Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Wallington South Councillors’ June Update

Its June already and certainly feeling summery – in between the showers!  So time for an update from your Wallington South Ward Councillors:

Ward News

High Street Loading Bays

The bay outside the KFC has now been changed to goods vehicles loading only, and for the first time in ages we have seen the bay being used correctly.

We expect a few complaints when people get a parking ticket if they haven’t realised it has changed, but it should make the bay much safer all round.

Road safety schemes implemented

​We are pleased to see the implementation of a number of schemes residents requested through us. Yellow lines have gone in in Woodcote Road and Elgin Road, with new signs to deter HGVs from using residential roads at Boundary Road, Elgin Road and St Michaels Road.

The new build-out is now in place in Beddington Gardens to provide a safe crossing point across this road to Shotfield.

Where next?

Double yellow lines have been requested for the junctions of Clyde Road with Carew Road and Ross Road. Speed surveys are currently being undertaken in Clyde Road too as part of the evidence gathering following a petition submitted by residents concerned about speeding and rat-running in this road.

Following a petition from residents in Tharp Road (actually Beddington North ward) it is proposed to trial a one-way system for a year in this road. There is to be a further meeting with councillors and residents before this goes ahead.

​We have had concerns raised about the safety of the mini-roundabout at the junction of Hillside Gardens and Sandy Lane South which we have raised with the council and officers will be looking at this and seeing what might be done to improve the situation here.

Residents have also pointed out that there needs to be a safe crossing point across Demesne Road near the Carew Road junction, especially as this area is widely used by primary school children.

It has also been pointed out that the Park Hill Road junction with Stanley Park Road is extremely difficult to get out of.

Please let us know your views which will help us campaign for improvements to these junctions.

A number of lines and road markings have been refreshed. If you notice lines that have become very faded please let us know and we can get them refreshed too.

Wallington Music Festival Saturday 17th June!

Our free music festival, brought to you by dedicated local residents and businesses, is back for its third year on Saturday 17th June. It will be opened at noon by the Deputy Mayor in the Wallington Library Gardens with a fabulous line up in the bandstand and gardens through to 4pm. There will be stalls selling a variety of delicious food alongside the Library Café. Then the Brook, the Wallington Arms, Byrnes Eel & Pie House, Sizzle & Shake, Hotrocks, The Woodcote Flying Club and The Duke’s Head will all be hosting live music acts from early evening until late.

The event has been kindly sponsored by The Real Coffee Company Wallington and Carpenter And Co, in association with Arts Network Sutton. The Gary Mason Charity and also funded by a Neighbourhood Grant from the council.

Bins!

The transition to a new collection system delivered by an external contractor – Veolia, has proved difficult and frustrating. We are still a long way off from them delivering a service to match the efficiency of the previous in-house delivery. We have been given lots of reasons and excuses from IT failures to lorry breakdowns to unexpected recycling volumes. However, in the end we just want our bins emptied on time, and in the right lorry after we have gone to the trouble of sorting it.

Your ward councillors have met with Veolia reps and are escalating matters where we can, although we haven’t always been happy with the responses.

We are starting to see improvements, but there are a number of areas in our ward where the problems are persistent and the resolution of them feels frustratingly slow.

These are the places where we know there are continuing problems that we are keeping an eye on:

Waleton Acres, Tansley Court, Sycamore Manor, Birdhurst Court, Jefton Court, Ellerslie Court, Beech House, Coriander Court, Mulberry Mews, various flats above shops, Hannah Mews, Brambledown Road flats, Derwent Walk, Woodbourne Gardens, Burns Court, Hinton Road, Charlotte Road & Francis Road.

If you are having persistent problems with your waste collection and it isn’t listed here then please let us know so we can try and help get it sorted.

The general advice is that if your expected collection isn’t taken on the due day, leave it out and it should automatically be collected the next day. Only if it is not collected by 8.30pm on the second day should you report it as a missed collection. However if yours is the only uncollected bin, report it after 8.30pm on the due day. We recommend using the online tool rather than telephoning, as the council’s contact service is often busy and they will only be logging your problems using the same online tool. We are happy to report it for you if you can’t get the online tool to work.

The green garden waste bins are being delivered but there is a backlog. You are only charged once you have the bin and collections started.

Similarly if you have ordered additional recycling boxes or wheelie bins these are being delivered, but again there is a backlog. If you placed your order at the beginning of the service change we would recommend you reorder as we are not confident that all these orders have been logged.

