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Out of FOCUS – again!

April 22, 2010

Our Liberal Democrat opponents are still taking the electors of Surbiton Hill for fools.

These complete newcomers to the Ward have put out a letter to postal voters claiming to have done everything.

Let’s deal with the issues they raise;

  1. Schools, It was Nick Kilby who alerted a complacent Lib Dem administration in Kingston to the growing pressure on primary places, which they had ignored – and Dennis Doe who demanded a new secondary school in North Kingston, which they said wasn’t necessary.
  2. Recycling: we campaigned for weekly recycling in 2006. Our Focus team wouldn’t know that because they weren’t around at the time.  I spoke about it at length in that year’s Budget debate and was told it wasn’t affordable. By whom? You guessed it!
  3. Tesco at Tolworth: they claim to have ‘fought it off’ They weren’t even at the Planning meetings.
  4. Tolworth Broadway Post Office: was saved because the present occupiers came forward to take on the business, thus solving the only reason it might have closed. Well done the business people that took it on.
  5. Council Housing: Everyone in School Lane knows that Nick and I have campaigned ceaselessly against the Government’s Negative Housing Subsidy. So do the Leaders of the Residents’ Associations on all estates. That’s why they have elected me Chair of the Housing Consultative Committee for 12 years in succession. Every Lib Dem councillor knows this too and it is just plain dishonest for any Liberal Democrat to put their name to such a patent falsehood as the suggestion ‘(we) have failed to stand up against a Labour Government that takes £7m from local tenant rents.’  when Nick Kilby, Ian George and I have been at the cutting edge of attempts to improve resident participation and foster the only thing that will get this system altered for Kingston residents, usually in the face of an inactive Lib Dem Executive Member, who sits in meeting after meeting of the Housing Consultative Committee failing to communicate with tenants and leaseholders. Only in the last month has the Executive finally woken up to the fact that it has been habitually ignoring residents at its own peril.
  6. Only profound ignorance can possibly excuse such a blatant untruth – Until I read with a magnifying glass the name of their agent, I was inclined to ascribe it to ignorance rather than a deliberate attempt to deceive. But their Agent, an ex-Lib Dem Leader and Lib Dem councillors, including those in St. Marks and Berrylands, cannot be so excused.
  7. Less than a year ago the Surbiton Hill Focus Team did not exist, yet they repeat the tired old Lib Dem formula that ‘many residents say we’re the only ones they hear from all the year round.’


If you receive one of these missives – please recycle it.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul Sloan permalink
    April 23, 2010 11:48 am

    Hi Paul,

    Re Point 1. Schools

    You say

    “It was Nick Kilby who alerted a complacent Lib Dem administration in Kingston to the growing pressure on primary places, which they had ignored – and Dennis Doe who demanded a new secondary school in North Kingston, which they said wasn’t necessary.”

    My personal recollection is that it was parents, not politicians, who first raised the issue.
    Both the Lib Dems and Conservatives were contacted simultaneously, and both parties assisted. I have the emails to prove it, if anybody cares about truth in these election times.

    Ed Davey did sterling work in highlighting this London-wide problem, gaining a parliamentary debate that ultimately led to an additional £200 Million in national funding, over £8 million of which came to our borough. He ahs been active in negotions to create the new school at the hospital site.

    Helen Whately provided valuable administrative assistance and gained publicity support for local parent’s “Local Schools for Local Children” petition. She gave a rousing speech at the council meeting, urging RBK to provide enough capacity, in the right places this year.

    Councillors of all hues were contacted, with Nick Kilby and Frances Moseley taking the most active interest.

    Fast forwarding to the present, parents of current and future primary school children in Surbiton are accutely concerned about your education spokesman, Dennis Doe’s stance on the new Surbiton Primary School school on the Surbiton Hospital site.

    To recap, Cllr Dennis Doe says that “Rest assured, if I become the Executive Member after the May elections, the rebuild of the King Charles Centre for a Primary school will replace any silly ideas of building it on the Hospital site and will be pushed urgently. ”

    I haven’t met a single parent who agrees with Cllr Doe’s (and by extension, Surbiton Conservatives’ ) policy of scrapping the new school on the hospital site.

    I think he is wrong to oppose the provision of much needed primary school places on the unneeded half of the hospital site because

    1. Funding: hard fought emergency funding has already been obtained from Central Govt.

    2. Planning: a planning agreement has already been drawn up with the Kingston NHS for the joint development of a polyclinic and primary/nursery school.

    3. Size: Cllr Doe’s proposed alternative site, the King Charles Resource Centre, is a third rate solution as it does not meet recommended Govt minimum size requirements for a new primary school.

