Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Thursday, November 04, 2010
- Ex-offenders will come along to be told not to re offend (could the money have not been used for Job Clubs and drug rehabilitation?)
- Council meetings and other community meetings will take place at the Centre (taking important income away from schools and other community facilities)
- A Life Clinic will be set up (No, I don't know either?!)
- Some School Governors' training will be held here (threatening the future of the Glastonbury Centre that has already been saved from imminent closure once)
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
I'm always really grateful for the support of friends and regular readers in my attempt to keep Sutton residents aware of what is happening in Sutton politics. I am especially glad for the support whilst I try to continue alongside a busy job in Westminster. So thank you to all who voted in the recent Total Politics Blog Awards. Your support helped me to achieve:
Monday, October 25, 2010
The headline act 'Trans Expresse' (pictured right) were a French troupe of drummers whose piece de resistance was to attach themselves to one of the biggest cranes in London and drum in middair on a giant children's mobile. This was witnessed by about 250 people on a cold, dark Friday evening. That'll be £162.50 per person to watch someone hanging around on Sutton High Street, something people can do for free on most days.
On the Saturday, an extraordinary claim by the Council that 25,000 came to see the launch. I'm not sure who counted nor if the people that just came to shop (or even just hang around) were included in that figure. Nonetheless, even allowing for the most rose-tinted of spectacles, this appears optimistic. Those that did come witnessed a giant robot, some giant painting and a giant accident when a lady in a motorised scooter drove off the edge of a raised platform on the new Trinity Square.
Meanwhile the main local paper, the Sutton Guardian, were hugged closely by the Council who made them 'Official Media Partners', thus ensuring that the headlines that followed were favourable. Fortunately, the Guardian followed up the next week by asking residents what they thought of the overall expense.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
The wooden menagerie pictured opposite has been concreted into the pavement on Sutton High Street where there was previously an open space. The metal globe sculpture has been relocated so that people avoiding the wooden fish to go to All Bar One and the Civic Office crash straight into it.
Lest we forget within the apparent benefits for this £3million splurge of your cash was the statement "Wider footways, better road crossings and less clutter will create a people-friendly zone."
I'm not sure that mocking laughter was the reaction first envisaged by the Lib Dem Council cabinet who approved this project, but that is what appears to be the first reaction of those walking by.
We are still waiting for the 'green wall' to be installed on the face of Wilkinsons, which involves a lawn to be laid vertically up the front of the shop. When challenged over such expenditure, the Lib Dem administration claim that the £3million would have just be spent in another borough. That's just not good enough. Whilst we all reevaluate the services that we receive and our own personal incomes as a result of the massive deficit created over the last few years, it is not acceptable for councillors to spend such amounts on needless projects. How many wooden fish will it take to fill one of the many empty shops on the High Street? How will a grass curtain on the front of one of the busier shops on the High Street help the hot dog seller that is being thrown off the pitch that she has held for the last 15 years? The north end of the High Street will remain largely a ghost town, with the lion's share of the investment within yards of the Civic Offices. It is a case of out of sight, out of mind for the councillors that have been embolden by their win at the last election leaving them another four years to rack up the bills for Sutton's taxpayers.
Leaving on a largely positive note, I am glad that another one of the Conservative manifesto commitments was adopted by siting recycling bins next to normal bins along the High Street. It's just a shame that the brushed metal used makes them look a decade old already.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Sutton has been picked as one of four councils to pioneer the Big Society as a Liberal Council, alongside Labour Liverpool and Conservative-run Windsor & Maidenhead and Eden Valley. Sutton have picked four projects to trial
1.give people influence for transport decisions and allowing greater local choice in schemes that suit them
Essentially this is keeping Smarter Travel Sutton going now that the £5million Transport for London funding has been spent.
2.train a new generation of community organisers
In a serendipitous move, a team of 'young advisers' will meet in the Sutton Life Centre attracting another revenue stream for the building that still has no meaningful business plan and an uncertain future. Ostensibly this is to help 'continue' to allow the Council to consult local residents. Sutton has one of the poorest records in London when residents ask whether they feel if they can influence local decision making. Promotional banners were put up along residential streets telling people that they can influence decisions last year so that the Council could help boost their survey figures and so hit a government target that attracted some funding. So they spent some taxpayers money to get some more taxpayers money. Not the most efficient way to do things.
3.give communities the power to green their neighbourhoods
This will help fund the Hackbridge project, which aspires to make this part of the Borough 'the greenest place to live in the UK'. This ambitious project has struggled for funding since its inception.
