Saturday, February 10, 2007

Kimpton Road - Temporary Closure

I sere the Cheam and Worcester Park Area Committee will be soon considering whether to reopne the road. I hope the Committee backs the local residents on this issue. The businesses have a good new access Road in Minden Way which take traffic of residential roads.

Review of Scrutiny

I just want to say impressed with the proposals. They seem to strengthen scrutiny a lot and make use of it as a tool to improve services.

Two quick points:

1. It would be good if the Chair of Police Consultative Committee was made an "advisor" to the Sustainable Communities Committee. That would bring practice in line with Patients Forums contributing to the Health Committee.

2. Will the Tories now take up any chairs of these committees. I think they should whilst still arguing they should also have a respresentative on Strategy so they are able to comment effectively on policy.

Development Control - 14 Feb

Just a quick comment on the Sutton Arena planning application.

I think it is good to improve the amount of park sapce, but this must not be done in such as way that a piece of open space becomes a formal car park.

The current "temporary" approach works well and if that is expanded and partly relocated, then would be sensible.

Hillcrest Hall - Clockhouse

I noticed the recent petition about this community centre.

I hope this is resolved so the hall can continue. In recent years we have seen Government funding and Council investment create a number of new community facilities across the borough.

It would be a shame if this was now reversed and we saw facilities close.

Rosehill Improvements

Whilst I was not happy with us losing some section 106 money, I do not believe we should hold up spending the money we have, so I am pleased to see that investment is going into improving the shopping environment at Rosehill. The sooner the better in my view.

In addition the proposal to narrow the Halesowen steps is also sensible. I know it is far too difficult to close such paths, so improvment is a much better solution. My other bit of advice on this is that some residents get more anti-social behaviour than they deserve because to protect their privacy they allow large privet hedges to grow, but this creates sites for anti-social behaviour to go on unobserved. Thus cutting back on these hedges would actually reduce the problem.

Parks Police

I am grateful to Lord Tope for keeping me bried on this issue having raised a few points at Police Consultative Committee about it.

I am not against the transfer of responsibility and see some advantages. However my point is that it should not have been done through the Council budget process and seen as a saving.

As I undertsand it the new arrangment may be for two years, so the next issue is one of sustainability ans to ensure Parks Policing is seen as a mainstream activity that should be continuously funded.

Council Budget

Representations were made this week to Strategy Committee over the Council budget.

Despite the usual hype about massive cuts, there were only 4 representations.

This is a long way from the days when we had massive real cuts with much larger lobbies.

My gues is that the Council Tax increase will be slighly lower this year as I cannot see the Lib Dems wishing to create too much political space for the Tories to occupy on this issue.

Upkeep of Housing Revenue Account Land

I am pleased that Sutton Council and Sutton Housing Partnership have come to a sensible agreement over the transfer of some bits of land from the Housing Revenue Account to the General Revenue Fund as this is the most appropriate place to fund their present use.

Labour Councillors raised this issue for many years and I am pleased to see this issue is mostly resolved.

Well done!

Day Services Review

The brad approach to this and the consultaion seems to have been covered well. However the devil will be in the detail and how a reasonable approach is applied to the funding of individual day centres. No doubt I will be commenting further on this.

Sutton Arena - Re Tender

I am pleased to see this contract was retendered. It is a testament to good scrutiny and Councillor Tim Crowley deserves praise for persevering on this issue.

Institutionalised at Orchard Hill!!

The resent press coverage of Orchard Hill has been very interesting.

The criticism of this last long-stay learning disabled insitution was inevitable as it has been slowly run down over a number of years.

The people who must feel besieged are the elderly parents of some of the learning disabled people living there. They acted in good faith by placing their children there, when there was no community living options.

As things have changed, they have naturally defended their original decision and now feel attacked for making it.

We should therefore recognise that all the people in this saga have been "institutionalised" to some degree and thus coverage of this issue needs to much more sensitve to that.

My own view has always been that one or two community living facilities should be built on the site to respect parent wishes. I am also happy if Stanley Park school relocates there, but I still think this may prove difficult with resident opposition and financing issues acting as key barriers.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Stanley Park - Not welcome here?

Press coverage seems to indicate, that people in new houses on the old Queen Mary's are opposed to Stanley Park being sited there. No doubt they are not aware that a lot of people opposed their houses being built!

As always this illustrates that on any large sites with phased development, that there should be clear planning polcies making clear what will happen in the other phases. Then people will be less likely to object. This site has had options for housing care homes and a school. There need to be more clarity on these sort of longer-term planning decisions.

Health Joint Scrutiny - 1 February

This is being held as a joint forum on the BHCH proposals.

On acute, there may not being much too report until the London Review is announced.

As for Local Care Hospitals, whatever the masterplan says these are all developing separately in different areas. This is much more sensible than the previous top-down proposals.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Council Meeting - 22 January

I was unable to attend this because I was away. However Paul Scully motion seemed to have many postive points about it.

His reference to Grammar school playing a pivotal role is of course absolutely right. In many households in Purley and Epsom the effort to get in a local Grammar school that may just happen to reside in Sutton is really important.

Of course for 85% of Sutton children go to a local comprehensive, which is 10% up since the 1970's and I welcome the fact the Tory motion welcomes the importance of education for all!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Sutton - Getting a Bad Deal??

As usual at this time of year we see the regular letter from Sean Brennan to the Minister for Local Government saying that Sutton is getting a "bad deal" from the local government settlement.

So a borough like Sutton where people are broadly affluent with an average house value of over 300,000 is getting a bad deal. Perhaps people should think about this a bit.

Perhaps Lib Dem controlled Liverpool City Council, with all its social problems should get a bit less and affluent Lib Dem Sutton should get a bit more. Do people think that is a good idea? If you live in Liverpool you will on average live over 5 years less than a Sutton resident. If you had a choice where would you choose to live?

Instead of saying Sutton is getting a bad deal, perhaps Sean Brennan should use his strong social conscience to look beyond Sutton's borders and perhaps ponder that living in Sutton is a privilege that people in many other parts of the country would love to enjoy if they could afford to!!

Living Longer - a cost to the Council Tax Payer?

The Commission for Social Care Report on elderly care report will tell us what we all know:

1. That people are living longer

2. That this is an increasing cost pressure to Council's, who are in response rationing care more through tighter eligibilty criteria.

For all the press coverage, I suspect this issue will go away over the next 20 years, as the current concern will be expressed by the very responsible war-time generation.

As we move down the generations, increasingly hedonistic baby boomers will sensibly blow the capitial they have before they get too infirm thus transferring the presure back to the state. That will be the new challenge, which will inevitably require the taxes of newer migrant comunities to pay for it.

Even further on, by the time people of my age get to that stage, we won't recognise the issue as many of us will be living much of our dotage as 20 to 30 somethings in synthetic worlds like Second Life, which in 30 to 40 years will be much more realistic than they currently are. I joined last month and I certainly think it will be an expanding part of the consciousness of people younger than me as it becomes more mainstream. In years to come people with disabilities and the elderly will probably use the world to live lives where they are perceived in completely different ways to their first life. Generational differences will evolve as you will become less clear of the age of the people you are communicating with.

