Is it soon time to stand up and be counted?

2018 seems a long time ago, but in May of that year the residents of the London Borough of Sutton last had a say in who runs the local services.  May 2022 will be your next opportunity and we would love to hear from people who really want to make a difference – not “lend their vote” but to give some of their time to serving their local communities

In Beddington North, we had seen local opinion trampled underfoot by the policies of the ruling Liberal Democrats – building development, Beddington Lane and the incinerator to name just three – and, in spite of comments that “Independents never win” from leading lights of the main Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, three of us – Jillian Green, Nick Mattey and myself stood as Independents.

We won! 

Nick was already a Councillor who had resigned from the Liberal Democrats a couple of years earlier over the incinerator and encouraged Jillian and I to stand – we were ready to put 100% into representing residents but could not have imagined the commitment and effort involved if you set out to do the job properly.  But it is very rewarding and we genuinely feel we make a difference.

Because we are unafraid to speak out on behalf of our residents – not for a party-political position but for our residents. We represent them on Committees, we fight their corner when local services fail and we try to keep them informed of everything that is coming their way.

Consider what has come your way in the past couple of years:

Parking: There are areas of the Borough with genuine parking issues – commuters, school runs, too few spaces – but it is not universal.  Rather than address genuine concerns, the London Borough of Sutton has followed its avaricious neighbours and gone for the revenue.  Poor consultation, appalling communication and disdain for residents’ concerns.

Planning: There was unanimous support amongst Liberal Democrat Councillors for the Local Plan, which included a proposal to build a new and much needed secondary school, to include a separate SEN unit on Rose Hill Playing Fields.  This is in the ward that is represented by the Leader of the Council, Ruth Dombey two other Liberal Democrats, Cllr Steve Penneck and Cllr Marlene Heron. 

All three published their objections in Focus publications and Cllr Penneck spoke against the school at the Liberal Democrat dominated Planning Committee.  Their main concern was the design – which they described as a 4-storey monolith. 

Lib Dems dislike this 4 storey monolith
Lib Dems like this 4 storey monolith +chimneys)

To the people of Beddington and Hackbridge who are cursed with a 4 storey high monolith ( + chimneys) every day, one wonders why the Liberal Democrat leadership has such an ambivalent attitude about the whole of the London Borough of Sutton compared with the ward that they represent.

As a postscript to that, the Department of Education was paying for the build and the Greenshaw Learning Trust were offering to provide the 2020 intake with places in Sutton at their cost whilst the build took place.  No planning permission, no school. Then Sutton Council would need to provide for those children!  Provision has been made by other schools across the Borough at a cost to the Council – that means Council Taxpayers – of around £1.3 million!!

Confusion of Climate Change: You may have received an invitation to contribute ideas for the London Borough of Sutton to become Carbon Neutral.  The first thing to wonder is “when by?” – you see when proposals came before Council in July last year, two dates were given – 2030 and 2045!  When the question was asked “which one counts?” – the answer from the Chief Executive and Mayor was “BOTH!”.

Confusion number two comes from the incinerator – contractually in place for the next 25 years, it will probably produce more CO2 than all the private cars in the Borough put together and to compound the issue, that Lib Dem dominated Planning Committee approved SUEZ, another waste company, to produce Incinerator fuel from waste – at the same time giving us 350 HGV’s into the site every day and 350 HGV’s out.

Oh, and the Mayor’s official Mercedes remains in use!

We are all going to keep up the fight in Beddington – although there are no guarantees in elections – but we will stand and we would be glad to lend our support and guidance to anyone who, like us, want stand as an Independent Candidate in the May 2022 Local Elections. 

LOCAL RESIDENTS REPRESENTING LOCAL RESIDENTS!

There is an allowance paid, but you won’t get rich – and you will have committees to attend, local residents to serve and less time for yourself and your family – but be assured, it is worth the effort.

If you want to know more or get involved email us or call us:

Nick Mattey  –  nickmattey@me.com           07860 673458

Jillian Green –  jilliann1953@gmail.com       07599 661522

Tim Foster    –  timfoster53@gmail.com         07771 847290

www.sutton-independent-residents.london

And about time……

Dear Residents

Councillor Jillian Green Highview Resident and Champion for Sheen Way

I have just realised it is about time I wrote another piece about life as an Independent Councillor in Beddington North Ward.

