Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Council Budget debate 2019

Another year, another budget debate with the Conservative opposition criticising the budget but failing to offer any alternative of their own. But as we have seen with Brexit, the Tories seem generally to lack the vision to see the need for a Plan B.

Cllr Garratt appeared to have been given the role of opposition budget spokesperson, but in his fifteen minute response to the financial statements under debate, somehow managed to avoid talking about the budget almost entirely. Instead he used the time to rehash complaints about bin collection and street cleaning, but again, without any answers to the issues.

The doom and gloom of trying to balance a budget with diminishing resources was given a period of light relief as we saw Independent Councillor Nick Mattey launch his stand up career. The feedback issues with the main microphone system gave Cllr Mattey the opportunity to take centre stage to deliver his budget speech. His contrived ranting expounded a series of conspiracy theories that so escalated into the realms of the absurd that ten minutes in and the chamber was in tears of laughter. Even the Tory benches had its members’ shoulders shaking with merriment and the application of tissues to watering eyes. We were even treated to the rare sight of Cllr Pascoe cracking a smile – something I have not witnessed in my eight years of knowing her.

The Nick Mattey show ended and it was back to business with Cllr Mo Saqib bringing the debate to its conclusion with a throwback to the Conservatives about their Government’s responsibility for the many ills local government was facing. Sadly, having politely sat through many speeches of criticism from their members, once the Lib Dems passed anything similar their way, the Tory benches erupted with outrage, barracking, shouting and harassing Cllr Saqib so his comments were drowned out. This playground behaviour had to be twice called out by the Mayor as he asked the opposition members to do the courtesy of allowing Cllr Saqib his five minutes to speak uninterrupted.

Unfortunately time ran out before everyone who wanted to speak could do so, including me. Not wanting the work put into a speech to go to waste I publish it here:

BACK TO THE 80s
Let’s be clear – we are raising council tax. And we are raising it by the maximum amount we can – just under 5%.
That is not going to be popular with residents, it is a gift to the opposition for them to attack us. And we are all residents – so we too will all have to pay extra council tax.
So why on earth are we putting it up?

To try to put it simply: councils get funding for delivering services in three ways: central Government funding, business rates and council tax.
Since 2010 the government has continually reduced the amount it gives to councils, whilst at the same time asking us to deliver more services.
In addition we have a growing population of older people and children with complex needs requiring specialist support, all of which is very expensive.
So with less funding from government, the only way to keep up with demand is to increase council tax.
It is in effect a government stealth tax. The government takes money off you through general taxation, but by not passing it on to councils, they know we will have to raise council tax. But for that you will blame the councils, not the government.
Clever that!

The Conservatives over there like to try to divert the blame from their inept government and say we are wasting money, and not managing things well.
Well they are on the Audit Committee. Maybe they should read their papers. Year after year our external auditors state that this council manages its finances well and offers good value for money.
And the boroughs that are in a mess currently, tend to be Tory ones.

In contrast what has happened over the past few years, let’s call them the austerity years, is that here in Sutton we have done everything we can to avoid passing on too much of the pain.
We have squeezed and scrimped and managed to close a budget gap of £83 million over the last eight years, that is more than half of our total budget in 2010.
But despite all this, government cuts mean we still have a further £22 million to find just to continue limping on, so we need to raise council tax.
The opposition will condemn us for this, but what will the borough look like if we don’t?

Well we would be closing libraries and childrens’ centres, stopping meals on wheels. Only the most desperate cases will receive social care support. Our roads and streets will fall into disrepair, unmaintained and dirty. Our parks will be scruffy and unattractive.
It will be a case of back to the eighties. Because that is exactly what the borough looked like back then, after years of Conservative control. By the mid-eighties Sutton had a reputation as a run-down borough.
It was a deliberate neglect of the borough that was the quid pro quo for keeping taxes low under Conservative policy. A policy that led to the Lib Dems eventually taking control, and retaining it for over 30 years.
We got elected on the back of a promise to improve the borough, and with the honesty that we would raise council taxes to pay for those improvements. Not only did we deliver on our promises, but we took Sutton and made it one of the best places to live, work and raise a family.
We need more honesty that low taxes mean you don’t get quality services.
If residents are happy to go back to the poor state the borough was in under Tory rule in return for low taxes then they have that choice. But that is not what I am hearing. Residents have got used to living in a well-maintained borough and don’t like to see it slip one bit.

Claims that the conservatives would manage the council better is a joke. The reason that councils are underfunded is due to the enormous balls-up the Conservatives are making of running the country.
There are too many examples of Conservative incompetency: Boris’ garden bridge, Crossrail, that ferry contract, Graylings’ Virgin trains deal, Universal Credit, the housing crisis…..
Is that really the example they want us to follow?

Whilst the Conservatives are fighting for who will be next up the greasy leadership pole, the economy is paralysed with uncertainty. Billions have been wasted on this Brexit clusterbomb, billions which could have been spent on our NHS, on Policing, and on local government services.

Yet they sit there happily supporting their government’s self-imposed austerity, self-imposed economic wrecking-ball, self-imposed self-implosion.

On that track record, I wouldn’t let a Conservative near a piggy bank, never mind a council budget.

 

 

Advertisements

March 3, 2019 Posted by | Committee Meeting, Liberal Democrats | , , , , , | Leave a comment

January 2019 Council Meeting Part 2

Tories fail to support Lib Dem motion to end schools and SEND underfunding

Parties unite on Conservative call to promote Hindu and Buddhist new year

After a short adjournment of the meeting to allow the crowds there for the Parking Strategy to disperse, the business of the council recommenced.

