Thursday, 18 September 2014

Post Election

If you would like to win a two course dinner for two at The Brook pub/restaurant please read on. At the end of this post is a survey. Those completing the survey will be automatically entered into a draw to win this very nice prize - compliments of, and thanks very much to the Brook in Worcester Park.


Looking back at the Council Election

It's now been nearly four months since Kingston, Sutton and the other London boroughs went to the polls to elect their local councillors for the next 4 years. And with another (Scottish) election happening today it is perhaps an appropriate time to look back at this last one. As many blog readers know this last election was a very personal event for me as I was one of the candidates standing in Worcester Park ward (in the London Borough of Sutton).

At the time I wrote that I would "take blog readers with me" on the journey to find out what it is like becoming a councillor if I won.  Unfortunately I missed out on winning a seat by a 75 votes and did think it was perhaps only right then to take readers through what it is like to lose. However having written and re-read versions of this post soon after that (and shown them to other people) I realised it was important to step back and wait until I could speak a little more objectively about the experience.

The first thing to say is that whatever the outcome it is a very intense emotional experience. For most candidates of all colours it is the culmination of months of hard work. For many, it is years of hard work - all unpaid.

The period from when the polls close at 10pm until results start to be announced many hours later is a surreal slice of time when all of us (the candidates) are on a level footing, going through the same hopeful anxiety, trying to be neither too confident nor too resigned. Nothing unites people like a shared emotional journey and this is the one time when all candidates across the various parties can have a knowing chat or a laugh together, knowing there is nothing more anyone can do to alter the as yet unknown outcome.

The best moment of the night for me was soon after walking in when someone asked if I'd heard the news that the BBC were apparently reporting exit polls suggesting the Lib Dems had lost Sutton Council. I didn't mind at this point if we had won outright or if we would need to form a coalition with Ukip or even Labour, Sutton needed a new start and this would finally be it. Unfortunately quite soon into the count it became obvious that this was just idle gossip.

After hours of concentrating on people counting votes, having spent the entire day from 5am leafleting, phoning and knocking on doors to persuade people to actually go and vote, the results started to come in. Each time an announcement of an impending result was made, the various parties' electoral agents were invited up to see and accept the numbers and then Niall Bolger, Sutton Council's chief executive would officially announce the result.

Usually you have a fair idea of whether you have won or lost before the result is announced and this helps you brace yourself (if necessary) for when you find out for real - probably from your electoral agent just before the announcement is officially made. The actual announcement though is usually the point when people's eyes well up. Whether with excited disbelief for the newly first elected, or gutting disappointment for those who worked so hard but didn't make it, especially for those who lost seats they had held and worked hard in for years.

One by one the list of disappointments grew as capable, dedicated and hard working Conservative candidates found it had all been in vain.

On a positive side we did see some exceptional new Conservative councillors elected and it was good to see many of our existing councillors retain their seats.

The Worcester Park results were one of the last to be announced and I took a small comfort from that while it was close, Graham Witham (our previous Conservative group leader) had told me from bitter experience that the difference between our party votes was unlikely to be made up with split votes and that we had probably not made it through in WP. I was at least ready and able to put on a brave face and congratulate the winners properly after our disconsolate results were announced.

I arrived home at nearly 8am, having been awake and mostly working solidly for nearly 30 hours straight (and having only slept one and a half hours the night before.) There was just time to put the results up on the blog before going to bed for a long and dispirited sleep.

The first few days afterwards were very difficult. I was not able to face even visiting Central Road for over a week. I knew that the pain and disappointment would subside in time but there was some real grieving and soul searching to do in the meanwhile.

I could go into further detail but risk crossing the line between describing what it feels like and venturing into 'woe is me' territory so I'll cut this off here.

I am however interested in why people made the decisions at the ballot box that they did - and how they feel I could perhaps do things differently next time - if there is a next time. There is a survey to this affect at the end. (remember the dinner for two prize...)


Thoughts on the Results

I have heard several theories as to why the Lib Dems did so well. Very few of them involve people actually wanting the Lib Dems to win 5 out of every 6 seats on the council (although given the low turnout they did this with only 16% of eligible people voting for them). Even Lib Dem voters I have spoken to would have preferred a more even balance - just for the sake of better democracy with a reasonable sized opposition.


