“£28 million invested in St Helier thanks to Lib Dem Council” that’s what the headline says and, with the affection that our local hospital is held, it is a potential tick in the box – as long as you read below the headline and then look at the real background.
The London Cancer Hub is a great and creditable project and it was first used politically by the Liberal Democrat Council as a rationale for siting a new secondary school. That the alternative site would be damaging to the electoral hopes of Ruth Dombey, Leader of the Lib Dems and that an Independent assessment questioned the adequacy of the site from a size perspective were outweighed by the grandeur and potential of the Cancer Hub. So the London Borough of Sutton agreed to spend £8 million (+ costs) to acquire the proposed 1.6 acres of land. Additional costs to the project were incurred because the school will open in September 2018 in temporary accommodation as the new buildings will not be ready until September 2019!
No mention or political capital was made of this acquisition but then with two more tranches of land purchased in 2017 and 2018, for a cumulative £28.1 million, the claim for credit starts – photo opportunities for Sir Vince Cable, Tom Brake, Ruth Dombey, Jayne McCoy together with the well paid Chief Executive of Sutton, Niall Bolger. Quite why a “neutral” such as Mr Bolger was party to a Lib Dem promotion was never clarified nor how the cumulative borrowing of some £36 million by the good people of Sutton was cause for a political points scorer.
The latest tranche of land was acquired, according to Sutton’s own press release, “to host a series of state of the art academic and commercial buildings” – the same release goes on to say that “the £1 billion London Cancer Hub project will shortly be seeking commercial partners to begin developing buildings on the new land.” Once more, Sutton Council are taking commercial risks with our money!
But, to their credit we have a Lib Dem Council acquiring land from a supporting partner of the London Cancer Hub, Epsom St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust and insisting that they spend the money – all £28.1 million – on St Helier Hospital. That is quite a merry-go-round of public money!
But we also have to be concerned that someone is being economical with the facts because there is a Press Release from the Epsom St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust dated 14 Jul 2017
When you next hear of a bit of bragging of how a politician has spent your money or intends to spend your money, stop and think – claiming credit for a £28.1 contribution to a £12 million project!? Priceless.