Diary of a Sutton Councillor

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

Celebrating the opening of Subsea 7 new offices in Sutton

With council leader Ruth Dombey and Deputy Mayoress Pauline Cook

With council leader Ruth Dombey and Deputy Mayoress Pauline Cook

Yesterday I attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the official opening of the new Subsea 7 offices in Sutton.

These stunning new offices replace an old council car park, and enabled this global seabed engineering company to maintain and expand its presence in Sutton.

Not only is it an asset for the borough to be home to such a prestigious company, Subsea 7 give back to the borough by working with local schools encouraging our young people into careers in engineering.

I take an especial pride in having seen this project from inception to completion, as it is a positive result of the more facilitative approach our Planning Department is taking with businesses wishing to invest in the borough.

The building meets BREAM Excellent rating and includes features specifically to improve biodiversity. In particular it has a green roof planted especially to attract the rare blue butterfly, and there will be more trees planted on the site than were removed for the redevelopment.

February 24, 2017 Posted by | Information | , , , | 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.

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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

Useful health service information for over the festive period

Healthwatch Sutton have provided the following useful information:

Find out what health services will be open locally during the festive period. Check up on local pharmacies’ and other NHS services’ opening hours by visiting the NHS Service Search website:http://www.nhs.uk/service-search

Bookmark good online sources of health information, such as NHS Choices, which can offer reassurance and allow you to confidently manage a health problem. Useful information on when to seek help for a variety of health complaints is also available from the Self Care Forum, at http://www.selfcareforum.org/fact-sheets/

NHS 111 can help you if you’re not sure which service to use.  It is open 24/7, 365 days a year and is staffed by a team of fully trained advisers, supported by experienced nurses and paramedics.  Staff can also help you with health information and provide reassurance about what to do next

Why not download the Health Help Now app, which contains a wealth of expert advice on keeping well? This NHS app has information on which local services are open, including pharmacies able to supply an emergency prescription. Visit the Health Help Now website at www.healthhelpnow.nhs.uk or download the app from Google Play or app stores

Advice Link Partnership Sutton provides the Healthwatch Sutton Information, Advice and Complaints Advocacy Service

If you need information, advice or support to make a complaint about a health or social care service you can call 020 8254 2616 or complete the online referral form http://bit.ly/2cNg5U1

 

December 22, 2016 Posted by | Information | , , , | Leave a comment

Free Seniors Christmas Lunch at Wallington Arms 20.12.16

wallington Arms 2

The lovely Wallington Arms is once again inviting our local senior residents to celebrate Christmas with them on Tuesday 20th December at 1pm. The pub will be providing a free festive lunch for Wallington’s older people.

Please do call and reserve your place so the pub knows how many to expect: call 0208 773 0404.

Since the Wallington Arms took up residence in Wallington it has put on a number of free lunch events for our older residents that have been well attended and much appreciated.

 

December 13, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Welcoming Emmaus to Wallington

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This week Cllr Ruth Dombey and I visited Emmaus, the homelessness charity that has taken over the Missionary Mart operations in Wallington.

Based in Lambeth the charity provides not just accommodation for ex-rough sleepers, called ‘Companions’ but a community and work opportunities so they can start to rebuild their lives.

The charity generates income via a social enterprise selling second-hand goods, which is also a source of work for the companions, and other local volunteers.

The charity has also taken on a shop in Carshalton.

Their warehouse in Wallington, 105 Stafford Road, has a wide range of secondhand furniture, bric a brac and clothes. Feel free to pop in and look around, and hopefully make a purchase.

