Why Do They Need To Ask?

At the recent Local Committee meeting, we were introduced to “The Stronger Sutton Conversation” which is a questionnaire/programme about Sutton’s recovery from Covid-19 – or rather asking people for their thoughts and priorities. That follows on from leaflets that have come through our doors from Liberal Democrats and Conservatives asking more questions.  All of a sudden, everyone seems interested in what residents think.

You wouldn’t believe that there was an election coming up next May, would you? 

But the very real concern is that residents have lost faith in anyone taking any notice of what they think – you only have to look at the creative interpretation of the Council’s “consultation” on school streets etc to understand why trust has been lost – figures widely quoted on social media of 92% of residents against their imposition, but still the powers that be plough on! 

But also, you have to stop and wonder about the naivety of a process that structures manifestos on popular responses from research that in turn deliver a set of promises that prove impossible to deliver.

But once a politician gets control of the levers of power, their plans and promises become their very own “Pick ‘n Mix”.

Take the much vaunted “Local Plan” voted for unanimously by the Liberal Democrat majority in 2018.

No building over 8 storeys in Sutton Town Centre – a 20 storey leviathan is proposed to the Planning Committee and all opposition members are joined by a rebellious Liberal Democrat making it a tied 5 for and 5 against – so the Liberal Democrat Chair puts his casting vote in favour of the development.

Already, that decision is being quoted by Planning Inspectors supportive of an appeal for a plan rejected for “over looking” – what chance for future developments.

 That same Local Plan allocated a site at Rose Hill for a new secondary school – much against the wishes of the Leader of the Liberal Democrats in whose ward the site allocation was located.

 Rejected by Liberal Democrats on the Planning Committee on “design grounds” – a decision that cost Sutton taxpayers £3.2 million to accommodate the pupils destined for the school into other schools – but the plan was accepted on appeal. 

Existing secondary schools were then canvassed and the surprising conclusion was reached that Sutton no longer needed a new secondary school as the intakes could be accommodated within the current schools – another £6.4 million cost but no problem as this comes from Central Government (no tax payers in Sutton then?)

To put that into context, the Planning Committee has approved the building of 735 properties since September 2019 when the Rose Hill proposals were first before them – add the Council’s redevelopment plans for Elm Grove in the centre of Sutton where 73 units will become over 230 there is an awful lot of people coming into the Borough – of course the Council can stop them having Parking Permits but not sure they can stop them making babies!

But when a developer looked to be purchasing the leasehold of the St Nicholas Centre, part of their plan was to introduce residential development.  Not part of the plans that the Council has for Sutton Town Centre – really?

When the budget was presented last March, part of the presentation involved the fact that all the debts of the Council and its subsidiary companies had been consolidated into a single £100 million loan.  But as I said at the time, my concern was that this was the first draw down of a £250 million bond and I did not know of a politician of any persuasion who could resist spending the rest.

Well, it didn’t take long for the acquisition of the St Nicholas Centre lease to swallow £27 million and it really brought to mind the article (above) that I read In the Sunday Times way back in May 2018.  That article included the following:

“Unfortunately, the councils playing at fake capitalism are operating under the illusion that their access to cheap money makes them smart buyers.  Council executives believe that tapping financial sources such as the Public Works Loan Board means such high yielding investments will show a net return. The risk, though, is merely being passed on to ratepayers.  The structural threats to low quality retail property posed by online shopping will only intensify, and such back door nationalisation is the refuge of a dying industry.”

Whether you have been troubled by “bingate”, been appalled by the OFSTED report on COGNUS, listened to the overwhelming dissatisfaction of customers of the SDEN heating system in Hackbridge, puzzled where the money invested has gone in SDEN when it is not even connected to the incinerator, wondered how those in charge can withstand a withering report from the Care Quality Commission on their care of the most vulnerable of our young people, perhaps you are questioning how we residents repay £127 million (so far) or maybe remembered the anger at the “consultation” on anything from parking to the imposition of school streets and the joke that was the coned off bike lanes around the borough, then you may be one of those crying out on social media – “VOTE THEM OUT”

But of course, our democracy doesn’t work like that, we have to choose an alternative and it is very important that communities think about the options and make strong choices.

In Beddington North in 2018, residents had already been hit with dubious plans from the ruling group – the incinerator, allocating the only green space in a small housing estate as the site for a SEN school etc – the three of us, Nick Mattey, Jillian Green and myself, Tim Foster, stood as Independents and as Sutton Independent Residents, we will go again next May.

We have to hope that our focus on our residents and holding the Council to account on behalf of those residents has struck a chord. 

And we hope that others may stand up and be counted – if you want to stand as an Independent, we would be glad to help – but equally, we would like to see some representation from others – Labour has a seemingly natural home in some of the borough as do the current main opposition Conservatives – and some Greens to put some of the faux environmentalists of the ruling group in their place would not go amiss.

