HERE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS I HAVE BEEN DOING IN THE MOST RECENT PAST AS YOUR COUNCILLOR. I REGARD THIS BLOG AS A WAY OF REPORTING BACK.
I am now into my tenth year as a local Councillor – where do the years go? I was first elected in 2010, having contested Sutton South Ward unsuccessfully in 2006. I was re-elected in 2014 and then again in 2018. I spend a significant proportion of every day dealing with some aspect of my responsibilities as a Councillor, in particular local casework. For the two years to May 2016 I was Chair of the Planning Committee and lead member on human resources – which carried with it chairing the Council and Employees’ Joint Committee and the health and safety committee. I also sat on the important Strategy and Resources Committee. On 23 May 2016 I was elected Mayor and gave up these responsibilities to concentrate on Mayoral duties. I stood down as Mayor on 22 May 2017, a date etched on my memory as the following day my eldest daughter, Jane, was admitted to St Christopher’s hospice in Sydenham where she died shortly afterwards of a brain tumour.
Following my re-election in May 2018 I took up the post of Chair of the Audit and Governance Committee, a new committee formed by the merger of the audit committee and the standards committee. I was yet again appointed Chair of the Council and Employees Joint Committee and the health and safety committee. In May 2019 I stood down as Chair of the Audit and Governance Committee, principally because there are some very able young Councillors recently elected and – at the age of 73 – I think people of my generation ought to get out of the way and give these young people opportunities to gain experience chairing committees. I am, however, now a member of the important Strategy and Resources Committee and continue to chair the Council and Employees Joint Committee.
Below are some highlights of my work, mixed in with a bit of personal information. But do have a look at the page “Who are we?” for some biographical information on who I am and what I stand for.
January 23. Two important meetings. First, a meeting of residents of Cedar Road to discuss the work of the drug and alcohol misuse advice centre in the road, INSPIRE. I had expected more than 12 residents to attend. The discussion was useful though it strayed into a large number of related area. Which was fine.
Then on to the meeting of Audit and Governance Committee, which discussed the programmes of the internal and external auditors and the Council’s risk register.
January 20. A Council meeting. I was disappointed that we spent so long on a motion on contracting out, moved by the Tories, that we failed to discuss a motion on Fairtrade and only had a brief discussion on a motion on domestic violence.
Here is the text of my speech on contracting out. It was something of a historical perspective given my experience as a civil servant.
“I was intrigued by the sentence in this motion that says
“Many services are provided by third parties and such partnership working can bring benefits such as access to external expertise – and efficiency”.
I am a retired civil servant and recollect, in the 1980s, going to a meeting addressed by the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, no less, who told us that there was no service provided by the public sector that could not be better provided by the private sector – more efficiently, cheaper and with greater public satisfaction. For my part, I was always deeply sceptical as there are undoubted disadvantages from systems where services are delivered not by public servants providing a public service but by private companies, and the trade unions and most Labour Councils strongly opposed this policy at that time.
Over the 30 years since then, despite this opposition, public policy has drifted strongly in this direction, of privatisation, outsourcing, contracting out, commissioning, whatever you want to call it, even with Labour Councils, given impetus – I am sure – by austerity, as – whatever the disadvantages – private sector provision is generally cheaper, often for reasons that are not comfortable in terms of the impact on terms and conditions of employment.
I smiled when reading this motion as I thought, well, this is drafted by someone aware of the potential disadvantages of this type of provision, but has then tried to construct a narrative that Sutton Council is struggling to deal with these problems, not that these are consequences it is managing with success. And I think that former narrative is wholly misplaced.
If I wanted to look to one source of evidence I would remind Council that the external auditors are required every year to reach a conclusion on the value for money of the use of Council resources. We always come out of these examinations with flying colours.”
January 13. Trish and I went to Grosvenor Court, the block of flats above the shops in Brighton Road on the opposite side of the road if your turn left out of the station and start walking. There was a serious fire in a secondfloor flat which had also damaged the flat below. We talked to the flat’s owner, the workmen, the fire officer and the caretaker. There is a terrible mess, including in communal areas. It brings home the dangers of fire and the need to have a working smoke alarm.
This is the second serious fire in a flat in the Ward in three months. In October we visited a flat in Sutton Court, burnt out after a fire. Fortunately no-one was injured in either incident.
January 1. Gloria and I went up to London to watch the New Year’s Day Parade. This was the first time I had been since the Parade in 2017 when I was Mayor, so took part in the Parade. That year the Sutton float won a prize and I was presented with a cup by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of London. This year the Parade was longer and included a lot of flotillas of cars, which struck me as not being an improvement. Again the highlight was the American marching bands, seventeen of them
December 21. For the second time in December my band played Christmas carols in the St Nicholas centre to raise money for the Mayor’s charity appeal. Here we are with the Mayor and Mayoress. Three of us on trumpet, two flutes, four clarinets, a horn, tenor sax, bass guitar and bass clarinet.
December 20. Two Christmas parties in the Ward in two days – yesterday Sutton South Hello with Trish leading the dancing and today the Sutton and Surrey Residents’ Club, which is a club for members of the Indian diaspora. Remarkable sitar playing.
December 14. Another excellent day contributing to the cultural life of my Ward. I think I may be the only Councillor who thinks Councillors should promote music in their Ward. Today I played the trumpet for the Phoenix Concert Band in a Christmas performance at the Friends’ Meeting House in Cedar Road. About 80 people came including the Mayor. This was to support the monthly “Second Saturday Tea” for senior citizens. The Mayor must be getting fed up with hearing me play Christmas carols. Immediately afterwards I left for Beckenham to play (cornet this time, not trumpet) in another concert, with the Crystal Palace Brass Band Progress Band.
My colleagues are recovering from the election result. Again no breakthrough for the Liberal Democrats and I doubt if there will be one while we have the first past the post electoral system, so probably not in my lifetime. In Sutton and Cheam there was a swing to the Liberal Democrat candidate and I understand that our Ward achieved one of the best results.
A coup for the Clifton family on 12 December was that there was an article in The Times on my son-in-law, Tetteh Turkson, who was their “Lawyer of the Week.” This was in recognition of his leading the successful prosecution of Joseph McCann for multiple (and horrific) sex crimes.
December 7. I see I have not updated the website for almost a month, as there have been no Council meetings (this due the “purdah” period associated with the general election) and I have been busy supporting our candidate Hina in preparing for the election. However, today I took time off to play Christmas carols with a small band I had organised, in the atrium at the centre of the St Nicholas shopping centre in Sutton. The Mayor came to listen to us and helpers, including my wife Gloria, shook tins to collect money for the Mayor’s charity appeal, for Sutton Vision. We had three trumpets (including myself), three flutes, a clarinet, two bass clarinets, a horn and a bass guitar. We played about twenty well known Christmas carols. It was great.
November 12. The meeting of the Council and Employees’ Joint Committee scheduled for today was cancelled and there will be few committee meetings now till after the 12 December general election, due to the “purdah” requirements that nothing controversial is done once an election is called. I am busy working in support of our candidate Hina Bokari so will not be adding much to this blog in the near future.
November 10. A great honour today, being asked to play the Last Post at the Remembrance Day service at the war memorial in Manor Park.
November 7. A general election is planned so Council enters a period known as “purdah”, which I think is an Indian expression so the use in English must date from the days of the Raj. Virtually all Council and Council committee meetings are cancelled. I will be busy with the election so not a lot to report on this website.
October 31. Returning to our onions…. (as the French say) after the excitement of yesterday. To the meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee. Some interesting data on the Sutton Council workforce. Sutton has the smallest workforce of any of the 32 London boroughs.
October 30. I went to The Colliseum in London tonight to see an absolutely superb production of Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld. The Phoenix Band, which meets for rehearsal every Friday at Christchurch hall in Christchurch Park, so is the Sutton South Ward Band, has been playing this music. We last played it in a concert in the church on 21 September. The music includes what at the time was titled the “galop infernelle” but which later – when the Parisien cabarets Folies Bergere and Moulin Rouge adopted it as a dance – became known as the can-can.
October 24. To the Thomas Wall Centre for the divali celebrations of the Sutton and Surrey Senior Citizens Club. This is an organisation that brings together members of the diaspora of the Indian sub-continent. A lovely meal.
October 23. It is half-term. I took my grandson Ciaran to the Science Museum. A lovely day.
October 22. To the Licensing Committee’s hearing on the licence application for The Russettings. The right things were said. It was agreed, but we had got the hours changed so they do not extend into the evening.
Tonight to the Pensions Committee’s “ethics session.” We reached some conclusions on the type of funds we will not invest in. My own bete noir is betting shops – immensely profitable, they spread nothing but misery.
October 20. Gloria and I went to the London Mayors’ Association annual civic service, Evensong at Westminster Abbey. A lovely service.
October 19. I joined my brothers on the anti-Brexit march. I was reflecting with my nephew that, born in 1946, I went on the anti-Vietnam war marches when i was at University, in the Sixties. Then did not march again till the anti-Iraq war marches, then the anti-Brexit marches. Now 73, I feel I have been on the right side on all the big issues of my lifetime, and have made my point – whatever the outcome.