4.give people a greater say in local health provision
The Council is a major commissioner of services from the National Health Service, in particular for Adult Social Care. It is right that health provision should be moved away from the great monoliths of the Primary Care Trusts and closer to local people but I wonder if this move has been superceded by the Government's plans to scrap Primary Care Trusts, putting the power and decision-making with GPs.
You'll see a thread with the first three. Sutton's LibDems are saying that the Big Society has already started in Sutton. I say that they've found three projects that were struggling for cash and have latched onto a sugar daddy.
The Big Society is a great concept, that has not been discussed widely enough yet to be understood by many. However, this isn't it. Handing down power to the Local Authority from central government is just a first stepping stone. Free schools, giving spending decisions to GPs, giving voters the power of recall, these are all examples of handing power back down as close as is possible to where decisions are made and should be the way ahead. Instead, here in Sutton, we'll see the majority of residents shrug their shoulders at best and continue to rightly complain about why decisions are made about paving the High Street for £3m and putting up the Sutton Life Centre at £8m without them being consulted first. Sutton could and should have been bolder in putting forward ideas. Maybe, and whisper it quietly now, they could have asked residents how they would see the Big Society manifest itself in Sutton?
The next day, the snake man came all kitted out ready for anything...except one thing. He refused to step into the house because of the dogs.
Their bark was definitely not worse than the snake's bite. Is this Singapore's equivalent of Health & Safety?
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Clearing out the Civic Offices would be extreme and unneccessary but there is always scope for Councils to concentrate on what they do best and leave other activities to those who can do things better. We already have plenty of other companies and organisations running services for us in Sutton, from bin collection to another council running our communication department. We need to do more of this, market-testing the contracts on a regular basis.
However, should the Council be teaching children how not to take drugs at the Sutton Life Centre? Should the Council have a paternalistic view on Youth Services rather than allowing organisations with great track records across London the freedom to offer something more relevant to young people? Should the Council be paying people to tell us how to 'live on one planet'. The Council has a key role as a facilitator but it doesn't need to remain after making the introductions, becoming an obstacle for people to cross to get things done. Councils like Sutton need to know when to simplify and when to let go entirely. There's plenty of scope here before we do a Maywood.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
They attempted to soften the blow of taking on two more cabinet roles at £34,440 between them by trimming the amount paid to local committee chairs (We'd proposed halving this) and totally scrapping the Opposition Deputy Leader's allowance (So one Conservative takes almost as big a hit as five LibDems.) To their credit, the Conservative Opposition rightly accepted this cut as unlike the LibDems, we could not look residents in the eye whilst cutting frontline services, knowing that they are paying for increased allowances for politicians. We are residents too.
Their final sleight of hand was to include the removal of political assistants from both parties. Again, this is fine as a separate decision but somewhat duplicitous to say that they are taking a cut. The Conservative Political Assistant left at the end of their contract in May. The Liberal Democrat Assistant has now morphed into a 'neutral' council officer...looking after the Liberal Democrat administration. Political assistants came to Sutton after a previous holder of the Head of Leadership post was overtly political whilst being bound by the restrictions of being a Council Officer. Now, it'll just be swept under the carpet again.
Cllr Tony Shields made the valid point that increasing the number of cabinet members of the Council equated to 10 pay rises. If you do less work for the same money, this is an improvement in your working conditions that is equivalent to a pay rise. Ask anyone that has been in negotiations with a union.
Lord Tope in his speech at the meeting, expressed the view that it is an unedifying sight to watch politicians arguing about their own pay. I have agreed with him on this on several occasions. However, he then went on to argue that it is not just about how much money councillors get as individuals but how much they value the job as a councillor, saying if we did not value the role then how could they possibly expect anyone else to value it. So says someone that has been in politics for 30 years and has earned more than £100,000 per year from politics for several of those years until recently stepping down from one of his many roles. Meanwhile, those who have run a business know that this is a specious argument. Yes, we ought to market-test our allowances, benchmarking them against other authorities. The recent independent review of allowances in London did this. However, we need to pay a rate that is commensurate to the job at hand.
The reason that I wanted to halve allowances for Local Committee chairs is that £9,000 was far too much for the majority of them who chaired 5 meetings a year, attended two other short meetings in advance of each committee and took a few phone calls (say, one hour per week for this). Beyond this, they were taking up the slack of less-effective ward councillors who should be capable of covering ward specific issues. Lord Tope may put a value of £125 per hour on this role (the equivalent of an annual salary of £260,000) I certainly don't. This is what is allowed to happen if you get disconnected from real life and start talking about arbitrary values rather than commonsense.
