The Liberal Democrats ended 2016 with another three council by-election victories - securing the party's best ever year for by-election gains.
Complementing Sarah Olney's victory in the Richmond Park by-election, the Liberal Democrats gained 31 seats in local authorities across the country in 2016.
The net gain of 28 seats surpasses the previous best of 27 gains, which were made in 2002.
The by-election wins have seen the party win seats from Labour, the Conservatives and UKIP, as well as independents.
2016 also marked a significant victory closer to home, where local teacher Chris Williams stormed to victory in the Carshalton Central By-election, retaining the seat for the Liberal Democrats. Chris increase the Lib Dem share of the vote by 5.1% on the last election.
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Amna Ahmad, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Sutton & Cheam, has slammed the Conservative Party for being "complicit in the daily misery Southern Railways mete out to local people".
Last week a leaked letter revealed that Chris Grayling, Conservative Secretary of State for Transport decided in 2013 to “keep suburban rail services out of the clutches of any future Labour Mayor”.
The same week Grayling and the Conservative Cabinet binned a cross-party plan which would have helped Southern commuters by handing the franchise to Transport for London.
The Liberal Democrats have been calling for Southern to be sacked and handed in a petition to Downing Street signed by thousands of Sutton residents demanding that the failing company be shown the door.
“I desperately hope the unions are able to go back to the negotiating table and bring some solace to commuters. But we all know that the problem with Southern trains is bigger than the latest strikes.
“Local residents are sick and tired of the awful service they get from Southern.
"What's clear from Chris Grayling’s letter is that this government is happy to see commuters suffer as long as their party interests aren't affected.
"And while one Conservative MP, in neighbouring Bromley, has spoken out against Grayling, all we have from Sutton and Cheam's MP is an embarrassing silence about the need for Southern services to be handed to TFL.
"That's no use to his constituents who face daily anxiety about being late to work and losing their jobs or getting home in time to read a bedtime story to their kids.
"It is in the Government's gift to fix our trains by handing control to Transport for London. They should stop politicking and get on with the job."
Sutton Council Leader Ruth Dombey has praised the work of Sutton’s Admiral Nurses and expressed shock that Sutton is the only London Council to fund such dementia trained nurses.
Lib Dem-run Sutton Council is the only London Council to fund Admiral nurses, who are specialist dementia nurses who can help patients to live in their own homes for longer, retaining comfort and independence in their lives. These nurses also work closely with carers and families to help them understand what is happening and provide crucial love and support to help them deal with changes in their lives.
The Admiral Nurse Service was expanded to 4 nurses supporting over 200 Sutton residents following a successful trial in 2014. In its first 12 months the service, operated as a partnership between the charity Dementia UK, Sutton Council and Sutton CCG, has saved over £290,000 in health and social care costs and improved the lives of many residents living with dementia.
Most carers of people with dementia said that this service had reduced their stress, and all carers asked said it had improved their quality of life.
Councillor Ruth Dombey, Lib Dem Leader of Sutton Council, has now questioned why Sutton is the only Council to provide this service. She said:
“These Admiral Nurses provide a crucial service in not only making patients lives more comfortable and allowing them to live in familiar environment, they also help carers and families going through this difficult time to understand why these changes are happening and how they can learn to cope.
“Sutton has an ageing population, but all London Boroughs are seeing increased numbers of dementia patients and Councils must take action now to help cope with this. I am shocked that Sutton remains the only Council with a dedicated Admiral Nurse service.
“50% of our Councillors are trained Dementia Friends, and we also have a Councillor who is qualified to deliver this training. Through action like this, Sutton is helping to educate everyone about how Dementia can impact lives, and how to deal with it when it may arise, in family, friends or members of the public.
“I would urge everyone to sign up and become a Dementia Friend today by contacting your local branch of the Alzheimers Society.”
Councillor Ruth Dombey, Leader of Sutton Council, has urged the Government to reconsider their decision against Transport for London (TfL) taking over Greater London lines operated by Southern, South Eastern and South West trains.
Her urgent message to the Minister follows a joint letter from senior councillors in five South London boroughs sent last month pressing the Government to confirm their commitment to devolve Greater London rail services to Transport for London.
Commenting on the Government’s U-turn Cllr Dombey said:
‘‘The latest Government U-turn is alarming. There is long-standing cross-party support from local authorities across Greater London for the Mayor’s proposal for TfL to take responsibility for the Southeastern and Southern Rail franchises when the current contracts expire.
Sutton is developing plans to build a new world-class international centre (London Cancer Hub) for cancer research, diagnostics and treatment. This site has the potential to create over 13,000 jobs, contribute £1,1bn a year to the UK economy and deliver at least two extra cancer drugs every five years. This is one of many exciting examples of projects in London that will be at risk if the Government fails to invest in modern transport infrastructure in South London.
