NEW News from Merton Council
“We are all appalled at the images of George Floyd’s arrest, and many of us are still in shock by his tragic, brutal and unnecessary death.
“As you know, this tragedy has sparked mass protest across America to highlight the issue of police brutality against black Americans, and over the last few days Black Lives Matter protests have also been held here in London.
“Here in Merton, we have a diverse population coming from many different backgrounds and we continue to work in partnership with the police and other agencies to keep Merton residents safe.
“Our local police have built up a good working relationship with all communities in the borough and treat our residents with dignity and respect.
“We support the need to show solidarity and to continue the fight for equality and justice and would urge local residents who wish to show that black lives matter, and to continue to do so safely to honour George Floyd and the many others who have lost their lives in similar circumstances.
“To show that respect and support, we will be lighting the civic centre purple tonight, and I urge everyone in the borough to continue to safely support.
“Merton stands against all forms of hate and in these unprecedented times, where face to face advice is currently unavailable, we want to ensure our residents continue to have access to our Hate Crime Advice Surgeries. To run this service safely, we’ve launched our new telephone support service, which will temporarily replace our monthly drop-in surgeries.”
Cllr Stephen Alambritis, Leader of the Merton Labour Group
Cllr Nick McLean, Leader of the Merton Conservative Group
Cllr Anthony Fairclough, Leader of the Merton Liberal Democrat Group
Cllr Peter Southgate, Leader of the Merton Park Independent Residents Group
Find out how you can get support from us, visit our hate crime webpage.
We are working closely with schools and early years providers in the borough to support them in their individual preparations for opening more widely as soon as they are confident it is safe to do so.
Councillor Eleanor Stringer, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Education explains the situation. Click on the image below to watch the film:
Further guidance for parents and carers is available on the government website.
Whether or not schools and early years providers open more widely from 1 June onwards, they will continue to offer places for vulnerable children and those of key workers. Parents should contact their school or setting directly for information about their phased re-opening.
It is with enormous regret that we have taken the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Mitcham Carnival event at Three Kings Piece, Mitcham (Saturday 13 June 2020), due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Cabinet member for Leisure and Culture, Councillor Caroline Cooper-Marbiah said; “Mitcham Carnival has been a firm and popular fixture in our events calendar for many years and we are extremely disappointed to have to cancel this year’s show, but the health of the visiting public, stall holders and volunteers is our top priority. I would like to thank everyone associated with the event for their continued support, and we are looking forward to announcing our plans for 2021 in the future.”
To view photos and videos from previous year’s visit our Mitcham Carnival webpage.
Lockdown prompted Saskia Donnelly to become the 10,000th customer to subscribe to our garden waste collection service.
Saskia, who lives in Morden, said: “We knew that managing our garden waste might get a bit tricky during lockdown, so we signed up to the service. I was really impressed with the quick delivery of my garden waste bin, and I am very happy with the waste and recycling services in my area.”
To celebrate her becoming the 10,000th subscriber Saskia won a free annual subscription for the fortnightly collections of garden waste, including grass cuttings, weeds, hedge trimmings and leaves, which are made into soil improver.
Saskia said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to have won a free years’ garden waste subscription – it was such wonderful news.
“Lockdown has been a perfect time to get green fingers as we’ve had more time to spend in the garden. We’ve recently planted some lavender, which has attracted so much more wildlife – it’s made a real difference.”
The keen gardener and her eight-year-old son, Luke, have also been busy planting seeds and they hope to have a crop of courgettes, aubergines, herbs and tomatoes this summer.
Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Health and the Environment, Councillor Tobin Byers, said: “I’d like to welcome our 10,000th customer to the garden waste collection service and I hope Saskia and her family are able to harvest a bumper crop of vegetables and flowers this year.
“Merton is one of the capital’s greenest boroughs and residents are spending a lot of time in their gardens during lockdown, so our garden waste service has become even more important.
“I would like to thank our customers who have been helping our hard working collection crews to maintain a good service during lockdown by minimising their waste and only putting their bin out for collection when it is full.”
An annual subscription to the fortnightly garden waste collection service costs £77.50 – that is only £2.98 per collection. For more information and to sign up, visit: www.merton.gov.uk/gardenwaste
For all of us who live and work in the borough, it has been a massively challenging couple of months. And as the government moves out of strict national rules, with more local responsibility for keeping safe, we know there will be a need for clear information.
To help ensure we share consistent local public health information with as many residents as possible, we will be keeping you informed each week through our COVID-19 e-newsletter.
We will use it to explain public health advice for staying safe at our parks and getting around the borough, as well as the preparations taking place in our schools and early years settings ahead of any phased reopening.
