Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Stronger Economy Motion to Full Council

Last night I moved a motion to Full Council: Stronger economy – Supporting Business, Creating Jobs; seconded by Cllr Richard Clifton.

The text of my speech was as follows:

We are ambitious for Sutton. We love Sutton. Like our fellow residents we know it is a great place to live, and to work, and we have worked hard to make it that way.

But the recession has meant that local businesses have had to work harder just to keep afloat, that people have stayed home and saved rather than take risks with their money and investments. 

And during these lean times the council has worked to provide the support and environment necessary to help our businesses through the recession. Indeed our ten point plan was picked out as an example of good practice for local government.

This may be part of the explanation as to why Sutton has weathered the recession well, with our employment rates continuing to remain above the London average, and lower numbers of businesses going into administration.

But we also need to look forward, to seize the opportunities available to us so we don’t just stand still, but we are able to create more jobs and more prosperity for the future.

This is as important for the council to ensure it is able to continue to provide the services our residents’ value, as it is for individuals and businesses.

And that is because the future for local government is changing significantly, and we can no longer rely on government subsidy to fund our operations, that way lies uncertainty and a massively shrinking service offer. Instead we need to take control of our own destiny and secure our local funding base. In future we may be solely reliant on business rates & council tax income to fund our services.

But our ambitions are also bigger than that. Our innovative Opportunity Sutton economic strategy sets out our plan to bring new business and investment into the borough. New investment that will bring jobs, housing, funding for schools, healthcare, transport and public realm schemes. All things that local people will get direct benefit from. 

I can’t underestimate the importance to us of bringing that job offer to Sutton.

With our poorest residents facing an ever increasing squeeze on their income with the welfare reforms, the only way out for them is through finding employment, quality, fairly paid employment. Telling people they cannot expect to be dependent on government handouts is not enough, in fact it amounts to cruelty if they are faced with no alternatives, so it is incumbent on us to make sure that the alternative is out there in the form of jobs and training. This is why we are working so hard with our key partners on our Sutton Skills Match programme, to ensure local people have the skills necessary to take up the new job opportunities we are helping to create.

The other big crisis that the country is facing is the lack of housing that people can afford. Opportunity Sutton also involves ensuring that our strategic planning together with our inward investment drive will deliver the new housing that we so desperately need.

Any type of additional housing will help reduce the pressure on the market, but we are also adamant that new development ensures the delivery of social housing too.

This is why we have railed hard against the government’s extension of permitted development rights allowing offices to be converted to flats without any requirement to provide an affordable element. Yes we are happy for unviable offices to convert to residential accommodation, but not for those flats to only be affordable for commuters and city slickers.

So we are ambitious for Sutton because we are ambitious for our residents. We do not see the council’s role as subsidising our residents’ lifestyles, or as doing everything for them, we see our role as empowering and enabling people so they can take advantage of the offers and opportunities available to them.

If you are ambitious for Sutton and ambitious for our residents, please support this motion.

Other Liberal Democrat councillors spoke about the various projects impacting on their area under the Opportunity Sutton banner where we are already working to make our ambitions reality, and Councillor Clifton spoke in more detail about our innovative Sutton Skills Match programme and the new jobs that our work has already secured for the borough.

The Tory opposition had tabled an amendment which simply added to the motion an acknowledgement that the Outer London Funding was thanks to the Conservative London Mayor. As this was correct for two of the Opportunity Sutton projects falling within the ‘Improving district centres’ programme and didn’t take anything away from the work the council was doing in making use of that funding to deliver welcome improvements in Hackbridge and North Cheam & Worcester Park I had no quibble with that. However when speaking in the debate the opposition councillors Tim Crowley, Tony Shields & Peter Geiringer spoke so vehemently against the work the council is doing under Opportunity Sutton, claiming that none of the jobs and investment we had already attracted to the borough was due to local efforts but entirely down to national and regional policy, a point totally disproved by our comparative economic & employment statistics, that we felt to accept their amendment also meant accepting this perverse perspective. Coupled with the opposition’s uncomplementary descriptions of Sutton, hardly the way to win over new investors, we agreed that it would not be right to accept the amendment.

Surprisingly, having not had a good word to say about it, the Tory opposition then voted in favour of our unamended motion, with the exception of Cllr Crowley who had flounced out of the meeting by that point.

