Merton Liberal Democrats were delighted by the results of the Cannon Hill by-election last Thursday, where we increased our share of the vote by 24% to win the seat. Newly elected Cllr Jenifer Gould takes the Liberal Democrat group on Merton Council up to 7 - the highest it's ever been!
We would like to thank everyone in Cannon Hill who gave their support to Jenifer.
Speaking after the results, Jenifer said:
“I am absolutely overwhelmed by the support I have received from the local community. I would like to thank everyone who put their faith in me, and I look forward to repaying that faith by becoming a councillor they can trust to work hard for them.
“This incredible victory shows clearly that the Lib Dems are now the most popular party in Wimbledon, and the party local people can trust to be on their side. Just as they did at the European elections in May, Merton residents are backing us ahead over both Labour and the Conservatives because we are the party fighting nationally to stop Brexit and locally to secure a fresh start for Merton.
“The real work starts now. I am ready to start working with my Lib Dem colleagues on Merton Council right away to give our area the fresh start it deserves.”
Merton Liberal Democrats have warned that plans to start charging people for using local tennis courts will price residents out of the sport, and threaten Wimbledon’s status as the home of tennis.
Council bosses have confirmed that users of four public tennis courts in Wimbledon,* where historically charges have not been applied, will now have to pay to access the courts through an online system.
The maintenance of the tennis courts has been contracted out by Merton Council to a private company, Idverde. Under the terms of the contract Idverde will charge court users, with all money raised up to a certain amount kept by the company.
The Labour council's ongoing ‘commercialisation strategy’ has already seen pitch charges introduced for the first time ever at the Sir Joseph Hood Memorial Playing Fields, threatening the future of Raynes Park Little League. Merton Conservatives have also previously proposed raising charges for Council services.
Merton Liberal Democrats led the campaign to save the local Raynes Park Little League, and have warned that the decision to start charging for the use of tennis courts could have a similarly unfair impact on local people.
“Our local parks and sports facilities are cherished by our communities,” said Cllr Carl Quilliam, Deputy Leader of the Merton Liberal Democrats, “but Merton Labour’s decision to bring in charges without consultation or consideration will end up pricing people out.
“This is sadly symptomatic of a Council which too often treats Wimbledon residents as a cash cow.”
“Wimbledon is the home of tennis,” said Jenifer Gould, the Lib Dem candidate for the Cannon Hill by-election, “but it will never be home to a future Wimbledon champion if the Council prices local people out.
“Merton Lib Dems will lead the campaign to keep our tennis courts free. And, if I am elected on 20 June, I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues will continue to lead the opposition to Labour’s attempts to squeeze ever more money out of Wimbledon’s residents when they should be investing in our health and our future.”
Lib Dem candidate for the Cannon Hill by-election is fighting to stop the charges. Join her campaign today.
*The courts, all in Wimbledon, at which charging will be introduced are:
- John Innes Park
- Wimbledon Park
- Joseph Hood Rec
- Dundonald Rec
Local residents are bracing themselves for a crucial by-election in Cannon Hill, where voters are expected to give their verdict on the performance of Merton’s Labour-run council.
Merton Lib Dems are eyeing a victory in the contest on Thursday 20 June, and have announced local parent Jenifer Gould as their candidate.
The by-election was triggered following the resignation of a Labour councillor amidst rumours of divisions within the Labour administration. Ms Gould says that frustration at the job the Council is doing will be a key factor in the by-election.
"I have lived in this area for the past eight years," Ms Gould said, "and I have experienced the issues that local residents have to put up with: from mucky streets caused by a failing waste collection service, to a spate of burglaries that will only get worse if the closure of Wimbledon Police Station is allowed to go ahead."
Ms Gould already has a reputation as a determined local campaigner, having fought successfully for improved road safety schemes outside Hillcross Primary School. She says she is ready to bring her community spirit to the Council chamber as Cannon Hill’s next councillor.
"Labour have failed to address the issues that matter to us," she said, "and have taken Cannon Hill residents for granted for far too long. Cannon Hill is ready for a fresh start, and I am standing, backed by the Liberal Democrats, to give them that fresh start."