The government has set an earliest possible return date of 1 June for children in an early years setting, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 and will announce on 28 May whether this can go ahead. However, we must be confident that this can be done in a safe way, because the health and safety of children and staff remains our first priority during this period.
Whether or not schools and early years providers open more widely from 1 June onwards, they will continue to offer places for vulnerable children and those of key workers.
To illustrate some of the changes that are taking place, last week we partially re-opened Garth Road recycling centre for essential use – with a new booking slot system and strict social distancing rules in place to keep everyone safe. If you visit the Garth Road recycling centre webpage you’ll be aware of what to expect, and how to stay safe when you arrive.
I also want to give you a longer-term view of how we will all have to adapt to the new normal, and some insight into what will need to happen in the borough over the coming weeks.
Our aim is to re-open services and businesses as quickly as possible, but without any compromise to peoples’ safety. That means it will take time, and we will all have to work together to adapt. As and when those decisions are made, we’ll add them to the newsletter.
The council has received hundreds of pages of guidance from the government and its medical experts on public spaces, returning to work, and managing infection control – all this needs to be worked through, with plans put in place.
And, as we start to think about planning for a new normal, things are going to be different – from getting around the borough to how we work and socialise. Some things you do might initially take longer to get done due to social distancing, others will remain almost the same but with new rules to ensure safety, but Merton is a great place and I know we can all adapt and be patient.
So please do keep in touch with us via the newsletter – if you haven’t already received the COVID-19 e-newsletter subscribe now – and I will keep you as informed as possible.
Thanks, and stay safe,
Councillor Stephen Alambritis,
Leader of Merton Council
Our Merton Together campaign recognises and highlights the efforts of Merton Heroes across the borough for protecting and supporting vulnerable residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Click the image below to meet our Merton Heroes.
We are raising awareness about the critical work being done by the council’s front line staff, who are out in the community providing essential services every day under difficult circumstances.
They have been joined by teams of colleagues who have been redeployed from their usual roles across the council to provide vital support for some of the most vulnerable people in the community. These include residents who have been unable to leave their homes during the lockdown because they are self-isolating or were advised by the NHS to shield because they are believed to be at greater risk of becoming critically ill if they catch the virus.
Our staff have been working closely in partnership with Merton Voluntary Service Council to set up the Merton COVID-19 Community Response Hub, which has been supported by a number of other organisations across Merton and an army of volunteers.
Merton Together showcases how our Merton Heroes are organising the delivery of essential supplies of food and medicine to residents’ doorsteps. We want to thank them all for their hard work, kindness and dedication to helping us to get through the pandemic together.
Do you know a Merton Hero? If so, tag us in on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and we will feature them in our social media Merton Together campaign.
We are delighted to welcome Aileen Buckton MBE as our new independent chair for Merton Adult Safeguarding Board.
Aileen Buckton arrives in Merton following a long and distinguished career at Lewisham council, where she won praise for putting her commitment to the local community at the heart of all the council’s work.
The former Executive Director of Community Services at Lewisham, was honoured by the Queen with an MBE at the beginning of this year for her services to adult social care.
During her tenure in Lewisham, Aileen was always committed to working across boundaries. Lewisham was one of the first boroughs to develop an integrated health and social care system, and was the first to receive government funding for combined leisure and health facilities. Her passion for developing strong partnerships has remained at the forefront of all her work.
In addition Aileen has played an active role in recent years in London wide work, and was Chair of the London Association of Directors of Social Services for two years before retiring.
Aileen who has extensive experience in safeguarding to bring to her role in Merton, is also the current independent chair for adult safeguarding for Kensington and Chelsea as well as Westminster councils
The Independent Chair of Merton Adult Safeguarding Board, Aileen Buckton MBE, said: “I am delighted to have been offered this post and I very much look forward to working with all partners in Merton to build on the excellent adult safeguarding work that has already been established across the borough.”
Merton’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Health and the Environment, Councillor Tobin Byers, said: “I am delighted to welcome Aileen Buckton as The Independent Chair for Merton’s Adult Safeguarding Board, as this is a key role for the council.
“The independent chair’s function is to ensure that all vulnerable adults are protected in the borough, and to seek assurance that agencies are working together effectively to keep adults safe from abuse and neglect.
“Aileen brings a wealth of experience to this role, and will build on the work already in place. I look forward to working with Aileen and wish her well in her new role.”
Merton Council has launched a £1 million neighbourhood funding programme to enhance community spaces and invest in infrastructure across the borough.
