Lib Dem Watch


School Place Crisis Update


Sutton's school place crisis is worsening, with the date for the first site being delayed until 2019.

Almost 2 years ago, in November 2014, Cllr Mathys, Chair of the Education Committee, made the following statement to Council in response to a public question from Paul Scully MP:

"Thank you Mr Mayor. Good evening Mr Scully, thank you for your question. As you may well be aware land is at a premium in Sutton and so there are few sites which could contain a large secondary school. The Council has conducted a thorough search throughout the borough and considered many possibilities. But after looking at the amount of land required and planning restrictions, two sites have been offered to the Children and Young People Learning Directorate. You may be aware that by 2019 we shall need two new secondary schools, each with eight forms of entry. So I am very pleased this evening to be able to confirm that as stated in our press release today, that the two sites being considered are firstly in Belmont at the former Sutton Hospital site, and secondly at the all weather pitch adjacent to the tennis centre which is land situated in Rose Hill. We will be conducting feasibility studies on both these sites and by the end of January 2015 we hope to be in a position to say which of these sites will be ready first, and whichever one that is we will proceed with plans for a school to be opened in 2017 and the other site will be used for the second school in 2019."

That is a very clear commitment in principle, nearly two years ago. The accompanying press release referred to these two sites as the "preferred sites".

So where is the school in Belmont, which was supposed to open in September 2017? It's now expected in February 2019, and still we have not obtained planning permission or put a spade in the ground. Providence granted us a whole extra year, as the places now aren't needed until September 2018, yet still we've contrived to be 6 months behind. This means that in 2 years, we have made 6 months of progress.

And where is the school in Rose Hill, which was supposed to open in September 2019? It was torpedoed by the administration in September 2015. One year on from that shameful debacle we are still rubbing our chins and thoughtfully pondering alternatives. How nice.

From the Belmont site acquisition in March 2015 we are now projecting 4 years to the school opening in February 2019, assuming zero delays in planning or construction. Optimistically assuming the Council agrees the second secondary school site before Christmas and acquire land in spring 2017: we can't realistically assume it will open earlier than spring 2021. This is a problem, given the pupil place planning numbers for year 7 entry in September 2019 and September 2020.

In September 2018 we will be 163 school places short (the Belmont school would provide 180 places). Then in September 2019 we're 334 places short, and then September 2020 we're 454 places short. If the Council opened a 10 forms of entry school on Rose Hill, that would be an extra 300 places per year, meaning they've enough places for 2020. Instead, in a highly political move, they pulled the rug out from under the feet of the Greenshaw Learning Trust.

Now, even if the first school is delivered on time in early 2019, we will go into September 2019 short by about 154 places, and then we go into September 2020 short by 274 places, even with the first new school open. Literally hundreds of children will have no school to go to. They will have to be accomodated in "part completed" school builds, i.e. on a building site. Or they will have to be accomodated in "temporary accommodation", i.e. portable cabins.

Children taking the big step-up to Secondary School will be stuck without a proper building to learn in until well into their school career.

The real disappointment is that this crisis was avoidable if the Council followed through on its statement in November 2014 and got on with building a school at Rose Hill.


Lib Dems Impose Six Bins On Residents

The Lib Dem Council has voted to change the way that your rubbish is collected. This will mean moving to brown bin collections every two weeks, rather than the current weekly one.

The new system involves up to six separate bins, with various different combinations being collected in any given week.

People will understand there needs to be a balance between recycling, cost and practicality, but residents were not given a proper consultation of their views. Do you think you will have room for all the bins? Do mums with small children who are still in nappies have concerns about the brown bins only being collected once a fortnight?

Lib Dems in Kingston - where the system has been in use since February - describe it as “chaotic” and “rubbish”, and say residents are “furious”. The new contract will start in April 2017.


Another 'Rubbish' Idea From The Lib Dems

The Lib Dem Council is proposing to change the way that your rubbish is collected. This will mean moving to brown bin collections every two weeks, rather than the current weekly one.

The new system involves up to six separate bins, with various different combinations being collected in any given week.

Melissa Pearce, the Conservative Candidate for the Carshalton Central By-Election, said: “For most of us, this is the council’s most visible service. People will understand there needs to be a balance between recycling, cost and practicality so I would like to hear your views because the Lib Dems are refusing to ask your opinion. Do you think you will have room for all the bins? Do mums with small children who are still in nappies have concerns about the brown bins only being collected once a fortnight?"

