GO SUTTON BUS WITHDRAWN: JOIN OUR CAMPAIGN TO KEEP THE BUS

The coronavirus crisis has led to the suspension of the Go Sutton bus service, as demand for the service has collapsed due to the restrictions on leaving your home and on travelling. We will petition to have it restored once the crisis is over.

The Go Sutton bus trial attracted massive attention. Information is at http://www.gosutton.co.uk

The year-long trial for this on-demand bus service had positive feedback and the service was extended to cover the area shown on the map. You could register online and phone when you want to use the bus. The cost was £3.50 (plus additional passengers at £2) but free if you have a Freedom Pass, like Richard.

The bus service was innovative, on-demand scheme which picked up
residents close to where they lived and took them to any destination
across most parts of the borough. The scheme started in 2019
and was due to end in May 2020 but Liberal Democrats in Sutton petitioned for the service to become permanent.
Residents told us, especially elderly people or those with learning difficulties, that the bus scheme proved to be a lifeline for them.
That’s why Liberal Democrat councillors set up a petition calling
on the Mayor of London and Transport for London to make the
scheme permanent.You can still sign the petition by clicking here .
Apart from helping people to get around the borough,  the scheme helped us to improve air quality, reduce congestion and cut down on the
number of individual car journeys. Please sign the petition.

EXCITING NEW STREET ART AT SUTTON STATION

We have supported the proposal for this artwork to be painted on the bridge at Sutton station
The railway bridge at Sutton station is to be brightened up with a painting by the renowned artist Lionel Stanhope, whose art has brightened up many railway stations. We have been pleased to support this project which we think will be an attractive feature adding interest to the area.The façade of the railway bridge, as you come out of Sutton station and turn left, is currently a patchwork of various colours. The Council first tried to interest Network Rail in making the bridge look more attractive, over four years ago, during the “Sutton Gateway” project, which involved re-paving the area around the station and the installation of the clock opposite Sutton station. The artwork will be mainly funded by Network Rail, with a small contribution from Sutton Council.
The parapet of the bridge will require extensive cleaning and preparation before the painting can commence. Lionel Stanhope has produced a design (see picture above) which will incorporate the word “Sutton” in the typeface traditionally used by Southern railway, and a depiction of the historic Sutton locomotive. The locomotive “Sutton” came into the possession of the Council many years ago and is a 144 year old, 28 tonne, 26 feet, A1 class Terrier steam engine. It is currently with a heritage railway undertaking in Tunbridge Wells who have undertaken to restore it.
The painting will be an addition to an area becoming famous for its street art. Within two hundred yards you can find the remarkable statue “The Messenger”, located directly outside the entrance to Quadrant House in The Quadrant. The Messenger is a statue, a sculpture in bronze with very dark patination, completed by David Wynne in 1981, of a large horse and rider. It was a major commission for the sculptor, who died in 2014. It took four years to complete from his first idea and inspiration, on receipt of the brief – through roughing out, refining and casting in a foundry, to the final unveiling and installation.
Even more striking is the remarkable mural by the famous Spanish “street” artist from Bilbao, Eva Mena, on a wall in nearby Wellesley Road. This is said to be of the American singer and musician Erykah Badu. The work was commissioned by the owners of the building, Indepth Hygiene Services. It was painted in three days in 2010, when the artist came over from Spain to paint it. It is entirely typical of her street art, which is to be found on walls in many parts of the world, including Egypt, Ireland and Spain, as well as Sutton.

DEALING WITH THE FLOODS

At the Sutton Council meeting on 2 March Richard raised the issue of the flooding in Mulgrave Road during recent heavy rain.
Many residents have contacted us about the flooding in Mulgrave Road, particularly the area opposite Sutton station, during the recent heavy rains.The Council is responsible for maintaining the gullies and “gully pots” into which surface water from the road drains. However, the water then passes into a sewer maintained by Thames Water. The gullies have been cleaned but the nature of these events suggests that there is a problem with the sewers, which may be blocked or have insufficient capacity.We are continuing to keep up pressure on Thames Water to investigate and come up with a solution. There is a “Report a Problem” button on the Thames Water website and we are encouraging residents to use this facility to add to the number of people expressing their concern to Thames Water.
Grange Vale flooded last year. Richard cleared the blockage

TRISH AND RICHARD SPEAK IN THE COUNCIL BUDGET DEBATE

On 2 March Sutton Council debated its budget proposals for the next year. The Council has set a responsible budget concentrating its resources on those in greatest need. The background to the debate is that over the last ten years our core central Government funding has been reduced by more than 60% in real terms and we continue to face unprecedented financial pressures.

Trish made a moving speech about the need for additional resources for perinatal services. Here is Richard’s speech:

“I am in my tenth year as a Councillor and I find these annual budget debates in some ways ever more difficult.