Veolia are also responsible for collecting the waste from the street bins and the green sacks from the street cleaning. Again you can report overflowing bins using the online tool.

One bit of good news is that the level of recycling has increased enormously because you have all been prepared to do your bit so diligently. So well done you all at lightening the load on our planet. I know that as a result of greater awareness of the waste we produce a number of residents have told us they are trying to seek out items with less packaging and be more careful about using up leftover food.

Open Day Alert

Wallington Girls School have given advance warning of their Open Evening on 28th June from 4 – 8pm which usually sees an increase in traffic and parking pressure in the vicinity of the school. Woodcote Nursery has agreed to let parents use their car park on the day to help alleviate the problems.

Planning News

Julien House in Ross Road is recommended for approval by officers so it will be decided by councillors at the Planning Committee on 20thJune from 7.30pm at Sutton Civic Offices. Jayne & Steve will be supporting residents in their objections to this application. Do come along if you want to show the strength of objection to this application.

Flooding

The short sharp but torrential downpours like the one experienced recently are likely to result in localised surface flooding as the drainage system is simply unable to cope with high volumes of water in one go. However they should drain away quickly. Any flooding that takes a long time to drain away should be reported so it can be checked to see if there is an underlying problem.

We are aware of persistent flood problems in Demesne Road and Beddington Gardens. The council is undertaking work to map areas across the borough that regularly suffer from flooding so they can source funding for mitigating measures. A survey is now online so please do complete it if your area suffers from flooding.

Steve’s term as Deputy Mayor ends

Steve spent a fair amount of time in the last twelve months representing the borough as deputy mayor. He has met with some amazing groups and organisations and had the opportunity to take part is some interesting events. I know he feels privileged to have had the opportunity to represent both Sutton and Wallington in this role, and we think he has done us proud.

Borough News

Sutton in Bloom

There is still time to enter your garden for the Sutton in Bloom competition. Closing date is Friday 16th June. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a winner from Wallington!

Trading Standards

Flyers are currently in circulation for work such as roofing and driveways, some claiming to be on the Checkatrade scheme when they are not. Advice is to be extremely cautious about responding to leaflet drops for such work and instead recommend using the Safer Sutton Trader Scheme.

Carers Week

12th-16th June is National Carers Week where we recognise the informal support many of us provide to family, friends and neighbours. This saves the NHS and social services many thousands of pounds, but can prove very stressful for the carer. Sutton Carers Centre has a number of events to both recognise and celebrate the work of these many carers, and also highlight the support that is out there for them. For more information visit the website.

 

Have a lovely summer, and good luck to all those currently sitting exams.

Jayne McCoy, Steve Cook & Muhammad Sadiq

Liberal Democrat Councillors for Wallington South

London Borough of Sutton

June 12, 2017 Posted by | Information, Liberal Democrats | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wallington South Councillors’ Spring Update

Here is our latest round-up of local news and what your ward councillors have been up to:

Ward News

Faulty speed sign
We reported the faulty speed sign on Stafford Road that was somewhat erratic in its speed measurements. We are advised that this sign will be replaced in the next couple of months.

Car Park Ticket Machines
The keypads on the ticket machines in Wallington Library car park have faded and are difficult to read. We have been advised that these machines are to be replaced with new ones which will also accept the new one-pound coins. The half an hour free parking for the 84 bays in the library car park will still be available.

High Street loading-only bays to change
The loading bays outside KFC in Woodcote Road are set to change shortly to Goods Vehicle Only loading. This is because of the continued abuse of the bays and dangerous reversing across the cycle lanes into oncoming traffic. These will be strictly enforced and tickets can be issued after two minutes of contravention rather than the current 10 minutes applicable for a general loading bay. Vehicles will be required to park parallel with the road and not reverse out of the bays.

Staff changes to Wallington South Police Safer Neighbourhood Team
We have learnt that Sgt Suzannah James, who headed up the Wallington South Safer Neighbourhood Team is moving on. She will be leaving the Police altogether and taking up employment that better fits around her family.
We have very much enjoyed working with Suzannah and wish her all the best for her future. We are yet to be advised of her replacement.

Changes to Wallington Library
Work to ensure our libraries continue as vital parts of the community have led the council to plan the co-location of health and social care teams in parts of Wallington library. They will be making use of the large meeting room and some of the library offices. Experience elsewhere shows that co-locating social care staff teams close to the residents they work with has all-round benefits and efficiencies.
The Mallinson Room will be adapted to allow its use as a meeting room, however, we have received reassurances that it will still be available to the public when not booked for meetings.