We will be putting out our Beddington North Autumn/Winter Newsletter very soon.  As our new logo shows – there will be a single focus for us next May and if you are a Sutton resident, you won’t need to ask what is needed!

Thanks for reading.

Back to Normal?

Wednesday 3rd August was a red-letter day for me – Planning Committee was set as a proper “live” meeting after 18 months of virtual meetings which, especially at full Council have been truly farcical.  Good to be “back to normal” – if only we lived in a normal Borough.

When I made the decision back in early 2018 to stand as a Councillor, I had a certain perception as to how “the system” worked – after all, I have been a resident in the borough and in this ward since 1979, seen two children through local schools and on to University, built an extension on our house and paid my dues in Council tax, the odd parking fine and of course the garden waste bill.

Many of us in the Borough will have recently received a questionnaire from their local Liberal Democrat Focus team – same document but with different faces on the front – it isn’t the local team, it is the Sutton party looking to create a strategy for the local elections next May.

I’m a Councillor, but still a resident and I spend time in the ward chatting to people on my dog walks and helping them out with council issues and, importantly, listening.  When you do that, you don’t need a questionnaire to understand what people see as important.

Like them, I still suffer the frustrations of missed bin collections, overgrown paths, potholes and I was even a victim of crime with the theft of a catalytic converter.  But I have, at least, attended enough Committees (87 to date) as well as meetings with officers of the Council to begin to fathom out where the gaps are and why they have appeared.

And the reality is that a huge gulf exists – it is the distance between political manifestos and what is actually delivered in terms of service to the community which is after all what most residents feel they pay for.

Every Sutton Committee paper (not including the Planning Committee) is prefaced by elements that are derived from the epithet “Ambitious for Sutton”.  That apparently involves a number of outcome areas:-

Being ActiveMaking Informed ChoicesLiving Well IndependentlyKeeping People SafeSmarter Ways of Working

Since the adoption of these, the Council has achieved regular entries in the Private Eye’s “Rotten Boroughs” column – but residents really don’t need a subscription to that publication or the judgement of others.

We have had “bingate” then there is the Council owned education company, COGNUS, pilloried by OFSTED and featured on Panorama – factors totally coincidental with a change of Chief Executive and a corporate re-allocation of shareholdings? 

That the parents of the most vulnerable of the Borough’s children felt the need to form an EHCP Action Group to give their kids a chance for their best start in life is testament to the ongoing issues surrounding COGNUS and SEN education.

A Council owned company SDEN was established to run a “district heating system” connecting the ERF (incinerator to anyone outside the ruling group) and local building developments.  There is about to be an independent enquiry into alleged irregularities into the business – one that is still some distance, literally and financially, away from connecting up to the incinerator!

Then there are schools – just how much of the Council’s money has been wasted in the past few years?  There is the Passivhaus Primary School at Hackbridge – great positioning within 800 metres of the incinerator.

But then there was the debacle of the first developer’s failure and the Council, having wasted time and money, having to pay a replacement developer to put it right!

A refusal of Planning Permission on a site at Rose Hill on design grounds and a failure to determine the application on Sheen Way has meant around £250,000 in legal costs, £3 million plus to accommodate the bulge year of 2020 pupils in existing schools and the Lib Dems are still lobbying for the school to be stopped at Rose Hill!

But they can only afford to clear the gullies in your street every two years because of Tory cuts! 

And cuts is all you hear about when you get to Council – like so many other Councils, Sutton has looked to “shared services” with other Councils, external contractors and establishment of wholly owned companies like COGNUS and SDEN.  Then of course, there are “investments” to create revenues to compensate for those “cuts”.

Like many residents, I look at my Council Tax bill and then look at what can only be described as the general dilapidation of our Borough served by these companies and think there needs to be a root and branch review.

Or put another way – it is not just the creation of an unmanageable organisation and the clear deterioration of service, this administration have established a position of eye watering debt, that is currently in excess of £100 million!

That will have to be repaid sometime! 

Desperate for revenue, they are ploughing ahead with Controlled Parking Zones, Parking Permit Areas and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods / School Streets. 

But the services still don’t get better – the only areas that sees improvement are where local volunteers – let’s call them residents like you and me – get involved. 

Regular litter picking locally and in Beddington Park makes a small dent and also in Beddington North we had a local business owner, unable to operate her hairdressers in the pandemic, turn her energies into running it as a food hub.

And therein lies the truth that the politicians do not want to admit – Councils should be facilitators for their residents – not attempt to be their rulers in some sort of paternalistic “we know better” way.

In Beddington North, three real, long-term residents – Jillian Green, Nick Mattey and myself, Tim Foster sit as Independent Councillors and have an unashamed singular focus on the residents of our ward and the services they deserve.

