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Merton Council’s ground breaking low emission zone for construction work wins national award

28 October, 2020 - 17:02

Merton Council has won a prestigious national industry award for pioneering the world’s first low emission zone for construction.

The Air Quality team from Merton’s Regulatory Services Partnership won the Environmental Services category of the LCG Awards at a virtual award ceremony held this afternoon (Wednesday 28 October).

The Cleaner Construction for London project has improved air quality on construction and demolition sites, increasing compliance in London’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ), while promoting behavior change and championing good practice.

Merton has proactively led London’s Non-Road Mobile Machinery (NRMM) Project since 2016, following a successful bid for funding from the Mayor’s Air Quality Fund.

The team developed a brand new approach to air quality management, including an on site auditing process. The requirement to replace polluting machines with cleaner machinery places pressure on the supply chain, opening up competition from new technologies. Sites compete against each other to demonstrate their green credentials, which has proven to be an effective way of ‘soft’ enforcement and has been endorsed by the construction industry.

The initial project with South London boroughs, raised awareness of the NRMM LEZ and delivered a site compliance rate of 92%, a threefold increase from the initial 28%. Now working on behalf of all London boroughs, the team’s pioneering work is shaping positive change in the construction industry and delivering on-the-ground site compliance. Emissions savings have been so successful that it is now a model for cities throughout the world.

Merton Council was also a finalist in the Public Health category of the LGC Awards. Judges shortlisted Merton Council’s work on diabetes and the innovative approach taken by the public health team and Merton Health and Wellbeing Board, which used people’s experiences of living with the condition to inform policy and deliver services through an initiative called the Diabetes Truth Programme.

This shaped the development of Merton’s Tackling Diabetes Action Plan, which has resulted in formal links between diabetes services and mental health services; diabetes services being tailored to meet the needs of specific cultures including the Tamil, African and Caribbean communities and the revision of the council’s advertising policy to restrict the promotion of unhealthy food and drink.

The action plan has also involved the creation of the Merton Mile – a signposted route in Mitcham to encourage residents to walk, jog or run a mile each day. In April last year, Merton had the highest number of referrals in south west London to the National Diabetes Prevention Programme which supports people at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The proportion of these referrals attending their first appointment was 97% – the highest rate in London.

The Leader of Merton Council, Councillor Stephen Alambritis, said: “I’d like to congratulate everyone involved in the Cleaner Construction for London project on winning this prestigious award. This enforcement project is a world first and their pioneering work is revolutionising how the construction industry reduces emissions on construction and demolition sites.

“I would also like to congratulate our public health team – being shortlisted for the LGC Awards is a fantastic achievement. The importance of their work on diabetes has been brought into focus during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people with the condition are more at risk of developing a serious illness if they catch the virus.”

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COVID-19 Information Officers are here to help

28 October, 2020 - 11:25

Last Sunday, a team of COVID-19 Information Officers took to the streets to support residents in following the latest guidance, promote the NHS Test and Trace app, and spread the word about the help available at our Community Hub.

The officers, who carried out visits all across London, had stall at Wimbledon Piazza, and made roaming visits to Morden, Mitcham and Colliers Wood. In addition to helping local shoppers, they also engaged local businesses to ensure that regulations to prevent the spread of the virus are understood, and being followed. If you came into contact with one of the officers, we hope you found them helpful!

We’ll be reviewing the effectiveness of their presence and, if they were useful, they could be back on a high street near you soon, so keep an eye out for officials in hi-vis NHS branded vests.

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Stay safe during autumn celebrations

28 October, 2020 - 11:20

Whether you’re taking part in Halloween, Bonfire Night, or Diwali celebrations this autumn, this year’s festivities will be looking a lot different. We know it can be especially difficult to follow the rules around COVID-19 on days that you’re used to seeing friends and family, but we must all take steps to slow the spread of the virus. Fortunately, there are still lots of ways that you can take part. We’ve put together some top tips on how you can celebrate and stay safe.

Halloween

Remember to keep you and your loved ones safe this Halloween by:

  • Not going door to door trick or treating with your children
  • Not holding parties inside where you mix households
  • Not meeting up outside with more than six people
  • Wash your hands, cover your face and make space

Instead, why not go pumpkin spotting? Put a pumpkin or a picture of a pumpkin in your window for others to see and go and see how many you can find in your local area (observing social distancing rules of keeping two metres apart). Find some other fun ideas in the list below (click image to enlarge):

Bonfire Night

Remember, remember stay safe in November! Bonfire Night will look very different this year. Here’s how you can keep yourself, your friends and family, and the whole community safe:

  • Please do not hold your own displays in public areas as this is unsafe and can also encourage crowds to gather and break the social distancing rules.
  • We advise you not to hold displays at home, this can be dangerous and our emergency services are already busier than usual dealing with COVID-19
  • Please be aware that our fireworks displays in Morden Park an Wimbledon Park are cancelled for 2020.
  • Think of the animals! Don’t hold firework displays at home as they cause unnecessary distress to our furry friends. Find out more about how to keep your pets safe during fireworks.