A sensible Council will be thinking ahead to new challenges that an Over 80, technology literate generation will throw of up in 30 to 40 years. Even more interesting in that timeframe there will be the expanding minority of over 80 "early adopters" whose mindset will not be hostile to the latest fad of gadget, or the reality TV show equivalent. They will be the ones who see early adoption as key to a supple mind in later life.

So instead of the usual debate on the isue of the future of the elderly, I think a bit of forward thinking is required.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Development Control - 17 January

Unfortunately I was unable to read all this meeting document due to something wrong witthe Council's pdf.

I was able to read the paper on the planning application for the hotel on top of the UCI cinema car park in St Nicholas Way.

This makes sense as it we don't allow development in places like this, we just end up putting pressure on other areas.

Strategy Committee - 16 January

A few points:

Item 6 - Social Services Performance
I welcome the improvement in what has been the boroughs worst service. Over the last 4 years we have seen a significant improvement.

Item 8 - Belsize Gardens
This is a confidential item. It will be interesting to see that the management arrangements are and whether the coventant issues have been sorted out.

Item 9 - Equality and Diverstiy Forum
In view of the national changes a local change to a single forum was inevitable.

Item 10 - Rent Reveiw
This is likely to be straightforward with national rent capping. Of more interest will be what commitments the Coucil will set for the ALMO this year.

Item 11 - Roundshaw Stoack Transfer
In view of the ballot result, this item should be a formality.

Item 14 - Wallington County Grammar School
This item may be agreed, but do the school have planning permission for what may be a development in the Green Belt?

Item 17 - Kimpton Site sales
I hoep the Council gets a good deal, despite past difficulties. However it is also vital to complete the redvelopment of the site so as to improve the local public realm and keep Mr Hilldrup happy.

Decent Homes Money Announced

Today Tony Blair and Labour's Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly announced an additional 485 million for the modernisation of around 55,000 homes during the next year. The funding - which brings the total amount allocated to councils with ALMOs for improving council homes since 2002 to 3.7bn - will enable 17 local authorities (19 ALMOs) across the country to continue their work in ensuring their properties meet the Decent Homes Standard.

I have yet to hear whether Sutton qualified for this money, but we are on the waiting list so to speak.

Since 1997, the number of non-decent social homes have been reduced by more than a million and 500,000 new kitchens, 350,000 new bathrooms and 630,000 new boilers have been installed in council homes.

ASBO Powers for Council Estates.

The Prime Minister and Ruth Kelly today announced that resident groups on council estates in England are to be given new powers to tackle anti-social behaviour and take day-to-day control of council services.

New regulations laid before Parliament today will for the first time give Tenant Management Organisations (TMOs) powers to apply for Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. Powers of this kind are at the heart of the Governments Respect programme.

There will be clear safeguards to ensure the new powers are used responsibly, but, where a TMO has been assessed as competent, the Government sees no reason why it should not be delegated ASBO functions.

At present Sutton only has Resident Democracies, but this new power, made lead to a debate locally as to what sort of powers are devolved to local estates.

London Mayoral Powers

I do wonder why Lib Dem MP's are wasting precious debating time in Parliament on attempting to pass amendments trying to scrutinise London Mayoral appointments. Having moved a pointless amendment in Parliament, no doubt Tom Brake MP will be soon writing to Sutton Council to demand:

1. Council scrutiny of the Libe Dem and Tory Groups appointment of political assistants.

2. Council scrutiny of the Strategy Committee appointment of senior Council officers as they are in effect appointments made by politicians.

Let's get real. The Mayoral power to appoint would apply whoever was Mayor and I would not criticise who a Lib Dem or Tory Mayor has appointed, just as I have not queried who the local party groups have appointed as political assistants in Sutton. It would be so nice to have a little political consistancy from others.

The Tory amendment to call on the Mayor to consult boroughs was more sensible, but still a little pointless. The Mayor has to consult already on all his strategies and both myself and the Council itself have commented on almost all of them over the last 6 years.

Schools Update

Two things to mention:

1. Alan Johnson today published updated guideleines on selection. Whilst for some they don't go far enough, they nevertheless tighten existing rules and will generally benefit the 70% of Sutton children who don't go to Grammar or church schools by creating a more level playing field, with bans on first preference only, similar institution only, interviews of pupils and financial contributions. However I suspect the recommendation for Fair Banding will not be taken up in Sutton as Overton Grange parents are likely to protest about it as they did last time, costing John Dodwell his Strategy Committee membership at the time.

2. The anouncement of local aurthorities in Birmingham and ">Manchester sponsoring Academies, will make this policy more acceptable than it was in the past. In Sutton whilst Stanley Park is opposed and I assume Carrshalton Sports College won't want to go down that direction either, I wonder whether in order to achieve the 400 target, whether a school like Glenthorne will eventually seek to work with the local authority on a project like this.

Monday, January 08, 2007

LGA talk about Rubbish!

Today's proposal from the local Government for extra charges for residents who generate more waste and Council Tax reductions for those who don't generate as much, has a number fo flaws:

1. It is hard to enforce. More people will not take rubbish home and leave it on buses in shopping areas, parks etc. We will see an increase in flytipping.

2. It will be an addtional cause of neighbour disputes as residents claim their neighbours are putting rubbish in their bins. Council's will have to install locks on bins.

3. How will it work in faltted areas with communcal bin systems?

4. It will not onely be seen as a stealth tax, but will actually transfer wealth from poorer low recycling areas to wealthier high recycling areas. Look at the stats in Sutton if you want evidence.

Incentives would be a good alternative but are likely to be too small to be effective. A much simpler alternative is as follows:

1. Council's use their existing powers to target those who do not adhere to existing waste management. This will cost money, but only aftet this has been done can anything else be done.

2. Targetted recycling campaigning by Council's in poorer areas. Interestingly I am currently doing some work in this field and will report on later on how this works. Agian this will cost money, but will prove more publicly acceptable.

3. Work with schools to promote recycling by parents. This is another area I am currently working on. If you look at the stats, low recycling correlates to areas with high numbers of children, but children are the most committed to recycling. Surely we can use to schools to tackle this issue. Again it require extra effort.

None of the alternative I set out requires legislation. However it does require political will. So far Sutton has not gone down the LGA road and had focussed on the volutary approach. I hope it stays that way.

Phillippa Stroud selected to fight Sutton and Cheam for the Tories

I happened to meet the new Tory candidate for Sutton and Cheam tonight. Her name is Phillippa Stroud. She seemed very friendly to me. I believe she fought Birmingham Lady wood at the last General Election.

She has already stimulated debate amongst local and national Tories with Iain Dale's Diary receiving a lot of comments about her views on social issues.