We’ve been fighting for residents of Highview along with present and future pupils of Carew Manor against the crazy and thoughtless idea of relocating their school to a tiny patch of green, approached through a narrow residential cul de sac and next to a busy railway.

Beddington Farmlands Restoration Roadmap

After the ineffectual efforts of the previous Lib Dem Councillor who represented the ward on the Farmlands Conservation and Access Management Committee, we have gained the involvement of both the Beddington and Hackbridge communities and are pushing for an additional east/west cycle route as part of the development. Scant compensation but always residents first!

And in the absence of support from their own ward Councillors, Nick Mattey has even supported the residents of New Mill Quarter in their battles with the Council owned SDEN over outages and outrageous costs. Rather contrary to the original statements that the system’s aims included the intent to “Reduce fuel poverty and increase fuel security”.

We do it because we live here and we want to have pride in where we live.

Perhaps members of the ruling group and their supporters should look around and ask themselves – can we be proud of the state of our Borough, is there pride in passing on enormous debt to the next generation, is there pride in gullies clogged by cuttings from verges, potholes, is there pride in our Borough accepting more waste than the other four members of the South London Waste Partnership put together, are you looking forward to the 20-storey block on Throwley Way casting shadows over your High Street – have our ambitions been fulfilled by this administration?

I will leave you with that thought – I know that many will want to answer on your behalf.

Bin it for Beddington

School Streets Consultations

The dust has barely settled from the controversy of LTN’s and School Streets implemented in past months and a recent Social Media posting about a Focus leaflet distributed in Carshalton Central brought wider attention to a live consultation on the Council website for  the school streets scheme for All Saints School in Rotherfield Road.

One questions the wisdom a graphical representation to show the Labour Party’s position when the same graph serves to contradict the usual “Liberal Democrats Winning Here” but then none of the content of these leaflets survives careful examination!

Apparently local residents have also received letters about the consultation.

However, those with school age children will know that school allocation is not always “round the corner” and they have to travel around the borough to get their kids to school. 

So I thought I would check out what other consultations are happening on school streets and the list on the Council website is extensive.  Log on to https://www.sutton.gov.uk/schoolconsultation and you will see a list that looks like this:

All Saints’ Carshalton Church of England Primary School (Rotherfield Road)

Bandon Hill Primary School and Sherwood Hill School (Beddington Gardens)

Carshalton Boys Sports College (Winchcombe Road)

Cheam Common Infants’ and Junior Academy (Kingsmead Avenue)

Cheam Fields Primary Academy (Stoughton Avenue)

Cheam Park Farm Junior Academy (Kingston Avenue)

St Elpheges Catholic Infants and Juniors (Roe Way)

Harris Junior Academy, Carshalton (Camden Road)

St Philomena’s Catholic High School for Girls & St Mary’s Catholic Juniors (Shorts Road)

Muschamp Primary (Muschamp Road)

Robin Hood Junior School (Thorncroft Road)

The concerning thing is that the consultation period is 15th March – 4th April.  They say that there will be a statutory consultation in the summer with a view to approved schemes going liove in Autumn 2021.

PLEASE if this affects you, make your voice heard, complete the consultation before 4th April

Bin it for Beddington

THOUGHTS OF INDEPENDENT COUNCILLOR JILLIAN GREEN MARCH 2021

Tim, Nick and I have been eager to send out a newsletter to let you know what we have been doing on your behalf but in light of the Covid restrictions we have adhered to the rules and have not delivered any leaflets. This is why we have used social media to keep in contact as much as we can.

Yes, I know, my constant cry at Council meetings is how do we engage with those who do not do social media, have computers etc but at this time it is about as much as we can do. We do rely on you, our residents, to keep us informed of any problems or concerns you are experiencing. However as restrictions will be lifted shortly please look out for our newsletter in the coming weeks.

There are several things I want to mention.

  • Community Food Hub I would like to pay tribute to everybody who helped out during lockdown, especially Katie Travers, her family and team for their hard work in establishing and manning the Community Food Hub. Well done to all of you and what you have achieved. As Katie said at the weekend this has now closed and I would therefore like to ask you as residents if you think we should establish a food bank in Beddington North Ward. If you do please respond to my facebook post in the comments section. Depending on the majority view I will then look into how to go about setting one up and the most important question – where?
  • Parking Consultation – we urge you all to look at the maps and put your thoughts to the Council, again I am afraid via the Sutton Council’s website or write to Parking Strategy, Highways and Transport, London Borough of Sutton, 24 Denmark, Road, Carshalton, Surrey, SM5 2JG. If you go on the Council’s website put in Parking Strategy and look at area 3 and respond where indicated at the bottom of the page.