This brilliant video based on Jay-Z's song 'Empire State of Mind' has been all over the news this weekend after attracting 1.2million viewers on YouTube. I especially liked the reference to the fact that Newport is twinned with Guangxi Province in China, (there's no province finer.)
With the dicy economic climate at the moment, we need to attract people and investment into Sutton and, quite frankly, we need a laugh. So, put your thinking caps on. Give us your best lyrics for the next big thing, 'Sutton State of Mind'.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
1. You must vote for your ten favourite blogs and ranks them from 1 (your favourite) to 10 (your tenth favourite).
2. Your votes must be ranked from 1 to 10. Any votes which do not have rankings will not be counted.
3. You MUST include at least FIVE blogs in your list, but please list ten if you can. If you include fewer than five, your vote will not count.
4. Email your vote to email@example.com
5. Only vote once.
6. Only blogs based in the UK, run by UK residents or based on UK politics are eligible. No blog will be excluded from voting.
7. Anonymous votes left in the comments will not count. You must give a name
8. All votes must be received by midnight on 31 July 2010. Any votes received after that date will not count.
I can't help prompt you with my favourites, apart from pointing you to the blogroll on the right hand side of this page. Happy voting and thank you.
HI SCULLYWAG. HOW'S IT FEEL TO BE PLAIN MR INSTEAD OF COUNCILLOR? DUMPED ON THE SCRAP HEAP BY YOUR NEIGHBOURS, VIA THE BALLOT BOX. YOUR CHANCE OF BEING RE-ELECTED WOULD BE BETTER IN BURMA! GOODBYE TO YOU!
NOW THERE ARE ONLY 10 TORIES LEFT ON THE COUNCIL. FOR YOUR OLD JOB. WHY NOT, PICK A NAME OUT OF A HAT AS YOU ARE ALL TARNISHED WITH THE SAME BRUSH. GOODBYE TO YOU!
CAMERON SHOULD LOOK AMONGEST THE ETON TOFFS FOR CUTS. INSTEAD OF HAMMERING THE POOR. THATS WHY YOUR NEIGHBOURS DIDN'T VOTE FOR YOU. THEY KNOW THE TORIES ONLY LOOK AFTER THE RICH. GOODBYE TO YOU!
I SEE BARNET TORY COUNCILLORS HAVE GIVEN THEMSELVES A HEFTY PAY RISE. TYPICAL OF YOUR MOB. DO AS YOUR TOLD NOT AS I DO. GOODBYE TO YOU!
(all capitals, punctuation and spelling, sic.)
I don't know why someone feels so moved to start having a pop at five o'clock in the morning, two months after the election, but it is intriguing that people feel that people who volunteer for public service are fair game for this, though I admired the poetic sign offs. At least they got it off their chest and I hope that they are happier for it.
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
The new LibDem administration took their first decision within days of resuming power. As is often the way, they got an unpopular decision through early whilst everyone was watching the coalition Goverment in Westminster come together. They have now increased their Cabinet from eight councillors to ten. This means that their chosen few collect an extra £34,440 between them in allowances. This is in stark contrast with the Conservative plans to reduce the cost of councillors by £13,000. This leaves Sutton taxpayers more than £47,000 out of pocket each year. That's about 50p from every household, two new teachers or resurfacing 1 mile of road.
Just last month, it was revealed that Sutton Council was keen to be a pilot area for the previous Government's plan to introduce bin taxes for people who they decide do not recycle enough. A second attempt to introduce fortnightly bin collection is being planned for next year. It's a shame for all of us that rather than learn some humility, the large majority acheived by the Liberal Democrats has emboldened them to ensure that residents take the brunt of the cuts. They are happier to cut jobs and services as long as they look after themselves.
Monday, May 31, 2010
It's a shame in so many ways. There are many unsuccessful Conservative council candidates that would have made brilliant contributions to the future of this Borough that will not be able to. It is clear that there are a few reluctant councillors on the Liberal Democrat side who did not expect to get elected and are now going to have to step up to the plate. I hope, as a local resident who has to live with the consequences of their decisions that they do. I know that the Conservative group remaining on the Council will work well, but it won't be easy to provide a loud enough Opposition voice with 80% of the councillors belonging to one party. It is predicted that the Local Government budget will be cut by 20-25% over the next few years. Now is a bad time to let poor decision-making go unchecked.
I have really enjoyed serving as a councillor and working as Leader of the Opposition. Sutton is fortunate to have some great council officers who keep things on track despite the politicians. I'll miss working with them and the many friends that I have made from both sides of the political divide. The kind words that I have received from all quarters mean a lot and soften the blow.
