COUNCIL CHALLENGES BORIS ON TRANSPORT

 

The Mayor of London has been accused of short-changing Sutton after the borough was given the capital’s lowest transport grant. 

Each year, every London borough receives Local Implementation Plan (LIP) funding from Transport for London (TfL) to invest in local projects which support the Mayor’s plan for transport in the capital. For the second year in a row, Sutton has been given the least in London, leaving the council with less money to invest in the transport infrastructure.

frustrated councillors have criticised the Mayor for failing to invest in Sutton, despite the borough’s track record in delivering innovative transport plans.

Cllr Simon Wales, Executive Member for Communities, Transport and Voluntary Sector on Sutton Council, said: “Sutton has a great track record in running innovative and successful transport schemes, but we need money to make them work. The council and members of the local community work together to make sure the transport system keeps getting better and better but the fact remains that we could do even more if we had more funding.

“I’m disappointed that the Mayor and TfL won’t give Sutton the same kind of grant that it awards to other boroughs. This means that some of the improvements that we have planned will have to be cut back, or even shelved completely. We think that Sutton’s residents deserve better, and will continue working hard to carry out transport improvements that the local community wants to see.”

As well as schemes to boost traffic flow and make travel more sustainable, LIP funding is used to make the borough’s roads safer.  Maintenance works are financed through a separate budget, but improvements to reduce the number of road accidents often come out of LIP resources. Transport investment is particularly important in the current economic climate, as good accessibility is one of the factors that help town centres and local shops to thrive.

In Sutton, LIP money has been used to continue the successful initiatives on sustainable transport under the scheme known as Smarter Travel Sutton, which increased cycling by 75 per cent and is now used as example by other councils, after the initial project came to an end.

 

LOCAL MPs RAISE ALARM OVER ST HELIER’S FUTURE

The Borough’s MPs, Paul Burstow and Tom Brake, are calling for the local NHS to pause, listen and reflect over plans for a “headlong rush to merger with St George’s”.
 
The two MPs have told local and London NHS bosses that the plans for a merger with St Georges lack legitimacy because they have failed to secure support from hospital doctors, GPs and local Councils.  The MPs are stepping up the pressure by launching an on-line petition to London NHS boss, Ruth Carnell.
 
St George’s NHS Trust was the only Trust to bid for St Helier.  However, St George’s is struggling with a series of financial difficulties and recently has seen the departure of its Chief Executive.  Amidst growing concerns that St George’s will ‘asset strip’ St Helier, the Borough’s MPs want the merger process to be put on hold to give both St Helier and St George’s the time to sort themselves out and allow other NHS hospitals to come forward.
 
Paul Burstow MP said, “I have been hard-pressed to find anyone in favour of this merger plan.  Health professionals and local councillors feel bounced.  There is growing alarm at the haste with which this process is moving.
 
“The future of St Helier depends crucially on support from clinicians, without that essential goodwill, a merger will become a hostile take-over.  From my discussions with consultants, it is clear to me that the relationships between the two hospitals are toxic, hardly the basis for a genuine marriage in the public interest.
 
Tom Brake MP said, “The priority here is to get the best deal for St Helier, not the fastest one.  The Government has just completed a major national NHS listening exercise, local Health bosses must do the same; stop, pause, take on board people’s concerns and come back with a better offer.”

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ONE STOP SHOP

The Safer Sutton Partnership is pleased to announce the launch of Sutton’s Domestic Violence One Stop Shop. It will take place every Wednesday morning, starting July 13th, between 9:30 – 11:30 at Sutton Baptist Church, across from the Civic Centre.

Anyone who comes along will recieve advice and support from the Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA) from Victim Support, Police, a Lawyer and Citizens Advice Bureau.

So if you or anyone you know is suffering from physical, sexual or emotional abuse come along to the DV One Stop Shop, on Wednesdays 9:30am – 11:30 am at Sutton Baptist Church, 21 Cheam Road, Sutton. SM1 1SN. For more information dial 020 8685 1637.

YOUR VOICE COUNTS!

Your Local Committee ! 