Ms Gould described how the Lib Dems’ people-focused approach contrasted with the indifference of Merton Labour, and declared that a Lib Dem victory on 20 June is a very real possibility.
"People are losing faith in the Labour Party nationally and locally here in Merton. I used to be a Labour member myself, but I cut up my membership card after seeing how Merton Labour ignores local people in order to serve the interests of party bosses.
"Instead I found a home in the Liberal Democrats, a party that stands up for local people’s values and fights to improve our local communities.
"The Lib Dems are now the biggest party in Wimbledon. We have more councillors here than Labour, and we won the most votes in the European elections, beating both Labour and the Conservatives. I’ve spoken to many former Conservative and Labour voters who are switching to us, and with their support we can win here in Cannon Hill."
Want to help Jenifer Gould win in Cannon Hill on 20 June? Join her campaign today.
Please find the response of Merton Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Democrat Council group on Merton Council below.
In addition, we would like to submit the (currently) 1092-strong petition stating “We, the undersigned, call on Merton to scrap its plan to double parking charges in Wimbledon and Raynes Park. Any replacement scheme should be based on clear evidence that it will improve air quality, and not unproven assertions” attached.
We believe Merton Council should scrap its plans to massively increase parking charges based on where people live. We believe it should instead bring forward proposals for parking charges based on emissions, testing and shaping these proposals using evidence from its planned review of the diesel levy and emissions based charges (expediting that review if necessary), and learning lessons from similar schemes adopted by other London Boroughs. For us, a key factor is providing real, practical help to enable residents to switch to greener transport options.
Please find our responses to the set questions below.
Merton Liberal Democrats succeeded in getting the Council to look at bringing in an additional voluntary Council tax donations for the most expensive properties.
This is estimated to raise an additional £130k to help mitigate some of the cuts in education spending.
Liberal Democrat Cllr Hina Bokhari said :
"As a teacher I know whats it like to teach with very limited resources - teachers cannot carry on bearing the burden of cuts. There is nothing wrong with asking some of the richest people in the borough to voluntarily pay a little more and I am confident that as in other parts of London they will respond generously.
"I am astonished that Conservative councillors spoke against this - even asking some of their supporters for a voluntary contribution seems to much for them"
Merton's Liberal Democrats have accused Labour-run Merton Council of hypocrisy for giving half its employees free parking while ordinary residents are hit with a 130% hike to parking permit charges.
Labour have claimed that their new parking charges will help to cut air pollution, but have provided no evidence for this. A Lib Dem proposal to scrap the charges and replace them with a fair emissions-based scheme was voted down by Labour councillors.
“Local residents are rightly concerned about the Council’s plans for a massive increase in parking charges”, said Simon McGrath, Lib Dem councillor for Dundonald.
“But it is a real kick in the teeth for people who live and work in the borough to find out that Merton Council is handing out free passes to their staff.
“If the Council really wanted to tackle air pollution they would have applied the new charges fairly to everyone in the borough, including linking them to emissions. Their inconsistent approach just proves what the Merton Lib Dems have been saying all along: the new parking charges have nothing to do with air quality - they are just a way for the Labour Council to squeeze money out of Wimbledon and Raynes Park residents."
The Council’s plans will see annual parking charges rise from £65 to £150 in central Wimbledon and £120 in Raynes Park.
Paul Kohler selected as Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon
The man who led the successful legal challenge against the proposed closure of Wimbledon Police Station has been selected by the Lib Dems as their candidate to be the next MP for Wimbledon.
Cllr Paul Kohler, the Lib Dem councillor for Trinity Ward, hit the headlines last year when he took the Mayor of London to court over the decision to close Wimbledon Police Station. Cllr Kohler’s case was successful and the closure was halted, pending reconsideration by the Mayor.
The police station campaign helped Cllr Kohler win election in May 2018 as a councillor for Trinity ward in Wimbledon – an election which saw the Lib Dems surge from fourth place to first, almost tripling their vote share.
“It is a privilege to have been selected to contest the next general election as the Lib Dem candidate for Wimbledon”, said Cllr Kohler. “My wife and I have lived in this constituency, where we raised our four daughters, for almost 30 years. I want to give something back to the community that has been so supportive to us.