October 17. I went the Environment and Neighbourhoods Committee, to sit in the public gallery. Some interesting discussions on the climate emergency.
October 16. To the AGM of Highfield Lawns, a company I am a director of that has as its objective maintaining a local tennis club, of which I am Welfare Officer.
October 14. I went to the Council meeting on the boundary changes, where I made a speech supporting the proposals. Then to Strategy and Resources Committee, where there were worrying reports on the local implications of Brexit and on the Worcester Park fire. But the review of Council initiatives showed a lot of good work underway.
October 10. I went to see the new Sutton South Hello exhibition in Sutton library, “Building A Village”. I was immensely impressed. I recommend this as something worth visiting.
October 8. I went to the opening of the new Harris Academy in Belmont. I am so glad this school is now open and prospering, as I remember the fuss when having a school there was first proposed. It was opened by Jim Al-Khalili, who even that morning I had heard on the radio presenting a programme called “The Life Scientific”, surely one of the most pretentious programme titles on radio. I was impressed by the school. It is already vastly oversubscribed.
October 5. A busy weekend. The Liberal Democrat party has plenty of social events and tonight I went to the quiz. On Sunday (October 6) I played the cornet for the Crystal Palace Brass Band Progress Band at the Norwood Feast, a massive street market in West Norwood. We play on the steps of St Luke’s church. This is right next to West Norwood cemetery so afterwards I visited the grave of my daughter.
October 3. I attended another forum on local Government pension arrangements. This subject is new to me, in my new role as vice-chair of the Council’s Pensions Committee.
October 2. Thismorning I met the newly appointed priest-in-charge of St Nicholas’s church in Sutton, Frances Arnold. We discussed arrangements for the Remembrance Day service in Manor Park, where I played the Last Post last year, and a ceremony called “The Blessing of the Pumps” which usually takes place in the Robin Hood pub on or close to the Feast of St Nicholas (December 5). Later I met Council officials to discuss the fate of the roundabout that operates in the centre of Sutton at the weekend outside the Metro bank. I am trying to facilitate the operator using the electric supply rather than having to bring his own generator.
September 26. A visit to Tate Britain to see the William Blake exhibition. This I recommend. I do not recommend the film “Ad Astra” which I saw this week – over-long, slow paced, at times pretentious.
September 25. A visit with Trish and some other Councillors to Waltham Forest to see the area that was improved with funds from the Mayor of London to support “Liveable Neighbourhoods”. We are considering a bid for funding under this programme.
September 21. I contributed to the cultural life of Sutton South Ward today by playing the trumpet for the Phoenix Concert Band, which rehearses every Friday in the hall of Christchurch, in Christchurch Park. The concert was in the church. A great performance. A good sized audience. Our performance included arrangements of the hits of Elvis and of Sinatra, and the music from Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld.
September 19. A meeting of the Local Committee. A highlight was a presentation on the Go Sutton bus trial. I hope this will be successful. I get lots of positive feedback.
September 18. My 73rd birthday. I am starting to feel very old. Gloria and I celebrated by having an excellent meal at a restaurant “L’autre Pied” in Charlotte Street. This I recommend.
September 17 and September 12. I have recently been elected Vice-Chair of Sutton Council’s Pensions Committee. I know little about this subject so attended a conference on 12 September, at the Financial Times building in the City, as part of my induction to the subject. The conference had the title Local Government Pension Schemes but I concluded that the criteria for investment of local Government pension scheme funds are not much different from those for investment of funds generally. There is perhaps more of an emphasis on ethical investment, though, referred to by the initials ESG – Environmental, Social and Governance considerations.
On 17 September there was a meeting of the Pensions Committee. We received an update on pension fund performance. As a retired civil servant, and remembering that the civil service has one single pension scheme, it still surprises me that each local authority has its own scheme. Efforts are being made to pool investment decisions.
September 5. Thismorning I joined officers and other Councillors to inspect the path linking Upland Road and Banstead Road South. While we were there a team of contractors arrived and undertook the work we had requested to cut back the overgrowing vegetation along the side of the path and tidy it up. It looks better now. But can anything else be done to spruce up the footpath?
The surface of the path is in reasonable condition for a footpath. There are two lamp standards and we hope to get the trees – which are in the gardens of private houses – that partly shade the lights trimmed back. The fencing along the path is mostly in good condition. At present the path is a footpath and cyclists are expected to dismount. It would be possible to make it dual use. It is straight, so when entering the footpath at one end you can see if anyone is on the path for the whole length of the path. Assuming people are sensible and a cyclist who encountered a pedestrian on the path would proceed with caution, it would be possible to allow cyclists to use it. Officers are to take some measurements and assess the possibilities. I would be interested in the opinion of local residents on these possibilities, and on how the path might be spruced up.
September 1. I contributed to the cultural life of Herne Hill today by playing (trumpet) for the All Saints Concert Band on the bandstand at Ruskin Park, close to Loughborough Junction station.This was my view of the world (of the band on the bandstand and the park) from my position playing trumpet. Our programme included a superb arrangement of the compositions of Morricone (of spagetti westerns fame).
August 30. With Council in effect in recess over the holiday period, I am taking the opportunity to catch up on casework and all the other tasks I have neglected over the year. This includes my resolution to de-clutter. Having lived in the same house for 31 yeas Gloria and I have far too much clutter. So I have made several trips to the “dump” in Kimpton Way. I am quite impressed by the operation there.
Very worried by the cavalier charge to a “no deal” Brexit. This is so risky – no developed economy has ever severed its links with its major trading block with no alternative arrangements in place. It is taking a massive risk with national prosperity. The EU has been a great engine of trade, prosperity, wealth and employment – but to say so is derided as Project Fear. The democratic mandate for this does not exist – people did not vote for a chaotic and disorderly Brexit, they were told everything would be smooth.
August 20. There are theoretically no Council meetings in August as people are on holiday. But today I went to quite an important meeting about the work of the Boundary Commission to re-draw the boundaries of Wards in Sutton. This is needed because of population changes, particularly the growth in population in the town centre with developments such as Sutton Point, and in Hackbridge, with the “Felnex” development (the New Mill Quarter). We had an interesting presentation on the views of Council officers.
Gloria and I are not on holiday but are busy childminding our grandson, We took him to Vauxhall City Farm today.
August 8. Gloria and I celebrated our 49th wedding anniversary. Big one next year. We went to the Marcus Wareing restaurant at the Berkeley hotel in Knightsbridge. A free journey up to London as we both have Freedom Passes.
August 4, An interesting meeting thismorning with the Sutton Housing Society to discuss some proposals to further develop their properties. And work has started in Mayfield Road to improve the pavement.
July 24. A Council meeting. The highlight for me was the opportunity to speak about the special character of Sutton South. Here is what I said:
“In my Ward, the planning polices and the decisions of Planning Committee have undoubtedly been highly successful in preserving the pleasant, green, suburban feel of the Ward. Residents I talk to who have moved to Sutton South from other parts of London often comment on the attractions of the area – low crime, good schools, a pleasant, green, suburban atmosphere, close to the country, close to central London. There has of course been new development over the years but the quality of what has been built has generally been of a high standard.
But I could take you on a tour of the Ward to look at developments that I am less happy with, some of them developments that exploited the Government’s “prior approval” arrangements to avoid planning controls, but mostly developments turned down by Sutton Council but then approved on appeal by the Planning Inspectorate. Some of these have been highly regrettable decisions, particularly in terms of design and overdevelopment of sometimes very small sites.
Before I became a Councillor I used to think there was a case for a body like the Planning Inspectorate as, surely, there were all these Councils up and down the country taking idiosyncratic decisions based on wildly varying local circumstances and this central body would impose some consistency of standard. What I in fact observe though is that it is the Inspectors whose decisions seem arbitrary, mercurial and lacking consistency, while the Council is imposing a consistent standard at a level based on extensive consultation to establish what is expected by local people.
I think our planners are doing a good job, but there is a case for wider reform of the planning system at a national level to protect the democracy of local decision-taking.”
July 20. An excellent day playing second trumpet for the Phoenix Concert Band at the Chipstead Flower Show.
A performance that included our selection of the songs of Frank Sinatra, the music from Pirates of the Carribean and the hits of Elvis Presley. But not before I had attended a meeting in Effingham Close to consider a planning application for Copse Hill that we are worried about – see our post on the main site.
July 18. A meeting of the Council and Employees’ Joint Committee. This is one of two joint committees, joint with the recognised trade unions representing Council employees. The chair alternates each year between the Councillors and the trade union reps. At this meeting I stood down and passed the chair to the lead union rep. Deeply irritating that the Conservatives do not bother to send a representative to this important committee, though they are entitled to send a representative. The main business of the meeting was a very useful discussion of health and safety matters.
Thisafternoon I went to the AGM of the London Mayors’ Association, an interesting body. I am entitled to membership as a past Mayor of a London borough. It met in the headquarters of Westminster Council, as the Lord Mayor of Westminster is the President of the Association. The conference room at the top of the building, which is in Victoria Street, has an excellent view of Buckingham Palace and its garden.