Lib Dems call for fair funding for Sutton’s schools

Cllr Jenny Batt, Vice-chair of the People Committee, had set out a motion condemning the underfunding of schools and pupils with Special Educational Needs as a result of the Government’s new schools funding formula. It had been expected that this was a motion the Conservative and Independent councillors would willingly support.

Tory Leader in public row with officers

However before the debate could get underway we were treated to the spectacle of the Tory Leader, Tim Crowley, publicly arguing with the Council’s Monitoring Officer over an amendment they had submitted that had been disallowed. This was clearly the continuation of an argument that had taken place earlier as the result of the Conservative Leader’s refusal to accept the Monitoring Officer’s ruling.

The Monitoring Officer calmly referred to the Council’s Constitution, to remind Cllrs Crowley that an amendment cannot be accepted if rather than adding to a motion, it seeks to negate it. She reiterated her advice that the purpose of debates at council were to argue areas of disagreement which then could be resolved between the parties if acceptable. Cllr Crowley continued to push, pointing out that their area of disagreement was a point of fact, which the officer again highlighted could be resolved in the debate, but not via an amendment that negated the whole motion.

The Conservative Leader’s response to not getting his way was petulant, advising the Mayor that his group would therefore not be participating in the debate.

Finally, to the Schools Funding debate

Cllr Batt proposed the motion explaining how, like boroughs across the UK, Sutton was seeing increasing numbers of students, including students with severe or complex disabilities requiring significant extra support, and yet Government spending per pupil was now lower than it was in 2010. Cllr Ed Joyce, previously a teacher in a Sutton secondary school, explained the toll this underfunding was taking on teachers, with many leaving the profession, and recruitment at an all time low. We heard how teachers unions were striking in protest at the impacts of the new formula, which would hinder their ability to deliver the excellent education all students deserve.

In response Cllr Neil Garratt broke ranks and sought to copy his recent backer, Nick Mattey, by using diversionary tactics. He chose to talk about school buildings and planning, rather than schools funding, repeating well-rehearsed claims that building was delayed due to prioritising the Belmont site over Rosehill. This was in deliberate denial of the planning principles applicable to MOL land that meant this was the only way the council could have proceeded. Had we followed the Tories’ preferred option of delivering Rosehill first, we would have faced the embarrassment of the planning application being refused, along with a significant delay to getting any school built. Cllr Mattey’s case for the Belmont school being too small for purpose was also somewhat trite given the school build is almost complete and the Harris Academy preparing to move in later this year.

In her response to the debate Cllr Jenny Batt saw off Cllr Garratt’s accusations of wasting money on the new school build by highlighting that the funding was managed by the Department for Education, not the council. Further embarrassment ensued for the Tories as they failed to support the condemnation of underfunding of the borough’s schools and abstained from the vote, despite their own MP Paul Scully having signed a letter alongside other MPs calling on the Secretary of State for Education to recognise the crisis in High Needs Funding for children with SEND.

Councillor Nandha’s motion brings religious harmony

After an acrimonious meeting, Conservative Councillor Param Nandha managed to achieve a harmonious conclusion to the meeting with his motion asking the council to recognise the Hindu/Singala New Year that falls on April 14th.

A minor amendment to the motion adding a commitment to help promote key festivals of the other main religions had been amicably agreed between Cllrs Dombey and Nandha prior to the meeting.

However even this short debate was not without its bizarre turn.

Independent Councillor Nick Mattey had clearly not seen the agreed amendment set out on the table before him. As a result the leader of the Sutton Independent Group stood up to make the same point about extending the recognition to other religious groups.

However the religions Cllr Mattey specifically cited were Druidism and Satanism.

There were stunned looks of disbelief from all sides of the room as this proposal dropped like a stone.

Like guests tactfully ignoring the antics of an embarrassing relative at a family celebration, the motion was unanimously agreed without further reference to Cllr Mattey’s contribution.

 

 

February 21, 2019 Posted by | Committee Meeting | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chair’s update on the work of the Housing, Economy & Business Committee

Meeting 29th January 2019 key items of business:

  • Housing Rents and Related Charges 2019/20 Annual council housing rent setting report. 1% rent reduction set by government so no local discretion currently. Have discretion over other HRA items which were generally increased in line with inflation. Recommendations agreed
  • Performance management of the Roundshaw estate by Metropolitan Thames Valley. Concerns were raised about the housing association’s responsiveness to resident concerns and support for Resident Associations.
  • Delivery of phase 2 of the HRA new build programme Positive news of grant of 6.5m from London Mayor to deliver 81 more council homes. Recommendations agreed
  • Council Tax Empty Dwelling Discounts Removal of empty dwellings discount and increased the council tax payable on empty sites up to the maximum amount (premium 100% after 2 years, 200% after 5 years, 300% after 10 years) to deter landowners sitting on empty properties so they are released for people to live in. Recommendations agreed
  • Council Tax Reduction Scheme 2019/20 Agreed to adjust the income banding in line with inflationary increases.
  • Discretionary Business Rate Relief scheme 2019/20 and 2020/21 Local small business relief scheme proposed for final two years of govt funded local discount scheme due to rates revaluation. Also detailed a new small retailer relief scheme announced by Govt. Recommendations agreed

Business for next meeting on 19th March 2019

  • Sutton Town Centre Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan
  • Carshalton Village Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan
  • Housing Revenue Account 30 year Business Plan annual update
  • Council/Sutton Housing Partnership Management Agreement review
  • SHP Annual Delivery Plan
  • Review of Housing Allocations Policy

Other Business outside of formal meetings

Sutton Link

Awaiting analysis of results of consultation. Initial information shows strong support for the Tram over Rapid Bus Transport and a preference for an on-road route.