Whilst our fireworks displays in Morden Park an Wimbledon Park are cancelled for 2020, we very much hope to return in 2021. Join our mailing list to be kept up to date.

Diwali

Although Coronavirus and social distancing means we can’t all gather together to celebrate Diwali as usual this year, you and your household can still celebrate virtually.

The Remembering Diwali online event in Trafalgar Square will take place on Sunday 1 November from 3–7pm. This years event focusses on the theme of compassion, care and gratitude and how even though apart, we are still united in keeping the flame of Diwali well-lit in our hearts and minds.

Find out more about the event on the Diwali in London website.

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Merton Council pledges to cover the cost of free school meals this half term

26 October, 2020 - 13:50

As half term begins, Merton Council has pledged to reimburse the borough’s schools for any food related support they provide in half term week to families of children who would be eligible for Free School Meals during term time, up to the value of £15 per child.

Where schools are not providing direct support themselves, families can be referred onto emergency support provided by local organisations, including the Wimbledon Foodbank, the Dons Local Action Group and the Merton Community Fridge Network.

Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Education, Councillor Eleanor Stringer said: “No child in Merton should go hungry this half term. We know that free school meals are a lifeline for many families and we are committed to bridging the gap this week between some of the most deprived pupils in the borough and their classmates.

“The council supports the campaign to End Child Food Poverty. Although we have a fantastic, dedicated network in Merton to support families in need, the Government needs to step in and provide funding directly to families to ensure that no parent has to struggle to feed their children.”

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Planning permission granted for new Bishopsford Road Bridge

23 October, 2020 - 12:08

Merton Council’s Planning Committee granted permission for a new bridge to be built over the River Wandle in Bishopsford Road, Mitcham, at a meeting held last night (Thursday 22 October).

The new bridge will replace the previous structure, which had to be demolished for safety reasons earlier this year, after partially collapsing in June 2019, following heavy rainfall.

Replacing the bridge is a particularly complex task because it influences river flow and has a range of utilities running through its structure. The council has been working closely with gas, electricity, water and broadband providers, as well as the Environment Agency, to reduce the risk of flooding.

The river crossing, along the A217, will be wider than the previous bridge, to include a northbound segregated cycle lane and a wider shared southbound pavement and cycle space. The new design, which has a single span, rather than three arches like the old bridge, was developed following a public consultation earlier this year. Railings will replace the brick wall along Ravensbury Park, opening up views from the bridge and 26 new trees will be planted. The wooden footbridge crossing will remain.

The plans will also help to promote biodiversity in the river and on its banks, which border Watermeads Nature Reserve, and include bat boxes and a ledge for otters.  

Work on rebuilding the bridge is due to begin next month and is expected to open in 2021.  

Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Housing and Transport, Councillor Martin Whelton, said: “The new bridge will result in significantly improved infrastructure and the granting of planning permission will enable us to get on with the job and get this vital crossing re-opened at the earliest opportunity.

“We know many residents and businesses have been impacted by its closure and we will be working closely with our partners to safely build a new bridge which meets modern standards along with enhanced provision for cycling and pedestrians. I look forward to seeing the new bridge re-open and working with the community on delivering this key infrastructure as construction gets underway.”

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Mayor of Merton calls for residents to stay safe on Remembrance Sunday and pay tribute from home

22 October, 2020 - 10:26

Every year, Merton joins the nation and unites on Remembrance Sunday to honour the services of our armed forces and to remember those who have sacrificed their lives to secure and protect our freedom.  

This year, to comply with social distancing measures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the boroughs Remembrance Sunday parades will not go ahead and the services at our war memorials will be closed to the public. 

Mayor of Merton, Councillor Sally Kenny said: “In the year when we have marked the 75th anniversary of VE Day and VJ Day, it is with great sadness that this year’s Remembrance events have had to be severely restricted and the boroughs usual parades unable to go ahead.  

“The safety of everyone during this extraordinary time is paramount, which is why I am asking residents to stay safe and pay tribute from home on Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day. I know this is will be disappointing for many people, but there are still many ways we can all show support for our Armed Forces Community.  

