Sunday, March 23, 2008

In For a Penny, In For a Pound

Having consulted on a council budget based on a council tax increase of 4.9%, the ruling Liberal Democrats eventually bowed to our pressure by restricting themselves to 3.4% extra. Each year the Conservative Opposition highlight innovative approaches to reducing the tax burden around London such as Hillingdon where they are freezing tax for pensioners. Each year Sutton's tax continues its relentless increase with little extra in return for residents.

This year's increase was pegged back after the intervention of David Dombey's impassioned plea on behalf of pensioners. I notice that in a recent Sutton Guardian (6 March), Mrs Dombey is campaigning to stop the demolition of a public toilet in the ward represented by her daughter, a deputy leader of the council. Maybe they can succeed where other politicians have failed in getting the Lib Dem administration to listen instead of their traditional 'consult, consider, ignore' approach.

Ruth Dombey responded when her father told her how to spend the pounds. Will she act now her mother has told her how to spend a penny?

29 comments:

Adrian Short said...

It's good that you've raised this issue which concerns many people in the borough.

What is the Conservatives' policy on public toilets in the borough. Would you bring the Sutton Green toilets back into use? What about toilets elsewhere?

Where would a tax-cutting Conservative council find the money to do these things?

Cllr David Pickles said...

Exactly Mr Short. The Tories waffle on about such things, and yet have no sound basic policies to tackle the issues of today's problems within the borough.

Unfortunately I had the misfortune of not only working for them, but representing them over the years. Sadly, I discovered the truth of exactly what they are like some time ago, which is why I defected to UKIP. Of course, you may not be a UKIP supporter (I suspect strongly you are a Lib-Dem), but it is interesting to note that you are probing the tories honesty.

So lets ask you Cllr Scully.........are you going to finance an expansion in public toilets or are you talking s**t?

Scully said...

Adrian

Thanks for your comment. You raise an important point about facilities in the Borough. Firstly, I believe that it is important that there are adequate toilets within the Borough without having to rely heavily on private provision in shops and pubs which people may feel uncomfortable about using.

My starting point would be to re-examine some of the figures that are being banded about. The estimated £15,000 cost to demolish the toilet block on Sutton Green seems excessive. Once well-tested figures are established for maintenance and/or replacement for some facilities, we can formulate a sound, sustainable policy. The Conservatives in Opposition have had experience over the last two years in re-evaluating capital projects saving considerable sums which were reinvested, most recently £150,000 within the Stanley Park School project in Carshalton.

Our policy groups will be looking at ways that other councils have tackled this and other problems with a view to influencing our thinking over the coming years. You can contribute to this by going to www.changesutton.org.uk.

(Cllr Pickles: I would have answered Mr Short's comment earlier this evening but have not long returned from the Belmont Local Committee which you felt less important to attend to represent your constituents there, than sitting by your computer contributing facile comments on my blog. Adrian Short runs the blog Stonecot Hill News which you can see by following the link on my blog. I don't know his politics, I don't particularly care. He has an interest in Stonecot and Sutton as a whole which is something we share. You make the mistake of believing everyone that reads this blog is interested in involving themselves in petty squabbles.)

Aardvark said...

So Cllr Pickles who is talking s**t now after reading Cllr Scullys last post.
Did you just forget about the Belmont local ctte?
Or did something else come up.
Cmon be honest and let us all know.
For the record of course.

Ard

Cllr David Pickles said...

For your information aardvark, and it really is none of your business, my wife had a full committee meeting at Nonsuch school where she is a governor. Did you want me to leave an 11-year old child on her own all evening then? Seems like you and Tories are into child cruelty without having anything to back up the facts. Cllr Scully no doubt thinks it's important to risk a young child's life for the sake of one meeting.

Cllr David Pickles said...

And further to my comment above, try checking out with the area co-ordinator (you know who he is), Cllr Newman whom I asked to give my apologies to, and if you really are as pedantic as I know you all to be, ring Nonsuch school to confirm.

Your depths of nastiness at times knows no bounds.

Scully said...

David

Not even aadvark is asking you to risk a child's life. You enjoy talking about allowances, yet this is what they are paid for. There are only 12 occasions that you have to be at council meetings each year and they are set a full year ahead as full governors meetings tend to be.

