Christmas in Merton - 2020 advice and support

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This won't be a normal festive period for many of us - below find out information on the current coronavirus rules, what support is available for anyone who is struggling, as well as practical information on council services in the coming weeks. 

Recycling and rubbish collection dates

Staying safe over Christmas

The government has announced that Merton, along with every the rest of London, is now in Tier 4: Stay at Home - the highest level of coronavirus restriction. People living in Tier 4 cannot meet anyone outside their household indoors (unless you are in a support bubble). You can meet with one person from another household outdoors. These rules will not be relaxed for Christmas. Full details of the restrictions are available on the government website.

Financial support

This has been a difficult year for many in our community. There is support available for households who are struggling:

  • COVID-19 Winter Grant scheme. There is financial support available for children who are eligible for free school meals, pre-school children who would be eligible for free-school meals, young carers and care leavers. Families with pre-school children need to complete a short form online to claim. Details of eligibility and how to claim are available on the council website.
  • Claim tax relief for working from home. If you have been required to work from home for one day (or more) since April 2020 you could claim tax relief for the year to cover the additional cost of home working - details of how to claim are available here
  • Financial assistance available for Merton residents. If you are struggling financially then Wimbledon Guild may be able to help with a small grant. These grants provide financial assistance to help with items such as food, warm clothing, utility bills, essential furniture and household appliances for Merton residents. You can find out more, and apply, on the Wimbledon Guild website.
  • Cheap & Easy cooking. In a campaign to support those struggling to make ends meet, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has produced recipes for five Indian curries which can be prepared from as little as 9p per serving. There is a recipe booklet, as well as instructional videos for each recipe available here. Curry starter packs are being distributed to local foodbanks. 

Mental Health support

Christmas can be a difficult time of year, and coronavirus restrictions will be increasing the pressure for many.  If you are concerned about your mental health please do reach out for help:

  • Samaritans have a 24 hour, free helpline which you can call if you'd like to speak to someone: 116 123. They also have a self help app, and support available via email - more information here.
  • Age UK advice line is open 365 days a year, including Christmas. Providing support and reassurance to older people. If you, or someone you know, needs support call 0800 678 1602, for free between 8am to 7pm.
  • The Mix provide mental health support for under 25s. They can be reached on their helpline 0808 808 4994 between 3pm and midnight every day. They also have webchat and email support available - more information here.
  • Shout provide free 24/7 mental health support. Text `shout' to 85258 to access support. Resources are also available on their website.

Virtual Christmas events in Merton

Local information

 


Lib Dem plan to clean up Merton's air

On Tuesday 8th December Merton Council are holding an emergency meeting to discuss Labour's proposed new parking charges. We don't think the current proposals are effective or fair. But, unlike the Tories, we have an alternative proposal that will clean up Merton's air, without unfairly penalising residents.

We believe that Merton Council should be using its powers to encourage residents to use cars less, and switch to less polluting vehicles where possible. But the current proposals will not do this - instead they seem designed to raise revenue, and unfairly target residents who don't have off-street parking, who can't afford to buy new cars, and who are living in Wimbledon and Raynes Park. 

The proposed scheme is incredibly complex. It includes different charges depending on where in the borough you live, how long parking restrictions are in place for, and how polluting your car is. Moreover, it penalises residents who own old cars they rarely use, and who can't afford to buy new vehicles. 

Merton Tories are simply opposing these plans without suggesting any alternative measures to improve air quality. But we are engaging constructively, and have suggested the following 4-point plan to improve these proposals:

  • Give people time to switch to less polluting vehicles. We agree that Merton Council has a role to play in encouraging residents to switch to less polluting vehicles. But residents who can't afford to buy new cars shouldn't be penalised. Any emissions based charges should initially only apply to new vehicles. Furthermore, Merton should introduce a scrappage scheme, to help people in switching to less polluting cars.
  • Bring in a low mileage discount. Parked cars don't cause air pollution. It's the driving, not the parking, that pollutes. That's why we want Merton Council to introduce a low mileage discount. This will actually encourage people to use public transport or active travel options instead of driving where possible.
  • Fair charges for visitors permits. The current proposals penalise residents based on how polluting their visitor's car is. There doesn't seem to be any logical mechanism by which this results in better air quality. We're asking the Council to review this. 
  • Any extra cash raised should be spent on improving air quality and fighting climate change. 

Moreover, we remain opposed to the changes last year which led to residents living in Wimbledon & Raynes Park being charged more for parking than residents living in the East of the borough - our response to those changes is available here.