As a council, we recognise the huge challenges many organisations face as a result of coronavirus, and this will be an opportunity for community groups, voluntary sector, charities, and other organisations across the borough to submit bids to the Neighbourhood Fund for the funding via the council’s website.
This year’s bidding to the Neighbourhood Fund opened on Tuesday 12 May and will close on Friday 3 July, with a decision on successful bids made at Merton Council’s Cabinet meeting in September.
The key criteria for funding, is how proposed projects will bridge the gap between the east and the west of the borough – to reduce the economic and social inequalities measured against our community plan, but also projects which will enhance neighbourhoods which have seen new developments and homes built. Last year, he council received bids to the fund totalling £2.4m, with nearly £1m given out to 14 projects from across the borough following a competitive process.
The funding for the Neighbourhood Fund comes from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) – which is money developers are required to pay as part of planning consent to support the demands their development will place on the local area.
Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Housing and Transport, Councillor Martin Whelton, said:
“In these very challenging times, we see this as part of our recovery plan as we slowly emerge from the unprecedented restrictions placed on our activities and daily life. The process will contribute towards rebuilding our communities and addressing economic challenges.
“We have seen first-hand the work of many Merton heroes throughout this crisis and how important the community sector has been to the borough. With challenges on funding, this is an ideal opportunity for our community organisations, voluntary sector and charities to submit bids which is why we have launched this £1 million bound bidding process at this time.
“In recent years we have seen many exciting creative and diverse projects which have received funding, and I would encourage bids which can help make a difference to people’s lives and enhance the local community.”
For the criteria for bids and the application form visit: www.merton.gov.uk/neighbourhoodfund
For more information email NeighbourhoodFund@merton.gov.uk
Notes for Editors
Merton Council also uses Community Infrastructure Levy funding to help pay for key infrastructure projects in accordance with the Regulations and Government guidance. Funding is approved as part of the Capital Programme allocation process.
Last year more than £405,000 of the Neighbourhood Fund money was earmarked for projects which directly addressed the income, skills and health gaps between the east and west of the borough. This included:
- £130,000 for the Commonside Community Development Trust for its work to support the residents in the Pollards Hill area.
- £30,000 for Move More Mitcham for activities to promote the well-being of residents.
- £40,000 for Deen City Farm to support its well-loved range of free and low cost of activities.
- £50,000 to spruce up Bramcote Parade shops and buildings to help revitalise the Cricket Green area of Mitcham by making it a much more attractive place for people to visit and invest.
Many other parades of shops and town centres across the borough have been given a new lease of life thanks to cash allocated in previous rounds of neighbourhood funding – this includes the Broadway Conservation Area and Colliers Wood High Street Parade refurbishments.
Funds, totalling £319,000, were also allocated to projects which will support the demands the Wimbledon Stadium development is to place on the local area around Plough Lane.
Merton Council has announced it will be offering financial support to around 2,650 of the borough’s least well off residents to help them with the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. All residents of working age who are in receipt of council tax support and have a balance to pay will be eligible for up to £200 off their council tax bill.
Recipients of this reduction are currently being notified by the council, and some will have had their overall bill for the year reduced to nothing.
The reduction is funded by the £1.48 million that the council received as part of the Government’s Local Authority Hardship Fund. Whilst all councils are required to give a reduction to council tax support recipients, Merton’s support goes further than the £150 discount that is being offered by most local authorities across the country.
This financial support for individuals comes after the council has already distributed £23.8 million worth of grants to help local businesses through this tough period. With 90% of eligible businesses now having received their grant, Merton has one of the highest rates of grant distribution in London.
Councillor Mark Allison, Merton’s Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “One of the council’s key goals is to bridge the gap between low-income households and everyone else. COVID-19 has hit the finances of many people but, the impact is obviously worse for those who were already financially stretched.
“That’s why we’re going further than most by offering up to £200 off the bills of working age residents who get support with their council tax. We already offer one of the most generous council tax support schemes in the country, and I would encourage anyone whose income has fallen as a result of coronavirus to have a look to see if they can get this help.”
Notes: Anyone whose income has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak can check whether they are entitled to Council Tax Support at merton.gov.uk/CouncilTaxSupport.
Merton Council is encouraging residents to get involved with VE Day celebrations and commemorations from the safety of their homes. Homemade bunting has already started to appear in windows around the borough, and the local authority is also asking younger residents to make and decorate a dove of peace to display outside their homes. Additionally, the council’s Heritage Service has produced a range of online activities and puzzles for families to have fun whilst learning about wartime Britain.
