Wimbledon residents to be hit by £500 Conservative “stealth tax”, Lib Dem research reveals

Families in Wimbledon will have to pay an extra £500 a year in tax as a result of Conservative plans for a "stealth tax" rise, research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.

The Conservative Government’s decision to scrap inflation-linked rises in income tax thresholds will see 210,000 people across London pushed into the top tax rate by 2026, while 155,000 Londoners on the lowest incomes who are currently exempt will start paying income tax.

In total, Londoners will have to fork out an extra £1.8 billion as a result of the Conservatives' plans, with the average household facing a £500 hit to their disposable income.

"The Conservatives are about to hurt hundreds of hard working families in Wimbledon with this stealth tax hike", said Cllr Paul Kohler, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon. “The Government should be supporting families that are feeling the pressure of rising household bills, not hitting them with higher taxes.

"I am surprised, and disappointed, that Wimbledon’s Conservative MP is not using his voice to speak out against his party’s attempt to raise taxes by the back door. Wimbledon residents deserve an MP who will stand up for them when Government decisions threaten their incomes and livelihoods."

Ed Davey MP, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: "The Prime Minister must drop this unfair stealth tax that will hit families who are already feeling the squeeze.

"With the cost of living in London already skyrocketing, this is the last thing households need right now.

"People are already anxious about the rising cost of living and paying their bills this winter. Now they face years of tax hikes under a Tory government that is taking them for granted.

"Swathes of lifelong Conservative voters in Blue Wall areas feel the government is no longer representing them. It's no shock that many are now shifting to the Liberal Democrats instead."

School funding needs to be prioritised

Residents were shocked that Council bosses have chosen not to prioritise money to support local schools.

At the Council's budget meeting last night, Liberal Democrat councillors called for local action to support schools by setting up a "schools energy bill support fund".

Liberal Democrat lead councillor Anthony Fairclough said:

"This is a response to discussions with teachers and school governors who tell us there simply isn’t enough money for schools.

"My own gas and electricity bills have doubled since 2020 already. And for schools it is no different.

"Most years the Council spends less than it budgets, and our proposal would have meant that this 'underspend' could have been used to help schools pay rocketing energy bills.

"We can’t just wait for the Government, which is the only thing that Labour councillors had to say."

Raynes Park Station - The campaign continues

According to a survey of Raynes Park residents, 91% use the station to travel towards Waterloo, where there is a ramp up to the platform. Presumably these 91% of people want to come back!

Victoria Wilson, Matthew Willis and Chessie Flack - Lib Dem campaigners in Raynes Park and the rest of the Merton Lib Dem team continue to push for accessibility to be improved on platforms 3 and 4 where there is still no step-free access to leave the station.

Survey respondents reported having to turn down work in London due to the issue and it is clear we cannot wait on a decision on Crossrail 2 before improvements are made.

63.6% of respondents say they would use Raynes Park station more if there was step-free access, adding to the traffic on Worple Road as many are currently forced to alight at Wimbledon, increasing demand on local bus and taxi services.

The wide and dangerous gaps on platforms 1 and 4 will remain an issue even if step-free access is provided so we are exploring other options with stakeholders. This includes proposals to move the platforms closer to the Wimbledon end of town and to see if plans to improve the station can be implemented independent of a final decision on Crossrail 2.


Tell us what you think here


Labour blocks action on 'step-free' stations

Last night, Labour Council bosses bizarrely blocked a proposal to help make more local stations become "step-free".

Speaking after the meeting, Lib Dem lead councillor Anthony Fairclough said:

"For several years local Liberal Democrats have campaigned to make local stations step-free. Many nearby stations are currently only accessible by stairs, presenting significant difficulties for wheelchair users, parents with prams and others with mobility problems.

"Liberal Democrat councillors have worked hard to build the case for lifts or ramps at these stations. In 2019 Liberal Democrats successfully pressed the Council to accept a proposal that it must prioritise accessible stations, and helped encourage the train operator SWR to make a bid to the main Government fund to make improvements at Raynes Park and Motspur Park stations.