If anyone was at the latest Council meeting on Monday 20 January, I can only say in my humble opinion children of 6 would have behaved better.  It was like a bear pit, shouting at each other, politicising every discussion.  I really did not go into this to be dragged down by the political rantings of Councillors on both sides of the “chamber”.  Surely the people of the London Borough of Sutton deserve better in good rational debate with an ability to work together.   

Now I have got that off my chest I can report that I am working with the Sutton Commissioning Group as I really would like to set up a health and wellbeing group.  Wallington have one and it is highly successful.  I am investigating and further details will follow.  

If you are a member of the Beddington Village Neighbourhood FB group I have put a short survey on there to help with my future projects. 

One thing I would like to see is the establishment of residents’ groups for the different areas in the ward.  If that were possible we could appoint street representatives who would deal with matters in their street by contacting Councillors, deliver leaflets but more importantly the documentation for consultation. 

No more receiving these things in amongst the gas bills as has been the case for the St Helier consultation.  For consultations to be meaningful all residents should have the opportunity to engage with the process and, as you know, my pet hate is “well it can be done on the Council’s website”.  Not everyone has a computer and not everyone knows how to use one if they do…. 

If we can establish a few residents’ or community groups there would be much we could do to support neighbours and friends with any difficulties. I am looking into organising a Christmas event for the switch on of lights and if anyone would like to help with this please ring me on 07599 661522.

Now onto the Parking Strategy – Councillor Foster and I visited the Council offices last week and at first glance it seems little will change in Beddington North except for the application of double yellow lines at strategic spots.  Whether this will remain so is anybody’s guess but a second consultation on the proposals will begin before Easter and will last six weeks. 

Speaking of the second consultation, I hope the response will be better than the first one.  The response rates were so disappointing – if you don’t say you can’t complain….  We will be engaging with residents for their views so again, watch this space.

What angers me about this so-called Parking Strategy is that a very senior official at the Council told me when I said “no-one should pay for parking and instead of following other Councils we should be leading from the front”.  The response was “well we haven’t any money” so there you have it from the horse’s mouth.  The Parking Strategy is to make money.  It strikes me that everyone complains about the loss of high streets and small shops but not being able to park is going to result in even more independent shops going out of business.  

There is to be a meeting later this week to discuss various options for improvement in the Plough Lane area and we will update on this as soon as we can.

Street cleaning is another area that does not seem to be happening very much in our ward.  I have not seen a street cleaner for months and  I have regular correspondence with the officer concerned who says “the data says we are doing well”. 

I beg to differ data is only as good as the person inputting it.  Our eyes on the ground tell us a very different story.  If you get your street cleaned in Beddington North every fortnight do let me know.  jillian.green@sutton.gov.uk or 07588 661522.

I also should inform residents that at the last Environment and Neighbourhood Committee a strategy was passed by the Committee on Parks and Open Spaces.  There will now be a charge on charities and voluntary groups to use the parks for events.  These groups may be eligible for a neighbourhood grant to stage these events. 

I asked for this to be removed from the strategy but to no avail.  I even suggested that as it was around Christmas time did the Council want to be known as Scrooge – obviously what with this and the parking strategy they do.

If I have read the policy correctly Friends of Parks will be exempt from these charges.  So, it doesn’t seem to matter that a voluntary organisation who helps clean up a park twice a year still has to become involved in seeking a grant to cover the cost of being charged for the park for a charity event – absolute madness in my opinion especially as the majority of money stays within the Borough helping charities who receive little or no help from the Council. 

The answer is always the same “we have no money” but they can find it when they want to. Like when senior Liberal Democrats object to the building of a school at Rosehill and, as a result an unbudgeted £1.2 million is needed for school places in 2020……and probably more for 2021!

Tim, Nick and I will keep battling away on your behalf and keep you informed of any developments which will affect you. 

And don’t forget, Beddington North Neighbourhood Forum is on Monday 27th at Cricket for Change on Plough Lane 7.00 – 8.30 pm

Happy New Year to everyone.

Jillian

Happy Christmas and a Busy New Year

Well whatever your thoughts about the General Election – it’s over, we have a Government with a majority that will at least be able to do what is promises rather than being stymied by Westminster opposition. Time now to concentrate on local issues and, for Beddington North, that means some urgent and far reaching issues!