Lib Dems in Kingston - where the system has been in use since February - describe it as “chaotic” and “rubbish”, and say residents are “furious”. The new contract will start in April 2017 – get in touch and let us know your views before it’s too late.


Calls For Lead Lib Dem Councillor For Child Safeguarding To Resign Over Ellie Butler Comments

We are calling on Councillor Wendy Mathys, Chair of the Children, Family and Education Committee, to resign after comments she made in an email after the tragic murder of Ellie Butler.

Sutton Council was exonerated in this absolutely horrible case and yet Wendy Mathys, the lead member for looking after Ellie, the murdered child, says 'Hopefully media interest may be slightly diverted with other events this week'.

Cllr Tim Crowley, leader of the Conservative Group on Sutton Council, said: "The courts have concluded that this innocent child was murdered. The evil man responsible has been sentenced. Sutton Council officers were right to object strongly to Ellie Butler being reunited with her father but they were hamstrung by the social services team being excluded from Ellie’s life by the judgment of Mrs Justice Hogg.


"Therefore it is extraordinary and appalling that the councillor in charge of child safeguarding, Wendy Mathys, has said she hopes this week's referendum will divert attention away from this awful case. A child has died, the council acted correctly, yet Cllr Mathys appears to be more concerned with the council’s and her own political reputation. I am calling for her immediate resignation."


Lib Dems' Agreed £18m Property Deal With Company Linked To Global Corruption Investigation

Sutton's Lib Dem Council agreed an £18m deal to buy property in Reading from an investment company linked to a global corruption investigation, and only dropped out after Conservative Councillors fought for you against this deal.

As reported in the Sutton Guardian, the Lib Dems were not only ready to spend £18m of your money from Sutton in Reading, with the implication that there was nothing they could invest £18m into here in Sutton, but the retail park they were about to purchase was from a company linked to Unaoil, which is currently under investigation for corrpution in many countries.

If this was not bad enough, the retail park's chief tenant was Matalan, which is currently in special measures with their bank, rendering it a potentially unsafe investment.

Councillor Tim Crowley, the Leader of the Conservative Group on Sutton Council, said: "We have to tread very carefully when investing outside of the borough. Before the whole issue of transparency and who would be the ultimate beneficiary of the £18 million came to light, I was concerned that this deal would send out the wrong signals to those who may have been thinking of investing in Sutton. We have council officers and lead members standing up beating the drum via the vehicle of Opportunity Sutton when secretly they are investing £18 million in another borough. It was a crass and irresponsible thing to do and one which could have seriously damaged the borough’s reputation.”


Lib Dem Council Leader should apologise over 'crass and irrespobsible' email

Councillor Ruth Dombey, the Lib Dem leader of Sutton Council is facing calls to publicly apologise by members of the public, Conservative councillors and even the National Landlords Association after sending a scaremongering email, leaving many residents in fear that they were about to be evicted from their homes. 

Cllr Dombey sent an email that reached an estimated 15,000+ people headed with the words “eviction notice” in red capital letters and “notice to vacate your property”, in an attempt to scare residents into believing their spin on the Housing and Planning Bill currently moving through Parliament. 

Chris Norris, head of policy, public affairs and research at the National Landlords Association, said: “This is a shockingly crass and irresponsible email for any elected official to send, let alone a council leader. Tenants will have been given heart palpitations reading the subject line and banner, only to then find it is a party political stunt. Councillor Dombey should publicly apologise for what we believe is a grave lack of judgement from such a senior local figure.”

Matthew Maxwell Scott, Chairman of Sutton Conservatives and Conservative Parliamentary Spokesperson for Carshalton & Wallington, said: "Cllr Dombey has acted in a way that is unbecoming to a public servant and calls into question her ability to hold such an office as Leader of a London Borough Council. It is interesting that her colleagues, including Mr Brake, have remained silent when residents are screaming out for an apology. He should join calls for Cllr Dombey to apologise."


Cllr Tim Crowley, the Leader of the Conservative Group on Sutton Council, said: "The silence from the Lib Dem camp other than to boast how many signatures they got on their petition, demonstrates they only care about collecting people's data and not their views. No doubt the resident's who signed this petition will receive unsolicited emails from them in no time. Some residents would have been incredibly frightened receiving such an email. Cllr Dombey needs to issue a public apology, and I can assure residents that we will be pushing for this and looking for an assurance that these type of scare tactics will not be used in the future."