VE Day, on Friday 8 May, marks 75 years since fighting stopped in Europe at the end of World War II. Although fighting continued in Asia, it was a time when people in Merton and across the country could celebrate peace and the end of air raids over the UK. To mark the occasion, the Government has moved the early May bank holiday to this Friday. There had also been plans for street parties, similar to those held in 1945, and other national events to both celebrate peace as well as mourn all those that died in the war. However these have had to be postponed as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of holding street parties, the council is calling on residents to both celebrate and commemorate the occasion from home. To help do this, there are a number of family-friendly activities and resources available on the Merton Heritage Service website, including:
- templates for you and your family to design your own doves of peace
- puzzles and heritage trails for you to follow
- ration book recipes such as carrot fudge, potato piglets and date pudding
- photographic displays, including a collection of images of the borough during World War II
- reminiscence materials
- wartime film footage with a soundtrack voiced by local people
Elsewhere, the council has made a template for homemade bunting available.
Residents can also share their celebration with the community through social media. Whether you’re showing off colourful bunting, a dazzling dove of peace, or a ration book recipe that you’ve rustled up, remember to tag your posts with #HeroesAtHome.
Caroline Cooper-Marbiah, Merton’s Cabinet Member for Commerce, Leisure and Culture, said: “On VE Day in 1945, the streets were filled with ecstatic crowds cheering, singing and dancing to celebrate peace, whilst also remembering the many lives that had been lost during the war. Obviously the current circumstances mean that we won’t be able to hold the same sort of celebrations this year, but there are still many ways in which Merton residents of all ages can get involved.
“From colourful and creative craft, to historical kitchen creations, our Heritage Team have come up with a wide range of ways for you to mark this important occasion. These activities will not only be a great opportunity to teach younger ones about a pivotal moment in our history, but they’ll prompt us all to reflect on the hardships of wartime, as well as the jubilance and relief that was felt when the guns fell silent.”
The temporary parking restrictions around Wimbledon Common were introduced in advance of the Easter weekend to discourage unnecessary journeys after concerns were raised with us by Simon Lee, the Chief Executive of Wimbledon Common Conservators.
Concerns were due to a high number of people gathering at the common over the weekend of the 4 and 5 April, which compromised social distancing and required the police to be called out.
When implemented, it was intended that our parking restrictions would only ever be temporary, and the resulting drop in people driving to the park over the past week has been a success and has resulted in reduced visitor numbers. The council has now decided to lift the restrictions to see if the behaviour changes can be sustained and will carefully monitor numbers over the next few weeks.
However, Cllr Martin Whelton, Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Housing and Transport has urged residents to exercise caution about making journeys to the common again.
He said: “We are living in unprecedented times and I know the parking suspension has impacted on some people, but we believe it was the right thing to do for our residents in the face of a global pandemic and the advice to stay at home and not make unnecessary journeys. Our measures have resulted in far lower numbers of people driving to the common.
“We promised that we would review the restrictions after three weeks and we have done so, as a result, we will now be lifting them in the hope that people continue to stay safe and don’t travel to the common unless it’s an absolute necessity.
“Our first priority is people’s safety and limiting the spread of the virus. While we are re-opening the parking bays, I would stress that we are still in lockdown, and will be monitoring the situation closely, but we do urge people to follow the government advice which is to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”
Council funding is a step in the right direction, says council leader after recovering from suspected coronavirus
The Leader of Merton Council has welcomed the announcement of an additional £1.6billion to help councils in the fight against coronavirus, after himself recovering from a suspected case of coronavirus.
However, Councillor Stephen Alambritis, who is recuperating after spending two weeks in isolation with a range of symptoms, says it will only help to plug short-term gaps, and has written to Government seeking assurance over further financial support for local services.
The Department for Communities this week announced a £1.6billion funding boost to local authorities to help ease the additional costs councils are incurring to deliver urgent care to thousands of residents.
However, the funding is there to address current costs and cover those spent to date – and Cllr Alambritis warned that there must be a longer-term solution to supporting councils as they continue to stretch budgets to provide unprecedented amounts of frontline care.
The Merton allocation from the Government grant is some £5 million. However, the combined impact of lost revenues across the borough, as well as the investment into establishing services to support thousands of the most vulnerable people in the borough, is already estimated at some £25 million.
“Let me be clear – this is a very welcome announcement and one all councils will be grateful for.” said Cllr Alambritis.
“Like every authority, Merton has had to divert huge funds towards the frontline fight against coronavirus, not least to provide emergency support and care to around 5,000 at-risk people across the borough.
“Like many councils, we have established a seven-day-a-week shielding service, supported the establishment of a number of food distribution centres and launched a range of new ways to get fast help and support for residents and businesses, all of which have needed to be resourced.
