Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tragic Stabbing in Carshalton

I awoke to some horrific news this morning. Carshalton does not often hit the national news, let alone a breaking story. Two children aged 5 and 4 had died with a 6 month old seriously injured. A man and a woman in their thirties had been arrested at the scene.

If you haven't seen the news already, you can read the story on the Sutton Guardian website or on the BBC. I won't add to any speculation. The police are doing their job and journalists are doorstepping neighbours in Park Lane and Rotherfield Road. The truth will out.

What can I add? Precious little. Just a thought for the poor innocent children that have taken the full force of a twisted turn of events. Whatever can bring someone to the point that they can take a life is beyond me. A life that I have brought into this world; impossible.

When my son half-heard the headline of a stabbing in Carshalton he picked up the copy of last night's Evening Standard with a hard hitting front page about knife crime, sighing that it had been all for nothing. However, this type of tragic story cannot be legislated for and is difficult if not impossible to predict. It is a rarity that just happened to come to Carshalton for one mad moment. Knife crime as a whole still needs our urgent attention.

We will be asking whether the family were known to social services and so if staff were aware of any potential for problems. Apparently they had not long moved in. We will take stock, not jump to any conclusions but breathe a heavy sigh tonight.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Green Light For Boris Changes

Boris has started his Mayoral term at a canter. With sweeping changes in City Hall and initiatives to make good his election pledges of making our streets and transport safer and City Hall more accountable, he has built up quite a head of steam.

One announcement that was made today gathered little attention but will be welcomed by many. According to the Evening Standard, traffic lights are going to be rephased across the capital to ease congestion on busy roads. More cars will be allowed through on each green phase. Although this will mean a slightly longer wait for pedestrians, it will also allow them a longer crossing time which will improve safety.

Boris said, "I do want to make sure that traffic flows more smoothly in London. I think we can do that without any prejudice to the rights and needs of pedestrians or vulnerable road-users.

"I've discovered an appalling legacy of neglect of London's traffic lights and it turns out that, contrary to the so-called green credentials of the last admin, there are no fewer than 727 traffic lights that do not conform to Department for Transport guidelines.

"Poor pedestrians are now being forced to sprint across. I'm assured we can not only rectify the gross neglect of traffic lights but we can also allow cars to flow more smoothly through them."

Fortunately the picture is of a sculpture in Canary Wharf so he won't have to spend anytime untangling that pretty mess. I hope one of his first lights for consideration is at the Windsor Castle junction in Carshalton. That way, they might be able to introduce a pedestrian phase without the ridiculous proposals of banning various manoeuvres, thus sending cars rat-running up Carshalton Park Road and Salisbury Road.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Crewe's Missile Scores Direct Hit

Last night's by-election in Crewe & Nantwich sent several messages to Gordon Brown and the Labour Party. A massive 17.6% swing to the Conservatives saw Edward Timpson beat Tamsin Dunwoody to her late mother's seat.

There is a clear sense that it is time for change. Some of the decisions made by Gordon Brown as Chancellor are coming home to roost. The decision to abolish the 10% tax band was taken last year. The regulatory system that missed Northern Rock was put in place sometime ago. The electorate did not fall for the concession made by Alistair Darling, borrowing £2.7bn to fund a tax cut for those affected by the 10% change. They railed against the "Tory Toff" negative campaigning when Labour played the man not the ball. Surely after so long in power, they should be able to set out their track record - OK, maybe not.

The LibDems fell back as well. The infamous by-election specialists were squeezed with their vote share going down. People swapped straight from Labour to Conservatives, showing that the Tories have a fantastic base to build on as people are interested in listening to them and discovering more about their policies rather than simply protesting about an unpopular Prime Minister and Government.

Enough crowing. I am pleased to see that David Cameron and CCHQ are determined to see this as a stepping stone and not go overboard. People in Crewe and Nantwich have put their trust into the Conservatives. It is up to us to repay that faith and show that they have made the right decision. We will continue to work to earn votes in Sutton and the country rather than rely on other's misfortunes and fate. Plenty of work still to be done.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Demystifying Sutton Council

The 54 Councillors in Sutton represent over 150,000 people, yet I suspect very few know what we do on a day to day basis in their name. Sutton Scene is a corporate magazine concentrating on Council services, the local newspapers report a few political stories. The time that councillors spend in the Civic Offices gets less coverage but needs to be done. The LibDems, as the ruling group make decisions. We scrutinise them and question those decisions. Much of the work is not adversarial, instead concentrating on the general running of the Council. This doesn't make it less important.

