The old ones cannot be removed until this is done leaving us with the ridiculous situation of having new lamps we can’t light and the old ones still in situ. If you have any new suggestions to resolve this they would be very welcome as I don’t want to face the same situation as Coulsden where nine months on they are still waiting to be connected.

        Comment by jaynemccoy | September 29, 2010

  3. Jayne

    Are you really claiming 25,000 extra people turned up in Sutton Town Centre to see the event, because the pictures in the local paper doesn’t exactly bare witness to huge crowds

    Comment by Mike Lyon | October 9, 2010 | Reply

    • It would be a bit hard to squeeze 25,000 people into one photo! I didn’t personally count everyone but I was there on both days. Friday night was less busy – unsurprising given the bad weather earlier, but on the Saturday it was heaving and there was a real buzz in the town centre.

      Comment by jaynemccoy | October 11, 2010 | Reply


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