Sutton’s Lib Dem group have chosen Councillor Barry Lewis as the new leader of the Lib Dem group, following longtime leader Ruth Dombey’s announced departure last week.

Lewis will become the next Council leader, subject to confirmation at the full council meeting on May 20.

His confirmation is ‘almost certain’ given the Lib Dem’s long-held majority in the Council.

Lewis, who was generally considered the favourite to replace Dombey, has served as the Chair of Sutton Council’s Environment & Sustainable Transport Committee in recent years. 

Despite only being elected councillor for Wallington North in 2019, Lewis has become a leading figure in the Sutton Lib Dem group.

He has worked on the borough’s road safety measures and regularly takes questions on these issues during Council meetings. 

While some have welcomed these measures, others consider him a controversial figure due to his association with Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTN).

LTNs have previously been rejected by some residents in the borough, who say that Sutton relies on its cars more than other London boroughs given its relatively patchy TfL provision. 

Lewis was also thrust into the limelight last August following a discovery that Sutton was introducing higher parking chargers for drivers who pay by cash instead of using a mobile app.

In response to outcry from the borough’s older residents, Lewis said: “Unlike other councils who have completely removed the option for people to pay by cash, residents and visitors to Sutton still have the option to pay by cash at our parking machines.”

Lewis was born in Worcester Park, attended primary and secondary school in Sutton, and now lives with his family in Carshalton. He has worked in the travel industry for most of his career and has been the director of two aviation companies, both of which have since gone into liquidation.

Lewis is also an active Scout leader, having been involved in Sutton Scouts for the last 30 years.

Commenting on his selection, Cllr Barry Lewis said: “I am honoured to have been chosen to lead Sutton’s Lib Dem Council Group and to put myself forward as the next Leader of Sutton Council.

“Cllr Ruth Dombey has led our Group and Council brilliantly for the past 12 years.

"I want to build on the foundations laid by her and all our fantastic councillors over nearly 40 years of Liberal Democrat leadership in our borough. Sutton is my home and I am ambitious for our borough’s future.” 

While Lewis is a relative newcomer to politics, the outgoing leader Dombey is a veteran of Sutton’s politics having served as leader for 12 years.

Dombey, who will remain leader until the full council meeting on May 20, was first elected as a councillor in 2002.

When reflecting on her highlights as leader, Dombey pointed to the development of the London Cancer Hub in Belmont, which has now become a national leader in the field.

She also noted her work on redeveloping Sutton’s High Street, and said she wants to “ensure it remains a hub for our communities to live, work and have fun”.

Dombey has dominated Sutton’s politics for over a decade, winning three elections as head of the council in 2014, 2018 and 2022.

Sutton forms part of the Lib Dem stronghold of South West London, along with its neighbours Richmond and Kingston.

In her statement praising the new Lib Dem leader, Dombey said: “I am proud to pass on the baton to Barry who will be taking on the huge honour and privilege of leading our borough.

“I look forward to continuing to serve the community as a local councillor and supporting Barry, who I know will continue our ambition to make Sutton an even better place to live, work and raise a family.”