Ukip effect

The Ukip vote did have a major affect on the outcome. Ukip did garner many votes across Sutton although they didn't win any seats in the borough. The Worcester Park Ukip candidate received 768 votes which was nearly double the gap between the highest vote taker (Lib Dem) at 1508, and the lowest Conservative result - 1146, meaning that that Ukip voters effectively chose the Lib Dem status quo for Worcester Park by not doing anything about it. Across the whole of Sutton many Ukip voters seemed not to use all three of their votes and if they had all voted Conservative or Labour with their other votes then Sutton would now have a much more even balance of councillors including several Labour councillors as well as a stronger Conservative opposition. In fact if even just half of Ukip voters across Sutton had voted Conservative instead of Ukip we would now have a Conservative run council (with 32 out of 54 councillors) instead of a Lib Dem one. So it really has been a case of vote Ukip - get Lib Dems. If you want to check out the maths for yourself, Adrian Short has provided all the data here. Number crunch away!


Target Sutton

It also seems the case that the Lib Dems nationally had targeted Sutton specifically as one of a small number of councils they must not lose. One voter I spoke to said they received 10 answer phone messages from the Lib Dems on election day trying to persuade them to vote Lib Dem. Yes 10! It seems that Lib Dems around the entire country were ignoring their own areas and instead telephoning people in Sutton in order to keep Sutton Lib Dem. They have already tried to spin their terrible results nationally by claiming something like 'people like us where they know us' but it may be the result was manufactured at our expense just for the sake of the national Lib Dem party having one positive piece of spin to use.


Where Now

Many blog readers will have noticed that I have not managed to post quite so often since the election. I had not been working prior to the election, preferring to use my saving and focus on the election instead (with a great deal of thanks going to Mrs WP).  I had hoped if I won, to treat being a councillor as a part time job (it pays around £10,000 per year) overlapping with running the blog and then trying to land an additional part time job to make up the financial shortfall. I felt I could serve Worcester Park as a very effective councillor this way.

Given the outcome, I have instead had to return to full time work to pay the bills and so have just not had the time available to post as much as I had previously.

This does bring me back to the original question of what people would have preferred me to do, which also feeds into the question of whether I should stand again. I was originally offered a candidacy in a safer Sutton ward and would indeed now be Sutton councillor had I taken up the offer. However I felt Worcester Park was the right place for me and worth fighting for. Did I make the right decision?

Please let me know what you think. However this time rather than general comments below, I would prefer to find out what individuals think and so I have put together the survey below which I would ask you to please fill in.

I know many people aren't particularly keen on surveys so as an incentive, The Brook pub/restaurant opposite Green Lane have kindly offered dinner for two as a prize for one lucky survey respondent chosen at random from everyone who completes the survey. This will be drawn on the 12th of October so you have just under a month to enter. You will be able to use your prize any time before the end of November.

And the survey's not that long anyway. I await your feedback...




The data you provide will be retained by the Conservative Party (“the data holders”) in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 and related legislation. By providing your data, you are consenting to the data holders making contact with you in the future by telephone, text or other means, even though you may be registered with the Telephone Preference Service. Your data will not be sold or given to anyone not connected to the Conservative Party.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Play A Frame With Jimmy White

How do you rate your snooker skills?

This Wednesday (17th September) one of Britain's Snooker greats, Jimmy White has agreed to play 9 frames of snooker with lucky members of the public at Sutton United Football Club.

While this event is not being held in Worcester Park it is not too far away and is of direct benefit to an institution deeply connected with Worcester Park, St Raphael's Hospice.

Doors open at 6.30 for a 7pm start. Everyone who buys a ticket will have the chance to bid to play a frame against Jimmy with the seven highest bids winning. You can bid prior to or on the night. Frame 8 will be raffled on the night and frame 9 will be auctioned on the night. All proceeds of the night will be split between St Raphael’s and Sutton United Football Club.

Tickets cost £16 each, including all booking fees (aged 18 and over only) and are available at: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/an-evening-with-jimmy-white-tickets-9003911943. For more information or any queries please contact Kerry Thomas at St Raphael's on 020 8254 2465 or Kerry.thomas@straphaelshospice.org.uk


Sunday, 14 September 2014

Pizza Wars


It has become common knowledge fairly quickly that Domino's opened their new pizza delivery store in Central Road (where Debra used to be) on Friday. Especially since they have been leafleting the area (as you would expect) with menus and special offers.

George, the new franchise owner told the blog on Friday morning, a couple of hours before he opened his doors for the first time that he really didn't know what to expect. He said he couldn't start leafleting until he had actually opened but was hopeful it would go well. He did mention his deliverers would be parking behind the store rather than in front so they would not be taking more Central Road parking spaces. However this means pedestrians and others will need to keep a watch out for their bikes and car driving through Stone Place.

