More than 5,000 families in Wimbledon and over 12,000 in Mitcham and Morden are set to lose over £1000 as Conservative government plans “heartless” Universal Credit cut
One in ten Wimbledon families* and over a quarter of families in Mitcham and Morden* are set to lose £1,040 a year at the end of the month as a result of Conservative plans to end the Universal Credit uplift.
Despite opposition from the Liberal Democrats, who have warned that half a million families – and 200,000 children – will be pushed into poverty, the Conservative government plans to proceed with a £20 a week cut to Universal Credit on October 6.
The move has been branded “heartless” by Cllr Paul Kohler, the Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson for Wimbledon.
“This cut is the difference for many between being able to feed your children and seeing them go hungry”, said Cllr Kohler. “It is heart-breaking, after everything people in Wimbledon have been put through during the pandemic, that so many families here in Wimbledon will be forced into such a desperate situation as a result of the Conservatives’ callousness and incompetence.
“This heartless cut is yet another example of the Conservatives’ inability to understand the pressure ordinary people in Wimbledon are under, and yet another example of their willingness to wrench away a vital lifeline at a time when families can least afford it.
“The government must reverse this cut. I and the Liberal Democrats will continue to campaign to make the Universal Credit uplift permanent, and to ensure that all people in Wimbledon have the financial security to look after their families and live their lives.”
Liberal Democrats are planning to fight the cut in Parliament to prevent it coming into effect.
“Just as we begin to hope that Covid is being tamed in the UK, the Government is ripping support from millions of families across the country”, said the Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain MP. “We cannot have a full recovery if families are struggling to make ends meet.
“The Prime Minister's claim that he wants people to live by their own ‘efforts’ rather than ‘welfare’ shows how out of touch he really is. With almost half of those receiving Universal Credit already in work and with many having young families, this cut will leave parents and their children behind despite their efforts.”
* Figures from Joseph Rowntree Foundation analysis, available here.
At the full Merton council meeting on 15th September Merton Lib Dems will be asking the council to live up to its obligations after its Climate Emergency declaration and divest its pension investments from supporting fossil fuels.
Wimbledon's Liberal Democrats have slammed local Conservative MP Stephen Hammond’s choice to break their promise to the electorate and vote for a 1.25% rise in National Insurance.
The changes, which go against the Conservatives’ manifesto promise not to raise taxes, will mean hard-pressed local families and small businesses will be left paying hundreds of pounds more in tax each year.
Stephen Hammond was one of the 317 Conservative MPs to support the plans. Liberal Democrat MPs voted against the government plans, arguing that they fail to fix the ongoing social care crisis and will fall disproportionately on the young, the low paid and small businesses.
The Liberal Democrats are calling for a cross-party agreement on social care, to find a long-term solution to funding high-quality care for everyone who needs it.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Councillor Paul Kohler said:
“Stephen Hammond stood on a clear promise at the last election not to raise taxes, including National Insurance. Now they have voted to break that promise by hitting hard-pressed families and small businesses in Wimbledon with a tax hike at a time many are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic.
“The people of Wimbledon deserve better than this. They need an MP who they can trust and who will fight for a fairer deal for our area.
“Unlike Stephen Hammond, the Liberal Democrats opposed these unjust plans in Parliament. We have been clear about how to fix the social care crisis in a fairer way, instead of hiking taxes on those who can least afford it.”
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP added:
“The Tories have gone from being the party of low tax to the party of broken promises.
“Conservative MPs have shown that they can’t be trusted and are taking people for granted. It’s little wonder that voters around the country and across the Blue Wall are turning to the Liberal Democrats instead.
“We want to see cross-party talks on how to fund social care in a fair and sustainable way, along with urgent action to fix the staffing crisis in care homes and give unpaid carers the recognition they deserve.”
South Western Railway has launched a consultation on its timetable from December 2022 which closes soon on 19th September.
With passenger levels forecasted not to return to pre-Covid levels in the near future, the train company is proposing reducing the frequency of its services. Notably they are proposing to reduce the service calling at Motspur Park station by 2 trains per hour off peak to a 4 trains per hour service from the current 6 per hour.
We find the development very concerning. Maintaining the current service level at Motspur Park is essential for our local community and to support environmentally sound transport options. Reducing train services will lead we feel to increases in car journeys which could otherwise be done by train.
Merton Lib Dems will be responding to the consultation outlining our strong concerns and we urge residents opposed to sign our petition.
You can watch Cllr Hina Bokhari and John Oliver outline the changes here -
A successful petition to restore the newly discovered mosaic signage at the Wimbledon Chase Co-op was run by the local Liberal Democrats in Merton.
Local Liberal Democrats have attacked the Government Planning Inspectorate for its decision to allow an overbearing development on part of the Tesco car park.