TfL have a proven record of running services in the capital and of turning around failing rail lines. I urge the Government to put common sense ahead of party-politics and do what’s best for Londoners.’’
Councillor Dombey has requested an urgent meeting with Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, to discuss this matter.
Commenting on Wednesday's autumn statement Councillor Simon Wales, Deputy Leader of Sutton Council and Lead Member for Resources said: "We are disappointed that this Tory Government has failed to address a number of issues of significance to local councils."
On social care, Simon commented: "Services supporting elderly and vulnerable people are at breaking point now.
"Councils, the NHS, and social care organisations across the country have been clear about the desperate need for the Chancellor to take action to tackle the funding crisis in adult social care, yet the autumn statement did not mention the NHS or social care once. This is unacceptable.
"It is time this Government takes the crisis in adult social care seriously and injects genuinely new additional funding. Passing the funding buck to local councils for this looming national crisis is not the answer."
On housing, Cllr Jayne McCoy, Chair of the Housing Economy and Business Committee said: "The Government's partial climbdown from its attack on social housing is welcome.
"However, the sticking-plaster funding offer to aid the delivery of affordable homes is simply a case of giving with one hand and taking away with the other until the requirement to sell off council homes to fund housing association right-to-buy is dropped. We are still a very long way from properly addressing the housing crisis and being able to ensure home ownership is as realistic an option for our children as it was for us."
As part of the Felnex development, sixteen new roads are being created in Hackbridge. Could you help name them?
Cllr Hanna Zuchowska said: "As a local Councillor, I want to make sure the new road names reflect the character and heritage of Hackbridge, and who better knows our area than local residents!
"There is already a list of suggested names rounded up by the local community. You can vote for your preferred option, or add your own suggestion, by clicking here."
Many Sutton residents commute to London by train, and the combination of good schools, low crime, a green and leafy borough and proximity to local railway stations is what attracts many London commuters to the area.
For this reason, local Councillor Trish Fivey and Richard Clifton, are concerned at the reports they are getting from many residents that the train service is not adequate. Both of them have, at times, been commuters into central London and they know the frustrations.
In September, Trish made an impassioned speech to Sutton Council on the problems residents have experienced, quoting the stories residents have shared with her of cancelled services and broken down trains. The Council called on the Government to review the franchise of Southern Railway and Govia, and implement stringent penalties for failure to deliver an adequate service.
Since Richard was elected he has fought successful campaigns to save the Thameslink service and to get the side entrance to Sutton station open. They are now campaigning to increase the capacity of the station car park and want to monitor the performance of the railway -- please continue to contact them with your thoughts and experiences.
Carshalton Central is one of the greenest wards in Sutton, with about a third of the area being open spaces including Carshalton Park, Grove Park, Wrythe Rec and Warren Park as well as bordering on Benhill Rec.
Local Councillors - Jill Whitehead, Hamish Pollock and Chris Williams - are determined to ensure green spaces, large and small, are preserved and protected.
At the Carshalton Local Committee on 18th October, funding was agreed for 30 new trees in the ward. These include new street trees on Harrow Road Green, Erskine Village Green, and Carshalton Place Canal.
New trees will be planted in various locations, including Carshalton Park, Grove Park and Wrythe Rec replacing those that have been felled recently due to old age or disease.
In Carshalton Park Road, a tree will be planted to replace one which had to be removed. A local resident will contribute £50 towards the tree and will water it while it grows. If you would like to contribute to your local environment in this way, please get in touch.
Your local Lib Dem Councillors have been working with the organising committee, headed by Ric Adams, to make the 2016 Christmas lights switch-on event even better.
The committee has received a neighbourhood grant from the Beddington and Wallington Local Committee, to help fund street food stalls and a bigger PA system.
The event will start at 5pm on Friday 25th November, with the switch on at 7pm by the Mayor of Sutton Councillor Richard Clifton.
There will be choirs and two bands until 8pm plus food supplied by Chef RF, The Woodcote Flying Club and more.
Local Councillor Mary Burstow is working hard to improve Cheam Recreation Ground, building on her record of delivery for Cheam's lovely green spaces.
Mary is working to secure funding for a new path across Cheam Rec that will link the newly refurbished pavilion with the existing path to Nonsuch Park.
In the six years Mary has been Cheam Ward Councillor, she has secured funding for three new paths across Cheam Park, Cheam Rec and into Nonsuch Park.
Mary said: "This fourth path will allow people to walk, cycle and push prams across Cheam Rec in the winter and not get their feet wet. It also means people can do a circular walk, taking in Cheam Park, then the newly planted trees and stunning views of the London Basin from Cheam Rec".