As a resident and Councillor representing an area of the London Borough of Sutton that has an established Industrial presence, I have become aware of a conflict where if we are not vigilant, those who govern us at a National as well as local level are leading us to an impossible and ungovernable impasse.
Central Government has driven a change in Business Rates that many observers have said is decimating our High Streets as the new system has loaded expense onto the retail sector that impacts its ability to face its online competitors on a level playing field.
At the same time, it has allowed local Council’s to retain the Business Rate revenues as they have had their direct grant support from Central Government taken away.
It struck me recently when answering a concern from a local business in the Industrial area of our ward, that while the business was in our area, the person I was helping was not a resident and actually had no democratic voice.
I was put in mind of the origination of the American Revolution, the Boston Tea Party where the cry was “No taxation without Representation” – here we had a business paying large amounts of money to a local Council and, apart from a local business association, no representation.
I had no hesitation in assisting because established local business success in the area means more jobs and more prosperity – however, I then reflected on the reality of our local authority and their apparent disdain for Beddington North residents.
They have decided there is a way to give big business a quid pro quo return for the rates revenues. Allowing big business to ride roughshod over local residents and bring their polluting industrial operations into an area with an inadequate road/rail infrastructure
We have an incinerator imposed on us, current propositions for two other major industrial developments with large traffic flows, a plan for another bus depot as well as a supermarket distribution warehouse.
The London Borough of Sutton may only be a symptom of the malaise – after all we read about other authorities in financial difficulties. But with the Liberal Democrat domination of every committee, they will continue to allow business rate revenues to drive their policies irrespective of the health and welfare of local people and the contradiction of their Cleaner Greener policies.
If there was a plan to put 600 additional vehicle movements a day into Carshalton or Central Sutton it would cost them the Council. And while they may regret Independent Councillors in Beddington North, they may ultimately be prepared to sacrifice another ward like Wandle Valley as the residents feel the pressure of the housing developments and taste the pollution from the incinerator and the traffic congestion – remember, local North /South traffic has three options – Purley Way, Beddington Lane or London Road.
We need broader representation and a balanced Council that drives probity in its management of local services, encourages and incentivises local businesses but most importantly, puts the welfare of its residents above any other issue.