Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Nonsuch Ward: Meet The Candidates - Liberal Democrats

Ahead of the local Council elections on 6th May, The Worcester Park Blog profiles the main candidates for Sutton Council's 'Nonsuch Ward' and asks what their top priorities would be if elected.

The three Liberal Democrat Councillors for Nonsuch Ward are seeking re-election:

Kirsty Jerome: Kirsty has lived in Worcester Park for 23 years and was elected as councillor for Nonsuch in 2006. She chairs the committee for Children and Young People where most recently she has been working to make school admissions fairer.

Other roles include being a governor at Scola and volunteer citizen advocate for someone with learning difficulties. Her working career has been in retail management and later in accountancy and payroll. She is married to Gerry and they have 3 children.

Kirsty’s reasons for standing for election are “I got married here, raised my kids here and want to keep Worcester Park and Nonsuch ward a great place to live.”

Roger Roberts: Roger has lived in Worcester Park for 38 years and has served as a councillor for Nonsuch Ward (previously Worcester Park South) since 1986.

He chairs the committee which scrutinises the decisions made by council’s Executive committee. He is a governor of Cheam High and Nonsuch Primary.

Roger is married with 2 grown-up children. His children attended local schools and enjoyed taking part in community activities. Roger, never one to stand by, helped out with the parents group at the scouts for a number of years. Roger worked for many years as a manager for BT.

Roger seeks to be re-elected as he wants "to continue the good work done by the Liberal Democrats in the borough and in the ward over the years".

Gerry Jerome: Gerry had served for 8 years as a Councillor on Sutton Council before winning the Nonsuch ward by-election last July.

He is a successful IT consultant who has worked in the public and private sectors as well as owning his own business.

During his time on the council he has served on committees for planning , social services and education and is an experienced ward councillor. A father of three, he and Kirsty have lived in Worcester Park for 23 years.

Gerry seeks re-election so he can use his knowledge of the council and his broad work experience to benefit the residents of Nonsuch and the borough.

Q: As you seek re-election, what are your proudest achievements as Councillor over the course of your term in office?

A: Locally we have all worked with individual residents to resolve a range of difficulties from finding a doctor, to helping people with more sensitive problems and it is often these that bring the greatest reward.

Generally there have been problems associated with parks around antisocial behaviour and criminal damage that we have addressed.

In Fairlands Park we, as the local councillors, supported residents by working with the police to get adequate fencing, moving the play area and getting one set of gates locked from dawn to dusk. These changes, alongside the strong support of the local Safer Neighbourhood Police Team, have made a vast improvement to residents’ quality of life.

In Cuddington we supported the formation of the Friends of Cuddington Rec. This park was allocated money from the “Public Realm” budget for new fencing and gates which have smartened up the entrances and along with action from the Safer Neighbourhood Team have seen a reduction in the antisocial behaviour problems.

We campaigned to get Central Road moving through linking the traffic lights and this has finally been done. We are now monitoring the effect of the linking of the traffic lights to see if it is working. We will continue to seek measures to improve the traffic flow further.

We also are still campaigning to sort out the parking bays at North Cheam and we are assured by Transport for London that a proper consultation will take place after the purdah period of the election.

One Liberal Democrat council decision that has made a real difference is the setting up of the Local Committees and the allocation of a “Public Realm” budget to each.

Our Local Committee covers Nonsuch, Worcester Park and Stonecot wards. It is open to the public and addresses local issues. Over the last two years the local councillors, other local group representatives and any members of the public that have attended have been able to discuss and suggest proposals for local spending of this money.

It has been used to fund things like the new Christmas lights for Worcester Park, the flowers and troughs on the high street, new fencing in Cuddington Rec and completion of the Rosa Smith playground.

We really would like to see even more people attending this meeting and getting involved in local decision making as this is something that as Lib Dems we are passionate about.

Q: Councils are likely to come under increasing financial pressures in the forthcoming term. How would you propose meeting this challenge and ensuring that costs can be cut and savings made without essential services suffering?

As a Liberal Democrat council our twin priorities are to protect vital services, particularly those needed by the elderly and more vulnerable members of our community and to keep council tax as low as possible for residents.

We are allocated a considerably lower level of government grant than most other London Boroughs. Only 39% of Sutton’s spending requirements is met by government grant whereas in Hammersmith and Fulham it is 63%.

Sutton spends £747 per head of population , significantly less that the average for London as a whole of £924 and for Outer London of £823.

Despite this as a borough we have delivered value for money over the years by making efficiency savings and introducing new ways of working designed to deliver the services at a lower cost.

We would continue look for innovative ways to deliver services eg through such measures as partnership working “eg working with the local health authority, police teams and the voluntary sector and working in groups with nearby authorities to supply services more cheaply.

Q: The last couple of years have been very tough ones for Worcester Park's independent traders. What would you seek to do to help small businesses in the area and make sure Worcester Park's high street not only survives but thrives?

All small businesses are finding times tougher and we recognise this.

Worcester Park has had some funding allocated in conjunction with Kingston to regenerate the area around the station including the high street and this has recently been consulted on. We are awaiting the outcome of that consultation and look forward to the improvements.

The Public Realm funding that the council allocated to the Local Committee was used in part to improve Central Road. - e.g. new seating , the flower troughs and hanging baskets and the Christmas lights.

The council ensured that free car parking in Waitrose car park continues to be available for shoppers.

If re-elected we would look for ways to make Central Road and North Cheam attractive places to shop and encourage our residents to use the local shops as this is the only way that they will survive.

Q:.Availability of primary and secondary school places is a key concern for local parents. What should be done to ensure a fairer system for children in Worcester Park?

Primary school places are being created across Sutton.The birth rate locally has risen very sharply in the last few years after a long period where it was dropping.

Locally the schools are being consulted on expansion plans to cope with the increased numbers of children expected to need a primary school place. These plans should ensure that the schools are able to cope with the increase in demand.

Secondary school places in Worcester Park continue to be a challenge. The Lib Dems have made a manifesto pledge to campaign for fairer access to local secondary school places.

Surprisingly, there are more secondary school places in Sutton than there are children, however, the effect of many out of borough children gaining places in some of our secondary schools puts tremendous pressure on the remaining secondary school places.

Nine out of fourteen of our secondary schools can set their own admission arrangements without taking into consideration the needs of the borough which makes place planning very difficult.

We have recently re-examined the complex arrangements governing what schools may do and intend to work with secondary schools in the borough to set targets to increase the percentage of local children admitted and campaign to make the system fairer overall.

In the longer term we intend to work more closely with our adjoining boroughs to address this shared problem.

Q: Aside from the above, what are your top priorities for Worcester Park?

A: As Lib Dems our manifesto pledge for Sutton is to make our borough Safer , Fairer and Greener.

In Worcester Park and Nonsuch we will do this by continuing to work with the Safer Neighbourhood team in tackling antisocial behaviour by working to provide more activities and places for young people to go.

And to continue to encourage people to get involved in local decision making.