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COVID-19: Health advice

19 March, 2020 - 21:03
Health advice

Latest official Government updates on Twitter

The Department of Health and Social Care updates it’s twitter feed at 2pm each day.

 Official NHS advice

The latest information from the NHS and Public Health about containing the spread, and what to do if you feel unwell

UK Government coronavirus advice

The latest on the national; picture, and signposting advice to NHS services

Further information on specific issues

Public health FAQs

A list of frequently asked questions and answers

Contact tracing

Details on how contact tracing works


What you need to know about self-isolation and what it involves

Travel advice

Guidance and advice for those travelling and living overseas

Categories: News from elsewhere

COVID-19: Business support

19 March, 2020 - 21:02

Central government: The Chancellor has set out a package measures to support businesses through the outbreak of COVID-19. Full details can be found on the website.

Your business rates bill: If you have received your business rates bill for 2020/21, but are a retail, hospitality or leisure business entitled to 100% Retail Relief following the government announcement on 17 March, please do not pay the April installment. There is no need to contact the council, we will automatically reduce the amount of business rates you have been asked to pay. We are currently waiting for further guidance from the Government on this scheme and will send you an amended bill once this has been received.

Help with paying your business rates: If you are not a retail, hospitality or leisure business and you are having trouble paying your business rates bill due to the impact of COVID-19, the council’s business rates team may be able to help you. Please call 020 8545 3919 or email at

Support for small businesses: Central government announced on 11 March and updated on 17 March that they will provide additional funding for us to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBBR) and to some retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000. The Government is due to provide us with guidance on how this scheme will work in the coming days and we will provide an update as soon as this is received.

Categories: News from elsewhere

COVID-19: Information for residents

19 March, 2020 - 21:02

Update: Thursday 19 March 2020

Latest service information:


  • Following the announcement from The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Education on Wednesday 18 March, the council is working with Merton schools to understand the implications of the announcement and make arrangements for week commencing Monday 23 March. We will update this webpage as soon as the detailed arrangements for children of key workers and vulnerable children are clear.

School allocations:

  • Allocations for places in our Reception classes will still be going ahead as planned. If you have applied, please watch out for an update soon.

Adult Learning:

  • In line with the announcement from The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Education on Wednesday 18 March, all adult learning courses will stop on Friday 20 March until further notice.

The Off the Record counselling service for young people:

  • Face to face counselling services have stopped and buildings have been closed.
  • Online support is still available, visit the Off the Record website.

Council meetings:

All council meetings cancelled with immediate effect until the end of April. The only exceptions will be:

  • Planning Applications Committee will take place on 19 March. Future dates to be reviewed.
  • Licensing sub committees will take place as and when required.
  • Cabinet will take place on 23 March. Future dates to be reviewed

Adult Social Care:

  • All our care services are currently running as normal.
  • Day centres at Leyton Road and JMC remain open, but visitors are discouraged. All Saints Day Centre in South Wimbledon and Eastway Day Centre in Morden will both be closed from Monday 23 March.
  • Home-based care is still being provided as normal – care staff will continue to adopt the necessary hygiene and safety measures, including hand washing.
  • We are working to plan for staff shortages as the virus spreads.


  • All libraries will close from 7pm on Friday 20 March.
  • The Home Visits Library Service will continue to run, subject to volunteers availability, to help support our vulnerable residents.
  • The library service has enhanced its online services, making it even easier for residents to use the free resources. Visit Merton Libraries website for the latest information.

One Stop Shop – Domestic Abuse service:

The One Stop Shop is currently suspended. Please be assured that you can still access our services using the following details or visit

  • Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA): 020 7801 1777
  • Victim Support: 0808 168 9111
  • Legal advice relating to domestic abuse: 020 8543 3302
  • Refuge: 020 8943 8188
  • RASASC (if you have experienced any kind of sexual violence): 07437 330 784 by text or Whatsapp.

Registration services:

  • We have closed Morden Park House for viewings, document collections and in-person certificate orders. All documents will be posted at our expense. You will be able to order certificates online from Monday.
  • Anyone who has a wedding booked with us can now suspend their booking to be rebooked at a later date free of charge. Alternatively you can cancel for a full refund.
  • For any weddings that go ahead, we are reducing the numbers allowed to attend weddings to the couple, the two witnesses and two guests with effect from Monday 23 March 2020. It is suggested that the two guests can live stream the ceremony for any others unable to attend. All guests with bookings have or will be contacted by the Registry Office over the next few days.
  • We have suspended all citizenship ceremonies. These will be reinstated at a smaller scale when possible.
How you can help your community

As the numbers of COVID-19 cases increase, it’s important that we look out for the most vulnerable residents in the borough. Some of those who are most at risk will require some practical assistance so, if you are willing and able to help, here are some steps you can take to support those in need.

