Article Index

Tackling the Cost of Living and promoting equality

A Labour Council will do what it can to promote equality and make your life easier in tough times. We will also work with the next Labour Government which can do so much more to tackle the cost of living crisis

Labour will:

Cost of Living

1. Tell you straight that the fact Sutton needs a food bank is a disgrace. We will look at what discretionary support a rich borough like Sutton can provide. We will tackle debt and reduce the need for payday loan companies:

We will support the SW London Credit Union and encourage Council staff to become members.

• We will provide a welfare benefits hotline

• We will strengthen advice services and accessible legal services including staff-based advice as well as innovative artificial intelligence-based advice services to create a comprehensive 24-hour advice service to all who need it

• Develop an anti-poverty and social inclusion strategy as part of our overall fairness strategy aimed at areas, not individuals, and which improves access to services.

• We will review welfare provision in the borough and ensure the local Council Tax Benefit scheme is as generous as we can legally make it

 2. Set up collective energy purchasing with a ‘Switched on Sutton’ scheme giving residents access to more competitive energy prices, at a time when the government is not doing enough and only acts when Labour proposes a freeze.

Finance and Democratic Commissioning

3. Ensure that Council Tax is fair to pay for service improvements and we will set out a 4-year finance strategy so residents know much sooner what to budget for.

4. Set up a "Waste Watch" unit (one-off funding cost as future funding will be subject to making savings) to examine complaints of waste from the public and Councillors. Develop Zero-based budgeting to review services in line with fairness objectives and to free up resources for other priorities we have identified in this manifesto.

5. Develop a “prudential borrowing” strategy, that along with capital grants contribute to our ambitious house building programme

6. Work with staff trade unions and other London Councils to raise low pay to such a degree that an agreed “maximum pay ratio” for senior staff can be introduced over the next 4 years, so no Council staff are paid more than 20:1 than the lowest paid staff member. As part of this we will also conduct a full gender pay audit and ensure no staff are on zero hours contracts

7. Review the numbers of Council staff. A unitary council providing many services may not be able to develop relationships with 180,000 local residents with only 950 or so staff nowadays.

8. Work with staff trade unions and other London Councils to seek to cap and reduce staff working hours both to spread work, but also to improve work/life balance as part of a long-term “4-day week” strategy to set an example to local employers. We also want to encourage Council and contractor staff to volunteer in Sutton.

9. Reduce Councillor Allowances so Sutton is pegged as being in the bottom quartile of London Council’s for payment. This would bring us into line with Labour-controlled Merton Council. On top of that whilst Council staff numbers are low we would expect local Councillors to take a lead to drive some of the social objectives in this manifesto forward.

10. Review Budget Consultation procedures and develop "Participatory Budgeting" that involves many more residents in the budget process.

11. Review our pension fund and site acquisition strategies so our investments are focused on purchasing land in this borough and investing in local town centre regeneration. Over the next 4 years, we would seek to sell off land acquisitions outside the borough. We would also seek to move to fossil fuel divestment from our pension fund.

12. Encourage existing service providers, whether within the Council or external private companies, to mutualise and develop the co-operative sector in Sutton. We will consider a stakeholder co-operative model when looking for external capital finance and when tendering or re-tendering for services. The social value added by the co-operative and mutual model will be taken into account. We want to see simplified contracts for small

Mutual organisations.

13. Develop procurement strategies that make a direct link between the Community Plan and other strategic objectives and contract specifications ensuring that community benefits can be fully integrated into the procurement process and that ‘Social Value’ is fully considered under the Social Value Act.

14. Develop ethical "Fair Wages" and "Fair Employment" clauses in all external contracts that employ staff, so we have the best staff at all levels. We will work to encourage all local employers to move to this too. As well as existing private companies we wish to move towards much more public, municipal and co-operative enterprises as well as municipal/co-op hybrids supporting the work of the Council. Commissioning policy will, as far as legally allowed, ensure service providers:

• Pay full taxes in the UK and practice full Corporate Social Responsibility, whether a public, co-operative or private body. We want them to pay Fair Tax and be working towards a Fair Tax Mark

• Are honest about any profit warnings they may have

• Have a viable pension fund

• Have a transparent and fair bonus scheme in line with Pay ratios

• Pay suppliers on time

• Recognise trade unions for collective bargaining purposes

• Pay the London Living wage

• Operate a maximum pay ratio of 20:1 between highest and lowest paid staff

• Do not have unpaid interns

• Encourages their staff to volunteer in the Sutton community

• Have an equalities agenda that covers all equalities strands

• Have good environmental standards and are sustainable

• Conduct a gender pay audit

• Provide good staff training

• Have no staff on zero-hours contracts

• Are directly accountable to elected public representatives and should at no time be at arm’s length and mediated through Council officers

15. Establish a Contract Compliance Unit to review all existing contracts to see whether they comply with our social objectives set out in our manifesto. Much of the Council has been externalised so a first stage will require the Council to develop a proper contract compliance policy that allows us to press for Accountability to Councillors and the local community leading to greater transparency & scrutiny, especially in an era of de-democratised, multi-authority contracts. The Unit will not hesitate to enforce contract compliance using fines and break clauses to achieve our objectives.

16. Establish an independent review of media allegations of corruption within the Council relating to contracts and properties allegedly sold or leased under market price

17. Establish a local register of “democratic companies” and “democratic institutions” who comply with a core list of attributes along with other “third sector” bodies, which can be part of our procurement processes as well as a group of local institutions we encourage to expand.

18. Review the Council’s Schedule of Delegations and Consult the public on it with the aim to bring back direct accountability to areas that have been previously delegated to officials. This may require the establishment of extra Council quasi-judicial committees to properly decide in a fair way on previously delegated decisions. This could include areas such as Council Tax Benefit and succession to tenancy.

Equalities

19. Establish a Sutton Fairness Commission to recommend steps on how to improve the quality of life across the borough by making it a fairer place for all who live and work here. It will influence and inform the council on how it makes decisions on allocating resources.

20. Develop a modern equalities agenda that not only seeks to comply with EHRC equalities strands, but also modern challenges including:

  • Properly regulating any Council use of algorithms to make decisions using “outcomes-based testing” to ensure they treat people fairly
  • Ensuring procurement and commissioning policy fully reflects the wider social objectives outlined in this manifesto
  • Tackling issues of bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace
  • Delivering of a London Living Wage and sought to develop a more generous Sutton Living Wage recognizing the extra travel costs that many face
  • Abolishing the local use of bailiffs to collect debt
  • Encourage the provision of superfast broadband and wider public free Wi-Fi across the borough so none of our residents are digitally disadvantaged
  • Reviewing any advertising we do or allow on our land to ensure it complies with our social objectives
  • Exploring the issue around small scale Basic Income pilot schemes with other local authorities. This might for example include a pilot scheme covering a few hundred people receiving a sum or cover part living expenses over for example a 4-year pilot
  • Recognizing we need to improve the Council’s relationships with residents and will train staff accordingly

21. Support the right of all current EU citizens to remain in our borough and would support the Mayor of London and other London boroughs in any legal challenges if this aspect of Brexit is not implemented. We will also as a borough take our fair share of refugees and asylum seekers and ensure they are treated with respect.

22. Support Trade Justice by encouraging ethical purchasing policies.