Previous Tory candidate Richard Willis has stood down. I thought he was a dynamic candidate and results in May seemed to point to him unseating Paul Burstow in 2008/9. I hope he decides to have another go for Parliament in due course.

Tories get a raw deal

Was at the Civic tonight at the meeting and saw Paul Scully who shoed me the new Tory Group room.

What a state, compared to the Lib Dem rooms. I assume something is going to be done to improve things in the coming months.

If the Tories are going to give up some of the allowances the Lib Dems are likely to offer them ( a bit silly really), they should at least get their room properly sorted.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

London Council's Grants Committee - What are the Lib Dems up to?

I hope Councillor Ruth Dombey is giving regular report backs to the Sutton Lib Dem Group on her role on the London Council's Grants Committee?

As some of you will be aware, this Committee, with no overall majority, but chaired by the Tories, is seeking to substantially reduce its budget spending on London-wide voluntary groups, basically because the outer London boroughs claim they don't get value for money from it.

A few points to consider:

1. The level of grants in real terms is much lower than it ever was under the GLC.

2. 40% of current London borough of Sutton residents spend up to 40% of their lives travelling into central London and using services there. Up to a third of London Borough residents in the next 10 years will be people who have moved out from inner London.

3. Most of the voluntary groups affected are London-wide bodies concerned with tackling less well off sectors of society. Sutton should be proud that it is contributing a tiny investment in organisations that bring such a wide benefit to London as a whole, rather than see all problems stopping at the borough boundary.

I really think that Lib Dem representatives on the Grants Committee should reconsider their support for this sort of short-termist approach and recognise the value of London-wide voluntary organisations, supported by the joint endeavours of London Councils.

The alternative apporach is for the Mayor of London to take over this London-wide activity and leave certain boroughs to look inwards! I am sure Ken would be very happy to oblige!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Big Changes in Community Health Services

For all the debate about acute services, we should not forget big changes are happening in community health services. Next week at Health Scrutiny there will be debates on the following:

1. The probable closure of one Mental Health Resource Centre - probably Walligton, as a result of budget reductions and a move of services out into the community.

2. A reconfiguration of the Community Mental Health Teams with a probable reduction in number of teams.

3. The closure of Sutton Day Hospital for the elderly on the Sutton General site (as well as the equivalent at the Neslson Hospital in Merton). Before anyone thinks this is something new, people should remember that if the Critical Care Hospital (CCH) had been built on the site, this service would have closed by 2008/9 as the current site became a building site. The service has been declining for a while, so its future has not been clear for a number of years. Once it has gone, and the Malvern Ward has gone for elderly mental health site, you might start picking up, that services on the Sutton General site are being cleared. Is this for a proposal of a potential sell-off of part of the site for the last ditch proposal of a small CCH for the February London Hospital Review,(conducted as we all know by a Royal Marsden Doctor), or is the site being cleared so it can be offered for sale to the Royal Marsden for an expaned specialism. From a Sutton borough perspective, the Royal Marsden option seems much better as the capital receipt for the Sutton site, also with a likely capital receipt from part of the the Epsom site could be used to pay for a full and comprehensive refurbishment of St Helier Hospital. I wonder if this osrt of disagreement contributed to Lorraine Clifton leaving the Epsom and St Helier Trust.

Reconfiguring Scrutiny - A Step in The Right Direction

A paper is coming to Community Leadership Working Party next week that reviews the Scrutiny function. This has been on the cards for a while, but gained more importance after the recent debates on the GLL contract. Many of the issues covered are ones I have raised in this Blog:

My comments on it are:

1. The separation of audit is long overdue. Councillor Zaidi will be kept busy!

2. The new scrutiny committees make a lot of sense with external scrutiny developing further with Policing likely to come under Sustainable Communities. In view of the need to be fair, I will be suggesting at the Police Consultative Committee that they apply for its Chair to be made a "special advisor" to the new Committee to build better Police Community engagement links. I suspect this suggestion will be accepted.

3. I am a little concerned over the proposal for SCAGs. I aggree they should be reviewed to see if their work can be covered by the new Committees, however I am concerned if any are downgraded to informal working parties as this takes us back to the unclear lines of accountability that led to the wheelie bin debacle. I recommend Councillors reread the excellent 150 or so page report on this subject writtne, by previous Chief Executive, Joanna Simons, her most important contribution to this Council. Hopefully following further discussion, this point could be looked at again?

Green Council's - Sutton gets an honourable mention, but is not listed in Top 10

Today's national Guardian has conducted a survey on the top 10 Green Councils:

Sutton gets an honourable mention but does not get in the top 10.

Here is a big opportunity for a Cameroonian "green-friendly" Tory Group to take the lead.

The generally risk-adverse Lib Dems will be wary of taking on any big new ideas unless they have political consensus. They are still somewhat cautious after the wheelie-bin scandal of 98-02.

Therefore the Tory Group should start pushing for any green projects they like as the Lib Dems are likely to accept them and the Tories canthen claim a positive result achieved.

That is an effective opposition role the Tories could seize on over the next few years as well as some of the more predictable activities they carry out.

Will they be up for it?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Councillor Emails and Surgeries

Just to report my regular monthly check on Councillor Access, now we are 8 months after the local elections:

1. Wrythe Ward Councillors still don't have a public email address.

2. Wandle Valley Ward Councillors still don't hold surgeries.

Just to remind you that the simple criteria I have applied is that it would be good and reasonable if at just 1 out of the 3 Councillors in a ward had an email address and did surgeries so all borough residents were equally treated. I'm not yet suggesting all Councillors should be in this position, though I think it would be a nice idea if they did.

Isn't it amazing that it is the supposedly fuddy-duddy Tories who in the 11 wards they represent you can:
- Phone them
- Email them
- Write to them
- Go to their surgeries.

Isn't it amazing that the Lib Dem Group, that in the mid 80's used tocriticise Tory Councillors for not being accessible are the ones whonowadays tolerate complacency in their Group on this matter.

What would the ALDC say?

Friday, December 29, 2006

Have a Great 2007!!

This is to wish all readers of the Sutton Council Observer a Successful 2007.

We are now 9th on the Google Page Rankings for the words "Sutton Council" out of 43,000 mentions, so thank you for reading it.

In 2007, I am aiming to improve its readability in a number of ways as well as developing it as a reference tool, without moving away from its relatively straightforward presentation.

It will, however, remain a journal of record and and analysis of all the major public policy issues that impact on Sutton as well as from time to time breaking news stories that go on to feature in other parts of the local media.

Thanks again and have a great 2007.

2007 - Some Key Dates

With no elections this year, it will be a relatively quiet year (unless there is a snap General Election!!), except for the ramifications of the change of Labour Leadership which will feel like a change of government and may herald a burst of announcements which will impact on local government.

- Council Budget Consultation
- Rent Setting - formality
- Roundshaw Stock Transfer approved by Council

- Council Budget - Strategy Committee Recommendation
- London Health Review announced
- Older People Day Services Review agreed
- Review of Sutton West Site
- Leisure Centre Rebuild Options agreed?

