Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Things are happening in Sutton Town Centre

Exciting things are happening on Sutton High Street as some of the council’s projects and work to promote the town centre come to fruition.

Look up at Market Place Sutton to admire the improved frontages

Check out the new pubs

Our green wall looking succulent

Planters brighten up Trinity Square

Times Square renamed and refurbishment almost complete

TKMaxx reopening 15th June

Painting the Carshalton College ‘Live Art’ mural

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The award-winning entrepreneurs market

The Empire Cinema is also undergoing refurbishment and a big brand retail outlet is planning to move into Sutton.

With the additional development bringing housing, a new hotel, and new retail units around the station, and the new Sainsburys, flats and restaurants at the north end, Sutton certainly feels like it is booming.

May 29, 2017 Posted by | Information | , , , , , , , , | 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

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

Sutton Skills Match used as NIACE good practice example

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NIACEThe National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, invited me to contribute to a special edition of their Adult Learning magazine. This issue focuses on examining the role of education and skills in tackling poverty and low pay. They were aware of the partnership work we are doing under our Opportunity Sutton Skills Match project, and wanted to use it as an example of good practice.

You can read the magazine and my article here.

 

April 24, 2014 Posted by | Information | , , , , | Leave a comment

Opportunity Sutton ‘Quango’ brings £350 million new investment

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Conservative opposition councillor Tim Crowley has a letter in the Sutton Guardian repeating his claims at council that the Lib Dems’ Opportunity Sutton Economic Development strategy is just an empty sound bite from me.

However attracting more than £350 million in new investment into the borough in less than two years is no mean feat and did not suddenly happen of its own accord.

It is the result of the hard work of our Economic Renewal and Regeneration officers together with our Planning teams that the borough has seen the North Sutton gas holder site get planning permission – an investment worth £85 million on its own, and the biggest development the borough has seen; whilst Sutton Point, Victoria House, Subsea 7, the Burger King site, Sutton Super Bowl and the Energy from Waste facility all now also have approval to start development. These developments on their own expect to bring with them over 1,700 jobs.

In Hackbridge Felnex have put in development plans, and the Wandle Valley Trading Estate are having their application decided imminently, with the potential for yet more local jobs.

In terms of marketing Sutton and attracting new businesses we have seen Metro Bank, Uno Tapas and Patisserie Valerie open up branches in Sutton providing between them 65 new jobs.

The establishment of ‘Successful Sutton’, the town centre Business Improvement District means existing businesses investing an additional £2 million in Sutton.

Then we have the funding won through bids to the Mayor’s Outer London Fund and Transport For London amounting to over £4.5 million invested in improving Hackbridge, North Cheam & Worcester Park, and the Sutton Station Gateway Scheme.

Of the £1 million the council set aside to support the Opportunity Sutton programme of work, less than half has been spent, which means our £350 million is a fantastic return on our investment.

March 19, 2014 Posted by | Information | , , , | 4 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

Why is growing the local economy good for Sutton?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business growth brings an increase in business rates.

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

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

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

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

Stronger Economy Motion to Full Council

Last night I moved a motion to Full Council: Stronger economy – Supporting Business, Creating Jobs; seconded by Cllr Richard Clifton.

The text of my speech was as follows:

We are ambitious for Sutton. We love Sutton. Like our fellow residents we know it is a great place to live, and to work, and we have worked hard to make it that way.

But the recession has meant that local businesses have had to work harder just to keep afloat, that people have stayed home and saved rather than take risks with their money and investments. 

And during these lean times the council has worked to provide the support and environment necessary to help our businesses through the recession. Indeed our ten point plan was picked out as an example of good practice for local government.

This may be part of the explanation as to why Sutton has weathered the recession well, with our employment rates continuing to remain above the London average, and lower numbers of businesses going into administration.

But we also need to look forward, to seize the opportunities available to us so we don’t just stand still, but we are able to create more jobs and more prosperity for the future.

This is as important for the council to ensure it is able to continue to provide the services our residents’ value, as it is for individuals and businesses.