SDEN – Sutton Decentralised Energy Network Ltd

All but a short length of pipework now laid including over the railway bridge gantry. SDEN is currently responsible for supplying energy to 81 Felnex properties (New Mill Quarter) from a temporary energy centre onsite until the connection is made to take landfill gas via landfill gas turbines, and then from the ERF once fully operational.

Shrubs and trees that had to be removed from a stretch of the land behind Hackbridge station to lay the pipework in Beddington Farmlands are now being replaced with new trees.

It has been confirmed that there is agreement with Clarion Homes to supply around 460 homes at the Lavenders in Hackbridge.

Employment and Skills Board

Sutton Women Mean Business projects in the week of International Women’s Day  Successful Sutton the town centre BID has taken on part of the Women Mean Business project and is hosting an awards ceremony to celebrate successful Sutton Women. There will be a launch event on Friday 8th March and the awards ceremony will take place on 26th September.

There are also School Speed Networking Sessions in March organised by the council and the Girls Learning Trust covering Carshalton Girls, Wallington Girls and Nonsuch schools. This will involve the students getting the opportunity to meet with 30 female ambassadors and quiz them. These women cover police, fire, nursing, management, small business, recruitment, architecture, engineering, voluntary sector, housing and local government. Some are ex-pupils.

In April will also be a Women Mean Business Library Exhibition of 100 Sutton Women – the WMB Ambassadors, and a series of WMB Business Growth workshops (all delivered by local business women).

Next meeting of the Board is Monday 11th March 9.30am – 11.30am.

Beddington Programme

HGV restrictions through Beddington Village are expected to be installed by the end of March. Work continues on improvements to the highway and footpaths and plans continue for a dedicated cycle lane along Beddington Lane.

Sutton Living Ltd

The company is seeking to appoint a design and build contractor to deliver the Wallington Public Hall site.

The company also received permission from the Sutton Shareholdings Board to set up a subsidiary Design and Build development co. so that it can reclaim VAT and thereby reduce costs.

Strategic Planning

The Sutton Local Plan has been shortlisted for the Royal Town Planning Institute’s ‘Excellence in Plan Making Practice Award’ and the Council’s Strategic Planning Team has been shortlisted for the Royal Town Planning Institute’s ‘Local Authority Planning Team of the Year’. The winners will be announced at a ceremony on 24th April.

The Strategic Team are also making representations on the Mayor’s London Plan on behalf of Croydon, Kingston, Merton, Richmond and Sutton contesting the Mayor’s calculations on small site development delivery capacity, amongst other matters.

Following a successful referendum vote the Hackbridge and Beddington Corner Neighbourhood Plan has been officially adopted as planning policy.

Council housing new build

We officially handed over the keys to tenants for the first of the new build council homes at Fellowes Road.

The Budget report notes a slight delay to the delivery of the other two sites, Richmond Green and Ludlow Lodge. Both were expected to be completed in February but in both cases inclement weather has delayed works. At Richmond Green there was also an issue of non-performance by SES Water. Richmond Green is now expected to be completed by May. With Ludlow Lodge the expected completion is now June and is also later than anticipated due to the decision to install a sprinkler system in light of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Ward councillors are being briefed on new proposals for more council housing on sites in their area in light of the £6.5m funding secured from the London Mayor. We hope to deliver a further 81 new homes with this funding, matched with right to buy receipts and HRA borrowing.

Regeneration

HEB members visited a Catalyst Housing Association regeneration scheme in Havelock.

Consultation with residents is ongoing about potential regeneration schemes at Elm Grove in Sutton Central and Beech Tree Place in Sutton West. The ward councillors are briefed and involved in the process. Elm Grove is more progressed and viability work is now underway using the feedback from residents on needs and preferences.

Work is being done looking into building housing on garage sites at Alexandra Gardens in Clockhouse. Ward councillors have been briefed.

Ward councillors and officers are also liaising with Benhill residents as their area has been identified in the Local Plan as a potential regeneration site.

Other

The Leader and I met a delegation of the G15 (12 biggest Housing Associations) to discuss their official ‘Offer to Local Authorities’ to collaborate on affordable housing delivery and better ways of working together. I used the opportunity to raise the poor responsiveness to residents of A2Dominion and officers raised issues with Metropolitan Thames Valley. We then gave the delegates a quick visit to see our new council housing and they were impressed by the quality and design.

I have attended meetings at London Councils as Lib Dem Housing and Planning Lead and the London Councils Planning Awards event.

I have continued my work at the LGA on the Grenfell Task & Finish Group and did the welcome on behalf of the LGA at a London event to share learning from the Grenfell Tower fire across sectors.

I attended a visit with the Leader and Cllr James to the Wallington CAB office to understand the impacts of Government transferring funding for Universal Credit support from the council to the CAB.

I attended the Harris Academy Topping Out ceremony with Ruth, Marian and Jenny to celebrate progress with the new build school on the Belmont site.

I attended a South London Partnership workshop on Visualising Good Growth.

I have regular meetings with the MD of Sutton Housing Partnership and the chair and Vice chair of SFTRA to review performance of the ALMO and sit on the regular Strategic Fire Safety meetings.

Along with Cllr Bartolucci, vice chair of HEB, I met with Encompass management to discuss current housing placement pressures and waiting list figures.

 

February 20, 2019 Posted by | Committee Meeting, Information | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Conservative Parking Strategy Motion seeks to undermine consultation process

The Conservative motion presented to last night’s council meeting was held to a background of a huge attendance of residents concerned about parking proposals being made for their area, thanks to Sandra Ackland’s facebook page, Controlled Parking Residents’ Forum.

