I understand that in April Councillor Stuart Collins, current Chair of the SLWP Joint Committee, wrote to Ruth Dombey leader of Sutton Council calling for an independent inquiry into a £275,000 donation given by Viridor Credits to Holy Trinity Church in Wallington, where John Drage and his wife are active members and which is regularly used as a meeting place by the Sutton Liberal Democrats.
Annie Baker summarised the main points of the report.
The Committee NOTED the planning progress of the ERF Project.
Following this item, the Chair agreed to take Public Questions:
I would like to put a two-part question to the Partnership regarding three damaging news articles last week relating to the contract for the incinerator in Beddington.
The front page of the Sutton Guardian reads 'No Corruption' in relation to a petition for an inquiry being considered by the Sutton Standards Committee on 16.09.15, regarding links between former SLWP Joint Committee member and councillor, John Drage. He is currently the Chair of Sutton Liberal Democrats.
The news website 'Inside Croydon' reported that Sutton Council Chief Executive Officer Niall Bolger has been accused by Councillor Nick Mattey of gagging him from discussing the incinerator with "a barrage of abuse and intimidation."
The Croydon Advertiser reported that a member of the planning committee that approved the application was "coerced" into voting for the incinerator by John Drage and another former committee member of the SLWP Joint Committee, Councillor Colin Hall.
Therefore my question is:
Will Kingston and Merton councils join Croydon council in calling on Sutton Council to launch a full independent inquiry, in view of the fact that this matter has brought the South London Waste Partnership into disrepute?
Do councillors on this committee accept that John Drage should have disclosed his close personal friendship with Viridor CEO, Colin Drummond and the fact that his wife Elaine Drage is the godmother to Mr Drummond's son when he sat on this Committee? The minutes show he did not do this, in spite of the Agenda clearly saying:
"Councillors and co-opted members must declare if they have a personal or prejudicial interest in any of the items on this agenda at the start of the meeting, or as soon as the interest becomes apparent to them."
Item 8 on the Agenda of the SLWP Joint Committee meeting on 24th March 2011, at which John Drage was present, was RESIDUAL WASTE TREATMENT PROCUREMENT UPDATE. John Drage did disclose his close personal friendship to the Viridor CEO to the Sutton Planning Committee when he spoke in favour of the incinerator application in the Spring of 2013.
Councillor Stuart Collins expressed his concern about newspaper reports of the relationship between Viridor and some Councillors who are no longer on the Committee. However, there is a Standards Committee at Sutton tomorrow (16 September) which will address the issue. He stressed that it is important that the integrity and accountability of this Committee is maintained. A report will be submitted on the outcome of the Standards Committee, for discussion at the next meeting of this Committee.
Shasha Khan pressed Councillors to comment on the issue but the concensus was that any further discussion should wait for the outcome of the Standards Committee tomorrow.