June 27. A busy day. I represented the borough at a meeting of the Greater London Employment Forum, which is attended by Council representatives and representatives of recognised trade unions. An interesting discussion of local authority pension arrangements and of efforts to promote apprenticeships. In the evening there was an event at the library to answer questions from residents on parking proposals. Only two residents from our Ward turned up.
June 24. A lovely morning attending the sports day of my beautiful grandson Ciaran, who celebrated his fourth birthday the previous Saturday, at his school in Herne Hill, Jessops primary school.
June 16. Trish and I attended the meeting of the police consultative panel for Sutton South Ward. Held at Christchurch hall, there was a disappointing turnout of residents, just six residents plus two police officers, the Councillors, and the chair. Two of the residents represented residents’ associations. The good news was that there are now more staffing resources allocated to the Ward and the crime figures are stable after a period when there was an increase that caused us concern. There was an interesting discussion, not for the first time at these meetings, of the problem of homelessness and rough sleeping, and its causes. There may be a public perception that rough sleepers are more likely to be involved in crime, but no evidence for it.
June 15. Today Trish and I attended a lunch given by members of the Amadyya Muslim community at Sutton Lodge in Brighton Road, to celebrate the recent Eid festival at the end of Ramadan. Some interesting discussions and a lunch based on Pakistani cuisine.
June 13. The local committee meeting. An interesting discussion of measures to reduce traffic and encourage walking and cycling in the Ward. Also a discussion of parking and the proposals to be consulted on in September, on which we were able to counter some of the misinformation that has been put round.
June 8. Today I helped marshal the Lavender Walk, which raises money for St Raphael’s hospice. Then I went to the Friends’ Meeting House in Cedar Road to play the trumpet for the Phoenix Concert Band to entertain those who attended the Second Saturday Tea for senior citizens. Our performance of an arrangement of the music from Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld (which included the Can Can) went down particularly well. Other highlights were an arrangement of Elvis numbers and music from the Light Cavalry Overture.
June 6. To a very interesting training session for Councillors on emergency planning. A bit scary.
June 5. I am the Welfare Officer for the Highfields Lawn Tennis Club and the club is having its safeguarding procedures audited by the LTA. I was summoned to a meeting with the auditor tonight, in the tennis clubhouse opposite my house. He made some useful suggestions.
June 4. Following the allocation of places on committees at the annual Council meeting, I am now on Pensions Committee. It met thisevening and heard an interesting presentation on efforts to bring together the investment strategies of different Councils.
June 3. An interesting discussion with a company proposing to launch an electric bike scheme in Sutton.
27 May. Really delighted at the results of the European election, though I was myself on a study tour in Stockholm on the day of the election, having voted by post.
Earlier this year I went on a study tour of Holland and met Councillors who are members of the Amsterdam city Council. There are 45 Councillors split between 12 parties and the largest party – the Greens – only has 8 seats. But coalition seems to work well. In Stockholm there are 102 Council members on the city Council, and by co-incidence there are 51 men and 51 women. Again the administration is a complicated coalition that seems to work well.
At the European Parliament elections, in Sutton, the LibDems polled 18 706 votes and the Tories were humiliated – 4 863 votes.
14 May. A sad event for me today. I went to South Norwood cemetery to oversee the erection of the headstone at my daughter’s grave. I like the headstone and wording.
14 May. An excellent evening playing second cornet for the Crystal Palace Brass Band Progress Band at the Bromley music festival. We played an arrangement of Lloyd Webber’s I Don’t Know How To Love Her, arranged as a solo for the flugelhorn, and an arrangement of Queen numbers (including Bohemian Rhapsody, Another One Bites The Dust, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Are The Champions).
7 May. A meeting of the Council and Employees Joint Committee, which is a joint committee with trade unions representing Council employees. I chair this committee. We spent some time discussing matters relating to pay and the revision of procedures relating to Council employees.
29 April. A Council meeting at which I moved a vote of thanks to the Mayor, Steve Cook, for his service in the past year. Here is the text of my speech:
“I would like to move this motion and to sincerely thank his Worship, Councillor Cook, for his service to the Borough.
Steve has been phenomenally hard working and we have all seen him at a vast range of events over the past year. It has not just been his hard work but his persistence and attention to detail that has so impressed so many of us. I remember particularly noticing this when I played a minor role in the organisation of music for his Christmas concert, and found that a lot of food was being provided because Steve and Pauline had spent so much time touring the major stores in Sutton to ask if they could provide some help, which they were only too pleased to do.
And when my band played Christmas carols in the St Nicholas centre to help raise funds for his charities, we did not just get the brief Mayoral visit we had expected but he was there at the start, and he was there at the end, and listened to the whole programme. After three weekends in December doing this, not to mention performances at the Robin Hood pub and elsewhere, he must have got so fed up with hearing us play carols.
I remember, when I nominated Steve last May, mentioning his reputation as a musician and I was delighted that “The Mayor’s Flares” has been re-constituted as a group. I am told its performance when opening the Wallington music festival was sensational and I am sorry I was not there..
I think the tradition of having a civic Mayor in London boroughs is very important. A lot of money is raised for charity and the attendance of the Mayor at so many events in the borough gives these events an interest and status that the organisers really cherish and appreciate. It creates an enormous workload for the Mayor, but a workload Steve has taken on with relish. I have to also mention that, besides these civic duties, there is the role of the Mayor in chairing Council meetings. In the past year that responsibility has sometimes been – how shall I put it – a little more challenging than it has generally been in recent years. Steve has risen to that challenge and chaired the meetings with skill and good humour.
I would also like to also thank the Mayoress, Pauline. When I moved the nomination of Steve to be Mayor last May I mentioned that I knew we would get a package deal, Steve plus Pauline, dedicated to the service of Sutton, and that is what we have had. And I would like to thank Chris Williams for his service as Deputy Mayor. I know you have a few weeks to go but can I thank you, your Worship, on behalf of us all.”
14 April. I was invited to an event at Stanley Park High School to celebrate the Hindu and Buddist New Year. The Mayor and the Leader of the Council were there, and some other Councillors. I really enjoyed this event, which took the form of a series of dances and musical performances by members of the diaspora of the Indian sub-continent, particularly groups of children. I really like Indian music so I found it absolutely absorbing.
4 April. A meeting of the local committee, at Chiltern church. A very good talk on Hate Crime was the highlight of the meeting for me.
3 April A sad day as today would have been the 40th birthday of my daughter Jane had she not died of a brain tumour two years ago. This is one of my favourite memories of her, with her son Ciaran, now aged three.
28 to 31 March. Gloria and I travelled to Amsterdam to participate in the London Mayors’ Association (LMA) civic visit to Amsterdam. I had not been on one of these visits, perhaps better described as a study tour, before, and it was fascinating. The LMA is a membership organisation open to serving and past Mayors of London boroughs. There were three past Mayors of Sutton taking part – Richard Bailey, Sean Brennan and myself. We met, and had discussions with, the Mayors of Den Haag (The Hague) and of Edam and Volendam. Probably the most interesting session was with six members of the city Council of Amsterdam. They came from six different parties of the twelve parties represented on the Council. The Council has 45 members but the largest party, the Greens, only has eight Councillors. Coalition government thrives. Their pre-occupations were much as ours – social housing, austerity, coping with Government cuts, treatment of refugees, homelessness. We also enjoyed a reception at the British Embassy in Den Haag, visited a cheese factory, a porcelain factory and a clog making factory, the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, several art galleries and the famous Keukenhof gardens – it is tulip time in Amsterdam right now. We faced a great many jokes about the chaos of Brexit – we had to agree it is deplorable. In case anyone reading this wonders who funded it, we all paid our own costs. The picture is of one of the lighter moments, when we were on a canal boat on the many waterways of Amsterdam.
23 March. This is me with my two brothers and other family members, who joined me to go on the anti-Brexit march. The march attracted a million participants. Three generations of Cliftons took part. A good day as thisevening Gloria and I went to the Mayor’s concert, featuring the Norwood Concert Band and the Show Choir.
22 March. The Brexit chaos is unbelievable. Today the “Brexit lorry” reached Sutton and I went to see it.
11 March. A ceremony in the Town Square in Sutton to raise a flag for Commonwealth Day. I am sure we used to get a bigger crowd, thinking back to the year I was Mayor.
8 March. I was asked to make the speech of welcome to new British citizens at two ceremonies at the Registrar’s Office today. I enjoy these ceremonies. I believe Britain is better for being a strongly multi-cultural society. It used to be mainly new citizens from the Indian sub-continent. Now if is mainly East Europeans settled in the UK. Today the new citizens included people from Poland, Lithuania, Albania, Macedonia, Hungary, France, Spain, Turkey, Australia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Morocco, the Phillipines.
Thisevening, a further meeting of the Police Consultative Panel, at which staffing concerns were evident. I have posted a report on the page relating to the police and on the main site.
