Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Start of Better Healthcare in Wallington

Mint House is to be extended and improved following planning approval given on the 19th December. The office block on Stanley Park Road, Wallington is owned by one of the GP partnerships practising in Shotfield Health Centre.

The building is not exactly the apogee of good design. The proposal is to add extra floors and to improve the look of the building with new materials. It is an integral part of the "Better Healthcare Closer to Home" programme, whereby Shotfield will be redeveloped to offer better, more extensive healthcare to local residents (unsurprisingly, closer to home.)

The Doctors' practices will move into Mint House whilst Shotfield is rebuilt. At the end of the development, this building will revert to office use, housing the administrative support for the new clinic. Shotfield will provide consulting rooms to enable some outpatient procedures to be carried out on site saving journeys to St Helier and Sutton Hospital. Since my doctor is located here, I'm as keen as anyone to see the improvements over the coming years. The planning application for Shotfield itself is due to be submitted in January.

Councillor Disqualified by Adjudication Panel

Last Thursday saw a hearing by the Adjudication Panel investigating the case brought against Councillor Eleanor Pinfold by the Standards Board of England following a complaint by the Monitoring Officer of Sutton Council. Eleanor was disqualified for twelve months meaning that she has to relinquish her position as councillor for Cheam ward with immediate effect.

The findings of the Independent Adjudication Panel are a serious matter and we will carefully examine ways in which lessons need to be learned. It is appropriate to await Miss Pinfold’s announcement on her right of appeal, or alternatively her intention to accept the findings as they stand, with their attendant penalty.

Further comment, opinion or actions, pending an appeal, may be considered prejudicial at a time when due process is still underway. The Conservative Group adopts the Council’s Code of Conduct as its guide to acceptable behaviour by elected members.

Members of the Conservative Group are individually and collectively bound to obey the spirit and letter of the Code of Conduct. Breaches of the Code of Conduct by members, which result in sanctions against them, are mirrored by corresponding sanctions within the Conservative Group Rules which range from reprimand, suspension or expulsion.

The Conservative Group will make no further comment on this case until it has been fully discharged by either the Independent Adjudication Panel or by the Courts following an appeal.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Local Democracy Still Has A Faint Pulse In Sutton

Earlier this month, the latest Hamptons' development planning application in Worcester Park was unanimously rejected by Sutton Council’s Development Control Committee.

Although it only affects one corner of the Borough, albeit a large corner, it is illustrative of the pressures that we face right the way across Sutton. The Hamptons is a housing development based on a New England, clapperboard design; a cross between Salem's Lot and the play area for the Wall Street Masters of the Universe, that give the development its name. It has been built on an old sewage treatment plant. The developers used the space within the site well, though forgot that people need to get in and out and required other services. Green Lane is the only access road to the estate which feeds onto the main arterial road north of Worcester Park. In rush hour residents immediately join a queue which, although it is only some 300 metres long, takes 45 minutes to pass through.

The latest application received an unprecedented response following the Council’s consultation on the developer’s proposal for a massive increase of 184 homes on the Green Lane site. Councillor Richard Butt and several residents spoke passionately and effectively against the application citing:
· The effects on the local environment.
· The safety and effectiveness of the untested wind turbines proposed for the amenity area.
· The complete absence of a realistic travel plan to address the fact that the surrounding roads are already running at over capacity according to traffic surveys.
· The need for community services on the site, especially as no new GP surgery was proposed despite the dramatic population increase in the area, at a time when it is difficult to get onto a doctor’s list. A new secondary school in Worcester Park is also required.

This was the first time that I have seen a Development Control Committee for just one item. More than one hundred residents attended and forced the Council to listen to you at last. This was a real success for local democracy.

The developers will need to decide whether they want to take the application on appeal to a Planning Inspector or to modify their application and try again. Either way, it is important to defend Worcester Park and Sutton as a whole, against poorly thought-out developments which are likely to have a significantly adverse effect on the local community.