You simply can't have this both ways. You accuse Aardvark of nastiness, yet feell nothing of hijacking this blog with unsubstantiated personal attacks whether posted in your own name or one of your pseudonyms. It would be helpful to everyone that reads this blog, most of whom haven't got a clue what any of these posts are about if you concentrate on constructive debate rather than your usual belligerent style.

Since this blog is a record of my views and news, I need to be able to respond and occasionally set the record straight. You, however, just need to justify your actions to the residents of Belmont which I am sure that you can do in far more effective ways than defending yourself in my blog.

Cllr David Pickles said...

Well Paul - I'm sorry if you feel like that, but it would be a help if you got your facts straight. My wife is informed of governor's meetings via e-mail when they set and agree the agenda. She was told about this last week, and mentioned it to me on Monday evening. Despite attempts to "farm out" my youngest (the eldest was out anyway) it came to nothing, so what choice did I have?

Of course I wouldn't put it past your party to try and gain political capital in Belmont out of it, but if you do be sure I'll be ready with a forthright response.

simon said...

Im not sure where this has gone and there seems to be a whole load of bitter sniping but I'd like to talk about the issue at hand. I've noticed the big reduction in public conveniences over the years and I mainly think it might be due to vandalism and anti-social behaviour as well as under funding.

As it used to be you paid your dues and got a clear service in return like street cleaning, collecting rubbish and things like public toilets.

I don't think the council does much listening but i would personally like to see more for my money. It hacks me off that some people can spoil facilities for others.

Scullduggery Watch said...

Paul Scully has not changed.

Scully is still the ruthless operator who would make political capital out of the most inappropriate of circumstances. His slandering of the UKIP Councillor here just goes to prove both this and the fact that the Sutton Tories cannot be trusted whilst Scully is at the helm.

The Conservative party looks both vacuous and insincere when they have to stoop to this level of opportunism.

In the previous thread Scully was content to wax lyrical about the Campaign for Social Justice and how he and Philipa Stroud were backing their initiatives 100%.

Then in the next breath he is berating Councillor Pickles for refusing to leave his 11 year old daughter at home whilst a not-quite-so-important council meeting was taking place. Is this the kind of action that the CSJ would condone? Was Scully offering an alternative, eg. that his own missus would have been prepared to babysit Pickles' daughter so that he could have made it down to the Sutton Civic Centre?

If the television had have caught fire whilst Pickles' child was home alone then Scully would no doubt have made great political fodder out of such an incident and branded Pickles and irresponsible man and an unfit father. Instead, Scully wants to bash Pickles for being the opposite it would seem.

David Pickles probably has an attendance record which is as good as any other Sutton Councillor. I hardly think he was up at All-Bar-One and neglecting his political duties! (You all remember All-Bar-One? It is a great place to go for a drink or two, especially after you have knifed your own political colleagues in the back. It's true, ask Councillor Scully).

I would just like to ask if Johnathan Pritchard's charity would condone leaving an 11 year old child home alone for the evening?

Hand of History said...

This used to be an interesting blog before all the bickering started.

RFK said...

I would just like to make one small point. I think Paul is doing a great job and finally making Sutton Conservatives a group capable of running the Council. The MAJORITY of Sutton members are finally getting their views heard and seeing the party taken in the direction they want it. Rather than having to suffer the ranting and reactionary raving of Cllrs' like David Pickles and Eleanor. Unfortunately, the petulance we now see is typical of this gang. Thankfully their voices are the minority, even if they are the loudest and nastiest (empty vessels make the most noise etc).

Good work Paul, keep working hard. As Bobby Kennedy once said - Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies.

Change is certainly what was needed and what you are delivering!

Scullduggery Watch said...

...and what a change:
Digging out a devoted father and family man because he had no choice but to ensure the welfare of his 11 year old daughter.

Funny, I didn't see a single justification hidden amongst all that dutiful toadying and kissing up!

Adrian Short said...

While this is all quite fascinating and to a degree entertaining, I suspect it would be more productive to tackle the topic of how elected councillors in Sutton propose to deliver public services.

I'm not versed in the intricacies of local government finance but it seems that the problem with public toilet provision is that there is no statutory obligation for councils to provide them and therefore limited opportunity to fund them. If anyone can shed more light on that matter, please do.

The DCLG has recently published a report on public toilet provision that is long on good intentions and a desire for "innovative solutions" and short on the fundamental basic commitment to pay for a service that not only does the public expect but on which many members of our community depend to be able to live independent lives.

