Diary of a Sutton Councillor

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.

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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

Report back from July Beddington & Wallington Local Committee

Cllr Steve Cook has provided the following summary of the July Beddington & Wallington Local Committee meeting attended by your ward councillors:

The meeting started with Public Question Time which majored on the current situation with Veolia, collection of waste, street cleaning and re-cycling.

Scott Edgell (local area manager from Veolia) and Mark Dalzell (Sutton Council Head of Waste Services) were in attendance to answer questions on this area. Many questions were put by local residents and councillors alike, wanting updates and answers on the new service which began in early April this year. It has been a lack lustre start-up which has received countless complaints and queries on to the council web-site. However, the answers received from both Scott and Mark were most helpful and we finally felt the tide was turning in resident’s favour. Scott said in closing “We (Veolia) will not rest until the service is better than it was previously” which gave us all cause for encouragement, as the prior service provided by Sutton Council directly, was of the highest quality

A petition was then heard from Mr Bernard Rofe of Elles House, Shotfield in Wallington. He was requesting the highways department look into creating a central refuge to help pedestrians crossing Shotfield outside Elles House. This was approved in principal and the department concerned will look at the options available for this proposed scheme. The immediate difficulty was the current positioning of the bus stop between the entrance and exit of the library car park, which obstructs the view of pedestrians crossing at this point.

Another petition was heard, this time from Mr Peter Coughlan, who expressed concern about the random and illegal pavement parking that takes place outside his bakery shop and the impact on his business on Stafford Road and the corner of The Chase. He is seeking a Controlled Free Parking Zone and this will be explored by the councils Chief Parking Officer.

Sgt O’Brien on behalf of the Safer Neighbourhood Teams delivered an up-date which covered all the Beddington and Wallington wards and gave an in-depth view of the current policing plans and a report of recent local activity in fighting crime and dealing with anti-social behaviour.

A presentation was then given by Mandar Puranik and his colleague Holly on the exciting plans for the improvements to Beddington Village and the new traffic scheme.

Following this, Christine Lindsay gave an interesting and rewarding talk about the Wallington Wellbeing Group and their calendar of activities for the up-coming summer. Health and Wellbeing amongst our community is at the forefront of all our concerns and these events are of particular interest to the retired and more elderly residents in our borough, especially those who may feel isolated.

All the new Public Realm Projects and Neighbourhood Grant applications were unanimously approved.

Finally we received a Highways up-date from Sutton Principal Engineer Ian Price.

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

The next meeting of the B&W Local Committee will be held on 10th October 2017 at 7pm.

The venue is yet to be confirmed.

We hope you will be able to attend and join in.

July 24, 2017 Posted by | Committee Meeting, Information | , | Leave a comment

Sutton Council Budget Debate 2017

Monday saw the 31st council budget from a Liberal/Lib Dem administration in Sutton.

The budget was presented by Cllr Simon Wales, Deputy Leader and Lead Member for Resources, stating that, “Producing a budget is a team effort and I am grateful to all those who have played a part in getting us to this stage.”

To demonstrate this we had a total of 12 of our councillors contributing to the debate on the night. In contrast, and in these times of severe and significant pressure on council’s budgets affecting social care, schools and homelessness, the Conservative opposition had only two of their eight councillors with anything at all to say on the matter.

Even the two independent councillors felt the budget was important enough for them to contribute to the debate, even if Cllr Mattey’s fantastical ramblings took us off to La La Land.

My Lib Dem colleagues talked passionately about what the Government’s cuts meant for the services the council provides, and the innovative ways we have tried to mitigate the damage through shared services, new service delivery vehicles and targeted solutions. In particular Cllr Crossby welcomed the £1.25m that will be spent to transform Sutton’s performance in tackling domestic violence and abuse.

But it was Cllr Abellan’s speech that I felt summed up the way things are done under a Liberal Democrat administration. It is so good that I have reproduced it in full:

We’ve heard many great speeches so far tonight and if there is one clear message that stands out it’s that we are delivering value for money, working hard for every resident and keeping our borough one of the best places to live, work and raise a family. 

