Tonight Merton Council approved building a new school in South Wimbledon, despite serious air quality concerns.
Cllr Simon McGrath - a member of the Planning Applications Committee - ultimately voted against granting planning permission. Reflecting on his decision, he said:
“Air pollution is a silent killer, and it really needs to be treated as the public health emergency it is.
"After looking at all the evidence, I felt that the proposal should only go forward with significant, measurable improvements in pollution levels near the school site.
“Labour Council bosses are putting our children’s health at risk by pushing through new Harris Academy without doing anything to improve the air quality. The Council's own research shows that air pollution levels are far above the acceptable level, and the argument that pollution will simply have reduced by the time the school opens is an unacceptable risk.
“It is extraordinary that the Council did not look into the need to reduce pollution levels before they spent millions of pounds buying the site. Local children deserve better from Merton.
“Local Lib Dems have long pushed for improvements to air quality across Merton - and specifically near to our schools. It's time the Labour Council faced up to their poor record on air quality.”
Merton Liberal Democrats have previously highlighted research showing that a number of Merton schools are located in areas with dangerously high pollution levels. They are calling for a radical and ambitious plan to improve air quality as an urgent priority.
Scores of Merton residents were among the nearly one million people who marched on Parliament on Saturday 20 October to demand a "People’s Vote".
The People’s Vote campaign is calling for a referendum on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, with the option to remain in the EU on the ballot paper. This would allow people to be given a final say on the negotiations.
Nearly two-thirds of Merton residents voted to remain in the EU at the 2016 referendum, and hundreds more since have signed a petition coordinated by Merton Liberal Democrats calling on the two local MPs to back the campaign for a People’s Vote. In September, Merton councillors supported a Liberal Democrat proposal in support of a People’s Vote
. Conservative and residents association councillors abstained.
Unlike his Mitcham & Morden counterpart - Wimbledon's current MP, Conservative Stephen Hammond has not yet committed to supporting a People's Vote.
Speaking after the march, Lib Dem parliamentary campaigner for Wimbledon, Cllr Carl Quilliam said:
“The Government has made a total mess of these Brexit negotiations. We are now facing the very real possibility that we will crash out of the EU in the most chaotic way possible, without a deal of any kind.
“Nobody voted to be poorer, yet that is exactly what will happen if we leave the EU with a bad deal or no deal.
“The overwhelming majority of Merton residents are deeply concerned with the direction the country is heading. Merton Liberal Democrats believe they, not politicians, should be given the final say on the Brexit deal.”
If you would like to join the Merton Liberal Democrat campaign for a People's Vote you can sign up here
This week Merton Council backed Liberal Democrat and Labour motions in favour of a People's Vote - a referendum on the final Brexit deal with the option to remain in the EU.
The two motions were passed by Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors, with Conservative and Merton Park Residents Association councillors abstaining both times.
Last year Merton Council announced plans to charge local Little League football groups up to £4,000 a year to play in public parks. Liberal Democrats have been campaigning against the charges, and this week they took the campaign to "keep Little League free" to the Council Chamber.
Councillors Eloise Bailey, Hina Bokhari and Carl Quilliam presented a petition, signed by over 1539 concerned residents, and proposed a plan to allow Little League to continue to use our parks for free.
There was strong support in the public gallery, with Little League players, parents and volunteers attending the meeting to show their support for the motion.
Unfortunately Conservative and Labour councillors refused to play ball. The Conservatives claimed to support the motion in their speeches, but this support rang hollow when they put forward a wrecking amendment, perhaps unsurprising given that they had themselves proposed to increase Council fees and charges earlier this year as part of their budget plans.
Meanwhile the Labour councillor leading on Community and Culture argued strongly for the charges, despite the Labour Leader of the Council's public promise, just months ago that there would be no charges at all. All Labour councillors at the meeting backed imposing charges.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Hina Bokhari said:
"We won’t be giving up. I truly believe that Merton could make this dream come true, and just as the nation is swept up in the belief and hope of the World Cup, we can work to keep Merton a place where families and children can use our parks for free and allow our community led charities to keep providing such wonderful services."
Local Lib Dems have revealed shock new figures showing that around 4000 workers at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships won't receive the London Living Wage.
Cllr Carl Quilliam, Deputy Leader of the Lib Dem group on Merton Council where the tournament is held, has slammed the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) for not ensuring that contractors receive this wage, despite the Club stating they support the London Living Wage.