Service of Hope and Reconciliation following the terror attack in Westminster
Steve, in his role as Deputy Mayor, will be representing Wallington and the borough at a special memorial event at Westminster Abbey next Wednesday following the terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge.

Planning News

News just in! Phone Mast threat to Woodcote Green averted
Vodafone recently put in notification of their intention to put a telecom mast and large cabinets on Woodcote Green, next to the air raid shelter. Not only would this be an eyesore on a beautiful village green, it was right where local residents had asked the Local Committee to locate a new heritage sign explaining the history of the green. Through the Beddington & Wallington Local Committee residents had also secured restoration of the air raid shelter on the green, restored the horse trough to its original position, and funds for spring bulb planting. So what an insult to spoil it all with an ugly mast and cabinets.

Your ward councillors worked with our Beddington South ward colleagues and the local residents association to submit our objections to the plans. This has paid off and the council’s planning officers agree that it would be wrong to allow the mast here and are recommending refusal of the application.

Permission granted for St Bernadetts, 19 Stanley Park Road
Planning permission has been granted to demolish St Bernadetts and build a three-storey block of 9 flats.

Wallington Arms to extend
The Wallington Arms pub has received permission for a rear extension to extend the pub use to the second floor, and also to provide additional residential accommodation on the upper floors.

Planning application in for flats in Ross Road
There is an application just in to demolish the garages next to Julian House and build a four storey block of six flats, with seven parking spaces. The application number is D2017/76681 and you can view and comment on the plans here. You can view the Design and Access Statement here.


Work starts on old BP Garage Site Stafford Road

After seeing off the McDonald’s drive-through application and helping affected residents get amendments to the more acceptable flats proposed for the site, we are pleased to see work finally start on the site. Obviously, there will be disruption for local residents so please let us know if the contractors start to operate at unsociable hours or there is excessive dust and we can seek enforcement of the conditions of construction. You can also report it direct to the council via the website.

Borough News

Drop in day TODAY for all your questions about the new Waste Collection service:

Tuesday 28th March 10am – 8pm at Resident Lounge, Shearing Drive (no 46) SM5 1BL

The new waste collection service starts from 3rd April so once your recyclables have been collected this week you will need to start separating paper and card from your glass, plastic and tins.

There are four different leaflets being distributed depending on whether you have a kerbside wheelie bin collection, in flats with communal bins, have black bag collection, or live above shops. Some people have received the wrong leaflet – for example, some flats have wheelie bins rather than communal bins. If you think you have received the wrong leaflet contact the council to let them know.

You don’t need to spend money on compostable bags for your food waste caddy, you can use newspaper to wrap up your food waste. Alternatively, Sainsbury’s sell paper bags to line your food caddies which Jayne has been using for her compostable waste and finds them stronger and yet much faster to degrade in her composter.

Don’t forget to sign up for your Garden Waste collection service, which will now operate all year round.

Council investment secures London Cancer Hub plans
The council has agreed to acquire land from the Epsom & St Helier NHS Trust that will secure the site for the development of the London Cancer Hub in Belmont, on the site of the old Sutton Hospital. It was originally planned to acquire the land through a joint venture with the Institute of Cancer Research, but further work showed that this was an unnecessarily clunky vehicle and it was far simpler for the council to acquire the land itself. The council and the ICR are still working closely along with the Royal Marsden to achieve the long-term vision for the site, and this investment will provide certainty for prospective investors.

More information here.

Government cuts to School Funding
In Sutton, we have some of the best schools in the country – but the Government is putting them at risk with massive cuts to school funding.

98% of schools face a real terms cut in funding, with £3 billion cut by 2020. The average loss for each pupil is staggering: £339 for each primary school pupil and £477 for each secondary school pupil.

These cuts will have a catastrophic impact on schools that are already struggling with numerous financial challenges.

Your Lib Dem team is campaigning to stop the government making these cuts to school budgets and you can add your support by signing the petition here.

Upcoming Events and Activities

World War 1 commemoration ceremony in Wallington Library Gardens
As part of a national initiative to honour all those who were awarded the Victoria Cross in the WW1, the Mayor will be unveiling a memorial stone in honour of Lieutenant A O Pollard on 29th April at 11am. Lieutenant Pollard lived in Wallington and is the sole recipient of a Victoria Cross from WW1 with connections to the Borough. He went on to have a successful career writing crime fiction and died in 1960. The Local Committee have chosen the Library Gardens as the most suitable place for the commemorative stone. Around the time of the event, there will be a small display in the library.

