A SERIOUS ATTACK ON THE POOR: HOW HOUSING POLICIES ARE AFFECTING OUR RESIDENTS

Social housing is under threat

Social housing is under threat

At the meeting of the Council on 7 March Richard drew attention to the serious implications of current Government housing policies, particularly as they affect the poor, expanding on the points he made to the meeting of the Council’s Strategy and Resources Committee on 8 February.

He drew attention to:

  • the increase in homelessness in the Borough, up 20% in the last year due to in part to changes in the benefit system
  • Government policy to reduce housing benefit to social tenants
  • the extension of the “right to buy” which will reduce the stock of social housing to rent
  • the requirement on Councils to sell “high value” Council homes, which will reduce the stock of social housing to rent
  • the fact that the policy on “starter homes” is an absolute con, as it will replace an obligation on those building new housing to provide affordable homes to rent by an obligation to provide a few units, that could cost up to £450 000, for sale at a discount to those wealthy enough to buy their own home. Thus it replaces a requirement that helps poor people living in rented accommodation by one that helps wealth people who can afford to buy a property
  • “All of this will affect our social tenants, but also private tenants who are living in squalid and overcrowded accommodation in this Borough, who will not be able to obtain social housing due to the reduction in the stock. The loss of social housing to rent on such a scale is a crisis. The loss of social housing to rent on such a scale is an attack on the poor. The loss of social housing to rent on such a scale is a very serious consequence of the policies of the current Government.”

GETTING YOUR FIRST CHOICE OF SECONDARY SCHOOL

Overton Grange school

Overton Grange school

Every borough in London is struggling to keep place with the increasing demand for school places. Sutton has done well to cope with the increased demand for primary school places. The bulge is now working its way through to secondary schools. Hence the need for Overton Grange school (the only secondary school in our Ward) to expand, and the need for a new school.

Sutton is doing well. It has the third-highest first-preference rate for secondary school places in London, with almost 80 per cent of local families receiving their first choice of school for their child – well above the London average of 68.52 per cent.

Sutton has once again achieved one of the best rates overall, with the percentage of families receiving one of their top-three preferences increasing to 94.5 per cent – up 1.5 per cent from 2015 and almost six percentage points above the London average of 88.64 per cent.

Parents in the borough have been told which secondary schools have made offers of places for their children for the September 2016 intake.

In September, these children will start at our secondary schools, officially ranked as being among the best in England for teaching and exam results. In 2015, the proportion of Sutton students scoring 5 or more A* to C grades including English and Maths was 76.9 per cent, well above the 2014 national average of 53.4 per cent. Across the borough, 83.5 per cent of pupils achieved five or more GCSEs.

Almost two-thirds (65.1 per cent) of students across the borough achieved the highest A-Level A*, A and B grades in 2015 and the percentage of Sutton students achieving an A-Level pass grade (A* to E) increased to 99.7 per cent from 98.5 per cent in 2014. This was well above the UK average.

 

A NEW LOCAL PLAN FOR SUTTON

devonshire google

On 18 February Richard and Trish attended the launch event for the consultation exercise on the new local plan for Sutton, held in the Europa Gallery in Sutton’s central library. They were both members of the small task group that drafted the main document being consulted on.

The consultation encompasses three documents:

  • The local plan “Issues and Preferred Options” document, to which Trish and Richard contributed, which revises the Sutton local plan last adopted in 2012
  • The draft Masterplan for Sutton Town Centre
  • The draft Masterplan for the London Cancer Hub, the area previously known as the Sutton hospital site, where the proposals include expansion of the world-renowned Institute of Cancer Research and a proposed new secondary school to cater for the expansion in the number of children in Sutton seeking secondary school places.

The plan aims to preserve the green, suburban feel of Sutton which our residents so like, with our many street trees, while meeting the aspiration to have enough homes in Sutton for our children to grow up here. In planning for new homes, there will be an emphasis on preserving the more suburban areas of the borough, and insisting on good quality design.

The plan takes account of the need to meet the increasing number of children the Borough has to find school places for, while not compromising on the excellent standard of Sutton schools. The plan looks at transport links, and preserves the route of the proposed Tramlink, for which we are seeking funding. The plan is being consulted on and we hope many residents will respond. Following the consultation, further documents will be prepared later in the year, and there will be further consultation. The weblink address to respond to the consultation is

www.sutton.gov.uk/sutton2031

GOOD WORK AT SHERBORNE COURT

The new bin store enclosure

The new bin store enclosure

Just before Christmas many residents in Cavendish Road complained to Richard and Trish about the state of the bin store at the front of Sherborne Court in Cavendish Road. This led to discussions with the managing agents and Sutton’s waste department. The main problem was that with the open bin area at the front there was a lot of fly tipping, so much so that the bins could not be accessed by the rubbish removal team to clear the area up. In the end the managing agents paid for a special rubbish removal operation and agreed to enclose the bin store.

The enclosure, pictured, is not a work of great design quality will certainly mean the rubbish is not visible to the road and local residents.

HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY

The Mayor, Muhammad Sadiq, addressed the event

The Mayor, Muhammad Sadiq, addressed the event

On 27 January we supported Holocaust Memorial Day. There was a moving event, a meeting and discussion held at Sutton Boys’ Grammar school. There were interesting presentations on the Holocaust and some discussion of other acts of genocide, including those in Rwanda, Bosnia and Dafur.

TOP MARKS FOR SUTTON SOUTH POLICE

police station

SUTTON SOUTH WARD POLICE/COMMUNITY PANEL MEETING 5 JANUARY 2016

Trish and Richard attended their first local meeting of 2016 when they attended the consultative panel for Sutton South Ward set up by the police, on January 5, in Christchurch hall.