But we need to lift our eyes.

It was about seventy years ago that the famous American economist J.K. Galbraith, a hero of mine, coined the phrase “private affluence and public squalor”, pointing out that society spends enormous sums of money on some goods and services while services that are collectively funded by society are generally kept very short of money, something he ascribed, rightly, to the obsession of the political right with cutting taxes and reducing the size of the state.

In modern Britain, we undoubtedly have this phenomenon – made much worse by austerity.

The collectively funded services that in my view society fails to fund adequately include education, hospitals, social care, social housing, welfare, help for the homeless, children’s services, libraries, and support for children with special educational needs. I could go on. And also some services that those on the political right might also want to spend more money on, like the welfare of the armed services.

We need more support for public services but we know that in Tory Britain we will not get it, which makes setting a responsible and well targeted budget of such great importance.

What stands out from this budget statement is the responsibility shown.

We are raising revenue, insofar as we can

We are not relying on raiding further our meagre reserves.

We are concentrating spending on the priorities that help those in most need.

There is a lot of Government rhetoric about at the moment about ending austerity, but if you look at the actuality of Government policy and spending commitments it remains overall highly fiscally restricted, with much made of a boost in what is a limited number of areas.

The reality is that over the last ten years our core central Government funding has been reduced by more than 60% in real terms and we continue to face unprecedented financial pressures as a result of grant reductions, underfunded new burdens from central Government and increased demand for services – due to demographic pressures and the impact of austerity, particularly cuts in welfare support for those in poverty.

While we’re managing with less, more people than ever need our help – child poverty has grown, more people are using food banks.

About two thirds of our spending is on support to vulnerable adults and children – including on caring for older people, “looked after” children, and people with learning and physical disabilities who need help to live independently.

The way our expenditure is skewed in this way, skewed by our statutory obligations but also our wish to concentrate spending on those in greatest need, is something that I think is not widely realised by our residents, most of whom are of course not consumers of those services.

And it concerns me that if you look at the Council’s risk statement there are areas where the Council faces difficulty in meeting even its statutory obligations – including homelessness, provision for those with Special Educational Needs, Homecare services, and support for child asylum seekers.

But we are an authority pursuing highly responsible policies to keep our head above water and maintaining the absolute priority policies that help the most vulnerable

So my feeling is we can be proud of this budget is – the themes being

1 there are major problems to be tackled

2 there is a very responsible approach and

3 there are policies to support those in greatest need.”

OUR RESIDENTS ARE SATISFIED, BUT CARS CAUSE PROBLEMS

Richard is a member of the Council’s Strategy and Resources Committee, which met on 10 February. The most interesting item was the report on the resident satisfaction survey, which showed some positive results. 74% of residents are satisfied with the work of the Council, 58% believe the Council gives value for money in its work. In his speech to the Committee Richard pointed out that the results showed Sutton as being well ahead of the average – 58% on value for money against a national average of 48%, 74% on satisfaction with the Council against a national average of 63%.

As ever the main issue raised when asked about problems is parking. Problems with the motor car – traffic congestion, speeding traffic, parking – are a major source of problems. The Council has responded with its parking study and we will investigate the scope for creating quiet, traffic free roads in our Ward, with better air quality, if new parking controls lead to more traffic.

SECOND SERIOUS FIRE IN THE WARD IN THREE MONTHS

UPDATE – Since the story below was posted there has been a third serious fire, again with extensive damage to property but no injuries, this in Westmoreland Drive.

On 15 January Trish and Richard visited Grosvenor Court in Brighton Road where there had been a serious fire in a second floor flat during the night. Extensive damage had been caused to the flat and the flat downstairs, but mercifully no-one was injured. We spoke to the fire office, the caretaker of the building and the owner of the flat, which had been empty and under renovation at the time.

Last October, Richard and Trish visited Sutton Court, one of the largest estates in our Ward, having learned of a fire in a flat at the block (see photo). We spoke to the next door neighbour, who lives in the flat opposite on the top floor of their block. She had been concerned at the fire but we were all relieved that no-one was hurt and the damage confined to a single flat.

The damage that fires can cause emphasises the need for everyone to fit smoke detectors and carbon monoxide indicators.

SUPPORTING OUR RESIDENTS FROM EUROPEAN UNION COUNTRIES

Almost one in eight of our residents in Sutton South Ward are European Union citizens – an unusually high proportion. Hard working EU citizens have been vital to our economy, particularly in the health service, social care, transport and catering. We value the huge contribution they make to our economy and to local life. Now that Brexit will happen, we urge our residents who are EU citizens to take action to ensure they and their family can stay in the UK by applying to the Government’s settled or pre-settled status scheme, details of which are on the website www.gov.uk. If you are a citizen of the European Union, the European Economic Area or Switzerland you can apply now. You can also apply through the Council at no cost by going to www.sutton.gov.uk and typing “nationality” in the search line.