The Sutton South, Cheam and Belmont Local Committee is the forum where your councillors, community representatives and residents from the Sutton South, Cheam and Belmont Wards meet to discuss issues of local importance.  There is also an open forum where local residents ask questions.

At recent meetings Richard updated the Committee on the issue of BT green boxes (reported in other posts on this site, see archive for May, June and July) and drew attention to the threat to withdraw train services linking Sutton to St. Pancras International (also reported elsewhere, see archive for July). Heather reported on the Butterfly Watch at Devonshire Avenue Nature Reserve (also reported elsewhere on this site, see archive for July) and we congratulated Sutton South Neighbourhood Association on the success of their bid for funding to improve the reserve. 

The next meeting is on 23 February at the Chiltern Churn. For any enquiries, contact Ian Kershaw, Senior Co-ordinator, at ian.kershaw@sutton.gov.uk  or contact Heather or Richard. We hope to see you there!

MORE PRESSURE ON BT

A television programme – “The Wright Stuff Extra” – broadcast on 21 July was largely shot in Cedar Road in our Ward and included an interview with Councillor Clifton standing alongside the box outside number 39 that we have asked BT to move.

Richard made the point that when Parliament agreed that BT could put the boxes anywhere without need to abide by planning controls it expected BT to be responsible. The box, placed right outside Mrs Russell’s window, is in the wrong place.

BT declined to appear on the programme but issued a statement again refusing to move the box. This is deplorable.

A post on this site (see archive for May) describes the general problem and a later post (see archive for June) describes earlier action relating to the box.

OAKLEIGH SADLY NO ALTERNATIVE TO CLOSURE

In the  debate on the proposed closure of Oakleigh at Monday night’s Council Meeting, it was clear that this was not a straight  forward matter.  There were many different angles to consider and Heather addressed them in her contribution to the debate.

“None of us can be comfortable about closing a care home for some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

And one that has an excellent reputation.

I visited Oakleigh as part of the investigation by the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee. The residents were happy and very well looked after.  Care staff  were totally committed to their work. I would be comfortable to see a relative of mine live there.

I took  therefore an challenging approach to  the scrutiny exercise we undertook  about Oakleigh.

From the outset, I was shocked at the very high weekly cost to look after each  resident.  (one thousand and twenty four pounds) £1,024.

This confirmed research I’ve read from  from the  Dept of Health.  Care homes run by councils are much more costly than those run by independent organisations.  This is a nationwide phenomenon.

In the wider context, Sutton’s grant was dramatically cut by central government.  We have to save  over £30 million over the next 3 years.  Savings of £10.5 million have to be found from the adult social care budget.

So the financial situation makes keeping an excellent, but costly,  Oakleigh less possible.

Current good practice says that people should be helped to stay in their own homes for as long as possible.  Many would prefer to do so provided the right level and quality of support is there.

As part of the personalisation agenda, introduced by the last government, everyone eligible for social care has their own budget. This is based on what their needs are assessed to be.  They should then be able to make their own choices about how to spend their money.  All this has to happen within 18 months.

This means that  it could be difficult for people to afford to stay at Oakleigh.

The key question is therefore  whether there are  other good quality care homes available in the borough?

As part of our investigation, we visited a wide range of care homes and found a wide range of quality.

The star rating system by the Care Quality Commission was not as helpful as we expected. ( now to be discontinued)  Oakleigh was given a 3 star rating.  Most care homes in the borough were given a 2 star rating.  We found that some of these were excellent, some not very good.

We therefore recommended, that the Commissioning Unit  and social workers, should work together to improve standards in those homes that had 2 stars.

We needed a Sutton based  quality assurance, reflecting our values and standards.  We could not rely on the Care Quality Commission.  That organisation is in any case changing.

We also recommended that we should challenge the regulations that prevented us from transferring the business of Oakleigh to another, independent provider.

Once again Sutton demonstrated its commitment to consultation.  It did challenge the Care Quality Commission successfully, and then went out for another 12 weeks consultation.  Few councils would take that trouble.

