Tonight Merton Council approved building a new school in South Wimbledon, despite serious air quality concerns.
Cllr Simon McGrath - a member of the Planning Applications Committee - ultimately voted against granting planning permission. Reflecting on his decision, he said:
“Air pollution is a silent killer, and it really needs to be treated as the public health emergency it is.
"After looking at all the evidence, I felt that the proposal should only go forward with significant, measurable improvements in pollution levels near the school site.
“Labour Council bosses are putting our children’s health at risk by pushing through new Harris Academy without doing anything to improve the air quality. The Council's own research shows that air pollution levels are far above the acceptable level, and the argument that pollution will simply have reduced by the time the school opens is an unacceptable risk.
“It is extraordinary that the Council did not look into the need to reduce pollution levels before they spent millions of pounds buying the site. Local children deserve better from Merton.
“Local Lib Dems have long pushed for improvements to air quality across Merton - and specifically near to our schools. It's time the Labour Council faced up to their poor record on air quality.”
Merton Liberal Democrats have previously highlighted research showing that a number of Merton schools are located in areas with dangerously high pollution levels. They are calling for a radical and ambitious plan to improve air quality as an urgent priority.
Scores of Merton residents were among the nearly one million people who marched on Parliament on Saturday 20 October to demand a "People’s Vote".
The People’s Vote campaign is calling for a referendum on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, with the option to remain in the EU on the ballot paper. This would allow people to be given a final say on the negotiations.
Nearly two-thirds of Merton residents voted to remain in the EU at the 2016 referendum, and hundreds more since have signed a petition coordinated by Merton Liberal Democrats calling on the two local MPs to back the campaign for a People’s Vote. In September, Merton councillors supported a Liberal Democrat proposal in support of a People’s Vote
. Conservative and residents association councillors abstained.
Unlike his Mitcham & Morden counterpart - Wimbledon's current MP, Conservative Stephen Hammond has not yet committed to supporting a People's Vote.
Speaking after the march, Lib Dem parliamentary campaigner for Wimbledon, Cllr Carl Quilliam said:
“The Government has made a total mess of these Brexit negotiations. We are now facing the very real possibility that we will crash out of the EU in the most chaotic way possible, without a deal of any kind.
“Nobody voted to be poorer, yet that is exactly what will happen if we leave the EU with a bad deal or no deal.
“The overwhelming majority of Merton residents are deeply concerned with the direction the country is heading. Merton Liberal Democrats believe they, not politicians, should be given the final say on the Brexit deal.”
If you would like to join the Merton Liberal Democrat campaign for a People's Vote you can sign up here
This week Merton Council backed Liberal Democrat and Labour motions in favour of a People's Vote - a referendum on the final Brexit deal with the option to remain in the EU.
The two motions were passed by Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors, with Conservative and Merton Park Residents Association councillors abstaining both times.
The High Court has today quashed the decision by the London Mayor to close Wimbledon police station in a ruling that was critical
of his entire consultation into the closing of 37 police stations across the capital.
In today’s judgment, Lord Justice Lindblom and Mr Justice Lewis stated that:
“The consultation process in this case was not conducted well. Both the content and the structure of the consultation document were unsatisfactory. It was markedly less helpful than such documents should be if they are to achieve their purpose in informing a decision on a matter of great significance for a large number of people – here the entire population of the metropolis. The internal documents prepared for meetings had omissions and contained errors. The summary of the consultation responses was not adequate. That is all the more surprising given the importance of the issue –policing and public safety in London.”
In the case of Wimbledon police station this included a failure to properly consider the submission of Merton Liberal Democrats that it was premature to take a decision to close Wimbledon police station, and that any decision to do so should be postponed pending an evaluation of the impact of new technology.
In the opinion of the High Court this was a material matter and the failure to consider it amounted to a clear error of law. In their judgment Lord Justice Lindblom and Mr Justice Lewis conclude: “The decision to close the Wimbledon police station is… unlawful and cannot be allowed to stand.”
The court also accepted that the point made by Merton Liberal Democrats – that it was premature to take a decision to close Wimbledon police station until a proper assessment had been made of the impact of the introduction of new technology – could have been made in respect of other police stations.
However, in the absence of evidence that it was, the court was not prepared to quash the decision to close the other police stations.
Cllr Paul Kohler commented:
“I am delighted that the High Court agreed with me in holding that the Mayor of London’s entire consultation was unsatisfactory. In the words of the judgment the initial consultation document was ‘incoherent and unhelpful’; the internal documents used by the Mayor’s office ‘had omissions and contained errors’; and the summary of the consultation responses was ‘not adequate’. As the judges said this is ‘all the more surprising given the importance of the issue –policing and public safety in London.’
“In the circumstances, especially after yesterday’s news detailing the increase in crime, particularly violent crime, across the capital, I hope the Mayor of London will take this opportunity to consider the matter afresh and revisit his decision to close all 37 police stations. In light of the High Court’s finding that it was a material consideration I ask, in particular, that he recognizes the strength of Merton Lib Dems’ submission, that it is premature to make an irreversible decision to close so many police stations before the impact of new technology on community policing has been assessed.
