Tag Archives: Worcester Park

Volunteering: good for your community, and good for you

Thinking about volunteering

The theme for the 2014/5 year in office of Sutton’s Mayor, Worcester Park ward’s Councillor Arthur Hookway, was “Volunteers and Volunteering in the Community”. This has prompted me to think again about the role of volunteering and consider the organisations in Worcester Park that depend on volunteers. The exercise has also made me stop and think why I chose to work on a voluntary basis and, a less obvious thought, what benefits I might have gained from doing it. I have also realised that at the time I was asked I just considered it as ‘helping out’ and hadn’t considered volunteering in general and its specific role in society.

An example of a volunteer

To try to work out what volunteers do, the skills involved and the potential benefits I decided to list some of my own pro bono activity. Thinking back over the years made me realise that I have been involved in quite a few organisations in a variety of roles, including:

  • Rugby club: coaching children’s rugby and bookkeeping
  • Scout group: fundraising
  • Libraries: teaching IT to over 50’s
  • Schools/National charity: facilitating the teaching of IT by children to the over 50’s
  • Community: running an historic annual street fair
  • International charity: the creation and facilitation of a children’s computer programming club


My list covers a variety of organisations and each role required a different mix of skills. Some of these skills I already had but there were many things that I needed to learn and many positions that didn’t come naturally to me and required a more fundamental change.

One of the important things I’ve learnt from this is that volunteering is not only a great way to share your professional and more general life skills with your community but also a way to gain new skills which can help with your personal development and, for some, can improve employment opportunities.


Another unexpected benefit has been from a more social and personal point of view. Over the years I have met numerous people via volunteering activity and looking around my current close friends and contacts in the local community I can trace both direct and indirect connections that have resulted from past, and current, activities.

Knock-on effects

The benefits from volunteering do not usually end within the organisation where you help or even the physical boundaries of your own community. You will make contacts outside of the group which in turn will lead to new organisations, new opportunities and new friends. In fact, my last job and my current role as a councillor both came about as a direct result of my volunteering activity.

Volunteering in Worcester Park

I am sure of some key facts about Worcester Park:

  1. There are many volunteer led organisations in Worcester Park
  2. Some organisations in Worcester Park need additional help
  3. There are many people in Worcester Park who have some spare time, would like to make new friends or would benefit from learning new skills

So, I know we have the volunteering oppotunities, I know we have people willing to help, but how can they find out about each other?

Getting involved

As a start I suggest that those looking for volunteers or those wanting to take advantage of the many opportunities of volunteering visit Do-it to advertise volunteering opportunities or look for those that are available. If you need help to make people aware of your opportunity or availability please feel free to contact me.


Living without a car

A life of car ownership

As soon as I was 17 (many years ago!) I got a driving license, passed my driving test, and bought a car with some help from the ‘bank of mum and dad’.

Since then I have always had a car with its size changing in line with that of the family. In more recent years the children had largely flown the nest and my wife and I generally used a combination of walking, cycling and public transport to get around. We found this provided the exercise we needed and avoided the problem and cost of parking at our destination.

Decline of car use and ‘end of the affair’

Gradually we found we preferred this approach and used it both for local and long distance travel. The car was only straying from the drive when we had a lot to take with us or if the destination was difficult to get to using public transport.

Just over a year ago we added up what we were paying for insurance, road tax, breakdown cover, depreciation etc to get a more accurate view of what the car was costing us. This exercise confirmed our suspicions that we were paying a lot of money each year for an expensive asset which increasingly was just sitting on our drive.

We then decided to take the radical step of selling the car and trying to live without one for the first time in our adult lives.

Quid pro quo

The first decision we made after selling the car and banking the proceeds was that we would ‘recycle’ some of the saving and allow ourselves occasional travel treats to reward ourselves for doing without the car.

