Sutton Council bureaucracy and 'red tape' blocks new flag at Cheam war memorial site

Sutton Guardian: Coun Tony Shields (left) with Coun Graham Witham holding a flag they believe would be more appropriate Coun Tony Shields (left) with Coun Graham Witham holding a flag they believe would be more appropriate

A councillor has criticised the "bureaucracy and red tape" that prevented him from replacing a tatty union flag at a war memorial.

Councillor Tony Shields has been threatened with a formal reprimand by Sutton Council after the local committee he chairs agreed to the purchase of a new union flag at the Cheam war memorial site in Malden Road ahead of the centenary of the First World War.

Although the purchase was voted for unanimously by members of the Cheam and Belmont local committee on January 9 with the emphasis on the job being completed quickly as the existing flag is "scruffy and tatty", the move was blocked as the motion had not been in front of council officers.

Councillor Shields said: "It was noted that the union flag is tatty and scruffy and so the committee resolved to get a new one.

"We thought, with the anniversary of the First World War coming up it needs to be a priority.

"The committee manager said it would need to go back and go through officers and come back at the next meeting but I didn't think that was good enough so we resolved to do it.

"The next thing I know, three weeks down the line, I'm getting threatened under the code of conduct when all I'm trying to do is stop bureaucracy and red tape getting in the way of doing something that is important.

"It's ridiculous. People laid down their lives for us and we can't even fly a decent looking flag in their honour because of council red tape."

Coun Shields received a letter from the council's head of legal services Sanjay Prashar on February 3.

It said: "Whilst I do not propose to take any action under the code of conduct on this occasion, I will not hesitate to do so in the event of your actions being repeated.

"I very much hope that the need for such an eventuality does not arise." 

Local committees have the power to spend money from public realm funds on projects in the areas they serve.

Normal procedure is that projects are proposed by committee members, council officers then analyse the proposal and make a recommendation and the committee members vote on the recommendation.

Coun Shields said he plans to have the replacement flag flying as soon as possible. The old flag has been removed.


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Comments (8)

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1:05pm Wed 12 Feb 14

Margaret_Hale says...

Council official Sanjay Prashar needs to be put in his place. Tony Shields is an excellent councillor who stands up to the LibDems and the council on behalf of his constituents.
Council official Sanjay Prashar needs to be put in his place. Tony Shields is an excellent councillor who stands up to the LibDems and the council on behalf of his constituents. Margaret_Hale

1:24pm Wed 12 Feb 14

Havana Club says...

Can't they just set a sensible limit to enable local people to spend reasonable sums without getting approval from Sutton? They can still do a regular quarterly audit to ensure no skullduggery. It is what the commercial world would do and it would save tiresome headmaster-schoolchi
ld 'now don't do it again' rhetoric like this.
Can't they just set a sensible limit to enable local people to spend reasonable sums without getting approval from Sutton? They can still do a regular quarterly audit to ensure no skullduggery. It is what the commercial world would do and it would save tiresome headmaster-schoolchi ld 'now don't do it again' rhetoric like this. Havana Club

1:28pm Wed 12 Feb 14

Niki R says...

Councillor acts in the interests of his community and is reprimanded. I'm starting to see why nothing ever gets done in Sutton. Tony Shields has served his community well and remains a committed public servant. Tony, I'll say it now- you're a man that even a dyed in the wool Labour activist like me can respect enormously!
Councillor acts in the interests of his community and is reprimanded. I'm starting to see why nothing ever gets done in Sutton. Tony Shields has served his community well and remains a committed public servant. Tony, I'll say it now- you're a man that even a dyed in the wool Labour activist like me can respect enormously! Niki R

1:32pm Wed 12 Feb 14

Simon Densley says...

With four Lib Dems to every one Conservative councillor, the Lib Dems tend to get everything their own way in Sutton. As someone with the backbone to stand up to the Lib Dems, Cllr Shields seems to have been singled out by the council numerous times with the threat of legal action when he has tried to cut through bureaucracy or shine a light where the Lib Dems don't want it shone. The sale of Wentworth Hall being a very good example. We need more councillors like Tone Shields if we want to start replacing Lib Dem complacency and waste with common sense.
With four Lib Dems to every one Conservative councillor, the Lib Dems tend to get everything their own way in Sutton. As someone with the backbone to stand up to the Lib Dems, Cllr Shields seems to have been singled out by the council numerous times with the threat of legal action when he has tried to cut through bureaucracy or shine a light where the Lib Dems don't want it shone. The sale of Wentworth Hall being a very good example. We need more councillors like Tone Shields if we want to start replacing Lib Dem complacency and waste with common sense. Simon Densley

1:33pm Wed 12 Feb 14

suttondad says...

What a poor state of affairs that allows council officials to have this stance, at the beginning of the year there should be money set aside for these types of things, small nominal amounts that play such a big part of todays society, the council missed a great opportunity by not being on the front foot by saying we will ensure all war memorials look spick and span in this centenary year, but no, red tape stops it and hey, once again Britain is looked upon with disconcern. Mr Prashar unfortunately, is just the messnger, its the ivory towers that are the issue.
What a poor state of affairs that allows council officials to have this stance, at the beginning of the year there should be money set aside for these types of things, small nominal amounts that play such a big part of todays society, the council missed a great opportunity by not being on the front foot by saying we will ensure all war memorials look spick and span in this centenary year, but no, red tape stops it and hey, once again Britain is looked upon with disconcern. Mr Prashar unfortunately, is just the messnger, its the ivory towers that are the issue. suttondad

2:02pm Wed 12 Feb 14

David7 says...

Anyone would think the council’s chief legal officer had it in for Cllr Shields. This is not the first (or even second) time he has been singled out for action.

And how lucky is the LibDem council to have a legal officer who only ever seems to go after the Conservative councillors?
Anyone would think the council’s chief legal officer had it in for Cllr Shields. This is not the first (or even second) time he has been singled out for action. And how lucky is the LibDem council to have a legal officer who only ever seems to go after the Conservative councillors? David7

4:43pm Wed 12 Feb 14

Mr Flange of Wallington says...

£11,500 spent on a pile of rubbish is OK, but £50 on a decent flag results in a bully boy letter from legal. You really couldn't make it up.

What an absolute joke this council is.

Role on May 22nd.
£11,500 spent on a pile of rubbish is OK, but £50 on a decent flag results in a bully boy letter from legal. You really couldn't make it up. What an absolute joke this council is. Role on May 22nd. Mr Flange of Wallington

12:47pm Thu 13 Feb 14

LBSresident says...

Mr Flange of Wallington wrote:
£11,500 spent on a pile of rubbish is OK, but £50 on a decent flag results in a bully boy letter from legal. You really couldn't make it up. What an absolute joke this council is. Role on May 22nd.
here here!
[quote][p][bold]Mr Flange of Wallington[/bold] wrote: £11,500 spent on a pile of rubbish is OK, but £50 on a decent flag results in a bully boy letter from legal. You really couldn't make it up. What an absolute joke this council is. Role on May 22nd.[/p][/quote]here here! LBSresident

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