The good news for George is that business has started very well. They were quite busy this evening when I popped in again. George said he has hit his expectations and was very pleased with the start.

A little further up the Road their main competition was unusually quiet. Raj the owner of the Papa John's franchise told the blog that his business has dipped markedly this weekend. He hoped this was simply due to people wanting to try something new and the opening specials on offer from the new Domino's. He said he had lost a couple of staff to Domino's as well. He hoped customers would come back to Papa John's for the pizzas.

George at Domino's said he couldn't know how his business would affect that of Papa John's. He hoped they would both be able to do well in the area.

Meanwhile the Pizza Express manager,  Eddie said that business there had not been affected. This was probably not unexpected as the restaurant and delivery markets are very different.

Have you had a pizza delivered recently? Have you tried the new Domino's? Do you usually order from Papa John's? What is your experience and will this change your pizza eating habits? Do tell...


Saturday, 13 September 2014

They Did What When?


If there's one thing that makes me appreciate living in this part of the world, it's our rich history and direct connections to innumerable important events over the centuries and even millennia which rather puts our own lives in context.

I'm glad I'm not the only person who appreciates this and for those others who would like to know a little more about our local history at least, there are two local exhibitions on this weekend.

One of them started on Thursday and is at St Johns Church, off Church Road (down past The Plough) in the Old Malden sector of WP. I managed to stop in and soak in a bit of History (as well as a nice cup of tea from some very pleasant people looking after the church and the exhibition there.)

Did you know that Malden comes from the two Saxon words Mael and Dune meaning "The Cross on the Hill". The saxon church on this site was recorded in the Doomsday book in 1086 so it's a fair bet there's been a church here for over a thousand years. That means the people worshiping there were closer in time to Christ himself than to us! But anyway, I digress...

There is also a historical exhibition at St Mary's Church, Cuddington (down The Avenue) looking at how the area was mostly farmland, less than even 100 years ago. This is from 11am to 5pm today. You can see more information about this on the local Guardian site here so I wont blather on about it here.

This is all being done with a nod to nationwide Heritage Open Days and Open House London which encourages normally closed buildings to allow the public in to see the amazing architecture inside. Open House London is officially next weekend but the Royal Borough of Kingston have apparently brought theirs forward by a week.

So there should be many chances to go and see interesting stuff over the next couple of weeks.

Old is Good!


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Open Your Spanish

Those Iberian Culinary Linguists, Cooking Your Spanish are having an open evening this evening at their Worcester Park headquarters in Fitzroy House, Lynwood Drive KT4 7AT  (opposite Barclays).

Drop in any time between 5 and 8pm for a complimentary chorizo de Salamanca with a glass of sangrĂ­a and a taste (pardon the pun) of the unique CYS method of learning the Spanish language which cooking and eating tapas.

Actual courses begin the weeks of the 22nd September and there are three separate classes for different levels of Spanish prior knowledge. (There is a £30 early bird offer if you get in quick.)

See their facebook page or website for more details...


Monday, 8 September 2014

Too Much Arson About


Several dumpsters in the library car park were set alight last night. Apparently the bins were 'well alight' when firefighters arrived from New Malden at about 1.30am.

Smoke still rising earlier today
According to one blog reader, smoke was still rising from the scene at 6am this morning (thanks to another blog reader for the smoking picture - left) and there was still an acrid smell there this afternoon when I took these other pictures.

There seems to have been a spate of arson attacks in the same area over the last few weeks. According to another blog reader, a moterbike engine was set alight only metres from this point a few weeks ago which caused an explosion at 3am and caused a small fire which was put out by local residents. Shortly after this a wheely bin was apparently set alight, also very close by.

Please be vigilant and contact the police if you are aware of anyone who might be doing this. Next time it could by the library or someone's business or home, killing people in the process. These might be the sort of people who will not stop until they're caught so if you can help, please ensure they are caught quickly before something much worse happens.

You can contact the police on 101 or on 0800 555 111 if you wish to remain anonymous. Always call 999 if it is an emergency or a crime is in the midst of happening.


Sunday, 7 September 2014

Nuovo Ristorante Italiano


It has been almost a year since Henry Owen's Pie, Mash and Eel shop closed in North Cheam. However last Tuesday (2nd September) after many months of renovations, La Bella Luna opened in it's place, providing a new Italian restaurant in North Cheam.

April
The blog has been noting the internal works going on over the months and is glad to see the new eatery finally open its doors.