We meet many hard-working EU citizens who have lived here for years and contribute massively to our society and our economy. The UK needs what they contribute to our society.

READY FOR COLD WEATHER

Ready for the snow

Sutton Council has again, this year, offered residents and businesses in Sutton the opportunity to collect 10kg of free grit per household or business to use on footpaths, pavements or roads in front of their homes or business premises. Residents could also collect grit for elderly friends and neighbours, or residents and businesses who do not have cars. 

LET US KNOW IF THERE IS A GRIT BIN IN YOUR ROAD THAT NEEDS TOPPING UP.

LIVEABLE NEIGHBOURHOODS

A cycle hanger provides secure bike storage

Sutton Council has put in a bid to a fund financed by the Mayor of London called “Liveable Neighbourhoods”. It will be in competition with lots of other bids from other boroughs and Sutton has a poor record of getting funds from the Mayor. So it is a bit of a gleam in the eye. If Sutton is successful we will know by about next March.

The scheme would fund action on a range of measures that would improve the environment locally. If successful we could get funds to invest in our neighbourhood. This money could be spent on issues like safer crossings, reducing cut-through traffic, better roads so children can walk to school safely, more electric charging points and better cycling infrastructure. This would include measures to encourage walking and cycling, and to improve air quality. There is a website with details and a survey you can complete.

https://sutton.citizenspace.com/highways-environment-and-planning/sutton-liveable-neighbourhoods/

There is also information on the fund on the TfL website. This says:

“Our Liveable Neighbourhoods programme gives boroughs the opportunity to bid for funding for long-term schemes that encourage walking, cycling and the use of public transport.

The programme supports the aims of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy by funding local schemes to reduce car trips and improve neighbourhoods for walking, cycling and public transport.

Grants will be provided for a wide range of community-supported projects. These could include creating green spaces and cycling infrastructure and redesigning junctions. The programme can also fund the widening of walking routes to improve access to local shops, businesses and public transport.”

Trish and Richard visited Waltham Forest where they had funding under this scheme, in the time Boris Johnson was Mayor, for a scheme known there as “Mini-Holland” as one of the objectives, but not the only one, is to promote cycling.

One of the ideas, just to give an example, is “cycle hangers” which provide secure outside storage for bikes – very popular in areas where there are blocks of flats and people have little room for bikes in their flat. This is particularly so if they do not live on the ground floor so have to lug a bike upstairs. A majority of residents in our Ward (Sutton South) live in flats, a majority of these people living in upstairs flats, so we think there would be great demand for these spaces. The hangers take up one parking space in the road. See photo above.

Closing roads outside schools for half an hour when the pupils are going in and out is an idea, but this is now a common practice in some parts of London, for example at the school Richard’s grandson goes to in Herne Hill, where there is a rota of parents who erect temporary gates.

Road closures (turning some residential roads into cul-de-sacs by closing them at one end) to reduce rat-running down otherwise quiet residential streets and move the traffic onto main roads is certainly an aspect, but it needs approaching with care. The objective would be to move traffic onto main roads so that residential streets are quieter, with no through traffic, safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and with improved air quality.

There are undoubted pros and cons that need careful examination. There is a good example locally, in Belmont, the gate in Dorset Road close to the junction with Holland Avenue. This is inconvenient to motorists and many residents, and adds to traffic in roads like Holland Avenue. But it massively adds to the quality of life, quiet and clean air of residents of the Homeland Drive area, who otherwise would experience a lot of rat running traffic. It is surely worth investigating whether there is scope for similar interventions locally. Examples in our Ward could be Chalgrove Road and Cumnor Road, where the removal of through traffic would have a transformational effect on the quiet of the road and air quality.

We were told that the experience in Waltham Forest was that they put in some “modal filters” as they call these closures in some roads for a six month trial. In most but not all cases the residents wanted to keep the controls in place at the end of six months, and in some cases where the residents wanted them removed the residents now want them back. Some residents find them inconvenient as they make their own journeys by car more complicated, but it seems most feel this downside is outweighed by having quiet streets with reduced traffic and less air pollution. There is also the fact that if there are comprehensive parking controls introduced in an area, reducing parking, there will be speeding and probably increased through traffic.

Residents have asked us about the circulation of a list of possible road closures. The origin of this list is some illustrative examples prepared by consultants working on the bid to demonstrate what might be done. In fact the Dorset Road example is a much better example as it is real and already exists.

So we think it worthwhile bidding for this money. The Council has made no announcement about it as we do not know yet if the funding will be forthcoming.