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

10 Comments »

  1. Nice words Jane but as usual a pack of lies…
    I waited until the vote had been taken before I left for one..
    Secondly the amendment did not just mention the Outer London Fund it mentioned the way Boris was also trying to help businesses in Sutton.
    I spoke up for business being one of the few people in the chamber who actually owns and runs one…but you wouldn’t understand that would you.
    You were born 40 years too late as running East Germany would have been more akin to your beliefs.
    Inclusivity….don’t make me laugh…

    Comment by Tim crowley | November 6, 2013 | Reply

    • Tim you were not in the chamber when the vote on the motion was taken, you left after the vote on the amendment. I would also warn against making assumptions about other people’s knowledge and experience; as a chartered accountant I have worked with and audited a wide range of businesses large and small, I have been self-employed, and my husband runs his own business. Not that I would rely solely on my own experiences when considering policy but ensure that we involve representative local business groups such as the Sutton Chamber and the FSB.
      Finally whilst I hardly expect our political views to align, I don’t think that this means you need to resort to personal insults.

      Comment by jaynemccoy | November 6, 2013 | Reply

      • Jayne, I’m afraid you’re plain wrong. Tim left after the vote on the amended motion around the same time that I did.

        Comment by Paul Scully (@scullyp) | November 6, 2013

  2. Jayne I was in the chamber when the vote was taken as I voted for the amendment and for the motion.
    Check with the mayor and everybody else.
    I suppose if you say that enough you’ll believe it as well.
    Business is at the core of my life and beliefs so don’t lecture me on how I feel about it.
    Have you ever almost gone out of business due to cashflow thanks to a client deliberately going bust on you to the tune of 40k?
    It is a shame that we can’t work collaboratively on this because with you and others in your party you are always looking for the next political point scoring opportunity.
    Real Businesses haven’t got the time or energy to indulge in those types of games.
    Perhaps we should just avoid each other on this and shake hands after next May.
    Regards
    Tim

    Comment by Tim crowley | November 6, 2013 | Reply

    • Tim, I don’t think I am the one doing the lecturing here.

      Comment by jaynemccoy | November 6, 2013 | Reply

  3. Sorry, I meant the original motion after the amendment was defeated. Tim was in the chamber for both votes.

    Comment by Paul Scully (@scullyp) | November 6, 2013 | Reply

    • Tim’s absence from his seat at the time of the vote on the unamended motion was something I particularly noted, otherwise I would not have mentioned it. I also believed that you had to be in your seat for your vote to be counted. If he was elsewhere in the chamber at the time then I am pleased that he felt able to support the motion.

      Comment by jaynemccoy | November 6, 2013 | Reply

  4. It seems I do owe Tim an apology as I have been corrected by my own colleagues who confirm that Tim only left after both votes had been taken. I am also sorry that Tim doesn’t recognise that the vast majority of the work being implemented under Opportunity Sutton is precisely to provide the environment & support locally that businesses need to survive & thrive in these difficult times.

    Comment by jaynemccoy | November 6, 2013 | Reply

  5. Thankyou for your apology Jane which I gratefully accept.
    Opportunity Sutton remember is only one part of an overall strategy that will help to make business thrive.
    Low levels of business regulation and taxation are another and that is why Opportunity Sutton is not the Panacea you seem to think it is.
    I still believe our core planning strategy is too focused on “green build” and Enviromental issues which I know have been a block to certain companies coming to Sutton.
    It is interesting to me that this administration that is so wedded to a ” greener” society has pinned so much of its hopes on a company which makes 90 pct of its money by extracting carbon fuels from the ground.
    A slight contradiction there maybe…..

    Comment by Tim crowley | November 6, 2013 | Reply

    • Of course Opportunity Sutton is not the sole solution, but it focuses on the things we do have control of to deliver locally, and I am not ashamed of the fact that as a council we are putting so much effort into this area.
      As for the issue of taxation and business regulation, I have been involved within the Party in calling for simplification of the taxation system and keeping business taxes low, not just because it helps businesses, but because it also generates greater tax revenues overall and reduces the demand for tax avoidance schemes.
      We will always disagree on environmental issues and whether it is seen as a barrier or an attraction will depend on the ideology. Nor would I presume to determine which type of businesses should & shouldn’t locate in Sutton, as long as they are prepared to contribute positively to our borough and not detract from it.

      Comment by jaynemccoy | November 6, 2013 | Reply


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