I know in parts of the ward there are serious issues with the amount and length of proposed double yellow lines. These double yellow lines will obviously see the removal of a large number of parking spaces so please put in your fourpence, as the saying goes. I can confirm that I have heard from the Highways Officers that no-one can park on a double yellow line at any time, not even if it goes over the dropped kerb in front of their property. You will be ticketed. However if there is a single yellow line over a dropped kerb you can park over the dropped kerb in front of your property once it is outside the time restrictions. I can also confirm that residents of the property with a dropped kerb and no yellow lines can park over their own driveways.

The closing date for consultations is 18th March – please make Beddington North the busiest response page of the whole Borough!

  • Beddington Park Conservation Area Consultation. Again, this can be found on the Council’s website and, as I understand it from Officers, residents affected by this have received letters. The areas involved are Beddington Park, Carew Manor and Church Lane, please make sure you have your say. The consultation webpage can found at www.sutton.gov.uk/heritage or sutton.citizenspace.com. Views can also be sent to planningpolicy@sutton.gov.uk or in writing to Strategic Planning Environment, Housing and Regeneration 24 Denmark Road Carshalton SM5 4JG. Consultation ends on 25 March 2021.
  • Sustainable Transport Strategy: To quote “a strategy focused upon providing more opportunities for local residents to walk, cycle and use public transport as their preferred options for journeys, within and beyond the Borough”. The consultation webpage can be visited at www.sutton.gov.uk/drafsts. A questionnaire can be completed on Citizenspace or you can send your views to planningpolicy@sutton.gov.uk or write to Strategic Planning Environment, Housing and Regeneration, 24 Denmark Road, Carshalton SM5 4JG. Consultation ends on 25 March 2021
Manuel Abellan, Deputy Leader of Sutton Council !!

I sit on the Environment and Sustainable Transport Committee (previously known as Environment and Neighbourhood Committee). I am sorry that the word “neighbourhood” has been dropped as in my opinion neighbourhood and neighbourliness are such an important part of life. The recent meetings have been very difficult because of the lack of consultation on the implementation of low traffic neighbourhoods and safer school streets. These have now been removed until proper consultation can be undertaken with residents.  I suggested that a cross party group be formed to decide on the questions that should be included in the consultation.  This suggestion does not seem to have found favour with Cllr Abellan, the Chair of the E&ST Committee (why am I not surprised) but wouldn’t it be great if it did.

Finally, the month of May will be the third anniversary of Tim Foster, Nick Mattey and me being elected to serve the residents of Beddington North ward as their Independent Councillors. It has been an interesting three years, sitting on committees and listening to the political wrangling that goes on.

Why is it that Councillors cannot put aside party politics and all work together for the good of the Borough?

I know why because for some it is political ambition, for others a way of supplementing an income and for some, like us, it is a way of giving something back to the community they serve. So residents of Beddington North for the coming 14 months or so we will continue to fight your corner, and hope, with your support, to continue serving after May 2022.

Best wishes to you all Jillian

Councillor Jillian Green Highview Resident and Champion for Sheen Way

The Rights of Residents – Reality or Myth?

When I joined Jillian Green and Nick Mattey to fight in the Local Elections of May 2018, I stood because I had the impression that residents in my ward were being poorly served and had little say in what happened around them.

I saw examples in the “Stop the Incinerator” campaign, the clearance of the retired residents of Richmond Green from what were serviceable homes and the imposition of a Local Plan that among it pages had a proposal to build on the last remaining Open space on the Highview Estate.

What I have found is that the reality of local Government, certainly in the London Borough of Sutton, effectively disenfranchises the ordinary resident because at every level the Ruling Group imposes its will with a robotic acceptance by its elected Councillors of anything that is put in front of them.

In the past 3 years, the only time I saw any break ranks was when Extinction Rebellion prompted a vote on a Zero Carbon Sutton by 2030 – but their rebel tendencies were shown to be transparent when the Liberal Democrats put a motion forward for a Zero Carbon Sutton by 2045 which all Lib Dems present voted for.  To compound the infantile nature of the debate and process, a Councillor called the Chief Executive for clarification – which was it, 2030 or 2045 – and the answer came “BOTH!” Reflective of poor executive direction.

The “Rule Book” that we are supposed to play by is the Constitution – I had questioned elements of that document and when there was talk of reform, I volunteered my time to contribute.  I spent time with a Consultant brought in to make recommendations and early in 2020, I had a meeting with Lord Kerslake whose wisdom and experience was to be leant upon.  The result – so far, no change. 

Yet this Constitution is used to manage and manipulate the agenda of Council – at the end of November, the South London Waste Plan that runs until 2031 was due for debate – it went through undebated because Council “ran out of time”.  It is a plan that will see Sutton (and Beddington in particular) take 70%+ of the cumulative waste of the four Boroughs of Kingston, Merton, Croydon and Sutton.