  1. Connect and reach out to your neighbours – As self-isolation increases we will need to find new ways to stay in touch with neighbours to check on their physical and mental health. Share contact details and stay in touch.
  2. Make the most of local online groups – Keep up to date, share information and be a positive part of your local community conversations.
  3. Support vulnerable or isolated people – different groups in our communities are at increased risk and social isolation and loneliness are key concerns for all ages. There are things you can do like volunteering for local support services or donating to food banks to help.
  4. Share accurate information and advice – Support anyone who may be anxious about Covid-19. Sign post them to the correct advice from Public Health England and encourage people to follow the correct hygiene practices.
Categories: News from elsewhere

Message from the Leader of the Council on Coronavirus

19 March, 2020 - 12:44

Merton is an amazing place and I’m so proud to live in this community. In the coming weeks and months, we will face the toughest test in most people’s memory. I am calling on everybody to play their part in protecting our residents from the spread of coronavirus.

We are already seeing unprecedented efforts, and I wanted to take an opportunity to say thank you.

I am seeing incredible work – the council is at the heart of delivering help to vulnerable people in the borough, advising schools and providing many of the day to day services that will help us through the virus.

So I’d like to pay tribute to council staff – who rarely get the credit they deserve, but have been working tirelessly around the clock to ensure we have detailed plans in place to manage the situation, keep our residents as safe as possible, and ensure the local economy is in a position to grow again once this is all over.

This is a critical moment for our local public services, and I wanted to take this opportunity to reassure you of the work that we are doing and to let you know how you can help our community.

Supporting Public Health

The council’s top priority is to support the NHS and local Public Health teams. We are committed to ensuring that residents get advice that is in line with Public Health England’s guidance. Whether it’s advising local groups about the viability of a local event, giving advice to our schools and care home teams, or signposting information for concerned residents – we will act in conjunction with Public Health England at every turn. Visit the NHS website for their latest information.

Helping those most at risk

The council has always looked after our community’s most vulnerable people. Please be reassured that, despite the additional pressures, we are working hard to support services for these vulnerable people, such as day centres, residential homes and home visit/home care. We are also putting in place contingency plans for continuing to run the service if the virus causes staff absences.

Backing businesses

Our business community is the lifeblood of Merton and it is vital that local businesses, particularly smaller businesses that are especially vulnerable, are given the help they need to survive the coming downturn. So we’ve already issued advice for businesses on our website. A 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England has been announced, and we will be updating businesses about this in coming days and weeks as our package of support expands.

Co-ordinating our community and voluntary sector response

We are already seeing incredible support from communities and voluntary groups – offering localised, personal support to those in need, especially to those who have been advised to stay at home. Merton Voluntary Service Council (MVSC) will be coordinating the effort for volunteers in the borough, once their helpline is up and running we will share this information on the council’s social media channels. The number of Merton residents who have already got in touch to volunteer their help has made me very proud.

Helping our staff to keep working

We are doing all we can to ensure council services continue as best they can, particularly services for those who need us more than ever. Our council staff are incredible and we need to keep them safe and healthy if they are to continue to provide priority services to those who need it most at this time. We are enabling those who can work from home to do so – although for many roles it is essential to be on site.

Some services will be affected by our need to protect everyone, so please do bear with us. In particular, please follow social distancing advice. Merton Council’s website offers a wide range of services online, do check this before calling us, as it is vital we keep the phone lines free for the people who need us the most. Only visit the civic centre if it is absolutely necessary, but stay away if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 or are self-isolating.

We are not yet at the peak of the outbreak, and we do not know how long it will last.

But I did want to write to residents to say thank you for your efforts and for your patience – and to make our message absolutely clear:

We are doing everything we can to support our amazing community and to ensure our vulnerable residents are getting help that they need.

For the latest council service updates visit our COVID-19 information webpage.

Councillor Stephen Alambritis, Leader of Merton Council


Categories: News from elsewhere

Council budget for 2020/21 maintains services for families and bridges the social gap

4 March, 2020 - 22:06

Sound financial management during the period of Government austerity has resulted in money being available to invest into services for families across Merton, after the council agreed its annual budget.

 The council’s business-like approach to long-term financial management has already seen it protect many services in recent years – such as libraries, where councils across the country have closed them down.

The council was recently praised by the national Local Government Association, which attributed good financial management as the reason the council is in the rare position of being able to invest in services despite annual funding reductions which have taken around 60% of its budget away.

Agreeing the council’s budget for next year, councillors signed off on: 

  • Nearly £4m a year extra for children’s services, helping protect and care for vulnerable children;
  • Almost £1m extra a year for the borough’s refuse service, including more to tackle growing scourge of fly-tipping;
  • £150k a year more for emergency planning, ahead of Grenfell Tower recommendations which will impact councils this year;
  • Disciplined financing includes £2.4m a year being saved on the cost of council pensions;

However, the effect of austerity and funding cuts is still a constant issue, meaning a balance has had to be found: 

  • A 1.99% council tax increase is still needed, plus 2% for the government’s “adult social care precept” in line with Government expectations.
  • £16m a year savings will be implemented by 2023, and a further gap of £9m a year still needs to be filled after that;
  • There is a huge shortfall in government funding for children with special needs – council has set aside a further £37m, but the cost could rise to £65m;

Overall, the budget is focused on making Merton a great place for families – with investment into family-orientated services during a year in which its new secondary school building will open, not long after the opening of a new leisure centre last year and a new library before that.

