What is Merton Council for? Neither the Labour administration nor the Conservative opposition seem to have an answer to this simple question. But we do: Lib Dems believe our Council exists to take those decisions - sometimes small, sometimes tough - that can make our daily lives better.
We want the Council to be the best it can be, so it can do the best it can do for local people. But up until now the Council, under the same Labour adminsitration and with the same timid Conservative opposition that it’s had for the past decade, has been unwilling to change or to try new ideas.
We think Merton Council, and local people, need a fresh start.
So today Lib Dem councillors will be putting forward amendments to the Council’s annual budget to change the way that the Council works for the better. Here’s our three point plan:
Time to give Wimbledon “peace of mind” over police station, Mayor told
Two years after it was saved from closure by a court case, local Liberal Democrat councillors are looking to force the Mayor of London to admit defeat and confirm that Wimbledon Police Station is safe.
The councillors – including Wimbledon Lib Dem Parliamentary spokesperson Paul Kohler, who led the successful court case blocking the Mayor’s plans to close Wimbledon Police Station back in 2018 – are presenting a motion at today’s (Wednesday 5 February) Merton Council meeting which, if voted through, would require the Council to write to the Mayor formally asking him to confirm that the police station will not be sold, and that its long term future is now secure.
Yesterday evening (Wednesday 29 January) Labour's Leonie Cooper, the London Assembly Member (LAM) for Merton & Wandsworth, stated "[t]here is no plan to close Wimbledon Police Station" and went on to suggest its long term future is now secure.
She made the comments during her annual report to the Wimbledon Community Forum when she was discussing the Mayor of London's answers to questions submitted by members of the London Assembly.
Paul Kohler, the Lib Dem Parliamentary spokesperson for Wimbledon responded:
"I was delighted to hear Leonie suggest that Wimbledon Police Station is safe, following my successful legal action that kept the station open by reversing Sadiq Khan's decision to close it in 2018. Caroline Pidgeon, the Lib Dem member on the London Assembly, is now seeking formal confirmation that this is indeed the case.
"Local Conservatives have repeatedly attempted to talk down the importance of the court case in saving our police station despite the reprieve we earned giving time for the incoming Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Sally Benatar to recommend keeping the station.
"By taking the Mayor of London to court we retained a fully functioning police station in the heart of Wimbledon. This is in contrast to 36 other stations across the capital that Sadiq Khan also decided to shut, that have now been sold, moth balled or otherwise had their front desks closed, so that members of the public can no longer use them to report crime."
Merton Council is currently accepting comments on a planning application to redevelop the former site of Ridgway Stables. The planned redevelopment will see retail and office space installed at the front of the site, with a smaller riding school to be retained at the rear of the site.
Since the eviction of Ridgway Stables in September 2017 local Lib Dems have supported community campaigners calling for an accessible and affordable riding school to be maintained at the site. While the landlord has committed to reopening a riding school, they have refused to give a guarantee that the new riding school will retain Ridgway Stables’ historic focus on accessibility for young people, especially those from less privileged backgrounds.
We are calling on the landlord to guarantee that the new stables will prioritise affordability and accessibility for young people, and to outline during the planning process the ways in which they will promote affordability and accessibility.
You can find the application in full and add any comments you have online at this link. The deadline for comments is Sunday 2 February 2020.
Plans to build a nine storey block of flats at Wimbledon Chase Station and remodel the station entrance were published by developers just before Christmas.
Dundonald Ward councillor Anthony Fairclough met with representatives from the developers and their agents on 16 January.
Following the meeting, Cllr Fairclough said:
"I can't see how this development can go ahead without doing everything possible to also make the station accessible for everyone. I'm shocked that the developers aren't planning to make the station entrance 'step free' – it affects so many people's lives. I'm urging them to engage with the Council and Network Rail to come up with a workable plan, and I will be meeting with Network Rail about what can be done to make our local stations easier for parents with young children and those with mobility problems to use. Step-free is simply a 'must have' in 2020.
"The developers say they want to create a 'landmark' building for the area. Residents tell me that the imposition of a bock of flats, 9 storeys high – 4 higher than anything nearby – will certainly create a 'landmark'; but for all the wrong reasons! We need new housing that is sympathetic to the area – so hopefully the developers will respond positively to the feedback they're getting. Otherwise there will strong objections from the public when this matter comes to the Planning Applications Committee."
For more on this story, see the Wimbledon Times.
Last night (22 Jan 2020), Labour and Conservative councillors lined up to block further consideration of a proposal for a new charitable fund to pump extra cash into local schools.
A special Council meeting considered a Liberal Democrat ‘call-in’ over the Cabinet’s decision not to further explore a plan that would have invited voluntary donations from those owning the most expensive properties in the borough to help mitigate recent cuts to school budgets.