The event is being held in conjunction with the army. Lieutenant Pollard was a member of the Honourable Artillery Company, and the programme will include a short service of remembrance and a one minute’s silence.

The Mayor’s Charity Quiz
Friday 21 April 6.30 for 7pm – 10 pm Robin Hood Junior School Thorncroft Road, Sutton, SM1 1RL

All proceeds to the Mayor of Sutton’s Charities: Sutton Shopmobility and The Alzheimer’s Society. Tickets are £12.00. Pizza Supper included in the Ticket price (Please advise if vegetarian alternative required).

Tickets can be purchased from the Mayor’s Macebearer, Luke Stephens at luke.stephens@sutton.gov.uk or phone 020 8770 5167 or 07400 062488
Make up your own table of eight, or contact us and we will fit you into a table

That is it for this update. Have a very happy Easter, and go easy on the chocolate.

From,

Steve Cook, Jayne McCoy, Muhammad Sadiq
Lib Dem Councillors for Wallington South
London Borough of Sutton

March 28, 2017 Posted by | Information, Liberal Democrats | , , , , , | 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

Lib Dem Councillors working hard for Wallington

Muhammad, Steve and I have had lots of casework to keep us busy this autumn. Here is an update on some of what your ward councillors have been up to and some items we think you might find of interest:

Redevelopment of Lidl Store in Beddington Gardens

Lidl have alerted residents informally of their plans to redevelop their Wallington store. We had been advised that their aims were to improve the look of the store, improve the customer experience, and expand the parking facilities. To do this they propose underground parking with access moved to the right hand side of the store, and it would necessitate the demolition of the existing building. The new building would also incorporate some flats on top to provide much needed residential accommodation for the borough. We saw that a planning application went in in December, but has now been withdrawn. We understand that new management at Lidl have changed the plans for the store and so the application is being redrafted to take account of that. We will keep you informed.

img_4609Flyposting

Not only does flyposting look untidy, it can cause problems with sightlines for motorists at junctions such as here in Ross Parade. We have been reporting any flyposting we come across to get it removed and so the council can advise the culprits that it is an offence to flypost. I am on a mission removing out of date planning notifications from lampposts as they look so scrappy.

Faulty traffic lights

We noticed that the green light at the Sainsburys junction on Stafford Road with Woodcote Road had not been working for some time. We reported this to Transport for London who have responsibility for traffic lights and it has now been repaired.

Bus shelter1eae363f-16ea-4d19-b732-d299e278a725

There were panels missing from the bus shelter in Woodcote Road which meant it was useless at sheltering waiting bus passengers from the elements. We contacted Transport for London asking for panels to be reinstated, which they have now done. Tom Brake your MP has also asked for benches to be put in and we hope to see this implemented soon.

Parking issues and enforcement requests

Obstructive parking is one of the most regular complaints we hear about as your ward councillors. In the past few months we have been asked for additional parking enforcement patrols in Beddington Gardens due to parents blocking access in the vicinity of Bandon Hill Primary School; in Ross Road in connection with the Nursery there; and in the area around Wallington Girls School. We are currently liaising with residents and the nursery in Ross Road to see if solutions can be found, and as part of a bigger strategic approach the council will be doing work over the next four years looking at how the parking pressures the borough faces might be alleviated, possibly through controlled parking zones. Any proposals will be worked up and consulted on with residents, and have a range of options that can be tailored to fit the problem.

Fixing bollards and other obstructions

We were alerted to and secured repair/replacement of the bollards at Bridge Road off Clarendon Road, and at the Shotfield entrance to the library. We also continue to report any wobbly kerbstones, overgrown hedges and flytipping we come across.

Local Flooding Issues

We advised you of local flooding issues as a result of the June downpours. As a result the council has secured some funding to look into ways to reduce the flooding issues at the railway bridge in Demesne Road.

Planning Issues

We have been monitoring and assisting residents with a number of planning applications including opposing backgarden development at 109 Boundary Road, rear of 13-23 Boundary Road and in Woodcote Avenue; advising on residential conversions in Holmwood Gardens and Woodcote Avenue; providing information on the St Bernadett’s application and advising Wallington Girls’ School on their application to improve their library.

Please note that Muhammad does not get involved in ward planning applications as he is a member of the Planning Committee at the council. This ensures that he fulfils his obligations to view each application brought to the committee with an open mind and without pre-determination.

Road safety measures

We have assisted local residents in petitioning for speed reduction measures in Clyde Road and yellow lines at the junctions with Carew Road and Ross Road. The petition will be formally presented by residents to the Beddington & Wallington Local Committee on 10th January when we hope that the committee will agree to look into these matters.