“Wear your poppy with pride, download and print The Royal British Legions iconic Remembrance Poppy to display at home, watch the broadcast of the National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph on Whitehall in London on Sunday 8 November, and view the borough’s Armistice Day service from home on Wednesday 11 November.  

“Although this year is going to be a little different, I know we will all come together to honour those who served and remember their sacrifice.” 

merton.gov.uk/remembrance  

NOTES:

Armistice Day, Wednesday 11 November: The service at Morden Civic Centre will be recorded for the public to watch from home – more details to follow.

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Poverty should not be a crime, says council in bid to stop residents being jailed for council tax arrears

19 October, 2020 - 14:11

Merton Council has called on the Government to abolish outdated laws that allow councils to jail residents for non-payment of council tax, as the financial hardship of the virus continues to hit those on low incomes.

Despite the borough refusing to jail anybody for non-payment of council tax in more than ten years, the practice still happens across the country – with around 700 people jailed in that period because they can’t afford their payments.

And as the virus continues to hit those on low incomes in London – particularly those in hospitality, who are facing lengthy periods without earning, the council’s Deputy Leader Councillor Mark Allison, has written to Secretary of State for Communities, Robert Jenrick, to ask for common sense to prevail.

Councillor Allison, said: “It’s a fundamental wrong that in this country you can be jailed for being poor or living in poverty, and I hope Mr Jenrick listens to these concerns at this critical time for so many hard-working families.

“Yes, everyone needs to pay their council tax – it pays for the services to help those in need, and our services have never been more critical than during the pandemic. But how can it be fair to jail someone because they can’t afford to pay it?

“In the London Borough of Merton, nobody has been jailed for this offence in more than a decade, but it is still happening. In that same period, more than 700 people have been jailed – for not having enough money.

“With thousands in London on low incomes currently staring at an even longer period of hardship, we need to scrap this unnecessary threat to people who are simply struggling financially.”

Merton Council has ensured maximum financial support for residents and businesses throughout the pandemic – including one of the highest distribution rates for small business grants, financial support for those on low incomes through council tax discounts, and maintaining the highest level of Council Tax Support in London for those on low incomes.

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Merton Council calls for urgent clarity on funding package, amid £17m gap

16 October, 2020 - 12:02

Merton Council  has written to local  MPs with an urgent request to seek clarity over future funding support for councils in London.

This week, London Councils – the body that represents all boroughs in the capital – outlined the pan-London requirement for councils, specifically asking for funding to close the gap caused by the pandemic, as well as certainty around funding for 2021-22.

At the same time Merton, which represents the Wimbledon, Mitcham, Morden and Colliers Wood areas of London, has confirmed that as a result of the pandemic, its budget gap for next year has already risen from £3m to £17m.

Merton’s Cabinet Member for Finance, Councillor Mark Allison, who is due to take over as Leader of the Council in November, has now written to local MPs, urging them to raise the matter in the Commons and put pressure on ministers to outline how they will resource local services to protect people during the second wave.

Cllr Allison said: “Councils like Merton have led the country’s response to Covid-19 pandemic. This has come at huge financial cost, with councils in London alone facing a £1.4 billion funding gap as a result.

“In Merton alone, the combination of lost income and the additional services we have provided to protect people during the pandemic has seen our budget gap for next year rise from £3m to an eye-watering £17m – and many councils in the capital are facing similar, if not worse shortfalls.

“At the same time, more and more responsibility for protecting the public is being passed to local authorities, creating long-term impacts on our budgets, while we continue providing hundreds of other services which have not gone away.

“I’m now asking that Merton’s political representatives add their voices to those being made clear across London. Immediate steps need to be taken to clarify the funding package for local authorities, and to ensure that, when we do come out of the pandemic, councils aren’t forced to slash the other vital services we provide.”

The pan-London call for certainty on funding calls on Government to give clarity on:

  • Providing immediate compensation to cover the £1.4 billion funding gap caused by the pandemic, including lost Council Tax and Business Rates.
  • Certainty around funding for 2021-22, including grants and council tax principles.
  • Resources to fulfil councils growing roles in managing the on-going pandemic in future years.
  • Above-inflation increases over the 3 year period that also take account of underlying demand pressures in key services, including Adult and Children’s Social Care (£430m), Public Health (£130m), Homelessness (£200m), High Needs education funding (£100-200m) and supporting people with No Recourse to Public Funds (£50m).
  • Clarity over the funding for the Dedicated Schools Grant deficit
  • A new approach to the long-term funding of local government including new sources of revenue and greater fiscal devolution.
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Six of Merton’s green spaces recognised as being among the best in the world

16 October, 2020 - 11:20

Merton council is pleased to announce that six of its well-loved parks and open spaces will be continuing to fly their prestigious Green Flag awards with pride.