“People in Wimbledon deserve better than the current Conservative MP, who has repeatedly broken his election promise to oppose a hard Brexit by failing to vote to rule out a No Deal Brexit. Meanwhile Labour’s candidate is a Jeremy Corbyn cheerleader who shares his hostility to the EU.
“There is huge appetite for change amongst the voters of Wimbledon who have had enough of both Tory mismanagement in government and Labour mismanagement on the council. I will stand up for our public services where our current Tory MP has failed to do so; I will fight to stop Brexit and keep Britain in the EU; and I will strive to give a voice to Wimbledon residents who demand better from their government and their MP.”
Following last year’s local elections the Lib Dems are now the second party in Wimbledon, and Cllr Kohler issued a rallying cry to voters who want a fresh start for their area. “If I get the same swing in the next general election as I achieved in winning my council ward last year, the Lib Dems will win Wimbledon”, he said. “If you share my vision for a fair, free and tolerant Wimbledon then I urge you join my campaign. Together we can win in Wimbledon.”
Want to help Paul Kohler win in Wimbledon? Join his campaign today.
A step back on step free access
Today the Department for Transport announced that it had turned down an application for funding to make Raynes Park and Motspur Park train stations accessible for all.
The decision follows a major campaign by the Merton Lib Dems calling for the installation of lifts or ramps and the two stations, and comes as a shock to the local community who were very supportive of the campaign.
Currently some platforms at Raynes Park station and both platforms at Motspur Park station can only be accessed via stairs, meaning people with prams, wheelchair users and those with mobility problems find it difficult to use the stations.
“We are incredibly disappointed that the Department for Transport has ultimately refused to fund step free access at Raynes Park and Motspur Park stations”, said Cllr Anthony Fairclough, Lib Dem councillor for Dundonald and one of the leaders of the campaign to make the stations step free.
“As a local parent myself I know full well the struggles people have to go through because of the lack of a lift or ramp at Raynes Park and Motspur Park sations. Yet, despite our compelling case for making the stations accessible, the Government have chosen to ignore the plight of local residents.”
“This is a real kick in the teeth for our community, which has had to put up with the lack of accessible stations for far too long”, added Cllr Eloise Bailey, Lib Dem councillor for West Barnes. “But this is not the end of the story. We will continue to lead the campaign for accessible access at Raynes Park, Motspur Park and all stations across the borough.”
Cllr Bailey and Cllr Fairclough have been working since summer 2018 to encourage the train company to apply for this funding, and to get Merton Council to agree to look at a financial contribution to help the application.
As a result of their campaign, South Western Railway applied for the monies to improve the stations and Merton Council agreed to provide a letter of support for these improvement works, indicating that they would consider supporting the projects financially should the applications be successful.
And in September 2018, Council bosses accepted a Lib Dem proposal to work to support access improvements at stations across the borough.
On Wednesday, Merton Council held a meeting to decide its budget for the coming year. There have been severe cuts to local government funding in recent years. However, local Lib Dem councillors examined the proposed budget, and came up with a number of ways to reduce cuts to vital services, innovate in Council funding, and build stronger and safer communities.
You can see Cllr Anthony Fairclough, leader of Merton Liberal Democrat councillors, give his budget response speech here on YouTube.
2019 Budget briefing:
1) Council reject proposal for extra police in Merton
A funding proposal to put two more police officers on Merton’s streets for the next 3 years has been rejected by Labour councillors.
Lib Dem Cllr Paul Kohler said:
“Unlike Theresa May, we know there’s a link between crime and police numbers and we therefore wanted to replace some of the police officers that we are losing in Merton owing to cuts from the Mayor and central Government. It was very disappointing that Labour and Merton Park Residents Association councillors would not support our proposal, preferring to stick to a dogmatic position that flies in the face of residents’ concerns”.
You can watch Paul’s speech about the amendment here on YouTube.
2) Merton Labour choose union officials over children’s care workers
Labour councillors voted to keep full time trade union officers - paid by Merton’s taxpayers - rather than two care workers who work with some of the most vulnerable children in the Borough.