Perhpas we should just return to Victorian-style charity and I should invite subscriptions to a Sutton Civic Lavatory Philanthropic Society?

The sword of Damacles said...

Ok Mr Scullduggery how about we publish all the attendance records to see where Cllr Pickles sits in the scheme of things.
Slander is a strong word,
You better be right or it could cost a lot of money.

simon said...

I agree Adrian and want this to be a discussion on public conveniences. I wish people would put the squabbles to one side and do that. its a bit pathetic I think.

RFK said...

Scullduggery,

This is what Paul said above, there was no mention that Cllr Pickles should have left his daughter:

'Not even aadvark is asking you to risk a child's life. You enjoy talking about allowances, yet this is what they are paid for. There are only 12 occasions that you have to be at council meetings each year and they are set a full year ahead as full governors meetings tend to be.'

My advice to Cllr Pickles would be to find a babysitter in advance! Or maybe stand down as a Councillor if he is incapable of fulfilling his duty to the residents of Belmont.

Maybe you should lay off the spin - you seem to have the worst bits of Old Tory and New Labour all in one...

Scully said...

Adrian

You might be onto something there with your radical views on discussing the issue to hand:)

I believe that you are correct in saying that the Local Authority do not have a statutory responsibility to provide such facilities. Whereas it may be an interesting starting point for providing services, this should not be the sole reason as to whether the Council should involve themselves or not otherwise several other valuable services might disappear.

I have seen some of the recommendations made in the DCLG report including SatLav (anyone who is a regular reader will know that I am easily impressed by bad puns.)

You originally referred to a tax-cutting Conservative Council and this is something that I very much aspire to. However, it is important that we do not acheive a goal such as this whilst ignoring services that people want or expect. If there is support for the retention of a facility on Sutton Green then we should look at how to retain this. I know that other public toilets are not in such demand in which case, there may be a case for getting rid of them in favour of alternative facilities nearby.

Basically, each area needs to have adequate facilities and I would be happy for them to be funded in any number of ways as long as residents didn't go short. I'm not sure if anyone could have a borough-wide toilet strategy, save for saying that savings elsewhere and a different approach to funding (do let me know if you start that society(!)) could ensure that local residents decide on the facilities that they want to see in their particular neighbourhood.

Cllr David Pickles said...

Hey let's cool it shall we? My attendance record isn't perfect, the same as everybody else. rfk obviously does not juggle a family life with politics the same as I do. EVERY councillor has missed meetings in the past for one reason or another so there is no need to cast stones or aspersions.

Only those sad enough to live and breathe politics to the detriment of everything else really have a right to comment, and if they are that sad, then perhaps they should look for something else to do in life. For me family comes first, politics second.

Scullduggery Watch said...

To be honest I am not even sure as to why Councillor Pickles should feel the need to justify himself to these cretins who have dared to criticise his non-attendance the other evening.

It just goes to show that there is an undercurrent of nastiness in the Sutton Conservatives at present that circumvents the gesture politics of the CSJ and instead instinctively attacks a man who clearly has very strong family principles to uphold.

"Cllr Pickles: I would have answered Mr Short's comment earlier this evening but have not long returned from the Belmont Local Committee which you felt less important to attend to represent your constituents there"
-Paul Scully

Well RFK, clearly Councillor Scully was criticising Councillor Pickles for having the temerity to have not attended the meeting. So was he in fact mentioning that he should have left his daughter? Or was he simply attempting to be slanderous and downright presumptuous as to the reasons for Pickles' non-attendance?

Scully too cannot have it both ways. Speaking of spin, those habits you have inherited from the Blairites still run deep, RFK. In fact the reading of certain sections of propaganda on this blog are enough to make one feel quite dizzy.

simon said...

Councillor Scully, I read about the Satlav idea in a local paper. Personally I think its a bit daft because it would rely on someone carrying a mobile phone and not everyone does. or still only uses it for phonecalls without the knowledge of trying to find toilets digitally! What about OAPs for example.

Rather than spy in the sky ideas like Satlav i agree with you when you say we need adequate public faclities in each area.But what about the threat of vandalism that surrounds public spaces like toilets?

Adrian Short said...

