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.