Last year Merton Council announced plans to charge local Little League football groups up to £4,000 a year to play in public parks. Liberal Democrats have been campaigning against the charges, and this week they took the campaign to "keep Little League free" to the Council Chamber.
Councillors Eloise Bailey, Hina Bokhari and Carl Quilliam presented a petition, signed by over 1539 concerned residents, and proposed a plan to allow Little League to continue to use our parks for free.
There was strong support in the public gallery, with Little League players, parents and volunteers attending the meeting to show their support for the motion.
Unfortunately Conservative and Labour councillors refused to play ball. The Conservatives claimed to support the motion in their speeches, but this support rang hollow when they put forward a wrecking amendment, perhaps unsurprising given that they had themselves proposed to increase Council fees and charges earlier this year as part of their budget plans.
Meanwhile the Labour councillor leading on Community and Culture argued strongly for the charges, despite the Labour Leader of the Council's public promise, just months ago that there would be no charges at all. All Labour councillors at the meeting backed imposing charges.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Hina Bokhari said:
"We won’t be giving up. I truly believe that Merton could make this dream come true, and just as the nation is swept up in the belief and hope of the World Cup, we can work to keep Merton a place where families and children can use our parks for free and allow our community led charities to keep providing such wonderful services."