Much of the concern had been whipped up by the Conservatives making false claims about non-responses being taken as assent, and misleading people about the consultation process. There was also a contingent of Labour activists keen to exercise their aggressive approach to political debate.

Setting the record straight

Cllr Manuel Abellan, the lead member on this issue, bravely addressed a hostile crowd to set the record straight and explain that these were not the final proposals and officers were still working through the feedback from the consultation.

What the Conservative opposition, led by Cllr Tony Shields, were demanding in their motion, was the scrapping of the consultation before any of the resident feedback had been analysed and the proposals amended based on that feedback. Instead they wanted a repeat of the 18 month consultation, and for it to be on their own ad hoc parking scheme plans, not based on the resident feedback.

This demonstrates their complete failure to understand how consultation works. We asked residents what the parking problems were in their area, if any; responded with some draft proposals seeking residents’ views, and the next stage is to look at the resident feedback and adapt or scrap the proposals accordingly. The proposals are not a blanket scheme, but on a road by road basis whilst considering the wider context.

Conservatives want us to consult residents but not to bother looking at what they have to say

Whilst it is accepted that lots of people don’t like some of the proposals for their area, that is the point of the consultation – to see what will work and what won’t. The Conservative’s motion asks us to ignore any analysis of resident feedback and just scrap the whole thing. But not everyone is against the proposals.

Whilst there is a vocal number of residents who don’t want to see parking restrictions introduced in their roads, there are others that do want it, as it is the only way they can be sure of being able to park in their own road given the pressures of commuter parking. Cllr Jean Crossby spoke clearly at the meeting of how many of her residents were willing to accept the inconvenience of parking controls if it stopped staff and visitors to St Helier Hospital blocking up their streets and driveways.

Seeking resident-led solutions

The current stage of the Parking consultation is to review the feedback from residents on a road by road basis and then adapt the proposals accordingly. Many residents have good, alternative proposals. Others explain how the specific issues in their road make the proposals unworkable. Others are keen for the proposals to be implemented. This is all valuable on-the-ground intelligence from people who understand their area and the issues. This information will help officers develop a tailored and workable scheme. But to get that feedback the council had to go out with some initial proposals, no matter how potentially unpopular.

How resident feedback shaped planning policies

We had a similar situation with the Local Plan consultation. With planning policies there are a number of matters that have to be considered and consulted on, some of which were highly controversial, like the need for Traveller sites. This particular issue caused outrage and some difficult meetings just like last night’s.

However, it prompted unprecedented resident feedback on the Local Plan and provided a solid body of evidence that allowed us to make the case to the Planning Inspector that we could not provide new sites but should expand the existing Traveller site.

This demonstrates how the resident feedback changed the proposed policy to one that was more acceptable, but still addressed the issue.

I am hopeful that the feedback from the current Parking Consultation will result in a similar, resident-led solution to local issues.

Lib Dems don’t shirk the tricky issues

As Cllr Abellan said at the council meeting, we know we will not be able to solve the parking problems whilst there are more cars than there are parking spaces in the borough. What the policy seeks to do is to tip the balance more in favour of residents so they get priority parking in their own roads.

There are few easy solutions to the problems we face, but Liberal Democrats do not believe in shirking the issue and instead will talk honestly to residents about the issues, and the options for dealing with them.

At the council meeting Cllr Abellan was willing to stand up and take on a difficult issue in the face of heckling and even personal attacks from some opposition members. Cllr Shields’ ‘joke’ about putting Cllr Abellan on suicide watch was beneath contempt and one he was rightly made to apologise for.

Fortunately some residents in attendance expressed their gratitude to Cllr Abellan afterwards for clarifying the situation. Others had been worried that the proposals would be scrapped because they wanted them in their road.

The key message to residents where proposals have been made is to get in touch with your ward councillors to discuss your views so they can help you shape the revised proposals for your area.

January 29, 2019 Posted by | Committee Meeting, Information | , , , | 29 Comments

Heartfelt stories from councillors for Anti-Bullying Week

The Liberal Democrat Group submitted a motion to Council relating to Anti-bullying Week 2018 promoted by the Anti-Bullying Alliance. It was proposed by Cllr Chris Williams and seconded by Cllr Jenny Batt, the two vice-chairs of the People Committee.

The motion recognised the increasing incidences of bullying, and resolved to be clear that bullying is unacceptable in any form. The motion contained a pledge by Sutton councillors to lead by example in our interactions, for the council to join the Anti-Bullying Alliance and undertake their training programme, and to ensure clear signposting for residents to appropriate support.

We were pleased that the motion achieved cross-party support.

Unfortunately time constraints meant that not all the speeches could be heard. Two of my colleagues had prepared speeches based on their personal experiences that they still wanted to share to show others that they are not alone:

Councillor Nali Patel

Dear Mr Mayor, please forgive me for not standing whilst I speak on the motion against bullying.
Everyone needs power and control in their lives.
However, people who bully others use their power in an unhealthy way to hurt someone else.
They cross other peoples’ emotional and physical boundaries, often with devastating effect.
Being disabled, I would like to talk about an incident to show how bullying has affected me emotionally.
I usually go to pay at the health counter in the Boots because it has easy access and also the counter is low enough for me to reach.
On one occasion, there were two queues. I joined one of them. We had to go in turn as only one counter was open. When my turn came I drove my scooter closer and placed my things on the counter.
All of a sudden I heard very abusive words from a lady with her baby. She touched my disability scooter and said I was pretending to be disabled. However much I tried to explain she turned deaf ears. The scene she created mesmerised and horrified me.
Eventually the manager came out and took the lady to another counter (without saying anything to me)
This left me feeling unwanted and useless. This type of bullying leaves a permanent mark.
Incidents, like this, are repeated on public transport and in many other places. I belong to British Polio Fellowship and such painful, bullying incidents are always discussed.
I fail to understand why, because we are disabled, it is thought OK to hurt us; to kick us when we are already down; to leave us on the verge of breaking down. We feel alone, with no one there to stand up for us, or to save us from the bullies.
Even in modern, enlightened Britain, the world is still for people who are physically fit. And the phrase, coined in the late nineteenth century, seems to me still to hold true today. It is “survival of the fittest.”