We also previously secured funding from the same committee to make safety improvements in Elgin Road and we have been working with residents to decide what measures would be best within the limited budget. We have also arranged for improved signage in respect of the one-way stretch of Boundary Road, and yellow lining at pinch points in Woodcote Road. Residents have called for a one-way scheme to be implemented in Tharp Road and we are supporting residents in the surrounding area in calling for a study of the consequential traffic impacts before any scheme is agreed.

Working with the Wallington Community

We are very lucky in Wallington to have such community-minded businesses and residents with lots of bright ideas for bringing people together. We have therefore been very pleased to assist in the Festive Lights Switch-on and the Spirit of Wallington Awards delivered by the Wallington Facebook Group. Both events were well attended and well received. There are more plans for the new year including a repeat of the fantastic music festival, and hopefully something sports-related. Watch this space! We have also continued to support the Wallington Community Group which provides information on the wide programme of activities and groups in Wallington available for the over 50s. We also attended the Wallington and Council Remembrance Day services in November.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish all our residents a very Merry Christmas, a restful holiday period and a Happy New Year

Steve Cook, Jayne McCoy, Muhammad Sadiq

Liberal Democrat Councillors for Wallington South

London Borough of Sutton

December 24, 2016 Posted by | Information, Liberal Democrats | , , , , | Leave a comment

What is Sutton Council delivering for you?

All the work the council does and the decisions it makes are in the public domain and largely accessible through its website. However as this is often embedded in committee reports and paperwork you need to know what you are looking for or put in an FOI.

So in an attempt to make it simpler I thought I would do a series of posts setting out current activities in the areas covered by my committee portfolio – the Housing, Economy & Business Committee.

I have previously posted about Housing, so now it is the turn of ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

All the council’s work to boost the local economy is badged as  OPPORTUNITY SUTTON and is overseen by the Opportunity Sutton team.

This area of work is huge so I will have to break it down into parts on separate posts.

EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING

Partnership working for better jobs 

The council works closely with JobCentrePlus; local training providers such as Carshalton College, Sutton and District Training, JACE Training, Sutton College and Orchard Hill College; local business representatives including the Sutton Chamber and Successful Sutton; MENCAP; Epsom & St Helier University NHS Trust and SHP, bringing these partners together with council departments covering Education, Revenues and Benefits, Housing Services and Public Health. Together we work at improving the employment opportunities for people living in the borough. As a group we are called the Sutton Economic Support Taskforce which I chair.

Making apprenticeships easy

The Council paid SENSE Communications to set up and run an online Sutton Apprenticapprenticeship-hub-sutton-surrey1eship Hub bringing together information and apprenticeship opportunities all in one place. The Hub is useful for students looking for apprenticeship places, for businesses looking for apprentices, and is full of information about apprenticeships useful to businesses, students, teachers and parents.

Offering council apprenticeshipsapprentices

Sutton Council aims to lead by example by offering a number of quality apprenticeships at the council. It currently employs 12 apprentices and is recruiting for a further 2. We were very proud to see one of our apprentices working in the Opportunity Sutton team achieve the ‘Apprentice of the Year’ awarded by London Borough Councils.

Improved training for local jobs

The council’s Sutton Skills Match programme brings together local businesses, schools and training providers so that employers can advise of the skills and training that is required for them to offer employment to local people. As a result of this relevant information the training providers have adapted their training programmes to better meet the local need, and businesses are working with schools to talk about career pathways. An excellent example of this work is Sutton & District Training taking over the Building Lives program which offers training in construction skills that offer a direct route into work with local construction firms.

img_0056Working with schools

The council works closely with local schools helping them with work experience placements and providing special courses to help students be work-ready.

Annual Careers Fair

Each year the council organises a careers fair for young people aged 14 to 24 with the help of the partners above.

Supporting disabled and disadvantaged residents into work

Through the Our Place scheme helping people with mental health conditions and the new DWP Work and Health Programme the council offers targeted interventions to help and support people with barriers to employment get into the workplace. Last year it successfully completed an EU funded scheme to help a number of lone parents into work. The Our Place scheme has now placed 30 people with mental health conditions into paid work with 4 recently achieving a full year of employment.

Developing budding entrepreneurspopupmarket

The council employs Successful Sutton to provide business training and advice to people thinking of or just getting started with new businesses. Together they are running a special project called POP UP SUTTON providing free monthly stalls in Sutton town centre accompanied by a programme of business advice and support for entrepreneurs wanting to try out their business ideas and products.

