Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Council votes through fourth year Council Tax Freeze

Last night Full Council approved its budget for 2013/14 which included a freeze to the council tax for the fourth consecutive year. Councillor Simon Wales, Lead member for Resources, set out in his speech how we had managed to achieve this against the background of cuts to local authority grant funding.

There were a number of contributions from fellow members setting out what we had managed to achieve over the year, and I was particularly impressed by Cllr Kirsty Jerome’s enthusiastic account of the work being done in North Cheam and Worcester Park through the Outer London Fund.

I used my speech to highlight the positive work we are doing to stimulate growth and investment in the borough. Full text is set out below.

A budget to support our economic growth strategy

The key issue the country is facing is the difficult economic climate. A lethal combination of factors has left the UK teetering on the edge of a triple dip recession, desperately seeking some green shoots of growth. In response to the situation Labour left the country in, the Coalition has made drastic cuts to government spending, many of which have fallen to local authorities to deliver.

These cuts have been painful, and whilst all authorities have been required to take their share of the cuts, they do not fall even-handedly: those councils that have been wasteful or built up large reserves have found it easier than those councils who have been efficient, or who never received a large proportion of government grant in the first place.

The two things that have assisted Sutton in dealing with the difficult times we face are preparation; and ensuring that the measures we implement are right for Sutton, right for our residents.

We anticipated stringent cuts, and implemented major programmes for change early on to ensure that we reviewed and adapted our operations with due consideration. Ensuring fairness and protecting the most vulnerable was at the heart of our approach.

And we have also understood that the way out of this recession is to stimulate growth. That is sustainable growth, not a boom and bust economy, but growth that brings employment for local people, new opportunities for developing and using the skills of local residents, growth that doesn’t just ensure profits for developers, but also secures additional trade for local businesses and service providers. We want growth that adds to and increases the vitality of our town and district centres, ensuring vibrant shopping and community hubs into the future. Here we recognised the need for ambition and investment in Sutton, and we also recognised that it was up to us to do it for ourselves.

All the economic growth funding for London has been placed in the hands of the London Mayor, so we have to fight hard to win a share for our quiet suburban borough.

But we recognised that we needed to fight for economic growth in Sutton, for the sake of our residents and our future, and we knew that there was ample opportunity within Sutton to make that growth happen. So last year we launched our economic growth strategy, called, of course, Opportunity Sutton, and declared Sutton Open for Business. Sustainable business!

But to deliver on that declaration, we have to have the resources in place to meet the challenge. And our budget makes a massive statement to that effect. It gives a commitment to supporting our economic strategy, and it does it in such a way to ensure that our delivery plans are robust and costed, in line with our overall council policies, and that they ensure a positive impact on our residents.

And our Opportunity Sutton approach is already delivering the stimulus required. We have seen unprecedented investment interest in Sutton, with key problem sites like Victoria House in North Cheam, and Sutton Point now with viable development plans and local support.

We have won funding from central and regional government to enable us to achieve our ambitions for our district centres in Wallington, Worcester Park and Beddington and Hackbridge. And we have attracted new and prestigious businesses to our town centres like Metro Bank and Patisserie Valerie.

This is a significant achievement when viewed against the background of national growth shrinkage, and means that our early preparations were sound. This budget seeks to consolidate that work, and flags up that directorates across the council need to work together to secure the benefits Opportunity Sutton can achieve.

I have already mentioned the jobs and business as benefits of this investment, but I need to highlight that it is also the way we will deliver the new homes that are so desperately needed, it will enable the regeneration of parts of Sutton as we continue with the Durand programme and Hackbridge projects, and it will help us make the case for Tramlink to come to Sutton.

And finally it will ease the burden on our council taxpayers, as the increase in income from new business rates directly benefits Sutton through the new local authority grant settlement.

This budget is a forward looking budget, one which is ambitious for Sutton, and for Sutton’s residents, and I commend it to Council.

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March 5, 2013 - Posted by | Committee Meeting | , , , ,

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