Council tax will rise in line with almost all other councils, with Merton’s element increasing by 1.99% from 1 April 2020, which is below increase in the cost of living (RPI inflation rate in January was 2.7%).

Merton will also collect an additional 2% for the government’s adult social care precept, which will be spent on services for older people or those with disabilities.

There have been complaints, however, about the level of financial uncertainty facing the council as a result of government decisions. Funding from the government has only been secured for one year, and no decision has been made on how much of the government’s income from Business Rates will be given back to the council from 2021 onwards.

The council still does not know if it will be reimbursed by the government for the full cost of providing education to children with special needs, and has set aside a further £37m in case it is not paid, although the full cost could be more than £65m.

Supporting the budget, the Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance, Cllr Mark Allison said: “Since 2010, our aim has been to make Merton a great place for families, but thanks to austerity and cuts to the grants we receive it hasn’t been easy.’’

“That’s why we have sought to run Merton’s finances in a disciplined and business like way. Nowadays we budget for the medium-term over four years rather than just one, and that has helped us to plan ahead.  As a result, we’re able to deliver better services.

“We’ve already opened a new leisure centre, and our new school’s buildings will be open in September. Now we’re able to provide an extra £5 million for children’s services over the medium term financial strategy, at a time when, thanks to our decisions, Merton’s state schools are achieving their best ever results – in the top three in the country. And that’s on top of keeping all our libraries running, and even opening a new one in Colliers Wood.

“We’re not out of the woods yet though, and there is even more uncertainty than usual. We’re having to set aside an additional £37 million to educate children with disabilities and special needs, something it’s actually government’s responsibility to pay for. If they did the decent thing we could do so much more.’’

“We’ve budgeted nearly an extra million pounds for the street cleaning and refuse service, including more to tackle the growing scourge of fly-tipping. But if the government treated us right, we would be able to do so much more to help us ensure our community remains a great place.”

Categories: News from elsewhere

Coronavirus – information for residents and businesses

3 March, 2020 - 17:00

Following the confirmation of a case of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in the borough this week at Wimbledon College, we will be using this page to provide links, signposting and information for residents who may be concerned.

It is important that we keep the outbreak in perspective – the largest risk is to older people, and those with existing medical conditions affecting their immune system need to take more precautions.

The council is closely following Public Health England guidance to ensure we provide consistent advice and signposting. You may find the links below helpful.

We will update this page with any latest news, so please check back here for information about schools and council services.



 Merton Council statement

Our statement on the confirmed case of COVID-19 among a member of teaching staff at Wimbledon College.

 Wimbledon College Twitter feed

Parents of pupils at the college can follow the latest updates here.



 Latest official Government updates on Twitter

The Department of Health and Social Care updates it’s twitter feed at 2pm each day.

 Official NHS advice

The latest information from the NHS and Public Health about containing the spread, and what to do if you feel unwell

UK Government coronavirus advice

The latest on the national; picture, and signposting advice to NHS services



Public health FAQs

A list of frequently asked questions and answers

Contact tracing

Details on how contact tracing works


What you need to know about self-isolation and what it involves

Travel advice

Guidance and advice for those travelling and living overseas

Categories: News from elsewhere

Secondary school place for every Merton family who applied this year.

2 March, 2020 - 17:14

Merton Council has been able to offer nearly 90 per cent of schoolchildren a place at one of their top three secondary school choices, and 94 per cent have been offered a place at one of their preferred schools.

Every Merton family who applied for a secondary place, starting this September, has been offered a place. The majority of applicants are set to join one of the borough’s secondary schools which are all rated ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Good’ by Ofsted.

Figures revealed today show that 88 per cent of Merton children have been offered a place in one of their top three preferred secondary schools, which is an increase compared to last year.   Two-thirds of Merton children were offered a place at their first-choice secondary school and 94 per cent a place at one of their six preferences.

After the unprecedented increase in applications for secondary school places for September 2019, demand for places remains just as high this year for the borough’s schools. Across London there was a 2 per cent decrease in the number of applications made for secondary school places compared to last year.

Merton was recently confirmed to be in the top three in the country for the progress pupils make between the ages of 11-16 in the Government’s Progress 8 scores based on schools’ GCSE results.

The council has been able to deliver sufficient places in this period of extra demand due to the opening of the new Harris Academy Wimbledon, which is scheduled to move to its new permanent site in South Wimbledon in September.

Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Schools and Adult Education, Councillor Eleanor Stringer said: “We are delighted to be able to offer all Merton children a school place on offer day, and places for so many children at their preferred secondary schools, despite increased demand for school places over the past few years.

“Merton is a great place for families and a key reason for this is the first-class learning opportunities we have in the borough.  We are hugely proud of the dedicated work at our secondary schools to ensure all pupils achieve their potential and are set up for great futures.

