Well that is the Local Elections over for another 4 years and with the opportunity for change and improvement in the hands of the local residents/electors, it is a real commentary on the state of National and Local politics that over 60% of those eligible to vote in the London Borough of Sutton did not bother to vote.
Is it really any surprise that the political shenanigans in Westminster where the only difference between the Labour and Conservative appears to be the choice of a glass of Chablis or a pint of Durham Bitter.
I think the Independents in Beddington at least proved that Local Elections should be about – service to and involvement with the residents.
An early opportunity to participate directly in change comes next Thursday 19th May at 6.30 pm and the Annual General Meeting of the Beddington North Neighbourhood Forum (BNNF) at The Change Foundation Cricket Ground, Plough Lane, Wallington, SM6 8JQ.
It is the opportunity to elect – or for that matter put yourself forward – for Chair and other officer responsibilities.
The BNNF has a potentially critical part to play in Beddington with development of a Neighbourhood Plan, direct involvement in the planned access to the Beddington Farmlands when it opens to the public after December 2023 and of course a forum for direct briefing by Council officials.
All residents are welcome and it is a real opportunity to make a difference – don’t leave it to others, you may not like the results.
Finally – as someone observed on the local Facebook page – Beddington, especially in the Beddington Lane is getting to be a mess. Let’s try to keep our own little piece tidy and the impact will spread!
One of the features of this election is the impact political funds have had on the attempts of the major parties to fight even a Boroughwide campaign and of course what the fact that 16 Liberal Democrat Councillors not seeking to stand again signalled about the difficulties the establishment parties face.
Paid for deliveries either through the Post Office or leafleteers by the local Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. Newspaper wraps of the Sutton & Croydon Guardian and paid for Facebook inserts by the Labour Party. But most especially an absolute profusion of “paper candidates” by all three major groups.
So, what is meant by the term “paper candidate” – well in local elections, unlike General Elections, there is no financial cost for registering as a candidate. All that is needed is a proposer, seconder and support from local residents.
That means that a major party can register candidates in a ward that they have no realistic chance of winning but at the same time appear to their traditional voters to offer the opportunity of continued support.
In these straightened times, it also allows them to focus their scarce resources on areas where they have a chance of representation whilst giving the impression of being capable of forming the next administration.
Is that fair to voters? Probably not!
For those of a certain age, remember the song “Paper Roses” and its chorus verse:
Paper roses, paper roses
Oh how real those roses seemed to me
But they’re only imitation
Like your imitation love for me!
For Paper Roses, read Paper Candidates – they aren’t properly canvassing, some don’t even live in the Borough, let alone the ward and if they can’t be bothered to work at that, why are they worth your vote?
When we were elected in 2018, we never realised the hard work needed to do the job properly and there is really no point in standing if you aren’t prepared to do the hard yards. The secret is, we know what is involved and the rewards are heart-warming and that is why we are standing in Beddington and are encouraged by other community minded colleagues standing with us!
Therefore, on Thursday, as your pencil hovers over the choices of three candidates, ask yourself – did I just get a generic paper like the Beddington Champion or the Carshalton and Wallington Gazette on paper as thin as their candidates – or do I think there are three people who are going to work hard for me and my family?
In the Beddington and Wallington – the answer is that if you vote for the three Independents in your ward you will get proper representation at Committees and at Council as well as strong allies to deal with any shortfall in the services you expect from your Council.
Right now, our news bulletins are full of the horrors of war in Ukraine where a people who have known the taste of democracy are fighting to avoid the yolk of dictatorship.
Watching the news last night, I have to confess tears when the video of a laughing baby was shown against the background of the news that its life had been cut short at 3 months along with the life of its Mother and Grandmother.
It brought to mind the often misquoted “One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic”, but the Father’s reaction of continuing the fight for democracy was a reflection of the importance of the ability to vote for the Government of your choice.
That same news bulletin carried the news of President Macron’s victory in the French election and this morning the bare statistics of that victory are published. The headlines offer the news that he won with 58.54% of the vote versus Le Pen’s 41.46%.
But the real story is the 28.01% of the voters who did not vote – it means that realistically, President Macron leads one of the most powerful countries in Europe with just 42.14% of the French voters wanting him!
It is the flaw of democracy if people do not get involved – as we approach the Local Elections on May 5th it becomes very relevant to everyone on a local level. And for people on the eastern side of the London Borough of Sutton, we only need to look over the border at bankrupt Croydon to understand why we need to think hard about what faces us and who we vote for.