    4. Location: The KCRC is not the optimal location – if Cllr Doe actually looked at a map of catchment zones, he would see that the area surrounding the KCRC is already within the catchement area of it’s nearest schools. The area north of the Surbiton Lawn Tennis club (aka No Coverage Area) is no longer within the catchment area of its nearest schools.
    I have some useful catchment area maps that I have previously offered to show Cllr Doe. These readily illustrate that the hospital site is better located to address No Coverage Zones.

    5. Choice: Providing a school outside the No Coverage Zone does not deliver any extra choice for parents living within it, as they would still be bottom of the list on distance criteria, and would still have no effective choice, contrary to current Govt guidelines.
    I thought that the Conservatives supported giving parents choice – Cllr Doe’s proposals take it away from North Berrylands parents.

    6. Congestion: The hospital site is the only option actually located within the No Coverage Zone. It is the only solution that delivers capacity close to where it is needed. That fact alone will minimise school run traffic. Under Doe’s plans, almost everybody in the No Coverage Zone would drive to the KCRC.

    The simple truth is that there will be congestion/parking problems wherever a school is located. Just look at the situation in Pine Gardens, Grand Ave, Tolworth Infants every morning. Creating a school at the KCRC would add to the existing problems in Alexandra Drive / Holyfield Road, where traffic restrictions have just been introduced because of existing issues. Residents at each loaction will object to expansion on grounds of congestion.

    The best way to minimise congestion is to locate school places close to where they are needed, maximising the numbers walking to school.

    7. Popularity: The hospital site will be very popular with working parents commuting from Surbiton Station. The gap between drop-off and going to the station will be lessened, hopefully leading to fewer car school runs.

    8. Scaremongering: Note that the new school neither fronts nor will be accessed from the Ewell Road. The front part of the site will be the Polyclinic, while the rear of the site will contain the school. Cllr Doe has read the development proposals, and is aware of this. To allege that the new school fronts the Ewell Road is blatant scaremongering.

    9. Timespan: Cllr Doe’s plans would inevitably take longer to deliver because alternative funding would have to be obtained for his plans for a new Resource Centre on the hospital site.

    10. Future Needs: The hospital site provides capacity for the Surbiton town area, complementing Maple Infants, whose small site limits expansion. The town centre is likely to see continued growth in new housing. Indeed, your own site refers to SW trains planning to build more than 200 apartments on the station carpark site, almost next door to the hospital site.

    I don’t think that Cllr Doe fully appreciates the scale and immediacy of the problem here in Surbiton. This is the third year of bulge classes. Why anybody would want to delay the immediate provision of the best solution is beyond me. Parents are fed up and demand an immediate permanent solution.

    A Conservative activist neighbour of mine mused off-record that the real reason that local conservatives are against the hospital site is that Ed Davey used his influence to progress it. If that is even half-true, it would be an absolutle disgrace that petty local politics are being put ahead of the interests of local four year olds and their parents. Disgraceful.

    By law, the admission arrangements for Sep 2011 were finalised by 15 April 2010, i.e. a week ago.
    If Cllr Doe does insist on pulling the plug on Surbiton’s new school, given the timescale, the only alternative for Sep 2011 would be yet more bulge classes crammed onto existing sites. This is the very thing that Helen Whately helped us to petition the council about last year!

    It would make Helen’s Whateley’s support for last year’s parents ring hollow. You can’t complain about bulge classes one minute, and then delay the best possible permanent solution, especially now that the wheels have started turning.

    It took long enough for us to convince the council of the problem here – why stop it now?

    ” Q. The council is providing ‘bulge classes’, isn’t that going to solve the problem?
    A. Bulge classes are only a temporary solution, and with so many bulge classes in place (7 last year, possibly 10 or more this year), local schools are getting overcrowded. Even with the best efforts of the schools bulge classes inevitably disrupt routines, as well as increasing the number of siblings for future admissions. ”

    Cllr Doe’s plans require extra funding which doesn’t exist.
    Even if it did, it would result in a three year delay – his plans would only be realisable in 2015 at the earliest, compared witha go live date of 2012 for the hospital site.

    That’s three more years of portacabins on playgrounds.
    Three more years of parents of first born children not knowing where they will have any realistic chance of getting a place.

    Cllr Doe says that a new educational resource centre provides more of a legacy for Surbiton. In my opinion, it’s a bit of a stretch to regard a replacement educational resource centre as much of a legacy.

    Providing a new building for pensioners to do flower arranging is hardly on a par with the Millennium Bridge or a new swimming pool. I think that school places should be a higher priority than flower arranging or vanity legacy projects.

    All North Berrylands / Cranes Park / Hill Crescent parents I’ve spoken to strongly support a new school and the council should be commended for the new hospital site school.
    My only concern is that a new 2 form entry school on its own may not solve the whole problem, and that extra capacity (especially nursery) may be required.