If you agree that Merton Council must take action to tackle poor air quality, but that any scheme needs to be fair and effective then please contact your councillors and ask them to back our proposals on 8th December. Find out who your councillors are here.

The Coronavirus pandemic means that our usual ways of staying in touch with people are difficult. So if you'd like to receive our monthly email newsletters, or for someone to call you to chat about local issues, please let us know by filling in this form.


Road re-surfacing and pavement repairs

Many residents mention the state of Merton’s pavement and roads, and there’s a lack of information about how the Council decides which roads and pavements to resurface and repair each year - and also how to complain about problem areas that will result in action.

At a meeting of a Council committee to scrutinise the work of the highways department on 19 January, Cllr Anthony Fairclough got backing for an information ‘hub’ to be added to the Council’s website that gives much more information on how the Council makes these decisions, how residents can influence them and setting out when repairs are undertaken following complaints.




Action on problem HGVs

Residents have called on Labour-run Merton Council not to ignore problems caused by HGVs driving through residential areas. Speaking at a meeting of councillors looking into the problem on 19 January, representatives from residents associations across Wimbledon called for action.  

Councillors called for less complacency and action to reduce the number of heavy goods vehicles driving through the borough. Lib Dem councillor Anthony Fairclough got backing for a webpage to be set up to help people direct complaints about HGVs appropriately.

He said “There’s all sorts of problems caused by HGVs - from noise, to speeding to breach of planning conditions, to pollution. The real issue is reducing the number that drive through the borough, but in the interim we need to support people making their complaints in the most effective way possible”.

This is an area that Lib Dem Parliamentary spokesman Cllr Paul Kohler has been working on for several months https://www.mertonlibdems.org.uk/hgv_discussions




New parking charges slammed as undermining climate emergency response

Making a last ditch attempt to stop new parking charges targeted at residents in Wimbledon and Raynes Park, Lib Dem lead councillor Anthony Fairclough called on Labour Council bosses to improve their scheme.

Speaking at the Cabinet meeting on 18 January, he called for: full transparency in what the extra cash from charges would be used for; a focus on pollution - not where vehicles are parked; and a re-think of how the charges apply to visitor permits. 

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Fairclough said:

“There needs to be a sense that this is part of a joined-up plan, that action is being taken to cut pollution from through traffic and that the extra cash raised from these new parking charges will be spent on climate change and air pollution measures.” 

He added,

The principle should be ‘polluter pays’ - not ‘postcode pays’. So the targeting of Wimbledon and Raynes Park with higher fees should be stopped, and Council bosses should look at things like a low mileage discount and a longer lead-in time to allow people to switch to more environmentally friendly vehicles if they can.”

“Charging residents differently depending on the vehicle their visitors turn up in is nonsense, and needs to be completely re-thought,” he added, “it’s also risks being in breach of equality laws as no one has looked into whether some older people or people with disabilities are more likely to use the scratch card-style visitor permits, that the highest charges will be applied to, or more likely to need visitors generally”.

“Taken together, these flaws in the scheme reduce public acceptance and trust and make it look like a revenue raising policy. This undermines public support for the whole climate emergency response”

More info on local Lib Dem plans to improve the charges here: https://www.mertonlibdems.org.uk/car_parking_challenge




Lib Dems challenge Merton Council on car parking charges

Merton Liberal Democrats challenged Labour on the fairness and the effectiveness of the new parking charges policy at improving air quality. 

The move comes after an emergency meeting on Tuesday 8th December to examine new charges proposed for April 2021. Parking charges in Wimbledon and Raynes Park have already been increased by over 130% in January - whilst charges in other parts of the borough have remained lower.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat group Cllr Anthony Fairclough stated:

 “We opposed the January 2020 location-based charges, on grounds that they were unlikely to improve air quality. The new scheme retains those higher charges for Wimbledon and Raynes Park, and also applies to visitors permits, so residents would pay more or less depending on the type of car their visitor or tradesman drives. We have real concerns about whether this new scheme will work to achieve its supposed aims.

Councillor Fairclough and the Liberal Democrats proposed FOUR new solutions to make the plan fairer:

  1. Time to switch to less polluting vehicles. Merton Council has a role to play in encouraging residents to switch to less polluting vehicles – but it has to support people to do so. Pushing the scheme back to a January 2022 start date would give those who can afford to buy new vehicles fair warning to change.
  2. A low mileage discount or rebate. It's driving, not parking, that pollutes. This would encourage people to drive less to get the discount.
  3. Fair charges for visitors permits. The proposals charge residents based on the vehicles their visitors drive. There doesn't seem to be any logical way that this will result in better air quality. 
  4. Extra cash raised should be spent on improving air quality and fighting climate change. Residents need to know that their money will contribute to cutting carbon emissions, developing sustainable travel measures and improving air quality. There should greater transparency about what the money raised from these new charges is spent on.