You'll see in the video above, a brief run through of what happens in a typical Council meeting. Most decisions are made elsewhere, so we have been looking at ways of making Full Council meetings more relevant, more interesting and more effective...We're still looking.

You can help. There are plenty of residents that grumble over their afternoon tea when reading the local papers. You can submit a question to the council by emailing (Change AT for @; I'm trying to avoid spam). This is then answered at the Council meeting and you will have the opportunity to have a follow-up question. There is half an hour for this and it is very underused. You see, if no-one asks questions, they think that they must be doing OK, so there's a challenge for you. Have a look at the Council web page for dates of Full Council and other meetings. I look forward to seeing you in the Public Gallery. If you can't sleep at night you can even listen to us witter on via streaming audio on the same website.

The BBC won't be beating a path to my door to present any politics programmes and a ray of light affected Brendan Hudson's piece, but I hope that my amateur effort gives you some idea about what we get up to on a Monday night.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Just A Bit Of Fun

It looks as though the two local MPs and the Leader of the Council have been looking at the same ward breakdown of the London election results that I have.

The results that are the best indicator of the local situation in Sutton are those for the London Assembly candidate. The Conservatives won fourteen of the eighteen wards in the Borough and won the popular vote in both Parliamentary constituencies. If this was reflected in the General and Local elections, the three LibDem politicians would have failed in their quest to "Save Our Seats".

These breakdowns are only indicative of voting trends and it is difficult to translate this to national and local politics but they are useful. The variations between elections can be seen by the ballot where people had to tick which party they supported. Before postal votes were redistributed, the Conservatives won every single ward in the Borough. It would be rather Mugabe-esque to believe that this was anything else but, as Peter Snow would have said, "Just a bit of fun."

We've got a lot of work to continue over the next couple of years to clearly demonstrate the ever decreasing returns that residents in Sutton get from their LibDem politicians. What may have started as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed administration in the 1980s has become a tired one, with few new ideas coming from the elected leaders themselves.

We will also be setting out our positive vision for Sutton. Negative politics may be effective in getting people elected. It has no place in running a Borough. Instead only innovation, inspiration and hard work will see better value for money and the very best services. Don't forget you can help us with this by going to and letting us know what you think.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Class War Desperation In Crewe

Earlier this year we saw the LibDems fight a by-election in Cheam with a negative campaign and no positive policies despite having controlled the Borough for 22 years. Something similar is happening in Crewe & Nantwich where the Conservatives are hoping for their first by-election victory in a Labour-held seat since Mitcham & Morden in 1982. The News of the World is publishing a poll tomorrow which shows the Tories in a 8% lead.

Government Ministers have all been up to Crewe with one notable exception, Gordon Brown. The Labour candidate has repeatedly refused to say whether she sees the PM as an asset or liability to her campaign. Labour activists are hiding their leaflets from reporters. The newsletters concentrate on asking whether Edward Timpson is posh or not, belying Gordon Brown's repeated claims that he is just getting on with the job in leading a successful Government. It's all getting a little embarrassing now.

Edward Timpson does live in an expensive house. His father built up the successful Timpson chain of shoe repairers. Crewe is in Cheshire, home to the WAG. Timpson's place is not Beckingham Palace. He was brought up along with 80 foster children that his parents looked after at various points in their lives. Timpson was brought up around the area.

Tamsin Dunwoody has dropped the second half of her double barreled name 'Dunwoody-Kneafsey' in order to maximise name recognition in trying to win her late mother's seat. Her grandmother had a seat in the House of Lords and her grandfather was a Party grandee. So much for abolishing hereditary succession. She also lives in a rather large house, except hers is 125 miles away in South Wales. The desperate regression to class warfare was capped when that great prole Quentin Davies rolled into town. I can't imagine having a Quentin and a Tamsin on my doorstep explaining how simply awful it would be to have toffs in charge. It would be funny if Gordon wasn't still clinging on by his fingertips at all of our expense.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

LibDems On The Spot

There were several interesting questions asked at the Full Council meeting on Monday:-

Philippa Stroud asked about housing after the resignation of the Chief Executive and Chairman of Sutton Housing Partnership. This was after the failure of the organisation to get the two star rating which would have secured funding to bring our houses up to scratch. We have the second worst housing in the capital and need some £120m to bring it up to a basic standard of decency. Philippa highlighted a case where a single mother was living with her four children in one room.

