Sutton Councillor explains defection over incinerator
A Sutton councillor has resigned from the Liberal Democrats and is joining Labour over controversial plans to build an incinerator in his ward in Beddington.
John Keys, long-serving councillor for Beddington North, has said support within his party to build the facility made him consider his position.
In December last year, the Lib Dem administration in Sutton voted through a waste strategy that has paved the way for an incinerator to be built in Sutton borough.
Waste company Viridor is now consulting on an application to build a controversial facility off Beddington Lane, burning up to 275,000 tonnes of waste each year.
Coun Keys, who has been a member of the council since 1998, said he was opposed to the incinerator along with many of his constituents, but the facility had not been blocked by the Lib Dem administration, which wanted all councillors to speak about it “with one voice”.
He said: “I have serious concerns about the impact on residents’ health, as do my constituents.
“I would not be comfortable with myself in 20 years if we found out the incinerator was not safe and I had not done everything I could to stop it being built.”
He said Ken Livingstone, Labour's candidate for the upcoming London mayoral elections on May 3, was the only candidate to have opposed the incinerator, which also attracted him to Labour.
He said it was the need for a campaigning voice against the incinerator that meant he would not resign his seat to put himself up again for re-election as a Labour candidate.
The call centre worker will be the first Labour councillor to serve on Sutton Council since 2006.
Coun Keys also said he was unhappy with his party since they went into coalition nationally with the Tories.
In his resignation letter, which was submitted on Friday to the Lib Dem council leader, Sean Brennan, Coun Keys said he could not support a party that supported the Tory NHS bill, and cuts to the top rate of income tax on top of the broken promise on tuition fees.
Coun Keys, a former trade union representative, made his first public appearance as a member of the Labour Party during a visit to Sutton High Street by the party’s mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone.
Coun Brennan said: “I learned of Coun Keys’ defection to the Labour Party with some surprise and sadness.
“He will find it a lonely and challenging role to fulfil in the face of difficult times for local government.”