Lib Dems give themselves a tick for envrionmental failures

Sutton Council have recently released a report on One Planet Sutton and its progress in meeting environmental targets, and the Lib Dems are trying to tell residents that they have met most of the targets. 

However, the truth is that the targets marked as ‘met’ in the report have changed since 2013, and some have been reduced. 

Perhaps the most embarrassing part of this report, was the lack of progress made in improving the environmental sustainability of the Council's own offices, such as Council staff using greener transport to get to work and recycling more. For example, they have a target to reduce council water usage. They failed this because water consumption in council office increased by a third, yet they awarded themselves a success! How come? Because the closure of Cheam baths meant that overall council water usage did temporarily fall. I don’t think you could call that a sustainable approach! 

Conservative Councillor for Beddington South, Neil Garratt, said: “In theory One Planet Sutton is a good idea: cutting waste, cutting energy and water usage, recycling more, and so on. These are all sensible ideas. Unfortunately, it’s become a farce. Behind the glossy report, Sutton has made little or no progress on its key targets since 2009. So it has become an annual exercise in dressing up their failure to kid people that they’re succeeding. 

They should spend the money on actually improving their performance, not on misleading reports to cover up for failure.”

This report also presents a bizarre scoring system. A single green tick actually means a target wasn’t met and isn’t on target. If a target is met or on track, it gets a double tick. It means anyone scanning down the performance table will see lots of green ticks and think that things are going well, not realising that single green ticks indicate failure.

Picture: Lib Dem Council leader in front of a pile of rubbish she thought was sensible to dump on Sutton High Street as a PR stunt.


Lib Dems approve development in Cheam Park

The Lib Dems on Sutton Council have approved a nursey to be built in Cheam Park, despite the 325 signature strong petition presented by local residents. 

Plenty of residents turned up to the Council meeting last night to make their voices heard, but they were ignored by the Lib Dem councillors, including the last remaining Lib Dem councillor in Cheam, Mrs Burstow.

It is interesting that they'll build a nursery in Cheam Park when residents do not want it, but won't build a school on Rosehill when residents not only want it, but need it.

Conservative Councillor for Cheam, Holly Ramsey, said: "I don’t want to come across as anti-development, I don’t have an issue with more nurseries in the borough, but my issue is this development was pushed through but no solution has been offered about the traffic and congestion that is going to happen.

"Everybody wants to see the stables block developed and utilised because it is in a terrible state, a nursery is probably the best solution for it but that cannot be at the expense of the residents."

Join the Conservatives today to stop the Lib Dems making more decisions like this. 


Lib Dems must come clean on support for 463 bus route change

Recent comments made by Transport for London (TfL) have suggested that the Lib Dems originally supported the changes to the 463 bus route.

The Lib Dems on Sutton Council stated in a press release that they opposed the proposed changes to the 463 bus route, which would see it diverted off Croydon Road in Wallington, to serve Demense Road, Montagu Gardens and Maldon Road instead. This would mean regular buses going down quieter and smaller residents roads, and would also prevent passengers being able to disembark at Wallington Green to change for the X26 express service. 

But Peter Bradley, head of consultation delivery at TfL, said: "The original wording on the bus route 463 consultation page on our website which stated that Sutton Council supported the proposal was approved by the council and then subsequently removed at the council’s request."

The original wording of the consultation was also confirmed by Steve O'Connell, your Conservative London Assembly Member for Croydon & Sutton. 

The Lib Dems need to come clean on whether or not they supported this change originally. It is looking suspiciously like they have been opportunistic and changed their minds when they saw the amount of objection to the change. 


Lib Dem school place crisis worsens

There is a dramatic shortage of school places in Sutton, with all existing schools bursting at capacity and many Sutton pupils unable to find a school place in Sutton at primary or secondary school. 

Sutton's ruling Lib Dem council was called out last year after the Sutton Guardian reported on the appaling crisis of school places in Sutton, but instead of attempting to solve the issue, the Lib Dems merely bleated that "this issue is being managed very well in Sutton" (source: Tom Brake MP website). 

As the new school year begins, the scale of the crisis is growing, with more Sutton parents than ever being unable to get a school place in Sutton for their child. 

