Friday, September 25, 2009

Cells Crowded in Sutton Police Station

Sutton Police Station's police cells were overflowing last Sunday, not with criminals, but with curious residents who came along to the open day organised by new Borough Commander, Guy Ferguson. An estimated 1800 visitors had a rare opportunity to see the custody suite and the CCTV system as well as exhibitions which held the interest of all ages.

Police dogs, horses and vintage cars were on display. An 'angry man' - in reality a policeman prepared to brave the unseasonal warm weather in the biggest padded suit I've ever seen - was the subject of a demonstration in subduing offenders. Children queued up to batter him with soft truncheons. Hendon training, this was not. Meanwhile, the Parks team, the Licensing team and others were around to talk about all issues, building relationships and passing on serious messages about crime awareness and prevention. From meaning to just pop in for a short time, I was enthralled for a couple of hours in seeing everything that was on display and meeting police officers who had all given up their Sunday on a voluntary basis to make the day a real success.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Carshalton Association for the Elderly

The Indian Summer that we have enjoyed over the last few weeks has greatly benefited a few local charities and voluntary organisations. The week before last saw sunny weather encouraging local Carshalton people out to support the annual Charter Fair in The Square, outside Carshalton Library.

This weekend it was the turn of the Carshalton Association for the Elderly or Cafe for short. They held a fete in the grounds of the Ecology Centre with a few stalls, tea and cakes and a jazz band. The unseasonal sunny day helped draw the crowds out allowing Cafe to raise more than £500 on the day.

Paul Kelly, Moira Butt and I went along. I was pleased to win one of the games, pushing Tom Brake MP into third place. Let's hope that is the start of a new trend.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fasting for Ramadan

Last Thursday Cllr Barry Russell and I observed a fast for Ramadan this year following Mayor Boris Johnson’s suggestion earlier this month. We then broke the fast at 7.31pm on Thursday 10th September with the ‘Iftar’ meal as a guest of the Sutton Islamic Centre in Oakhill Road, Sutton, Surrey.

Our friend and colleague Cllr Misdaq Zaidi was an excellent host, spending time explaining the roots of Islam and the significance of Ramadan. We broke their fast with water and dates as per Islamic tradition, alongside a dozen regular worshippers at the Centre.

The London Borough of Sutton has a Muslim population numbering roughly 5000. I found it very illuminating to be welcomed to the Iftar meal to break the fast. It is abundantly clear that the strong Muslim principles of community, hospitality and duty are enduring values and as conservatives we share them. I am very grateful for the copies of The Qur’an presented to us by Misdaq.

It is important that Sutton’s Muslim community feel even more engaged and involved in our public life to promote these common values. Fasting was a real challenge but one that I enjoyed. Watching colleagues eating lunch wasn't the greatest hardship; having a dry mouth for the day was. Some may dismiss this as a stunt. Others, more worryingly, may baulk against this. This misses the point. The Conservative group want to represent everyone. It is important to understand people to be able to represent them. Spending one day in their shoes gave me more understanding than a raft of 'community engagement' events.

Monday, September 07, 2009

UK Tax Handbook Continues To Bloat

The Daily Telegraph reports that the UK now has the longest tax code in the world. Tolley's, the handbook of tax legislation is now an astonishing 11,520 pages long. This is 10% longer than last year and more than double the number of pages from 12 years ago, when Gordon Brown started spinning his web of complexity.

It is hardly surprising that the Government cannot keep a handle of tax avoidance and that they cannot maximise the amount of revenue within the existing framework. The more complicated you make anything, the more people will distrust your motives and seek to get around the rules. Although it may be counter-intuitive to some, it has been known for 700 years or so that simpler rules and lower tax rates will lead to increased revenue for the Treasury. I'm not sure how much scope George Osborne will have to change the latter in the short term, but I hope he addresses the former and starts to simplify the unwieldy legislation in one of his first budgets.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

State of Sutton: A Borough of Contradictions

The London Borough of Sutton is spending £437 million of taxpayers’ money in 2009-10. Like the proverbial iceberg, many of the services are not always visible. Many services affect everyone, others affect the most vulnerable in our society. Either way, they matter, contributing to the quality of life of every resident in Sutton.

The State of Sutton: A Borough of Contradictions is one part of a once in a generation opportunity to conduct a thorough investigation of the relationship between Sutton Council, other service providers and residents. Conservative councillors in Sutton have listened to experts, politicians and residents. This is the only way to achieve the balance between a range of priorities while ensuring no-one is left behind. All but one preconceived idea was kept out of the investigation; one of the few rules that we are not prepared to be diverted from is that we must always achieve the very best value for money, making the most of every penny of tax and council income spent in the Borough.

As the Borough changes, we want residents to help manage that process ensuring that they continue to live in a place that represents their views and aspirations and one that reflects their concerns. This report is the first step in renewing the connection between politicians and residents. It is the first move in starting the debate about the changes needed in Sutton.

I'll be going through each area in turn over the next few days. In the meantime, you can read our report by clicking on the picture on the right or the link above. As ever, let me know what you think. It's your borough too.