And let’s just analyse the last bit of voting we had locally. That was at the by election in 2019 for Wallington North where the winning vote represented 38.24% of the votes. But with a turnout of 31.36%, that winning vote actually represented a shade under 12% of the voters of Wallington North, or put another way, Wallington North is represented by someone that 88% of the voters did not vote for.
Not knocking the individual, that is not the object – it is an electoral system that was established for universal suffrage but one where politicians have set their own agenda thereby creating voter apathy.
Why bother when they all sound the same?
That in turn has allowed us to get to a situation where those same politicians can align themselves with a small, special interest group (sometimes radical) to deliver the small margins that get them elected.
There is only one solution – if you want your opinion to count, use your vote.
In Sutton, we have had continued rises in Council Tax – the ruling Liberal Democrats blame Central Government but if that were the case, Sutton’s rises in Council Tax would not be the 4th highest in Greater London, if it was the Government’s fault, we would all be in the same boat!
They praise their initiatives in SDEN, the London Cancer Hub, Sutton Works etc – but it is the residents are underwriting those initiatives to the tune of £100+ million. A great legacy for our children and grandchildren!
It is a signal that change is needed – the agenda needs to be set by the residents not politicians – but the only way to change that is to use your vote.
You may have noticed a distinct lack of posters and other election paraphernalia – it is because the Ruling Group want you to stay at home so they can get their small number of supporters to deliver their comfortable seats.
Let’s surprise them and turn out in numbers on the 5th May and VOTE!
I can’t believe it has been 4 years since I was entrusted, along with my fellow Independent Councillors, Tim Foster and Nick Mattey, by the residents of Beddington North Ward to be their elected representatives on the Council.
It has been a real privilege to serve the residents, not just of Beddington North but Borough wide, who, in accordance with our mantra, we have always put first. We have listened to problems, taken action to try and get resolutions, spoken up against situations that were unjust and held the Council to account.
What have I learnt?
Well it has been an eye opener that is for sure. Full Council meetings have seen proper debate stifled, rarely did a Liberal Democrat Councillor vote against any resolutions or motions that were put before Council by their group but by observing their body language it showed on many occasions the “sheep” were most uncomfortable in voting “yes”, or, “no” if it was an opposition motion.
I have always voted on resolutions or motions as I felt fit and being an Independent meant I did not have to play party politics. Those of you who have listened to Council meetings will know my stock sentence has been “Why can’t we work together for the good of the Borough?” The Liberal Democrats always adopt an attitude of “We know best” and do not really like working cooperatively with other groups – “Our way or no way” is their mantra.
It was a huge disappointment that the building of a SEND school on the old Sheen Way Playing Field is going ahead. Now don’t get me wrong, not one person on the estate is against a new school for the SEND children, but the small playing field at the end of a cul de sac with only one way in and out is certainly the wrong place.
Despite a fantastic performance by Tim Foster as a Rule 6 participant at the Planning Enquiry, the Planning Inspector recommended it go ahead and the then Minister of State, Robert Jenrick, agreed. I have written numerous emails and letters to Ministers for Communities and Education pointing out why the siting of this school is so bad for the SEND pupils.
To move them from beautiful Beddington Park to a small plot surrounded by railway, houses and industrial units will do very little to enhance their education or wellbeing. They will have to get up earlier to cope with the increases in traffic jams. Those of you who know the Croydon Road and Plough Lane can attest to the problems faced.
Tim and I battle on, and will continue to do so if re-relected, making sure the residents of the High View Estate are treated fairly and the conditions put in place by the Planning Inspector are adhered to.
One question I ask myself repeatedly was the inclusion of Sheen Way in the Local Plan fair – answer no. No consultation took place with the residents of High View Estate, in my opinion is was just a case of let’s stick a pin in and that will do. If the school does get built the residents can expect another 300 traffic movements a day so not only are we dealing with air pollution from the incinerator and the current school traffic but more added by the mini buses and cars from the school travel plan.
The question frequently asked is what will the Council do with Carew Manor? With the experience of the sale of the Lodge in Beddington Park for a song, one cannot but feel that this glorious local asset is not safe if the current administration retains power after May’s election.
Let us not forget about that dark shadow over Beddington, the incinerator! Recent events have shown that the current Administration has very little control over those private companies they get into bed with. Now the landfill has been sold by Viridor and not only were the Council unaware until the last minute of this transaction they have no idea how this is going to impact on the future of the farmlands and surrounding areas.