We agreed we would:

  • travel First Class on long train journeys where a reasonable advance purchase ticket is available, and
  • allow ourselves the use of a taxi now and again where it made a journey easier.

The first year of being carless

There have been a few times a car would have been useful but we have managed to find an alternative without any problems. Over the year we have enjoyed quite a few First Class rail journeys but only found the need for a couple of taxi journeys. The most recent taxi journey was to a fundraising event organised by the Mayor of Sutton where a bus was possible but not ideal as it was a ‘posh frocks’ event. I decided to use this journey as a way of trying out the Uber web-based taxi app and found it was simple, quick and competitively priced for this journey. Conveniently the Mayor also lives in Worcester Park so he kindly offered us a lift home, avoiding the planned taxi back and providing us with some time to catch up on things.

The future

Our situation may change one day and a car might be useful but at the moment we find Worcester Park is adequately supplied with public transport to cover most needs. With spring in the air walking and cycling will probably be our main way of travelling around the borough on councillor and other journeys.

As I write this I am enjoying a ‘full grease’ with regular coffee on a Virgin Trains service from Euston. We have just travelled at high speed parallel to the M1  at Watford Gap and I can see the traffic crawling through road works. Would I rather be driving? I’ll leave you to guess!


I suspect you have noticed that a lot of graffiti has been appearing around the shops in Worcester Park and on our new footbridge at Worcester Park station. It is upsetting that while local groups are putting in lots of time and effort to make Worcester Park a better place there are others who choose to insult our community by defacing public and private properties.

Your councillors have been in regular contact with Sutton Council officers, South West Trains and our local Safer Neighbourhood Team from Sutton Police to agree the best way to deal with the mess and stop it recurring.

If you see anyone adding to the problem or you think you might know who is involved please dial 101 or 999 if urgent or contact one your councillors, Arthur, Paul or Richard, in confidence.

Off to the big City; Saturday at Guildhall

After a lifetime of being tied to working a notional ’09:00 to 17:00′ type pattern the life of a councillor can feel a bit strange. Meetings of the Council, community groups etc can happen at any time but are often in the evening. Entries in the diary also appear for training, community events and of course for knocking on residents’ doors, which also aren’t constrained to the Monday to Friday pattern.

This weekend the whole of Saturday was booked for my attendance at the London Councils Summit which happens every year to give councillors from across London a chance to meet, attend information sessions and meet organisations of relevance to the local government sector.

London Councils Summit - Guildhall Old Library
London Councils Summit – Guildhall Old Library

The event was hosted by the City of London Corporation in the historic Guildhall in the heart of the City. Luckily there aren’t too many commuters on a Saturday morning so I had the luxury of a seat on the train from Worcester Park to Waterloo AND on the Waterloo and City line, or ‘the drain’ as it’s been known to generations of City workers. Regular Worcester Park commuters will be more familiar with a ‘cosier’ journey and probably don’t understand the concept of a seat!

I have worked in the City at various stages of my career so had walked past the Guildhall many times over the years but this was the first time I’d had cause to enter. It is a lovely historic building with modern additions to allow it to continue to fulfil its role in City life. It also has an interesting art gallery and the basement contains the remains of a Roman amphitheatre so I can recommend a visit if you haven’t been there. Maybe something to do at lunchtime if you work in the City?

My first stop was the Old Library exhibition hall for coffee and a pastry. I also used the time to explore the exhibitor stands and had a chat with some representatives from TfL. As a Worcester Park resident and councillor I used the opportunity to discuss the capacity problems on the X26 bus route before spotting a new Crossrail 2 leaflet and discussing the reasons why the new rail route should include the Epsom branch and a stop at Worcester Park. Those that know me will be aware of my strong views on the proposed service and may have signed the Crossrail 2 petition local councillors put together with our MP, Paul Burstow.

