Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Stunning talent at the 2018 Wallington Music Festival

   

The sun smiled on the fourth annual Wallington Music Festival as hundreds of people gathered to hear local musical talent perform throughout the day.

Willow RiversThe musical feast began in the library with Rhodri Williams playing a selection of popular pieces on the Mallinson Room piano, followed by Willow Rivers performing her own stunning compositions.

At 11.30 the festival moved into the Library Gardens as The Brook Choir opened the show and quickly got the crowd singing along.

The Mayor of Sutton, local councillor Steve Cook and his Lady Mayoress Pauline Cook formally opened the festival at noon, but then the Mayor seated himself behind the drums and played a rocking set as part of the specially formed band The Mayor’s Flares also featuring Andy Brook on guitar. Where else but Wallington!

For the rest of the afternoon the crowds were treated to a range of performances switching between the bandstand and the main stage on the steps of the old Town Hall. List of performers shown further down.

It was a lovely family event. Those who knew what to expect came prepared with blankets and picnics and settled down with their families to enjoy the day. Others wandered in to see what was happening and then stayed, other people came specially to see certain performers.

There was a free activity stall for children to make their own bunting flags, a facepainter, and for the adults a mobile bar provided by the Duke’s Head. The festival had been expanded to use Jubilee Gardens as a food area where the bar was set up alongside street food provided by Chef Arif, The Woodcote Flying Club and Byrnes. Tables and chairs had been arranged under the beautiful tree in Jubilee Gardens which proved to be a great place to chill and still hear the music. The Cafe in the Library Gardens was kept busy as people decided to stay and make a day of it.

At 6pm the performances moved on from the library gardens out to a number of venues around Wallington: The Ginger Frog, The Brook, The Duke’s Head, Cactus Grill, Wallington Arms, The Woodcote Flying Club and Hotrocks. I didn’t get round all the venues but those I did were packed out and rocking.

The range of music was huge from choirs and classical, to jazz, rap, acoustic, folk, rock and pop. Much was original work, and I am sure we have witnessed a number of stars of the future.

People were blown away by the quality of the performers, and we are both proud and lucky that we have such a wealth of talent locally to be able to provide a festival of such a musical high standard.

Much of the reason we can showcase such talent is down to local man Andy Brook, who sources and co-ordinates the performers for the festival. Some of the venues book acts directly, but all liaise with Andy over who is performing where on the day.

A number of local people and businesses work voluntarily to bring the Music Festival together: Ric Adams, Colin Wadeson, Christine Lindsay, Alan Fitter, Andy & Thea Brook, Jean Grima, Chloe Rae, Andrew Langley, Steve and Teresa Green of The Woodcote Flying Club, , Arif Hasan, Emma Waterman from the Duke’s Head, Sally and Nick Byrne, Paul Verlander from Carpenter & Co Solicitors who were our main sponsors this year and Steve, Muhammad and myself as the local ward councillors. (Apologies if there is anyone I have accidently forgotten.)

A special thanks to those businesses that get involved in the organisation of the festival. They put huge amounts of time and effort in, but the rewards are felt by businesses and venues throughout Wallington, as well as providing a great event for the local community. Also thanks to Gary Milsom for providing PA equipment and more, and a special shout out to Thea Brook for being a brilliant MC all day.

But what really makes this now annual fixture a success are the great artists who come and perform for our enjoyment. Here is the list of performers at this year’s festival – look them up on Spotify etc. to hear more of their work:

Acoustic Bliss
Alien Brain
Amelia Langley
Angelica Rincon
Anne Sumner
Annie & the Make Believe
Atlantis
Bel Stubley
Bigworld
Cat Totman
Charlie Ardley
Chebeto Requena
Chloe Ray
Chris Barrat
Chrissy Fuel & the Flames
Dan Davison
Dan Davison
Dragonfly Sky
Eltel
Emily Clair
Ernesto Marichales
Evensong
Gary Mason Charity Drummers
Hank Osasuna
Henry Bravo
Jack Bennett
Jack Flint
J-Catz
Jemma Jenkinson
Jordan Rutland
Kazoom
Kinacho
Lily Otten
Luis Landa
Maya Lane
Michael Alexandra
Oliver Hall
Pat Giles Clarinet Quartet
Paul Captain Watson
Peter Green
Peter Munt
Queen V
Rhodri Williams
Rob Cushman
Scott McFarnon
Scott Roxburgh
Sea Goats
SM6 Jazz Project
South London Sinfonia
St Elpheges Choir
Terry Finch
The Brook Choir
The Mayors Flares
The Reasonable Sips
The Steve Eggs Band
Tom Johnson
Uncle Greedy
Vinny Joe
Willow Rivers
Zero Carbon Band