- Council Tax setting - budget debate
- Sutton Plan agreed
- National Budget?
- Lyons Review announced?

-Scotland, Wales and Local Elections outside London

-Scotland, Wales and Local Elections outside London
-Labour Leadership Campaign?
- Citizen and Safety Centre agreed?

-Labour Leadership Campaign?

-Labour Leadership Campaign?
-Comprehensive Spending Review announced?

-Lib Dem Conference
-Labour Conference

-Conservative Conference

-Queens Speech?

-Mid-year national budget review?
-Local Government Settlement

Lorraine Clifton Leaves Epsom and St Helier

The news that Lorraine Clifton is leaving is no great surprise, however I will be sad to see her go as she was always willing to answer questions on the Epsom and St Helier Trust, even if she gave answers that some people did not like.

Better Health Care Closer to Home (BHCH) in its big bang of 1 CCH and 10 LCH's has been dead since the beginning of 2006. What we are now seeing is a much slower process in a number of directions. Much of this at community level is actually quite sensible and evolutionary, however there are still some uncertainties. A plausible current situation is:

1. A rapid downgrade of Epsom with maternity transferred to St Helier in 2007. Some of the site is likely to be used for intermediate care and elective treatment as well as other elderly care with possibly some housing on the site. I suspect the Denbies bid to privatise the site will fail.

2. A slower downgrade of St Helier with an expanded maternity unit offset by ward closures, and some urgent cases going off to St Georges

3. A last ditch attempt to develop a small CCH (30-50 patients a day) in the longer-term at the Royal Marsden site. We will know whether this is realistic when the London Review is announced in February. If this fails, Royal Marsden may simply purchase the Sutton General site for a larger specialism in the longer term.

4. Intermediate Care at Carshalton War Memorial site as Sutton Council gets rid of Bawtree, Ludlow and Franklin House, only keeping Oakleigh for the present.

5. Mental Health leaving the Sutton General site and being shoehorned into newly closed general wards at St Helier.

6. A Local Care Centre at Wallington, supplemented by new clinics at Robin Hood Lane, Middelton Circle and at Roundshaw.

Once we know the result of the February London Review we will know whether all the above is happening. Maybe Lorraine's leaving was sensibly timed in advance of the likely results of that.

Dispersal Zones in Sutton

I am pleased to see the Council now support these. Labour Councillors argued for them in Carhsalton and Closkhouse Area in 2005, but when I raised the issue at Strategy Committee, Lord Tope opposed them as unecessary.

They are not an infringement on civil liberties as there very strict controld over the use of them.

Surely he has got over his time spent in a Czechoslovak prison cell by now!!:-)

Ken's Transport Money

I think that Colin Hall was a bit ungracious (Sutton Guardian page 4, 28 December) to Ken Livingstone over the £4.5 million Sutton has hjust received from the GLA on top of the £5 million we got from Ken in October.

I vaguely recall that quite a few more people voted for Ken than Colin. If Colin has a problem no doubt Lord Tope and his Lib Dem colleages in the London Assembly can raise their concerns.

I am sure Colin doesn't think we should go back to the bad old days when much less money was allocated to us by Civil Servants in the Department of Transport!!

Next we will here cheap shots from the Lib Dems attacking the Londoner magazine whilst defending themselves from Tory attacks on Sutton Scene magazine. Not very consistent?? As is well known I consistently support the provsion of both publications as well as the publications produced Tory controlled Croydon and Merton Councils.

Private Sector Costs More in Local Government!!

Do you remember the 1980's when lowest price privatisation was the panacea for local government.

Isn't it ironic that the Local Government Association is currently blaming 5% Council Tax rises on the cost of private contractors!! See the front page of today's Times for more details.

Whilst some of the cost is down to extra Risk management issues, much of the problem is that there is very little market competition in many areas and this is unlikely to change in the medium term as it would probably require a substantial increase in investment in local authority financed companies and social enterprises to create such a market as it is much too complex an area for private entrepreneurs to attempt to break into.

St Helier Hospital Petition

The following is a useful public "note for the record" on the future of St Helier Hospital in view of this Blog's role as a local journal of record.

The wording of the save St Helier Hospital petition on page 9 of the December 14 2006 Sutton Guardian says:

"that St Helier Hospital is able to continue to offer the full range of services available for accident and emergency".

I am pleased that local MP's are supporting this specific wording. In addition, I am glad that the Leader of the Council also spoke at the rally in support of the campaign that this petition adds to.

This strengthens the case of St Helier within this borough, against any proposal from the Royal Marsden Doctor's London Review for a reduced CCH at the Sutton General site.

Sutton Council Capital Programme - 2007-10

Just a few quick comments on this document which is also out for public consultation at present.

1. General
I welcome the fact the key items are up for consultation. I argued for public consultation of the capital programme many years ago and welcome this move forward.

2. Citizenship and Lifeskills Centre
I will comment on this elsewhere, but in principle it sounds good.

3. Voluntary Sector Hub
The proposal for 29/31 West Street is a good one.

4. Leisure Facilities
Westcroft probably needs a rebuild whilst Malden Road baths could later become a joint health and leisure facility.

5. Cultural Facility
I assume this means the Secombe is sold and a new facility is built as part of a development in the High Street. What will happen to Charles Cryer and Wallington Hall? How about rebuilding Wallington as a serious Theatre and attempting to attract the Tramshed Theatre from Croydon to it?

Sutton Plan 2007-2010

Some inital comments on this document, which is out for consultation and will be approved in February.

1. General
In general it is a good document, with most items previously discussed by the Council, so there are few surprises. In some places it is a little repetitive, so it could be reduced in length. The document's analysis about change factors is spot on. It will be interesting to see how Councillors react to them. I suspect a bit of "Canute" politics here!

2. Scrutiny Process
It is good that Scrutiny Co-ordinating Committee will comment on the document first. Will Tory Councillors demonstrate they take scutiny seriously by setting out their views on the Council's priorities either there or at full Council through a considered amendment?

3. Children and Learning
a) The rebuilding of Stanley Park High School by 2010 sounds quite tight to me and makes me wonder whether it is most likely to be rebuilt on its current site?
b) The new Citizenship and Lifeskills Centre sounds good. I will comment in more detail through the budget process and in a separate posting.
c) The refocusing of Play services on children's centres and extended schools will not necessariily increase choice unless the Council builds capcity for other providers. The Council is thus missing a longer-term opportunity here.

4. Economic Regeneration
Sutton's Town Centre has declined from 5th to 8th because we have significantly restricted the expansion of the night time economy. Ken's £4.5 million is that the next stage for the twon centre is one of high density housing above retail developments as we see private sector regeneration of the town centre with no increase in retail, but a younger commuting population living in its centre.

5. Community Engagement.
Despite all the talk about localism, the document is essentially awaiting for the White Paper and is not suggesting any specifically local ideas for expanded community engagement. Maybe some of us will have to prepare a petition for a parish in the borough to shake things up? Instead what we get is "Corporate Engagement" which sounds very "top down" and "broadcast" rather than "two-way".