The Green Flag Award, which is an international mark of quality, recognises the best green spaces across the country and the world. The award, judged and given annually, is a sign that a park or open space boasts the highest possible environmental standards, is well maintained and has excellent facilities.

News of the awards is especially heart-warming this year as more Merton residents than ever have appreciated the value of having quality, green spaces on their doorsteps.

The six parks and open spaces, which have won Green Flags Awards this year, are:

Abbey Recreation Ground

Colliers Wood Recreation Ground

Dundonald Recreation Ground

John Innes Park

Sir Joseph Hood Memorial Playing Fields

South Park Gardens

Councillor Caroline Cooper-Marbiah, the Cabinet Member for Commerce, Leisure and Culture, said: “We are absolutely delighted that six of our parks and open spaces have retained their prestigious Green Flag Awards, despite the challenges the pandemic has brought.  Since lock down in March our wonderful parks and open spaces have been a haven for residents to meet friends, exercise, relax and enjoy the natural environment.

“These awards are a great testament to the council’s park staff, open spaces contractor Idverde and our park volunteers, who have worked tirelessly to achieve the high standards demanded by the Green Flag awards, in a year in which our green spaces have welcomed record numbers of visitors.

“We are immensely proud of our parks which contribute so much to making Merton a great place to live and work.”

The Green Flag Awards are managed in England by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, under licence from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

To find out more about Merton’s parks and open spaces visit: www.merton.gov.uk/parks

For more information, visit:

www.greenflagaward.org     

www.keepbritaintidy.org

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Merton moves with the rest of London to a high COVID-19 alert

15 October, 2020 - 16:01

Merton, along with the rest of London, is moving to a high COVID Alert Level from 00.01 on Saturday 17 October.  This means people must not meet anyone from outside their household or support bubble indoors – not at home or in a public place. People can only meet people outdoors in up to groups of six and should reduce the number of journeys they make.

These new rules are in addition to the current restrictions, which include following the social distancing rules; wearing face coverings in many public places, including shops, libraries, places of worship and on public transport; working from home if possible and pubs, bars and restaurants being required to close at 10pm.

The new three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions was introduced in England earlier this week. The Local COVID Alert Levels are medium, high and very high. These are set depending on the number of cases in each council area. 

Full details about the Local COVID Alert Levels and the number of new cases reported in Merton can be found on our website.

The Leader of Merton Council, Councillor Stephen Alambritis MBE, said: “Although cases of COVID-19 in Merton are not as high as in other parts of London, infection levels are continuing to rise significantly here. All the London local authorities are moving to the high COVID alert level together, as many Londoners do not work, study and socialise in the same borough as they live in and having different restrictions in different council areas would be very confusing for everyone. 

“These restrictions will only be effective if they are followed. We must all do our bit to help prevent the spread of the virus by washing our hands regularly, social distancing and wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces. Self-isolating is essential if you have symptoms of the virus and are booking a test or if you are asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace.

“As we have quickly adapted to a new way of life this year, Merton residents have shown resilience and care for those who are most vulnerable and those traits are what will help us to get through the difficult winter ahead together.”

Financial support is available for those on a low income who are unable to work as a result of being told by NHS Track and Trace to go into self-isolation. These payments, worth £500, are available if you are in receipt of certain benefits, or if you can prove that self-isolation will cause you extraordinary financial hardship. If you think you might be eligible, visit our Test and Trace Self-Isolation Support Payment page.

The COVID-19 Community Response Hub, run in partnership by Merton Voluntary Service Council, Age UK Merton and Wimbledon Guild continues to provide support for those at most risk of developing a serious illness if they catch COVID-19 and isolated households.

To keep up to date with the latest situation, sign up for our e-newsletter at merton.gov.uk/newsletter and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

The NHS COVID-19 app is available in ten languages. Download it on your smartphone now.

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COVID-19 alert brings Merton together

13 October, 2020 - 17:12

A new three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions is being introduced in England from midnight tonight. This is in addition to the national Government guidelines which are already in force. 

The Local COVID Alert Levels are medium, high and very high. These are set depending on the number of cases in each council area. 

Merton, along with the rest of London, is currently at the medium alert level. This means the current national rules continue to apply. Pubs, bars and restaurants must close at 10pm and the rule of six (the number of people who can meet up) applies both indoors and outdoors.

