Home Economics with Councillor McCoy

Jayne McCoy is a Liberal Democrat Councillor representing Wallington South and she Chairs the Housing Economic and Business Committee.

Councillor McCoy and her committee were confronted by the problem in June 2013 of what to do with Richmond Green – there were 28 brick built bungalows built by the Council in the 950’s that had served the elderly residents in pleasant surroundings. A flood in 2007 had rendered one of the blocks with four units uninhabitable and the rest of the bungalows had been neglected by the property managers, Sutton Housing Partnership(SHP).

Professional surveys had been carried out with reports in 2009 and 2012 the latter stating that there was remedial work needed totalling £2.5 million but conditions of the properties varied to the extent that 10 were considered to be good enough that remedial work could be carried out within the context of routine maintenance.

Dismissing these professional reports, Ms McCoy and her committee preferred the SHP routine audit, referred to in the HRA Business Plan, that claimed imminent collapse of the structures and recommended the immediate rehousing (eviction) of the tenants.  At the time it was stated that the bungalows would be replaced with 28 semi-detached houses.

Steamrolling residents’ concerns about building on a flood plain and the associated costs, planning permission for just 21 houses was granted by the London Borough of Sutton to itself – the reduction in numbers because their own rules on housing density would not allow the 28 houses originally stated. (one assumes that they were aware of PTAL ratings so why didn’t someone flag up that less houses could be built?)

So, in 2018 demolition of the bungalows (6 years after SHP said they were falling down!) was followed by the build – it is still ongoing and the approved construction cost is a shade over £7 million (this does not include the estimated £500,000 cost for repairing a mains electricity cable or the water pipe repairs x 2 that clumsy builders have managed so far!)

We could have had 28 serviceable bungalows for the elderly at £2.5 million but now we (will) have 21, 2/3 bedroomed houses for £7 million.  And now the London Borough of Sutton’s new acquisition arm reported to Councillor McCoy and her committee that acquisition costs for a total of 33 properties currently purchased or in pipeline will be £7.943 million proving that value in the housing market does not need to come at the expense of settled communities and the elderly.

Put another way, for the same total “investment” that Councillor McCoy is managing, she could have had 28 bungalows, 18 other properties and the 33 that have been bought, a total of 79 properties wholly owned by the London Borough of Sutton for the benefit of local residents of all ages.  Instead she has “acquired” a total of 54 properties, some of which appear to be heading the way of joint ownership.

And Ms McCoy is a member if the Institute of Chartered Accountants!

#INDEPENDENTSDAY3RDMAY #LOCALANDVOCAL

A Theatre of Distractions

Out of yesterday evening’s Full Council meeting, it was interesting to see the jousting of the major parties – the Labour Party, unrepresented in Council staking out the entrance with their placards, the Liberal Democrats papering over the cracks of their failed administration with the Local Plan and the Conservatives focussed on the opportunity of freezing Councillors’ allowances to subsidise the re-opening of the Charles Cryer theatre.

Some might observe that with the local Councillors enjoying the best return in the area per capita of electorate, that a reduction in allowances may have been more appropriate but actually, arguing over who gets the slice of cake with the cherry on top distracted from some more serious content of the agenda.

Mind you, with a main reports pack of 176 pages and multiple supplementary documents, Councillors would be hard pressed to absorb even a proportion of the meeting content and inevitably there are some hidden gems that should concern every voter.

Typical is a document with the exciting title “MINIMUM REVENUE PROVISION POLICY STATEMENT 2017/18 ONWARDS”.  On page two, this document reviews four areas of commercial involvement.

  • The establishment of two wholly owned companies which will be provided with loans on a commercial basis.
  • The acquisition of commercial property as part of a Property Investment Portfolio
  • The plan for the Council to acquire ex local authority and market stock properties to be used as temporary accommodation.
  • The Council’s purchase of land as part of the land holding for the development of the London Cancer Hub that is due to be sold on to property developers.

Why be concerned?

This is why, the use of the word “Prudent” – ….there is no need to set aside prudent provision to repay the debt liability….if the asset value significantly decreases, a prudent MRP policy will commence.

And that is in just one area – is this a reduction in asset value by percentage or by value and how do you measure significant? It is our money being played for in the Sutton Casino of Dreams and there needs to be some proper stewardship in place.

Rather than Independent and Qualified Non-Executive Directors guiding these commercial activities, they are overseen by the unqualified and politically dominated Strategy and Resource Committee together with their equally inept Sutton Shareholding Board.

It is time for change – not placard waving or political dogma but proper Independent representation of local opinion. #LOCALANDVOCAL