Last night (6 Feb) there was an extraordinary meeting of Merton Council to discuss the Council's waste contractor, Veolia.
The Liberal Democrat group opposed a Conservative proposal to wait until 2024 and then just swap to another contractor. Liberal Democrat councillors instead put forward an amendment demanding that Merton Council, together with the South London Waste Partnership, immediately review its processes in managing and monitoring waste management services - so that lessons could be learned.
[You can watch the debate on Youtube here]
After debate, the Liberal Democrat amendment was ultimately supported by Conservative councillors. But despite this, it was blocked by Labour Council bosses who shockingly claimed there were no problems.
Speaking after the meeting, the leader of the Lib Dem group, Cllr Anthony Fairclough said:
"I was surprised that the Conservatives were willing to let the current situation continue for another 5 years, while we waited for an opportunity to try to end Veolia's contract and swap contractors.
"The Liberal Democrats on the Council want to see real action now. That's why we’re demanding an immediate review of how Merton could better manage waste and recycling contracts - whether the contractor is Veolia or another company in the future - to keep our borough clean and the bins emptied.
"We need to look and learn what works - Merton must get better at being a Council that commissions services, rather than one that provides services directly.
"I'm pleased we won over the Conservatives to our way of thinking on this in the end. But it's frankly extraordinary that Labour councillors are unwilling to consider new ways of tackling the problem!"
Labour council bosses determined to press ahead with new parking scheme.
At a meeting of Merton Council focusing on air quality, Liberal Democrats councillors called on the Council to scrap their plans to massively increase parking charges based on where you live, and instead move towards an emissions based scheme where the worst polluting vehicles pay more.
The plan was voted down by Labour councillors. [You can see the debate here on Youtube]
An analysis by Merton Lib Dems has shown that the proposed new charges for residents parking permits will mainly affect areas without Labour councillors. The increases will raise £1.4m a year, over £1m (70%) of which will be paid by people in Wimbledon, £172k from Raynes park but only £72k (5%) from the whole of Mitcham and Morden.
Lib Dem Cllr Simon McGrath said:
“Labour Council bosses have provided no evidence that their plan to increase parking charges will reduce traffic. The scheme looks like it’s purely to raise revenue, targeted at people who live in areas that don’t elect Labour councillors.”
Please sign our petition here: http://www.mertonlibdems.org.uk/parkingcharges
Lib Dem Cllr Eloise Bailey also proposed the appointment of a new Air quality Scrutiny Champion, to ensure a focus on effective action to cut air pollution. This was also blocked by Labour councillors. [You can see the debate here on Youtube]
Speaking after the meeting Cllr Bailey said:
“I'm so disappointed. Poor air quality is a huge health issue, and our idea was to try to get a real focus on air quality in the Council’s work, and get effective action.”
Merton's "Local Plan" is the name for the new draft planning rules. These will provide the basis for planning decisions in the borough over the coming years.
As such, it is crucial that the Council get the plan right.
Merton Liberal Democrats have submitted a response to the Council's consultation on the Local Plan, and have suggested a number of improvements. In particular we would like to see a greater emphasis on the environment, community-led planning, and real action on affordable housing. We are also calling for a genuine debate on building heights and design, especially in Wimbledon town centre.
You can read our response in full here.
The Future Wimbledon Masterplan has been prepared by Merton Council to guide a long-term vision for the development of Wimbledon town centre. A consultation was held on the plan (which closed on 6th January), to which Merton Liberal Democrats submitted a response.
While we welcome the establishment of a Masterplan, we have strong reservations about the current document. It is heavily dependent on the Government deciding to proceed with Crossrail 2, shows an unhealthy interest in over-developing office space and branded retail establishments. We are calling for a genuine debate on building heights and design - missing from the draft Masterplan. Additionally, we would like to see more in the plan about ways to tackle air pollution, build new housing, and develop Wimbledon's cultural centre and as a place for the creative industries.
Unfortunately, as currently conceived, the Masterplan represents a missed opportunity to develop a scheme that could have garnered real community support.
Our response to the consultation can be read in full here.
The Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) is activated by the Mayor and Greater London Authority in case of temperatures forecast below freezing anywhere in London.
When SWEP is "activated", the arrangements in Merton are:
- If you become aware of a potential rough sleeper, please make a referral, with as much detail as possible about the individual and their location to:
- SPEAR Outreach Team, during office hours on 020 8404 1481 or 07827 237694;
- Night Duty during out-of-hours on 020 8770 5000, who will, where appropriate, agree and arrange emergency accommodation.
- Rough sleepers can also be advised to attend the Merton Civic Centre, London Road, Morden SM4 5DX, during office hours until 4pm and ask to see a member of the Housing Options Team. Under the SWEP, the Council will source emergency accommodation for anyone verified by the SPEAR Outreach Team as a rough sleeper in the borough of Merton. We recognise however, that particularly outside of usual business hours, independent verification may not be possible and where this is the case, provision of the emergency accommodation will be at the discretion of the Emergency Duty Team officer.
- In the first instance, accommodation will be sought through the YMCA in Wimbledon (020 8542 9055) or the Winter Night Shelter, but if this is unavailable, then bed & breakfast accommodation will be arranged, although it may be difficult to arrange bed & breakfast at short notice. Rough sleepers placed out-of-hours should be advised to approach the Merton Housing Advice Service at the Civic Centre, London Road, Morden, SM4 5DX on the following business day, to discuss their options for alternative housing and to review their immediate accommodation needs in the light of the current weather conditions.
After years of fighting for renters' rights, Lib Dem peer Olly Grender succeeded in securing major concession from the government - and drastically cutting the fees that landlords can impose on tenants in England.