What next? I've started working with a newly-elected MP. It means a long commute until his Westminster office is sorted. I've done it before so it is largely familiar territory apart from the new terrible expenses regime. Which brings me to my last point for this post, what to do with this blog? Posting might be light for the next few weeks whilst I am travelling, but I daresay there will be plenty of Sutton news to talk about and the wider political scene. It'll morph into something soon. In the meantime, I'm still twittering away. It's easier and more immediate. Either way, I expect to be around in some shape or form, working for a better Sutton.
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
The news is all about the final stages of the closest General Election for a generation but there is another crucial decision for residents in Sutton to make this Thursday. Council elections mean that we also get to vote for our three local councillors and ultimately, who runs the Council.
After 24 years of Liberal Democrat control, the ruling party have become a tired, complacent administration, forgetting why they sought election in the first place. We need fresh thinking in Sutton. The difficult economic times will bring tough decisions and we will need strong leadership to protect key council services.
Sutton Conservatives have spent 3 years researching their 100 pledge manifesto. Our collective experience in running small businesses, employing people and working at the highest level in public services allows us to tackle this situation head-on, bringing new angles to problem solving and steering us all through difficult times.
We cannot reward years of taking residents for granted. The green garden waste charge cost us all £800,000 to reverse, the Sutton Life Centre is sucking up the equivalent of 10% of the entire annual Adult Social Services budget for the Borough to build and the repaving of Sutton High Street is costing us the same as four years' worth of road resurfacing.
I don't know about you but I'm simply not rich enough to afford the Liberal Democrats here in Sutton. Don't just hope for a better Sutton on Thursday - join me in voting for it.
Saturday, May 01, 2010
Among the hard slog across my ward and the rest of the Borough, I met Arun from Tweety Hall who interviewed me outside my house about social media and how it might affect this election. The interview looks very professional, so well done Arun.
I'm not convinced that this is anywhere near the 'Internet election' that some had hoped for, heralding new media as a game changing force. However, Twitter in particular has proved to be a fast way of spreading news and giving momentum to stories that may have been lost in a small diary column in a newspaper.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Whilst Nick Clegg is giving his best blokey approach to politics the truth is somewhat murkier. The Liberal Democrats took a £2.4m donation from Michael Brown, a man living in Majorca through a company that was registered in the UK but has never seemingly traded. Instead the money came from Brown defrauding people. The Electoral Commission inexplicably ruled that the Liberal Democrats did not need to return the stolen money because they accepted it in good faith.
In the video above, John Sopel gives Vince Cable a roasting over his claim to want to fix politics whilst holding on to stolen money. It seems that Nick Clegg is being allowed to sail through whilst Cable takes the flak on the real background of the Liberal Democrats.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
It'll be interesting to see how the Chancellors' Debate gets reported in the media with Vince Cable's foresight exposed as more Mr Magoo than the Oracle at Delphi. Andrew Neil and Stephanie Flanders grilled Cable about his flip-flops over the past couple of years showing how a third party politician with little prospect of having to deliver can appear polished without sufficient scrutiny of their track record, but will wilt under the heat of the spotlight. The quote of the interview was from Andrew Neil: "Isn't it true Mr Cable, that the biggest myth of this campaign is your reputatation."
I doubt if Adam Boulton needs too many lessons from Andrew Neill but we'll see if tonight is the day that Nick Clegg understands that you can't form a government simply by stepping away from Westminster and joining the finger wagging alongside the crowd. Even the most optimistic polls for the Liberal Democrats suggest that they will form a coalition with Labour. This either gives us 5 more years of Gordon Brown with him having come a distant third in the election or a second successive unelected Prime Minister if Brown resigns. This is hardly a good start in fixing our broken politics.
Hat Tip for video: Guido Fawkes
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Over the last few weeks, I've shared our thoughts on 11 key issues from Council Tax to grit bins. However, the Councilin its entirety is much more than that with a budget exceeding £400 million each year. We have spent a number of years, speaking to residents, collating local statistics and researching good ideas from nearby Councils. Our Manifesto is the result of this with 100 costed ideas for positive change here in Sutton. You can read it in your browser by clicking on the image above or download a copy here.
Despite the economic climate, we remain ambitious for Sutton. We all live in the Borough and so know that Sutton is a good place to live, but we also know that it could be so much better. Our collective experience in business and the public sector gives us the knowledge and confidence that to better services do not automatically follow ever-increasing budgets. We want to see a Council working smarter, using our money more effectively, directing more of it to making a difference to residents rather than meekly meeting Government targets. The 100 pledges contained within will start the reintroduction of fresh-thinking in Sutton.