6. Health and Social Care
An integrated Health and Social Care agenda seems to be a long-way off those this is because it probably needs the PCT to take the lead and it is still in transition. I suspect this area will need some revision in 2008/9.

Citizenship and Lifeskills Centre

I understand there are plans to develop Centre 21 Youth Centre at the junction of Sutton Common Road and Sutton By-pass as a Citizenship and Lifeskills Centre.

This sounds a really good idea to bring together the work the Police Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNT), Fire Service and the Youth Service in a closer partnership.

Since we established the Police SNT teams it has been my view that they and the neighbourhood wardens do a lot of informal detached youth work and we should be recognising this innovative partnership more formally.

The budget implications of this could make this controversial, however the principle is a good one and I look forward to hearing more about the scheme.

The Future of the Parks Police

The review of the Parks Police in the light of the new SNT teams is reasonable.
What is not reasonable is putting an assumed saving in the budget process, which prejudges the review process.

I am sure the Police Consultative Committee will want an explanation of the review process.

This is also an opportunity for the Tory Group to request a proper scrutiny on the current service.

This makes sense as in a future budget process we may hear that the Neighbourhood Warden service, which is nowadays targeted at quality of life issues and young people in the wards with the highest crime rates, is also being reviewed for a budget saving.

Maybe some one should ask about this?

The History of CEI

Interesting to note that the Lib Dems want to cut the Centre for Environemental Initiatives (CEI) budget from £27,000 to £5,000 a year.

In the past the Labour Group would have opposed this, so it will be interesting to see whether this budget proposal is enacted this time.

In many ways the CEI is more of a national body these days which happens to be based in Sutton.

It was originally set up in 1987 in a local green activists front room in Sutton West Ward and has had a Sutton grant since.

It also now occupies a Council property that the Council can't dispose of due to an historic landlord issue with an adjoining property.

Whether this justifies the £27,000 grant is a matter for CEI to argue and lobby for. It may be that its grant funding from other bodies means it has moved on from its originla role?

Sutton Council Budget Consultation 2007/08

Below is a brief analysis of the Council Budget. For a full commentary on every single budget item go to my Policy4Sutton website:

Some initial points:

1. Despite all the hype, the level of grant, whilst tight, was in line with expectations. Sutton is a quarter of a billion pound local authority and has seen its budget increase from £134 million in 1997 to over a £250 million. An increase of £116 million in the last 10 years is well above inflation!

2. The extra ASD spending is a legitimate cost to the Dedicated Schools Grant and will impact on schools. However there are some opportunities for schools as well in this process.

3. Sutton Council Tax may well rise about 3.5% as the Lib Dems won't want to go too high with a Tory opposition going on about this single thing, without putting an alternative budget forward.

4. The GLA Precept will not go above 5% this year or next. Most extra GLA money is likely to go on extra Policing.

5. There are no proposed growth items at this stage, but look out for the overall level of contingency and balances to see how much flexibility the Council has. In the last two years, this sum has risen to nearly £10 million unallocated at the start of the financial year.

6. Below are some early issues I would express some concern over:

Adult Social Services & Housing

2 Review Provision of Home Care Services
This will reduce the percentage provided "in-house". Councillors may wish to ask what the percentage reduction is compared to this year and over the last 5 years?

Chief Executive's Group

3 Review Grants to Voluntary Organisations
a) Even though the CAB shafted their St Helier service to keep North Cheam bureau, I would still defend their need for their current grant. Maybe the CAB will now shaft North Cheam too?
b) I suspect even the Tories might think spending some money on the SREC makes sense when the BNP got over 500 votes in St Helier and was leafleting Carshalton Central?

4 Restructure Safer Sutton Partnership Service
It would nice to have a debate and some scrutiny about the issue of Parks Police, rather than assume a blank cheque of a £132,000 saving at this stage! Will it be the Neighbourhood Wardens turn next?

Children, Young People & Learning Services

1 Review Play Service / Early Years Provision
Some of this was flagged up last year. I recall talking to Leslie Coman about it. Some ideas make practical sense, however thedanger with some of these proposals, especially the Grange, is they assume the new Childrens centres and Extended Schools will provide a full alternative, when the Council should be using its ability to subsidide to build capacity and choice into this quasi-market.

2 Review of Youth Service
Is Club Constellation being sold off and a new base being created at Centre 21 from the capital proceeds? The Centre 21 concept sound good, but its financing might be controversial?

Environment & Leisure

1 Increase Charge for Pavement Crossing for Car Access
This is arguably discriminatory to the less well off areas of the borough with less off-street parking, who mainly have Lib Dem Councillors!! A bit tactically stupid really?

2 Review Charges for Waste Management Services
a) The charge for replacement wheelie bins could see "bin snatching" in some areas. Not very sensible.
b) The charge for disposal of fridges and bulky items is outrageous and will increase fly-tipping.

3 Review Waste Management Services
a) No doubt the great and good in the local green movement will lobby to keep the adopt a bank scheme. It doesn't seem a lot to spend on extra community engagement?
b) The ceasing of the glass collection will not be popular. I think bottles should go in the green bins ASAP for all areas.
c) I think we should have more details on unauthorised use. Don't we have CCTV on the site?
d) Any changes to the wheelie bin collection should in terms of less going in the brown bins should be piloted in three areas first.


10 Review Charging for Residents' Visitors' Parking Vouchers
Perhaps there should be some consultation on this significant change?

Will the Tories vote against extra Allowances for themselves?

I will in the next month start costing Tory budget proposals. In the absence of any Tory budget, we currently have to assume that they will raise again the Council's media department even though the Lib Dems are likely to cut costs here.

The other area is allowances and the Lib Dems are again likely to propose cutting costs.
However I suspect the Lib Dems will announce that they are sacrifising some of their SRA allowances and offering two options:

1. The money to be added to the budget reductions

2. The money to be offered to the Tory Group with extra money proposed for the Tory Deputy Leader.

As the Libs Dems are likely to ensure there is a separate vote on this issue, it should be entertaining watching Peter Geiringer voting down his own substantial allowance increase, bearing in mind he always supported his post getting extra money!!

Roundshaw Votes Yes - But its Closer than expected!

Sutton Council tenants on Roundshaw on a 60% turnout voted by 59%-41% to transfer to Roundshaw Homes.

Whilst the result was expected:

1. The percentages were much closer than expected.

2. Leaseholders voted 56%-44% against transferring, even though this doe not impact legally on the overall result.

As a resullt of this we probably have now seen a win-win situation emerge:

1. Roundshaw residents get £15 million poun investment over the next 5 years.

2. The result kills any future attempt to try to stock transfer the rest of the Sutton stock as the other 7,500 properties would probably vote about 60%-40% against a transfer.

3. The ALMO gets the long-term stability it needs to improve its performance to secure future investment, with possibly the scope to borrow in its own right in due course.