“More broadly I ask him to recognise how important a meaningful consultation is to our democracy. I am not saying I have all the answers and the Mayor of London is always wrong, but I am imploring him to recognize his plans can only be enhanced by adopting a more imaginative response to the funding crisis facing the Met.
“On a personal level I am obviously pleased that the High Court has quashed the decision to close Wimbledon police station and only sorry we did not have similar evidence in respect of the other police stations. Now the court has confirmed that the decision to close it was unlawful, I respectfully ask the Mayor to address the concerns of Merton Lib Dems, that were ignored in the original consultation, and recognize it would be premature to close Wimbledon police station before there has been time to assess the impact of new technology.”
Tessa Gregory a partner at the law firm Leigh Day who represented Cllr Kohler in the judicial review stated:
“Our client is delighted that the court has today quashed the decision of the Mayor’s Office to close and sell his local police station in Wimbledon. Whilst the court did not consider it had the necessary evidence to quash the decision to close other police stations across London, it was highly critical in its judgment of the way in which the whole consultation was conducted.
“The judges noted that these failings were particularly surprising given the importance of the issue: the policing and public safety of the capital. Our client hopes that the Mayor will take time to humbly reflect on the comments made by the court and reconsider his decision. Londoners deserve better.”
Policing in Merton is about to be hit by a triple whammy: we could be losing Wimbledon Police Station, our borough commander and at least 15% of Merton's police officers.
Councillor Paul Kohler is taking the Mayor to court to overturn his decision to close Wimbledon Police station, and last week he submitted a motion to Merton Council calling for a cross party working group to be established to urgently consider all aspects of policing in the borough. Whatever the outcome of the legal case, the working group would have provided a critical opportunity to determine how the borough is going to address the various threats currently confronting policing in Merton.
Unfortunately neither Labour nor the Conservatives supported the motion. Both argued that the Council’s existing mechanisms are sufficient, even though the borough has been unable to prevent any of the cuts in policing that have occurred so far.
Speaking after the Council meeting Cllr Paul Kohler said:
"I am at a loss to understand how both the governing Labour party and the official Tory opposition can be so complacent, particularly on such an important issue as crime and safety in the borough.
The council has to start taking law and order seriously, yet nether Labour, nor the Conservatives, show any genuine interest or concern. Time for a fresh start on policing in Merton. "
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."
Local Lib Dems have revealed shock new figures showing that around 4000 workers at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships won't receive the London Living Wage.
Cllr Carl Quilliam, Deputy Leader of the Lib Dem group on Merton Council where the tournament is held, has slammed the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) for not ensuring that contractors receive this wage, despite the Club stating they support the London Living Wage.
The London Living Wage is calculated to ensure workers can cover the cost of living in London and are not forced into poverty.
New figures uncovered by the local Lib Dem’s show that only 1000 workers for the tournament receive a full London living wage, while 4000 contracted-out workers are left to struggle on the legal minimum.
After a fantastic election night (and years of tireless campaigning), local Lib Dems are celebrating the election of 6 incredible new councillors, representing West Barnes, Dundonald and Trinity Wards. The largest group of Liberal Democrats elected to Merton Council.
We want to thank everyone across Merton who gave their support to the Lib Dems on Thursday 3 May.
Your Lib Dem council team - consisting of Eloise Bailey, Hina Bokhari and Carl Quilliam in West Barnes; Anthony Fairclough and Simon McGrath in Dundonald; and Paul Kohler in Trinity - will be working hard to repay the support shown to us by being a strong voice for all Merton residents.
We will always seek to do our best for you and work hard with the rest of the local Liberal Democrat team to deliver on our pledges. Please do get in touch if you have questions, comments, thoughts or anything we can assist with. We'd love to hear from you.
The Council now comprises 34 Labour councillors, 17 Conservatives, 6 Liberal Democrats and 3 residents association councillors. The Labour Party will continue to run the Council.
Together, we can achieve a #FreshStart4Merton!
Did you see the Evening Standard's take on Paul Kohler’s court case to stop the Mayor closing over half of London’s police stations?
The legal action has ensured that no police stations will be sold before the case is resolved.
Paul has done a great job, with the help of many people from across London who are 'crowdfunding' the legal fees. If you are able to contribute to the ongoing costs of the case you can do so here.
We local Lib Dems are proud to have backed the case - Paul is also one of the Lib Dem-backed candidates for Trinity ward at the elections in a few weeks.
We know that any plan to maintain a police station in Wimbledon will require our legal challenge to succeed as otherwise the Mayor's decision to close the station will stand. This is why we offered to work with Labour and the Conservatives when we began this battle back in late 2017.
Only the local Lib Dems along with local campaigner Paul Kohler are taking real practical action to save our police station. At the local elections on 3rd May please back our campaign by voting for your local Lib Dem team to ensure we will retain a real say on the future of policing in our area.