South London Waste Plan – Those who attended the recent meeting of the Beddington North Neighbourhood Forum will have heard a presentation about this plan.  We feel the plan, in its present form, is a disaster for Beddington and most especially Beddington Lane.

The plan allows for 647,429 tonnes of domestic, commercial and industrial waste to come to Beddington Industrial area – to give that number perspective, the total amount being handled by the balance of Sutton and the other three Boroughs in the South London Waste Partnership (Merton, Croydon and Kingston) is 298,916 tonnes.  Yes, under this fair process, Beddington sees over twice as much as the rest put together!

Why? Essentially, planning permission was granted to SUEZ on the old County Skips site on the basis that an inspection by Planning Enforcement in 2014 deemed that a stretch of tarmac and kerbstones being laid meant that planning for waste management was “extant” and the site could continue development as a waste site. 

So in spite of ongoing issues with the London Borough of Croydon about excessive HGV traffic, the promise of an HGV ban in Beddington Village and the London Borough of Sutton stating as long ago as 2009 that HGV traffic in Beddington lane was an environmental hazard – they are happy with 700 additional  HGV vehicle movements a day. We are NOT!!

You have until 22nd December to express your views – https://sutton.citizenspace.com/environment/south-london-waste-plan/

Controlled Parking – We all had the opportunity to consult on this back in October and I hope that many of you did – your local Councillors, Jillian, Nick and I are due to meet up with the Council on 15th January for a briefing on what they propose for Beddington North – watch this space!

The Proposed School on Sheen Way – We still have no indication of a date for a Planning meeting. Everybody knows that the site is inappropriate and we only wish that the London Borough of Sutton had conducted a proper search for a site for a SEN school rather than fudging the issue – maybe they will yet.  As soon as we know the timetable, we will broadcast it and look forward to your support on behalf of the children who really do deserve better!

Tharp Road and Other Road Improvements – Aside from some signage issues and concerns from residents in Queenswood Avenue whose volume of “rat runners” appears to have increased, the Tharp Road one way system appears to be a success. Cllr Green has been working closely with Highways to iron out the detail, well done her!  We told you about other ideas that Highways have about the junction of Plough Lane / The Chase and the crossing at Collyer/Queenswood – well the measuring appears to be over so we wait for their specific ideas.

So you see, there is a lot of work to be done – Beddington Farmlands is progressing under the newly energised Conservation and Access Management Committee and we three Independent Councillors are continuing to put a shift in for residents on all local and Borough issues. 

Please get involved when you can – we now have some dates in 2020 for the Beddington North Neighbourhood Forum (BNNF) so make a note in your diaries:

27th January           23rd March                           11th May      

27th July                    21st September                   23rd November

Happy Christmas to you all and looking forward to a Prosperous New Year for us all!

POLITICS OR DIRTY TRICKS?

Councillor Jillian Green Highview Resident and Champion for Sheen Way

As most of you know I rarely get political although as a close friend told me just by being a Councillor you have got yourself involved in the political arena.  My politics are doing all the good I can for those I represent and the wider community. It is no coincidence that residents from other wards have often contacted me asking for help and I quote “my Councillor does not respond to any request for help”.  I am not perfect but I hope I am doing a good job. 

However having thought long and hard about a situation that has arisen I really feel I must take a step into the political world.  To say I am angry is an understatement and if you read the front page of the Focus leaflet as detailed below you will know why.

This is the second time the Liberal Democrats have said I have done something I have not.  The first time was a full Council meeting when a statement was made by Councillor Mo Saqib that I had been canvassing for Neil Garratt when he was standing in the by-election in Belmont – categorically not true.  The second time is the libellous statement by Tom Brake that I have been working with Croydon Councillors – again not true. 

Residents know that I have consistently spoken out against the proposal to build a new SEND school on the Sheen Way Playing Field.  My objections are well documented and include an unacceptable increase in noise and air pollution which are two things the Liberal Democrats are keen to reduce.

In relation to the libellous statement Councillor Foster requested Mr Brake to retract it and publish an apology. Thus far there has been no response but we are not going to let the matter rest.

With the election looming Mr Brake will rely on a low turnout to retain his seat so come on folks get out there and vote.

All I want for Christmas is………..

Well if you thought you were bored with politicians talking Brexit, you will hardly be inspired by the thought of those same people knocking on your door and filling your TV screens, asking for your support at the ballot box on December 12th.