“Merton secondary schools are already in the top three in the whole country for the progress teenagers make, and we are committed to continue our work to further enhance the education offered for every Merton child.”

The council is reminding families that they do need to respond to secondary school offers of places by Monday 16 March and to visit its website School Admissions pages if they require further guidance on securing school places.


Categories: News from elsewhere

Joint statement with Public Health England following confirmed case of coronavirus at Wimbledon College

2 March, 2020 - 10:04

Joint statement from Public Health England and Merton Council on confirmed COVID-19 case at Wimbledon College, Merton

Dr Yvonne Young, consultant in communicable disease control, PHE London, said: “Public Health England is contacting people who had close contact with one of the latest confirmed cases of COVID-19. The case is a member of staff at Wimbledon College, and became infected whilst in Italy. Close contacts will be given health advice about symptoms and emergency contact details to use if they become unwell in the 14 days after contact with the confirmed case. This tried and tested method will ensure we are able to minimise any risk to them and the wider public.

“We have been in discussion with Wimbledon College which has taken the decision to close as a number of staff are self-isolating due to being close contacts of this confirmed case. My team have assessed the risk and confirmed that there is currently no information to suggest that there is an increased health risk to any pupils or their families at the college and no recommendation for them to self-isolate. We will update the college and parents if the situation changes in any way.”

Director of Public Health for Merton Council, Dagmar Zeuner, said: “I’d like to reassure people that the risk to the general public remains low and Merton Council is working with health colleagues to do everything we can to stop the virus spreading and ensure the people of Merton are protected.

“If you have not been contacted by Public Health England as a close contact of the confirmed case you do not need to take any action at this time.

“Good hygiene is the best prevention and there are some simple steps you can take to protect you and your family by washing your hands regularly and thoroughly and if you cough, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue.

“If you have recently been to one of the affected areas and are feeling unwell, you should phone the NHS 111 helpline for further advice straight away – please don’t go to your doctor or a hospital. There’s lots of advice on how people can protect themselves online at

Notes to Editors

  • Merton Council, PHE and the NHS are well prepared to deal with coronavirus. Our priority is to safeguard local communities which sometimes involves taking preventative measures to help reduce the risk of further cases.
  • To date more than 11,750 people have been tested with 35 positive cases. We advise people to follow the advice being issued by PHE, NHS and local authorities.
  • We cannot comment further on individual cases due to patient confidentiality.
  • Details on testing are published daily at 2pm and includes a breakdown of negative and positive tests
  • For more information and advice on coronavirus (COVID-19)




Categories: News from elsewhere

Council gives the green light to re-build Bishopsford Bridge

25 February, 2020 - 16:14

Merton Council’s Cabinet last night gave the go-ahead to demolish and re-build Bishopsford Bridge following its partial collapse into the River Wandle following heavy rainfall last June.

Work is now set to start within weeks with the aim of re-opening it to traffic as quickly and safely as possible with demolition is due to start in March – April with work starting in the summer  to build the new bridge with completion set for the spring of 2021.

Prior to rebuilding, a consultation on the design of the new bridge will be held with local residents and businesses as a new bridge requires planning permission along with ecological surveys as it is located in a conservation area.

The replacement of the bridge has been a complex process due to the fact it contributes to river flow and has a range of utilities running through the structure – including gas pipes and broadband cabling. We also require permission from the Environment Agency for undertaking work on the bridge

Even removing the damaged parts of the structure will need to be partly done by hand, to avoid further safety risks and to ensure the remaining utilities are not damaged.

Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Housing and Transport, Councillor Martin Whelton, said: “I completely understand the considerable frustration of residents and businesses in the area over the length of closure and we are doing everything possible to speed up the process of re-opening it.

“As a council we have had to assess the structural damage caused by the collapse and the potential engineering solutions to get it re-opened again which has taken longer than hoped.

“We are determined to get it open as soon as possible which is why we are committed to a  £2.7 million investment in the local infrastructure which involves re-building the bridge rather than opting for a quick-fix solution which may have meant further work having to be carried out in a few years’ time causing further disruption.

“Any work of this nature is very complex due to utilities running through the bridge, along with the fact that the Environment Agency also needs to agree any proposals due to flooding risk.

“As a council we are also committed to working with residents and businesses during the rebuilding and will be publishing regular newsletter updates on progress along with consulting local residents about the design of the new bridge.”

Categories: News from elsewhere

600 business set to get tax relief to support local economy

25 February, 2020 - 12:07

Around 600 businesses across Mitcham, Morden, Colliers Wood and Wimbledon are poised to benefit from having their business rates cut in half as part of the Council’s scheme to support the local economy and retail businesses.

The money-saving Business Rate Relief Discount, which the council can award to reduce the financial burden on businesses with a lower rateable value, will see retailers, music venues and cinemas all get a 50% discount on their business rates in 2020. The Council’s decision-making Cabinet agreed proposals for the scheme to benefit businesses on Monday evening.