“The biggest issue for us regarding this funding is that we are in a situation which currently has no definitive end date.
“So while this funding is welcome to help us alleviate our current pressures and the additional money spent to date, the pressure on budgets will go on for at least as long as the pandemic does – most likely longer, as we support local economic recovery.”
Speaking on his recovery, he added: “Like many others, I’ve myself been stuck at home for the past few weeks, sidelined with a full house of symptoms – so I appreciate just how serious and debilitating the virus can be.
“I was very fortunate that I did not have to go to hospital, and was able to keep on top of things, but I can’t remember feeling that ill for many years, so it was a great comfort to know that there are so many caring public services staff out there helping people.”
In order to ensure greater accountability and improve decision-making for children’s services while coronavirus is affecting the community, the Leader of Merton Council, Councillor Stephen Alambritis has appointed a new Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Education.
Councillor Eleanor Stringer, the Cabinet Member for Schools and Adult Education, has been appointed to the new position, to cover the Children’s Services portfolio during the coronavirus outbreak.
At the same time, Councillor Kelly Braund has stepped down from her post as Cabinet Member for Children’s Services. The Labour councillor, who served as the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services for nearly two years, had already decided to stand down from her role due to family commitments.
Cllr Braund, who has represented the St Helier ward for three years, will remain a councillor until May 2021, which is the next permitted election date. She has been praised for her leadership on all council activity to protect and improve the lives of children and young people in the borough.
She was also instrumental in re-energising the Children’s Trust and the Corporate Parenting Board and worked with young people to develop the new Children and Young People’s Plan, improve youth services and promote young adults’ involvement in the community and council decision making.
Cllr Stringer, who has been the Cabinet Member for Schools and Adult Education for the past year, will take over the Children’s Service portfolio. Cllr Stringer has overseen the borough’s state secondary schools being included in the country’s top five for the progress students make.
The Leader of Merton Council, Stephen Alambritis, said: ‘I am really sorry to see Kelly step down. She has made a huge contribution to the lives of youngsters in this borough and ensured the welfare and opportunities of all our children is at the heart of everything we do.
“Her dedication and passion to improve the lives of all Merton children, including those locked after by the council and those needing extra support has been boundless, and I know that it is a commitment that is shared by Ellie.
“We are proud that Merton is a great place for families to raise their children, and we would like to thank Kelly for her exemplary work to enhance the opportunities for our young residents, and wish Ellie well in her new role.
“It is crucial that we streamline procedures during the coronavirus outbreak to ensure that children are protected both in and out of school. The combined role is a key one in tackling this terrible disease and ensuring we minimise its impact, so I am delighted Ellie has agreed to step in.”
Cllr Braund was first elected to serve as a councillor in July 2017 and was appointed the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services in May 2018. She also served on the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board, Children’s Trust Board, Local Safeguarding Children Partnership, Corporate Parenting Board and Violence Against Women and Girls Board.
Cllr Stringer was first elected in May 2018 and was appointed to Cabinet in May 2019, as Cabinet Member for Schools and Adult Education.
Every Merton family who applied for a primary school reception class place has been offered one, for the academic year due to start this September.
Figures released for National Primary Offer Day reveal that in Merton 80 per cent of applicants from the borough have been offered a reception place at their first choice of primary school, and 92 per cent of applicants received an offer of a place at one of their top three schools.
Overall 95 per cent of Merton children, for which applications were made for the borough’s reception classes, have been offered a place at a school favoured by their family – which is a slight increase on last year.
Merton’s primary schools received 2525 applications from Merton residents this year, figures published for National Primary Offer Day 2020 show. Families across Merton are to be given the news this evening on the primary place allocations, which are co-ordinated for the London Boroughs by the Pan London Admissions Board.
Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Schools and Adult Education, Councillor Eleanor Stringer said:
“It’s currently an extremely challenging time for families, as they strive to keep their loved ones safe and well during this period of unprecedented social upheaval and anxiety due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak.
“This is why we’re particularly pleased to be able to give so many families the good news reception class places have been secured for all Merton children who would like them. Once again the majority of applicants for our reception class places will be able to send their children to a school of their choice, when the next academic year begins.
“Starting school is such a wonderful milestone in every child’s life which is why we’re so proud to be able to offer a high quality education for all Merton families.”
Online applicants will be able to view the outcome of their application on the evening of Thursday 16 April. Letters will be sent to applicants who applied using a paper form on the same day.
The online outcome and the letter will give instructions on how families can accept or decline any place they have been offered.
For more information on primary school place offers and the procedures for waiting lists for schools, visit: