A entire modern housing development in Wallington has gone into self-isolation, not against the threat of coronavirus, but from Sutton’s Liberal Democrat politicians.
In a statement issued by the New Mill Quarter Residents’ Association, they say that LibDem Wandle Valley ward councillor Ben Andrew “wilfully published and hand-delivered information which he knew to be wrong”.
Such is the anger and distress among the 170 members of the residents’ association that they are even considering high court action against their LibDem-controlled Sutton Council.
But first, as they seek what they call “residents-first” solutions to issues in their neighbourhood, they are threatening to charge LibDem canvassers and councillors £10 “per transgression”, every time a rosette-wearing politician steps on to their streets. It’s an idea which could quickly catch on in other residential areas and estates across south London.
The New Mill Quarter residents are furious that they have been misled and vastly overcharged under a monopolistic heating system linked to the Beddington Lane incinerator.
The New Mill Quarter on Hackbridge Road, what was once known as Felnex, is an on-going development by Barratt’s and their subsidiary builder firms. But work only started after lengthy negotiations saw the developers agree to plug all their properties into the council-backed SDEN – Sutton Decentralised Energy Network.
Now, a little more than three years since the first families started moving into the new homes in NMQ are the true costs to the consumers beginning to be felt, with residents having to pay almost three times the price for their heating as is available on the open market, and with some – including those living in social housing – no longer able to meet their monthly bills.
And this week, at a residents’ association committee meeting, it was agreed unanimously to declare that the New Mill Quarter a no-go zone for Sutton’s LibDem councillors.
In a lengthy statement published on the New Mill Quarter Residents’ Association website under the headline “Rejecting the LibDems – A clear conflict of interest”, they state, “Councillors appear to be working against the code of conduct by acting without honesty and against the well-being of residents due to conflict of interests, bias and political motivations either through design, negligence or otherwise unknown motivations.
“Since the establishment of New Mill Quarter (NMQ) and more formally its residents’ association, local politics appears to have played a clear role in determining the fate of the estate. Since inception, Sutton Decentralised Energy Network Ltd (SDEN), wholly owned by Sutton Council and established by Sutton Liberal Democrats who have majority control of the council, has been flawed. Issues such as SDEN and parking have caused great issues to not just the NMQ estate but also the surrounding area.
“Local Liberal Democrat councillors elected to represent all residents of their ward have demonstrated a clear conflict of interest by protecting the interests of a private limited company, SDEN, and that of their political interests over that of their residents.
“All local Liberal Democrats either refused to sign residents’ collective complaint against SDEN or ignored the request. This equally translated up to full council with council party leaders sharing this refusal.
“At the same time, cross-party support was achieved initially from the Labour Party… and then directly from Conservative MP Elliot Colburn.
“Compounding this, local councillors, appearing to be led by Liberal Democrat councillor Ben Andrew, have been publishing and disseminating misinformation to residents through their Focus leaflet. Unfortunately, Liberal Democrat councillor Ben Andrew, who was present in the meeting with the [managing director] of SDEN, Amanda Cherrington, members of the NMQ RA committee and the council’s pricing consultant Simon Woodward, wilfully published and hand-delivered information which he knew to be wrong.
“Liberal Democrat councillor Ben Andrews was privy to the pricing consultant stating that the SDEN pricing did not operate as advertised. This demonstrates a clear conflict of interest and calls into question the ethics of local politics where the Liberal Democrats have chosen to advertise and advocate for a private limited company they themselves established.
“Downstream of this, residents who were struggling with heating costs, some worried to turn their heating on, have suffered great stress at the hands of these publications. Whether without thought or an attempt to sway residents from class action against SDEN we are unsure, but the effects are the same.
“Families concerned to turn their heating on have been visibly upset by the wilful publication of misinformation and continue to feel the effects in their wallets.
“In the private sector, wilful misrepresentation would not be tolerated, and we cannot understand why it is permitted in politics…”.
The statement also refers to an article published on the Sutton Liberal Democrats’ website over on-going parking issues, which they say, “demonstrates a callous disregard for residents of NMQ and the surrounding area. There are typically issues with new development in an area and local councillors should be working to prevent issues rather than being the cause of division themselves”.
They accuse the LibDems of seeking “to cause division” among residents for political advantage. They cite an incident between a New Mill Quarter resident and others from outside the development which resulted in police intervention.
“The Liberal Democrats therefore appear to not be acting in the interest of residents, either NMQ or otherwise, but rather likely acting solely in self-interest to retain political power, safeguard income or protect SDEN.
“They appear to be actively being dishonest in their representation of events and working to cause division and upset either through design or negligence…
“The New Mill Quarter Residents’ Association upholds the motion to block any party or entity that actively works with self-interests at heart against the betterment of the area… We applaud the cross-party support for the plight of NMQ and Hackbridge in general and are keen to see a residents-first solution, absent of politics…
“Transparency, honesty and residents-first is how politics should be operated, not with a sole focus on political gain and protecting private companies. We continue to work towards seeing right done in our ward and the surrounding area, stripping bias and conflicts of interests where we find them.”
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