This is in addition to following the social distancing rules, working from home when you can, and planning safe travel routes.

Full details about the Local COVID Alert Levels and the number of new cases reported in Merton can be found on our website.

The Leader of Merton Council, Councillor Stephen Alambritis MBE, said: “Although Merton is currently at the medium alert level, cases of COVID-19 in the borough have increased significantly in recent weeks and the situation could change rapidly.

“These restrictions will only be effective if they are followed. We must all do our bit to help prevent the spread of the virus by washing our hands regularly, social distancing and wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces. Self-isolating is essential if you have symptoms of the virus and are booking a test or if you are asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace.

“This is a very anxious time for everyone, but I know we will all, once again, pull together to support each other and to protect the most vulnerable people in our community.”

Financial support is available for those on a low income who are unable to work as a result of going into self-isolation. These payments, worth £500, are available if you are in receipt of certain benefits, or if you can prove that self-isolation will cause you extraordinary financial hardship. If you think you might be eligible, visit our Test and Trace Self-Isolation Support Payment page.

The COVID-19 Community Response Hub, run in partnership by Merton Voluntary Service Council, Age UK Merton and Wimbledon Guild continues to provide support for those at most risk of developing a serious illness if they catch COVID-19 and isolated households.

To keep up to date with the latest situation, sign up for our e-newsletter at merton.gov.uk/newsletter and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

The NHS COVID-19 app is available in ten languages. Download it on your smartphone.

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A message from Councillor Edith Macauley on Hate Crime Awareness Week

12 October, 2020 - 12:20

Councillor Edith Macauley, Merton’s Cabinet Member for Voluntary Sector, Partnerships and Community Safety, said: “Hate Crime Awareness Week is an opportunity for all of us to remember victims and raise awareness of all forms of hate crime, and provide ongoing support to those who need it. This year, the theme for the week is disability hate crime.

“Being the target of a disability hate crime, or any other type of hate crime, not only affects the victim but their friends, family and community too. It can also impact the victim’s sense of belonging in the community – that is unacceptable.

“We can’t eliminate hate crime overnight, but with the help of schemes here in Merton such as our Hate Crime Third Party Reporting Scheme and Hate Crime Advice Surgeries, we can support victims and make it easier to take action against perpetrators. In Merton, we are proud to be one of the safest boroughs in London and we are working hard, together, to ensure that this position is maintained for all our residents, regardless of background or identity.”

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Council leader receives MBE in Queen’s Birthday Honours

9 October, 2020 - 22:46

The Leader of Merton Council, Councillor Stephen Alambritis, has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. 

Cllr Alambritis has been awarded an MBE for services to Local Government in South London.

He is the first Cypriot council leader in Britain and the longest serving leader of Merton Council, since the authority was established in 1965. In 2013, Merton Council was named Best Achieving Council at the prestigious MJ Achievement Awards. The following year, the council won the Best All Round Small Business Friendly Borough award from London Councils.

First elected to the Merton council as Ravensbury ward councillor in 2003, Cllr Alambritis became Labour Leader in the 2007/8 municipal year, and took the council’s most senior role in 2010, following the first of three successive election victories. Last month, Cllr Alambritis announced he would be standing down in November, following a decade as leader. He will continue to represent his ward as a backbench councillor.

Under the leadership of Cllr Alambritis, the council has operated in a more business-like way, with particular emphasis on supporting the most vulnerable and improving services for families. Key achievements include building a state of the art leisure centre in Morden and a new library building in Colliers Wood. A learning disability centre was also developed in Abbey ward and a brand new secondary school is due to open in South Wimbledon soon.

Cllr Alambritis has always championed businesses across the borough, following his own successful career at the Federation of Small Businesses. He also led the council’s support for local football club AFC Wimbledon to achieve their goal of returning home to Plough Lane in a brand new stadium, which is part of a development of 800 much-needed homes.

In addition to his role as Council Leader, Cllr Alambritis has been a member of the Better Regulation Task Force at the Cabinet Office, and a Commissioner at both the Disability Rights Commission and at the Equality and Human Rights Commission. He was previously a representative on the European Union Committee of the Regions. Cllr Alambritis is a trustee on the board of London Sport and a member of the Leaders’ Committee at London Councils, as well as chairing the five borough South London Partnership. Cllr Alambritis is also on the board of London CIV Ltd, the collective investment vehicle for London borough pension funds.

The Queen’s Birthday Honours list was due to be published in June, but was postponed so that doctors, nurses and volunteers could be nominated for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Member of the Order of the British Empire is awarded for outstanding achievement or service to the community.