But don’t just take my word for it. Our Ipsos Mori surveys continue to show remarkable levels of satisfaction with our services, our recent peer review demonstrated that we’re already one of the best Councils and if this wasn’t enough, last summer, Carshalton Central residents put their trust in us once again by electing Councillor Chris Williams.

Mr Mayor, this last year has seen another assault on local Government from this Tory Government but despite the challenges, we are proud to present a balanced budget this evening. 

And the challenges have been great but we have rolled up our sleeves, got on with the job and as we’ve heard tonight, found innovative ways to deliver good value for money for all our residents.  

Innovative by sharing services with other boroughs when necessary and by developing an approach that delivers the best outcomes for our residents. By finding millions of pounds of savings with a new waste contract that will help us to significantly increase our recycling rates. 

Transformative by improving our partnerships and leading on the Sutton Plan.  Or by investing money to deliver a world-leading hub for cancer research and treatment right here in Sutton. 

As Liberal Democrats we believe that no one should be left behind and that’s why despite these difficult financial times, our decision to spend over 1 million pounds to tackle domestic violence is something we are very proud of. 

Mr Mayor, what have we learned from the opposition this evening? 

We’ve learned that they continue to support damaging cuts from this Tory Government. 

We’ve learned that they still have no vision for Sutton, no credible policies, no costed plan, no alternative budget, no leadership. 

And as we’ve heard tonight from Cllr Crowley, they confirmed that they would only reveal their plans for Sutton the year of the election. So here is the Tory plan, we hibernate for 3 years and come out at election time.

How can Sutton residents trust them to spend their money wisely? 

Mr Mayor, in these times when politics is being used to divide us – middle class and working class, young and old, immigrant, EU citizens,  the values that unite this group of Cllrs are needed more than ever if we are to continue to keep a compassionate, tolerant and cohesive community here in Sutton. 

We are not career politicians. We believe that our communities are stronger when decisions are made as close to our residents as possible. That no one should be left behind. We are immersed in our communities in many different shapes and forms and our engagement did not start and does not end with our position as Cllrs. We see this is a strength that keeps us in touch with our residents, help us stay grounded, not lose sight of what matters to residents and to understand that behind every policy, every decision, there are thousands of lives. These values have helped us build a healthy and trustworthy relationship with Sutton residents over the years. 

So as we enter into the last year of this administration, let’s be proud of this budget, let’s congratulate the work of our officers and strengthen our partnerships but let’s continue to champion these values and not forget that we have a lot more work to do . I commend this budget. 

This heartfelt speech was followed by the Conservatives’ second and final contribution from Cllr Garratt. I summed it up in my own speech as “A presentation of alternative facts, and a plea for more funding for cycling and bridges.” It aptly demonstrated the Conservatives complete failure to understand how the budget pressures we face require fundamental and substantive changes in the way councils operate, not just salami slicing or shuffling money around. Over the last three years, under the leadership of Cllr Crowley, the opposition has failed to offer any solutions or ideas, and seek only to oppose, insinuate and undermine our efforts. They offer no policies, and have no principles.

Independent Councillor Graham Whitham correctly predicted the fence-sitting of the Conservatives in abstaining from voting either for or against the budget, and reminded them curtly that the reason they had been elected was to make decisions, but by abstaining in this and the many other decisions they have the opportunity to participate in, they were abdicating that responsibility.

As Cllr Wales highlighted, here was an opportunity for the opposition to support the voices of their colleagues in Conservative-run councils, for even they are calling on their government to cease this onslaught on council budgets. But no, they clearly supported their Government’s policies whilst accepting no responsibility for the harsh cuts being imposed on their residents as a result. Shameful.

March 8, 2017 Posted by | Committee Meeting, Liberal Democrats | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Affordable Housing Motion to Full Council 19th January 2015

Monday’s Full Council saw me propose a motion to Council on the subject of Delivering Affordable Housing to Sutton Residents. The motion calls on Central Government to devolve more funding and powers to Local Authorities who show that they are willing to deliver the necessary housing growth. It also highlighted the work that Sutton is already doing to use its existing powers to deliver new homes. The full text of the motion can be read here.