5 March. Gloria attended the “Ladies Lunch” organised by the Mayoress, Pauline Cook, to raise money for the Mayor’s charities. She enjoyed it. I was left at home to childmind our grandson Ciaran.
2 March. An exhausting day. In the afternoon I played the cornet for the Crystal Palace Brass Band Progress Band in the Bromley Music Festival. We won a cup! In the evening I played the trumpet for the Phoenix Concert Band at a charity event in Redhill. I think the performance went well.
1 March. Our local residents’ association, the Highfields Residents’ Association, has a monthly tea on the first Friday of each month for retired folk. This Friday Gloria and I hosted the tea. Seventeen people came, a record for us, and we almost ran out of cake. A success.
25 February. The annual Council meeting at which the budget is debated. Some very good speeches on our financial position and the challenges we face, but a meeting marred by some juvenile behaviour by the opposition.
a theme of the meeting was the difficulties that arise from the “Age of Austerity” which the Prime Minister told us was ended. The reduction in financial support was brought home to me by a paper to the Audit and Governance Committee which showed the staff of the Council fell, over a three year period to March 2018, from over 1500 to only 1000 – a massive reduction. Some of this is attributable to arrangements for joint services and to what is called outsourcing (I prefer the term privatisation), but much is a straightforward cut in numbers and cut in services, to meet the financial circumstances forced on us.
I was also shocked at some comparative figures presented to the Greater London Employment Forum last week, which showed that at March 2018 the staffing headcount for Sutton, at 1034, was lower than every single one of the other 31 London boroughs. Differences attributable to arrangements for joint services, to the extent of privatisation and to population size only account for part of this, and astonishingly all but four boroughs had at least double the Sutton headcount.
My conclusion is that we have done extraordinarily well in Sutton to cope with the reductions in funding, maintaining a balanced budget and our financial probity. There have been inevitable reductions in some services over my nine years as a Councillor that have concerned me, but we have avoided some of the actions that have so angered citizens elsewhere – such as the abandonment of meals on wheels and wholesale closures of libraries and children’s centres. We can be proud of our tight and sound financial management in conditions of great adversity, but we must also thank our staff, many of whom are going the extra mile to maintain services that they care about deeply.
All that said, the age of austerity is far from over and the forward projections in the budget papers make grim reading. We live under a Government that does not seem to value public services and it may get worse. I personally see our financial circumstances as a Nation getting poorer as a result of the decision to leave the European Union, which may have further implications for the public services we are told we can afford. But I am sure that in Sutton we will be ready to face the future with the resilience that we have become famous for.
21 February. A meeting at the London Councils building in Southwark of the Greater London Employment Forum on which I represent the Council. An interesting discussion of the position on apprenticeships.
14 February. Valentine’s Day. Trish and I spent much of the day at Glenthorne school attending their careers fair, where we met many of the school’s students.
We discussed the work of local Councillors, political life in general, and careers as a local Government officer. Councils employ local Government officers as managers but also a wide variety of specialists, including town planners and traffic engineers. During my year as Mayor I went to most Sutton schools and was particularly impressed by Glenthorne.
9 February. My local residents’ association organises an annual “safari supper” where you have different courses of a meal in different houses in the area. Tonight 33 couple took part. Gloria and I hosted a pudding course.
7 February. A really excellent evening at The Grange in Wallington, the dinner for the Mayor’s charity appeal. I only got to this as the meeting of the Council and Employees Joint Committee, which I chair, was postponed as the trade union side were inquorate.
31 January. A busy day. In the afternoon Trish and I joined residents of Sutton Court and Beauclere House on a “Community Walkabout” organised by Sutton Housing Partnership (who manage the estate) to look at problems on the estate.
In freezing weather, we toured the estate and found a number of instances of outside pipes and overflow pipes that are leaking, fencing in need of repair, fly tipping needing to be removed and lights that are not working – or in some cases still on in broad daylight, when they need not be.
The walkabout provided us with an opportunity to discuss the problems of the estate with senior SHP staff. The “right to buy” has reduced the number of properties occupied by social housing tenants, with just under half of the properties in Sutton Court sold off and just over half in Beauclere House. In Beauclere House over a fifth of tenants are in receipt of Universal Credit, and over a fith are in arrears. This indicates the financial problems that many face.
In the evening there was a meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee, which I chair. Mostly a good meeting, but an unfortunate set of exchanges on the paper we discussed on the Code of Conduct. The paper lists any complaints against Councillors made under the Code. These are anonymised (the Councillor complained about is not identified) but Councillor Mattey announced to the meeting that most of the complaints were about him and this was evidence of a conspiracy against him. He then got involved in a most unpleasant exchange with another Councillor, who left the meeting in tears. I felt I had to cut the discussion short. Other than this, there were some useful discussions on audit and counter-fraud matters.
28 January. A Council meeting. While many who attended will remember this as a meeting we discussed parking, a debate that I made a contribution to, I thought the best speeches I heard were on a motion on education, particularly a speech by Councillor Jenny Batt.
22 January. A useful meeting with our new Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator, Amie, to try to get the police panel for the Ward better organised (you can find a post on the main site on the last meeting, which sets out some concerns we have).
17 January. An interesting meeting with the people who organise Community Payback, the scheme whereby offenders can do community service rather than go to jail. I had not realised the numbers of offenders involved. Better than putting them in prison, I judge.
15 January. An interesting meeting of the London Mayor’s Association at the Mayor’s Parlour of the Lord Mayor of the City of Westminster, in The Strand. As a former Mayor of Sutton I get to LMA events.
10 January. A New Year and we kick off with a meeting of the Local Committee, held at the Banstead Downs Golf Club. The main decision was to replace twelve trees in the Ward that, following a survey of the 2000 or so street trees in the Ward last year, were identified as diseased and as needing to be felled. Trish and I sought and obtained funding for replacement trees to be planted. These will be:
3 in Camborne Road
2 in Devonshire Avenue
1 in Effingham Close
3 in Langley Park Road
1 in The Ridgway
2 in Upland Road
22 December. My last post before Christmas. I have done a lot of playing of carols this Christmas. For a third Saturday in December I organised a band to play carols in the St Nicholas centre in Sutton to raise money for the Mayor of Sutton’s charities. Now I am going to have a quiet Christmas, illuminated by the contact with my two grandchildren, aged 1 and 3.
15 December. I again led a group of musicians playing Christmas carols, at lunchtime, in the atrium of the St Nicholas centre in Sutton today, to raise money for the Mayor’s charity fund. As on 1 December a good mix of instruments – trumpets, flutes, clarinets, saxes, a tuba and an electric bass guitar. In the evening I turned out for the Crystal Palace Brass Band at a concert in Beckenham, this time playing the cornet. Our performance of “The Best of Queen” including Bohemian Rhapsody, Another One Bites the Dust, Crazy Little Thing Called Love and We Are The Champions wowed them.
13 December. My band (The Phoenix Concert Band) performed for the Mayor yet again today at the Mayor’s Christmas carol concert in St Nicholas’s church in central Sutton. We played White Christmas, Leroy Anderson’s Christmas Festival, the music from the film The Big Country, the music from the musical Hello Dolly, an arrangement of compositions by Henry Mancini (Pink Panther etc.) and the music from the Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark films. A great time was had by all and £800 raised for the Mayor’s charity fund.
12 December. To the Sutton South Hello Christmas party. Great fun. Again the dancing was led by Trish.
10 December. Today I went to see my grandson in his school nativity play, in Brixton. Wonderful
8 December. Today I played in two concerts – trumpet, with the Phoenix Concert Band in the afternoon, at the Friends’ Meeting House in Cedar Road, then cornet with the Crystal Palace Bras Band Progress Band at a concert in the evening in Peckham.
7 December. A meeting on the parking consultation at Overton Grange. Unfortunately somewhat dominated by people who had clearly been round all the meetings in different parts of the borough raising highly specific concerns about specific roads a long way from here (Robertsbridge Road, Tate Road).
5 December. The tree pruning continues across the Ward. This in The Ridgway today, looks dangerous.
4 December. A ceremony called “The Blessing of the Pumps” at the Robin Hood pub in central Sutton. My band provided some music.
The traditional “Blessing of the Pumps” service, which takes place every year at the Robin Hood pub in Robin Hood Lane in Sutton on a date close to St Nicholas’s day, was enacted again today. St Nicholas is the patron saint of innkeepers and brewers.
This service takes place in the pub every year, attended by the Mayor of Sutton, and brings a promise of good service to the pub as Christmas approaches. The service was attended by Councillor Steve Cook, the Mayor of Sutton, and the Mayoress, Mrs Pauline Cook. It was conducted by clergy from the nearby church of St Nicholas.
The ceremony involves the landlady promising to keep an orderly house, welcome all, avoid nuisance to the neighbours and keeping honest weights and measures. The pub is blessed by sprinkling holy water over the bar, the kitchen, the pub garden and even the toilets.
Music, in the form of Christmas carols before, after and as part of the service, was provided by members of the Sutton-based Phoenix Concert Band, led by myself on trumpet.