"Rail companies and Network Rail often tell us that the 'game changer' is already having engineering plans in place - putting us at the front of the queue when funding opportunities come up - which was the reason for our proposal last night.

"Despite Labour councillors voting to block our proposal when they didn't even bother to argue against it - I was pleased that the Council's finance director did confirm to me that the Council has match funding in place for improvements at two stations."


Application for 12 storey building in Wimbledon town centre passes

Update from tonight’s planning meeting about 12 storey building in Wimbledon town centre

Tonight, Merton's Planning Committee voted to allow this development.

The video recording from tonight’s meeting will shortly be available here.

It is clearly too large for Wimbledon, and we fear will set a precedent  for other buildings of similar height.

The Liberal Democrat, Conservative and Residents Association councillors on the committee voted against it – challenging it on heights and design. All the Labour councillors on the Committee voted in favour.

While Planning decisions are usually final, there is a possibility that the Mayor of London can/will use his powers to review the development: we are looking into this, and we will let you know more details in due course.

When the Council adopted new planning rules for Wimbledon in November 2020, Liberal Democrat councillors proposed that a lower height limit be incorporated. Sadly this was not backed by either Labour or Conservative councillors.


MOPAC Consultation Response

Wimbledon Police Station's Long-Term Future.

Following our successful Judicial Review, Wimbledon Police Station's future is currently guaranteed until 2023; but not beyond. We have raised its long-term future, on a number of occasions, with our excellent Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Lis Chapple, who is completely supportive but has emphasised the final decision is up to the Mayor of London. We have also raised it with him directly, on more than one occasion, via Lib Dem Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon.

Unfortunately, both the Mayor and his Deputy, who runs the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), have repeatedly refused to give any commitments beyond next year. To add to our concerns, the latest draft of the Mayor's new Police & Crime Plan, includes proposals to further reduce the Met's estate, with obvious potential implications for the future of Wimbledon Police Station.

In the recent consultation on the new plan Merton Lib Dems worked with Merton Council's Safer Merton team to ensure their submission included specific reference to retaining Wimbledon Police Station. We also submitted the following submission, which emphasises why police stations are critical to achieving the Mayor's policing priorities.

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AELTC Development

Many people have been in touch with Wimbledon Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, Cllr Paul Kohler about the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s controversial plans to build a new 10 storey 8,000 seater stadium, 38 more competition tennis courts and 10 additional buildings on part of Wimbledon Park.

If allowed to go ahead, AELTC’s plans would permanently concrete over a substantial amount of Metropolitan Open Land, cause up to eight years of disruption, and result in the loss of hundreds of mature trees. 

When the Council sold the freehold of the Wimbledon Golf Club site to AELTC in 1993 they gave public assurances that they would never build on the land, backed up with a legally-enforceable covenant in the sale agreement.  

Sadly, both Wimbledon’s Conservative MP and the local Labour Council have been quiet on the issue – when they should be standing up for local residents.

Last Wednesday Cllr Paul Kohler asked Council bosses to reassure residents that they would use their legal right to block the development, whether the recent planning application is successful or not.

Disappointingly, the Labour councillor in charge failed to give either a clear or direct answer to Cllr Kohler's question, simply confirming the covenant exists.

You can see Cllr Kohler's question, and his answer on YouTube here

Cllr Kohler has now written to the leader of the Council, asking him to give a firm and unqualified confirmation that his administration will stand up for local residents and enforce the covenant.

To support that we have also launched a petition, which you can sign here: 


Sign the petition


Whilst Paul and the local Lib Dems support the land being used temporarily each year to bring the qualifying rounds home to Wimbledon, that must not be done outside the terms of the covenant.

By pressing ahead with these plans in spite of the significant opposition of local residents, and in flagrant disregard of its historic promises not to build on the land, the All England Club is showing complete contempt for the people of Wimbledon.

