Local Democracy – losing out to Big Business

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.

Waste Collection Changes

Ward Councillors were briefed recently on changes to the waste collection days in up to 14% of homes in the Borough.

This affects some roads in Beddington North and those who will be having changes will hopefully have received notifications as detailed in the document:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/12p8ixUh8NwZef_f6ai1-M_x0Kv6RXB8lUa7Ft_eWZMk/edit?usp=sharing

This is the implementation of a South London Waste Partnership Strategy across Croydon, Sutton and Merton and there will be a certain level of chaos – guaranteed!

Today we received further notice from Mary Morrissey, Strategic Director of Environment, Housing and Regeneration that included this piece of management gobbledigook – so if you don’t really understand the letters and postcards you have received, you are probably in good company.

As always, your local Councillors will help where they can – if your road is not listed, and you have not received letters and postcards, your service will be as normal !!??

Risks and Mitigations A full risk register has been prepared for the change project, with the main risks detailed below, with associated mitigation activities:

Due to the proposed changes taking place at the same time as the mobilisation of Croydon (September) and Merton (October), any challenges with implementation will put Veolia under increased pressure, which could limit the amount of resource available to Sutton. Through working with the South London Waste Partnership and attendance at the mobilisation board, officers will seek to mitigate this risk.

The number of properties affected by each change have been finalised. However officers will continue to work closely with Veolia to ensure due diligence is being undertaken on the data at both project and operational levels and any changes such as new builds within the area of change becoming occupied, are taken into account .

With the transfer of some rounds to Croydon crews, there is the risk of the loss of local knowledge from current Sutton crews, which could adversely impact upon collections where layout or collection points are non standard. Work is therefore being undertaken through crew shadowing and supervision to mitigate this.

Due to the planned changes, there is a risk of an increase in missed collections when the new service goes live. To mitigate this, three lines of communication material is being distributed to affected residents. As some residents may be away on holiday, officers will review and and a fourth line put in place if necessary.

The number of days between collections will be longer than 16 or 21 days in some cases. This would leave residents with high volumes of waste uncollected over the period. This will be mitigated by additional collections taking place where there is a wait longer than 14 days, with the cost being borne by Veolia.

Green garden waste collections will remain on the current collection day after the changes have been implemented. This could cause some confusion amongst residents. Separate garden waste communications will therefore be sent out to ensure this is properly understood.

There is the potential for some risks to occur at the same time. Therefore, interdepencies are being identified through the project risk register and appropriate mitigations developed. The proposed changes, risks, mitigations and communications materials have been fully assessed, consulted on and agreed with the Chair of the Environment and Neighbourhoods Committee.

DIARY OF A NOVICE COUNCILLOR

I have now been a Councillor for nearly three months and I really love representing the residents of Beddington North Ward.

What have I learned over this time?  Well, it’s certainly politically loaded in favour of the Liberal Democrats but why wouldn’t it be when they still have a majority albeit much reduced.  It’s interesting to sit in meetings, some of which would bore the most tolerant of individuals to tears, and that includes me.  I sit there sometimes and wonder “what the hell is this about” and “how is this going to help anybody”.  Nine times out of ten I come up with the answer “not at all” but I now realise that there are national and Greater London Authority strategic demands that must be met.

I have made it very clear to all those I come in contact with that I am an Independent Councillor doing my best for those who live in Beddington North.  I am not interested in getting caught up in all the political wrangling where one side “knows what’s best” and cannot be turned from their objectives and the other side challenge vociferously to no avail.  Any decisions made should be what is best for the residents of Sutton and not to score political points that advance careers within a Westminster party.

Anyway enough of politics – together with my fellow Councillors Tim Foster and Nick Mattey, we are determined to shout loudest for Beddington North.

New Horizons for Future Generations?

Our latest concerns are obviously the incinerator, or ERF as officials and ruling party call it, I shall continue calling it an incinerator.

The next is SUEZ the waste transfer facility which are looking to operate 24/7 and will be sited next to the incinerator.  There is also the prospect of a logistics company moving into an area, formerly Metropolitan Open Land

Thirdly the defence of the Sheen Way Playing Fields against possible development with the building of a new special needs school for over 240 pupils.  I wish to make it clear that the residents recognise and support the need for a new school but not on the playing field.  The Highview Estate has narrow roads which are difficult to negotiate at the best of times.  With 18 seater mini buses plus 100 cars for teachers the lives of residents would become intolerable.  This is without the traffic dropping off pupils at Highview Primary School and the use of The Chase and Godalming Avenue as a cut through by those trying to jump the queues on Stafford Road.  More pollution for residents of Beddington North I hear you cry and before some bright spark says “air is everywhere”, I presume meaning pollution otherwise we’d all be dead and wouldn’t need to worry about all of this, yes it is but that doesn’t mean Beddington North should suffer more than anybody else.

Carew Manor may not be ideal but it is surrounded by a huge green space and can more easily absorb carbon dioxide due to the wonderful trees in Beddington Park.  Sheen Way is a confined space bordered by houses, a railway line and light industrial units and was originally intended as a community space for the residents and their children together with an educational use as a school playing field.  It does have one or two lovely old trees and in fact bats and other wildlife have been seen on the site.  Indeed I got quite excited in early spring to see lapwings on the field.  I imagine they were looking for a nesting site as the Beddington Farmlands are in a bit of turmoil and probably not suitable for ground nesting birds.

Having looked at the Local Plan approved in February of this year, strangely enough before the election was called, there is a statement to protect open space, which makes it a contradiction as there is also the planned development of Sheen Way Playing Fields.

I am hoping that we can press for a proper air quality assessment to be done in the Beddington Lane area before the incinerator comes on stream in October and this will mean better air quality monitoring equipment and more of them sited where they will capture the right data.  It is important that we have baseline figures to begin with.

What can residents do to help support your Councillors in Beddington North.  I am a huge fan for everyone pitching in to help their community and together with the support and enthusiasm of your Councillors I really feel we can give the ruling party a run for their money.

The final resident of Richmond Green expelled from the Planning Committee

Make your voices heard, if there is a consultation doing the rounds for proposals that affect you get involved, email the Council, register objections, shout as loud as you can. Don’t think you cannot make a difference, you can and with your help we will.  The residents of Highview Estate are forming a Residents’ Association.  There may be other areas in Beddington North that might like to consider this.  If so, I may be able to help.  I paraphrase a well known saying.

“For a ruling party to get their way good men need do nothing”.