Cllr Alambritis said: “It is a great honour to be included on the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, alongside some incredible people who have done so much in response to the pandemic and I would like to congratulate them all.

“It has been an absolute privilege to lead Merton Council and to serve the diverse communities in a place which I am proud to call home. I share this recognition with everyone I have worked in partnership with – the residents, councillors, council officers, voluntary groups, businesses and community organisations – to achieve more for our borough.”

The Chair of London Councils, Councillor Peter John, said: “This is a worthy recognition for Stephen’s brilliant work as Leader of Merton Council. Stephen has been a strong advocate for his borough and for London over the past decade and I am delighted that he has been honoured by the Queen.”

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Take action for Clean Air Day

7 October, 2020 - 17:27
Help us fight air pollution this Clean Air Day

On Thursday 8 October 2020, we’ll be marking Clean Air Day. Air pollution has long been an important issue for the borough but, in the middle of a respiratory pandemic, the quality of the air we breathe matters even more. In this article, we want to give you tips on how you can help to clean up our air, and let you know what we’re doing to lead the way.

What can you do?

There are lots of small changes (and some bigger ones) that we can take to help clean up our air. These include:

How we’re leading the way on clean air

Of course, it’s not just down to the borough’s residents and visitors to tackle air pollution, we have our part to play as well. In recent years we have embarked on several projects aimed at improving air quality and the health of our residents.

  • Together with our Regulatory Services Partnership, we are delivering the world’s first Low Emission Construction Zone for the whole of London, aimed at cleaner site equipment and sponsored by the Mayor of London and London boroughs.
  • We are currently consulting on a comprehensive emission based charging scheme that seeks to tackle air quality, climate change and health
  • We’re monitoring air quality at our schools
  • Our Schools Streets programme has been rolled out across the borough, preventing cars from driving around schools at drop-off and pick-up times
  • We’re supporting the Clean Air Village Project in Wimbledon, aimed at helping business and reducing pollution
Get involved

Clean air day is a great chance to reflect on how you can help to clean up our air for the benefit of all residents, especially the young and those with respiratory conditions. If you want further tips on how you can take action, visit our Clean Air Challenge webpage.

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Independent panel to examine whether proposal to downgrade St Helier Hospital should be called in

1 October, 2020 - 08:35

An independent panel is assessing whether a decision to downgrade St Helier Hospital, by closing its accident and emergency department and consultant-led maternity services, should be fully reviewed.

In July, Merton the council wrote to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, asking him to call in the proposed decision to downgrade St Helier Hospital for an independent review. This followed the approval of the decision making business case by the NHS Committees in Common of the South West London and Surrey Heartlands Clinical Commissioning Groups.

The decision-making business case, which sets out plans to spend £500million of government funding on improving health services at St Helier, Epsom and Sutton hospitals,  advocates Belmont in the south of Sutton as the preferred location for a specialist emergency care hospital, which means that St Helier Hospital would be downgraded.

The Secretary of State has asked the Independent Reconfiguration Panel to do an initial assessment of the case. If the panel decides to carry out a full review, Merton Council will be able to present its case to the panel.

The council is challenging the CCGs on the grounds that locating the specialist emergency care hospital in Belmont would mean moving vital health services away from deprived areas and into a more affluent place. The council also argues that the impact of COVID-19 has not properly been taken into account and it is still too early to ascertain what effect the pandemic will have on planning future health services for the area. A public consultation, run earlier this year, by the former NHS Merton, Sutton and Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Groups, branding themselves as Improving Healthcare Together, concluded as lockdown began.

The Leader of Merton Council, Councillor Stephen Alambritis, said: “We have received an encouraging response from the health secretary to our call for the proposed downgrade of St Helier Hospital to be independently reviewed. The Independent Reconfiguration Panel is carrying out an initial assessment of the case and we hope they will agree with us that a full review must be done before the final decision is made by the clinical commissioning groups on the location of the specialist emergency care hospital.

“While we welcome the proposed investment, we want to ensure it is targeted at residents who need it most, which would most effectively be achieved by improving St Helier Hospital on its current site.

“Moving acute services, including the accident and emergency department and consultant-led maternity care, out of St Helier Hospital is a terrible decision, which would disadvantage residents in the most deprived areas of Merton. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a massive impact on critical health services and this must be fully taken into account by the clinical commissioning groups.”

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COVID-19: What restrictions have changed

24 September, 2020 - 12:34

The Prime Minister made a statement this week (22 September) addressing the rising cases of coronavirus in England by setting out new restrictions. 