1 December. I led a group playing Christmas carols to raise funds for the Mayor’s charity appeal. Ten of us played for an hour in the St Nicholas centre in Sutton – three trumpets, a cornet, three flutes, a horn, a saxophone, an electric bass. We must have played twenty or more carols and raised a few hundred pounds.
29 November. The first meeting for a long time of the Sutton South Ward Police Community Panel. The summer meeting was cancelled at a late point due to it being on the evening of one of the football matches England were involved in in the World Cup. A meeting that left us feeling worried. An increase in crime, in burglaries and thefts from motor vehicles, was reported for the first time for some time. This may not be unrelated to problems of police numbers following the merger with Croydon and Bromley. There are a significant number of unfilled posts, vacancies, that the police are struggling to fill, particularly PCSOs. These are important for work on community relations. One member of staff is about to be moved to work in Croydon, though she did not request this move, and we are again losing our Dedicated Ward Officer. Kellie Heath is also being moved to Croydon.
These meetings are not well advertised and poorly attended. Not even the Chairman turned up this time. A re-think is needed.
November 27. Trish and I visited Devonshire primary school and were shown round by the head, Fiona Oastler. Very impressive. A very different school from when my children were there in the 1990s.I noticed today that the tree pruning exercise for the Ward is well underway. I took this photo in Downside Road.
November 25. A good start to Christmas carol playing activities when I joined, on trumpet, a gang of brass players on Victoria station, to raise money for charity. Some of them played from 11 am till knocking off at 5pm, with a few breaks. Two hours of playing was enough for me – my lip was knackered.
November 12. A Council meeting. One of the few at which I was not called on to make an intervention. A pity that the business was so prolonged that there was hardly any discussion of the interesting motion on bullying.
November 11. Remembrance Sunday. I was called in at short notice to play the Last Post at the service at the Manor Park war memorial. Heavy rain, so spent the afternoon unblocking the drains in Grange Vale and Cedar Road.
November 10. Played the trumpet with the Phoenix Concert Band at St Barnabas church for a Remembrance weekend event. A lovely service – we played all the traditional pieces such as Nimrod and Abide With Me, and some more unusual First World War songs such as Keep The Home Fires Burning and Mademoiselle from Armentières.
November 8. A meeting of the Council and Employees Joint Committee, which I chair. An interesting discussion with the unions of various management changes and the record of the Council on diversity. The gender pay gap in Sutton is quite low, about 5% towards men when measured by mean pay levels but at the median the median woman is paif more than the median man.
November 7. To the Sutton South Hello Divali event. A wonderful display of saris. Attended by our Mayor and Mayoress.
November 3. Gloria and I always go to the firework display in Ruskin Park Carshalton this time of year. A very good display this year. Well attended.
November 1. As I am in my seventies I am entitled to a flu jab. I am seeking advice on winter flu via this website.
October 29. I attended a meeting of the Highfields Residents’ Association to discuss a planning issue, the conversion of a house in Mayfield Road into a care home. The meeting concentrated on clarifying the policy of the Association on such matters. I have arranged for the application to be considered by Planning Committee.
October 20. I joined many local party members at the march, from Hyde Park Corner to Parliament Square, against Brexit.
I met my brother, who is ten years older than me, so 82, and we marched together. He was not up to doing the whole march so we joined it at Trafalgar Square. Some good speeches. Peter is a Labour Party member (as I used to be) and finds the indecision of the Labour Party on Brexit troubling.
October 18. A meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee, which I chair. The most interesting paper we considered thisevening was one on workforce – the employees of Sutton Council – data, including material on the gender pay gap at Sutton Council. At the median, women are paid more than men. The most staggering statistic was one that showed that the number of employees of the Council has fallen over a period of three years from about 1700 to about 1000, due to austerity and privatisation.
October 16. A have volunteered to be “Welfare Officer” for the tennis club opposite where I live. I found this means I have to have a DBS check (now completed) and attend a course on safeguarding. Thisevening I went to the course, at Banstead Downs Lawn Tennis Club. It was very interesting and illuminating.
October 14. Gloria and I went to Westminster Abbey for the annual “Day of Dedication” celebration of evensong attended by the Mayors of the 32 London boroughs, robed, with their maces and macebearers. A splendid sight. I get invited to this as a past Mayor.
October 12. An interesting meeting with Trish, Council officers and local residents to discuss the potential for flooding at the bottom of Downside Road. There are hills (Banstead Road South and Downside Road) that all “pond” at a dip at the bottom of Downside Road. It would need a massive storm to cause a flood, though it seems that this has sometimes happened in recent years. Global warming? Officers suggested some flood alleviation measures.
October 9. I attended the hearing of the Licensing Committee to consider the latest application for variation of his licence by the owner of the Noor Jahan bar. Although a Ward Councillor, I was not allowed to speak at the hearing. Some very odd procedural rules.
October 5. To the monthly get together for retired folk organised by the Highfield Residents’ Association. These are popular and good opportunities to chat about the local scene.
October 3. To the AGM of Sutton South Hello. As ever, very well attended and very well run by Heather Honour, a former LibDem Councillor for our Ward.
September 26. To the AGM of Highfield Lawns Ltd., a company of which I am a Director. This owns the land opposite my house and exists to facilitate the operation of a tennis club on the site. An interesting and very positive discussion of the current state of the club.
September 22. An interesting day. Morning, I did some delivery and canvassing in the Belmont by-election. Still not clear why Tory Councillor McManus resigned a few months after standing for election. We have a good candidate, Dean Juster.
Thisafternoon, to Christchurch in Christchurch Park to play trumpet at a concert given by the Phoenix Concert Band. The programme included Blue Tango, the music from My Fair Lady and from the film Titanic. And thisevening the annual Sutton Liberal Democrats dinner, held at Sutton United Football Club.
September 18. My 72nd birthday. Where have the years gone?
September 13. Thisafternoon I went to a very interesting exhibition at Christchurch, the church in Christchurch Park, organised by Sutton South Hello. Remarkable artworks by local people. Thisevening a meeting of the Sutton South, Cheam and Belmont Local Committee. We discussed an agenda somewhat reduced from the agenda originally planned due to the “purdah” requirements following the announcement that there will be a Council by-election in Belmont Ward. No indication was given as to why Councillor McManus, previously a member of the committee, had resigned. Matters discussed included:
– we heard an interesting presentation on the work of the parks police, who are diligent in pursuing and preventing anti-social behaviour in our parks
– we agreed to set in chain consultation on an action plan to improve Overton Park
– we confirmed decisions to install speed awareness signs in Cedar Road, which is notorious for speeding, to complement those in Farm Road and those planned for Grange Road and Worcester Road
– we noted a number of improvements to Sutton South Ward, including re-painting of the railings at two places in Brighton Road and the modification of the width restriction at Grange Vale.
September 10. The first full Council meeting of the new administration, following the local elections, was held thisevening. It was held at Overton Grange school, in Sutton South Ward, the first time the Council has met in our Ward, This follows a decision by Council to get out and about round the Borough, to see the Borough and be seen, rather than sit in the Council offices.
The main debate was on the subject of single use plastics, on which Trish made an impassioned speech drawing attention to the plight of the oceans and calling for greater responsibility worldwide. I took the opportunity of a debate on the Council’s plan to welcome Councillors to Sutton South. I said:
“We are now doing something we perhaps should have done before and getting out round the Borough, to see different parts of the Borough and be seen there. And tonight we are starting that process by meeting in Sutton South Ward. So I think it appropriate for me as a Councillor for Sutton South to welcome you all to Sutton South. I know my fellow Sutton South Councillor Councillor Fivey wants to join me in extending this welcome, to Sutton South which is famous for:
A low level of crime, one of the lowest for any Ward in the 32 London Boroughs
Excellent schools, our local schools are brilliant
A unique environmental facility in the Devonshire Avenue Nature Area
A green, pleasant, suburban environment
And a relatively high level of employment, contributed to by our success in persuading a major transnational company in the oil exploration business – Subsea 7 – to locate their global, international headquarters in the Ward, bringing 900 jobs, some – not just in more routine occupations – now being occupied by local people, with 900 staff spending money in local shops and restaurants, and boosting the local economy.
I relate this to the important entry in the plan on page 17 reading
“Implementation of the Local Plan to deliver retail, office and industrial development and employment opportunities”
We have done that in Sutton South – we will continue to do it.”
August 31. Delighted that the width restriction in Grange Vale has been widened a tad. The standard width is six feet six inches but as there is a right hand turn as you go through the restriction a slightly wider setting is preferable.
August 21, Contrary to my message dated 6 August below, developments have slowed as so many people are on holiday. Gloria and I continue to child mind our grandson two days a week. I am really very angry about the vandalisation of the fence at the nature area in Warren Park. Such mindless vandalism is disturbing.
August 6. A lot going on in the Ward at the moment. Repairs to the railings in Christchurch Park and continuing repairs to the potholes left over from winter (this one in Langley Park Road).