The Lib Dems spent £8 million of taxpayers money purchasing part of the old Sutton Hospital site with a view to building a school there, only to find out that the site is a massive 80% too small for a school. Their decision was backed by the Party's (then) two Lib Dem MPs, Tom Brake and Paul Burstow:

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) preferred a much more appropriate site at Rosehill park's all-weather pitches for the new free school to be run by Greenshaw Learning Trust, which is both big enough and in the middle of the very area of Sutton where there is the increased demand for school places. 

However, the Lib Dems are now playing politics with the education of our children and have said that they won't support an application to build a school on the Rosehill site. In an attempt to save face over the financial catastrophe of purchasing the old Sutton Hospital site, the Lib Dems now insist that they will continue to push for a new school there, despite the site being way too small. Even the Lib Dem's last remaining MP in London has u-turned on his support for the Belmont site and called for his Lib Dem colleagues to explain themselves.

To add insult to injury, Greenshaw Learning Trust and the EFA, who had been negotiating terms with Sutton Council in good faith as recently as Tuesday, only found out about Sutton Council's decision after being forwarded a press release by Conservative Education Spokesperson, Councillor Jane Pascoe. 

Paul Scully, Conservative MP for Sutton and Cheam, said, "Parents of 9 year-old children in Sutton must be so frustrated to see Sutton's Liberal Democrat councillors playing politics with their children's education. Persisting with jamming a school onto the Belmont site that every study has said is 1/5th of the required size, is foolhardy in the extreme. Unless the council see sense, there is a real possibility that they will not meet their own target to open a new school by September 2017 which will lead to children without a secondary school place in the borough.


"The council has got ahead of itself, spending £8m of taxpayers' money on a poor choice of site and now need to save face. They have stated that 'it might be necessary to consider developing the [Rosehill] site in the future if a further school is needed', pushing the decision beyond the next council election rather than sticking to their environmental line and dismissing the site entirely."

Lib Dems let down residents in vote on incinerator inquiry

In a Sutton Council Standards Committee on 16th September 2015, Lib Dem councillors voted against holding an inquiry into donations given by Viridor, the company constructing the constroversial Beddington incinerator, to a Lib Dem-linked church.

Former Lib Dem councillor, and current Lib Dem party chairman, John Drage, has a long friendship with Viridor boss Colin Drummond in 2012. His wife and Lib Dem election agent, Elaine, is godmother to Mr Drummond’s son Alex, and is a volunteer at Holy Trinity church in Wallington. The church has hosted Lib Dem action days and councillor surgeries.

Conservative Councillors on the Standards Committee voted in favour of the inquiry. Conservative councillor for Sutton South, Tony Shields, who voted in favour of the inquiry, said: "An innocent person would take every opportunity to prove his innocence, while a guilty man would not."

Councillor Tim Crowley, leader of the Conservative group on Sutton Council said, “The construction of the Beddington incinerator is something that all residents and opposition councillors opposed. The Lib Dem decision to grant planning permission to Viridor to build it shocked and angered residents across Sutton.

“It has now emerged that the Lib Dems election agents, the Drages, who have given thousands of pounds to the Lib Dems themselves, have a personal relationship with the Chief Executive of Viridor. 

“If that wasn’t enough, it also turns out that Viridor have donated a huge £275,000 to a church which is closely linked with the Lib Dems, and Viridor executives have also attended and donated at Lib Dem fundraisers. 

“It is essential that these donations be robustly investigated, as residents deserve to know the truth behind whether Viridor would have been granted planning permission if those donations had not been made.”

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Lib Dems strike another blow to motorists.

We all know the Lib Dems hate motorists for daring to pollute the roads with their evil cars. Now the last remainin Lib Dem in London wants to bring an extra surcharge on motorists daring to drive deisel cars through the Capital. 

Announcing the policy on Twitter, Tom Brake tweeted that, "Liberal Democrats are campaigning to introduce a modest levy on diesel vehicles. Find out more here:"

This 'modest' levy would mean cars are just too expensive to drive for most people.

We can only be thankful that London is not likely to elect a Lib Dem mayor...ever.


Lib Dem funding priorities leave many with raised eyebrows.

In a new blow to the council taxpayer, the Lib Dems have added to their list of vanity projects that they are prepared to support rather than essential services.

