Ruth Dombey’s retirement leaves an indelible stamp on Sutton

21 May 2024
Ruth dombey

Ruth Dombey stood down as Leader of Sutton Council at its annual meeting on 20th May 2024, having led the Council for the Liberal Democrats for 12 years and led the party to three successive local election victories.

This has been a major contribution to our retaining control of the Council for nearly 40 years – the longest continuously Lib Dem controlled Council in history.

Ruth has been an outstanding Council Leader: inspirational and motivating to her fellow Councillors, providing firm leadership to officers while always listening to residents’ concerns.

She has presided over the Council at times of drastic cuts to the Council budget from the Tory Government, ensuring that services targeted at those in need were protected, while ensuring that all services are delivered as efficiently as possible.

Despite the financial constraints, Ruth was always ambitious for Sutton.

She was one of the first people to recognise the potential of the London Cancer Hub and the benefits it would create, bringing a world leading research and treatment facility and much needed investment, jobs and transport improvements to the Borough.

She pressed for the revitalisation of the High Street, recognising that it could no longer rely on all the shops of the past, and getting the Council to buy up key sites and repurpose them for community, entertainment, cultural and business use – see the success of the Sound LoungeOru Sutton and Throwley Yard; and plans for regeneration of the St Nicholas centre and Civic Offices sites.

Ruth and team

Ruth has also worked closely with our local voluntary and community groups to welcome refugees and new communities to our borough.

People fleeing from war and persecution from Syria, Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Ukraine, as well as our growing Tamil. Indian and Pakistani communities have told Ruth how welcome we have made them feel, sensitive to their diverse heritages and eager to learn and celebrate along with them.

In a Sutton Council press release, Ruth said: “With the General Election this year and our important Local Elections taking place in 2026, I feel that now is the right time to step aside and allow my successor time to take on this important and challenging role and lead us into the next election. 

“It has been a huge honour and a privilege to be the Leader of Sutton Council and I am very grateful to everyone - fellow councillors, council officers and above all our residents - who care so much about our borough.”

Leading the accolades for Ruth is Graham Tope: “Less known in Sutton is all the work Ruth has done to put Sutton on the political map, both nationally and regionally.

"For years she led the Liberal Democrat Group on London Councils, the body that represents all the London Borough Councils, and was its Vice Chair. This was particularly important during the Covid pandemic when she led the way in putting the case to Government, particularly for the Outer London Boroughs. 

“She was also a member of the Liberal Democrat Executive in the Local Government Association. It is very much down to Ruth that Sutton now has such a good reputation in the local government and political world throughout the country.

But through all this, since her first election as a councillor in 2002, her commitment to Sutton and to her Sutton North ward has always come first. Above all, Ruth is very much a ‘people person’.”

Graham is currently President of Sutton Borough Lib Dems, Co-President of London Councils, Vice President of the LGA and was Sutton Council Leader 1986-99 (and Lib Dem Group Leader 1974-99).

Ruth at full council

Cllr Jayne McCoy, former Deputy Leader of the Council said: “Ruth has led Sutton Council steadfastly through one of the most difficult periods for local authorities.

"She has faced these challenges bravely and resolutely, but always with compassion, never forgetting that residents are at the heart of all we do. Ruth's greatest legacy will be the work she has done to ensure closer working with our local and regional healthcare providers.

"Determined to see health and social care teams work together to ensure an all-round package of support for vulnerable residents, she made Sutton Council a trailblazer of integrated health and social care that has now become the recognised model for the future.

“Ruth's, often less visible, work has earnt her wide respect from officers and colleagues at the council, from council leaders of all Parties, and from her peers across the many organisations she has worked with including the Police, the Voluntary Sector and in our Health Partners.”

Hina Bokhari, Member of the London Assembly since 2021 and Sutton & Cheam PPC in 2019, added: “Ruth has always been a fountain of knowledge and experience on issues to do with outer London which was most evident during the pandemic.

"Her unique position as leader for Sutton Council means that she always fights for her residents to get a fair deal especially on issues like transport.

Her commitment means the LibDems in City Hall have pushed for more buses in outer London and to re-establish the Go Sutton Bus. Ruth has been a champion for London and a strong voice for local democracy.”

And Ed Davey, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, tweeted: “My heartfelt thanks goes out to Ruth Dombey for 12 transformative years leading Sutton Council. Your work on the London Cancer Hub and town centre plans has truly shaped Sutton for the better. Glad to see you'll continue making a difference on the council!”

We acknowledge all that Ruth has done as Council Leader, as well as Sutton Borough Liberal Democrats, and thank her for her consistent energy and commitment on behalf of the people of Sutton.

Ruth continues her political work as a ward councillor for Sutton North and in many other ways.

Thank you Ruth!

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