All four ideas were knocked back by Labour party councillors. 

However the decision is not finalised yet. Join us and our campaign continuing to fight for changes by volunteering here.




A real say on Wimbledon’s skyline

Labour and Conservative councillors failed to back a vote that would have given people more control over building heights in Wimbledon planning applications. 

On Wednesday 18 November, Merton Liberal Democrats demanded residents' strong opposition to huge increases in building heights in be respected - but other councillors failed to support this.

Lib Dem councillors lodged an amendment to the new planning rules for Wimbledon to remove a loophole weakening planning controls, and to instead put in place a restriction on heights of no more than 10 storeys.

The current tallest building in Wimbledon is 9 storeys, but the Labour plan allows buildings of up to 12 storeys. However, it also includes vague wording on 'indicative building heights' that would allow developers to go even beyond this. 

Lib Dem Council group leader Cllr Anthony Fairclough said:

“We urged Labour Council bosses to make a simple change to the plan for Wimbledon town centre to reflect residents' real opposition inappropriately tall buildings. 

“It was also disappointing to see Tory councillors choose party politics over people's concerns by not supporting our amendment. In doing so, they just backed the status quo, which doesn't any real planning restrictions on building heights at all.”

Merton Liberal Democrats have now started a petition calling on the Council to ensure residents still have a say on Wimbledon’s skyline. 

For more details, see also the Future Wimbledon Supplementary Planning Document, the amendment put forward by Merton Liberal Democrats, and Cllr Simon McGrath's speech




Merton must draw up a tree & biodiversity strategy

Since drawing up a cross-party climate emergency declaration last year, Merton Council has made some progress on climate issues. But there's still much more to do.

That's why Merton Liberal Democrats are calling on the Council to include a Tree & Biodiversity Strategy in their climate action plan. We also identified a possible funding stream to spend on new trees & their maintenance. 

Unfortunately, at November's council meeting, Merton Labour councillors voted against our suggestions. But we'll continue pushing for Merton to do more to tackle the climate emergency. 

The Coronavirus pandemic means that our usual ways of staying in touch with people are difficult. So if you'd like to receive our monthly email newsletters, or for someone to call you to chat about local issues, please let us know by filling in this form.


We're calling for action now

Merton Liberal Democrats are extremely concerned about Merton’s low vaccination rates. Even before the pandemic came along, our borough had one of the country’s worst records for childhood vaccine levels. And Merton's record is similarly poor for vaccinations recommended for adults.  

As we move forward with COVID-19, this is a tragedy. 

The low level of vaccination in the borough must impact negatively on the NHS in the winter months. And when a vaccine for coronavirus does become available, it's unlikely that the overall poor level of take-up will improve without urgent action.

Merton Council must get to grips with tackling this issue.

That's why we called for urgent action at the November council meeting.

The Coronavirus pandemic means that our usual ways of staying in touch with people are difficult. So if you'd like to receive our monthly email newsletters, or for someone to call you to chat about local issues, please let us know by filling in this form.


Our clean air plan

The Liberal Democrats have a plan to clean our air and make our streets safer for our young people.

Merton Council recently consulted on their plans to introduce emissions based parking charges. We would support proposals that encouraged residents to use greener transport options where possible. However, we do not believe that the current proposals from the Council will be effective in doing this.

Instead, the Council’s proposals seem designed to raise revenue and, following on from the changes in 2019/2020, the proposed system still penalises the parts of the borough that don’t vote for Labour councillors. 

While the Tories want no action and Labour’s plans will not solve the problem, the Liberal Democrats offer an alternative which will encourage more people to walk, cycle and use public transport where possible, while recognising that many people rely on cars for various reasons.

Liberal Democrats want to see the Council supporting residents in moving to less polluting vehicles where possible, alongside improved cycle lanes and bike parking, better public transport, and more electric vehicle charging infrastructure. 

Find out more about our response to the Council’s consultation here.

Hiking parking charges isn’t fair, liberal, or progressive. But neither is doing nothing.

The Coronavirus pandemic means that our usual ways of staying in touch with people are difficult. So if you'd like to receive our monthly email newsletters, or for someone to call you to chat about local issues, please let us know by filling in this form.


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