Sutton Greens and anti-incinerator campaigners from Croydon and across south London are planning to protest at the formal mayor-making ceremony at the civic centre later this month, when LibDem councillor Richard “Bernie” Clifton is set to don the ermine and chains of office.
The protestors want to use the ceremonials to remind the Liberal Democrat-run council how Clifton and his chums have let down the people of south London while setting up a multi-national company to make millions in profit, and of the impending environmental disaster they have created by allowing Viridor to build a massive waste incinerator at Beddington Lane, on the borough boundary with Croydon.
Clifton is blamed for having blocked a local enquiry into the circumstances under which Viridor where awarded a £1billion contract by four south London boroughs, including Croydon, to operate the industrial-scale incineration plant.
Clifton, a councillor for Sutton South, is a mate of John Drage, the former LibDem councillor who sat on the South London Waste Partnership committee for years without it ever occurring to him to declare that he was also a close friend of the chief executive of Viridor until after the massive publicly financed contract had been awarded.
As a member of the Sutton standards committee, Clifton voted against any investigation into the undeclared conflict of interest, nor to probe the £275,000 “gift” from Viridor’s “charity”, Viridor Environmental Credits, to Holy Trinity Church in Wallington, which was used frequently for LibDem meetings organised by John and Elaine Drage and the local MP, Tom Brake.
Clifton and the Drages lived on the same street. Despite protestors having a 500-name petition calling for an independent inquiry, Clifton spoke on Drage’s behalf at the standards committee, stating that his mate had done no wrong and that he was a “God-fearing man”.
Clifton was also the chair of Sutton’s planning committee.
“That appointment, of itself, shows that Sutton is a rotten borough,” a local campaigner said.
“The majority of complaints to any council are usually on planning issues, yet here the LibDems have the chair of the planning committee sitting on the standards committee reviewing those complaints about the planning committee’s decisions. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so corrupting.”
Clifton chaired the planning committee at the time that it approved the Felnex development at Hackbridge, which is set to be plugged in to a heating network fuelled by the Beddington incinerator. “If Clifton’s planning committee had specified that the environmentally friendly houses at Felnex had to meet the highest energy requirements, then Sutton Council’s heat network would have been killed off. Instead, Clifton’s committee allowed lower specification buildings, so that Sutton’s heat network might have customers, and so have provided an environmental ‘excuse’, an attempted justification, for the incinerator.”
The invitations to the mayor-making (“Lounge suits. Finger buffet”) went out from Sutton Council earlier this week for the event in the Europa Gallery in the Civic Offices on St Nicholas Way on the evening of May 23 (“Guests are requested to be seated by 6.50pm”).
As Mayor of Sutton, “Bernie” Clifton will spend the next year wearing a silly outfit and being ferried from school fetes to supermarket opening ceremonies, all apparently in a good cause, for two nominated charities. Sutton Council has not yet confirmed whether one of Clifton’s charities will be Viridor Environmental Credits.
“Being made Mayor of Sutton is supposed to be one of the proudest days in Councillor Clifton’s life,” one of the campaigners said.
“We intend to ensure it is a day he will never forget.”
From our incinerator archive:
- Sutton CEO accused of trying to gag councillor over incinerator
- Tom Brake link to £275,000 church donation from incinerator company
- Secretive incinerator scheme is a bad deal, say Sutton Tories
- Sutton official tried to influence vote at incinerator meeting
- Infant death rates on the rise where incinerators operate
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