More examples are there with the Parking Strategy, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, cycle lanes – if they get consulted on at all, it is through the Committee system and the shambolic LBS website.  Petitions with thousands of signatures are “noted” which is a euphemism for ignored.

But for all the protestations on Facebook pages and demands for change – the only agents for change are people who have had enough – residents like Jillian, Nick and myself from 2018.

Because there is one thing that the Liberal Democrats in Sutton are good at and that is getting their vote out – and leafletting.

Instinctively, at election times, we look for the familiar – Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat and others like Greens or whatever the party Nigel Farage is promoting.

Interestingly, the Beddington North ballot paper in 2018 had every party represented on it, so Independent can be a very valid choice. But tactical voting which I have seen advocated in some quarters is ineffective individually.  This is an area where “opposition” parties need to talk to each other.

National and local politicians have one overwhelming handicap – they truly believe that theirs is the right answer – for the most part, it isn’t and, most especially at a local level, we need to have a Council that is properly representative of the residents who live in the Borough.  That means balance and consideration of the legacy that whoever leads the Council into 2022 will need to deal with – consider what the Lib Dems will leave:

  • An accumulated debt of £100 million for “investments”.
  • A failed heating system, SDEN, which is operationally flawed and the capital investment of which cannot possibly be repaid.
  • A waste plan that sees over 1 million tonnes of waste that needs to get to Beddington via the Borough’s roads.
  • A top heavy (in terms of remuneration) senior management and overblown Councillor allowances
  • The London Cancer Hub whose sole investor to date have been LBS and GLA grants
  • A discredited and poorly functioning education service COGNUS, operating as a wholly owned company “independent” of the Council.
  • COGNUS is just one of a panoply of wholly owned companies running services on behalf of the Council, with the most labyrinthine organisation chart you will ever see
  • The perverse contradiction of the South London Waste Plan with the Incinerator and a commitment to a zero carbon Borough

So, start the conversation – representing your fellow residents is rewarding, it is bloody hard work, but if you put in the effort, the sense of achievement is profound.  Too often Local Government is the first step on the escalator into National politics – ambitious young Councillors confusing political ideals with practical realities and making poor decisions. Recent cycle lanes are an apt example. 

Back to balance, we need some practical pragmatic voices in Council – but it is not easy, change is uncomfortable but we need change in Sutton and you all have just over 12 months to set the template for a new Borough.

A senior officer of the Council recently remarked during a briefing that in his experience, Independent Councillors work harder because there is no support in place to lead them through the system.

If you think that standing as an Independent is a realistic ambition, then be reassured that there are three people in Beddington that can offer some guidance and support.

Bin it for Beddington

Thoughts from Councillor Jillian Green of Beddington North

Councillor Jillian Green Highview Resident and Champion for Sheen Way

Sutton is a great place to live work and raise a family…says the Leader of the Council, Ruth Dombey. I say, but don’t come to Sutton if you are elderly or disabled…..

Over the past couple of months I have been struck by the way residents have come together to try and make sense of the low traffic neighbourhoods and safer school streets programme that has been rolled out without any consultation.  In my opinion it is not good enough to say it is only for six months to see if it works.  What happened to democracy? 

I forgot, it doesn’t apply to the Liberal Democrats in Sutton because as usual they are right and everyone else is wrong.  Do you have to be a professional politician to avoid saying sorry we got it wrong?  

Some weeks ago a cycle lane went live in Foresters Drive, one of the most dangerous roads in Wallington.  Two pedestrian safety islands were removed to accommodate this. Red and white wands (as I like to call them) were put along the edge of the cycle lane.  

The cycle lane runs from Mollison Drive junction with Foresters Drive and ends just before the dangerous bend at the top of Plough Lane, Purley.  The “wands” force the traffic into the middle of the road.  I use this road twice a day, sometimes four times and the wands are mesmeric, they are ugly and make the cycle lane too narrow to take a bike.  

A cycle lane “sans wands” has now been put on the right side of Foresters as you come from Wallington thus narrowing the road even further.  It is now more dangerous than before and a small traffic measuring device has been installed across the cycle lane at the beginning near Mollison Drive.  Like many of those on facebook I totally agree that any data collected is useless without previous data to measure it by.  To date I have seen three cyclists use the lane and how they have never come off due to the wands lying around and the leaves covering up potholes I don’t know.

It is laughable, is it not, that the instigator of these hair brained schemes is one Councillor Manuel Abellan, ward councillor for Beddington South

It seems he has very little concern for his residents’ safety.  The poor allotment holders now have to park on the other side of the road and I saw two elderly chaps struggling to cross the road with large bags of compost.  Before the cycle lane was bordered by wands allotment holders could at least park outside the gate.  