***

Councillor Muhammad Sadiq

Bullying – A problem which has been around globally for many, many years.
When speaking of bullying, we automatically think of the stereotypical scenario where a school kid is being pushed around in the playground by some ‘bullies.’
A recent poll found that almost half of children were worried about returning to school after the holidays because of bullying. These children are often the ones who suffer in silence because they are worried of the repercussions if they tell someone they are being bullied.
It is a common concept that people grow out of bullying and the term is often mistakenly linked to children and schools. A sad reality is that bullying is not confined to the playground.
A recent study has shown that work place bullying is increasing and many are still too afraid to speak about it.
A significant increase in racist bullying both verbal and physical has been reported since the Brexit referendum-yet another sad consequence of this vote.
This also links to another method of bullying on the rise: Cyber Bullying. A National Bullying Survey found that a staggering 42% of young people have felt unsafe online. Cyber bullying can occur 24 hours a day, 7 days a week putting no end to the victims’ misery, whether it is a young child or adult.
Bullying can affect a person’s well-being, academic or work place progress and the most common, a person’s mental health. I am sure we have all come across one too many articles of suicide due to bullying. These people either suffer in silence or not enough is done to hear their voice and concerns. No person, young or old, deserves to suffer any form of bullying.
Despite all the laws and procedures in place to deal with bullying, it is unfortunate that bullying has become normalised. We must all stand in unity, and do everything in our power to stamp down on bullying.

 

November 27, 2018 Posted by | Committee Meeting, Liberal Democrats | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Charles Cryer and that Tory Amendment to the Council Budget

The Conservative opposition led by Cllr Tim Crowley circulated an eleventh hour amendment to the Council’s budget at the last meeting of this term. It was only circulated after the meeting had already begun.

Essentially it called for a freeze on councillors’ allowances to be spent on subsidising the Charles Cryer Theatre. It was their only amendment to the budget.

Because of a historic decision to take the matter of setting and agreeing our own council allowances out of councillors hands, this was a proposal that the Tories knew we could not honour.

The decision had been taken and had cross-party agreement many years ago to take the politics out of councillors allowances and pin them to the national public sector pay settlements. So if public sector workers get a pay freeze, so do we. If they are given a pay rise, ours rise by the same amount. This takes the issue of voting on giving ourselves pay rises out of the equation and keeps this sort of politics out of the argument. However any change does have to be included as part of the annual budget and therefore agreed as part of that. Para 11.7 and 11.8 in the budget papers record this.

Council inviting bids to keep the Cryer in community use

The council & Lib Dem councillors are still working to ensure use of the Charles Cryer for community benefit and there has been significant interest with some really exciting ideas. It was agreed some time ago that in light of the financial pressures across all council budgets we could no longer afford to subsidise the theatres, especially considering that attendances were so low. We can’t justify subsidising such low visitor numbers to the tune of £500,000 a year when we are struggling to find funds to support our children with special needs, or adults needing meals on wheels and carers.

You have also got to ask the question, of all the things the Tories could have suggested a reduction goes to fund, why the Charles Cryer? They didn’t suggest putting the money towards children with special needs, helping the elderly or the homeless. They chose the Cryer because it is a popular issue of concern with residents, who may not realise the extent of the financial pressures councils across the country are under.

A political stunt

The proposal of reducing allowances to pay for the Cryer was therefore just a political stunt by the Tories so they can then put up posts about it on Facebook and in their literature.  The Tories know this, which is why they proposed this amendment, knowing we couldn’t honour it.

What the Conservatives did do in the debate was defend their government and claim that reductions in local services are due to council mismanagement rather than their government’s cuts to funding. That mismanagement is just their political narrative too, and without grounds, as in local government circles Sutton is held up as a bastion of sound financial management and innovative solutions. It’s current external Audit Statement on Value for Money states:
The Council have historically managed their finances well and have consistently achieved planned savings targets.

The Carshalton Central councillors have provided more information about the Charles Cryer and other heritage buildings in Carshalton on their website.

March 22, 2018 Posted by | Committee Meeting, Information, Liberal Democrats, Opinion | , , | 1 Comment

Chair’s update on the work of the Housing, Economy and Business Committee

HEB Meeting held on Tuesday 13th February

Key items of business:

  • Local Plan adoption – agreed unanimously. The Plan was fully approved at Full Council
  • Local Development Scheme – programme of ongoing strategic planning work agreed
  • Locally Listed Buildings of Sutton document- excellent catalogue of listed buildings in the borough which we hope to publicise more widely.
  • Brownfield site register – new requirement for a list of sites available for development – taken from Local Plan
  • Economy Watchlatest economic statistics for the borough
  • Discretionary Rate Relief – Pub Scheme extended for another year

 

 Other Business since last meeting

Tram extension to Sutton

Myself, Cllr Whitehead and Cllr Dombey, along with senior officers and the Merton Council Leader met with the London Deputy Mayor for Transport and TfL to discuss progress on delivering the tram extension. TfL were extremely positive about the plans and appeared dedicated to making it happen. Some new options have been proposed to bridge the funding gap with external sources. This was followed up with a joint presentation by Merton & Sutton to the Mayor’s Good Growth Board on 28th February.