And therein lies a very great danger – if anything, there has never been a more important time to make sure that you cast your vote and the reality is that there are many amongst the political classes who really don’t want you to.

I saw a comment on social media recently about our local Liberal Democrats and their “victory” in a Council By-Election in Wallington North.  The comments questioned on the suitability of the Liberal Democrat candidate, the imposition of the Parking Strategy on the area, the Incinerator and other failings of the incumbent administration – yet the Liberal Democrats won.

They won because they got their supporters (representing 12.5% of the total ward electorate) to the ballot box – congratulations to them for their organisation.  That small band of supporters delivered on a low turnout and it is what “professional” politicians have increasingly relied upon.

Look what happened to that political establishment when they asked for a simple binary choice in the 2016 Referendum 70+% of the electorate turned out to vote and chaos ensued – it is called the silent majority and what a noise they made.

We need you out there again on December 12th – locally, we know that the Liberal Democrat machine will be at work supporting their 55th local Councillor, Tom Brake. 

I say that because during the local elections in May 2018, I spent a considerable time convincing a voter that Mr Brake was not a Councillor but an MP. 

But should an MP be out canvassing with the Chair of the Council’s Environment and Neighbourhood Committee (who runs his Parliamentary office) on the Council Parking strategy when half the Borough is represented Paul Scully MP, a Conservative?

And if the Labour Group bring out the Haringey Councillor, Emine Ibrahim again, it is a real North London stand-off with Tom Brake having started his political activity as a Councillor for the London Borough of Hackney! 

So we are pleased that the Conservatives have gone local with Elliott Colburn – no, not old Etonian but an alumnus of Carshalton Boys who works for the NHS and who perhaps knows more about St Helier than merely as a backdrop for photo opportunities.

Good Luck to them all.

But who ever you like or support, on Friday 13th December, you must be able to look yourself in the mirror and say “At least I did my bit for democracy”.

PLEASE USE YOUR VOTE

Bin it for Beddington

Ambitious for Sutton? But not for Beddington!

At last night’s Housing Economy and Business Committee, a draft of the South London Waste Plan was presented with the idea of taking it forward to “consultation”.

The supporting document’s summary for the committee starts “ As part of the ambitious for Sutton vision to make the borough a great place to live and work…..”

When you read on, there is the exciting news that no new waste sites are planned and it then goes on to summarise the totals by borough of Croydon, Kingston Merton and Sutton who make up the South London Waste Partnership separated into Household/C & I (Commercial & Industrial) and C&D ( Construction and Demolition).

It makes for an interesting summary, especially if you bring in a split of Sutton / Beddington North.  Measured in tonnes

Borough                                             Household/C&I                 C&D

Croydon                                                      32,883                        48,474

Kingston                                                      35,642                            0

Merton                                                       213,179                   150,183

Sutton (excl Beddington)                        17,212                       2,728                                                           

Beddington North                                   647,429                  40,297

So there you have it, their numbers not mine – Beddington North a waste receptacle taking more waste than the four boroughs put together.

To the eco-protesters worried about the progress on Beddington Farmlands earlier in the evening – what chance have we got for an ecological nirvana when we are dismissed so readily by this travesty of a waste plan.

Included in the numbers is the new SUEZ plant so readily given planning permission in spite of a flawed travel plan that the London Borough of Croydon are still in dispute with and promoted because of “extant planning permission”.  In spite of the site not being occupied since 2011, in 2014, inspectors for the Planning Department decided that the presence of incomplete kerbstone fitment and tarmac on the site deemed construction had started and site allocation for waste was secure.  That is planned for 305,000 tonnes of waste.

Ambitious for Sutton?

As long as the ruling group can ignore Beddington North. And they are starting at an Emergency Full Council meeting on Monday when they will “debate” proposals for changes to Ward Boundaries.

Not wanting their image tainted by waste, Beddington South, with 3 Liberal Democrat Councillors, is planned to be renamed Wallington East.

Beddington North – well that becomes just plain Beddington, waste capital of the four boroughs.

We will keep fighting!!

Bin it for Beddington

Yes But No But Yes…..But

Apologies to “Little Britain” but I was looking for some way of putting into words the double standards of local politics – never mind the shenanigans at Westminster. I have been quiet for a while – I had a delightful 10 days at the end of August in Vancouver for a pal’s daughter getting married but came straight back into things on the home front with a BANG.