You may ask why I say Sutton is no place for the elderly or disabled, let me explain.  Elderly residents on the Butter Hill estate feel trapped because they can no longer use the bridge which enabled them to get to St Helier Hospital and other places without going a long way round.  The local shops, so important to the elderly are at risk due to loss of business and ambulances called have to take the long way round, I just hope no-one dies while waiting.  Unbelievable in this day and age that this sort of discrimination is allowed to happen.

I understand there is another consultation regarding the LTNs and Safer School Streets (yes folks Sutton is the consultation capital of London) but what happens if you don’t have access to a computer or can’t use one and are badly affected by these restrictions.  The most common phrase used in meetings with Councillors and officers is “it’s on the website, it can be accessed there”.  It makes me so angry that so many in our Borough are being disenfranchised in this way and as you can imagine I don’t hesitate to say so.  When I ask what residents should do there is just a shrug of the shoulders.

The other thing exercising my little grey cells in the past few weeks and which has given me much food for thought is Civic Pride.  It seems to be deteriorating week on week, we have more fly tipping, litter dropping, lack of dog poo being picked up, rudeness, aggression, lack of courtesy and anger. 

Bin it for Beddington

I think the dreadful restrictions placed on everyone by Covid is certainly playing its part as well as the worry of having a job, putting enough food on the table, missing relatives and a host of other things.

Change can only come through the ballot box and I believe everyone who has the right should vote.  Low turnouts are what incumbent politicians rely on.  In my opinion it is not good for any one party to hold all the power and the only way to change this is to elect more Independent Councillors who have the interests of residents at the heart of what they do and do not support a political doctrine. 

Consultations and Petitions Opinion Forming or a Political PR stunt?

A note from Cllr Jayne McCoy, one of the Deputy Leaders of the Council about the Government’s Consultation on changes to Planning Law referred glowingly to 4,500 consultation comments on the Sutton Local Plan.

When you look at the London Borough of Sutton website, you will find consultations on anything from the South London Waste Plan to Parking Proposals and of course you have to consider the current TFL Consultation on bus route changes – add Cllr McCoy’s pleas to look at the Government consultation and you begin to see the trend.

The politicians and administrators can claim “consultation” on every issue and use it as a defence against public dissent and this abuse of what appears to be a democratic process goes hand in hand with Petitions.

When Prime Minister David Cameron promised that any petition with over 100,000 signatures would get parliamentary time, the inference inevitably that “something would be done – we’re listening”

Well the reality is rather different – and as for local petitions, the habit of our ruling group to “note” petitions on, for example, school streets is abhorrent and frankly reflective of the reality.

This Council has focussed all communication through the internet and through their website effectively marginalising the poor or the elderly who do not have everyday access. 

At a recent meeting, when the local Age UK representative  questioned the TFL Consultation on that subject, the TFL representative pointed out the prohibitive cost of paper driven consultation.

The perverse reality is that the 54 elected Councillors of the London Borough of Sutton were offered the loan of a Chromebook to assist in this era of remote meetings.  Although every one of them receives an allowance and should be wholly “connected” – 18 of the Councillors took up the offer.  That is one third thought they were inadequately served by their own equipment! 

What chance our residents especially the elderly and underpriveleged?

When Councillors of the ruling group will not listen, do not promote communication and take no notice of local residents, consultation and petitions are revealed for what they are, a political crutch to deflect criticism.

“DO WE GET THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT WE DESERVE?” View of an Independent Councillor Autumn 2020

It is an age since I put “pen to paper” and wrote to everyone about my life as an Independent Councillor.  I have said many times it is a privilege to represent the residents of Beddington North Ward and the wider community but over the last year the following question has popped into my mind on many occasions “do we get the local government we deserve”?  This is, in my view, the 64,000 dollar question as there was quite a low turnout for the last Council elections and ruling parties, like sitting MPs, love low turnouts.  The answer therefore is “yes”.

In my role as an Independent Councillor I try hard to bypass the political agenda and look at what is right for residents of the London Borough of Sutton.  Of course my views, and that of my fellow Independent Councillors, rarely make a dent in the bow wave of the battleship Dombey as she sails majestically along the ocean of the London Borough of Sutton but it does not stop us trying.  Sometimes I find myself in agreement with the official Tory opposition but I like being able to plot my own course, voicing my approval or, in most cases, disapproval of the policies being presented.  

However, over the recent months I have found myself more and more at odds with the decisions being passed by the majority party.  For instance, is it right to charge charities and voluntary organisations to pay for using the parks to raise money to benefit the local communities – my answer was definitely no. 

I think if I am right this was discussed at the Environment and Neighbourhood Committee last December and I told members of the Committee they would miss the charitable and voluntary organisations contributions to local charities when they were gone and did they want to be known as “Scrooge”.