 

London Plan

The Mayor’s London Plan is currently out for consultation until 2nd March. It contains new worrying housing targets that are double those in our Local Plan and the Mayor expects these to be delivered on small sites i.e. backgarden land, house conversions and flats in the middle of suburbia. This flies against our Local Plan where we seek to preserve the historic and suburban character of our borough and direct housing to town and district centres, with regeneration providing both additional housing and improved environments for existing residents.

Positive aspects of the Mayor’s Plan are the highlighting of Sutton as an Opportunity Area in light of the London Cancer Hub potential, and inclusion of the Tram extension to Sutton.

More here.

The council has submitted a response to the consultation.

 

Employment and Skills Board Meeting on 5th March 

Agenda included:

  • A talk on the work of the Early Help Board
  • A presentation by Reed in Partnership, the organisation procured by the South London Partnership to deliver the Work and Health Programme (now Better Working Futures)
  • An update on the Sutton for Science strategy and Big Bang Festival of Science activities
  • Regular Partners Updates 

 

SHP

I have continued attending regular Fire Safety Meetings of SHP and the Council following the Grenfell Fire.

HEB Members Cllr Melican and Cllr Emmerson attend SHP board meetings and associated events as the council’s representatives on the SHP Board.

Steve Tucker, previously Interim CE of SHP has now been confirmed to the permanent post of Managing Director of SHP – a posting that has met with widespread approval by tenants, leaseholders, staff and the council as great improvements in approach and service have been noted since Steve took over from the previous CE.

 

Beddington Farmlands

A petition has been raised by the Wandle Forum for enforcement of the planning conditions requiring the restoration of the landfill site at Beddington Farmlands into a country park and wildlife reserve. Cllr Piracha and myself met with Planning and Biodiversity Officers for an update on the situation. It was confirmed that progress has been ongoing with restoring the site and there has been oversight by Planning Enforcement, but there has been no breach and therefore no fault on the council’s part, or Viridors. The only delay to the restoration was due to the Judicial Review brought by the Green Party PPC which meant all work has to be stopped until the JR was concluded.

Officers plan to meet with representatives of the Wandle Forum to explain the situation and talk about the next steps for the restoration.

 

Sutton Living Ltd

A planning application for the Wallington public hall site has been submitted.

Rather than selling the site to a private developer the council is using its new Housing Development Company, Sutton Living Ltd, to build new homes for local people on the site. The plans propose using the hall site and half of the associated car park to deliver 31 flats of mixed sizes in two blocks of three and four storeys with a commercial retail unit fronting Stafford Road.

The development will provide the maximum required number of affordable units, and under the terms of the council’s company all the residential units are required to be marketed to Sutton residents first, with special discretion for care-givers moving in to look after a Sutton resident, or ex-forces personnel. The layout also preserves the access to garages of properties in Onslow Gardens.

Other projects in train are listed in the papers for the last Sutton Shareholdings Board on 6th December.

 

Council housing new build

I took the council leader to view progress with the council house new build at Fellowes Road and Ludlow Lodge. Kind & Co, the build contractors are ahead of schedule so we hope to see people moving in this year.

 

 

SDEN 

I attended a Golden Shovel event with Cllr Whitehead and partners Viridor, Barratts and Eneteq to celebrating getting the first pipes in the ground for the decentralised energy network. We were also able to view the properties being developed by Barratts in Hackbridge on the old Felnex site.

The company is currently billing new residents who have moved into the New Mill Quarter properties. A temporary energy centre is on site to provide energy until the pipes are connected which is expected to be July next year.

 

Economic Development

An investor conference was held on 1st March at the newly refurbished Empire Cinema. This is part of the work to attract quality developers and investors to Sutton to enable us to deliver the best quality environment we can. It also launched the Sutton for Science programme which aims to encourage Sutton residents and young people to take up training opportunities so that they can take advantage of the new employment offer arising from the development of the London Cancer Hub. It is a programme that local schools have been keen to participate in.

Cllr Dombey and I accompanied Vince Cable and Tom Brake on a visit to the ICR for Vince to learn more about the Cancer Hub project, which later appeared on BBC London News.

Other

I attended a Sutton Chamber Business Networking event that featured Paul Scully MP invited to talk about ‘The Future of Sutton’.

I attended another LGA Grenfell Task & Finish Group overseeing the work of the LGA on the response to Grenfell, this time in conjunction with the FAMC and the new London Deputy Mayor for Fire Services.

I joined Cllr Gordon and Cllr Wales on the Sutton Shareholdings Board, a sub-committee of Strategy & Resources which has oversight of the council’s trading companies on 22nd February.

 

March 6, 2018 Posted by | Committee Meeting, Information, Liberal Democrats | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sutton’s Local Plan approved

Sutton’s Local Plan received approval at the Council meeting on Monday 26th February meaning that its stronger planning policies can start being applied to new planning applications from today.

This means stronger protection for Areas of Special Local Character and backgarden land, policies to stop our shopping areas being swamped with takeaways, limits to conversion of houses into flats and multiple occupation dwellings, and protection for pubs.

Development and intensification is directed towards town centres to protect the green and suburban character of the borough, and there are high standards of design and sustainability required for new development. We have set out a requirement for those developments to deliver affordable homes, and for delivery of homes for families.

My speech putting the Local Plan forward for approval is here:

INTRODUCING SUTTON’S NEW LOCAL PLAN
I am very pleased to be seeking council approval of our new Local Plan.