Let me know what you think and join us in changing the future of Sutton.
Quality services and real value for money can, and should, go hand in hand. By making adjustments to the way Sutton Council is managed and by working with a Conservative Government, a Conservative-run Council intends to freeze council tax
for the next four years.
Our Commitment:We believe in real value for money whilst seeking to reduce the burden on taxpayers. We aim to freeze council tax over the next four years.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
In the first 100 days, a Conservative Council will begin to review the licences of troublesome pubs and clubs in the borough and if they are seen to be the catalyst for crime and antisocial behaviour, we will shut them down. We will keep under review closing times to ensure that we are not importing disorder from outside the Borough carried out by those attracted to late-night drinking in Sutton.
Our Commitment: Within the first 100 days of a Conservative Council, we will start a review of all licenced premises known to be trouble spots and if necessary, shut them down.
Last Sunday, the Politics Show on BBC featured Sutton as a Council in London pioneering Smarter Travel Sutton. This is an initiative from Transport of London, with money bid for using the support of both parties in Sutton. It fits with our philosophy of encouraging people to do the right thing rather than using the stick. It fits less well with the rigid anti-car policies of the Liberal Democrats.
My main issue with the Liberal Democrat Council is that they have run out of their own ideas, living off their legacy of past glories rather than building on it. There comes a time for nearly every political adminstration where they forget why they sought election in the first place, complacently defending their actions from an ivory tower. We have reached that place in Sutton. The political administration is buffered by an excellent team of officers running the corporate council on a day to day basis. Many of the mistakes when residents see red are as a result of political interference. Councillors should be elected to enhance the Council not hinder it.
I hope that you see with the pledges that I am posting and the full 100 pledges of the main manifesto that we want to build on the good things that the Council do, eliminating the bad including the waste within the Civic Offices and the poor decisions made without consulting residents. Sutton is a good place to live, but it can be so much better. We need some fresh thinking to make this happen. The Conservatives have the new ideas to bring positive change to Sutton.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
A Conservative administration will tackle this unsustainable statistic. Our responsibility is not to settle for a Borough that feels good about recycling, but one that is actually good at recycling. We believe people should be rewarded for doing the right thing. We believe in the carrot, not the stick. This is why we will introduce incentive-based recycling. Drawing on successful examples from elsewhere, we will offer financial rewards for residents who help the Council and help the environment.
Land fill taxes are increasing rapidly. The Council faces swingeing fines by the Government if we miss our target to reduce the amount of waste disposed of in landfill. This will fall on the taxpayer in the form of increased Council Tax, so we need to tackle the issue now. The Council saves money by diverting waste away from landfill; we will pass on savings to residents.
Our Commitment: We will develop a system of financial rewards and incentives for people who help the Council and the environment by recycling more of their waste.
In another move, the Council are looking to introduce a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) around Carshalton Beeches Station, including Salisbury Road where I live. Now, either the Council believe there is a parking issue in the area, in which case it would have been sensible to have given advanced notice to ask people to move their cars, or they don't in which case, why waste money on a consultation about a CPZ? We live in austere times and this is one small example where smarter working would give residents more for less. The process would have cost less and the gullies would have been cleaner.
You may wonder why there is a picture of a big cat here? It is a Snow Leopard, a rare animal that has never been filmed until recently. It took David Attenborough's team three years to get a glimpse. Still, it's easier to get a picture of this than it is of Sutton's solitary gully cleaner.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
He came the day after his announcement on transferable tax allowances for couples either married or in a civil partnership who pay the basic rate of tax. Philippa Stroud has had an enormous influence on our family policy and so it was fitting that the future Prime Minister followed up his announcement with a boost to Philippa's campaign to join him in getting elected in Sutton & Cheam.
A pack of journalists surrounded him from the moment he arrived. He flew through being on a tightly managed schedule but he did meet 'real' people, not just hand-picked party apparatchiks and supporters. I was with a number of families. David Cameron spent time talking to the younger children. The media were keen to speak to David Cameron; not the future PM, but the owner of David Cameron Hair on the Broadway. The two Daves had chatted about the Scottish roots of their name. Apparently Cameron the hairdresser thought Cameron the politician needed 'funkier hair'.
The atmosphere was positive and uplifting giving us all a feeling that the election campaign had really kicked off well here in Sutton.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Sutton Conservatives are committed to give soldiers, normally residents in Sutton, deployed on active service overseas a 50% council tax rebate. As well as basic financial support and cover for services that they are not using, such a commitment is symbolic in honouring the Military Covenant and acknowledging the risk and sacrifice that these men and women take on behalf of us all.