The police had reported at the previous meeting that that there had been a further fall in the total number of crimes in our Ward in the most recent three month period, a fall of 1.5% compared to the period a year previously. The downward trend has continued and data were presented to the meeting to show that the number of residential and non-residential burglaries in the last four months are down compared to the figures for the corresponding period in 2014. Sutton South Ward continues to have one of the lowest crime rates in London. It will be difficult to reduce it further.

Priorities remain tackling burglary, anti-social behaviour and speeding. The police are continuing to conduct some evening and night patrols with the objective of tackling rough sleepers in certain blocks of flats.

The threat to the future of PCSOs (Police Community Support Officers, the backbone of our neighbourhood policing approach) remains a matter of concern.

An exercise to test public satisfaction with the police has found that satisfaction rates are highest in Sutton, of all London boroughs.

SATISFACTION WITH THE COUNCIL HAS INCREASED, SURVEY SHOWS

Richard and Trish are always seeking new ways to consult local people

Richard and Trish are always seeking new ways to consult local people

Almost 8 in 10 people feel Sutton Council is doing a good job and 9 in 10 are satisfied with their local area as a place to live, an independent borough-wide survey has found.

The data comes from an independent bi-annual survey commissioned by the council to analyse public perception of the borough. This year the survey was carried out by M.E.L Research, which surveyed 1,022 residents aged 16+ with quotas set on age, gender and work status to match the profile of the population of Sutton.

The percentage of respondents satisfied with how the council runs services in the borough has risen two percentage points in the past two years to 78 per cent. The satisfaction rate for the local area as a place to live has been maintained at 90 per cent compared to 2013.

This is despite the council having to save £74m from its annual budget between 2011 and 2019 due to unprecedented Government cuts to its annual budget.

So far the council has saved £43m from its annual budget, with the majority of the saving (£32m) being made without frontline services being affected. However the remaining £31m will result in services being changed, reduced and in some cases stopped which is likely to have an effect on future surveys.

The council launched the Sutton’s Future campaign in July 2013 to involve residents in making the savings. So far there have been more than 10,000 responses.

The campaign looks to have had an effect with a rise in:

·        the percentage of people saying they feel informed about how council tax is spent (48 per cent in 2013 to 65 per cent in 2015)

·        the percentage of people feel informed about Council services and benefits (49 per cent in 2013 to 64 per cent in 2015)

·        the percentage of people that they feel they can influence council-run services (44 per cent in 2013 to 51 per cent in 2015)
Other survey results included:

·        Most residents (98 per cent) feel safe walking alone during the day in their neighbourhood. After dark, three-quarters (75 per cent) feel sale, compared with 71 per cent in 2013. The level of worry for burglary and antisocial behaviour has continued to decrease since 2011 (48 per cent and 41 per cent respectively to 37 per cent and 35 per cent in 2015).

·        More than half of residents want to know what the Council is doing but do not wish to be involved beyond that, with only 13 per cent wanting to be more involved or have a say in what the council is doing. Of those who want to be more involved or have a say, just over a third (34 per cent) would be willing to complete a questionnaire, 25 per cent to submit their views through an online channel and 28 per cent to attend a public meeting arranged by Sutton Council.

·        The satisfaction level with Sutton Council has risen consistently since 2009, when just under three-quarters (72 per cent) of residents thought the council was doing a good job. Just over six in 10 (61 per cent) agree that the council provides value for money, up from 54 per cent in 2013.

·        Residents on the whole appear to be reasonably satisfied with Council services. Since 2013, resident satisfaction has increased for services such as borough theatres, the arts and events, historic places and museums, playgrounds, sport and swimming facilities, and pavement and road maintenance.

·        However, resident satisfaction has decreased in recycling, down from 85 per cent in 2013 to 77 per cent in 2015, street cleaning from 76 per cent in 2013 to 69 per cent in 2015, refuse collection from 88 per cent in 2013 to 82 per cent in 2015, and parks and open spaces, from 87 per cent in 2013 to 82 per cent in 2015.

·        But resident satisfaction remained the same in 2013 and 2015 in parking (46 per cent), libraries (73 per cent) and street lighting (81 per cent).

THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT

band stretch xmas 15

For the third year in a row Richard helped arrange for one of his bands, the Phoenix Concert Band, to come to the Friends’ Meeting House in Cedar Road on the second Saturday in December to play a concert of Christmas tunes and Christmas carols. See if you can see Richard, who plays trumpet with the band, in one of the the photos. The Phoenix Concert Band comprises sections of flutes, clarinets, saxes, brass and percussion, about 30 members when all turn up. There is a tea for senior citizens every second Saturday of the month at the Friends’ Meeting House. Richard’s band is already booked to play a concert there on 11 June 2016.

band xmas 15[ Richard is second from left in the picture above. ]

SUTTON COUNCIL FREE GRIT SCHEME AGAIN A GREAT SUCCESS

PREPARE FOR THE SNOW

PREPARE FOR THE SNOW

Sutton Council again provided free grit to its residents this winter, to be ready for what could be cold and snowy conditions.
The free grit was available at several locations on 5  and 12 December, at B and Q in Sutton and at the Kimpton Park Way reuse and recycle centre. There was again a massive takeup.

And Sutton’s car parks were crowded over the weekends before Christmas due to the Council repeating its policy of not charging for using its car parks over weekends in the run-up to Christmas.

The Gibson Road multi-story car park in Sutton town centre and several other car parks across the Borough, including Carshalton High Street, Kingsway Cheam, and Wallington Library, offered free parking.

Spectacular lights last year but now the crane is gone

Spectacular lights last year but now the crane is gone