    RBK calculates that we will be 150 reception places short by Sep 2011. The RBK proposed permanent solution only provides 115 of these. If the Conservatives wish to regain traction with local parents, why aren’t they focussing on this obvious shortcoming in the proposed permanent solution, rather than attacking the emminently sensible hospital site proposal?

    If Cllr Doe doesn’t backtrack on his ill-conceived proposals, I think that parents, and the wider Surbiton community, will compare his plans with those of the Lib Dems, and judge your party harshly on election day.

    kind regards

    Paul Sloan

    Regent Road

    • April 23, 2010 3:44 pm

      Hi Paul,

      Good to hear from you again! I nearly cut this comment drastically because of extreme length and because it goes way off the topic of the post you are commenting upon.

      However, you know me to be a champion of open debate and free discussion so I thought I would leave it substantially intact.

      My very brief opening remarks on schools in the post were based on my own experience of debates in the Council Chamber over the last four or five years and they are an accurate report of what I heard there. I do not deny the accuracy of your reporting of parental involvement or of the help supplied by BOTH Ed Davey and Helen Whately. The authors of the Lib Dem document do so however (in the case of parents AND Helen Whately) and I suggest you take it up with them.

      As I don’t know what you look like I cannot tell whether you were at the consultation meeting on the new school site at Glenmore House about three weeks ago. I was there so were Dennis Doe and Helen Whately. Ed Davey and various Lib Dem councillors from Berrylands and St Mark’s Ward were there. None of the Surbiton Lib Dem councillors said a word all evening. After an extremely long presentation in favour of putting a school on the site, speaker after speaker from the floor spoke against the proposal. This included people who declared themselves as parents of small children, who were very concerned about the desirability of putting a school adjacent to a facility open to all and sundry and sharing an access from Ewell Road.

      I share their concern not for any party political reason but because I was a teacher for 32 years and concerned about possible risks to children arising from such a situation. That isn’t scaremongering – it’s common sense.

      I repeated the remarks I have made before at the stakeholder meetings I have attended. Briefly I accept without hesitation the need for a new school in Surbiton. I query whether this is a good site, partly for the reasons already stated, partly because the proposal would create a second 420 pupil school plus nursery school within 1/4 mile of another large primary school (St. Matthew’s). Access would be difficult – either off Ewell Road and thus shared with the polyclinic – or off Oakhill, creating a traffic nightmare for local residents (who are without exception opposed to a school there and horrified at the prospect.) Dennis Doe’s position is essentially the same as mine.
      As the meeting demonstrated, the site is not as problem-free as many imagined last summer, when Davey first started floating the idea. It will encounter very stiff opposition from local residents at the very least at the planning stage.
      RBK does not own the site but would have to buy it/lease it from NHS Kingston, which is keen to get ‘top whack’ in cash terms for it. Yet the Administration at RBK has put all its eggs in this one basket and has not seriously considered any alternatives; KCRC being only one possible one. In any event no building is likely on the site at all for the thick end of 2 years. I am concerned that the ‘one basket’ approach could end up with nothing being actually achieved in two years’ time and urged the Council to develop a plan B in case of accidents on this proposal. You may have seen the report in the ‘Comet’.
      Ed Davey rounded off the evening by doing a neat sideways shuffle and agreeing with all present that ‘all other sites must be carefully examined.’
      As for your other strictures against Cllr. Doe, you’re much too intelligent, I’m sure, to believe all you read in the papers – even the Comet!

  2. Nick permalink
    April 25, 2010 10:58 pm

    Paul (Sloan), what would you do if you found out it was impossible to build a school on the former hospital site (Which by the way will only have access form Oakhill and South Bank Terrace? We would not stop work on the former Hospital site (Regardless to what you think you have heard or read) but we would continue to review and look at the alternatives. These would be the King Charles Centre, Newent House and NHS Land in Berrylands and with significant support from residents in Maple Road, we would also make fresh enquires on the land next to St Andrew and St Marks. I know you passionately believe the Hospital Site is the best option and it clearly is a good option but if you had come to some of the recent meetings you would know it’s not a done deal either in Planning Terms or the purchase from the NHS of the land.

    Dennis has no need to backtrack as he has never been on the wrong track, he has just taken up the problem of the Lib Dems not having a Plan B and a growing concern we may hit a road block with no idea where to turn.

    Time is critical and for me the site on Maple Road is of interest as its cleared but we may have to pay a premium and the Kings Charles Centre plus attached buildings (Which we would have to relocate tenants) are both viable in the same time frame as Surbiton Hospital.

    Paul, I can assure you the Conservative Group is well on the case and not remotely off message. One other comment is that we had a problem with primary school places before you got involved and yes parents alerted us to it but it was our party that stood behind them and took up their case when I was told in the full council that we were wrong it was “Just a Bulge”.

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