August 5. A good afternoon at Canbury Gardens in Kingston. The new LibDem administration in Kingston continues to fund the programme of concerts at the Canbury Gardens bandstand. Today I played second trumpet with the New London Concert Band. Highlights included arrangements of the music from Jesus Christ Superstar and Fiddler on the Roof.
August 4. Trish and I held one of our famous open air surgeries outside Northumberland House in Brighton Road thismorning.
August 1. The weather is warm so at tonight’s rehearsal of the Crystal Palace Brass Band Progress Band we rehearsed outdoors in Crystal Palace park.
July 26. Tonight I chaired the Audit and Governance Committee, the first meeting of a new committee. It replaces the former Audit Committee and the Standards Committee, with a responsibility for workforce issues and health and safety thrown in. These will be interesting subjects, with the issue of the gender pay gap under scrutiny (but Sutton has a good story to tell on this). Tonight we had to agree the accounts for the last financial year, with the report from the external auditors, who issued an unqualified conclusion that “the Council has proper arrangements in all significant respects to ensure it delivers value for money in its use of resources.”
July 19. Tonight I chaired the Council and Employees Joint Committee, one of two Council committees – both chaired by me – where Councillors meet the recognised trade unions. I am a strong supporter of trade unionism and was during my career in the civil service an active member of my union, the Association of First Division Civil Servants. The main issue thisevening was changes to the dismissals procedure which mean that Councillors no longer play a part. I support these changes as the previous arrangements involved a confusion of roles – Councillors should make policy, not be involved in detailed management procedures.
July 16. I usually spend Mondays and Tuesdays childminding my grandson Ciaran. Here he is at Ruskin Park, near Loughborough Junction, being adventurous on the climbing equipment.
July 14. An excellent afternoon playing with the band – the Phoenix Concert Band – at the Chipstead Flower Show. Our programme included the music from My Fair Lady and from Joseph. It also included Blue Tango, Washington Post, It Don’t Mean a thing if it Ain’t Got that Swing (an old Duke Ellington number), and much else. I saw Duke Ellington and his band perform at the Finsbury Park Astoria in 1962. The following year I saw the Beatles perform at the same venue eighteen times as I got a job selling programmes and ice creams. Cilla Black was a minor supporting artist on the same bill. Interesting that the lead story in the Sutton Guardian this week is the Phoenix band being thrown out of Sutton College.
July 11. As a past Mayor, I am invited to events organised by the London Mayors’ Association. Today a most interesting trip, with Gloria, to visit Marlborough House in Pall Mall and have tea at the East India Club.
July 10. A meeting of the Joint Health and Safety Committee, which I chair. This is a joint committee with recognised trade unions but it is odd that only representatives of the teaching unions turned up. Now that most Sutton schools are academies the Council employs many fewer teachers.
July 4. A further appearance at Planning Committee and for the second meeting in a row I got them to overturn a recommendation from officers to build something in the Ward I did not like. This a more marginal decision than the one at Allon Court (see 6 June below), an extension to a house in Mayfield Road. I am very pleased at the decision to refuse permission to erect a further floor on the top of Allon Court in Eaton Road, and have been having further meetings with the residents. While this is an attractive modern block of flats, I get the impression it was poorly built.
July 1. Today a family party for the 70th birthday of my wife Gloria. In fact her birthday was 9 June but as this was the first anniversary of the death of our daughter Jane we deferred the celebration till today. A big event. A lot of family there. Now we are planning the party for our Golden Wedding Anniversary in two years time.
June 30. I like to promote music in my Ward – particularly if I am playing – so today the New London Concert Band performed at the Christchurch summer fair with a concert in the church. Great acoustics in the church. Three of us playing the trumpet parts – myself and my good friends Clive and Amy, who are both much better players than me. Our programme included the music from Fiddler on the Roof, and from Jesus Christ Superstar.
June 28. I represent the borough on a committee established by London Councils, the Greater London Employment Forum. There is one representative from each borough plus the City of London Corporation, and trade unions. We met today and had some interesting discussions on pension arrangements, standards in the construction industry, help for employees on maternity leave who give birth prematurely, and on flexible working.
June 23. A performance with the Crystal Palace Progress Band at the Sanderstead Flower Show. Particularly pleased with our performance of the music from Pirates of the Carribean and the best of Queen.
June 22, Today was the third birthday of our grandson Ciaran. We had a family meal at Trinity, a restaurant in Clapham near where he lives with his Dad, Tet. His mother – my daughter – died of a brain tumour just over a year ago, so he is very precious to my wife Gloria and myself.
June 21. Thisevening the first Local Committee meeting (the South Sutton, Cheam and Belmont Local Committee) since the election, at Overton Grange school. Trish and I now the only Liberal Democrats on the committee. A bit surprised that the big issue of the evening turned out to be whether the width restriction at Grange Vale should be modified by moving the left hand post an inch to the left or the right hand post an inch to the right. A decision was left to the traffic engineers.
June 14. I strongly recommend the exhibition on Captain Cook’s voyages at the British Library. Went there today with Gloria as part of our activities to celebrate her 70th birthday.
June 9. An exciting weekend. Two gigs in two days for the Phoenix Concert Band (for which I play trumpet). On Friday 8, for children and parents at Robin Hood junior school. On Saturday 9 at the Friends’ Meeting House in Cedar Road, at the Second Saturday Tea for senior citizens.
In the evening Gloria and I went to the Amadiyya Muslim Association mosque in Willow Lane in Hackbridge, invited by the Muslim community to join them in their meal breaking fast, at sunset. Sunset was not till 9.15 pm so we were hungry. I admire our Muslim friends for fasting all day during Ramadan – I would find it very difficult.
This was a strange day – it was Gloria’s 70th birthday but we decided not to celebrate it as it was also the anniversary of the death of our daughter Jane, who died a year ago today in St Christopher’s hospice in Sydenham, of a brain tumour.
June 6. In a dramatic battle at Planning Committee I helped persuade the committee to reject a harmful planning application in Eaton Road.. We have said that one of our objectives is to protect the Ward from inappropriate development. At Planning Committee I spoke in support of two residents from Allon Court in Eaton Road in a bid to overturn a recommendation from officers to permit the erection of a further storey on the roof of the block of flats, though the block is occupied and this would have been disruptive to residents. The higher building would also have blocked the light of residents in Cumnor Road.
After a wide ranging debate, we persuaded the Committee to reject the application. Sadly, this may not be the end of the story if the developer goes to appeal.
June 4. The Councillor induction programme is now well underway for new Councillors. Tonight an interesting session on the Code of Conduct. As I have been a Councillor for eight years I am not going to all of these but, as I will be chairing the new Audit and Governance Committee, I wanted to refresh my knowledge.
June 1. Sorry to learn that local democracy has again been overruled by the remote Planning Inspectorate, based in Bristol. The proposed development of 81 and 83 Langley Park Road to demolish the houses and build a block of nine flats was turned down by Sutton Council but then granted on appeal by the Planning Inspectorate.
The concerns of the Council largely related to design. We expect high quality standards of development in our Ward and could envisage a much more attractive development if this proposal was to go ahead. There were also issues about car parking, traffic and congestion, largely dismissed by the Inspector in his report.
My concern is with the outcome but also with the system. The Planning Inspectorate seems to have a bias in favour of development, come what may, and it seems wrong that local decisions taken by locally elected Councillors reflecting a local plan can be overturned with no further right of appeal.
May 30. Tonight Gloria and I were invited by a resident of Northumberland House, a Turkish Muslim, to share with him and his family their meal (at 9.10pm) to break their fast, it being Ramadan. This was a very kind gesture on their part. I also found this family had been reading this blog and knew all about me!
May 21. The annual Council meeting where we elect the Mayor and appoint members of committees. I am to be chair of Audit and Governance – a new committee. I also made the speech nominating my friend and former Deputy Mayor Steve Cook to be Mayor. This is the text of my speech.
“Madame Mayor, I wanted to begin my remarks by echoing what many others have said about the grace, dignity, hard work and commitment you have brought, with Councillor Heron, to the Mayoralty this year.
So let me turn now to another Councillor who, I know, will bring commitment and hard work to the Mayoralty in this coming year, if Council accepts my nomination tonight.
It gives me great pleasure to nominate, to be Mayor of the London Borough of Sutton for the year 2018-19, Councillor Steve Cook.
I cannot resist beginning by saying that if you do accept this nomination it will be the second time in three years that the Mayor of Sutton has been a Muswell Hillbilly, as Steve and I discovered we share a common birthplace, a maternity hospital (sadly later demolished) in Alexandra Park Road in Muswell Hill, in north London. And for those too young to recognise the reference, “I’m a Muswell Hillbilly” is a song made famous by The Kinks pop group, who hail from Muswell Hill, and famous Muswell Hillbillies include Steve and myself, obviously, Ray and Dave Davies of The Kinks, Adam Ant and Alvin Stardust – so a really distinguished company of people.
Let me tell you about Steve.
Steve was born on the Queen’s coronation day, so every birthday is the anniversary of the Coronation, of Sir Edmund Hillary climbing Everest and of the D-Day landings.