Working with local boroughs for a wider employment offer

Sutton is part of the South London Partnership which also includes the boroughs of Croydon, Kingston, Merton and Richmond. Sutton is leading on a programme of work to improve residents’ skills across the five boroughs, drawing on our local experience. This also involves supporting the area based reviews of further education providers. Cllr Ruth Dombey takes the lead on this area in the South London Partnership.

Skilling up residents for London Cancer Hub careersicr_lch_1a

Together with our partners the council is working to ensure there are opportunities in place offering health, science and social care training so that there is a pool of talent within our local community that the London Cancer Hub can draw on. The potential careers that the London Cancer Hub can offer will be huge and wide ranging and we want local people to be able to get the maximum advantage from having this illustrious campus on their doorstep.

Creating new jobs

Opportunity Sutton is working to attract new businesses to Sutton, and offers help and support to existing businesses so they thrive and grow. In both cases this leads to new job opportunities for local people.

Measuring success

The council reviews its progress in ensuring its residents can find work or training as part of an Economy Watch document that it publishes quarterly. I am pleased to report that Sutton has higher than average economically active residents at 82% of the population, and increasing. The number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance is on a downward trend across all age ranges, and there is an increasing number of business start ups.

October 29, 2016 Posted by | Information, Liberal Democrats | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Apprentices are good for business

Suttonapprentices Council is promoting apprenticeships as good value for local businesses and offering great opportunities for young people.

Last year it launched the Sutton Apprenticeship Hub which brings together information, apprenticeship opportunities and people seeking apprenticeships all in the one place.
The site is currently listing 270 vacancies in the local area and highlighting a number of success stories to inspire.

And leading by example the council has a great track record of taking on apprentices, employing 12 at present, with another 2 just being recruited.

We are also extremely proud of the recent success of one of our apprentices working in the Opportunity Sutton Team, who won the London Borough Councils’ Apprentice of the Year Award seeing off stiff competition from across London.

Delivering an Apprenticeship Hub was in the Sutton Lib Dem 2014 manifesto so we are delighted to see it launched and bringing businesses and job seekers together to improve local skills.

October 7, 2016 Posted by | Information, Liberal Democrats | , , | Leave a comment

Local Conservatives’ grubby campaign of lies and smears

poison penOnce again our residents here in Sutton are being fed toxic literature from our local Tories full of lies and smears against the Lib Dems.

We saw these tactics in the Wallington South by-election, and observed the ruthless Tory in-fighting during and after the EU referendum, so perhaps we should not be surprised when the local Conservatives employ them here yet again.

Deliberately misleading

In the Wallington by-election they circulated made up stories of high rise buildings planned for the car park, the selling off of heritage buildings, and removal of pedestrian crossings, none of which proved true.

Now they are peddling lies about The Lodge claiming the council sold it off when in fact it remains in council ownership and has been leased to a local charity to retain it in community use – just as residents asked us to.

The Conservatives also claim in their leaflets that the Belmont site is too small for a secondary school despite knowing that plans are being drafted to build a 6-form entry secondary school that will offer fantastic opportunities for our young people due to its co-location with the London Cancer Hub. Sutton actually has an excellent track record for delivering school places at its award winning and high performing schools.

A smear campaign 

Worse still is the Conservatives’ deliberate and grubby smear campaign to trash the reputation of hard-working local Lib Dems. They slyly insinuate that the allegations against the councillor who resigned is connected with the council, and leak internal email conversations to imply Cllr Mathys meant something she didn’t in a campaign that amounts to bullying. Anyone who works with Wendy knows she always has the best interests of the borough’s young people at heart and fights tooth and nail to get the best deal for them despite the Tory cuts imposed on councils. Nor does our MP Tom Brake escape from their malicious smears, or indeed ex-councillors who are no longer around to defend themselves. Legal action has had to be taken against the Conservative libel because it is pure fiction.

Tory resignation in disgust

So unpleasant have Tory tactics become since the last election that one of their own Cllr Graham Whitham, twice the leader of the Conservative council group, resigned his membership of the Conservatives in absolute disgust at the nasty party they had become both nationally and locally. Cllr Whitham was one of those Conservatives who always conducted himself with honour and reasonableness and with whom I have been pleased to work. It is sad for him that he felt that his party had strayed so far beyond the pale in its tactics that he could no longer be a member.

