The London Borough of Sutton is spending £437 million of taxpayers’ money in 2009-10. Like the proverbial iceberg, many of the services are not always visible. Many services affect everyone; others affect the most vulnerable in our society. Either way, they matter, contributing to the quality of life of every resident in Sutton.
As the 2010 local election fast approaches, the Conservative group in Sutton are experienced enough to write a quick and dirty manifesto on the back of an envelope which will chime with residents. However, as we seek to end the rule of the longest Liberal-run council in the country we know that under-promising and over-delivering is key to sustaining success over a number of years. Therefore without any sense of hubris, we take transition work between administrations seriously. We can then hit the ground running.
We have taken our time to write a report, The State of Sutton: A Borough of Contradictions as one part of a once in a generation opportunity to conduct a thorough investigation of the relationship between Sutton Council, other service providers and residents. The authors have listened to experts, politicians and residents. This is the only way to achieve the balance between a range of priorities while ensuring no-one is left behind. All but one preconceived ideas were kept out of the investigation; one of the few rules that we are not prepared to be diverted from is that we must always achieve the very best value for money, making the most of every penny of tax and council income spent in the Borough.
The next stage which we have already started is to look at the excellent examples around us of Conservative councils addressing the very concerns that we raise in the report, before compiling a manifesto that will help bring the election victory that is overdue in Sutton, with its administration demonstrating their detachment and complacency on a regular basis. There is no point in reinventing the wheel if others have had success in their areas.
The media will be dominated by the General Election that is likely to be held on the same day as our local poll. This report is one way of demonstrating that we are ready for change, rather than simply an effective opposition that keeps the Liberal Democrat’s worst excesses at bay. It also shows that beneath the surface of a 4 star authority, there is little substance and no political leadership.
We do not restrict our ambition to merely managing the Council slightly better than the current administration. As the Borough changes, we want residents to be involved in that process, ensuring that they continue to live in a place that represents their views and aspirations and one that reflects their concerns. This report is the first step in renewing the connection between politicians and residents. It is the first move in starting the debate about the changes needed in Sutton.