4. We have now completed the housing options process that started in 2003/4.

Older People's Mental Health Beds

Health Scrutiny looked at this earlier in the month. A few quick points:

1. We are likely to see less beds than are currently at Malvern Ward at Sutton Hospital and at Franklin House. Instead of 34 Continuing Care beds and 6 Respite beds there will be 24 Continuing Care beds including 6 Respite beds.

2. The options have been reduced from 5 to 3, effectively proposing the closure of Malvern Ward:

Option 2 - Provide NHS managed continuing care beds and Challenging Behaviour Unit at Franklin House. I suspect the NHS and Council will not want this.

Option 4 - NHS managed beds at another facility. Funnily enough St Helier Hospital is about to get tid of 2 beds and close 6 wards. They will have the space. This could be used as the thin end of the wedge to downgrade St Helier Hospital and transfer more mental health services to it. Alternatively Epsom Hospital may be chosen as the site, however that is much further away.

Option 5 - Continuing Care beds commissioned from independent sector. I suspect this will take too long to procure to save money.

I suspect the next option appraisal will reduce this down to Options 4 and 5 with 4 being agreed with 5 as a fallback.

Thus we could intermediate care at Carshalton War Memorial, mental health developing at St Helier and perhaps a local care centre at Wallington. Maybe in February the Royal Marsden Doctors London Review will suggest a small (30-50 patient a day) CCH at the Royal Marsden site.

MP's Meeting up?

The Sutton Post says that local Sutton and Epsom MP's will be meeting in the new year to discuss health campaign tactics.

It is good to hear of this new-found local unity, but it may not last if a much reduced Sutton General CCH option is raised in the Royal Marsden Doctor's London Hospitals review in February.

Then I see the Epsom MP and some elements on Sutton Council supporting that option against the public views of the two Sutton MP's.

Bedzed - A Failure??

The Sutton Post recently reported on a number of problems at Bedzed relating to energy production and waste disposal that mean it is not yet a zero-carbon facility. Also not all residents are taking part in al its schemes.

Below are a few other issues also affecting it.

1. It was very expensive to build for Peabody Homes, which led to controversy in the housing press.

2. Some of the entrances do seem to be almost designed for young people to hang about in the dark areas and thus is suffers from increased anti-social behaviour. At a time when we are demolishing some estates like Durand for exactly this reason, it is suffering the same issues. Since the whole aim was to integrate it into the surrounding community, rather than it become an almost gated eco "intentional community", it is facing challenges that other non gated and non entry-phoned flatted areas face.

The whole point of Bedzed was to be an experiment. In any such experiment there are bound to be failures as well as successes - and there are many successes at the development in terms of developing a thriving and engaged community. The key point is to learn from the failure and to promost the successes.

Sutton Arena Security

The cost of the Sutton Arena fence is being reviewed by a working party. Conservative Councillors have welcomed this review.

If the work can be done cheaper, then that is fine, but we do need improved security at the facility after the recent fire.

I hope that is the eventual outcome of this debate.

Recent Planning Issues

I did not comment on December's Development Control Committee in advance, but I should note two items for the record:

1. Good to see the Sutton Cemetery Mortuary is becoming a Museum Store. Hopefully this will lead to the Heritage Centre moving to free admission sometime in 2007/08. This would bring Sutton in line with the rest of London after 20 years.

2. The new fence for the St Helier open space is ggod.If they have any money spare, perhaps Thomas Wall Park can be looked at too.

The benefit of Museums

A report by the LSE's Tony Travers referred to by the national Guardian on 14 December says that museums:

1. Add £1.5 billion to the UK economy.

2. Are the glue that binds communities together

3. Were visited by 43% of the British public in the last year.

These are all good reasons why we should double attendance at our own local Heritage centre in Carshalton by scrapping admission charges and bring ourselves into line with the rest of London boroughs that have free admission.

Out of Town in Woodcote?

In the run-up to Christmas, I went shopping in Woodcote Green Nurseries in Carshalton South and Clockhouse ward.

Whilst it is clearly a garden centre, nevertheless one could see elsewhere that with an expanding range of outdoor leisure products we could see souped up garden centres being a way to create out of town shopping centres by stealth.

This may be a future planning policy issue.

Kimpton Park Way - Popular with residents

I am pleased to see that residents in Gander Green Lane have written in to the letters page to the Guardian to say that they are pleased with the Kimpton estate access road, now called Kimpton Park Way.

This could have been an A217/A24 Link Road, generating more traffic, however after an 8 year campaign led by Councillor John Morgan, the Link Road was rejected by a Government Inspectors and the Council then accepted the Access Road proposal instead.

Protaganists for the Link Road, such as Julian Freeman, Edward Trevor and Ruth Shaw have now left the Council, with the only early supporter left being Lord Tope, but he is far too sensibly pragmatic to reopen the issue.

Whilst I suspect some on the estate might not like this, there was considerable all-party support on the Council to block off Kimpton Road to benefit residents.

All the above shows that long-term campaigning pays off.

Peter Geiringer Takes the Biscuit!!

Its outrageous how local residents could criticise Peter Geiringer in the letters page of the Sutton Guardian for his choice of biscuits.

Councillor Geirnger is a stout man of some importance and deserves to have the finest biscuits and an appropriate allowance to enable him to carry out his representative duties!

Post Office - More Closures

The proposed loss of 2000 Post Offices, poses the question what is the balance between the state and market in determining the level of a service.

I know I use the Post Office much less in the 7 years I have had internet access.

We know that many younger people use the service less. At the same time many elderly people still want to use the service.

This strikes me as an opportunity to practice localism:

1. The government should allow Council's to add a post office precept to the Council Tax to subsidise retention of extra services above a national minimum. We would then know how much a priority local politicians attached to this service. I suspect it will be less than some imagine?

2. Council's could then also include post office services in their libraries, which might then strengthen use of both services

3. Council's should promote post office services such as the way you can pay all your household bills at the post office. Maybe there should be an article in Sutton Scene promoting the use of the post office under the theme of "use it, or lose it!"

Year Zero for the Council Press Office!!

Interesting to to see that Councillor Pickles in a recent Sutton Guardian letter wants to substantially cut the comunications department in Sutton Council and get rid of Sutton Scene magazine.

Perhaps he should talk to Tory colleagues in Surrey, Merton and Croydon, all who have continued large communications departments and have successful Council magazines!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Super Hospitals - The impact locally

The recent Alberti and Boyle reports on "Super hospitals" are part of of an ongoing debate about large hospitals versus smaller acute hospitals (ie those with between 150,000-300,000 - such as the old Epsom Care Trust). A few points to remember in this debate.

1. The current Epsom and St Helier Trust catchment area of 500,000 is in line with Royal College guidance. I always thought it was best to have services provied at both St Helier and Epsom, but even with main A&E services provided at St Helier, the Trust is in line with the 500,000 requirement.

2. There is an evolving change between the level of highly specialist operations and the rest. Inevitably there will be some change through the evolution is in medical and working practices. The crucial thing is to keep campaigning for the future of St Helier Hospital as a major site. The recent march assisted with this.