Our Commitment: We will give British soldiers and reservists deployed on active service overseas a 50% council tax rebate as a small token of our support for their commitment and sacrifice.
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
The initial cost agreed by the Liberal Democrat-led Sutton Council in September 2009 was £116,000 but by 18th March 2010, the cost had risen by almost 70%.
Liberal Democrat council papers boast that the straw café is expected to generate a rental income to the council of £6,000 per annum. It would take nearly 33 years with full time tenancy to reimburse the council’s coffers with the amount spent on the café.
Lack of affordable housing is a key issue in the London Borough of Sutton. If the £196,000 sum wasn’t spent on the straw café, Sutton Council would be able to use that money to build four new properties from scratch thereby alleviating the pressures of the housing waiting list.
Hot on the heels of the Sutton Life Cente, it's unforgiveable to waste almost £200,000 of taxpayer’s cash in this current economic climate on building a café made from bales of straw. With the chronic shortage of housing in the borough, it is inconceivable that such a large sum of money is being wasted in this way. £200,000 would pay to take four families desperately in need of permanent accommodation off the waiting list and into new purpose built affordable housing units.
Sutton’s Liberal Democrats have made their choice, its own pet projects before people. The controversial Sutton Life Centre was reported last week to be making a loss before it has even opened. This straw café is also destined for that list of failed projects. It is high time they understood that taxpayer’s money isn’t their plaything; the council are privileged to be the custodian of resident’s hard earned cash and with that privilege comes the responsibility to manage funds properly and offer real value for money. This is another sign of a tired administration taking residents for granted and forgetting why they sought election in the first place. In another introspective project, we are told that Sutton is to be a 'One Planet Borough' by 2025. I'm hoping we'll acheive something similar after the local elections on 6th May, when a Conservative Council returns to live on the same planet as Sutton's residents.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
Sutton High Street has been allowed to develop without a tight strategy. You know that the target market of the High Street has changed when Poundland gets undercut by the 99p store. It is not all about Sutton. The Borough is made up of a collection of villages each with their own characteristics, all surrounding the busy town centre. These villages each need a solid plan to make the most of their features.
A Conservative Council will not be satisfied with a strategic plan for the borough. We will aggressively market the borough to businesses and retailers, actively encouraging the businesses that residents want to see and use, to come to the Borough. We will tackle the landmark buildings that are falling into disrepair. They are the first view of the Borough that many visitors see. We will ensure that easy and affordable 'stop & shop' parking is available in our smaller High Streets to attract passing trade for smaller shops, working with local businesses to involve them in a sustainable solution to parking issues. Finally, we will use planned changes to Business Rates under a Conservative Government as a marketing tool to give incentives to businesses to relocate and send a clear signal that Sutton is open for business.
Our Commitment: We will actively approach and encourage businesses to come to Sutton and will ensure that affordable 'stop & shop' parking is available in our smaller High Streets.
Thursday, April 01, 2010
The Guardian is running an advert from a hitherto low-key Government Department, the Department of Government Waste. It begins "The Department of Government Waste was set up in 1997 with a remit to make Britain a world-leader in spending public money from inception, our strategic objective has been to maximise expenditure and minimise frugality, in order to deliver sweeping cost inefficiencies for taxpayers."
The Department has its own website and video from the Secretary of State, the ubiquitous Robin Ewe, both worth a look.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
We need to ensure that Sutton residents get the highest priority from the Council and its partners in the services that they provide. With 40% of residents commuting to London, it is important to encourage the use of local shops, businesses and services in order to ensure their long term viability.
We will explore a priority card, allowing residents discounts for some council services and more convenient access to services. Uses can include reduced parking costs, access to leisure centres and libraries and proof of residency for access to the council dump.
The card will always remain voluntary with the privacy of residents being at the forefront of our thinking. Beyond council services, we will work with local businesses to provide discounts and other offers to help boost the local economy, especially in the smaller shopping areas such as Cheam, Carshalton, Wallington and Worcester Park.
Succesful projects in Hillingdon, Camden and Kensington & Chelsea have demonstrated the benefits in both promoting local enterprises and ensuring residents get the best deal from the very services that they help pay for through their Council Tax. Oyster card and micropayment technology can be added at a later date when appropriate, affordable and reliable should residents agree.
Our Commitment: We will put residents first by giving them a priority card, placing them at the front of the queue for council services and work with local businesses to provide discounts and benefits.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Whilst Alistair Darling puts off dealing with the country's deficit until another day, the public sector are getting nervy ahead of inevitable cuts. Whilst the Labour Party are reliant on money from Unite, they are getting a kicking from the same union whilst they string along their members by being in denial about the scale of the problem and refusing to tackle it until way after the election.