Unfortunately, no independent organisation was ready to bid for Oakleigh, probably because of the financial obligations   when staff are transferred from one organisation to another.

So I have reluctantly concluded that there is no alternative to closing Oakleigh.  I do realise what a blow this will be to those still living there, and to the hard working staff.  Great efforts will be made to help people find new homes.  Like my colleague I would like to say a big thank you to Link and to the dedicated staff at Oakleigh.”

SAVE ST HELIERS

"THE FUTURE?"

Heather asked the Lead Councillor  for Health and Social Care two questions about St Helier at last night’s council meeting:

Q Sutton having now secured the funding for a new hospital, does the lead councillor see any risks from the proposed move away from the organisational structure that St Helier had with Epsom Hospital.”

Answer by Colin Stears, Lead Councillor Health and Social Care

Certain services have been concentrated on the Epsom site whilst  the preferred merger candidate St Georges Trust obviously has services in Tooting that it has built up over the years.

I think it is important for our Health and Wellbeing scrutiny Committee to monitor closely any proposed service changes and work with clinical commissioning colleagues in the GP consortia to make sure that quality services are delivered as near as possible to the patient.

It would be unfortunate if one of the very few new hospitals to be built in England did not deliver the appropriate range of services to the local community.

The building of the new hospital is an ideal opportunity for service users , commissioners , council representatives and the provider to starting working together early in the process to make sure quality services for local people are delivered in a local setting.

Q What does the lead councillor think about the ridiculously short timescale, scarcely a month, set by  St Heliers Transaction Board, for potential partners to undertake all the work necessary to take part in the selection process, given this is an issue of such importance to the health and wellbeing  of Sutton’s residents?

A This does seem a very short timescale compared to other projects that I am aware of.  I hope that this will be answered in the communications that we are having with the Transaction Board, but this is not satisfactory.

TRAIN LINKS TO NORTH LONDON MUST REMAIN

Sutton Council agreed a motion on Monday 18 July deploring a proposal floated by the train operating companies that trains from Sutton on the Capital Connect line to north London (passing through Farringdon, St. Pancras International and St. Albans on the way to Luton airport) would all terminate at Blackfriars.

Councillor Clifton was to be one of the proposers of the motion but due to the length of debate on earlier motions the motion was voted on without debate. Here is the text of the speech he was to have made:

“I am confident that we will all want to support this motion and to emphasise the importance to Sutton of maintaining a through rail service to north London. I’d like to mention a significant detail that ought to be recognised in our examination of this proposal here tonight.

This concerns the importance of links to St Pancras International as St Pancras develops further as an international rail hub.

Over the next few years there will be a mushrooming of international rail travel from London. If the current plans of Deutschbahn and Eurostar come to fruition – as they will – by 2014 it will be possible, on arriving at St Pancras, to have a choice of services, competing against each other, to travel from London to Amsterdam.

In addition to the current services to Brussels and Paris there will also be services from London to North Germany. This is a big market in terms of business travel. At present, each day, about 30 plane services fly between London’s airports and destinations in north Germany, carrying about the same number of people as could be carried by four or five train services using the Velaro D trains that are even now being built to provide rolling stock for these services, by the train manufacturer Siemens at its Dusseldorf factory, which in fact I visited last year.

Aside from the potential importance of these international links to the residents of Sutton, there are international companies that have significant centres of their enterprises in Sutton – Sutton, a thriving London suburb, offering office space much cheaper than that found in the centre of London, less than half an hour by train from the centre, with a pleasant ambience and environment, and a location from which – importantly – you can reach the centre of Brussels in just two train journeys, one taking about 40 minutes and one about 2 hours.

And the centre of Paris in just 15 minutes more. And soon – Amsterdam, north Germany.

These transport links are links that it is vital for Sutton to maintain, for the sake of our residents but also to maintain our attractiveness as a centre for business development.

We must keep pressure on the Department for Transport to make clear that the changes to the Capital Connect franchise being sought by the domestic train companies, that remove our links to north London and in particular to St Pancras, are just not acceptable.”