Sat Lav is a good idea in principle but my own experience with it was less than encouraging. Provision of good toilet facilities must come first. Having good information about those services is also desirable, but clearly pointless where there is little service to have information about.

As is the case in Sutton. The only public toilets in Sutton are those in the parks and the council doesn't so much have a single web page about toilet provision in the borough. Contrast for example Haringey Council which has fairly minimal provision but at least goes to the trouble of providing good information about what's there and also clearly explains the council's policy.

Managing vandalism and other forms of anti-social behaviour (eg. "cottaging") is complex and context-dependent. Siting, lighting, natural and electronic surveillance and enforcement are all factors. There would be little point in opening new facilities without a credible plan in place to mitigate these kinds of problems for each unit.

Designers and operators should consider a CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design) approach rather than relying entirely on law enforcement to deal with any problems. It's not possible to design-out crime but thoughtful design can make misuse less frequent and less rewarding for the perpetrators.

lisa said...

I think it is a real shame we don't see that many easily accessible public facilities in Sutton borough. I would like to see the council look at ways to improve this kind of service.

The solution won't be simple but we need a solution. If we allow this kind of service to vanish in Sutton it will be very hard to get it back.

RFK said...

'there is an undercurrent of nastiness in the Sutton Conservatives' - Scullduggery, I've been a member for years, and let me assure you, the 'undercurrent' of nastiness is something that has existed for a long time and, in fact, emanates from the very people you are supporting.

Paul Scully, Tony Shields and the rest of the Councillors' have done a great job of moving the Conservatives forward, building on the excellent work of Richard Willis to make the Conservative group the ones setting the agenda (and let us be honest, electable!).

I am, however, not going to comment further as my views are clear and it is also clear that most people on here want to have constructive debate about things that matter. So I apologise to Simon, Adrian and Paul for getting dragged into a different discussion.

Scullduggery Watch said...

Richard Willis? You mean the same chap who made pro-Apartheid statements in support of the Ian White regime in the what was formerly known as Rhodesia?

No nastiness there then.

simon said...

Lisa, your right if a service like the provision of public toilets does go so does the funding. When funding goes from the council it is then difficult to get it back. And also if a service stops it means people generaly become used to it not being there.

but I think the service should continue, nowadays we just seem to accept that if you need the loo when your out and about you have to go into a coffee shop or bar to buy a drink to use a convenience. It shouldn't be that way.
There have to be sensible savings that can be made elsewhere to fund this service and stop its decline.

Do you have any suggestions Councillor?

lisa said...

Agreed.It makes me wonder where my council tax goes. I feel as though I don't really get that much in return.

Scully said...

There have been some really important points raised that will be difficult to address when considering provision. However, they do need to be addressed.

Firstly the Council needs to be responsive to local opinion when looking at which facilities to retain. There are a number of people who feel strongly about Sutton Green, but not coming from that part of the borough, I couldn't say how representative they are of the residents in that area. Public toilets in Wrythe Rec and Cheam Park are considered by many residents in those areas to be eyesores merely attracting antisocial behaviour. True meaningful consultation is the only way to square this. Not the usual discussion with a handful of people and an obscure survey buried deep within the Council's website but going out and actively seeking people's opinions. Let's face it, that's partly what the ward councillors are for.

Turning to vandalism, Adrian is right that the impact of facilities needs to be thought through in order to reduce crime. Tucking away toilets in a dark corner of a park will be problematic. UV lightbulbs deter drug-taking but are incredibly irritating for normal people and can give a poor impression suggesting that an area is in the middle of a gangland and might then be undesirable for local residents.

Either way, any facilities need to be convenient, designed with crime-reduction in mind and also with a view that maintenance should be as easy and cost-effective as possible. There is no point spending money in a knee-jerk fashion on something that will be run-down in a few years time. This will bring the tone of the whole area down, attracting graffiti and other problems as reflected by Giuliani's "Broken-Window Syndrome"

So, what started as a light-hearted dig turns out to be a difficult convenience conumdrum. It is well worth keeping working on this as although the Council is not statutorily responsible to provide such facilites, it is a "quality of life" issue that affects many local people.

David said...

Thank heaven for MacDonalds! Most people sneak in there and order a milkshake then shoot off to the Lav!

Over the last few years, there is a marked drop in public toilet facilities, is this due to another government "adviser" who discovered that the human races' ablution habits have changed?