Merton Liberal Democrats are pleased to announce Simon Jones as our candidate in the up-coming St Helier by-election.
Simon Jones says -
We have all been moved by the awful news of Sarah Everard and send our heartfelt sympathies to her family and friends.
For some, it has triggered painful memories. For others, it has given some awareness about how their behaviour may impact those around them.
Merton Liberal Democrats realise that the coronavirus pandemic has put a severe strain on the budgets of councils across the country - and as a result, difficult decisions need to be made. We join all those urging the Government to provide enough additional support to local authorities.
The Labour party's proposed budget can be found on Merton Council's website.
In our budget amendments we will focused on three things:
- Investing in the future, by supporting children & young people;
- Ensuring those who have been on the front-line of the coronavirus pandemic receive a fair wage for their vital work; and
- Helping to tackle the climate emergency.
With this in mind, we have proposed a number of amendments to the budget plans (the full text of our amendments can be found on the Merton Council website):
1. 'Free school breakfast club' scheme
Local residents and businesses showed incredible generosity in stepping in to address the shortfall in Government support during the Coronavirus lockdown. One of the places this was seen most clearly was in the Free School Meals campaign where people donated cash to help families during school holidays.
We're now calling on the Council to run a pilot scheme to allow children who are eligible for pupil premium to attend school 'breakfast clubs' for free, to help tackle this issue - giving them and their families more support. This would be funded by voluntary donations from local residents and businesses.
2. Caring for our communities
Care workers have been on the front-line during the coronavirus pandemic. They're also amongst the lowest paid in our community. While Council employees are paid at least the London Living Wage, care workers who work for private companies that contract with the council, are not.
Last year we succeeded in convincing the council to take small but practical steps to ensure that all care workers in the borough receive the London Living wage. We're now calling on the council to make a firm commitment to aware all future contracts at the London Living wage.
We're also very concerned about the multiple changes that the Council wants to make to day centres, children's centres and the dementia hub. They say they want to re-imagine the way the services are provided - but we're worried this is just a way of cutting services quickly. So we are asking the Council to show councillors the detailed plans before they make the changes, to try to ensure that the people who use these services don't lose out.
3. Supporting our future
After the lockdown has eased we must focus on younger people, looking in particular at their health and opportunities. So we're calling on the Council to agree to:
- a review into whether dedicated Merton-based sexual health and mental health services for vulnerable young people escaping sexual exploitation could and should be introduced;
- a review into the operation and effectiveness of pupil referral units;
- a review of Merton’s use of the apprenticeships, to ensure the best routes for Merton's young adults to enter the job market, support local businesses to grow, and to stop the practice of LB Merton returning unused/expired apprenticeship levy monies to HM Treasury; and
- the necessary work to establish a Landlord Licensing scheme.
4. Addressing the climate emergency
Tackling the climate emergency must be a key focus for councils across the country. The Council's climate action plan depends on securing funding for projects to help achieve the huge change we need, and so part of our amendment is about putting in place enough staff resources to make sure that plan succeeds.
Furthermore, Merton Council recently introduced a new parking charges scheme, which they say is designed to improve air quality. We've argued before that we don't think the scheme will be effective, and that it will undermine the climate emergency response because people think its just a way to raise cash.
So, at the budget meeting we're proposing a number of changes to improve it:
- Extra revenue raised by the new charges should be separately reported, and should be ringfenced for spending on ways to tackle climate change;
- A new low mileage discount or rebate - this would encourage people to drive less, as well as mitigating the effects of higher parking charges on low income households that can't afford to buy a new car; and
- Reconsider the changes to visitors permits - it's not fair or effective to charge people more based on the type of car their visitor turns up in. How can that result in their visitor buying a more environmentally friendly car? It just looks like a way to raise cash, and disproportionately affects some older or disabled people who need more visits from care workers and family.