Of course, I was told, the organisations can apply for a grant but what is the point of spending public money in administering such a process when just an “fine we’ve booked the park for you pending risk assessments” is all that is needed.  Had there been more Independent Councillors this might have been defeated.

Now following on from the debacle of the Parking Strategy residents are facing the LTN scheme, a question was asked about carers and district nurses who have calls to make during the school road closures and the very arrogant answer was “they’ll just have to park further away and walk”.  I sincerely hope no member of the battleship Dombey has a relative who will need urgent care during the time of the closures.

They also talk about LTN  improving air quality.  Presumably they can provide us with air quality readings prior to the closure of these roads which can be measured against future air quality readings.  What is more, no consultation, just the pressure from a small action group and the excuse a consultation will take place over six months. 

Well, you and I know perfectly well that consultations with this Council mean absolutely nothing and they love the fact that only a small percentage of the resident population take part in them.  Probably because residents feel “what’s the point, they’ll do what they want anyway”.  That attitude is I’m afraid true but if more residents gave serious thought to standing in the local council elections in 2022 as an Independent it just may be the Sutton Independent Residents Group could really make a difference. 

I cannot stress enough that it is time for a change.  My own view is there is no room in the London Borough of Sutton for party politics.  Time and again I have stressed we should all work together for the good of the residents of Sutton because they deserve better.

If anyone is thinking of standing as an Independent please get in touch with me, as Leader of Sutton Independent Residents Group, or my fellow Independent Councillors Tim Foster and Nick Mattey.  We will be more than happy to speak to you about what it entails to be a local Councillor.

We can be contacted thus:

jillian.green@sutton.gov.uk, 07599661522

tim.foster@sutton.gov.uk,     07771847290

Nick.Mattey@sutton.gov.uk  07860673458

It’s Residents that Count, not Politics

The lovely thing about owning a dog is that you have to exercise it and you meet all sorts of people at all times of the day and night – never mind Covid-19 making people talk to one another, dog walkers have been doing it for years.  There is a lovely couple who live in our road and I see them most mornings and the other day, they asked me about a huge oak tree that was in a neighbour’s garden and what could they do.

I asked them if they had access to the internet because they could search “Tree Preservation Orders” and follow the instructions. They don’t have access to the internet and of course that made me think how isolated from local information and, importantly, local Government information that makes them.

Some areas still get a copy of the local Guardian – in Beddington North, we haven’t seen one in ages – of course you can get an e-edition unless of course you haven’t got a computer. 

So whether it is advancing years that cut you off from computers or financial hardship, this Council are just not communicating with volumes of residents. 

But what about the those of us in the London Borough of Sutton who have computers?

Democracy says that we have a say in our lives but when only lip service is paid to public consultation democracy becomes dictatorship – remember the introduction of the Parking Strategy or consultation on planning issues from the Incinerator to the proposed school at Sheen Way Playing Fields. 

The reality is that the media, politicians and Council officers are so wrapped in their own bubble that they misread public opinion because they don’t like the answers they are given when they do ask questions. They are also very happy to spend thousands of pounds hiding information, for example, trying to stop an elected Councillor from finding out the flaws in their financial planning of the SDEN heat network

In their latest brainwave on Safer, Active, Greener Streets, they didn’t even ask residents or affected businesses– no time for Public Consultation!

Around 80% of expenditure in the London Borough of Sutton is on Social Care – myself and my fellow Independents (along with the Conservative Councillors) were pilloried by the ruling Liberal Democrats after voting against adoption of the most recent budget.  They said we didn’t care about “the frail and elderly and building council homes”.

I spoke at that meeting and made clear that I was objecting to the Councillors voting themselves a pay rise as well as spending over £3 million to provide schooling for 192 children who would have been educated by the Greenshaw Trust if the Liberal Democrats had not canvassed for the refusal of Planning Permission for a new school at Rose Hill.

This is a profligate and poorly run administration – I am sure that anyone who has worked hard to secure a mortgage would question Council Houses like those on Richmond Green that cost in excess of £7 million on top of the land values.  That is not to argue the principle of social housing but rather how it is implemented – but this Council wanted to make the political point that it was building Council Housing. Never mind the 28 old peoples’ bungalows they demolished to make that point!

A Council that is spending £6+ million on transport for SEN children – just the transport – yet imposes ill thought out and ANPR controlled restrictions round other Borough Schools.

Today, I read a report about an old acquaintance of mine and his fight with a different, Labour run  Council – Stevenage.  The report was written by lawyers who represented Martin and his wife and some of the comments really struck a chord.