We’re waiting for the full guidance to be published by the government and will share more details, in our COVID-19 e-newsletter and on our social media channels, as soon as possible. 

Keep Merton Safe:  
Coronavirus cases are also steadily rising in Merton and London. We must all continue to pull together, to do our bit to protect our loved ones.

Please remember to: STAY ALERT, CONTROL THE VIRUS, SAVE LIVES. 

The new national restrictions include: 

  • Changing guidance to ask people to work from home where they can.  
  • Placing new restrictions on operating hours for hospitality, leisure, entertainment and tourism businesses.  
  • Putting more COVID-19 secure guidance for businesses into law.  
  • Expanding the range of settings where these legal obligations regarding specific COVID-19 secure guidelines will apply.  
  • Higher fines of up to £10,000 for businesses who break Covid-19 rules and the penalty for failing to wear a mask or breaking the rule of six will double to £200 for a first offence.  
  • Reducing the list of exemptions to the ‘rule of six’.  
  • Pausing the planned 1 October changes for a return of business events and socially distanced crowds at sporting events.  
  •  Expanding the settings in which face coverings are required. 

Visit the government website for a full list of restrictions.  

Categories: News from elsewhere

Merton COVID-19 Community Champions

21 September, 2020 - 15:45

You and your organisation can now help us control the spread of COVID-19 by registering to become a Community Champion.

As a COVID-19 Community Champion, you can help to stop the spread of COVID-19 within your workplace by sharing clear and consistent messages from the NHS and Public Health.

We will provide Champions with the latest campaign materials on COVID-19 via email and text message, and at weekly virtual drop-in meetings. They will then share this information with their colleagues, family, friends, and communities.

The drop-in meetings, which will also give Champions a chance to feedback what is and isn’t working and their ideas for future engagement, will take place every Wednesday, starting from 23 September at 12 noon, 1pm, 7pm and 8pm.

Anyone who lives or works in Merton can become a COVID-19 Community Champion. To register, fill out our online form. For more information on the Community Champion programme, email Public.Health@merton.gov.uk.

Categories: News from elsewhere

Businesses and venues across Merton must display NHS Test and Trace posters

21 September, 2020 - 15:30

The NHS is set to launch their Test and Trace app this week, allowing users to easily log visits to local establishments and be alerted if they have come into contact with others who have tested positive for the virus.

The app is reliant on users being able to track their movements using QR codes. When someone enters a venue and scans an official NHS QR code poster, the venue information will be logged on the user’s phone. The device will check if users have been at that location at the relevant time and if the app finds a match, users will get an alert anonymously with advice on what to do based on the level of risk.

Because of this, certain businesses will be legally requiredto display NHS QR posters in their premises from Thursday 24 September. This includes all venues from the following sectors:

  • hospitality
  • leisure and tourism
  • close contact services
  • places of worship

Further details on the launch of the app can be found on the GOV.uk website.

Get support with displaying the QR codes

Each venue will need to create their own unique QR code poster. You can create yours on the NHS website.

If you don’t have access to a printer, you can print your posters out at one of our local libraries. To do this, book a session on one of our library computers.

The NHS has produced further guidance on how the app works and tips on displaying your posters.

Categories: News from elsewhere

Councillor Sally Kenny elected as new Mayor of Merton

17 September, 2020 - 14:20
The Mayor of Merton for 2020/21, Councillor Sally Kenny

Lower Morden Councillor Sally Kenny has been elected unanimously to serve as the Mayor of Merton for the year 2020/21 at a special meeting of full council on Wednesday 16 September.

The new Mayor took over the role from Wimbledon Park councillor, Janice Howard, who served as Mayor of Merton for the past year.

Cllr Kenny, who was elected to Merton Council in 2014, has lived in the borough for most of her life. She is currently working with the Initial Teacher Training Programme at Roehampton, and she was previously a school teacher, spending much of her career in several Merton schools.

Having spent a career in education, and as mum-of-two who chaired on the council’s Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Panel, she is a strong advocate for the borough’s youth. This passion led her to select Morden Little League as one of her two Mayor’s charities.

Cllr Kenny said: “I first saw the wonderful work of the Morden Little League whilst walking my Miniature Schnauzer, Archie, through one of our local parks. Children are dear to my heart, and the Little League brings many of our local young people from a wide variety of backgrounds together in the community spirit of sport.”

The new mayor’s second charity will be the Merton and Morden Guild of Social Service, a local charity who support carers in the borough.

