Man standing by river

Lib Dem candidate in Sutton borough unfazed by council leader’s resignation

A Lib Dem candidate in the borough of Sutton is unfazed by the resignation of the long-serving Sutton Council leader in the run-up to a general election this year.

Bobby Dean, who is running for the Carshalton and Wallington seat at the upcoming election, celebrated Ruth Dombey’s considerable legacy in the borough but staved off any suggestion that her departure may spell trouble for the Lib Dems moving forward.

Dombey has occupied the role for 12 years, making her one of the longest-serving council leaders in the UK, and is responsible for the borough’s groundbreaking Cancer Hub.

After speaking out about her ill-health last year, Dombey announced earlier this month she will be standing down at the next annual council meeting while confirming she will remain as a local councillor for Sutton North.

Dean said: “In terms of being a group leader, Ruth’s been really compassionate, always listened to everybody, and been full of ambition.

“She’s always trying to make sure that Sutton stands out amongst all the London boroughs and is really well-respected across the capital.

“Part of the reason that Ruth is going at this point is so that there can be an orderly transition — it gives us a couple of years through the rest of this term to try and do that transition smoothly.”

When asked if Dombey’s resignation might be disruptive not only to the council, but also to his own campaign for MP in Cashleton and Wallington, Dean said: “I don’t see a problem with it impacting us negatively at all.

“Ruth’s still around so we’re going to continue to be a strong group and we’re looking forward to the general election.”

The Lib Dems have had historic success in Carshalton and Wallington, but were ousted in the last election by Conservative newcomer Elliot Colburn.

Polling data from the Electoral Calculus suggests the party is on track to comfortably regain the seat in the upcoming election, with a 56% chance of winning compared to the Conservatives’ 33% and Labour’s 10%.

Dean said: “I don’t really trust all of these online calculators as they’re not very good at reading the local situation.

“But certainly it’s true that the Conservative government is not in a good place at the moment and they are our chief rivals locally and we feel that on the doorstep. 

“It definitely feels like we’ve got a lot of positive momentum but there’s no complacency because we know we have to work hard.”

Dean said his campaign will primarily focus on improving the health of the River Wandle, where raw sewage is frequently dumped by Thames Water. 

In a statement given to South London Press in December about plans for the Beddington area, on the border of Croydon and Sutton, a Thames Water spokesperson said: “The performance of our Beddington sewage treatment works (STW) is good, and it is therefore not one of the 250 STWs and sewers that we will be upgrading in the next few years.

“We’re aware of the problems caused by misconnections on the Wandle, which are mostly wrongly connected pipes on private properties.

“We have a programme of work to help rectify this, and last year we partnered with the South East Rivers Trust and local volunteers to identify misconnections in the area.

“Since 2020 we have identified 105 misconnections.”

Dean also mentioned saving St Helier Hospital’s A&E and maternity services and tackling the cost-of-living crisis as key cornerstones of the campaign.

He said one way of raising revenue to support struggling households would be increasing the windfall tax on energy giants, as the current tax “doesn’t go anywhere near far enough.”

An opening for the Lib Dems has also appeared in the neighbouring constituency of Sutton and Cheam, after Conservative MP Paul Scully announced this month he will be standing down at the next election.

The announcement came following heavy media scrutiny regarding Scully’s comments about “no-go areas” in London and Birmingham.

Related Articles