The new restaurant is co-owned by Fidelo who is also the chef (pictured here below) and his brother Luigi. The pair also own the Verona Italian Restaurant in Morden. Viola, also pictured here runs the front of house.

Fidelo and Viola told the blog that they are very happy with their first week since opening. They leafleted around 2000 homes in the area with their new menu and already have a facebook page (how very social media savvy).
August
As can be seen in the photo at the top, taken last night (Saturday) they have become fairly popular quite quickly. They are already interviewing potential staff to fill two more positions to cope with the level of business.

Fidelo has been a chef for a long time (name dropping a few film and sports stars he has cooked for) and wants to ensure everything he serves up is top quality. (I had a quick cappuccino while I was there and have to say it was one of the better ones I have had locally.)

They are open 6 days a week (closed Monday) and also open for lunch, offering a £5 set menu of pizza, pasta and special Italian Ciabatta sandwiches.

I hope to coax Mrs WP along for a meal there to find out if it really does pass the good authentic Italian restaurant test. Until then please feel free to comment on the Restaurant review page.


Saturday, 6 September 2014

Creston Way Bomb Scare


A suspicious item looking like a bomb left behind in a flat caused Carters Close and surrounding Roads to be evacuated on Thursday (4th September) afternoon.

The item in question was a bottle which contained a blue liquid and nails, and was connected to a circuit board and clock. It was left in a second floor flat in Creston Way (pictured right) after people moved out and was apparently spotted by someone from A2Dominion, the Housing Association landlord for the property when they went to inspect the flat. Police were called mid afternoon to the area and everyone was evacuated from Creston Way, Carters Close and the nearby area up to Clarkes Avenue. People were allowed back into their homes again after around 6:30 after the bomb disposal people had checked it was safe.

The door of the flat is now secured with a steel cover door. 
It looks as if the door behind had to be smashed open.
According to several people the flat was originally let to a couple who were apparently hard drug addicts and local beggars. It seems they then moved out and the woman's under-age children started squatting in there instead. Apparently the place was often being visited by many different youths and there had been a number of police raids on the flat during this time. Youths were sometimes spotted climbing out of the second floor flat windows to make quick escapes. Whoever was living there reportedly had little regard for other people living nearby.

This had apparently all been reported to A2Dominion but it seems they had been dragging their heels about getting rid of the antisocial tenants. It looks as if they moved out by themselves, leaving behind one last gift for all their neighbours. The device designed to look like a bomb to disrupt everyone's Thursday afternoon.


Friday, 5 September 2014

Iced Tea Leaf


Local Police arrested a thief who has been shoplifting from various local shops last Wednesday (27th August).

Two members of Iceland staff tried to restrain the man outside Iceland in Central Road and alerted Worcester Park police. PCs Michael Bouwers (pictured) and PC Danny Fleming, of Worcester Park Safer Neighbourhoods Team, arrived quickly to be told by the Iceland staff that a man had allegedly taken items from the store and left without payment.

The staff then directed the police to where the man had fled and the officers pursued the man who was arrested for shoplifting. Enquiries led to the man being charged with a total of five offences for theft including £500 worth of goods from Waitrose and Boots during the last month. He is now attending court.

The man has been served with banning orders by Waitrose, Iceland and Boots. If the man was to return he would be trespassing and if he stole from these stores he would be arrested for burglary. 

PC Bouwers commented: 
"Without Iceland's swift intervention and effective communication with Police this may have not been possible to link this suspect to other theft offences. 
Working together we can prevent offenders from stealing from the local area and businesses. Theft offences will not be tolerated in Worcester Park from hardworking decent people and Police will actively disrupt and deter anyone coming into the area wanting to commit crime." 
Worcester Park police have been working closely with retailers and businesses to get to know each other as part of relationship building initiative so any issues or concerns about crime or anti-social behaviour can be dealt with quickly as and when they arise. They believe these communication links helped lead directly to this arrest.

 

Monday, 1 September 2014

Plaice Loses it Sole As Business Flounders


If you managed to secure yourself a fish supper from Kingfish this last week, be glad as you were one of the last few who did. Unfortunately the bailiffs have today taken possession of this Worcester Park landmark so from tonight the restaurant, complete with tables set up ready for dining customers, lies dark, empty and closed.

I spoke to two ladies outside the shop who were shocked to find it closed as they had planed to buy their dinner from there. They instead had to make the trek up to Ocean fish bar at the top of the hill.

For others planning to enjoy fish and chips tonight or in the near future, please remember that unfortunately the local choices no longer include Kingfish.

Whatever happened the blog wishes the owners and staff of Kingfish well.