The latest lucky project is a 'film website' hosting films made about and in the London Borough of Sutton. The justification for this is to make Sutton a 'filming destination' and to benefit from London's success as a film location. Providing a green garden waste collection service is just going to have to wait. 

Keep an eye out for George Clooney strolling down your High Street any day now. 


Lib Dems promote Healthy allowing a beer advert to be filmed in Beddington Park!

A press release has recently been issued informing all of the success of the council in attracting Carlsberg to the borough to film an advertisement for the new football season. Subsequently we have been told by our press department that a donation of £150 was made to the Grange to help with Summer activities.

What many are asking is, is it appropriate to be promoting alcohol consumption using the borough and how does this fit in with the Lib Dems 'health strategy'? Considering in the words of the headline of the press release that is was a "Big budget Carlsberg advert" why was the donation to hire a park so low at £150.00? What economic benefits came to the borough or will come to the borough from this and how will they be measured? How much did film fixer receive for coordinating the use of the site? Why are the quotes inaccurate? Peter Schmeichel appeared only as a civilian/pedestrian not as a "footballer in action" so nobody could have seen how skillful a player he was. Anyway he was a goalkeeper. This is all made up which is unethical-the quotes therefore cant be genuine. Did Sutton Council receive any payment? If so how much? How much would it normally cost to hire that sized piece of park?

One thing is clear, in Lib Dem Sutton, promoting healthy living alongside advertising beer apparently are not incompatible. 


Lib Dems seek money from the bring back a trading stall that they closed down!

You may have read our story that Opportunity Sutton is seeking to crowdsource money from the public to pay to bring back the Rosehill traders market. Whilst we support bringing it back and hope it is successful, it is interesting that the Lib Dems seem so keen to bring back this once thriving St Helier market that they thought scruffy and did all they could to shut it down. Their 'revamp' and widening of the pavements just about saw off the majority of traders. 


Lib Dem failings at Roundshaw leave taxpayer with large clean-up bill.

Earlier this month travellers moved into Roundshaw Open Space, growing in numbers to more than 300, before finally leaving on July 8th. 

However, they have caused permanent damage to security features at the site and left piles of waste, which is going to cost the taxpayer an estimated £25,000 to clear-up.

The Lib Dems have been criticised by Sutton Council's own legal adviser for not securing this site sooner, which would have prevented this large number of travellers from moving in. 

Cllr Neil Garratt, the Conservative Councillor for Beddington South, which covers Roundshaw, said in a statement; "The Lib Dems were way too slow in tackling this problem. They should have secured the site as soon as the first travellers moved in, which would have prevented anymore from arriving. The situation was spiralling out of control and we can only be thankful that they decided to leave before it got any worse. We could have avoided these huge costs." 

Travellers have now moved into Corbet Close in Hackbridge, and we are pressuring the Lib Dems to move faster in getting this site secure and getting them removed. We don't need another Roundshaw fiasco in Hackbridge.


Lib Dems attempt to save face over Hackbridge disaster

As reported by the Sutton Guardian, Sutton’s Lib Dem Council has finally backed down on its experimental road scheme in Hackbridge: proper crossings will be installed this year! This could not have happened without the hard work of local road safety campaigners like Tracey Collins and Michael Parsons, or the efforts of Sutton’s Conservatives who challenged the Lib Dems over the obvious safety problems. 

Two years ago, the consultation found that people weren’t sure the courtesy crossings would work. As soon as they went in last year, everyone pointed out that they didn’t work. Lib Dems ignored these concerns and pressed on with their plan. Conservatives listened and last November we forced a vote at full Council to bring back Hackbridge’s crossings. Sadly, Lib Dems put politics before safety and voted against.

They have now been forced to U-turn by a safety audit, which confirmed what everyone has been saying for more than a year – Hackbridge should have its zebra crossings back. 

To save face, Sutton’s Lib Dems are now looking for scapegoats. They are blaming the national Shared Space standards, forgetting that Lib Dems launched them in the coalition government. They are blaming Transport for London, forgetting Sutton Lib Dems’ enthusiasm for the scheme. If Lib Dems really were concerned about the courtesy crossings, why did they block the vote to reinstate proper crossings, back in November? 

We are pleased that despite Sutton Lib Dems, later this year you will again be able to cross the road safely in Hackbridge. In the meantime, if we can be of any assistance, please feel free to get in touch.