The text of my speech is shown at the end of this post.

Cllr Richard Clifton seconded the motion and spoke powerfully about the increasing gap between rich and poor, the failure of the Conservative’s trickle down ideology, and the shame that in our Western world we are currently seeing reliance on food banks.

Other speakers also talked about the impacts of welfare reform, the basic right to a decent home and the health implications of poor housing. We heard powerful maiden speeches from Cllr Amy Haldane supporting the work to provide temporary accommodation in borough by converting Oakleigh, and from Cllr Manuel Abellan speaking about his experience as a member of ‘Generation Rent’.

I was pleased to hear both Cllrs Hanna Zuchowski and Graham Whitham highlight the failings of government initiatives as exemplified by the extended Permitted Development Rights: a particular bug-bear of mine.

Cllr Muhammad Sadiq provided more details of our ‘ask’ from central government.

I was very pleased to receive support for the motion and the principle from my opposition colleagues too, even if Cllr Crowley tried to divert the debate into being about the Life Centre! However I did understand their questions about a business case and was able to clarify that the new housing development company was in essence a vehicle to enable the council to take up opportunities that may arise and to work more flexibly in partnership with other housing providers, as well as provide housing directly itself. As each opportunity arises a full business case will be worked up which will be presented to the relevant committees for full scrutiny, including by the opposition.

I didn’t get chance in the debate but take the opportunity now to respond to the point about using our own sites before asking the Mayor to release land. The 140 new council houses we are building does just that. The sites are already identified and were noted in previous papers presented to the Strategy & Resources Committee. We also have a formal system to review all council sites that have the potential for disposal that balances the income potential against the benefits of alternative use such as for housing. Some of the sites identified for new council houses came about as a result of this process. Of course other needs and ambitions for the borough need to be taken into account such as maintaining or increasing employment land and stimulating the local economy. The development company also gives us the potential to purchase privately owned sites, should the business case stack up.

The formal questions submitted by Cllr Crowley for response during the debate gave me the opportunity to expand on the work that is embedded within council practices to engage positively with private sector landlords in Sutton to encourage them to offer affordable rents, and the ongoing work to bring empty properties back into use.

Of course it is all very well to talk about what we want to do, but the proof is in delivery, and that is my key concern. We are already on schedule to build around 140 new council homes in the next six years, and our current regeneration schemes are delivering 700 new or improved properties. The new development company gives us the power and the flexibility to seize on new opportunities, and the council is already being proactive in this, so I expect to see some exciting business cases to deliver new housing being prepared in the not too distant future.

My speech proposing the motion:

For many years housing hasn’t featured in any Governments’ manifesto. Whilst property prices were increasing steadily all was thought to be well with the world. Middle class people would sit at dinner parties discussing their increasing property values and houses were seen more as investments than homes. Owning property was a key aspiration and incentives such as right-to-buy encouraged this view.

But this blasé attitude when times were good is the reason we now face a housing crisis. When the bubble burst there was suddenly no incentive for private developers to build, but nor had public money been invested into providing new council housing.

Suddenly house prices are out of reach of the majority, our children look set to still be living with us well into their thirties, while unscrupulous private landlords are cashing in on the increased demand by hiking rents through the roof. The ridiculousness of this situation is that it adds to the budget deficit as more money has to be spent on housing benefit as even an average working family now needs help to pay their rent.

This is illustrated by the fact that 50% of the people on the waiting list for a council property are in work.

And now housing is on every party’s manifesto. Unfortunately the desperate measures taken to try to stimulate housebuilding have failed. They have failed because we have Conservative Ministers that believe that the private sector will provide the solution to everything. Reality shows that this is not the case. We need to have public investment in housing. And as central government is not prepared to do it, we as the local authority will.

This council is investing £30m in building around 140 new council homes over the next six years. We can do this thanks to the devolution of responsibility for managing the housing revenue account. A change that Liberal Democrats and tenants in this very borough campaigned for tirelessly. Ask Cllr Crossby about the Daylight Robbery campaign!