An Extraordinary Meeting of Merton Council on Wednesday 21 April backed a Liberal Democrat proposal to help tackle violence against women and girls in the borough.
Merton Liberal Democrats requested the meeting following the hurt and anger expressed by women in response to the news of Sarah Everard’s heinous murder.
The proposals were unanimously supported by all councillors present. Speaking after the meeting Cllr Eloise Bailey, Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group said:
“The topic of this meeting was difficult, but I’m proud of what we achieved. At a time when rape prosecutions are falling, and women are losing faith in the criminal justice system, it’s crucial that we have safe and confidential opportunities to report our experiences. And the Council must work with relevant organisations to ensure that women’s reports lead to real change.”
Cllr Anthony Fairclough, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Merton Council added:
“The stories of the harassment and fear experienced by women and girls on a daily basis highlighted the urgent need to make a safe space to share these experiences, and help ensure that real action to address the concerns raised can be taken.”
“So we are calling for Merton Council to create confidential opportunities for women and girls to share their experiences. This process must inform the work of the Council and other agencies in tackling male behaviour in order to reduce violence against women and girls."
A recording of the meeting can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/4_-qeCotiMI?t=3763
We have all been moved by the awful news of Sarah Everard and send our heartfelt sympathies to her family and friends.
For some, it has triggered painful memories. For others, it has given some awareness about how their behaviour may impact those around them.
Merton Liberal Democrats realise that the coronavirus pandemic has put a severe strain on the budgets of councils across the country - and as a result, difficult decisions need to be made. We join all those urging the Government to provide enough additional support to local authorities.
The Labour party's proposed budget can be found on Merton Council's website.
In our budget amendments we will focused on three things:
- Investing in the future, by supporting children & young people;
- Ensuring those who have been on the front-line of the coronavirus pandemic receive a fair wage for their vital work; and
- Helping to tackle the climate emergency.
With this in mind, we have proposed a number of amendments to the budget plans (the full text of our amendments can be found on the Merton Council website):
1. 'Free school breakfast club' scheme
Local residents and businesses showed incredible generosity in stepping in to address the shortfall in Government support during the Coronavirus lockdown. One of the places this was seen most clearly was in the Free School Meals campaign where people donated cash to help families during school holidays.
We're now calling on the Council to run a pilot scheme to allow children who are eligible for pupil premium to attend school 'breakfast clubs' for free, to help tackle this issue - giving them and their families more support. This would be funded by voluntary donations from local residents and businesses.
2. Caring for our communities
Care workers have been on the front-line during the coronavirus pandemic. They're also amongst the lowest paid in our community. While Council employees are paid at least the London Living Wage, care workers who work for private companies that contract with the council, are not.
Last year we succeeded in convincing the council to take small but practical steps to ensure that all care workers in the borough receive the London Living wage. We're now calling on the council to make a firm commitment to aware all future contracts at the London Living wage.
We're also very concerned about the multiple changes that the Council wants to make to day centres, children's centres and the dementia hub. They say they want to re-imagine the way the services are provided - but we're worried this is just a way of cutting services quickly. So we are asking the Council to show councillors the detailed plans before they make the changes, to try to ensure that the people who use these services don't lose out.
3. Supporting our future
After the lockdown has eased we must focus on younger people, looking in particular at their health and opportunities. So we're calling on the Council to agree to:
- a review into whether dedicated Merton-based sexual health and mental health services for vulnerable young people escaping sexual exploitation could and should be introduced;
- a review into the operation and effectiveness of pupil referral units;
- a review of Merton’s use of the apprenticeships, to ensure the best routes for Merton's young adults to enter the job market, support local businesses to grow, and to stop the practice of LB Merton returning unused/expired apprenticeship levy monies to HM Treasury; and
- the necessary work to establish a Landlord Licensing scheme.
4. Addressing the climate emergency
Tackling the climate emergency must be a key focus for councils across the country. The Council's climate action plan depends on securing funding for projects to help achieve the huge change we need, and so part of our amendment is about putting in place enough staff resources to make sure that plan succeeds.
Furthermore, Merton Council recently introduced a new parking charges scheme, which they say is designed to improve air quality. We've argued before that we don't think the scheme will be effective, and that it will undermine the climate emergency response because people think its just a way to raise cash.
So, at the budget meeting we're proposing a number of changes to improve it:
- Extra revenue raised by the new charges should be separately reported, and should be ringfenced for spending on ways to tackle climate change;
- A new low mileage discount or rebate - this would encourage people to drive less, as well as mitigating the effects of higher parking charges on low income households that can't afford to buy a new car; and
- Reconsider the changes to visitors permits - it's not fair or effective to charge people more based on the type of car their visitor turns up in. How can that result in their visitor buying a more environmentally friendly car? It just looks like a way to raise cash, and disproportionately affects some older or disabled people who need more visits from care workers and family.
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.
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