In a further move to delight landlords, around 30 pubs in the area also stand to have £1,000 taken off their business rate bills, after the re-introduction of the Government’s Pub Relief scheme. To qualify for the Pub Relief the rateable value of the premises has to be up to £100,000.

Merton Council Leader, Councillor Stephen Alambritis said: “Even on their own, both these schemes offer practical savings to the small businesses that we want to thrive in the borough.

“Taken together, they show that establishing and running a business here is good financial sense – with support guaranteed from the local council to reduce the burden to smaller firms and retailers, which need our support. We’re very keen to push this decision through as quickly as possible so we can get on with applying the discounts.”

To qualify for the Council’s rate relief scheme, the ratepayer must be in occupation of a property with a rateable value under £51,000. The discount is available to a host of business types, from shops and kiosks to garden centres, dry cleaners, hair salons and restaurants.

You can find out more about the scheme here:



Categories: News from elsewhere

Merton residents invited to hold street parties for national VE Day celebrations

21 February, 2020 - 11:12

Merton Council is encouraging residents to apply to close their road for a street party on 8, 9 or 10 May in celebration of the 75th anniversary of VE Day. The anniversary of the end of World War Two in Europe after five years of carnage and destruction will be an opportunity to both celebrate peace as well as mourn all those that died in the war.

In May 1945, millions of people up and down the country took to the streets and pubs to celebrate peace, mourn their loved ones and to hope for the future, and it’s hoped that this spirit can be recreated at this year’s street parties.

Events to mark the anniversary are set to sweep the nation after the Government moved the early May bank holiday to Friday 8 May to honour the occasion. As well as the street parties, planned activities include traditional tunes played by pipers, a collective toast in pubs across the country, a coordinated ringing of church bells for peace and religious ceremonies of celebration and commemoration. A listing of events both locally and nationally can be found at

For more information on how to apply to close your road for a street party, visit The deadline for submitting an application is 24 April 2020.

Councillor Dennis Pearce, Merton Council’s Armed Forces Champion, said, “VE Day was one of the most momentous days of the 20th century, and it’s only right that we both celebrate the lasting peace that followed it as well as commemorate all those that gave their lives in the five years before.

“The 75th anniversary will provide our nation, and our friends around the world, with an opportunity to reflect on the enormous sacrifice, courage and determination of people from all walks of life, including the ancestors of many local families, who saw us through the dark and terrifying period that came before VE Day.

“We welcome the fact that the early May bank holiday has been moved to mark the anniversary and we’d encourage all residents to get involved with the weekend’s schedule of events. One of the best ways to get involved is to get together with your neighbours and organise a street party. After WW2 ended, celebrations like these erupted up and down the country, and it would be fantastic to capture that jubilance and sense of community 75 years later on the streets of our borough.”


Categories: News from elsewhere

Council to decide on best solution to reopen Bishopsford Road Bridge

17 February, 2020 - 16:30

Councillors will next week be asked to approve the demolition and rebuild of Bishopsford Road bridge, following the partial collapse during heavy rainfall and river flooding in June last year. 

A range of options to reopen the bridge are being put to the council’s decision-making Cabinet on Monday 24 February, with the recommendation to pull the structure down and build a completely new one in its place. 

If approved, work will begin on site in March to remove the broken parts of the bridge and pre-build work including ecological assessments will take place.  Main construction would then start by May and aim to be completed by Spring 2021.  

Subject to the Cabinet decision, the council will also be publishing a detailed timetable of works to keep residents informed, as well as posting regular updates on the council’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. 

Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Housing and Transport, Councillor Martin Whelton, said: “Reopening the bridge to all vehicles is a high priority for the council and it has been working hard, with its partners, to do this and mitigate the impact of its closure. 

“I completely understand the frustration of the past eight months while structural assessments have been carried out, but it has been important to undertake that work to ensure a safe repair or rebuild can take place.  

“Having done those assessments, we are determined to move forward as quickly as possible and get the bridge reopened.” 

The Cabinet will take the decision at its meeting on Monday February 24. 



 Read the full report here: 

 For updated information on Bishopford Bridge work, visit: 





Categories: News from elsewhere

Merton Council urges EU residents to apply to stay as latest settlement scheme figures are released

17 February, 2020 - 10:16

Merton Council is encouraging EU nationals to apply for Settled Status.

Many thousands of EU nationals based in Merton have applied to remain in the UK under the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS), but Merton Council reports that there are still many more who are yet to start the process.

Government figures show that as of 31 December 24,200 Merton residents had submitted an EUSS application and, of these, 21,660 have been concluded. However, after consulting local community groups, the council believes that there are still many people who are eligible for the EUSS who are yet to apply in particular vulnerable citizens such as older people and non-EEA nationals.

The council is urging all residents from EU countries and eligible non-EEA nationals who want to stay in the UK to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme as soon as possible. The government have said that all EU nationals must apply for Settled Status to keep their right to remain in the country and secure their rights to vote, get free medical care and welfare benefits.