But we have gone further in our ambitions to address the imbalance in the housing market. We have seized on our new localism powers and are establishing a council owned development company. The aim of this company will be to provide new housing across all tenures – private for sale, private for rent and social housing, but all with the key principle that this housing will be at prices local people can afford!

This company gives us the freedom to act independently of government handouts, and to work flexibly with private sector providers to deliver new housing. It has already proved a popular idea as we have been approached by a number of housing providers looking for innovative ways to work together to increase the amount of housing in Sutton. And if we use this company to invest in the private rented sector it means that we can offer longer term tenancies and provide the security that many renters lack.

And by being involved in the development of this housing the council has more control over design and standards, so that we get quality affordable homes for local people, not luxury apartments that only the rich can afford, or substandard boxes in poorly converted buildings.

Interestingly it was Planning Departments that were the first to be blamed for the slow down in housebuilding. Interesting then that for every 2.5 houses with planning permission, only one house has actually been built. That is not due to the planners.

I don’t have time here to talk about all the work this council is doing to ensure we can adequately house Sutton residents. But I do want to mention another way we are seeking to ensure that in Sutton the housing that is built is of a standard that anyone of us would be pleased to live in, and makes a positive contribution to our suburban borough.

We are doing this by working on a new Local Plan. This will ensure that our planning policies encourage new housebuilding, but also places strong requirements that they are of a high quality in terms of design and sustainability, and that new housing is accompanied by the transport, education and health infrastructure it will require. We want our residents to live in pleasant environments that enhance the treasured sense of community we have in Sutton, that allows space for parks and open land, whilst contributing to thriving neighbourhoods and district centres.

And all this is happening because as a local council we are taking matters into own hands, making the most of the devolved powers we have been given to meet the needs and deliver the aspirations of Sutton residents. Central government can only offer one-size fits all, top down solutions. We call for the powers to shape our own destiny, and can show that we can deliver more efficiently and effectively when we have that power.

January 21, 2015 Posted by | Committee Meeting | , , , , | Leave a comment

Full Council Monday 3rd November 2014

There were two motions put to Full Council on Monday night, one from the Lib Dems calling for more devolution of powers to local areas, and a Tory motion calling for the reinstatement of formal crossings in Hackbridge.

There was an interesting parallel here, as the Heart of Hackbridge scheme is a prime example of power actively being devolved to local people to make the changes they want to their area. However, as sometimes happens, there is disagreement within that community about the safety of some of those changes.

The Tory motion on Hackbridge represented Conservative councillors taking the side of one group of residents, and seeking to override the decisions of other groups.

Our amendment to their motion proposed a more balanced and conciliatory approach. Cllr Whitehead offered the Council’s Highways expertise to seek solutions that would satisfy the concerns of one group, without riding roughshod over the aims and ambitions of the local people leading the scheme. The local councillors have already brought representatives of the two groups together, and the council is willing to step in to help work up solutions to the concerns raised with those groups.

We feel that it is important that having given powers to local people, as has been done with this Outer London Fund scheme, and with Neighbourhood Planning, it is wrong for the council to suddenly step in and impose a different agenda, thereby making a mockery of Localism.

Interestingly comments from the Conservative members speaking on the devolution motion underlined just this point – that you can’t just talk about devolving power and see that as job done, it has to be put into practice. Whereas their own motion on Hackbridge was just such a contradiction!

In contrast, when things get tricky, I believe that you can trust local people to work the solutions out between themselves, as long as they have the right support.

The full text of my speech supporting the amendment is below.

I am speaking in support of the amended motion.

First I would like to welcome the Opposition’s support for the key Liberal Democrat values of empowerment, diversity and accessibility that in Sutton we have enshrined in Council policy.

I also appreciate that my Conservative colleagues may wish to distance themselves from some of the less inclusive statements made by their Parliamentary representatives recently.

So starting on the issue of empowerment, here we are in agreement with the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, to put the power to change the local environment into the hands of local people.