However as exclusively was reported in a recent post, it is possible that Professor Darzi from the Royal Marsden in his London-wide role may hold the fate of St Helier Hospital in his hands??

Barker Review on Planning Policy

The Barker Review on Planning Policy has a number of impacts on Sutton:

1. Our local Green Belt, though small could come under increased pressure. Most of it is either smallholding or golf courses, so may become an area seen as lucrative.

2. An Independent Planning Commisuison for big projects is unlikely to affect Sutton and seems to make sense to progress the very small number of very large projects.

3. A 50% reduction in ministerial call-ins is welcome, but unlikely to be significant due to small Sutton sites and the fact his power is exercised by the Mayor who is focussed on 200 sites, none of which are likely to be in Sutton.

4. Quicker Local Development Frameworks. This is good and will save Councils like Sutton some money.

5. Less planning bureacracy on agreed conservatories and loft conversions between neihghbours is welcome, but will many agree?

6. Speeding appeals up to 6 months or less is good as it reduces uncertainty and planning blight.

7. Less bureacracy on business planning applications. This is welcome, but I could see it as being contentious in suburban Sutton

Pre-Budget Report

The Pre-Budget Report had the following impacts on Sutton:

1. Climate Change
a) The zero stamp duty for new green houses is likely to have little impact as Sutton's planned 325 new properties a year is rather low.
b) Increased fuel dutues is likely to impact on high car ownership/high school rum Sutton more than most London boroughs.
c) It is hard to tell whether the cost of short-haul flights will have more impact in Sutton, but demographically I would suspect it would.

2. Education
Increased spending is to be welcomed. Hopefully there will be less whinging about the Dedicated Schools Budget which ensures the money goes to schools. Education is the boroughs biggest services and deserves a clearly spelt out budget. The spending on rebuilding schools means that Carshalton Boys and Carshalton Girls are likely to be refurbished in the next 5 or so years.

3. Public Service Reform
The new budget for voluntary groups to bid to take over assets could be used to protect them from future asset stripping by the Council.

4. Local Government Finance
The further delay in the Lyons Report is no surprise as little is currently expected from it. A combination of capping, extra and/or regional Council Tax bands with and expansion of the BIDs system for regenerating specific areas with the support of business is still the most likely options.

5. Planning
I will cover this in a separate posting

6. Housing
The cut-price mortgage scheme is welcome and should be of benefit to Sutton residents. Whilst Sutton is remarkably in the bottom half of London boroughs for average house price, this is because most inner London boroughs are remarkably skewed between million pound houses and a cheaper end of the market. In Sutton the average is for a much narrower band of prices thus the bottom end of the market is relatively small for first time buyers. Thus the scheme may be of benefit.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Will Professor Darzi back the Sutton Hospital site??

If you read page two of todays (11 December) Evening Standard you will see that a certain Professor Sir Ara Darzi, with big connections to the Royal Marsden is being asked to lead the London Hospitals review.

Surely he has a significant interest over the future of St Helier Hospital in view of the current support for the Royal Marsden for a shift of services to the Sutton General site.

Perhaps local MP's might want to question this?

Council Meeting

I wasn't able to go the meeting tonight due to two other events on. I hope to have a report on it soon.

Thank You

Just to note thanks to those of you that read this Blog, that if you now type the words "Sutton Council" into Google, this Blog appears on page 1 in 9th position out of 43,000 web page references to the word.

Thank you. Speaking to a few people recently I know the Blog is read at regional level by those who want to know what is going on in Sutton.

Once again thank you!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Emails and Surgeries - December Survey

Just to report that as of today:

1. Wandle Valley Councillors do not hold a surgery

2. None of the Wrythe Ward Councillors have a public email address.

It was complacency like this that cost the Tories their majority in 1986!! In the Wandle they could latch on to Tom Brake's 2 surgeries in the ward and the Wrythe Councillors could easily publish an email address that forwards to the MP or a colleague!

What is the Lib Dem political assistant doing if they can't sort this out for them!!

An update will be published in January.

A 5 Million cut for a Quarter of a Billion Pound Council!!

On Friday the Chief Executive sent a letter to staff telling them of a 5 million potential cut in budget in a quarter of a billion pound Council. In other words the Council would be seeking 2% efficiencies for next year.

Of course this will be hyped up to "crisis" caused for the benefit of the local press over the next two months. Then in February lo and behold we will be told it wasn't quite so bad.

I just think we should save a bit of time and look at what likely efficiciencies we need to achieve a 2% reduction.

I will be commenting on the budget in coming posts and in February I will publish an alternative budget covering changes for about 2% of the budget. In the meantime I welcome suggestions and comments.

Council Meeting - 11 December - Preview

So far the main item on the Agenda is a very reasonable motion from Councillor Eric Howell on Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour. Unlike some of the sensationalist stuff from the Tories in the previous Council I would certainly vote for it. If I were the Lib Dems, I wouldn't even seek to amend it but to simply support it. Alternatively, I would add an amendment at the end that set out some key points from the Crime and Disorder Strategy.

So far I am not aware of any items from today's Strategy that will be heading to Council except Council Tax Base which has to, but Sutton Arena Security might be one.

A larger Carshalton Forum

I note from the minutes of this that they are looking to expand to cover Carshalton South and Clockhouse.

I hope this is agreed as it would mean all paerts of the Carshalton Area Commmittee would have a local Forum. This would put it ahead of the other areas as the following parts are not covered:

Cheam and Worcester Park
- Cheam and South Cheam - may be a budget bid from the Tory controlled Area to fund this?

Sutton Area
No local Forums

Beddington and Wallington
- Beddington

Carshalton Area was the first to have a Neighbourhood Forum and will become the first to cover the entire Area.

Carshalton and Clockhouse Area - 6 December

A few extra points:

Item 7 - Rosehill Section 106

Hopefully Councillors will keep up the pressure for the 22,000.

Item 12 - Play Facilities

Good to see that the Council has no u-turned on playgrounds and is starting to re-invest. How did Lib Dem Councillors ever agree to cutting back in the first place. Labour Councillors did warn them at the time.

Health Scrutiny - 7 December

Just read the agenda for this. A little surprised it is is not covering the Trust Financial Recovery Strategy considering that Surrey has called for formal consultation. This rather than a joint committee meeting is far more important.

Other points on the agenda:

5. Bereavement Services

Interesting to hear Ruth Dombey's report back. This is a sad end to a service that used to be funded partly by the Council, so lets hope something can be salvaged for the new incapacity led services.

6. Clinically Effective Commissioning

This is actually very important, so I hope Councillors take as much interest as officers will be. As well as being clinically effective, such commissioning also has to be publicly accountable. There will of course be clashes between these objectives from time to time, but that all part of a democratic process.