Lib Dems campaigned to:
- significantly limit the fees that could be charged to a tenant by their landlord or lettings agent,
- require a greater amount of transparency when deciding not to refund a holding deposit, and
limit the maximum security deposit a landlord can require to five weeks rent.
These changes will save tenants hundreds of pounds a year.
Baroness Olly Grender said:
"Many of the provisions in the Tenant Fees Bill were proposed in my Rights of Renters Private Members Bill in the last parliamentary session, and I am glad that the Government has been persuaded of the arguments in that bill."
"It is the vulnerable in our society who are most affected by the extortionate fees imposed by unscrupulous landlords and lettings agencies. The inability to pay these fees upfront can even lead to terrible debts and at worst, homelessness."
"While I welcomed the Government bringing forward this Bill, there were a number of loopholes that could have had severe consequences for low income tenants or tenants on benefits in the private rented sector."
"There is still more work to be done to get tenants a fairer deal, but I am delighted that the Government have listened and improved this Bill. The task now is to get this change for tenants through this dysfunctional Parliament as quickly as possible before it implodes altogether!"
"I am grateful for the support of Shelter, Citizens Advice and Generation Rent who have worked so hard to get this Bill in the right place."
"If you want to know more about the bill, Shelter has also covered the success here."
The Mayor of London has admitted that police response times have fallen dramatically across Merton following the merger of its police teams with those in neighbouring boroughs.
In figures supplied to Liberal Democrat Councillor Paul Kohler late last year, in the 4 months before the merger, response times across Merton for the most serious 999 calls averaged 9 minutes 30 seconds. In the four months after the merger this deteriorated by over 50% to an average of 15 minutes 15 seconds. Calls in this category require response within 15 minutes.
There was an even more dramatic decrease in response times for the second highest priority of 999 calls. In the four months before the merger, response times averaged 38 minutes 6 seconds. In the four months after the merger this more than tripled to an average of 1 hour 59 minutes. Calls in this category require a response within 1 hour.
Cllr Paul Kohler said:
"I am appalled by this dramatic fall in response times following the merger. The police officers who saved me arrived within 8 minutes, and I fear after seeing these figures I would be dead if the attack happened now."
"I am amazed that the Mayor is even considering closing Wimbledon police station after this news; let alone that he is planning to make his decision without even re-consulting despite the dramatic fall in response times that has occurred since the last consultation ended."
Brexit is a mess. That much is true whether you were one of the 72% in Wimbledon who, like me, voted to remain in the European Union, or whether you voted to leave.
Following Theresa May’s crushing defeat in the vote on her Brexit deal any hope of an orderly Brexit is rapidly disappearing.
The UK has been negotiating for more than two years, and the best deal the government could come up with has been (rightly) thumped in Parliament.
Without this bad deal the only Brexit that remains is the worst case scenario: a chaotic No Deal Brexit. A No Deal Brexit that means food and medicine shortages, higher prices in shops and flights grounded.
A quick look at what's happening in and around the borough over the festive period
Recycling and rubbish collection dates:
Christmas events in Merton:
Festive Carriage rides at Morden Hall Park, 8-23rd December
Cards for Good causes, 12-15th December
Merton Chamber Christmas lunch, 13th December
Wimbledon Guild Carol service, 13th December
Christmas dinner and dance, 15th December
Christmas markets on the piazza, 15-16th December
Beer and Carols at St Andrews, 21st December
Christmas markets on the piazza, 21-23rd December
Tinsel 10k run, Morden Hall Park, 23rd December
Don't be alone on Christmas day, 25th December
Merton Heritage Service, festive events:
- 10-31st December,`Tis the Season to be Jolly, the story behind popular Christmas customs
- 10-31st December, Frosts & Festivities, an exhibition about Merton in winter
- 10-31st December, The Twelve Days of Christmas, a Merton heritage exhibition inspired by the popular festive rhyme
- 10-18th December, Local History Christmas Sale
All events held at Merton Heritage Centre, 2nd floor - Morden Library
Free Christmas parking
Parking will be free in Council-managed car parks in Mitcham, Morden and Wimbledon on a number of weekends. See here for full information.
Local shops and other information
As you know, next week you and your fellow MPs will be faced with a historic decision that will determine the future not only of the people you represent today, but also of their children and grandchildren.
When we debated during the election campaign last year you pledged to stand against a hard Brexit. The withdrawal agreement being presented to Parliament next week is a blueprint for a damaging hard Brexit. It will leave us with a worse deal than we currently have in the EU, severing trade links and stripping us of our ability to influence many of the rules that govern our trade. Rather than taking back control, this Brexit deal would see us lose control. It satisfies neither those who voted leave nor those who voted remain.
Now you may feel that because Labour has once again gone missing on the most important issue of the day you can afford to back this deal without opposition. I am writing to you to underline that I and your constituents will hold you to account for your vote next week.
Having knocked on thousands of doors and spoken to thousands of your constituents, I know the people of Wimbledon will not easily forgive a vote for this botched deal. If there is to be an early general election, rest assured people locally will know that when it came to the crunch you chose your party and your career ahead of the future of this country and honouring your election pledges.
It is clear that the only way out of this mess is through a People’s Vote with an option to remain in the EU. Polling shows the people of Wimbledon back one; thanks to the Lib Dems Merton Council now backs one; so join us and back one too – even if that means leaving behind your newly minted ministerial salary.
It’s time for you to do the right thing for your constituents: vote down this botched Brexit deal and back a People’s Vote.
Cllr Carl Quilliam
Lib Dem parliamentary spokesperson for Wimbledon