For the Heart of Hackbridge scheme is one of the Mayor’s Outer London Fund projects, one of the few schemes bid for and led by a third party organisation – in this case BioRegional.

BioRegional are managing  the scheme, with the implementation  overseen by the Hackbridge OLF Delivery Board made up of representatives from BioRegional, the Hackbridge Neighbourhood Development Group, local businesses, council officers, and developers of the Felnex site, as well as a local councillor.

Now I will be the first to point out that, whilst fully supporting local people finding local solutions,  the experience for those involved is time consuming, and often difficult to achieve consensus across all issues. People engage at different times, and with different agendas, and often we are asking people to manage issues that professionals find difficult to navigate. That is not to say that we shouldn’t support locally-led schemes, just that the bodies devolving power in this way need to be aware that the people involved should be properly supported.

 The aims of the Heart of Hackbridge scheme extend well beyond the traffic scheme, and the Delivery Board has been very successful in delivering a significant uplift to the local economy in Hackbridge, in the form of new business, employment, apprenticeships, and business grants as well as reducing carbon emissions from shops. Unfortunately these achievements have been overshadowed by concerns over the safety of the new road scheme.

I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank BioRegional and the local people who sit on the delivery board both for taking on this task to improve their area and for those achievements that have received rather less publicity and criticism.

***

I would now like to turn to the issues of inclusivity and accessibility.

The traffic scheme was designed to address local residents’ existing concerns about safety at Hackbridge Junction particularly with regard to traffic speeds, and near misses at the zebra crossings. It is important to note here that these existing formal crossings were deemed so unsafe that many pedestrians didn’t use them and would weave in and out of stationary cars instead.

The scheme as it stands was designed by award winning architects and engineers following input from local residents and traders.  The scheme was also approved by the GLA’s design team and Transport for London.

The Hackbridge Delivery Board did consult with Guide Dogs for the Blind who confirmed that the scheme complied with national design guidance.

So we must accept that the Delivery Board felt that the scheme they were implementing satisfied disability issues given the guidance they had received from various sources including the Mayor’s own departments.

However, we are aware that campaigners for people with visual disabilities do not agree that the national design guidance is adequate in respect of shared space schemes.

Therefore, as we do seek to be an inclusive borough and as Cllr Whitehead has confirmed, the council will be working to help find a solution to ensure that people with visual impairments feel that there are safe places to cross at the Hackbridge junction.

Our amendment seeks to show that rather than riding roughshod over the decisions originally devolved to and agreed by local people, instead the council is offering its expertise to help find a way to reconcile the aims and concerns of those people with an interest in the area.

It is on this issue of inclusivity that I especially welcome Cllr Crowley’s belated U-turn to upholding the rights of the visually impaired. For previously in this very chamber he took a completely opposite stance when we wanted to enable visually impaired residents to be able to navigate the renovated Wallington town centre, instead supporting a businessman who expressed no consideration for the mobility needs of the blind.

In contrast the Liberal Democrat group has demonstrated a consistent and continued commitment to listening to and working with our disability groups to find solutions that work across many council projects.

So in light of what appears to be a mutual aspiration to ensure that all people are able to feel safe navigating the Heart of Hackbridge, I trust my opposition colleagues will be able to fully support the motion as amended.

November 5, 2014 Posted by | Committee Meeting | , , , | 7 Comments

Sutton’s 28th Liberal Democrat Budget approved at Full Council

Last night Cllr Simon Wales, Sutton’s lead member for Resources, presented an historic 28th Liberal Democrat budget for approval by full council.

Even in difficult times we were able to present a balanced budget that focused on the key values of this council and its residents – being Safer, Fairer, Greener and Smarter.

Cllr Wales explained how we would achieve this by focusing on four key areas: prevention – protecting the most vulnerable before problems occur; supporting and growing the local economy through our Opportunity Sutton work; empowering residents to manage their own lives and reduce dependence on council services, and delivering those services at a more local level; and delivering changes to the council to find ways to reduce costs, manage demand for services, and get things right first time.