Labour Council bosses refuse to end support for the fossil fuel industry

Labour Council bosses have refused to end financial support to the fossil fuel industry through the Council's pension fund. 

Merton Council’s pension fund is one of several local authority pension funds that invest a combined £10 billion in coal, oil and gas industries.

Burning fossil fuels contributes significantly to global warming. It is environmentally irresponsible that our Council continues to invest in them through its pension fund.

At full council held on 17th November, Labour and the Conservatives refused to support a Liberal Democrat plan to dispose of shares in coal companies held by the Council's pension fund. A similar proposal was also rejected in September.
We're shocked at this lack of leadership shown in Merton on the Climate EMERGENCY.


Join the campaign


It's time to sweep away the old parties and bring in a Fresh Start for Merton. If you agree, click here and join the team who can do just that.
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Universal Credit Cuts

More than 5,000 families in Wimbledon and over 12,000 in Mitcham and Morden are set to lose over £1000 as Conservative government plans “heartless” Universal Credit cut

One in ten Wimbledon families* and over a quarter of families in Mitcham and Morden* are set to lose £1,040 a year at the end of the month as a result of Conservative plans to end the Universal Credit uplift.

Despite opposition from the Liberal Democrats, who have warned that half a million families – and 200,000 children – will be pushed into poverty, the Conservative government plans to proceed with a £20 a week cut to Universal Credit on October 6.

The move has been branded “heartless” by Cllr Paul Kohler, the Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson for Wimbledon.

“This cut is the difference for many between being able to feed your children and seeing them go hungry”, said Cllr Kohler. “It is heart-breaking, after everything people in Wimbledon have been put through during the pandemic, that so many families here in Wimbledon will be forced into such a desperate situation as a result of the Conservatives’ callousness and incompetence.

“This heartless cut is yet another example of the Conservatives’ inability to understand the pressure ordinary people in Wimbledon are under, and yet another example of their willingness to wrench away a vital lifeline at a time when families can least afford it.

“The government must reverse this cut. I and the Liberal Democrats will continue to campaign to make the Universal Credit uplift permanent, and to ensure that all people in Wimbledon have the financial security to look after their families and live their lives.”

Liberal Democrats are planning to fight the cut in Parliament to prevent it coming into effect.

“Just as we begin to hope that Covid is being tamed in the UK, the Government is ripping support from millions of families across the country”, said the Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain MP. “We cannot have a full recovery if families are struggling to make ends meet.

“The Prime Minister's claim that he wants people to live by their own ‘efforts’ rather than ‘welfare’ shows how out of touch he really is. With almost half of those receiving Universal Credit already in work and with many having young families, this cut will leave parents and their children behind despite their efforts.

* Figures from Joseph Rowntree Foundation analysis, available here.

Labour blocks fossil fuel divestment

Labour Council bosses have refused to end financial support to the fossil fuel industry through Merton’s pension fund. 

At last night's full council meeting, Liberal Democrat councillors proposed that the Council’s pension fund committee be asked to divest from fossil fuel companies within the next 3 years. Instead Labour councillors backed the status quo: slow changes, only moving out of fossil fuels by 2050.

Cllr Simon McGrath said “Merton Council should stand by their Climate Emergency Declaration and divest their pensions from fossil fuels sooner rather than later, following the IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming with warnings of flooding and overheating. We need to act now and commit to a rapid exit from all fossil fuel investments”. 

Climate change champion Lib Dem Cllr Jenifer Gould added “pouring petrol on the flames of climate change needs to stop, the money invested now will affect the lives of generations to come and further decrease the chances of remaining below the 1.5 degree Celsius ambition of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The Council needs to invest in a cleaner, greener economy. 

“With the next annual UN climate change conference in November, the Government is lacking in climate leadership failing on its commitments to invest sustainably and refusing to ban new oil and gas exploration licences”. 

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