The case involved the Council applying for an injunction that was draconian in its inception and which they wanted to apply at their own discretion.  This paragraph will be familiar to those impacted by the current chaos on our roads:

“A petition of some 2000 names was presented to the Council which was promptly rejected, (see you in court), this was backed by eloquent and well argued social media. It was left to Martin and Monica to risk all to oppose the making of the order.”

The report went on to observe:

“Councils need to recognise that Parliament and the courts and not unelected officials are the arbiters of these rights and that the council is not responsible nor elected to decide what should be criminalised.”

When we are elected as Councillors, it is made clear that whatever our political colours we are bound to serve all our residents, not just those who agree with us.  At the same time, engagement with outside bodies, commercial entities or lobby groups should be open and beyond reproach.

The Ruling Group may have a majority in Council and an acquiescent Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer, but it should consult its residents, listen to its residents and act accordingly rather than act for short term revenue gains or political point scoring. 

Big change today – Manual Abellan’s Committee that has given you Bingate, the Parking Strategy and now Safer Active Greener Streets as well as School Streets has a name change – no longer Environment and Neighbourhood Committee, from now on, it will be known as the Environment and Sustainable Transport Committee.  I am sure that will make all the difference!

And many of you will be thinking – “What can I do about it?”- – well you can nail your colours to the mast of an opposition party, Conservative, Labour or other and hope they speak for you. 

?????????????????

But  speaking as someone who had seen enough of the Council riding roughshod over local residents and, hand on heart, not feeling that any political party stood for my values, I joined forces with Jillian Green and Nick Mattey in Beddington North ward and stood as an Independent.

We worked hard, got our message across and have worked bloody hard for the residents in our Ward ever since.  When we arrived, there was no support network that Councillors from other parties have but we have learnt a lot along the way.  

So start thinking now – support one of the Opposition parties or if you want to know what is involved standing as an Independent, get in touch with Nick, Jillian or myself – it is rewarding and frustrating in equal parts, but when you feel you have made a difference, it is a great feeling and makes the hard work worthwhile.

Let’s get democracy back in our lives and create some real change in this Borough.

Bin it for Beddington

It is the Residents of this Borough that really make it work.

Everywhere you turn nowadays, there are politicians telling you that they know best then demonstrating with their actions that they don’t.  In the current crisis, it is ordinary people who make the difference and so it has proved in the past couple of years in Sutton

On Thursday evening, the London Borough of Sutton Planning Committee “met” to consider an application to build a new school on Sheen Way Fields on the Highview Estate.

It was a meeting of these strange times with everybody conversing via computer screens and was streamed live, for public viewing, on Sutton Council’s You Tube channel.

The Department of Education (DfE) and their agencies had put in the application last June and in April this year, frustrated by progress, or rather lack of it, had bypassed the London Borough of Sutton and gone straight to a Public Enquiry with the Planning Inspectorate.

That meant that by June 3rd, the Sutton were required to revert to the Inspectorate with their position – hence the urgent need to put together a Planning Committee.

There are 183 objections to the application on the Planning Portal – residents recognising the need for the Carew Manor School to get new premises but knowing that the narrow roads of the Highview Estate, already congested because of the Chase being used as a rat run, could not support construction traffic or the large number of vehicle trips generated by a SEN school – in this case 25 minibuses and 59 cars each way each day!

Leaked beforeWard Councillors wereinformed

If they were concerned about the application, they were incensed when the news of the current situation was broken, not by Council information to locally elected Councillors but via an email to local supporters of the ruling Liberal Democrats.

As it turned out, they need not have worried because the outcome was a vote against the application by 7 votes to 3.  It is only round one, because we still have the enquiry but one hopes the final outcome will be that the London Borough of Sutton does what it claimed it had already done (but didn’t) and that is find a properly suitable site that is accessible and is future proofed in offering space to grow with the increasing need for more SEN provision.

Last night, two people spoke eloquently for the residents – Independent Councillor Jillian Green and Lizette, a long-term resident.  Backed up by others watching on You Tube and a cascade of Facebook comments and likes, these two local ladies delivered.

If it sounds familiar – look at the last couple of years and the changes that ordinary people are making in this Borough.  The Council decide to impose an unfair and ill-conceived Parking Strategy and what a shock they got!

And while Beddington North’s Independent Councillor Nick Mattey has been fighting  for the truth about SDEN pricing for ages, the strength of purpose and drive for change accelerated with New Mill Quarter residents, who are living with the reality, getting involved.

I believe that the broadcasting of last night’s Committee opened up some residents’ eyes about just how unremarkable some of those ruling their lives really are – but it won’t change unless more people get involved.

Here in Beddington North there are three ordinary residents who stuck their heads above the parapet and got involved – we are Independent Councillors, we are not politicians, we only care about one thing, doing our best for the people we serve – the ones who elected us.

If there is going to be a new normal and real change, it won’t come from the top, it will come from you – let’s get involved and change Sutton!