Within 24 hours of landing, I was at a residents’ meeting about the proposed development of Sheen Way Playing Fields.  An impressive turnout and an enthusiastic attitude driven principally by residents mystified that anyone could think that putting 240+ SEN children at the end of a cul de sac and next to a railway – no access to public transport and “protected” from the railway by closed, tinted, non-opening glass and artificial ventilation!

Barely a trace of nimbyism – just oceans of common sense and passionate advocacy for the children lead by Councillor Jillian Green.

What a contrast on Tuesday night when there was a Planning Committee meeting about a proposed school at Rose Hill.  Long opposed by local Liberal Democrat Councillors Dombey (yes, the Leader of the Council), Penneck and Herron.

Just to put the matter into context – they had objected to the site before and the Council had been authorised to spend a fortune acquiring Sutton Hospital land as part of Councillor Dombey’s favourite vanity project, the London Cancer Hub and land – deemed inadequate by an expert report – was set aside for a school.  Some people, perhaps unfairly, have claimed this was to protect her and her colleagues’ electoral prospects.

Nevertheless, Rose Hill was allocated for development as a secondary school and adjacent Special Needs Annex within the Local Plan – yes, that plan that was voted in with Liberal Democrat unanimity in February 2018.

On Tuesday evening, in front of a partisan public audience, a proposal for the school to be built and funded by the Department of Education (DfE) was rejected on design and other “planning” grounds.

The tone was very different to the Sheen Way Residents meeting – Cllr Steve Penneck spoke of concerns about Parking, the Traffic Plan and Traffic Congestion but of course, the major concern was design.  I pointed out in questioning that irrespective of design, his three other concerns prevailed so his principle concern could not be design!

There was only one Liberal Democrat Member, Cllr Andrew who articulated any real concern over the fact that next year’s intake of 200 – 300 Secondary School Children would be without a guaranteed place – but when it came to the vote, design was the key.

So a Liberal Democrat Council allocates a site for a much needed secondary school, imposes parking constraints on residents and then uses parking as a reason to refuse – makes no attempt to improve infrastructure or public transport and uses traffic congestion as a reason to refuse – closes down cultural facilities in the Borough yet uses architectural aesthetics as a reason to refuse.  Refuse not just Planning Permission but this Borough’s children’s educational opportunities – very sad.

In other news, the same Planning Committee had, 6 days earlier, via the voting of the Liberal Democrat majority on the Committee – one abstention and yes, it was the thoughtful Cllr Andrew again – agreed the building of another waste transfer facility on Beddington Lane.  I asked the representative of SUEZ, the waste company involved when their last fire was at the Merton Plant that they are vacating –May was the answer. 

One vehicle movement every 3 minutes – Beddington Lane will be a car / lorry park

Irrespective of the fact that it is only a matter of weeks since a fire at the Viridor plant blew toxic fumes all over Beddington and Croydon and the fact that the fire investigation remains incomplete.  Irrespective of the fact that there are objections from our neighbours in Croydon over the routing of HGV’s and a suspension of an HGV ban in Beddington Village it all passed the critical litmus test for Liberal Democrat approval – “It’s Beddington – they’ve even got Croydon postcodes, who cares?”

In the South London Waste Plan – introduced in 2012 (yes it is that out of date) – reference is made to impacts of this site on the local school which was Beddington Primary 1.06km from the site. Since then, they have built Hackbridge Primary 1.2 km from the site but they took no notice of the approval to build an incinerator less than 1 km away in the Air Quality Report for that school, so another major fire risk nearby did not even warrant a mention in the SUEZ proposals.

On other matters, by now you will have all received the letter about Consultation on the Parking Strategy.  Please respond and if you know a neighbour who perhaps is not au fait with computers please help them – a Councillor from the other side of the Borough received a note from the Council Officers that indicated an absolute minimum of effort is being put in to facilitate paper copies and we need to make sure everyone gets the opportunity to have their say.

Beddington Farmlands Restoration Roadmap

Finally, some progress – as Chair of the Conservation and Access Management Committee for Beddington Farmlands, I have managed to get two “proper” community representatives on board – from Hackbridge, Stephen Debourde, and from Beddington, Tom Sweeney.  The scientists have done a cracking job on the ecology so our focus is on public access and we will ensure that local interests have a voice and an exemplary restoration job is done.