Philippa also asked why more than 90 girls could not find secondary school places in Sutton. We know how many children enter primary school each year so we should be able to predict secondary school demand with a reasonable level of accuracy. The LibDem lead councillor shrugged this off with the comment that "sometimes the figures don't add up." Although thirty places have been made available in Carshalton Girls, sixty children will be left high and dry for sometime to come. Cllr Tim Crowley asked what advice should be given to parents such as one sat in the audience whose daughter had no place for next September. The resident was left disappointed when no answer was forthcoming.

Carshalton resident Paul Kelly, asked what the council was doing to support small businesses and shops in the outlying parts of the Borough like Worcester Park and whether cutting parking charges and increasing spaces would help. He had noticed an increase of boarded up shops and noted that 450 small business had closed in the Borough over the last year. Lynn Gleeson, lead councillor for Economic Development explained that because more women were obliged to work to pay their mortgages, they did not shop in the same way. Whereas it is true to say that shopping patterns are not what they were, Cllr Gleeson failed to explain what the Council was doing to reinvigorate our High Streets in the face of such changes. You may not be surprised to hear that she did not believe that parking charges were too high.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Have They Gone Yet?

Another full Council meeting last night. The questions threw up some interesting exchanges but I'll concentrate on the main business for this post.

We discussed two corporate documents, the Sutton Strategy and the Sutton Plan. The former is agreed by the Council and partner organisations such as the NHS Primary Care Trust and the Police. The latter is supposed to translate the LibDem manifesto into actions.

This is all well and good in theory and much of this was required to tick another box for national government in order to get funding but they both highlighted one fact. The documents explained what the Borough was like now and targets listing what they would like to do but there was precious little about how to do any of it. The section detailing implementation ran to a single page with even an Ethnic & Diversity Statement running to five. It clearly demonstrated the fact that the Liberal Democrats have become an unneccesary adjunct to the council; the Borough's appendix if you will, with officers pushing on with running the show despite the LibDems rather than because of them.

The officers should be there running the day to day administration but the lead councillors are there to give political leadership, setting out their vision and keeping officers on the path to delivering this vision. The case in Sutton is that the majority party have run out of steam, hanging onto the coat-tails of the officers and the council's partners.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Busy Boris

Boris has certainly hit the ground running in his first week as Mayor. He has made some bold appointments with Ray Lewis becoming Deputy Mayor for Young People. Ray is the inspirational head of Eastside Young Leaders' Academy with a fantastic track record of providing real change for young people in Hackney.

Patience Wheatcroft, former Business Editor of the Times will lead a 60-day audit of City Hall. She will be helped by Stephen Greenhalgh amongst others. As leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Stephen has already been incisive in his approach to local government finances, cutting council tax in his borough by 3% each year for the past two years.

Boris has met with Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York to draw comparisons and with Council leaders from across the city further demonstrating his desire to work closely with those people that know their part of London best. If you are going to build transatlantic relations, Bloomberg is the better bet than Hugo Chavez.

His first action was to ban alcohol from the underground and buses. In his campaign, Boris concentrated heavily on making public transport safer. This is an important first step and it is good to see such quick action despite Bob Crow's typically blinkered approach. I'm sure that if Boris had not done this and assaults on staff went up, the call for strikes would have been deafening.

Finally according to Iain Dale comes my personal favourite. Boris showed the basic common sense that has been sorely lacking for eight years. I'll leave it to Iain to tell the story:-

"When Boris sat down at his desk on Monday morning he was presented with a huge press cuttings file, which included loads of articles from the Morning Star. 'Why on earth are you including these?' he asked one of his staff. 'Well,' said the staff member, 'Mayor Livingstone was keen to support the Morning Star'. 'In what way?' asked Boris.It transpired that the GLA Building had a subscription of forty - yes, forty - copies of the Morning Star delivered every day. Boris's first action as Mayor was to cancel all forty subscriptions to the lefty rag, thereby halving its circulation with one stroke of the mayoral pen. That's what I call the mark of a real Conservative - annoy the leftists and save the taxpayer £10,000 a year at the same time."

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

K.O. for the P.O.

The Post Office have revealed their decision on the future of branches in London. All five that were earmarked for closure in the Borough are to be axed, leaving hundreds of people inconvenienced and having to suffer longer journeys and longer queues.
One is here in Carshalton, opposite the BP garage on Carshalton Road. BP are putting an M&S Simply Food branch on their site. Without postal services, I fear that the shop will find it hard to compete with the might of M&S and BP. Another nail in the coffin of diversity.
Ken Andrew, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Carshalton & Wallington did a terrific job in raising awareness of the threat and collected a petition with well over 3000 signatures on it. Despite best efforts, the decision had pretty well been made with only 7 branches reprieved in London out of 171.