An Almighty QoQ Up

Much has been made of the woes at the Ministry of Defence occasionally run by part-timer Des Browne MP (he is also Minister for Scotland). At a time when our Armed Forces are spread very thinly, the top brass have made their feelings known about the lack of basic equipment for frontline troops.

The unit which came up with the MoD's more advanced weapon was sold in 2003 to US venture capitalists Carlyle, enriching some senior civil servants. Sir John Chisholm, Chief Executive of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) invested £100,000 in the buyout. The organisation was renamed QinetiQ, Sir John saw a profit of £25,000,000. Unsurprisingly, the Public Accounts Committee have been asking questions. This led to an amazing exchange as reported in Private Eye which says much about the current state of Defence spending in this country:-

Richard Bacon MP (Con, S. Norfolk): "Mr Wooley, are you a chartered accountant?"
Trevor Woolley (MoD): "I am not."
Bacon: "Are you a qualified financial person of any kind? Do you have any financial qualifications?"
Woolley: "I do not have financial qualifications."
Bacon: "What is your job?"
Woolley: "I am the finance director of the Ministry of Defence."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Boris is Appealing you to let us know how you would change the future of Sutton. Rather than having a load of Conservative politicians talk amongst ourselves, we thought that it might be a good idea to do what is increasingly a novel idea for politicians; listen to the residents that we are elected to serve. Come to and join us in shaping the future of Sutton.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Follow The Money

Shadow Finance Spokesman, Terry Faulds is leading a sixth group looking into Council finances and constitution. Imaginatively, I have entitled this the Finance and Constitutional Working Group.

This group stands outside the rest of the process insofar as there are no external members. However we still want to hear from you. The group will look at spending implications raised by the other groups. It will also look at ways of improving decision-making within the Local Authority ensuring that people have a real say in council business whilst reducing the red tape that often delays action.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Best Care: Our Quality of Life Policy Group

Continuing this series of introductions, I've turned to our group that will look at healthcare and social services in Sutton. The future of healthcare in the Borough is arguably the biggest political issue at the moment. Despite recent announcements from the PCT, we can be no more confident that we will have suitable facilities in St Helier in the coming years.

This 75 year old building is well past its useful date but is still seeing more facilities being jammed in as other hospitals shrink.The Royal Marsden is internationally renowned and wishes to expand, yet it is hesitant until the future of the Sutton Hospital site is known.

Our social services have been found wanting for a number of years. However, Dr Adi Cooper and her team of officers have brought in a welcome injection of new thought and enthusiasm, something we will be keen to continue to develop. The old idiom states that it is a measure of a civilised society, how they treat their elderly and infirm. We need to ensure that we have the skills to hand to offer the services that are required.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Planning, Transport and Housing

This Policy Group has the largest remit of all. It will also be looking at some of the most visible aspects of Council. Much of Sutton, especially in the smaller outlying villages has real individual character. We must protect this, reducing the number of back gardens lost to opportunistic development. We do have to balance this with meeting the demand for affordable housing. Whilst the building continues, so does the increase in traffic. People will not get out of their cars with no viable alternative. We will tackle transport to keep Sutton moving. Finally, Cllr. Barry Russell summarises the problems surrounding social housing perfectly. We need an inordinate amount of money to bring our housing stock up to anywhere near a decent standard. Whilst repairs are going on we also need to protect the people that have taken advantage of the Right to Buy from disproportionate maintenance charges.

This group seeks to find answers to some massive challenges that need a new approach. Everyone has a view on one or all of these issues. Go to to share yours.

Out of the Shadows

I was pleased to be able to meet a group of residents who had participated in a new initiative started by Beau Fadahunsi of the Sutton Race Equality Council and encouraged by Dennis Bartholomew on behalf of Sutton Council. They had all shadowed a councillor over a few weeks, attending meetings both in Council and also with residents. This gave them a real sense of the role that councillors play in the community and the relevance of the Council in residents' everyday lives.