The London Living Wage is calculated to ensure workers can cover the cost of living in London and are not forced into poverty.
New figures uncovered by the local Lib Dem’s show that only 1000 workers for the tournament receive a full London living wage, while 4000 contracted-out workers are left to struggle on the legal minimum.
After a fantastic election night (and years of tireless campaigning), local Lib Dems are celebrating the election of 6 incredible new councillors, representing West Barnes, Dundonald and Trinity Wards. The largest group of Liberal Democrats elected to Merton Council.
We want to thank everyone across Merton who gave their support to the Lib Dems on Thursday 3 May.
Your Lib Dem council team - consisting of Eloise Bailey, Hina Bokhari and Carl Quilliam in West Barnes; Anthony Fairclough and Simon McGrath in Dundonald; and Paul Kohler in Trinity - will be working hard to repay the support shown to us by being a strong voice for all Merton residents.
We will always seek to do our best for you and work hard with the rest of the local Liberal Democrat team to deliver on our pledges. Please do get in touch if you have questions, comments, thoughts or anything we can assist with. We'd love to hear from you.
The Council now comprises 34 Labour councillors, 17 Conservatives, 6 Liberal Democrats and 3 residents association councillors. The Labour Party will continue to run the Council.
Together, we can achieve a #FreshStart4Merton!
We want a Council that acts in the interests of all residents in the decisions it takes.
We want an honest and open conversation with people about what’s going on locally.
We're calling for a fresh start for Merton on health, housing, our environment - and more.
The Lib Dem team will stand up for you on the big issues - against cuts to local police and to save Wimbledon Police Station, for investment in our local NHS and care services, fairer funding for our schools and more affordable homes.
We are also working hard for our area on the specific things that make a real difference: making local stations "step-free", pushing the Council to keep on top of litter, flytipping and graffiti, and fighting to ensure that residents are listened to.
Read our 2018 local election manifesto
Merton Liberal Democrats have backed 60 candidates to bring a fresh start to our area. This is the most candidates the party has ever fielded.
You will get 3 votes on Thursday 3rd May and each ward elects 3 councillors. To find out which ward you live in, see here.
Liberal Democrat-backed candidates are as follows:
Government cuts have taken their toll on the money local schools have to repair and decorate their classrooms and buildings.
Local Lib Dems have proposed a new "schools bonus", requiring developers to pay an amount into a special fund when they get planning permission. This can then be used by schools to maintain and improve their infrastructure.
Merton Council is currently looking at putting in place new planning rules so it's a good time to suggest new ideas, but Labour and Conservative councillors don't seem to have any.
Local campaigner and parent Anthony Fairclough said:
"Our local area desperately needs some new ideas and a fresh start. I'm so pleased to back this schools bonus - a great idea to give back to the community. Everyone deserves the best start in life and a top quality education. Ideas like this would help teachers provide a great environment for learning".
Yesterday, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced dramatic and damaging changes to local policing for Merton and London.
The changes would replace the Met’s current 32 borough model, by merging local policing across boroughs.
As part of the changes, Merton police will come together with Wandsworth, Kingston and Richmond to form 1 of 12 Basic Command Units (BCU).
BCUs will be expected to deliver frontline police services including neighbourhood policing, emergency response, CID and safeguarding. Each will be led by a chief superintendent who will be the BCU Commander. This move comes as the Met is being forced by the Tory Government to make further savings of £325m by 2021/2022 in addition to the £700m in cuts they have already suffered under the Conservatives.
Lib Dem campaigner & Wimbledon resident Paul Kohler is already bringing a court case to stop the closure of Wimbledon police station and 36 others across London. Reacting to the news, he said:
''The Conservatives’ decision to cut the police budget means London has lost 2000 officers since 2016, with another 2,500 expected to be lost over the next few years. That means that across Merton we will have lost some 15% of police officers during Sadiq Khan's tenure as Mayor of London.
"Sadiq Khan cannot simply hide behind these foolish and dangerous Tory cuts. He needs to fight harder for the needs of Londoners and embrace a more imaginative approach that maintains police in the heart of our communities, rather than making them increasingly remote".
"Merton residents will be shocked by these proposals that will inevitably suck away key resources from Wimbledon, with its historic low levels of crime.
"Wimbledon is about to be hit by a triple whammy losing its police station, its borough commander and many of its officers. We currently live in one of the safest boroughs in London but crime is already beginning to rise and these dangerous cuts will simply exacerbate that problem."