The ballot has started and will close on 18 December. The choice 630 Roundshaw households face is as follows:

A yes vote will be to join Roundshaw Homes - the joint Housing Association partnership between Metropolitan and Hyde Homes that already owns the majority of Roundshaw. They are proposing to invest £15 million pouns over the next few years on local environmental and security Improvements as Roundshaw properties already meet Decent Homes standard.

A no vote will lead to them being part of Sutton Housing Partnership, the Council's ALMO.

At present I would expect a majority in favour of a yes vote, however some residents have circulated literature expressing concern over the transfer, which the Council have responded to so the result may be a bit closer than the earlier polling which predicted an 85% vote in favour.

Acute Trust Finances

The Epsom and St Helier Trust Finaical Recovery strategy is likely to lead to the following:

1. Clinical Issues
a) Reduction in Beds by 141-171
b) Close 6 wards
c) Closure of Theatres at Sutton Hospital and Nelson
d) Reduce Elderly length of Stay

2. Non Clinical
a) Rationalisation of admin staff

I will report further on this as specific proposals arise.

Queen's Speech

I was away and missed commenting on this, but the legislation proposed will affect Sutton a little:

1. Local Government Bill
The ability to create parishes will strengthen Area Committee Powers to head off local demand for parishes.

2. GLA Bill
This will create better stretgic decision making over developing housing. Mayoral planning powers will not strongly impact on Sutton, despite the scare-mongering. Our sites are just too small!

Rosehill Section 106 Money.

I was pleased to see this issue was discussed at the Northern Ward Forum.

We should celebrate the changes we have made in the last12 months:

1. The amount lost to Rosehill has been reduced from £50,000 to £22,000. I suspect we get this back at some stage. Thus I do not beleive we should hold up the spending of the money we do have.

2. I think the plans for marketing the Rosehill area are pretty good.

3. There is a commitment to consulting the residents association (Four Square) and the Northern Wards Forum on the spending.

Well done. I think we will eventually get the remaining money!

Licensing in Sutton

As we know the world didn't end, with the new licencing rules. We know they work.

If you go to any European town at this time of year, you can sit outside in the cold and drink and enjoy the Christmas decorations. I have recently come back from Strasbourg and it was nice to do this in the winter sunshine.

However, despite Sutton priding itself on its cafe society, licencing regulationd mean our pubs are licenced from April to September.

I hope this issue is reviewed, so we can enjoy winter cafe society!

Stanley Park - an Academy??

You may be awre of the following:

1. The government now wants 400 Academies instead of 200 and 100 of these would be in London.

2. Stanley Park High, which is rebuilding may apply for extra money from the DFES to become 8 forms of entry instead of 6.

Will the DFES want Stanley Park to become an Academy for the extra money. I understand the Governors do not want to go along this route, so will the secure the extra money? If they don't, I suspect rebuild on the current site will remain the favourite option.

Maternity Option 3 - the new Favourite

Having watched the Epsom and St Helier Trust Board meeting on Friday, I would now say o9ption 3 for Midwife led units at both sites (see details on the posting below) is now the favourite.

I did point out to Joan Mulcaster of the Post, who was at the meeting that Epsom suffers from a maternity perspective because the borough has quite a very high abortion rate compared to the Merton and Sutton area, most probably for economic reasons. I suspect this point will not feature in the Post's coverage of this issue.

It is interesting to note that the 1000 plus homes in the "Epsom Cluster" are not generating many extra births as many of the homes are for established successful families who already have children and the affordable accomodation on the sites is mainly flats, so also does not generate many births.

Watch out for the Tiny Critical Care Hospital!!

The Epsom and St Helier Trust Board which met on Friday, is continuing the review of BHCH.

The latest idea is for a smaller Critical Care Hospital. This would be smaller than the 50 patients a day proposal of the past. Based on the current turnaround plan, I would assume they are looking for 35-40 patients a day at best.

I suspect the London NHS, which will take the decision this time, is likely to say that it is still to expensive to fund. The Secretary of State speech of 11 October (see earlier posts for the text) confirms this reality. Locally any extra money is likely to go to community facilities (intermediate care, Local Care Hospital at Wallington etc) rather than on a grandiose acute scheme.

In the end any change of services on the Sutton General site is likely to be led by the Royal Marsden as it expands its critical care facilities (eg a 10 bed unit). The only other way to fund redevelopment of the Sutton site would be if the Denbies Vinyard owner is allowed to privatise the Epsom Hospital site with his £66 million bid. This would require Secretary of State approval.

Locally, the level of acute services will be determined by commissioning decisions made by the PCT, working more closely with the local authority as they develop community and intermediate services as I have already mentioned in previous postings. I think this is a good idea as it is more locally accountable and Loraine Clifton agreed at the Board meeting that this was inevitable. The Epsom and St Helier Trust will increasingly have a landlord role for a range of services on their sites.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Future of Local Maternity Services

The Epsom and St Helier Trust has compared the two current sites and has come to the conclusion that if it moves services to St Helier it only loses 626 births (mainly to Kingston I suspect) out of the current combined total of 4,400 (2,600 St Helier, 1,800 Epsom) whilst if it moves services to Epsom it will lose 2,452 deliveries. The options it proposes are as follows:

Option 1 - Status Quo, but with development of early pregnancy assessment unit at Epsom

Option 2 - Maintain labour ward at Epsom without anaesthetic cover

Option 3 - Consolidate obstetric and neonatal services at St Helier with development of Midwifery Led Delivery Unit on both sites. Ultrasound scanning, antenatal and community midwifery services on both sites. Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit and Maternal Day Assessment Unit on both sites

Option 4 - As for option 3 but with elective caesarean sections also carried out at Epsom

Option 5 - Move all obstetric and neonatal in-patient services to St Helier. Ultrasound, antenatal, community midwifery, and Maternal Day Assessment Unit at Epsom

It is going to start consultation on Options 3 and 5, so Councillor Jayne McCoy had better start campaigning hard for 3 if she wants it. I suspect Option 5 will be adopted on cost grounds, unless there is a strong campaign. The problem for Jayne and the NCT is that people in Epsom may campaign for Option 1, so the Trust will divide and rule again and option 5 will be adopted.

Sticky times for Shopmobility

The plight of Shopmobility illustrates the problem that voluntary organisations face when they are built up on time limited funding such as the lottery.

Tory Councillors should be wary of immediately criticisng a "cruel Council" for not doing more when it already funds part of the service. It could be argued that now the lottery money has run out the Council should increase its funding due to the excellent work of the organisation, but this might have to be at the expense of the other services, so any changes that "mainstream" Shopmobility as a local Council discretionary service. should be done through the budget appraisal process rather than on its own. Other organisations in a similar situation might apply, so unless a fair process exists, how do we treat all voluntary organisations fairly?

More and more nowadays sustainable funding needs to be a key prerequisite for an appraisal process for pump-priming the start of a new project unless its aims are specifically time limited.

No doubt the Council will put a few more pounds in to the project in due course, but I suspect this will be on the basis of a revised SLA that seeks an ongoing comittment to efficiency savings such as shared back-office functions with other appropriate bodies.