If you have any other concerns about Beddington North be sure to email us:

Jillian.green@sutton.gov.uk;

 Nick.mattey@sutton.gov.uk;

Tim.foster@sutton.gov.uk.

Bin it for Beddington

Diary of a 2nd Year Councillor Summer Thoughts

Councillor Jillian Green Highview Resident and Champion for Sheen Way

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog, apart from dealing with individual residents problems the big project is the proposal for developing a Special Educational Needs School on Sheen Way Playing Fields in Wallington.  There is not one resident I have spoken to who is against the building of a new SEN school, it is badly needed but the selected site is so unsuitable. 

Time and again Council officers and developers say “well it was voted for in the Local Plan”.  Two things spring to mind here, before I became a Councillor I didn’t even know about a consultation on the Local Plan or indeed what the Local Plan was and I’ll bet not many residents did either.  Secondly I was not aware of Local Committee where the Local Plan would have been discussed so how is this a democratic decision.  It was probably no coincidence that the two Liberal Democrat councillors for Beddington North lost their seats at the local elections because they voted for the Local Plan without even consulting with those the Sheen Way proposal will affect so badly.

A green oasis backing onto a railway line

The plans have now been submitted for comment and the first thing that strikes me is how the devil are they going to get the traffic around the roads of the High View Estate.  They are narrow and the plans include bringing cranes in to site those horrible containers for the project offices.

The Chase

I hope compensation when properties become damaged has been written into the budget.  Just supposing they decide to put double yellow lines everywhere, the outcry will be louder than that for the CPZ, speaking of which are those proposals going to be “dead in the water”?

Turn right into Capel

Another thing that strikes me,  Councillor Dombey recently refused to back plans for a new high school and SEN school on Rose Hill Recreation Ground which is in her ward, saying that the designs were not very good and the children deserve better.  Well I can tell you the Councillors for Beddington North and the residents affected by the Sheen Way proposals have been saying the same thing.

Turn right into Godalming

Is it good for children with special needs to be put into classrooms that are 12 metres from a railway line with at least 8 trains an hour plus the noise from the small industrial estate that runs along one side of the field?  The designers tell me that it will be alright because the classrooms will have triple glazing with darkened windows which won’t open so fresh air will be replaced by air conditioning, lovely……

Finally left into Headley

The field is also a flood plain taking water away from the railway line, it is no coincidence that after the ten hours of rain we had recently the line kept running whilst other local lines were affected by flooding, plus the fact that the houses were also safe. 

Has everyone seen a copy of the Council’s environment strategy where they say they want to preserve open spaces and establish more?  This summer the Sheen Way Playing Field was left uncut for a period of time and IdVerde cut swathes of pathways through it.  It was magnificent and there were so many butterflies, bees and other forms of wildlife it is sacrilege and goes against the Council’s strategy to concrete over it.  The strategy also calls on reduction in air and noise pollution.  How’s that going to work for the residents of the estate when there will be air and noise pollution from the traffic?  It has been estimated that there could be as many as 60,000 extra traffic movements a year and that is without the traffic from parents dropping their children off at High View Primary. 

On 6 July over 60 residents of the High View estate came together for a community picnic.  We hope to hold more events as it is so important in this day and age of divisions in society to bring communities together.  The vision for the field would be to make it a community space with more tree planting, again in the Environment strategy, an allotment, a proper wood chip pathway and a dog free area for kiddies playground.  So many people are now walking around the field for exercise either singly or in groups, families are playing ball games, this all goes to aid health and well being, something the Council wishes to promote.

Can I urge everyone to respond to the Parks and Open Space consultation which can be found on the Council website?  This closes in early September and I find it amazing that if responses on consultations reaches 5,000 out of 200,000 residents the Council considers that acceptable.  I for one think it is time to have a rethink on how consultations take place.  I complain time and again about the phrase “it can be accessed on line”.  Surely Local Committees can be utilised more effectively regarding consultations as well as engaging with residents associations and voluntary community groups.

Democracy only works when you are in charge!

This was a comment I made to the Leader of Sutton Council at the reception for the new Mayor of Sutton a couple of months ago.

It wasn’t well received and with recent events, I think we have a real gap opening up between our politicians and the public that they claim to serve. 