And that is because the future for local government is changing significantly, and we can no longer rely on government subsidy to fund our operations, that way lies uncertainty and a massively shrinking service offer. Instead we need to take control of our own destiny and secure our local funding base. In future we may be solely reliant on business rates & council tax income to fund our services.

But our ambitions are also bigger than that. Our innovative Opportunity Sutton economic strategy sets out our plan to bring new business and investment into the borough. New investment that will bring jobs, housing, funding for schools, healthcare, transport and public realm schemes. All things that local people will get direct benefit from. 

I can’t underestimate the importance to us of bringing that job offer to Sutton.

With our poorest residents facing an ever increasing squeeze on their income with the welfare reforms, the only way out for them is through finding employment, quality, fairly paid employment. Telling people they cannot expect to be dependent on government handouts is not enough, in fact it amounts to cruelty if they are faced with no alternatives, so it is incumbent on us to make sure that the alternative is out there in the form of jobs and training. This is why we are working so hard with our key partners on our Sutton Skills Match programme, to ensure local people have the skills necessary to take up the new job opportunities we are helping to create.

The other big crisis that the country is facing is the lack of housing that people can afford. Opportunity Sutton also involves ensuring that our strategic planning together with our inward investment drive will deliver the new housing that we so desperately need.

Any type of additional housing will help reduce the pressure on the market, but we are also adamant that new development ensures the delivery of social housing too.

This is why we have railed hard against the government’s extension of permitted development rights allowing offices to be converted to flats without any requirement to provide an affordable element. Yes we are happy for unviable offices to convert to residential accommodation, but not for those flats to only be affordable for commuters and city slickers.

So we are ambitious for Sutton because we are ambitious for our residents. We do not see the council’s role as subsidising our residents’ lifestyles, or as doing everything for them, we see our role as empowering and enabling people so they can take advantage of the offers and opportunities available to them.

If you are ambitious for Sutton and ambitious for our residents, please support this motion.

Other Liberal Democrat councillors spoke about the various projects impacting on their area under the Opportunity Sutton banner where we are already working to make our ambitions reality, and Councillor Clifton spoke in more detail about our innovative Sutton Skills Match programme and the new jobs that our work has already secured for the borough.

The Tory opposition had tabled an amendment which simply added to the motion an acknowledgement that the Outer London Funding was thanks to the Conservative London Mayor. As this was correct for two of the Opportunity Sutton projects falling within the ‘Improving district centres’ programme and didn’t take anything away from the work the council was doing in making use of that funding to deliver welcome improvements in Hackbridge and North Cheam & Worcester Park I had no quibble with that. However when speaking in the debate the opposition councillors Tim Crowley, Tony Shields & Peter Geiringer spoke so vehemently against the work the council is doing under Opportunity Sutton, claiming that none of the jobs and investment we had already attracted to the borough was due to local efforts but entirely down to national and regional policy, a point totally disproved by our comparative economic & employment statistics, that we felt to accept their amendment also meant accepting this perverse perspective. Coupled with the opposition’s uncomplementary descriptions of Sutton, hardly the way to win over new investors, we agreed that it would not be right to accept the amendment.

Surprisingly, having not had a good word to say about it, the Tory opposition then voted in favour of our unamended motion, with the exception of Cllr Crowley who had flounced out of the meeting by that point.

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

Record new companies formed in Sutton in 2012

A recent Duport Business Confidence Report shows that there were a record number of limited company formations in Sutton last year.

It reveals that 863 new companies were formed, more than any other year on record for the area. It also notes that net company growth also rose in 2012, although the UK company share of Sutton fell slightly.

Duport notes that Sutton Council has been working hard to encourage inward investment and attributes the rising number of company formations to this effort, together with the range of support services offered to business start-ups including free business advice sessions and networking events.

Managing Director of Duport.co.uk Peter Valaitis commented:

“The record number of company formations last year is a positive sign for the economy of Sutton. New businesses will diversify the economic base, helping protect the area from future economic shocks.”

This is a great affirmation of our new economic strategy launched last year as ‘Opportunity Sutton’ and I look forward to seeing yet more positive effects as we continue to put our Opportunity Sutton delivery plan into action.

March 24, 2013 Posted by | Information | , , , | Leave a comment

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