This morning, the Polling Stations in Wallington North are already open and some of you will have cast your votes early – postal voters even earlier!
There is a full turn out of candidates – Conservatives, Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Independent, UKIP and Christian Alliance – I only hope that they are matched by an equally enthusiastic electorate!
Because it is your chance to have your say – it doesn’t matter what your motivation is, it may be that you are fed up with something Nationally like the NHS or Brexit. Or maybe you are fed up with the current administration locally – there are probably enough reasons for both.
Why should I bother – it won’t change anything?
You’re right, if you don’t bother, nothing will change – the current crop of politicians depends on voter apathy. Right now, thousands of residents in St Helier and the Wrythe are forming action groups about the current Parking Strategy because every household that did not reply to the questionnaire from the Council was taken as approving it.
If you think everything in your world is just right, stay at home – it’s what they want. If you want to see some changes, then please, please get out and cast your vote – obviously I’d prefer to see that vote for the Independent candidate, Gervais Sawyer, but more than anything, I want to see people getting involved and voting.
As I start to write a glance out of the window shows signs of spring, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips growing happily together in the garden truly a sign of hope for the coming summer. On 3rd May I will have been a Councillor for one year. I hope during that time I have done a fairly good job of putting residents and their concerns first and in the main I have enjoyed it. However, it saddens me very much that, in my opinion, politics and tribalism is ruining the way the Council operates.
I personally believe there is no place in running a local council with such behaviour. Am I being naïve in wishing that the majority and opposition parties put aside their party politics and make the residents of the London Borough of Sutton their focus? My inaugural remarks at a Council meeting said as much and probably this is what has made me a target of one or two Councillors who have accused me of doing things I have not done. It shocks me that I cannot get an apology from either of them but I guess I will just have to harden my shell and accept that for some Councillors the truth does not matter.
I see on Facebook there have been many comments about Councillors expenses. I have never made a secret of the fact I believe Councillors should receive a basic allowance. I was stunned when I discovered how much it was as I thought it would be lower. Yes, I accept it but in the light of honesty and transparency I use it for expenses relating to my Council duties and donations to charities dear to my heart.
I also believe that the amount of money paid to those who have extra duties is too high and I was shocked to read on social media someone I held in high esteem thought the chairs of various committees should receive higher allowances otherwise “you would get people who were unable to do the job”.
Quite insulting I thought as many people work in the NHS on low pay because they want to make a difference. All of the facts about allowances can be checked on the Council web site as well as checking how many meetings a Councillor attends so anyone can see if their Councillor is offering value for money.
I think in light of comments aimed in my direction I need to clarify my position as an Independent Councillor. I am not tied to a political party or a political doctrine and am not subject to a party whip or pressure from a party leader. I make up my own mind on whether to vote for or against something or in fact abstain. My motto is “is this the right thing for the people of Sutton?”
Thursday 28 March sees the by-election in Wallington North. There has been much comment on Facebook about it. I hope voters will look in detail at the Independent candidate as the more Independents sitting on the Council the better in my view. We need to stop the stranglehold of the two party system in Sutton. Yes, voters are fed up with the leaflets slagging each other off but to make a difference one has to step around all this and look at the candidates.
Gervais Sawyer, in my view, is a great candidate because he is measured in his approach to things, has great vision and like me will put the residents he represents first and not be “whipped” into line. I do feel it is important for the electorate to use their vote in Wallington North tomorrow.
There have been questions asked about Council Tax and many people, myself included, have yet to receive official notification of their commitments for 2019/2020. There are rumours that the delay is due to next week’s Wallington North by-election but the information is all on line!
Of course you can register for and pay your Council Tax on www.sutton.gov.uk– in fact the Council Tax payment system is the most visited part of the website! But I looked up the detail today and these are the published figures for this year’s Council Tax:
Council tax bands and amounts due
Council tax band
Range of values (£)
Sutton Council (£)
ASC Precept (£)
GLA Precept (£)
Total Council Tax (£)
Up to 40,000
40,001 – 52,000
52,001 – 68,000
68,001 – 88,000
88,001 – 120,000
120,001 – 160,000
160,001 – 320,000
More than £320,000
NOTE: The Adult Social Care precept (£98.81 for band D) combines the amount charged in 2016-17 (£23.27), 2017-18 (£24.20), 2018-19 (£25.17) and 2019-20 (£26.17).
If you are in any doubt as to which Band you fall into – just go to https://www.gov.uk/council-tax-bands where you can fill in your post code and it will identify your Council Tax band.
On Monday evening, I attended a “Member Development Session” at the Civic Centre. This was one of a programme of training sessions designed to help us Councillors to do a better job in representing our residents.
A creditable ambition and many of the sessions have been enlightening as Monday’s was, but perhaps for different reasons. The content of the session was “Effective Communication “and centred on the public speaking and debate.
The presenter is currently a Labour Councillor in Reading and future candidate for Parliament and one of her core points was that you should have a clear idea of your audience and your objective. She gave, as a personal example, that she may wish to “antagonise an opponent”.
I immediately thought of my impression of the Full Council meetings that I have attended since being elected last May and the political antagonism and tribal behaviour that appears to have become the norm.
The concept of “WIN/WIN” seems alien to the main parties and, more importantly, in persisting with their increasingly entrenched views those who can bring about change have lost the art of listening.
Sales trainers will keep repeating the mantra “you have two ears and one mouth, use them in those proportions” – and that has been lost on politicians on a National and Local level. They don’t listen to their political opponents and they especially don’t listen to voters/residents.
Take the current position on anything from waste collection to parking strategies – a resident, Sandra Ackland, presented a well thought out and beautifully timed petition about the current Parking Strategy to the Environment and Neighbourhood Committee on 7th March. Every Liberal Democrat Councillor on the committee voted against her petition in exactly the same way as they did when a motion was raised on the same subject at Full Council by Councillor Shields, a Conservative member.
Back to the training session and the summing up on Monday was most revealing in a comment by a senior Conservative who, to the distress of a more junior colleague who had come into politics to make a difference for residents, said that he had learnt to be able to speak in debates in the knowledge that it would change nothing.
I was surprised when, standing as Independents, Jillian Green, Nick Mattey and myself were elected over the established parties – seeing the tribalism that dominates even our Local Council, I now see the damage that it is doing and understand why people who care – people who vote – are looking for something different.
A final word – I have only met one person in my life who is always right, and I married her! The rest of us need to talk, listen and agree the right way forward.
Well, as promised, Sutton Independent Residents have been out in support of the Independent candidate in the Wallington North By-Election, Gervais Sawyer.
Coming through letterboxes this week has been a second leaflet and if you get the chance to read it, there is a lot of common sense – Gervais is saying the sort of thing ordinary people are saying. That’s because he is just another resident of the London Borough of Sutton who has endured nearly four decades of Liberal Democrat local government and recognises the need for change.
Not another group of politicians, wearing blue or red rosettes, who think they know better but rather representatives who listen and then act on what is needed.
Independent of political dogma and Independent of spirit
On March 28th, vote for change in Wallington North, vote Gervais Sawyer, Indepenedent.