So when the Conservatives come knocking, be sure to ask them if they condone the use of smears as campaign tools, and stand by the lies in their leaflets.

A high performing and caring Council

It is also a shame to see the public misled when the council has such a fantastic reputation for being a  good and innovative council that delivers for its residents.

The Liberal Democrat run Sutton council is regularly quoted in best practice examples by the Local Government Association and others and receives awards. It’s recent peer review was glowing and we have one of the highest resident satisfaction ratings in the UK.

Our residents tell us the reason they keep voting The Liberal Democrats back in here is because they trust us to do our best for them, and be honest with them about the issues we face. We engage widely and regularly with our residents, work alongside them in the community ourselves, and we are not afraid to consult on the difficult issues as well as the good ones. And we listen, because we are here to try our best to deliver the borough our residents want.

 

July 17, 2016 Posted by | Liberal Democrats, Opinion | , , , | 4 Comments

What is Sutton Council delivering for you?

All the work the council does and the decisions it makes are in the public domain and largely accessible through its website. However as this is often embedded in committee reports and paperwork you need to know what you are looking for or put in an FOI.

So in an attempt to make it simpler I thought I would do a series of posts setting out current activities in the areas covered by my committee portfolio.

I will start with HOUSING

New build for Fellowes Road

New build for Fellowes Road

Sutton is building council houses for the first time for many years

Previously the government took money away from Sutton to pay for housing in other places. When the rules were changed we immediately took the opportunity to start building again. We now have planning permission to start building 93 new homes across three sites.

Council housing protected for Sutton residents

You need to have lived in Sutton for at least two years to be eligible for council housing in the borough.

Council tenancies for Life

When councils were given the freedom to do away with tenancies for life we consulted with tenants and abided by their wish to retain lifetime tenancies. Unfortunately the Housing & Planning Bill recently passed by Parliament no longer allows us to do this so new tenancies granted will not be for life.

Chaucer House

Improving existing council homes

The council has spent £140 million over the past 4 years improving people’s council properties. This has included installing new kitchens and bathrooms, new windows and doors, and major renovation projects like Balaam House and Chaucer House. Many of these measures will improve the energy efficiency of these properties resulting in lower heating bills.

Increasing the number of houses for purchase and rent

The council has been encouraging developers to build new homes in Sutton. We have done this by marketing Sutton and by having positive working relationships with developers. This has enabled us to ensure family houses are built as well as one and two bedrooms flats, and that developers make contributions to improve the area around their development. We have also worked hard to get a good amount of affordable homes delivered as part of private developments.

The work on delivering a new Local Plan means our planning polices will direct housing development to suitable locations and demand high quality, sustainable design that works well with the area.

Estate regeneration

The regeneration of the Durand Estate is now in its third phase with a total of over 700 homes (250 net additional homes) due to be provided under the Partnership working with Affinity Sutton, Rydons and the residents. The area has been transformed and renamed The Lavenders.

Setting up a council owned housing development company to deliver homes

Called Sutton Living Ltd this company means the council can buy empty properties and rent them out, build new homes for sale or rent, or partner with house builders or social housing providers to help deliver additional housing. As the council knows what type of housing residents need in the borough it can use Sutton Living to deliver the right type of housing, and keep prices affordable. It also has a policy of ensuring new properties, whether to rent or sell, are offered to Sutton residents first. It also enabled the council to get extra help from the London Mayor through becoming a Housing Zone. Any profits generated will either be reinvested in delivering more housing or given back to the council to spend on services for residents.

New specialist housing

Dymond House

Dymond House

This year the council opened Dymond House, a new facility especially to house people with Dementia, as well as people with learning disabilities and a reablement centre.

In Cheam Elizabeth House was rebuilt to provide high quality sheltered housing for older people replacing the outdated original building which had no lifts and communal bathrooms.

And it was not long ago that bespoke-designed housing was built for people with learning disabilities to enable them to live more independently outside of institutions following the closure of Orchard Hill.

Helping people into the private rented sector

The council works with good landlords to encourage them to offer quality accommodation to residents. The council can help with deposits and housing allowance transfers.

The council also takes a hard line against landlords that break the regulations they must abide by and put tenants at risk. We have had a number of successful prosecutions against such landlords.

Lobbying Government on behalf of Sutton residents

We responded to consultations on the Housing & Planning Bill highlighting that it would make finding local affordable housing even harder, cause council tenants to face insecurity and eviction and reduce the amount of social housing available and deter social housing being built.