December 7, 2016 Posted by | Information | , , | 1 Comment

Free Grit this weekend 26th – 27th November

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November 26, 2016 Posted by | Information | | Leave a comment

Wallington Festive Lights Switch-on Friday 25th November 2016

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November 14, 2016 Posted by | Information | , , , , | Leave a comment

Planning for school places

rosehill-site-preferred-by-conservativesConfused Conservatives

Not only do the Sutton Conservatives appear hopelessly confused over the school sites issue, they apparently enjoy worrying residents unnecessarily, and are quite prepared to use confidential information in order to do so. They have been aided by the Sutton Guardian’s horribly mangled story about Rosehill, which followed the previous week’s speculation that the Croygas Sports Club in Wallington was the preferred site.

To clear matters up here are the facts:

Meeting medium term need on the Sutton Hospital site in Belmont

The Education Department at the council predicted the need for a new secondary school over two years ago, before work on a new Local Plan (Sutton 2031) started. An initial look at sites in the borough capable of delivering a secondary school showed only two possible locations – the ex-Sutton Hospital site at Belmont, and Rosehill Park.

Rosehill Park is Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) and is therefore protected against development except in ‘very special circumstances’. In planning terms this means there must be no alternative non-MOL site.

We were therefore very concerned to learn that the Sutton & Cheam MP Paul Scully declared Rosehill Park the Conservatives’ preferred site, and following that the Government’s Education Funding Department showing an interest in that site.

With a suitable brownfield site available in Belmont it was a very real risk that any secondary school proposed for Rosehill Park would not get planning permission.london_cancer_hub-1024x725

The Lib Dem administration therefore agreed that the new secondary school should go on the ex-Sutton Hospital site and started work on making that happen.

The Conservatives either didn’t like or didn’t understand that there are rules and procedures that have to be followed in these matters and instead put out all sorts of misleading claims, including that the site was too small.

The lie in this has been proved with the council ensuring the delivery of the new school by purchasing the site, preparing detailed plans and securing the Harris Federation as the school provider. This all means that there will be school places available for secondary school students when the need arises.

Planning ahead to 2031

The Council’s Local Plan sets out planning policies to manage development in the borough over the next 15 years. It requires a huge amount of evidence and information to predict population numbers and housing and employment need over that period, which then informs the policies and site allocations in the Plan. The first stage of this work setting out the issues the council faces and how they might be addressed was consulted on as ‘Sutton 2031’ earlier this year.

This work showed that over the 15 year period at least two secondary schools will be required. With the site for the first school already secured in Belmont, the Local Plan work helped in identifying a suitable second site.

The Rosehill Park site unsurprisingly remained an option as it had already been identified as of a suitable size for a secondary school. However the consultation feedback on the Local Plan confirmed that borough residents greatly value their parks and open spaces, so that was a double reason to ensure that officers had looked at every possible alternative site before allocating a park for a second school.

Sadly the evidence now shows that there is no alternative brownfield site available, and indeed the only alternatives were other parks.

Less green space lost at Rosehill Park

However, there is some good news, as there has been a change in ownership of the Sports Village, which is located in Rosehill Park, since the original site search. The new owners have indicated that they may be willing to work with the council to ensure the new school is contained within the all-weather pitch and share their facilities which means that there would be less take of green space out of the park than when the site was originally considered.

In the meantime the Conservatives have used leaked evidence-gathering information in order to speculate about other sites like Croygas, that has upset residents and caused harm to local businesses unnecessarily.

The Sutton Lib Dems know that you can’t pick a school site out of a hat, nor are we prepared to lose part of a well-loved park without robust evidence that there is no alternative. And it certainly wasn’t going to be our first choice for a school when a brownfield site, presenting excellent opportunities for our young people due to its co-location with the London Cancer Hub, was available in Belmont.

planning_for_sutton_s_future_2031_logoNext round of consultation 

Given the lack of alternative sites for the second school, it is expected that the December Housing, Economy & Business Committee will recommend the allocation of the Rosehill Park site for a secondary school in the draft Local Plan. This draft of the Plan will then go out to public consultation early in 2017 so residents can review the evidence for themselves and feed in their views.

November 8, 2016 Posted by | Information | , , , , | Leave a comment

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