Sutton LibDem councillor switches to Labour over incinerator

For the first time since 2006, the Labour party has representation on Sutton Council.

John Keys: opposed to the Beddington incinerator

John Keys has represented the Beddington North ward as a LibDem councillor since 1998, but has this week opted to change parties because of his concerns over the waste incinerator proposed in his neighbourhood, on the Sutton boundary with Croydon.

Keys regarded as underhand attempts by Sutton’s LibDem-run council to get the proposal past his residents during the school summer holidays.

“The decision to support an incinerator in Beddington and have the planning meeting in August, when many people will be on holiday, made me consider my position,” Keys said.

Residents in Beddington North have expressed their concerns about environmental degradation locally along Beddington Road and they have complained about broken promises of the Liberal Democrat administration, who offered a country park in Beddington long ago.

Keys also feels unhappy with the LibDems‘ links with the Conservatives. “The LibDems under Nick Clegg are moving further to the right and are not the same party any more,” Keys said.

In his resignation letter to Sean Brennan, Sutton’s LibDem council leader, Keys said that he cannot support a party that supports the Tory NHS bill, and that cuts the top rate of income tax while having broken its election promises on tuition fees.

The border between Croydon and Sutton has been getting politically more porous recently, with LibDem MP Tom Brake spotted campaigning in Croydon. Brake seems to be lining up to fight one of the new parliamentary seats straddling the Croydon and Sutton divide.

Going in the other direction, Kenley ward’s Steve O’Connell, Britain’s most overpaid local councillor, who is the London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton, has taken on yet another job, as a political adviser to Sutton’s Tories.

The Labour foothold in Sutton will give their party a chance to rebuild. Labour were overtaken by the LibDems on Sutton Council in 1986 and limped on with their councillors counted in single figures until their final annihilation in 2006. The Beddington North and St Helier wards seem to be Labour’s best targets for advancement in the 2014 local council elections.

Louisa Woodley, the Labour party candidate for Sutton and Croydon in this May’s London Assembly election, clearly hopes for a more immediate payback at the ballot box. She expects that Keys’ move may suggest a shift of many disillusioned Liberal Democrat voters to Labour. Ken Livingstone, Labour’s candidate for London Mayor, has promised to block incinerator proposals if elected to City Hall.

“It’s clear that more and more people are fed up with the way the Tory-LibDem government is harming the living standards of ordinary people,” Woodley said.

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