EU nationals carry out many important jobs that benefit the borough’s economy and have close personal relationships with British citizens living in the borough. The council is therefore concerned about the impact on the local community if many of them do not receive full settled status.

In an effort to increase the number making successful applications, the council has commissioned specialist services to give residents free support and advice on the scheme. Residents can access free help to make EUSS applications from Citizens Advice Merton and Lambeth, South West London Law Centres or the Association for Polish Family.

The council is also appealing for local employers, the voluntary sector, schools and colleges to encourage any EU or eligible non-EEA nationals in their networks to apply. Whilst there are high profile campaigns both locally and nationally to raise awareness of the EUSS, many will only hear about it through word of mouth.

The deadline to apply is 30 June 2021, but the council is flagging up that this could be brought forward depending on the outcome of negotiations with the EU. If the UK does not strike a deal with EU before the end of the transition period the government have said that no new applications will be accepted after 31 December 2020.

Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Councillor Mark Allison, said: “Many of our friends and neighbours may have been born outside Merton, but they’ve put down roots and helped to make this a great place for families. We want them to continue to contribute, and as a business-like council we are doing all we can to encourage our residents and employees who are EU nationals to fill out the paperwork so that they can enjoy living here with their families.

“It’s fantastic news that so many of our European friends, neighbours and family members are choosing to stay in our community after Brexit, but we are gravely concerned that, unless more of them apply for the EUSS, our communities will be broken up.

“We don’t want our neighbours and loved ones to lose the right to remain here, their right to vote or their rights to free medical care and welfare benefits and are offering free specialist advice services to support those who need help with their application.

“They have helped make our borough a great place for everyone to live in, and it is only right that we are here to help them when they need it too.”


The figure of 24,200 applicants represents a 63% increase over a three month period from September–December 2019.

Categories: News from elsewhere

Merton backs voluntary sector with £10m of targeted funding

12 February, 2020 - 13:31

Almost 70 voluntary and community groups across the borough benefited  from £10m in funding this year, as Merton Council continued its commitment to bridging the gap between the best and worst off in the borough.

It is the second year running that the Council has increased funding to the local voluntary sector, with an extra £107,000 being awarded this year.

The money will ensure voluntary groups can continue providing vital services across Merton, ranging from holiday clubs for children with disabilities to care for vulnerable adults, mental health support services and financial support for local projects such as community theatres and the popular Deen City Farm.

In addition, the Council continued its commitment to supporting projects that bridge the socio-economic gap between the east and west of the borough, including the award of more than £130,000 to Commonside Community Development Trust to boost local skills and wellbeing for residents in the Pollard Hill area.

Other services funded by the council to bridge the gap include HIV advice sessions in barber shops in Mitcham, exercise classes at Age UK Merton’s base in Mitcham, and the charity’s befriending projects targeting BME groups.  The Council also awarded almost £300,000 to the Alzheimer Society to provide a Dementia Hub in the borough.

In total, 68 local community and voluntary groups will benefit from the Council, which has now allocated more than £60million to the voluntary sector in the past five years.

Cabinet Member for Voluntary Sector, Partnerships and Community Safety, Councillor Edith Macauley said: “The amazing work carried out by the voluntary organisations and volunteers across Merton is the lifeblood of our communities, and so it’s a real pleasure to be able to increase their funding again this year.

“The sector brings people together from all walks of life to enjoy community activities, and enhances the lives of all our residents from the very youngest to those in their more mature years – helping to make Merton a great place for families.

“It also provides vital services to help us bridge the gap between the east and west of the borough, and provide better life opportunities for everyone.”

The Voluntary Sector Funding Database for 2019/20 also shows more than £220,000 has been allocated to assist non-profit making organisations with discretionary rate relief on the properties they occupy.

These include a host of well-loved clubs and projects for children, sports facilities, community support groups and charities.

Notes for editors  

The Voluntary Sector Funding Database has been published annually since 2011 as part of the council’s commitment to transparency.

Link to website






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Merton Council to consult with businesses on budget and business plan

10 February, 2020 - 16:29

Merton Council wants to hear the valuable views of Merton’s businesses on the council’s budget and business plan proposals.

Councillor Stephen Alambritis, the Leader of Merton Council will be at Merton Civic Centre on Thursday, 20 February from 6pm to 7pm to answer any questions business owners may have about the proposals for 2020/21, and the business plan 2020-24. The Leader will be joined by cabinet members and council officers at the event.

The event is part of the council’s annual consultation with businesses on the financial decisions it makes to balance the budget, and plan for the coming four years. Details of the proposed business plan will be considered by the council’s cabinet on Monday 24 February, and the plan will be available on the council’s website before the meeting.

Merton Council, along with all the other London Boroughs and the Greater London Assembly (GLA), have agreed to continue to operate a Business Rates Pool based on the 67 per cent retention scheme for the coming financial year. This means the London boroughs will receive a 30 per cent share from the business rates collected across the capital, the GLA will get 37% and the Government will receive the balance of 33%.