Looks like the boxing analogy needs to change to a baseball one; three strikes and you're out.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
David Cameron's visit to Lewisham showed a start contrast between him and Gordon Brown. No stage management, no hand-picked audience. Instead he faced a few questions from some feisty students and journalists. Cameron was open and honest about the hard choices that the government faces, not backing away from tackling any of the questions thrown at him. We need more of this, instead of pet interviewers being rolled in to impart set messages.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
I've seen this work in other authorities. People consider their actions more carefully when they are laid open to wider scrutiny. The very act of publishing the figures is likely to help drive down costs. Looking back at a list of items of council spending from the previous year might also be an enlightening experience for residents who are paying their council tax without much idea where their money is going.
Our Commitment: We will publish all council spending over £500 on Sutton's website.
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Last night, Sutton Council’s Liberal Democrat establishment rejected our fully-costed plans to cut the council tax by nearly 2% this year, and to freeze the tax for three years in a row thereafter. In a stunning act of arrogance one longstanding Liberal Democrat councillor said it was “a privilege to pay council tax” in an embarrassing outburst.
Above, you can read the budget response given by the Conservatives’ Finance and Value for Money Spokesman, Councillor Tim Crowley as he presented a costed Alternative Budget with details to cut the council tax by 1.75% and to provide a raft of new ground-breaking proposals.
Among the new positive proposals in the Alternative Budget were plans for a rewards scheme to pay residents for the amount of waste they recycle, an Armed Forces council tax discount of 50% and a new priority card for Sutton residents providing discounts in local shops and businesses, plus preferential rates for council services such as leisure centres, parking and theatres.
The Liberal Democrats’ budget provision for a council tax freeze was described as an election ploy after years of punishing above inflation increases. But an extraordinary outburst from Wallington Liberal Democrat councillor Richard Bailey left the Council’s leadership team red-faced when he described the payment of council tax as a “privilege”.
Councillor Crowley outlined savings which included reductions in the Council’s reliance on outside consultants, streamlining communications work, making Sutton Scene magazine entirely self-funding, and a freeze in additional staff recruitment with net savings of £1.472m – the same amount needed to cut council tax by 1.75%.
Commenting Tim Crowley said: “When the Liberal Democrats voted against our Budget they voted against a cut in council tax, against increased investment in training for adult social services, against a residents’ priority card for services and shops, and against a 50% discount for British soldiers on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We know what they are against but what are they for? Our Budget provides positive plans to put more money in residents’ pockets and to roll out a range of new popular proposals. It’s a shame that the Liberal Democrats could not put residents first and politics second to vote for this forward-thinking budget.”
Monday, March 01, 2010
Despite reducing the money that we would take from taxpayers, we have found money to introduce a number of policies including an incentive-based recycling scheme, the reintroduction of 200 visitor hours for those living in Sutton's Controlled Parking Zones and a 50% Council Tax discount for residents in the Armed Forces whilst serving overseas on active duty. We have even doubled the amount put aside in case of overspend at the controversial £8.5m Sutton Life Centre since it is clear that this will be a burden to local taxpayers for sometime to come.
Getting accurate figures about how many consultants that we employ and how many vacant posts, which are budgeted for but not filled, has been incredibly difficult with different parts of the council saying different things. Our savings mainly come from 3 areas.
- We will reduce the number of consultants. All too often, someone leaves the employ of the Council to step back into the Civic the next day on an inflated fee based on a day-rate.
- We will change the approach of the Council to move away from day-rates toward specific results and time frames so that jobs cannot be spun out.
- We will remove unnecessary vacant posts from departmental budgets and freeze additional staff recruitment for two years whilst shielding primary council services from any cuts following a comprehensive staff review.
- We will reduce communication costs. We have a contract to provide communication services. We should not be paying others to duplicate effort.
- We will make Sutton Scene self-financing.
- We will reduce the overall amount of allowances that councillors take and freeze allowances across the board for one year.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
The Conservatives met in Brighton this weekend for their last gathering before the General Election. David Cameron set out some of the changes that could be expected from a Conservative Government. The essential message was a stark choice of 5 more years of Gordon Brown's tired government making things worse or David Cameron and the Conservatives with the energy, leadership and values to get the country moving.
An accompanying leaflet summarises the position:-
We can’t go on like this. Vote for change and:
1) Change the economy. Back aspiration and opportunity for all. Gordon Brown’s debt, waste and taxes are holding us back and threatening the recovery with higher interest rates. We need action now to cut the deficit, help keep mortgage rates low and get the economy moving.
