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