Lib Dem deputy leader, Cllr Carl Quilliam said:
“The cuts the Conservative Government has imposed on Merton mean that difficult choices have to be made. We value the role of trade unions but don’t believe that they need 3 full time officials paid for from the Council’s funding. We wanted to cut that in half and use the savings to stop two care workers losing their jobs. It’s disappointing that Labour put the interests of their union paymasters ahead of vulnerable children - and striking that none of them even explained why they voted that way.”
Cllr Quilliam proposed two amendments: seeking to protect care workers, stop new charges for disabled people who need blue badges and a Welllbeing Innovation fund. This fund would promote social innovation by developing new approaches to help people improve their health and wellbeing; and reduce isolation through promoting independence.
You can watch Carl’s speech from the meeting here on YouTube.
3) Education fund rejected
Labour councillors lined up to block a new Education Innovation Fund, paid for by a voluntary Council tax donation like used by Westminster Council.
Lib Dem Cllr Hina Bokhari said “This is was a no-brainer. It would have potentially helped thousands of children in Merton, by looking at new ways to support educational groups like Merton Music Foundation develop new services in the borough”.
This was part of a series of innovative ways proposed by Merton Liberal Democrats at the Council budget meeting to look at longer-term solutions and learn from other councils: a Strategic Roads Fund like Stockport's to fix our roads now, and cut costs on patching potholes later; a landlord licensing scheme – like in Newham – to back local renters, and keeping local parks free for the Little League football charities, to support kids' health.
Unfortunately Labour councillors voted against each of our amendments, demonstrating again their aversion to working collaboratively with other parties on the council to get the best deal for Merton residents.
You can watch Hina’s speech here on YouTube.
The Council’s budget press release is here.
Merton Liberal Democrats realise that the cuts to local government funding are significant and it is clear as a result that difficult decisions need to be made. These cuts go beyond what can reasonably be expected to be delivered through efficiency savings and we join others in calling on the government to think again on the proposed cuts.
The proposed budget can be found on Merton Council's website.
Whilst we do not agree with a significant number of the proposed savings it is clear that the constraints of the budget don’t offer significant opportunities. Therefore in our budget amendment we have focussed on three things:
- Opportunities to mitigate or delay cuts to services where we believe it is both possible and necessary.
- Innovation in Council finances and opportunities to grow the Council’s revenue in new and sustainable ways
- Building stronger and safer communities by stepping in to support community policing
With this in mind, we have proposed four amendments to the Council budget (the full text of our amendments can be found on the Merton Council website):
1) Health and Care amendment
We believe that the charges for blue badges are both unnecessary and unfair. Many people need blue badges to get around, and those in need of them have already been targeted with cuts to their mobility support through the welfare budget. This can be mitigated through a small use of reserves this year and should be reviewed again next year to find a further saving or funding source.
We also believe that through cutting an oversupply of central council trade union support, we could restore two care workers at Bond Road Family Centre Family Support & Outreach Centre for the foreseeable future.
2) Wellbeing Innovation Fund amendment
We are proposing that the council introduce a new £1.1m Merton Wellbeing Innovation Fund. The fund would be used to promote social innovation by developing new approaches to help people improve their health and wellbeing; and reduce isolation through promoting independence.
3) Innovating in council finances and promoting longer-term decision making
We are calling on Merton Council to support a number of amendments relating to innovating in growing the Council’s revenue; and in promoting longer-term decision making.
For example, there are several roads in Merton that have not been resurfaced in years. We want a project to look at proactively borrowing against the revenue cost of road repairs, to spend now and save larger costs later – along Stockport Council’s model.
Further, the Council could look at an additional voluntary contribution scheme from high value properties, based on the models used by Westminster Council and Kensington & Chelsea LBCs. The money raised could be used to establish an Education Innovation Fund.
We would also ensure funding to allow Merton’s Little Leagues to use local parks for free for another year, introduce a Landlord Licensing system to improve the situation for renters, and restore a senior scrutiny officer to help improve decision-making on the Council.
4) Police amendment
We are also proposing that the council should step in to help maintain our community police presence for a further 3 years. This is required to mitigate the cuts planned by the Mayor as a result of his centralisation plans, and funding cuts from the government. In particular we are calling for Merton Council to pay for 2 Police Constables for 3 years (as part of the Met’s new PartnershipPlus scheme).