There was a recent Full Council meeting held on 22nd July.  Within the agenda was a petition delivered by Extinction Rebellion seeking declaration of a climate emergency and carbon neutrality in Sutton by 2030.  Alongside that was another Motion proposed by a Lib Dem Councillor that equally sought declaration of a climate emergency but a later date, 2045 for carbon neutrality

Some days before that meeting, we received an email from Cllr Penneck, a key Lib Dem strategist asking if we felt the two should be combined into one debate.  The Conservative opposition were vociferously against that and wanted two separate items.

When the petition came up, the content had been revised into a set of officer recommendations with options of 2030, 2045 or no climate emergency.

The Leader of the Tories, Cllr Tim Crowley quite rightly demanded that there should be a straightforward vote on the content and context of the original petition.  After consideration by the Mayor, this was allowed and, with absences on the Lib Dem benches, three votes for the petition as well as two abstentions from the ruling party, and the petition was carried.

Let’s be clear, that meant that on a free vote, the elected representatives of the residents of Sutton voted for carbon neutrality by 2030.

Then we have a “debate” about the very same subject which, with the unanimity of the Liberal Democrat majority (including those who had voted  for the earlier petition as well as those who had abstained) was carried against the abstention of all opposition members, Conservative and Independent.

A call came from the rather dumbfounded opposition to the Mayor and Chief Executive of the Council

“Which one counts – 2030 or 2045”

to which the ambivalent answer came

“Both!”.

Earlier in the evening, I had posed the question to the Leader of the Ruling Group about the make-up of the Scrutiny Committee. Like every committee, apart from Audit & Governance, it is made up with members in proportion to the overall party representation in Council. 

Audit & Governance occupies a unique position of neutrality as it has equal numbers of the ruling group and opposition as well as an independent member of the public.

I quoted the Constitution of the London Borough of Sutton wherein there is a whole section about “The Purpose of the Constitution” – in section 1:3, it states:

  • Ensure that no on will review or scrutinise a decision in which they were directly involved.

I suggested that the handling of public petitions by the Committees who had originally agreed a policy that the petitioner(s) were appealing against should be reviewed as well as the make-up of the Scrutiny and Planning Committees.

Nobody who believes in democracy can dispute the right of a winner in an election, to establish the agenda and, through cabinet or committee, seeking to implement that agenda.

However, there needs to be a system of public scrutiny / accountability to ensure that the public we are here to serve have a transparent perspective of decision making.

For example, the Housing Economy and Business Committee (HEB), chaired by Cllr McCoy the Deputy Leader of the ruling group establishes housing strategies.  Some of these are implemented by the London Borough of Sutton’s wholly owned property development company, Sutton Living.  All LBS owned companies come under the oversight of the Shareholding Committee lead by Cllr McCoy, who, although not on the Planning Committee is the ruling group’s “Lead Member on Planning”

Planning applications deriving from all sources including HEB strategies as well as development plans from Sutton Living are considered by the Planning Committee.  As is emphasised at every opportunity, this is a quasi-judicial committee – so why does it need a majority of ruling group members and a chair from the same party? How can we know that all decisions are dispassionately arrived at?

I believe in democracy and I believe in fairness – to bludgeon policy through to legislation by use of a majority without effective oversight and scrutiny is not democracy, it is a bullying dictatorship.

This is not a fight against the current ruling group – I am sure there are Councils run by parties of all persuasions who will seek to drive their own agendas through.

No, this is all about fairness to the people we seek to serve.

Let’s call it an Independent view.

Bin it for Beddington

Slow Progress and Politics – the Frustrations of an Independent Councillor

  • Politics
  • Parking
  • Sheen Way
  • Beddington Farmlands
  • And more

We have all seen the performances in the Houses of Parliament, in recent months, the apparent gap between the perceptions of politicians and those of “ordinary people”.  Factional, internecine warfare amongst the politicians in Westminster has seen day to day issues that they should be involved in stalled – is it a strong Opposition holding an errant Government to account – no, they are all embroiled in presenting what they think may get them elected if and when the next election comes around.

And sadly, the same can be said of Local Government – when one attends a Full Council meeting, “debate” amounts to Opposition critique of the ruling Liberal Democrats who riposte with “Government Cuts”.  Other debates bring forward side issues like Single Use Plastics or pledges around Anti-Bullying week.

All the while, we have noises off from the Carshalton and Wallington MP, Tom Brake directing and interfering because he knows that his Parliamentary career could be damaged by unpopular local Lib Dem policies.