Our rag-tag bunch of organisers led by Ric Adams is entirely voluntary, wanting simply to share the joy of music with the fabulous Wallington community by putting on an open-to-all local event. We are associated under the name AllinWallington so we can apply for a bit of local grant funding to help with expenses setting up this festival and the Wallington Christmas Festival.

The day went brilliantly, and the atmosphere was great. Best of all no one fell in the pond!

I am sure Ric Adams will have some fabulous pictures of the day that will be posted on the Wallington, Surrey Facebook page so look out for those.

 

 

 

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June 24, 2018 Posted by | Information, Opinion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sutton’s response to the Consultation on the Draft National Planning Policy Framework

10 May 2018

The Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP
Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government

Dear Secretary of State,

Consultation on the Draft National Planning Policy Framework

The current focus on addressing the housing crisis is to be welcomed. However many of the policies and ideas put forward will either be ineffective in addressing the crisis, undeliverable or will produce negative consequences.

First there is the focus on delivering units of housing. This is reducing the very human requirement of needing a place to reside down to the basics of simply a place of shelter, a roof over their head. This ignores the social impacts of poor quality housing and overcrowding.

Space standards are allowed to be reduced to squeeze in more units, and place-shaping, infrastructure and community-building are all inconveniences subsumed to the demand for greater housing numbers. The result will be social malaise, poor health both mental and physical, and a reduction in the attractiveness of our towns and cities.

Design appears to have been relegated to an afterthought, only seen as a function to be able to deliver more houses in ever smaller spaces.

People do not want units or boxes, they want quality homes with local schools, accessible transport and access to green and open spaces.

The second failure of the focus on units is that development is encouraged that does not meet the underlying need.

Why are we filling all available space in our towns and cities with accommodation that the vast majority cannot afford?

Developers will require a minimum 65% luxury apartments to subsidise the 35% affordable element. So we are getting yet more units of unaffordable housing that no one wants or needs squeezed in just to deliver a few affordable units that are desperately in demand.

This failure in previous housing delivery policy is now expected to be addressed by removing all sense of character and place in the drive to now provide housing units. Top-down targets imposed on local areas allow for no sensitivity to heritage, character and place, and may end up largely undeliverable as sites are already at a premium.

As ever the Planning System is being wrongly blamed for the crisis, and then held accountable for delivery that is outside of its influence.

The response to policy papers by tweaking the NPPF will not resolve the underlying causes of the housing crisis but will instead erode the quality and offer of our towns and cities making the UK a less attractive place to live, and may result in social tensions and disharmony similar to the previous impacts resulting in ghettos and sink estates that previous flawed attempts to address housing issues created.

We have responded to the questions put, but suggest that the thinking around addressing the housing crisis needs broadening  beyond planning policy.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Jayne McCoy
Chair of the Housing, Economy & Business Committee, London Borough of Sutton

June 9, 2018 Posted by | Information, Liberal Democrats, Opinion | , , , | 1 Comment

The Charles Cryer and that Tory Amendment to the Council Budget

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

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

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

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

Council inviting bids to keep the Cryer in community use

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

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

A political stunt

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

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*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

Amnesty advert in today’s Times

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May 26, 2015 Posted by | Liberal Democrats, Opinion | , , | Leave a comment

Wallington booming and blooming

IMG_0284 (1)There are a few things that indicate when an area is on the rise: one is the presence of cranes overhead, the other is estate agents Barnard Marcus moving into town. We have both of these in Wallington as work on the redevelopment of Wallington Square continues, and Barnard Marcus has moved into one of the units at Canon House.

The owners of Wallington Square decided the time was right to invest in IMG_0301 (1)redevelopment following our own investment into improving Wallington town centre. This is part of a borough-wide initiative, Opportunity Sutton, the council’s programme of work aimed at growing and supporting the borough’s existing businesses and attracting new  investment. A key part of the programme is investing in key areas, like Wallington, to make them more attractive to shoppers and therefore boost local business.