The aim of the rates retention pool is to enable councils to keep a greater proportion of London’s business rates to provide additional resources for local services. Merton Council recognises the importance of a vibrant local economy to the borough, and the key role local businesses play in creating jobs and prosperity for residents.

The responses to the consultation will all be considered as part of the business plan which will be reported back to the Cabinet meeting on the 24th February and finalised at full council on Wednesday 4 March.

Leader of Merton Council Councillor Stephen Alambritis said: “I run a small business myself and I was spokesperson for the Federation of Small Businesses, so I understand how important flourishing local businesses are to the success of our borough.

“I really value discussing our financial plans with the business community, and hearing their thoughts on what we’re doing. This consultation is all part on our ongoing work to ensure that Merton continues to be a business-friendly borough, including the work we are doing on automatic billing for small business relief.

“As a council we are proud to have adopted a business-like approach to all our services and to the financial decisions we make.”


Notes for editors

The Government designated a pan-London business rates pool in 2018-19, which piloted 100% retention in that year, and this was revised to pilot 75% retention in 2019-20.

The Government confirmed in September 2019 its intention not to renew the London pilot in 2020-21, and for London to revert back to the pre-existing 2017-18 67% retention scheme (which was a partial pilot, reflecting the incremental impact of the rolling in of the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) Revenue Support Grant (RSG) and the Transport for London investment grant).

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Holocaust survivor to speak at Merton commemoration

17 January, 2020 - 16:00

Residents and members of the public are invited to attend Merton’s annual Holocaust Memorial event on Tuesday 21 January from 7pm to 9pm. This year’s theme is ‘Stand Together’

The event to be held in the Council Chamber marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp Aushwitz-Birkenau and the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Bosnia.

The evening’s programme includes contributions from a holocaust survivor, local politicians, community representatives, faith and belief leaders and the Wimbledon Synagogue choir.

Mayor of Merton, Councillor Janice Howard, who will be attending the event said: “Holocaust Memorial Day is an opportunity to remember those who were victims of terrible genocides in the Second World War and in more recent times. The civic event shows our commitment to continuously working to erase hatred, prejudice and discrimination in the borough.”

Cabinet Member for Women and Equalities, Councillor Laxmi Attawar said: “We must never forget those who suffered during the holocaust and other genocides. In Merton we are lucky to live in a borough rich in diversity, and this event will see all residents unite.”

The council also has an exhibition in the Civic Centre displaying information on the Holocaust and other genocides.

For further information on Holocaust memorial events visit 


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Raynes Park High School recognised for work with students with autism

13 January, 2020 - 12:11

The Access Centre at Raynes Park High School has been awarded Autism Accreditation by the National Autistic Society. Accredited status is awarded to educational organisations where staff have a good working knowledge of methods and approaches which produce positive outcomes for people with autism.

During their assessment, the Autism Accreditation Award Committee found that The Access Centre:

  • has largely effective and person centred support
  • received very positive feedback from autistic people and/or their families which spoke to the quality of practice
  • provides personalised educational and therapeutic support rooted in an understanding of the strengths and challenges of each student
  • provides a calm and safe space for students to work, relax and gain confidence
  • has an effective key worker system is in place
  • supports students in emotional self-regulation and in overcoming barriers to mainstream inclusion
  • are well prepared for transition between year groups and to and from other settings.

The committee also said that it was very clear that the Access Centre contributes significantly to the quality of life of students with autism both during their time at Raynes Park and as they progress into adulthood. Key to the success, according to the report, is a firm and clear commitment from the Head Teacher, Senior Leadership Team, Access Centre Manager and Staff Team to promote inclusion and ensure access to the whole curriculum and learning opportunities for autistic students.

Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Schools and Adult Education, Councillor Eleanor Stringer, said: “This accreditation is a testament to the hard work of the staff at Raynes Park, and I’m proud that they’ve been recognised for their dedication to improving education for students with an autistic spectrum condition. I am particularly proud of the finding that both students and parents at the school have a great deal of confidence in the work that the school does with their students”


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Council fights on to save vital services at St Helier Hospital

7 January, 2020 - 15:54

The Leader of Merton Council has vowed to continue to fight plans to downgrade St Helier Hospital every step of the way.

Councillor Stephen Alambritis made the pledge as NHS Merton, Sutton and Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Groups, which are branding themselves Improving Healthcare Together, begin a public consultation tomorrow (8 January) on their plans to spend £500million of Government funding on improving health services at St Helier, Epsom and Sutton Hospitals.

The consultation names Sutton as the preferred option of the three sites for a new specialist emergency care hospital, on a site next to the Royal Marsden Hospital, which provides cancer care. This means that St Helier Hospital would lose its accident and emergency department as well as other vital services including the consultant-led maternity unit.

Merton Council will formally respond to the public consultation and is urging as many residents as possible to have their say before the closing date on Wednesday 1 April.

Cllr Alambritis said: “The plans being put forward are terrible. A clear wish to downgrade St Helier hospital has been declared under cover of a ‘consultation exercise’. How can people in Merton have any faith in this at all? A vanity project, miles from those in greatest need, cannot be the answer to our health issues. The effect on Merton’s residents is just seen as irrelevant and the council will fight this every step of the way.