2) Change society. Mend our broken society by encouraging responsibility and backing those who do the right thing. Make Britain the most family friendly country in Europe. Back the NHS, which matters more to families than anything. Reform education, with new schools - and standards and discipline for all. Tackle welfare dependency and the causes of
3) Change politics. Give people more power and control. Sort out the mess of MPs’ expenses, cut Parliament, Whitehall and the cost of politics. Make politics more local, more transparent, more accountable.
The comments section of my previous article shows the passion and anger of parents about this decision. I've been fortunate that my two children have had the school places that they wanted throughout the various stages but I well remember the worry at each stage. I can understand the frustration of the disappointed parents and the concern as to what will happen next.
I am an advocate of headteachers and governors having more individual control of their schools. Local Authorities, Government and OFSTED place a huge bureaucratic burden on schools with directives and new policies coming in at an unbelievable rate. However, this doesn't mean a free-for-all. Schools need to understand their communities and serve them, not divide them as has happened hear. The school has confirmed its desire to work with the infant school to bring them closer together over the next couple of years but that will be scant comfort for those who will have to look further afield for a place for their children.
Diana, Sue and Juliet have led a fantastic campaign, bringing so many people together. Having seen their grit and determination, I suspect the battle isn't yet over.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
We will work shoulder to shoulder with our local police by giving them extra powers to do their job properly including ‘dispersal orders’ to break up and move on intimidating gangs and groups of youths.
We will also extensively use the ‘Community Payback’ scheme to make convicted offenders repay the community for their crimes.
My ward colleague and our Spokesman for Crime and Disorder, Councillor Eric Howell says: “Every resident has the right to feel safe at home and on our streets. That’s why we want to give strong political leadership. Too much violent crime has been driven by alcohol and drugs. Our approach is simple, those that offend will be arrested.”
Our Commitment: We will use all available powers to push for real zero-tolerance policing.
Monday, February 08, 2010
Philippa Stroud and the local MP have worked with parents on a cross-party basis seeking to get the school to reverse their decision to reduce their intake to 90 from 105. The junior school works closely with Cheam Park Farm Infant School but the reduction in numbers means that children now in the infant school are not guaranteed a place and with massive pressure on school places, they may need to travel some distance to get to school in the future.
I am glad to say that the pressure opened a small chink of hope. We went into the Schools Admission Forum which had this as a topic of discussion. The Forum is only an advisory body as the school, as a foundation school, is in charge of its own admissions.The Chair of Governors told the Forum that she was calling an extraordinary meeting of the governors to consider taking in all children from the infant school who wanted a place, at least for this year. Hopefully they will see sense and go back to the higher number permanently. Smaller class sizes are all very well but if your child can't get into that school, they are not much good to you.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Here in Sutton is no different. We are slowly grinding to a point that we might be able to put a spade in the ground and build a new school. We are still waiting to buy the land from the NHS Primary Care Trust. The Epsom & St Helier NHS Trust are seeking planning permission to build a new wing on the St Helier hospital site. Sutton Housing Partnership, having acheived a two star rating from a government inspector, are looking to start a major repair plan for the social housing in the Borough. All of this is to be done using government money, £38m, £220m and £112m respectively. What's the common link, they're all competing in trying to push the projects forward to demonstrate progress before Whitehall comes a-knockin' and looking to see who's is the first budget to cut. It seems to be a super version of when roads and parks around the borough get spruced up before the end of the financial year.
The whole process remind me of an old joke when two hunters see a lion eyeballing them. One starts putting on a pair of Nikes. The other explains that they wouldn't be able to outrun a lion even with a change of shoes. The first hunter says, "That's fine. As long as I can outrun you."
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
The Liberal Democrats talk a good game on garden grabbing but have forced through permission against residents' wishes to build 21 houses on council-owned back garden land in Harcourt Road, Wallington.
There are several policies within the existing local planning framework known as the Unitary Development Policy and its successor, the no more snappily title Local Development Framework to protect our family homes which are being demolished to make way for flats and other high-density developments. We will use those powers to stop inappropriate back garden developments and to protect the suburban nature of our area.
We will also campaign for further powers through central government, asking them to stop including back gardens in their definition of brownfield sites. We have an ally to help campaign in City Hall, in the shape of Conservative Greater London Assembly Member Steve O'Connell who has said that he would "die in a ditch to protect our green spaces."
Our Commitment: We will use all policies to stop developers from relentless garden grabbing.