One thing that has struck me as I continue working for residents is the fact that not only do ruling parties like low turnouts at elections, so do the Council Officers as this means the current administration is likely to get re-elected and their work just continues as before.
If you are reading this please vote, it is vital that residents have their say at the ballot box and a low turnout will pretty much leave things as they are. In addition to Tim, Nick and me there are more Independent candidates standing in the Borough, all with the same philosophy as us.
This is not about national party politics but about electing Councillors who truly care about the Borough and who want to see it flourish and be a place we can all be proud of. Does the London Borough of Sutton really deserve another four years of the Liberal Democrats?
A party who have gone ahead breaking their own policies, for example, a tower block of flats in Sutton High Street of 20 storeys, going against their Local Plan. We are losing green spaces, despite saying they want more; we have had the parking debacle, the low traffic neighbourhoods and school streets (which just throws more traffic onto other roads causing increases in air pollution), the partnership with other Boroughs for waste which is brought into Beddington to be incinerated causing increase in air pollution for residents and the children attending nearby schools.
Then there is bingate, still ongoing, lack of street cleaning and grass cutting of verges done as the schedule says. It doesn’t matter if it’s pouring with rain and the grass gets torn out. The cuttings are then blown into the road and down the drains. Doesn’t make sense does it? I have to say common sense and this Administraton does not go hand in hand.
We have improved communication in the ward, we have supported the Beddington North Neighbourhood Forum, 500+ pieces of “case work” helping individual residents on anything from planning, to housing and schools – we hope we have done enough for you to vote for us again on May 5th.
There is still so much to do, challenging what is wrong and ensuring that residents of Beddington continue having a voice that will represent their interests and fight for them. I am more focused than ever on what needs to be done and if change was needed it is now.
2018 was when the last Local Elections were held here in Sutton – and what 4 years it has been. From a National or International perspective, there has been unprecedented change – a General Election, Brexit, a Pandemic and now a War – change beyond what anyone could have foreseen.
How is the way you vote in these Local Elections going to change those huge issues – truly it will have no impact at all.
Voting for a particular party to “send a message to Whitehall” – well every Government expects a mid-term downturn so any message will be diluted, excused by media and the politicians alike.
So, what can change with your vote?
What about the way that this Borough treats Special Needs Education (SEN)? Are we happy with the performance of Cognus, a stand-alone company set up by the current administration to run education services? Well, the parents of SEN children aren’t, one of the highest rejection rates for EHCP applicants and telling parents that there are not enough therapists to offer one to one Speech Therapy in the Borough but then sell the same services out of Borough!
Then there are the long-term contracts with waste companies, Viridor and Veolia. Viridor treat this administration as a VERY junior partner in business – selling the Beddington Farmlands without reference and applying to the Environment Agency for an increase in waste volume without consultation. More traffic, more pollution and does anyone care about Sutton residents – clearly not this administration!
A recent fly tip on Richmond Green reflected the appalling management process – if it was on the south side of Richmond Green, that was parks and idVerde were responsible, on the north side, it would be Sutton Housing Partnership (SHP) and on the roadway, Veolia. Is it any wonder that the Borough needs volunteer litter pickers to keep it clean!
But when we say SHP, that is a bit of a misnomer, because they have a charge they levy from tenants for bulk disposal! And on the subject of “Affordable Housing” – that much trumpeted development on Richmond Green is not only charging substantial rents, some of those homes are in Council Tax Band E meaning high payments and denial of access to the £150 contribution to help with rising living costs.
Like so many claims of the current administration – there is a lot of gloss but the substance does not match the rhetoric!
There are six of us Sutton Independents standing in Beddington and Wallington North – but we are not the only ones – there are a total of thirteen independent candidates putting themselves forward on May 5th.
And there are some strong Labour candidates in Hackbridge and St Helier and some very good Conservatives on the western side of the Borough – all committed residents looking to change the face of this Council.
I have heard the expression “paper candidate” used on a number of occasions this campaign – candidates entered with no intention of winning or, in some cases, even campaigning. They are not worth your vote!
Certainly, the level of commitment needed for an Independent means that you can be certain that an Independent candidate is here to do a job. We have shown in Beddington that three Independents can do a great job.
Make sure you are voting on local issues – they are the ones that matter to every resident.