This meeting came at the end of the process when certificates were awarded to each participant. In our discussion, there was definitely a sense that they would take something away about politics. They were all more likely to vote as a result. Some were interested in becoming school governors, joining political parties and one may even stand as a councillor next time. All those meetings and we still didn't put her off. Must be doing something right I suppose.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Tackling Law & Order

Sutton is one of the safer boroughs in London. However, we are not content with being compared to Tower Hamlets and Croydon, we want to ensure that we are policed in the best way possible. There is a real fear of crime that needs to be addressed so that people can feel safe on the High Streets, in parks and whilst using public transport.

We are lucky to have two retired policemen helping us with our enquiries and a sitting magistrate. It is not enough to look at policing in isolation. This will not lead to a comprehensive approach. It is crucial that we investigate youth provision and education to see what part we can play in keeping young people away from crime and antisocial behaviour in the first place. Philippa Stroud will be sharing her considerable experience in this field to enable us to come up with some ideas that will capture the imagination of young people rather than ticking a box for a national government target.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Now That's What I Call A Cock-Up 25,000,000. Double-CD Set

It's been confirmed that my family's details are on the CDs that are sitting in a dank corner of the office in Newcastle or being used by Doctor Evil to fund his latest attack on civilisation as we know it, depending on who you listen to. I've removed any identifying data from the copy of the letter here but it doesn't make for comforting reading.
I've been the victim of identity theft before, when someone pinched my post from a flat that I was refurbishing, changed the utility bills into their name and obtained a credit card, taking £1000 from the card company. They were very good, speedily correcting the details on file and adding an extra level of security to my credit reference to avoid a repeat. The police, however, were not so helpful. I was told that despite the fact that I had a payslip and other evidence from the fraudster, they weren't interested in using it to investigate further. I hadn't lost out, so it was up to the card company. Remember that, if someone attempts to rob or murder you but doesn't succeed.
25m names in the wild and a jumpy government make for a very different response on this occasion. Police have finished poring over the HMRC offices in Newcastle and they are now appealing to staff to check "in case the package or discs have turned up." Other examples of data security lapses are coming out of the woodwork including details of Benefit claimants sent to the Dept. of Work & Pensions. Seven million of these letters have been sent out. Just look at the details that have been exposed. Our names and dates of birth, including those of the children, our address, NI numbers and bank details. It is unsurprising that there are thousands of people trying to change their bank accounts.

Mystic Miliband

Ten months ago, we all thought that David Miliband had made a massive Freudian slip when appearing on BBC Question Time. In fact, time has shown him to be the greatest crystal ball gazer since Mystic Meg.

He told the bemused audience "I predict that when I come back on this programme in six months or a year's time, people will be saying 'wouldn't it be great to have that Blair back because we can't stand that Gordon Brown'."

Having just received an apology from HM Revenue & Customs and watched the unedifying debacle of the Government trying to wriggle out of their latest donor scandal, I certainly agree with the second half of his quote.

(Click on the photo for the full effect.)

Environment & Community Sustainability

Sorry, the title of this policy group is a bit of a mouthful but it looks at two increasingly important areas of Sutton life. Whether you are an eco-warrior, a so-called "climate change denier" or somewhere in between, there can be little doubt that we have a fundamental responsibility to look after our Borough and thus contribute to the wider protection of the planet. We will look at ways to build on the work already in train here in Sutton.

The most pressing issue that this group will investigate is that of waste management. Recycling targets have been pushed for a number of years. Whitehall is now moving us to landfill targets, minimising the rubbish that is put in the ground. Incredibly stiff penalties are attached to this move with each local authority facing fines of up to £150 for every extra tonne buried, over and above the landfill tax that is rapidly increasing. So, apart from being the right thing to do, we are under massive financial pressure to tackle this problem as a matter of urgency. This will only work if residents continue to be happy to do their bit. We need to find ways that work that are not too onerous.

The second half of the title refers to communities in all of its senses. Whilst many concentrate on Sutton High Street, outlying areas such as Wallington High Street are allowed to become relative ghost towns. We need some joined up thinking to ensure that each geographic area serves its residents well. Also we will look to ensure that everyone can play their part in their community. We will offer fresh support to the voluntary sector to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society can become involved in community life and decision making.