The day’s events then started in the impressive Livery Hall with the morning including a session of overviews and discussions which reminded us of the huge task London councils face in changing services to allow for the huge cuts in Government funding. We are well aware of this in Sutton due to the ongoing Sutton’s Future consultation with residents but it was comforting to know we are not alone and all councils are suffering. There was also an interesting, and at times amusing, overview of the political landscape from Steve Richards, chief political correspondent for The Independent, to give us a break from financial worries.

London Councils Summit - breakout session
London Councils Summit – breakout session

Following a break for lunch we could choose one of three breakout sessions to attend. I chose the session titled ‘Getting local people involved’ which, by coincidence, was chaired by Ruth Dombey, Leader of Sutton Council. Sutton tries hard to get residents’ views to guide its strategies but it was interesting to hear how other councils go about getting residents involved.

The final session included an interesting but light-hearted look at the forthcoming general election, including lots of statistics to see how the political landscape might change with different voter patterns.

It was dark by the time I left Guildhall  but the weather was still pleasant so I decided to walk through the interesting historic back streets of the City of London and along the south bank of the Thames before getting the train back to Worcester Park from Waterloo.

A long day but an interesting and informative way to spend a Saturday. My family might have seen my absence, for the second Saturday in a row, in a different way!

Will Crossrail 2 come to Worcester Park?

Cross London schemes

I thought it would be useful to start by putting Crossrail 2 in context with a quick run down of other cross-London rail routes as it helps to set the scene for the scheme.

  • Thameslink. We are already able to use this service which came into existence in 1988 after the old Snow Hill tunnel was reinstated to link Blackfriars with Farringdon and Holborn Viaduct station was sacrificed. The result was a through route which is currently used to link stations north of London on the St Pancras main line, such as Bedford and Luton, with stations on the main line to Brighton including East Croydon. It also has a south London loop which provides Wimbledon, Sutton and stations between with a service to the City and stations north. The service is currently being expanded to provide new trains and new destinations including Peterborough and Cambridge.
  • West London line. I am old enough to remember the few trains a day that ran between Clapham Junction and Kensington Olympia in the 1970’s using a two coach diesel unit. Over the years this improved and has now grown into two frequent services. One provides a service from Clapham Junction to Milton Keynes and the other is now part of the Overground network and provides a long loop (not quite a circle) from Clapham Junction back to Clapham Junction via north London and Docklands. Some services give up on the loop part way around and provide a direct service to Stratford.
  • Crossrail 1. This is the route currently being built, causing some very big holes in Central London and due to open in late 2018. It consists of new tunnels running west to east under Central London with trains making use of new and existing lines at each end. It links places including Reading and Heathrow Airport in the west with Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. Central London stops include Tottenham Court Road and Farringdon to service the West End and City respectively.

Crossrail 2 background

The population of London is expected to, in fact is planned to, continue growing and growing as the government and GLA press councils to build more houses across London and increase available office space, particularly in Central London.

The schemes already mentioned have been part of the plan to increase transport capacity in line with this proposed population and business growth but these schemes only help to cope with growth expected in the next 15 years so more capacity needs to be added to keep up with our need to travel after that.

Crossrail 2 is a suggested scheme to provide this next capacity boost and currently it is estimated it will be up and running by 2030.

Crossrail 3 has been mentioned in some places but I’m not aware of any official activity for it.

Crossrail 2 plan

The current thinking is to build a tunnel under Central London from Wimbledon in the south  to Alexandra Palace in the north. It would also emerge before Tottenham Hale to join the Liverpool Street National Rail line towards Cheshunt.

The part of particular interest to us in Worcester Park is where the trains would go after they emerge from the tunnel in Wimbledon on their journey south. The current proposals show three branches with trains going to Twickenham via Kingston, Surbiton and Epsom.

Some or all of these routes may appear in the final plan and the station stops for these services are yet to be decided. Crucially the route maps showed a stop at Motspur Park on the branch from Wimbledon to Epsom but implied trains would sail through Worcester Park without stopping.

