Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Tories delay deal for Orlit Freeholders

A decision was agreed at the Strategy & Resources Committee on Monday to allow the payment of a relocation grant of £35,000 to Orlit Freeholders to assist them in purchasing an alternative property following the council’s buyback of their homes. The conditions of the payment were set out in a policy which had been circulated to the Orlit Freeholders Association in advance of the public distribution of the papers and we had received positive feedback on the plans.

At the Strategy & Resources Committee Conservative Councillor Stuart Gordon-Bullock raised non-specific concerns about the policy. In response I expressed my frustration that despite having had the papers for ten days he was only raising these concerns now. The time between Cllr Gordon-Bullock receiving the papers and the meeting would have been more than ample for any changes to the policy to have been proposed  and agreed with myself and officers, enabling the grant to receive cross-party approval. However as the recommendation was agreed by a majority vote the grant was approved. I offered to liaise with Cllr Gordon-Bullock to make any improvements to the policy under my delegated powers to allay his concerns.

However I learnt today that the decision has been requisitioned to council by the Conservatives, which means no more work can be done on this matter until debated at the next full council meeting on 29th April.

The basis of the Tory’s concerns were that they thought the policy aimed to ‘get the council out of paying the grant’. This was deeply insulting both to myself and the officers who had worked so hard to find a way to improve the options available to the freeholders following feedback from our meetings with them. The proof would have been in the awarding of the grants, but now that cannot happen until after the 29th April.

The Conservatives claim in the requisition that they are responding to the concerns of the freeholders, but it seems strange that they are taking a route that halts all work on the grants, when they were given a route on Monday to address any concerns that wouldn’t cause any delay.

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March 20, 2013 - Posted by | Committee Meeting | ,

4 Comments »

  1. Just perhaps the Tories are meeting with the Orlit residents to see if they are content and actually trust the council not to wriggle out of commitments once the group are dissipated.

    Comment by Tony shields | March 20, 2013 | Reply

    • That sounds a bit after the fact, especially as our communications with the freeholders indicated that a number of them were keen to take up the grant, and they are now going to be disappointed.

      Comment by jaynemccoy | March 20, 2013 | Reply

  2. I remember sitting and watching a council meeting not so long ago when the Lib Dems were pressing ahead to take these people’s homes without any such grant. It was only Tony Shields and the Conservatives standing up for these people’s rights then. It was quite a shocking state of affairs to watch.

    It seems that now the Tories have shamed the Lib Dems into compensating these people properly, the Lib Dems want to take the credit for it and say the Tories are holding it up. What cheek!

    Comment by Simon Densley | March 22, 2013 | Reply

    • You are wrong about that. The offer that has been on the table from the start – the swap option – would work out financially more profitable for the homeowners than this new option. However it was more inconvenient for the freeholders and when the Opposition members finally stopped advising them not to speak to us we were able to hear from the homeowners themselves what the barriers were for them and what they would prefer in terms of choice. This led us to seek out a way of helping them find their own new house by way of offering a relocation grant. If the Tory representatives had provided proper advice, and not misled the residents into fighting for higher valuations which it is not in our gift to give, then we may have got here a lot sooner. It is my opposition colleagues who should be ashamed of themselves for dragging out the uncertainty these people are facing for longer than is necessary.

      Comment by jaynemccoy | March 28, 2013 | Reply


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