He left school as a teenager after the tragic death of his father and after he had himself suffered a major, life threatening illness. He became a runner in the Soho film business and was such a great success that by the 1980s he had his own large scale, thriving post production studios, in Soho, in London, and in Los Angeles.
But Steve is a drummer, and in a particular milieu, Steve is famous, famous for the Steve Cook Soul Band, formed in 1975. The Steve Cook Soul Band was effectively the “house” band at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane for over twenty years, the industry favourite for charity balls and awards ceremonies, performing at numerous awards and film industry functions.
I am told that at its height it had 17 members including musicians and go-go dancers.
There are many stories about the band. There is a story that in the 1980s they played at the Istanbul Advertising Awards ceremony, followed by a live televised gig at the Istanbul Hilton, and an international incident was narrowly avoided when the skimpily clad go-go dancers were featured on the front page of the Turkish equivalent of the News of the World.
Steve became a Councillor in 2015 after being Chair of the local residents’ association which successfully campaigned against a huge McDonalds drive-through in Wallington.
Now in some London Boroughs there is a tradition that whoever is Deputy Mayor one year then becomes Mayor the following year. We have not constrained ourselves in that way in Sutton but of course Steve was, with Councillor Patel, Deputy Mayor just over a year ago, so he has the experience to avoid the traps and be a great Mayor. And his wife Pauline, who had a distinguished career in education in Sutton – headteacher at Robin Hood infants school for twenty years and at Thomas Wall Nursery school for eight year – brought great dedication to the role of Deputy Mayoress, and will be an excellent Mayoress.
Madame Mayor, I nominate Councillor Steve Cook.”
May 4. I have not added to this site during the election campaign, but today I am celebrating being re-elected. I am absolutely delighted at the confidence local residents have shown in me. Thank you.
April 14. A great concert thisevening to raise money for the Mayor’s charities, at St Andrew’s in Cheam, with the Show Choir and the Norwood Wind Ensemble. A year ago these two brilliant musical groups staged a concert for me, when I was Mayor, to raise money for my charities. It was a great event.
April 3. Today my daughter Jane would have been 39 years old, had she not died of a brain tumour last June. We decided on a family outing and took my grandson Ciaran to a performance of Swan Lake at the Peacock Theatre in Kingsway, in town. This was called “My First Ballet: Swan Lake” so was a simplified version for small children, with a narrator. The theatre was full of children aged about 3 to 5 years, with parents. All things considered, the children were well behaved.
March 29. I attended, tonight, what will be the last Council committee meeting I attend before the election. This was a meeting of the Audit Committee. It is sad that I am on this committee as I have been appointed to it to replace Adrian Davey, a wonderful man who died of cancer late last year. Having had a bereavement in my own family in the last year I can understand completely what his family will have gone through. I was a member of the Audit Committee prior to 2014. It is an interesting committee. A highlight thisevening was the discovery that our staff assessing claims for benefit were found to have made not a single mistake when a sample of the claims were analysed by the external auditors. The auditors described this as “unusual” and “a remarkably good performance.”
March 24/25. A busy weekend. We held one of our “Open Air Surgeries” outside Northumberland House on Saturday morning. We got a lot of reaction to our requests to local residents who passed by for ideas for further improvements to the area, and many wanted to sign our petition opposing the merger of Sutton’s police force with those of Croydon and Bromley. Sutton is a low crime area and this will draw away resource into higher crime areas, particularly Croydon.
On Sunday Gloria and I were delighted to have been invited by local resident Pat Proctor, at one time chair of Residents’ Committee at Redruth House, to her 90th birthday party, at Cheam Sports Club. A wonderful event for a wonderful woman.
March 14. There is something of a sense of the Council “closing down” at the moment as people prepare for the forthcoming election, so I may not be adding much to this blog before the electorate decides whether it wants me to continue. We have had our final Council meeting and I have only one further Council committee meeting to attend, the Audit Committee on 29 March, a sad commitment in that I am only a member of the committee as I replace Adrian Davy following his death. I was pleased we have got the vandalised tree in Willis Avenue replaced (see photos of both trees).
March 4. My granddaughter Olivia was christened today, at St Nicholas’s church in Kings Norton, just south of Birmingham. A great family event.
March 3. A great evening contributing to the cultural life of Redhill, with the Phoenix Concert Band playing a great concert at a church in Redhill to raise money for a charity that helps people live at home rather than going into a home. Great music including arrangements of the music from My Fair Lady, the Harry Potter films, Moulin Rouge and Joseph.
February 28. Freezing cold but I spent over half an hour with the police, and local resident Jack Hamilton, in Cedar Road checking the speeds of vehicles with a “speed gun.” A remarkable device. Drivers exceeding the 20 mph speed limit will get a warning letter.
February 26. A Council meeting. I was delighted that I was able to make the final speech of the meeting, in praise of the local plan and recommending that it be adopted. I reminded Councillors that the process of public review by a Government Inspector – which can lead to major revision of such plans – left it virtually unscathed. The core policies of the plan survived without alteration, and are the central policies that have helped us maintain the pleasant, green, suburban character of Sutton our residents cherish. This is evidence of the strength of the document.
The plan supports development that is in keeping with the best in our local environment – preserving the green, suburban feel of Sutton while meeting the aspiration to have homes for our children to grow up here. The plan promotes good quality design, school places, the London Cancer Hub, surgeries, the protection of pubs, parks and open spaces, and minimum standards for housing. It also strengthens the protection of Conservation Areas and Areas of Special Local Character. It is our plan for a successful Sutton.
February 24. A good day contributing to the cultural life of south London. I played (the cornet) for the Crystal Palace Brass Band Progress Band in a brass band competition in Bromley, where for the second year in a row we won a cup.
February 13. A “mega” Housing, Economy and Business Committee meeting. Very pleased with the local plan. A very good publication proposed on the locally listed buildings in our area.
February 12. A lovely day childminding my grandson Ciaran, here on the roundabout in the town centre.
February 7. A lot of Ward casework at the moment. On Monday I helped a resident in Upland Road get Council support for re-laying the dropped kerb at her house damaged by a tree. Today to visit a resident in Westmoreland Drive whose garage was flooded.
February 3. February already! Tonight Gloria and I hosted the coffee course for the Highfield Residents’ Association at the conclusion of their “Safari Supper”, a wonderful social event I used to organise. Over 60 residents crammed into our house and did not leave till the early hours.
January 31. A really busy week. On Monday 29th a Council meeting held at Overton Grange school. There was an excellent debate on mental heath dominated by an excellent speech from Trish on the subject of suicide. On the Tuesday the police consultative committee met and on Wednesday there was a local committee meeting also at Overton Grange school.
January 26. Success in the war on speeding. A new width restriction at Grange Vale but – at last – speed indicator signs installed in Farm Road.
January 24. Today I attended and spoke at the Licensing Committee hearing on the Noor Jahan bar’s new licence application, to stay open till 2.30 am. The Committee agreed they must close earlier. I have posted an article on this on the main website.
January 18. Today I opened the new guest bedroom suite at Hampton Lodge in Cavendish Road. A very enjoyable event. I also had a success in that Sutton Housing Partnership have finally installed the new steps at Brendon House.
January 9. I attended a hearing organised by the Planning Inspectorate into the refused planning application for 7-9 Cavendish Road. I hate the fact that this remote body based in Bristol can overturn locally made decisions. I spoke up for the residents, but am not optimistic.
January 7. Gloria and I had a good Christmas though as it was the first since our daughter died there were some bittersweet memories. Getting back into gear for 2018 now and this weekend I attended a weekend I have attended every year since 1999 (except one year when it was cancelled due to snow) on the first weekend of the New Year. This is the “Wychcroft Weekend” when members of the evening class that meets at Sutton College on Fridays as a concert band spend a whole weekend of music practice. By the end of the weekend our sound is red hot – particularly the trumpet section, of which I am a member. Pieces we worked on included the music from the Harry Potter films. In December the band played at the Friends’ Meeting House in Cedar Road (see December 9 below).
December 22. Logging off for Christmas now, and for the first time since we were married in 1970 this Christmas we will not be cooking a turkey on Christmas Day as we will be entertained by our daughter Ellie in Birmingham. 2017 has been a tough year for us with the loss of our daughter Jane and this will be our first Christmas since she died.
December 20. Tough job, sometimes, being a grandparent. But some lovely moments. Gloria and I went to see our two year old grandson perform in the nativity play at his nursery. He was a king and delivered his one line “I bring you frankincense” with great volume and authority. Last year, when I was Mayor, I went to numerous nativity plays and consequently knew the readings almost by heart. This is my only nativity play this year.
December 18. To Licensing Committee. A discussion of “Cumulative Impact Zones” where special attention is paid to new licence applications to sell alcohol. Relevant parts of our Ward remain in such a zone, I am pleased to say. News today that planning officers have turned down a planning application that disturbed me to build on the garden of 30 The Ridgway. It was a poor proposal.
December 16 and 17. More carols – my group played carols for the Mayor again in the St Nicholas shopping centre on Saturday, and on Sunday I joined other players from the Crystal Palace Brass Band at the “David Bowie Memorial Bandstand” in Beckenham.