Speaking about why she chose the Guild, Cllr Kenny said “When I take Archie for his walks I meet a lot of my neighbours, and so many of them have become carers for their spouses or other family members at some stage in their lives. Caring for a family member can be incredibly challenging, often you will be the sole carer and have to devote all of your time to meeting the needs of your loved one and keeping them safe. That’s why the respite care offered by Merton and Morden Guild is so vital, it allows carers to have time to themselves to get the little things done that suddenly become so much harder and mean so much more, like going for a haircut or going shopping.”

Looking ahead to her year as Mayor, Cllr Kenny said “With the ongoing pandemic, it’s going to be a very challenging year indeed. I’m looking forward to the challenge of being more of a ‘virtual’ mayor than we have seen in previous years. It’s going to be very different, but we’ll be thinking outside of the box when it comes to this year’s events. One priority for me is to recognise all those people in the borough who have shown real selflessness and community spirit over these last few testing months. I’m very excited to say that we’ll be announcing the details of a project that will do this in the coming days.” The new Mayor will be supported in the forthcoming year by her Deputy Mayor, Councillor John Dehaney and her consort will be her daughter, Amanda Woodman.

Categories: News from elsewhere

Longest-serving Council Leader to step down after a decade

16 September, 2020 - 21:50

Stephen Alambritis has announced he will step down as Leader of the London Borough of Merton in November, ten years after he first won election to the role.

The council’s longest-serving leader, Cllr Alambritis will formally leave his post at the next meeting of the Council on November 18, when a new Leader will also be proposed for election.

First elected to the council as Ravensbury ward councillor in in 2003, Cllr Alambritis became Labour Leader in the 2007/8 municipal year, and took the council’s most senior role in 2010 following the first of three successive election victories.

With over a decade of service, he has led the authority for longer than any previous Leader since the council was formed in 1965.

In 2013, Merton Council was named Best Achieving Council at the prestigious MJ Achievement Awards.

Under Cllr Alambritis’s leadership, a wide range of improvements have been delivered for the borough:

Supporting the most vulnerable

  • Establishing and maintaining 100% council tax support to those on low  incomes in the borough.
  • Ensuring those leaving care don’t pay council tax until they are aged 25 to help them get started.
  • Development of the new learning disability centre at Leyton Road.
  • The fight continues against  proposals to downgrade St Helier Hospital.

Improving services for families

  • The development of a brand new leisure centre at Morden, and new library at Collier’s Wood. The borough’s seven award–winning libraries have all been kept open, as other local authorities close libraries.
  • Significant improvement in school exam results, with all secondary schools now rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted.
  • Expansion to more than 20 schools to create 4,500 new school places.
  • A brand new secondary school building, nearing completion in South Wimbledon.

Being more business-like in how the council operates

Cllr Alambritis used his background in business – before leading the council, he had a successful career at the Federation of Small Businesses – to run the council in a more business-like way.

  • Managing local spending and maintaining a 0% tax increase for six years out of ten.
  • Delivering best-in-London performance in supporting local businesses with grants during the pandemic.
  • Improving resident satisfaction with the way the council is run.
  • A football fanatic (and season ticket holder at Fulham FC), he led the council’s support for local club AFC Wimbledon to achieve their goal of returning home to Plough Lane in a brand new stadium, which is part of a development of 800 much-needed homes.

Most recently, Cllr Alambritis has chaired the council’s COVID-19 task group, leading the council’s response to the pandemic, during which time more than 8,000 vulnerable people were directly supported by the council.

In addition to his role as Council Leader, Cllr Alambritis has been a member of the Better Regulation Task Force at the Cabinet Office, and a Commissioner at both the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) and at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Cllr Alambritis is also a trustee on the board of London Sport and a member of the Leaders’ Committee at London Councils.

He will remain as a backbench councillor, representing the Ravensbury ward, which he has served since 2003.

Cllr Alambritis said: “It has been an incredible privilege to serve the borough I love for so long. There have been great times, and of course some difficult ones, but it has been an honour because Merton is my home, and my family’s home.

“I said back when I started as Leader that I wanted to improve services for families, support the most vulnerable in the borough, and get a more business-like focus at the council. I really believe we’ve done that.

“We’ve improved and expanded schools – with better exam results and more capacity, as well as the new school in Wimbledon – built the new leisure centre in Morden and opened a new library in  Colliers Wood, and delivered six tax freezes in ten years despite funding cuts. We’ve maintained 100% tax support for those in need, and delivered the new learning disability centre at Leyton Road.

“Together, we’ve built one of the best partnership environments in London. Our public services, health and voluntary sectors work hand-in-hand, and that’s never been more evident than during the current pandemic.”

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