My speech aimed to explain how our Opportunity Sutton economic development work will help us continue to offer those services to residents that they most value, and also touched on the potential of our Life Sciences Cluster site:

Why is growing the local economy good for Sutton?

As our budget sets out, a key priority for this Liberal Democrat council, is to encourage economic growth and investment into the borough.

And in order to deliver this economic growth, we have set up an ambitious programme of work under the banner of Opportunity Sutton.

The name has now come to embrace all of the work undertaken by our Economic Renewal and Regeneration Unit, and for a short name, it actually represents a significant amount of work, and is already delivering millions of pounds worth of new investment, hundreds of jobs, improvements to our district centres, and a lot of excitement about the potential growth areas for our borough.

And I would like to talk briefly about one of those exciting potential growth areas, our Life Sciences Cluster.

In Sutton we have the unique co-location and partnership of two world class institutions: the Royal Marsden, and the Institute of Cancer Research. By working together these two cancer specialists have establishing an international reputation for excellence.

Our Opportunity Sutton Team, together with our Leader Ruth, has been working with these two organisations to understand their growth plans and ambitions. And as a result of that work we have all realised the potential to provide a cohesive, integrated world class life sciences cluster on this site.

Developing this vision has the potential to attract millions of pounds of investment, new homes and thousands of jobs. Not to mention the new cancer treatments that will significantly improve the lives of patients. An extended tram link could unlock that potential even further.

Thanks to the work of Opportunity Sutton this project has attracted the interest of the Treasury, and the London Mayor, and we have been encouraged to bid for LEP funding to unlock the potential of this world class vision.

We are also separately, but with an eye on this potential, making the case to the mayor to extend the Tram from Wimbledon to Sutton.

But it is all very well getting excited about the potential of these projects, and celebrating the successes Opportunity Sutton has already achieved – achievements like unlocking the North Sutton Gas Holder site; like the reinvigoration of North Cheam and Worcester Park district centres; like the investment secured to develop a decentralised Energy Network; like the establishment of the Successful Sutton Business Improvement District; and like our trend-bucking success in getting young people into employment or training.

And if Councillor Crowley can wait until the next Strategy & Resources Committee, he will hear more of the real and tangible achievements of Opportunity Sutton in the last year. Because his comment that Opportunity Sutton is just an empty phrase from me is an incredible insult to the enormous amount of work the small Opportunity Sutton Team have undertaken in the last eighteen months, and he owes those officers an apology.

But how does Opportunity Sutton benefit our residents, and why is it a priority for this council?

Well first of all bringing new businesses into the borough also brings new jobs. Growing our existing businesses also creates new jobs. That means more employment opportunities for our residents. And a key project under Opportunity Sutton is our Business-led Skills Match work, to ensure that local people have the skills necessary so that they can take advantage of those new jobs being created.

It will deliver additional housing, so that our children can afford to purchase their first home, so that overcrowded families can find a bigger house they can afford, so that there are the quality smaller homes available for people who want to downsize.

And new development also brings with it additional funding to invest in additional school places, improved parks and open spaces, and major highways schemes.

More housing also increases our council tax base, spreading the burden, but increasing revenues for the council.

Business growth brings an increase in business rates.

We have heard from Councillor Wales about the pressures our budget is under from the devastating cuts being imposed on us from central government. Growing our local economy will be a key source of future funding to mitigate those budget cuts and help us to continue to provide those universal services that our residents so value: well maintained highways and streets; beautiful parks and playgrounds; quality, resident-led public realm projects, as well as being reinvested into our preventative work to protect the most vulnerable members of our borough.

That is why we are being proactive and ambitious with our Opportunity Sutton programme, seizing control of our own future and funding, so that we can continue to be a borough that people want to live in, where people feel confident to bring up a family, and where all our residents can experience a high quality of life.

I ask you to support this responsible, and forward-looking budget.

March 4, 2014 Posted by | Committee Meeting, Liberal Democrats | , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Committee Meeting | , , , , | 10 Comments

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