Elizabeth House

Elizabeth House

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Information, Liberal Democrats | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Conservatives signal the beginning of the end for social housing

Successive announcements by George Osborne and David Cameron at their 2015 Party Conference signalled a concerted attack on affordable rents and finally revealed the Conservative’s ideological opposition to social housing.

I had seen their clumsy early policies to stimulate more housing as simply incompetence rather than by design. Take the relaxation of permitted development rules to enable the unregulated conversion of offices into residential properties.  An idea that enables developers to pack an abundance of profitable flatlets into a building that wasn’t originally designed for the purpose and without any requirement to offer any at an ‘affordable’ rent, or to make a contribution to mitigate the impacts of suddenly bringing a large number of new residents into an area, who will necessarily require healthcare, parking spaces or transport infrastructure, and school places.

With hindsight I now see that the removal of any obligation to provide an element of social housing in these cases was probably the key driver.

The push to encourage right-to-buy of council properties by offering too-good-to-refuse discounts during their coalition partnership, and the current extension of this to be applied to housing associations is a back door way of eroding the amount of existing social housing. The rules and restrictions placed on the use of the right-to-buy receipts purportedly to support one for one replacements were so convoluted as to make it impossible to deliver anything like the number of replacements required.

I am not surprised that the National Federation of Housing has agreed to a voluntary arrangement on right-to-buy for housing associations – they are fighting for their very existence against a government that is using spurious claims of mismanagement to mask their determination to dissolve the sector altogether. And the requirement for local authorities to sell off their higher-value council properties to pay for this policy is yet another sneaky way to reduce the social housing available.

The imposed reduction on council housing rents is set to make local authorities’ housing revenue accounts unsustainable and significantly reduce their capacity to build new council properties. This is also an interesting picture of how the Conservatives truly see the principle of devolution – devolve the debt and the responsibility, but retain the powers to make the management of that responsibility subject to the whim of central government, and as in this case, undermine it. (See also New Homes Bonus – used as an incentive to build until it starts to generate cash, then call it back in for the Treasury to redistribute.)

The bedroom tax and welfare reforms have all led to what is effectively a social cleansing of the poor from central London. Clearly their vision for central London is for it to be solely the playground of the rich and an asset bank for foreign investors, with the people on low wages who actually keep the city running and enable the better-off to have a good time banished to the peripheries of London or even further, and not allowed to get any richer thanks to the extortionate costs of travelling into London.

And so it all became clear in George Osborne’s key speech on Tuesday. He announced that his government would focus on building more housing – for families to buy! The silence on any commitment to social or affordable housing was deafening. Cameron backed this up with his announcement that they would remove the planning obligation to provide an affordable element on new developments in return for discounted homes for first time buyers. And note that those first time buyers still need to be pretty well off to afford the ‘discounted’ price. It represents the ingrained Conservative ideology that it is all about property. You are nobody unless you own your own house. Or own your own house and rent out the other property you own to make a tidy profit*.

The direction of travel is clear. The question is whether by the end of the Conservatives term in office there will be any social housing left for others to save.

In Sutton we are committed to addressing the housing crisis and working to deliver more homes for local people. We have plans in process to deliver over 100 new council homes using our right to buy receipts. We applied and were granted Housing Zone status from the Mayor of London which should see the faster delivery of over 1,000 new homes in Sutton in the next four years. And we have now formally established our council-owned housing development company Sutton Living Ltd with the aim of delivering new homes across all tenures – market for sale, private rented and social housing with the key aim that they meet local housing need and are offered at prices local people can afford. The local Conservative opposition did their best to scupper these plans by tabling their key concern: that the company would be a way of avoiding right-to-buy and had written to DCLG to imply this. It isn’t, but this shows that our local Tories are firmly on-message with their Party’s determination to steadily erode social housing and prevent opportunities to deliver affordable rents.

 

original

*If you want an insight into the origins of this ingrained ideology take a look at Harry Mount’s book: How England made the English.
In chapter 6: Georgian Hedge Funds Harry points out the unique position in England whereby most of the land is still held, relatively, by the few, and those few are the aristocrats and rural gentry.“In a land-starved, people-packed country, landowners can sell off tiny twenty-acre portions of their estates to a supermarket, raise millions and keep their hands on those hundreds of thousands of acres they’ve clung on to. Sir Reginald Sheffield, Bt, David Cameron’s father-in-law, who owns 3,000 acres of Lincolnshire and two stately homes, says he survives on a small private income ‘garnished with a few planning permissions’.”

October 9, 2015 Posted by | Liberal Democrats, Opinion | , , , , | Leave a comment

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