“It is critical that everyone who depends on St Helier Hospital has their say in its future by responding to this consultation.”

The public consultation will be available at from Wednesday 8 January until Wednesday 1 April.

To request a hard copy of the document, please email or call 020 3880 0271.

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Young Harry Potter enthusiast makes rare find on Wimbledon Library book shelves

3 January, 2020 - 16:24

A rare first-edition copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has been found on the shelves of Wimbledon Library. The book, which could potentially be of very high value, was discovered by Emily Saiban, 11.

Emily, who has read all the books and is a Gryffindor, learnt how to identify the tell-tale signs by watching a video on YouTube. She couldn’t believe her eyes when the book she had taken out ticked all the boxes:

  • The publisher was listed as Bloomsbury
  • The copyright was to ‘Joanne Rowling’ rather than ‘JK Rowling’, and it was dated 1997
  • The print line was ’10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1’
  • On page 53, in a list of school supplies that Harry receives from Hogwarts, ‘1 wand’ was accidentally printed twice
  • A younger Dumbledore appeared on the back cover

The book is in remarkably good condition considering it has spent 22 years in circulation. The lack of wear and tear has been helped by the fact that the copy had been part of the Schools Library Service and hadn’t been available on the open shelves until transferred to Wimbledon Library in February this year. Since the transfer, it has been borrowed three times.

The sought after copy has now been taken out of circulation and is being kept safe in the offices of Merton Council. However, locals will not be denied the chance to read the first in JK Rowling’s iconic series as there are plenty of copies available across all of Merton’s libraries.

Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Commerce, Leisure and Culture, Councillor Caroline Cooper-Marbiah, said: “I was spellbound when I first heard of this truly amazing find. Our thanks go to Emily who has shown us all that she has great detective skills and a passion for literature.

“Her story goes to show that you never know what you might find on our library shelves. Though there has been a worrying pattern of libraries closing across the country, Merton have bucked the trend. Not only have we kept all seven of our libraries opened, we’ve also upgraded all but one of them and extended their opening hours. Our excellent library services also includes the home visit library service – so if you cannot come to the library, we will bring the library to you! I’d encourage all our residents to make good use of these great resources.”


Notes to editor


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Head of libraries receives New Year Honour from the Queen

28 December, 2019 - 08:50

The head of Merton Council’s library service has been recognised by the Queen in the New Year Honours list.

Anthony Hopkins has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM), for services to libraries. This honour is for people who have given a hands-on service to the community that has made a significant difference.

Anthony’s dedication to Merton libraries goes back to his childhood. From early visits to Pollards Hill library as a toddler, Anthony went on to do work experience at Mitcham Library, which led to a job as a Saturday assistant. Two decades later, Anthony is still working for Merton Council, now as Head of Libraries, Heritage and Adult Education.

In his time working for the library service, Anthony has seen the transition from paper library cards and book stamps to self-service technology. Despite challenging financial times, Anthony has been instrumental in ensuring that all seven of the council’s award winning libraries have remained open. His hard-working staff are supported by a committed team of volunteers and library opening hours have been extended.

Anthony oversaw the planning and construction of a brand new building for Colliers Wood Library, which was officially opened last year. Anthony has expanded the reach of the libraries into the communities they serve, overseeing initiatives including two Arts Spaces, which stage cultural activities and performances in Wimbledon and Mitcham libraries, and Wimbletech, a hub for entrepreneurs in Wimbledon Library.

Anthony is dedicated to introducing as many people as possible to the libraries – increasing library membership through schemes for school children and organising pop up libraries to visit areas where there are low levels of library membership. Earlier this year, Anthony’s team successfully bid for £95k of Arts Council funding for themed sensory areas in each of the libraries for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

In addition to his work in Merton, Anthony is the past President of London Libraries, the association of London library heads of services, and has worked on a number of regional and national projects to improve libraries. He led a public library advocacy campaign and established the annual London Libraries Festival World of Possibilities.

Anthony said: “I am very surprised to have received this honour and want to thank all the wonderful people I have worked with during my career. I am proud to work for Merton Council and I am delighted with the way we have managed to develop our library services in challenging times. Whilst I am very grateful for the personal acknowledgement I would like to dedicate this honour to the staff and volunteers of the library service who continuously go the extra mile to provide excellent services.”

The Leader of Merton Council, Councillor Stephen Alambritis, said: “On behalf of everyone at the Council, I would like to congratulate Anthony on his New Year Honour from the Queen.

“This is a very well deserved honour, recognising the enormous contribution Anthony has made to library services in Merton and beyond.

“While other local authorities have been forced to close libraries in these tough financial times, Anthony’s hard work and innovation has helped to ensure that Merton has kept all of our award-winning libraries open and established them as thriving community hubs.”

Anthony is due to receive his honour at a presentation in the new year at Buckingham Palace.

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