December 14. To the Sutton and Surrey Senior Citizens’ Club Christmas lunch at the Thomas Wall Centre. This is a wonderful social group, mostly members of the Indian diaspora. I love Indian food and it was a great lunch. Ramesh Dogra was, as ever, full of interesting insights in the talk he gave, about common aspects of Divali, Eid and Christmas.
December 13. To the Hello Christmas Party. A big event in Christchurch hall. Where Trish got everyone dancing.
December 9. A lot of carol playing at the moment. Today to the Friends’ Meeting House in Cedar Road where we entertained an audience of about 60 to a Christmas concert, including my own favourite Christmas medley, Leroy Anderson’s Christmas Festival. Tonight I led a small group of musicians (five of us – myself on trumpet with a cornet, bass clarinet, flute, tenor saxophone) at the Straw café in Manor Park, with the Sutton Chorale, to raise money for the Mayor’s Charitable Appeal. And the Mayor came.
December 3. To the Highfield Residents’ Association Christmas drinks. Then a sombre moment – I joined the Crystal Palace Brass Band playing cornet at the turning on of the lights on the Christmas tree at St Christopher’s hospice in Sydenham, where my daughter died last June. I enjoyed the playing, though there were of course moments when I again felt upset.
December 2. A big weekend for music. My band played Christmas carols in the St Nicholas centre to raise money for the Mayor’s charity appeal. And then I went to Crystal Palace to play cornet for the Crystal Palace Brass Band.
December 1. I went on from the Highfield Residents’ Association tea for retired folk, like Gloria and myself, to the Yulefest in Carshalton Beeches. An impressive event. And then to the Phoenix Concert band practice, getting ready for our big performance at the Friends’ Meeting House this coming Saturday.
November 30. An interesting visit with fellow Councillors to a school in Croydon where there is an experimental approach to controlling parking at the school by banning all cars in the vicinity except for those of residents. Parents cannot drop off their children at the school gates so have to walk. Sadly, it only works as the school is in a cul-de-sac and it would not work at the schools in our Ward (Devonshire and Overton) as there is so much through traffic.
November 27. A sad day for the family when we buried the ashes of my daughter Jane, who died of a brain tumour in June, at West Norwood cemetery.
November 20.. A Council meeting, held at Sutton Boys Grammar School. I made a speech on homelessness. a subject I care about as my daughter works for a charity for the homeless, St. Basil’s, in Birmingham. I have posted a story on the main site that includes the full text of my speech.
November 12. Remembrance Sunday. Trish and I laid a wreath at the ceremony in Manor Park. I think the war memorial in Manor Park is attractive, and during my year as Mayor I attended a service to remember the role of the Parachute Regiment at a particular battle in World War Two, which is held every year in the park because of the role a noted Sutton resident played in the attack.
I was scandalised to discover that the playing of the Last Post at the ceremony was by a recording. I have played the Last Post at Remembrance Day events. I could have done it. I used to go with the Croydon Brass Band every year to the service aboard HMS Belfast and play the hymns with the band (but a better trumpeter than me played the Last Post). Nimrod is a wonderful composition.
Delighted that the “Silent Soldier” (my proposal to the Local Committee) is now erected outside Northumberland House.
November 7. Thisevening the Highfields Residents’ Association celebrated its 40th anniversary with a dinner Gloria and I attended at Il Toscana, an excellent Italian restaurant just south of Sutton station. Amongst the guests were Xandra and Graham Brassington who founded the Association and who moved from the area in 1988, when we bought their house.
November 5. The London to Brighton vintage car run passed through Sutton today. I was stuck on the A217 thismorning in the midst of the vintage cars driving to Brighton. There was gridlock so I was able to get out of my car and take this picture.
And thisafternoon to Norwood to play the cornet with the Croydon Brass Band at an event at St Luke’s church called the “Norwood Feast”. A small band but we played well.
November 4. Tonight to Carshalton to see the firework display in Ruskin Park. Sorry to learn that as there is an international market in fireworks and they are priced in dollars they are much more expensive due to the Brexit-related collapse in the value of sterling. These price rises will accelerate as we move towards Brexit, particularly as the negotiations are going so badly, and it seems there will be no deal. What a mess. But the display was good, even if the cost of attending was higher this year.
November 1. Today I attended the Sutton South Hello Divali celebration. A big crowd and the Mayor came.
October 31. A good meeting of the police consultative committee. Much better attended than of late so my efforts to publicise the meeting are proving fruitful. We have posted a report on the main site and on the page devoted to the police. Interesting that the police were not too stretched to attend though it was Halloween.
October 28. I have just finished reading a book “Dismembered”, about the Tory attack on the welfare state, by Polly Toynbee. I recommend it. It is a subject on which I feel strongly, particularly the welfare cuts that have condemned so many of my residents to poverty. Here in affluent Sutton South there are terrible pockets of poverty. On the subject of recommendations, Gloria and I went to see a film tonight, at the Odeon Epsom, “The Death of Stalin.” I thought this a clever and amusing film.
October 21. Gloria and I accepted an invitation to go to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association mosque in Morden for an evening to celebrate the Association’s work in Africa. I visited the mosque several times during my year as Mayor. A very interesting evening and excellent food.
October 15. Gloria and I went to special evensong service at Westminster Abbey today, attended by 32 London Mayors and many former Mayors. As a former Mayor of Sutton, I get invited. A moving service. A good turnout of Sutton folk including three former Mayors.
October 12. A disappointment. I had a ticket to the Mayor’s charity dinner at The Grange restaurant in Wallington. There was a similar dinner last year – when I was Mayor – and the food was superb. But I was feeling ill today, very much under the weather, and had to pull out.
October 4. Gloria and I find it difficult to get away for even a short holiday these days, due to our commitment to look after our two year old grandson several days a week, since his mother died last June. We have got away for a few days this week, to visit Rome.
October 2. Tonight I went to St. Christopher’s hospice in Sydenham to discuss bereavement counselling with the staff there. This was a heart wrenching journey for me, but I have to say that they looked after my daughter with great care in the days before she died at the hospice in June. I found this a useful session.
September 27. A Visit to Sutton Court with Sutton Housing Partnership staff. Picked up some interesting issues. There used to be a rail alongside these three steps down from Brendon House. At some point it was taken away. I am trying to get it restored.
September 26. Tonight a meeting of the Housing, Economy and Business Committee. The paper on the progress of the local economy is always interesting. By some measures, Sutton is booming. An interesting, and re-assuring, discussion of fire safety in blocks of flats, and a disturbing discussion of how the Homelessness Reduction Act places new obligations on local authorities with no extra resources.
September 21. Tonight I attended the AGM of Highfield Lawns Ltd. I am a Director of this company which exists to own the field opposite my house and ensure it continues to be used to house a tennis club rather than being built on. The Directors came to the meeting but sadly none of our hundred or so shareholders, all of whom live locally, were interested.
September 14. I have been attending a study tour organised by the Scientific Instruments Society, an interest of Gloria’s as she is a retired museum curator. Today we went down a coal mine in Pontypool.
September 9. An excellent event today when I went to Broome Park home for those with severe learning difficulties, near Dorking, with the New London Concert Band, and we played a varied programme of music (highlights from Cabaret, My Fair Lady, Beauty and the Beast, Souza marches, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, included), though not our arrangement of the music from the Wizard of Oz, which disappointed me.
September 7. A meeting of the local committee. I hope the parking consultation will now take place much earlier than anticipated. The main decisions affecting our Ward were to plant a replacement for the vandalised tree in Willis Avenue and to install a vehicle operated sign in Farm Road to reduce speeding. The committee also agreed my proposal to purchase from the Royal British Legion a “Silent Soldier” and install it in the flower beds in front of Northumberland House. These are large silhouettes of soldiers, designed to be installed through 2018 in prominent places to remind us that this is the centenary of the conclusion of the Great War.
September 6. Today I played the trumpet with the New London Concert Band at St Margaret’s church in Westminster. A great programme featuring arrangements of the music from Cabaret, the Wizard of Oz, Beauty and the Beast, and the Mikardo. Also works by Rossini and marches by Sousa.
August 26. A short summer holiday in Northern Ireland with Gloria, my son in law Tet and grandson Ciaran. An enjoyable week, if leaving me a little upset at times as it was the first family holiday since the loss of our daughter to a brain tumour. Here is Ciaran in Crystal Palace park.
August 17. A Citizenship ceremony. There has to be someone to make a speech welcoming the new citizens on behalf of the local community. I am well qualified to do this as a former Mayor of the Borough and Councillor for the Ward that the Registrar’s office in Worcester Road is in. I can say to the new citizens, with genuine conviction, that I believe Britain is a better place for having so many different cultures contributing to our society. Today there was a big group with new citizens from Korea, Poland, Bulgaria, India, Spain and other countries. This is a picture from an earlier ceremony, with Sunita from India.
This is Gloria and myself standing outside the house of Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangdon (Rangoon).
Here’s a nice picture of my daughter Ellie and her husband Jeff.