It is an ambitious plan.
It is ambitious for economic growth:
• To attract new business and investment as well as helping our existing businesses to flourish and grow
• To be proactive in the development of our life sciences centre of excellence that is the London Cancer Hub
• But it also wants that growth to directly benefit our residents, providing increased local employment opportunities and vibrant town and district centres.

It is ambitious to deliver the range of homes that are needed for our residents looking to move out of the family home, expand their families, or older people wishing to downsize. And we also want to be able to accommodate the predicted growth of our population here in Sutton.

But our plan also aims to retain all that is good in the borough, and improve on it.

Consultation
Underlying those ambitions to encourage prosperity and deliver housing is our fundamental understanding that the London Borough of Sutton does not belong to the council, or to the politicians, it belongs to its residents.
That is why we underwent extensive consultation on our plan. We made contact with every household in the borough asking them to contribute. We sought out people who would not normally be interested in strategic planning matters to engage them in the process. We put on numerous events in the community, and I am very proud of our planning officers who bravely put themselves at the coalface, interacting, talking and listening to residents about their area.

So what did our residents say is important to them?
Their feedback provided some key themes that we have used as the backbone to our plan:

We learnt how strongly our residents care about our parks and green spaces.
We therefore felt fully mandated by our residents to take a strong line in our local plan to protect and enhance our green spaces. We will not give up our greenbelt, parkland or open spaces to development under anything but the most exceptional of circumstances. And those exceptional circumstances have already been identified, tested and clarified through the groundwork we have done.

Our residents told us that they value the local heritage. We therefore feel obligated to continue to protect and cultivate the boroughs heritage, and we do not see this as a barrier to growth, but as supporting it. For this reason we are very pleased to have had part of our town centre acknowledged as a Heritage Action Zone.

Our third theme is Quality of design, and quality of place. Whilst there is much that is good and valued in our borough, there are also plenty of areas in need of significant improvement. We know that badly designed places can kill off town centres, fracture communities and be a barrier to future development.
I therefore make no apology for the high standards of design and placeshaping our plan demands.

We have also set the principle that regeneration schemes are to be designed with, and around the communities that live there. We have no desire to move people away from their areas, only to improve the space and better accommodate our growing numbers of residents. Therefore it needs to be a joint enterprise.

Our final key theme is sustainability. Sutton has a reputation as a borough that has led the way on environmental sustainability. Our continuing commitment to this comes from our residents’ drive to find ways to tread more lightly upon our planet, and use its resources sparingly.
That is why our plan requires high standards in terms of sustainable development, why we offer connection to a district energy network that the council itself will provide, why we seek to protect local habitats and wildlife, and seek climate change mitigation measures.

Our residents demand this of us, therefore it is embedded in our plan.

As a result of the feedback from the consultations we agreed to direct the majority of new housing development to our town and district centres, to better protect the remaining areas that are essentially suburban, or areas of special local character, or conservation areas, and which are the underpinning fabric of our outer London borough.

However, we cannot achieve the aspirations of our local plan without the accompanying infrastructure improvements. The need for improved transport links, flooding mitigation works, green infrastructure, sewerage capacity, health and education provision, is all captured in our plan, and will not be deliverable without it. We have been very clear about that, and again it is something that was highlighted by our residents.

I therefore commend to you, our ambitious Local Plan that seeks to unlock the growth potential of our borough and ensure that Sutton continues to be a highly desirable, vibrant, healthy and sustainable place to live, work and raise a family for generations to come.

 

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Committee Meeting, Information | , , | 1 Comment

Report back from October 2017 Beddington and Wallington Local Committee

Councillor Muhammad Sadiq has provided below a summary of the Beddington & Wallington Local Committee meeting held on 10 October at Wallington County Grammar School attended by your Wallington South Councillors.

Various issues were discussed in this meeting and some ward related and general interest issues are listed below for your information.

Tackling Anti Social Behaviour in Beddington Park

Andrew Chandler, our Neighbourhood Manager presented a report. The main concerns which had been raised by the local Councillors, Community representatives and the local residents were discussed.

One of the main issues which was leading to Anti Social Behaviour was people using either fixed or disposable barbecues and the excessive use of alcohol. Disposable barbecues were also considered to be a major health and safety risk.

It was proposed that a temporary licence, at a small cost, should be introduced for people to be allowed to come into the park and use fixed barbecues. A similar system is being used in Epsom which appeared to be successful and has reduced Anti Social Behaviour considerably. Enforcement officers will be deployed to enforce this and the police will also be there to help if necessary.

Some new communal barbecue models were considered  – such as 2 metre x 2 metre barbecues fixed in the park which people could share.

The above was discussed in detail and the final proposals will be submitted to the Local Committee at the meeting in January 2018.

Waste and Recycling Service

The waste and recycling service was discussed and in general everyone at the meeting was in agreement that the service has improved considerably. Scott Edgell (General Manager Veolia) and Mark Dalzell, a Sutton Council Officer, were also in attendance to answer any waste related questions.

In general the feedback was positive that things were moving in the right direction.

Public Realm Projects and Neighbourhood Grants

New Public Realm projects for additional festive lighting, Royal British Legion ‘Silent Soldiers’ to commemorate Armistice Day, a zebra crossing in The Chase and  repairs to Mellows Park tennis courts and multi-use games area were considered and approved as appropriate.

There are still some funds available for Neighbourhood Grants and if you have any projects which might benefit the local community then please get in touch with us and we will put you in the right direction as to how to apply for this grant.

Highways Updates

The Senior Highways Engineer, Ian Price, (Kingston and Sutton shared services) provided an update on all ongoing and new projects including:

Clyde Road Traffic Survey

This survey had been conducted completed and the results showed that there was a need to address speeding and HGVs in this road. Mr Price assured us that the results will inform a scheme design to be presented and discussed with the local residents in due course.