Crossrail 2 consultation

The initial Crossrail 2 consultation in 2013 was to gauge reaction to the scheme and Sutton Council submitted a proposal which supported a Worcester Park stop and highlighted other benefits to the borough.
A second Crossrail 2 consultation in 2014 considered the central, underground, section of the route. It is particularly important that this part of the route is decided so that its path can be protected from other building projects which might otherwise get in the way.

Crossrail 2 campaigning

Crossrail 2 petition. Worcester Park station.

The campaigning for a Worcester Park service seems to have started with Sutton Council’s response to the 2013 TfL consultation and the online survey at that time which was completed by the public, including me! The results were summarised in a report which came out later in 2013 and mentions Sutton Council.

Current activity includes a petition initiated by Paul Burstow, MP for Sutton and Cheam and councillors in the Worcester Park and Nonsuch wards which cover the Sutton Council portion of Worcester Park.

This week I also had the opportunity to join Paul Burstow MP and Nonsuch ward councillor Richard Broadbent in a meeting  with Richard de Cani, TfL Director of Transport Strategy and Policy. It was useful to understand the project from TfL’s point of view and to confirm our efforts so far haven’t been wasted – a branch to Epsom WITH A STOP AT WORCESTER PARK is still possible. The project is still however in its early stages so we need to keep the pressure on!

Paul Burstow MP will be working with Sutton Council including Worcester Park and Nonsuch ward councillors to ensure they understand our case for Crossrail 2 but you can help by adding your name to the online petition.

Clunks, broken windows, happiness and guilt 

manhole cover, Central Road, Worcester Park
Manhole cover, Central Road, Worcester Park

For many months, some say a year, those living and working near the junction of Central Road and St Philips Avenue heard the regular ‘clunk’ as vehicles passed over a faulty and sinking manhole cover.

I live within earshot and have woken and gone to sleep each day to the sound of the ‘clunk’. In fact, as vehicles have front and rear wheels it was more of a ‘clunk’, ‘clunk’ as each vehicle rolled over.

Over time things like this become part of life and you don’t always notice them. It is a familiar concept and those of you who have ever been on a management, or maybe customer service course may have heard it referred to by the name ‘broken windows’, a general term used to refer to things that are wrong but no longer noticed.

In these situations it is always good when someone new arrives with a fresh pair of eyes, or in this case ears, and notices the problem.

And so it was, someone new moved in and alerted their new councillor to the annoying ‘clunk’ which was driving him and his partner mad.

Sutton Council soon advised me the troublesome manhole cover was the property of Thames Water and added they had already been trying for months to get it fixed, without success.

It was therefore with great relief that after many weeks the emails I added finally did their job and a three way contra flow and a hole appeared in Central Road. I had mixed feelings as I new the ‘clunk’ would be silenced but at the same time I felt a little guilty as I walked along Central Road looking at the motorists and bus passengers trapped in the queue.

Apologies to those caught up in the traffic jam around the temporary traffic lights but your sacrifice has made a lot of people happy as the clunk is no more and the risk of more serious problems has gone with it.  Thanks to Sutton Council’s Highways/Streetworks staff for their help and to Thames Water for fitting the work in between the morning and evening rush to minimise disruption.

New computer shop opens in Worcester Park

Computer Surgery, Worcester Park
Computer Surgery, Worcester Park

In case you haven’t noticed, one of the empty shops in Central Road entered a new phase of its life last week when it opened as ‘Computer Surgery’. It is located on the corner of St Philips Avenue, almost opposite Sainsbury’s Local.
Nick Dumont had been running his business from his home in Worcester Park for years but has now taken the next step and opened a shop.
On Friday I attended the official opening and it was interesting to chat to his loyal customers, some who have been using Nick’s services for many years. With my own experience of around 40 years in IT it was also a good chance for me to talk ‘techie’.
He is offering computer tuition, repairs, service and sales so why not pop in next time you need some help.