IMG_0337 (2)One of the other things that make Wallington attractive is the hanging baskets and flower troughs that local people have championed and the council funded through its local committee public realm funding scheme.IMG_0328 (2)

As well as Barnard Marcus there have been other new businesses moving into Wallington including Byrnes Pie & Eel Shop, Paddy Power, a new florist in the Square, the Cactus Grill, Sue Ryder, Cox’s Pippin, a new cake shop in Stafford Road and the Wallington Arms which has taken over from the Jon Jackson. The pub is a particularly pleasing addition as it is a very welcoming community pub which also puts on live music and good food.

Since the town centre improvements local people have told us that they have returned to shop in Wallington, the parking is plentiful and the shopping area is particularly good for people with disabilities to navigate.

Richard Mark Menswear who are located in Wallington Square are keen to highlight that they are open for business as usual whilst the redevelopment work is ongoing and they will remain a key store in the square once it has been redeveloped.

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May 25, 2015 Posted by | Information, Liberal Democrats, Opinion | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Protect my human rights

universal-declaration-of-human-rights

Here is the full text of the open letter I submitted to the new Sutton and Cheam Conservative MP in the Sutton Guardian this week:

Dear Paul Scully MP

I believe that I have the right to liberty; the right not to be tortured; the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; the right to a fair trial, and the right to be free from slavery or forced labour.

All of these rights and eleven more were established in the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights led by the UK and set up with the Council of Europe. The purpose was to prevent any state abusing its citizens following World War II and the atrocities of the Holocaust. These rights were later enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1998 to ensure that British courts could uphold them.

Page 60 of the Conservative Party Manifesto 2015 states ‘We will scrap the Human Rights Act and introduce a British Bill of Rights.’

As these rights were set down to protect the citizen from the abuse of the state, a scrapping of the Act is the state withdrawing my rights and redefining them. The UK Government should not have the power to change or take away my fundamental rights. The Human Rights Act is the British Bill of Rights.

I ask you to promise to protect my human rights as enshrined in the Human Rights Act and not support the Conservative Government when it seeks to remove them.

Jayne McCoy, Liberal Democrat and supporter of human rights.

I am not alone in my concern about this Conservative Government’s attack on universal human rights, see:

The British Institute of Human Rights: After the Election: The Human Rights Act, Protect what protects us all

Amnesty International UK: Save the Human Rights Act

38 Degrees: Save Our Human Rights

Equality and Human Rights Commission: Commission warns against ‘regressive’ change to human rights law

Liberty: Save our Human Rights Act

Counsel Magazine: The Case for the Human Rights Act

Fawcett Society: Threats to the Human Rights Act 1998

Liberal Democrats

May 15, 2015 Posted by | Liberal Democrats, Opinion | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Colin Hall

imageColin Hall has represented Wallington South since he was first elected to Sutton Council in 1998. We have been colleagues working together on behalf on the residents of the ward since I became a councillor in 2006.

His illness and untimely death has been a shock to me and to the very many people who knew Colin.

I also regularly worked alongside Colin on a number of committees and projects, and I find it difficult to take in that he won’t be there anymore.

Colin had a wide ranging knowledge and experience, but his chief interests were environmental matters and sustainability. Colin was the driving force ensuring that sustainable living was at the heart of everything the council does, and encapsulated this by ensuring the borough took on the principle of One Planet Living.

It has been a privilege to work alongside Colin and to learn from him. He was totally dedicated to his work as a councillor, giving up so much of his time to carry out his duties.

Colin was a gentle, kind man. He wanted to convince through discussion and information, and together with our other colleagues we spent many times discussing issues and finding solutions together. We didn’t always agree and Colin’s strength was that he didn’t always need his to get his own way but was willing to see the other side of the argument. A trait I hold in high regard!

He brought humour and goodwill to his work, and was always willing to share his knowledge and understanding with new or less experienced colleagues. For this reason he was well known, liked and respected by all his council colleagues.

Colin will be greatly missed, by the council, by colleagues, by me. Of course the biggest loss is for his family, and my thoughts are with them all, as they come to terms with the sad loss of a good man.

April 3, 2015 Posted by | Opinion | , , , | 3 Comments

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