As usual, have a look at for more details on this and all of the policy groups.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Introducing the Education & Training Policy Group

Cllr Peter Wallis points out some of the issues that we need to investigate over the coming year. Yes, we are a top performing education authority, but we have significant pressures that we need to deal with. The five selective schools (and the partially selective Greenshaw) provide the spine for some of the best results in the country. We need to ensure that every child has the opportunity for the very best education. We will look at the role of the Education Authority to ensure that it is performing the role that is required by schools and parents, whilst not involving itself in areas that are best dealt with elsewhere.

Special Educational Needs provision is a particularly acute problem with a major increase in the number of statements for Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We need more provision within the Borough. At the moment, the Authority is spending a considerable amount of money for private school provision in Kent, Surrey and Hampshire and the budget for transporting children to these schools is overspent by hundreds of thousands of pounds.

This group will also seek innovative ways to protect and enhance our library services and adult learning. Education does not have to stop at 21. Whether you are a teacher, parent or student, let us have your views by going to

Monday, December 03, 2007

Join Us In Changing The Future Of Sutton

Sutton Conservatives have launched a new initiative on an unprecedented scale in local government, to help deliver real change in Sutton with your issues and concerns addressed as a priority. Councils can never stop listening, but all too often in Sutton consultation means an obscure questionnaire or a small advert in Sutton Scene, attracting a handful of responses.

We want to hear from you. We have set up five policy groups consisting of councillors and people from outside politics entirely who have been invited, not because of their political opinions, but because of their expertise and interest in a particular topic. Our Law & Order policy group has two retired policemen and a sitting Magistrate to help advise and lead the inquiry into the fear of crime in the Borough and how we can acheive the very best policing of our High Streets and parks.

You can get involved by post, email or phone through me or your Conservative ward councillor. The main place for discussion will be via our website, where you can see what we are doing and have your say.

Meanwhile, each group will be examining the main topics of discussion within their remit. They will speak to those people actually providing the service, look at initiatives in Councils and other organisations around London and the UK and see what innovation we can bring back to improve the lives of residents here in Sutton. The one thing that will be at the forefront of all of this is value for money. As we approach the annual round of cuts to be announced by the Council, we are only too aware of getting the most out of every pound of taxpayers' money spent.

The five groups are:-
Education & Training
Environment & Community Sustainability
Law & Order
Planning, Transport & Housing
Quality of Life
These are underpinned by a Finance & Constitution working group looking at acheiving real value for money and streamlining decision making in the Local Authority.

This project can only work with your involvement. I hope that you will feel able to give your positive alternatives to shape the Borough that you want to live in. It really doesn't matter what your politics are or if you are even vaguely interested in party politics. We all live in the same Borough, use the same services and pay the same Council Tax. We are all in this together, so please, go to and join us in changing the future of Sutton.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Smash But No Grab

In another of those "You couldn't make it up" events, Sutton Council refused to move this car saying that it wasn't parked dangerously.

Cllr Tony Shields came across this car blocking the pavement near Devonshire Primary School when taking his son on Friday morning. He reported it immediately on his mobile phone. Later that afternoon when he saw that it was still there, he called again.

He was told that if it was still there in two weeks, it would be moved. When this was challenged by Tony, the response came, "how would you feel if your motor was towed away suddenly?"

Tony has challenged LibDem lead councillor Colin Hall over this saying, ""I thought it was outrageous enough that this crashed car was left for an entire working day - let alone two weeks! Primary school pupils had to walk around this wreck into the road, risking life and limb, in order to get to and from school.

"I demand this answer from Councillor Hall: how can this kind of base incompetence exist in a department under his watch? It is a fundamental duty of this Council. Failure to deliver is totally unacceptable."

Update (2nd December, 9.34pm): The Police stepped in and removed the vehicle after some pushing by Cllr Shields.