Money For Old Rope

Under rules agreed by the Labour Government earlier this year, Ken Livingstone stands to get a £69,000 payoff after losing the election, at least £30,000 of which will be tax-free. You may think that this is a small price to pay to be free of the man.

Departing Assembly Members will receive around £25,000. There is a weak case to be made for this when someone has lost an election. However, there is no case when someone steps down at the election as a planned retirement such as LibDem members Graham Tope and Sally Hamwee, both members of the House of Lords. They did not stand for election yet qualify for a payout. I didn't stand for election either, where do I queue up for my handout? If I find out, I'll let you know.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Red Tape In Ivory Towers

Two stories that I have read today and
then thrown away (having completed a risk assessment, applied for a waste licence with the commensurate fee and written to the Secretary of State in triplicate):-
From the Sunday Telegraph:
Havant council spent 34p on a letter demanding payment of a 1p tax bill. Guy Shepperd, 36, of Horndean, Hants, was told he could pay by instalments.
From Private Eye:
Citywest Homes, the "arm's length" company which manages Westminster council's housing stock, is inviting oldies to get in touch if they need any help with a variety of tasks, including "filling in forms". To avail themselves of the service all the tenants have to do is, er, fill in a form!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Boris Brings Hope To London

The last few days have been fantastic news for the country with Gordon Brown getting the clearest message possible that he should start packing his bags and finding a publisher for his memoirs. The culmination of the elections was the news that Boris had become Mayor of London sending that other blinkered Labour politician into retirement on a wave of expectation for real change in London.

Boris has a great vision for London, however he knows that he couldn't and shouldn't do everything on his own. He has constantly told me and other councillors that we know our areas best and should be trusted. I am happy to have a Mayor to take a strategic view but who will not micromanage every borough to attempt to force through unpopular policies. He has already met his campaign pledge to increase the number of police on the streets, albeit just the one, Brian Paddick.

Outer London residents came out in huge numbers to vote for a change and I am determined to remind Boris at every opportunity that we need his attention in Sutton. Crime, transport and housing problems don't stop at the end of the Victoria Line. The London Plan for development requires urgent attention to drastically reduce backgarden development. Antisocial Behaviour on our streets, parks and buses needs battling.

Steve O'Connell, new Assembly Member for Sutton & Croydon had a fantastic result too, doubling the Conservative majority to a whopping 42,000. He has worked hard to prove that he wants to work closely with people in our Borough rather than looking at Sutton as a poor relation to the largest Borough in the City. He deserves his success but we will keep him on his toes as a shopping list of Sutton priorities wends its way up to City Hall. The vote count at Olympia yesterday was interminably boring, lasting 14 hours or so. We were considering a wager to see which result came first, the Zimbabwe Presidential election or London. The counters including many Sutton Council officers worked effectively, the Spanish machinery less so. I'll leave you to work jokes about Spanish Working Practices into the equation.

The full results in Sutton & Croydon can be seen at the London Elects website, a few of the main points follow:-

Boris Johnson 48.36%
Ken Livingstone 28.34%
Brian Paddick 11.77%

Constituency vote
Steve O'Connell (C) 43.34%
Shafi Khan (Lab) 19.16%
Abigail Lock (LD) 18.32%

This resulted in an increase in Conservative vote of 6.55% and a decrease in the LibDem vote of 1.80% compared to 2004. Nick Clegg described this as 'counfounding expectations' and 'regaining momentum'. Having seen local LibDem councillors peversely celebrating their loss of the Cheam by-election by holding up the margin of defeat on scraps of paper at the last council meeting the myopia has lost its shock value now. UKIP's share of the vote decreased by more than 5% and were worringly beaten by the BNP in two of the three ballots. There is no doubt who has the momentum to bring change now, we must continue to work hard to show that the Conservatives can bring positive change. No party matches everyone's wishlist, but Gordon Brown and the local LibDem machinery will be offering forlorn prayers for a splintered vote to give them a glimmer of hope to return to power at the next election. I'll be working hard with my Conservative colleagues to offer a vision locally that offers people in Sutton a positive reason to vote Conservative to add to the increasing desire to get rid of the incumbents.
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