The Parking Strategy is a typical example – poorly conceived, appallingly communicated, it created a massive backlash from local residents.  A Council meeting at Carshalton College was attended by 100’s of residents and, confronted by real people, Standing Orders and procedural matters were shown for their irrelevance in the real world.

In a panic reaction, you had Mr Brake pontificating and canvassing, followed by Social Media Posts by Liberal Democrat Councillors claiming “victories” on behalf of their residents when some changes were made. 

It was their policy in the first place, did they not have any appreciation of local residents’ lifestyles or needs?

The process of a Traffic Management Order (TMO) is in progress with the well defined Controlled Parking Zones (CPZ) of the initial questionnaires, replaced by a delightfully vague concept of Permitted Parking Area (PPA) – vague in definition, vague in signposting and of course vague in communication.

In Beddington North, we have yet to even experience Stage 1 of this comedy of errors that is the London Borough of Sutton’s Parking Strategy (Revised) but sadly it is likely that our residents may fall foul of the system before it reaches us.

Visiting a friend in a PPA, an electrician called to a job in a PPA or organising a caring visit to an elderly relative in a PPA?  All could get you a fine.

That TMO that would tell you all about the PPA’s – it will be on the LBS website, if you can find it.  They will make it legal by publishing it in the Sutton Guardian, if you get access to a copy or find the paper online. 

Is any real effort made on behalf of the community? No.

Oh – the single use plastics – you’ll be pleased to know that the coffee machines in the meeting rooms have been replaced by flasks.  And bullying – an even bigger farce.

Anti Bullying Week was 12th-16th November 2018 and this coincided with a Full Council where there was unanimity amongst the Councillors of every persuasion against bullying. For PR purposes, a pledge was produced on card – a bit like one of those winner’s cheques in competitions – and Councillors were invited to sign their name on the board.

The minutes of that Council meeting say that the pledge would show on Councillors’ individual profiles on the Council website.

I am not into political PR and declined to sign – the board, well that could be seen leaning up against a wall in the Members’ Area in the Civic Offices, apparently as an invitation to sign it.

Did the Council put the pledge on Councillor profiles – with their normal inimitable efficiency they did so on 10th June 2019 – 7 months later – to coincide with follow up training on the issue. 

At the end of that training session, I observed that the exclusion of anti bullying references on some Councillor’s profiles inferred their support of bullying and was counter intuitive as many of those Councillors who had the pledge on their profiles had not even attended the training.

Immediately I was surrounded by a hectoring collection of Lib Dem Councillors telling me I only had to sign the pledge.  History records all sorts of unpleasant organisations that sought similar compliance!

Anyway, I have since made my point vociferously to Committee Services and suggested that they remove the “Pledge” with its signatures from the debris of the Members’ Area to a  to a public display – maybe in the main entrance alongside the picture of all the Councillors so that residents can compare their actions, say on parking issues, with the words!

But we are keeping focussed on what our residents tell us – the new bus service – Go Sutton – isn’t a lot of good because it doesn’t Go Beddington! That is unlike the X26 that at least goes through Beddington, we are still lobbying to get it to stop there!

We continue to battle on behalf of Highview Residents and pupils of Carew Manor – if the London Borough of Sutton had done the job they were supposed to do and conducted a proper search for the BEST site for a SEN school there would be a Plan B.  There isn’t one, according to LBS, they will have to stay at Carew Manor if they cannot move to Sheen Way!

The Planning Application submitted has not yet even been validated and LBS have let down Orchard Hill Trust, the staff and pupils of Carew Manor, the Department of Education who have committed funds and of course (as always) the residents.

A good start on Beddington Farmlands – finally appointed as Chair of the Conservation and Access Committee, I have proposed inclusion of community members to the group and we have a road map to measure progress.  The support of Councillor Jillian Green on that committee is another bonus voice for the people of Beddington.

Beddington Farmlands Restoration Roadmap

Frustrations?   Still no sign of the TMO to ban lorries in Beddington Village although we now have a very pretty bit of signwriting on the wall outside the Village Hall to ensure that you know where you are!

Interesting how the Council can suspend the TMO process when it suits them – bet they won’t delay on the Parking!

Sadly the next meeting of the BNNF clashes with Full Council so you will miss our smiling faces but we will prepare proper reports to keep residents up to date.

Keep in touch – full contact details are on the Council website https://moderngov.sutton.gov.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx?bcr=1

Bin it for Beddington