The plan was first proposed by local Liberal Democrat councillors in March 2019. The Liberal Democrats’ proposal was based on similar schemes currently being implemented by a number of councils, including Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Richmond.
Comments submitted by councillors Eloise Bailey, Hina Bokhari and Carl Quilliam:
Re: planning application 19/P2387
Tesco Site, 265 Burlington Road New Malden Surrey KT3 4NE
19/P2387 DEMOLITION OF THE EXISTING BUILDINGS AND ERECTION OF TWO BLOCKS OF DEVELOPMENT RANGING IN HEIGHT BETWEEN SEVEN AND 15 STOREYS AND COMPRISING 456 NEW HOMES, OF WHICH 114 WILL BE ONE BEDS, 290 WILL BE TWO BEDS AND 52 WILL BE THREE BEDS. 499SQM OF B1(A) OFFICE SPACE WILL BE ACCOMMODATED AT GROUND FLOOR LEVEL ALONG WITH 220 CAR PARKING SPACES, 830 CYCLE PARKING SPACES, A REALIGNED JUNCTION ONTO BURLINGTON ROAD, HARD AND SOFT LANDSCAPING AND ASSOCIATED RESIDENTIAL FACILITIES. THE APPLICATION ALSO INCLUDES MINOR CHANGES TO THE LAYOUT AND CONFIGURATION OF THE RETAINED TESCO CAR PARK
We are writing as councillors for West Barnes Ward in connection with the above Planning Application. In addition, we would like to express an interest in speaking at the PAC on this application.
A number of concerns have been raised about the application that we feel should be addressed before any approval is given: the height of the proposed blocks, the affordable housing element, parking, transport and road access, flooding concerns, and the use of any section 106 agreement or CIL contribution.
Further to Merton Council's announcement: "New parking charges for a new decade set to reduce pollution in Merton."
Speaking in response to the above announcement, Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Anthony Fairclough said: "None of the evidence presented by the Council supports their claims that the proposals will actually improve air quality.
"The scheme looks like it’s purely about raising revenue, mainly targeted at people who live in areas that don’t tend to elect Labour councillors – Wimbledon and Raynes Park – where the new charges will be highest.
"Instead we want them to look seriously at schemes where the worst polluting vehicles pay more, where support is given to help people change to greener vehicles, and where other positive action is also taken to improve air quality.
"Furthermore, in August the Council's plans were knocked back by a cross-party committee of councillors due to a failure to follow proper equalities procedures. It was identified that there had been a failure to consult with groups representing people with disabilities, pregnant women and those who’ve just given birth, and those on low incomes - over the potentially disproportionate impact of the plans on these groups. Sadly, despite this Labour Council bosses are still pushing on."
Almost 5,000 Merton businesses have closed in past three years.
Figures released by the Liberal Democrats today on Small Business Saturday (Saturday 7 December) have revealed that 4,715 Merton businesses closed over the last three years, in the clearest sign yet of a Brexit hit to local high streets.
The rate of business closures in the borough has spiked since the 2016 EU referendum, with 29% more closures in the three years between 2016 and 2018 than in the preceding three years.
Across the UK one million businesses have closed their doors between 2016 and 2018, an increase of almost a third compared to 2013-2015.
The Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon, Paul Kohler, has blasted the Conservatives for their failure to protect local businesses. “These figures are a damning indictment of the Conservative Party’s attitude towards local businesses”, said Paul Kohler.
Local Lib Dem Paul Kohler is running to be the next MP for Wimbledon.
This election is Wimbledon’s chance to stop Brexit and address the real issues facing our country.
Paul Kohler saved Wimbledon Police Station when others said it was impossible. Now he wants to stop Brexit, and tackle the issues that caused it.
Recent polling by Deltapoll and featured in the Observer shows that Wimbledon is a two horse race between the Conservative candidate and local Lib Dem Paul Kohler. Labour are way back in third place and cannot win here.
There is only one candidate in Wimbledon who will commit to stopping Brexit and backing Remain in all circumstances.
The Green Party has chosen to step aside in Wimbledon as part of an agreement in which Paul Kohler was designated by the cross-party Unite to Remain group as the remain champion in Wimbledon.
The former Green Party candidate for Wimbledon, Sonja Timpson, has endorsed Paul’s campaign:
With Wimbledon set to be a key battleground at this election a number of tactical voting groups are recommending a vote for Paul Kohler and the Lib Dems as the best chance of beating the Conservatives and ensuring that Wimbledon has a Remain MP.
Among the groups recommending a vote for Paul are:
Best for Britain
Wimbledon is currently a two horse race between Boris Johnson’s Conservatives and local Lib Dem Paul Kohler. Only Paul can beat the Conservatives here and ensure that Wimbledon has an MP who will stop Brexit.
Want to help Paul Kohler win in Wimbledon on 12 December? Join his campaign today.