On Tuesday 17 May, Conservative MPs, including Wimbledon’s MP Stephen Hammond, voted against a windfall tax on oil and gas companies to help people with their energy bills.
Despite 248 MPs voting in favour of the one-off tax on the record profits of multinational oil firms, the Conservative MP for Wimbledon failed to support the proposal, even as inflation soared to 9%.
Pictured: the 17 new Liberal Democrat councillors in Merton
The Liberal Democrats won 17 council seats in Merton’s local elections on Thursday, beating the Conservatives to become the official opposition on Merton Council and the biggest party in the Wimbledon constituency.
The full results* are:
- Labour – 31 (down 4)
Liberal Democrats – 17 (up 12)
- Conservatives – 7 (down 8)
- Merton Park Residents Association – 2
Lib Dem motion passes – but only after being watered down by Labour
Many local people have voiced their opposition to the All England Tennis Club’s significant expansion plans, which would result in an 8000 seat stadium, nearly 10km of new roads on the land, and the felling of hundreds of mature trees.
Last week, at a meeting of Merton Council, local Lib Dem councillors demanded that Council bosses state they would enforce legal promises not to build, made when the land was bought by AELTC in 1993.
Lib Dem challenge
Sadly Labour councillors sought to water down that commitment.
Lib Dem councillors voted against this Labour amendment and were supported by the Merton Park Residents Association councillors. The Conservative councillors refused to try to block Labour's attempt to water down the commitment to protect the land, instead choosing to abstain.
Even stranger, Conservative councillors called for Council legal advice to be published (which at this stage would just weaken the Council’s position) and then refused to vote to constrain the Council’s position at all.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Paul Kohler, the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon, said:
“Last night was an opportunity to ensure the Council enforced the covenants to prevent the All England Club concreting over acres of Wimbledon Park. Sadly, that opportunity has been lost due to Labour evasiveness and Conservative inaction.
“I am surprised and hugely disappointed by the Conservative councillors’ refusal to back our proposal last night. Despite arguing in favour of the substance of our motion, they refused to join us in voting against Labour’s cynical amendment that stripped out the binding commitment requiring the Council to enforce the covenants.
“They then failed to vote on the final motion, choosing to abstain again. I am not sure why they bothered to turn up as they simply sat on their hands.”
“Conservative councillors might claim they want to save Wimbledon Park, but actions speak louder than words. The Conservative group’s preference for playing politics over making real progress has set our campaign back. Wimbledon residents deserve far better from their elected representatives.
“Despite the events of last night, the battle is far from over. We have at least succeeded in getting a commitment from the Council to 'respect' the covenants, and I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues will continue to campaign to ensure these covenants are enforced and the All England Club's over-development blocked.”
Labour Council bosses blocked small rebate on Council Tax bills amid rising fuel bills, at last night’s Council meeting.
Liberal Democrat councillors proposed an amendment to the annual budget to reduce the impact of Council Tax rises by giving all households in Council Tax bands A to D a reduction by cutting up to 30% off the latest increase.
In total, 62,000 households in Merton would benefit from the rebate – equivalent to 72% of all households in the borough. The rebate would be funded by using some unallocated reserves.
Speaking after the Council meeting, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon, Cllr Paul Kohler, said:
“With energy bills skyrocketing and the Conservative Government set to increase taxes in April, families across Merton are already having to make difficult choices.
“They have been abandoned by the Conservative Government, whose failure to take action has allowed the cost of living crisis to spiral out of control and whose tax rises risk pushing thousands into financial hardship.
“Whilst it’s not as big a rebate as we would like, we felt it was the least local councillors could do to support families that are struggling to make ends meet.
“I was disappointed that Labour and Merton Park Residents Association councillors wouldn’t join me in voting for the Liberal Democrats’ amendment tonight. Cash-strapped households don't need more taxes - they need a break.”
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."
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 responds 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."
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.
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:
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.