The NHS in Merton is currently offering the vaccine to the following groups:
- people aged 50 and over
- people aged 16 and over who are clinically extremely vulnerable (also referred to as high risk), or clinically vulnerable (also referred to as moderate risk) - details of who falls into these categories is available here
- people who live or work in care homes
- health and social care workers
- people who are eligible for Carer's Allowance (more info here)
If you fall into any of these groups you can book a vaccination online here, or for free by calling 119, open 7am-11pm, 7 days a week
South London Citizens and the South London Mental Health and Community Partnership have put together a survey to understand how people are coping during the Covid-19 pandemic, and what issues are putting pressure on people's wellbeing.
It is part of the South London Listens campaign, run by local community groups, mental health trusts and local authorities, with the aim of working together to support and protect local mental health during and after the pandemic.
You can take part in the survey here - it's open until the end of March.
Residents who live or work in the Wimbledon Park area are being asked to get tested for coronavirus, even if they have no symptoms, as part of an enhanced testing program due to a case of the South African variant being found in the area.
You need to get tested if you meet all of the following criteria:
If you meet all these criteria, and do not have symptoms of coronavirus there are two ways you can get a test:
- Book a test at one of the mobile testing units. These are located at Wimbledon Park Golf Club and at the car park at the rear of Wickes on Waterside Way. These will be open daily 8am-3pm from Friday 26th February to Thursday 4th March. Slots can be booked here (pre-booking is required).
- Use a home testing kit. These can be picked up and dropped off at Christ the King Church Hall, 9 Crescent Gardens, Wimbledon Park, SW19 8AJ. This will open daily, 8.30am-6pm, from Monday 1 until Friday 5 March. No booking is needed. If you are shielding and need help to pick up / return a home test kit contact the council on 020 8274 5332 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.
If you have symptoms of coronavirus (high temperature, new continuous cough, or loss / change to sense of smell / taste) you should get tested in the normal way by booking a free NHS test.
More information about the enhanced testing program is available on the Merton Council website.
Lib Dem Executive Team member and business / well-being coach Viv Vella recently held a members’ event centred on boosting well-being and resilience. She recommended the following resources:
Exercise & movement
- Movement is crucial to our wellbeing, and lockdown has made exercising difficult for many people. Couch to 5k is an app to help everyone (especially complete beginners!) get running.
Wellbeing & mental health resources
- The 5 minute journal app (available on the App store and Google Play) is designed to increase wellbeing by focusing on positive experiences and self reflection
- There are a number of apps available to aid in mindfulness - some popular choices are Headspace / Calm / Insight Timer
Sleepio is a digital CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) program designed to help you sleep better
BBC Headroom is a digital `mental health toolkit' full of resources and tips to help you look after your mental health
Bounce Forward is a free resilience course for parents in London
Viv also has some more specific resources for people experiencing domestic abuse and eating disorders - if you would like her to send you any of these resources please send an enquiry to [email protected].
The NHS in Merton has now moved on to vaccinating people who are aged 65-69, or who are aged 16-64 and have underlying health conditions. If you fall into either of these groups you should wait to be contacted by the NHS before trying to book an appointment:
- People aged 65-69 will receive a letter from the national booking service with details of how to book a vaccination appointment
- People aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions will be invited to appointments by their GP
Anyone over 70 years old who has not yet received their first vaccination is being urged to come forward and contact the NHS to book an appointment. This can be done via the national booking service, either at this website or by calling 119 free of charge between 7am and 11pm seven days a week. If no suitable slots are available through the national booking service you can also ring your GP practise. People over 70 years old who have not received their first vaccination do not need to wait for an invitation letter before booking an appointment.
The NHS is working with the Council to provide vaccination appointments to all front line social care workers.
If you do not fall into any of the above categories then the NHS will contact you when it is your turn to receive a vaccination. Please don't try to book an appointment until you receive an invitation letter or are contacted by your GP.
It's just been confirmed that the London elections in May are due to go ahead. It's difficult to predict what the next couple of months will bring, but it is likely that there will still be some social distancing measures in place in May. So there's never been a better time to sign up for a postal vote to ensure that you don't miss out on your chance to have your voice heard.
Apply for a postal vote today with these easy steps:
Complete and print the form at libdems.org.uk/postal-vote
Sign the form and send it to Merton council at: Electoral Registration Officer, Merton Civic Centre, London Road, SM4 5DX