Traffic Junction At Woodcote Road with Stafford Road and Stanley Park Road

Some improvements to the Traffic Junction at Woodcote Road with Stafford Road and Stanley Park Road are being discussed with Transport for London and the results will be shared with the local Councillors and residents before any work will be carried out.

Outstanding double yellow lines in Onslow Gardens and Cranley Gardens were also discussed and Mr Price promised to come back to your local Councillors with a further update.

Full papers and minutes of the meeting can be read online.

The next meeting of the Beddington & Wallington Local Committee will be held on 9th January 2017 7pm. Venue to be confirmed.

October 16, 2017 Posted by | Committee Meeting, Information | , , , , | Leave a comment

Chair’s Update on work of the Housing, Economy & Business Committee (HEB)

HEB Meeting held on 13th June key items of business:

Review of Planning Pre-application Service We agreed an amendment to the rate of charges to introduce an additional category to reduce the fees for smaller developments (1-4 units), formalised notification of councillors of major pre-app proposals, and asked officers to investigate whether we could publish the pre-app advice letter as part of the report to committee as standard practice.

Draft Character Appraisal of the Burton Estates Area of Special Local Character (ASLC) (produced by the Belmont & South Cheam Neighbourhood forum) This was agreed and we would encourage other Resident Associations to undertake their own Character Appraisals of ASLCs to strengthen their influence when determining planning applications.

Management of Housing Stock Review This considered whether we continue with Sutton Housing Partnership (SHP) as our Arms Length Management Organisation, bring the service in-house, or form a shared service with Kingston. On evidence gathered and external consultants’ report we agreed the option to progress with SHP as an improved ALMO. It was noted that this option could deliver the required savings.

Estate Regeneration Resident Engagement Proposals This set out the principles of engagement and transparency the council will adopt with residents in estates with potential for regeneration. The aim is for residents themselves to shape how their areas could be improved and intensified to make better use of space and provide improved communities and housing. It is noted that decisions to proceed with regeneration can only be made when the viability of proposals incorporating the needs and desires of residents has been assessed and shown to be feasible.

Annual Review of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme No changes proposed whilst new income band scheme beds in as it was only introduced from April 2017.

Discretionary Hardship Relief scheme for businesses re rate review Task & Finish Group set up to propose a scheme. This has met and a consultation has been undertaken recommending relief for small businesses (< £200,000 rateable value) facing increases greater than 12.5% of 100% in first year, 50% relief in second year , with businesses in CR4 getting 100% in both years to reflect the disproportionate increase in rateable value in that area. Final decision will be made in light of the results of the consultation at the 26th September Housing, Economy & Business Committee Meeting.

Ongoing business since last HEB meeting

Local Plan The Independent Examination-in-Public is to be held on 12-15th September 2017.

SDEN The agreement has now been signed with Barratts. Contractors have been procured to commence work delivering the pipes and installing them.

Tramlink Transport for London have allocated funding of £70m from the Mayor’s Growth Fund for the Sutton Tramlink, but this still leaves a significant funding gap. However it very much feels like it is back on the table with TfL keen to find ways to plug the gap either by saving costs or finding alternative funding mechanisms.

Sutton Economic Support Taskgroup (SEST) Quarterly meeting with Council post-14 Education Services, local colleges and training providers, JobCentre plus, and business representatives to discuss employment and training in the borough. Agreed to refresh aims for coming year and focus on engagement with businesses.

Meeting arranged with Children, Families and Education Directorate staff in August to discuss joined-up working across SEST & the Post 14 Progression and Employability Board.

Sutton Town Centre Masterplan Delivery Oversight and work with ward councillors continues in respect of delivery of the STC Masterplan. Includes North Sutton Gateway Scheme and estate regeneration work.

Jayne gave a presentation in July to open an Investor Tour event for investors and businesses expressing an interest in Sutton. Officers also gave presentations on the opportunities and sites in the town centre and at the London Cancer Hub and took them to visit the actual sites.

Open for Business Board Chaired by Cllr Wales this board is under the remit of Opportunity Sutton seeking to support local businesses. Last meeting looked at future of the Pop-up Sutton programme and will be seeking ways to build on its success.

Beddington Programme Consultation now out on various transport improvements along Beddington Lane in respect of the £7m awarded by TfL as a Major Scheme. https://www.opportunitysutton.org/beddington-gets-moving/

Sutton Housing Partnership Since the HEB agreement to continue with SHP as its ALMO in improved form Jayne has continued to meet with officers and SFTRA reps. Recent discussions focussed on governance improvements and oversight of the changes to sheltered housing support.

Business Improvement Districts (BIDS) Jayne was invited to provide an update on the Town Centre Masterplan at an event to celebrate the successful Sutton Town Centre BID renewal vote.

Work is also ongoing with traders to establish a BID in Worcester Park.

Sutton Living Ltd New plans are being drafted for the first of the company’s developments on the site of the old Wallington Public Hall.

Grenfell Tower fire local implications Jayne has been attending regular Fire Safety Briefings with Sutton Housing Partnership and Sutton Council senior officers and the local London Fire Service team to ensure that all council-owned residential properties in the borough have adequate fire safety measures in place and to respond to the latest advice and information following the Grenfell Tower fire.

Council Housing new build Work has commenced on the first council house new build, previously the Ludlow Lodge site. HEB members and ward councillors attended a ceremonial ground-breaking event at the Ludlow Lodge site and met with the building contractors Kind & Co a smaller construction company who impressed us with their commitment to award-winning build quality and consideration for neighbours.

August 18, 2017 Posted by | Committee Meeting, Information | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: