Thursday, January 31, 2013

Merton will not raise Council Tax for low-income households

IMMEDIATE RELEASE


London Borough of Merton
31 January 2013

Merton will not raise Council Tax for low-income households

Merton Council announced today that, under its new Council Tax Support Scheme, it will not be raising Council Tax in 2013-14 for 14,000 households across Merton.

The scheme is to benefit households who are currently receiving financial support and comes into effect on 1 April 2013 until 31 March 2014.  It will be reviewed during 2014-15. Any changes arising from the review will be considered as part of the 2015-16 budget process. 

Merton is implementing the new scheme due to government plans for councils to develop and administer their own local Council Tax support schemes from 2013-14. The Government also cut the amount of funding it will give to local authorities for Council Tax support by 10% from 1 April 2013 and by a further 10% from April 2014. This will result in Merton losing approximately £1.4-1.47 million during 2013-14 and £1.2m in 2014-15.

Following the Government's decision to remove the national Council Tax Benefit scheme, the council consulted with residents last year about a new Council Tax scheme. It proposed a new Council Tax Support Scheme that keeps support at the same level as the existing scheme.  Out of the 1,007 responses received, the vast majority wanted Council Tax support in 2013-14 to remain unchanged. Councillors shared this view, voting at a Full Council meeting, in November 2012, for a local scheme that keeps Council Tax support the same as in previous years. 

Merton Council's cabinet member for finance, Councillor Mark Allison, said: "We are committed to helping those residents who already receive Council Tax Benefit for the next financial year, unless their circumstances change.

"At a time when many people are facing financial difficulties, we did not think it was right to cut financial support and put up tax for lower income households. Making them pay more tax would have a significant and detrimental impact on their families.

"We want to keep Council Tax low for everyone, and have frozen Council Tax for two years, and this new scheme will mean no Council Tax rise for the 14,000 Merton households who sadly need financial assistance."

For more information, please visit http://www.merton.gov.uk/advice-benefits/benefits/hb-ctb/hbctbreform <http://www.merton.gov.uk/advice-benefits/benefits/hb-ctb/hbctbreform>  
 

-ENDS-


Notes to editors:
 
-            Spending Review 2010: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/spend_sr2010_documents.htm <http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/spend_sr2010_documents.htm>   

Amanda Idowu
Communications
London Borough of Merton
020 8545 3327
07983624691 (out-of-hours)
amanda.idowu@merton.gov.uk
www.merton.gov.uk <http://www.merton.gov.uk/>

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sport England supports Dundonald application


Sabah Halli
London Borough of Merton
9th Floor, Merton Civic Centre
London Road
MORDEN
SM4 5DX
 
15 January 2013
 
Our Ref:   L/MR/2012/28545/S
 
Dear Sabah Halli,
 
App Ref:
12/P1058
Site:
Dundonald Recreation Ground, Dundonald Road, London, SW19 3QH
Proposal:
Expansion and refurbishment of dundonald primary school comprising refurbishment of existing main school building, erection of part first floor part two storey extension to existing detached rear annexe building (to be partly sited on dundonald recreation ground) and containing three new classrooms, new main hall, new studio, kitchen, library, toilets and associated stores in addition to new public changing room facilities, toilets, pavilion hall, kitchen and associated storage, and proposed works to dundonald recreation ground comprising of demolition of existing pavilion and shed buildings, loss of existing bowling green, creation of new multi-use games area (muga), new tennis courts, new childrens public playground, outdoor gym, nature garden and new associated footpaths, planting, and seating
 
Thank you for consulting Sport England on the above application.
 
It is understood that the site forms part of, or constitutes a playing field as defined in The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010 (Statutory Instrument 2010 No. 2184), in that it is on land that has been used as a playing field within the last five years, and the field encompasses at least one playing pitch of 0.2 ha or more, or that it is on land that is allocated for the use as a playing field in a development plan or in proposals for such a plan or its alteration or replacement.
 
Sport England has therefore considered the application in the light of its playing fields policy. The aim of this policy is to ensure that there is an adequate supply of quality pitches to satisfy the current and estimated future demand for pitch sports within the area. The policy seeks to protect all parts of the playing field from development and not just those which, for the time being, are laid out as pitches. The policy states that:
 
“Sport England will oppose the granting of planning permission for any development which would lead to the loss of, or would prejudice the use of, all or any part of a playing field, or land last used as a playing field or allocated for use as a playing field in an adopted or draft deposit local plan, unless, in the judgement of Sport England, one of the specific circumstances applies.”
 
Reason: Development which would lead to the loss of all or part of a playing field, or which would prejudice its use, should not normally be permitted because it would permanently reduce the opportunities for participation in sporting activities.  Government planning policy and the policies of Sport England have recognised the importance of such activities to the social and economic well-being of the country.
 
Following the submission of the planning application, Sport England has been in discussion with Merton Council and local sports user groups (namely Dundonald Rec Tennis Club and Wandsgas Bowls Club). Furthermore, Sport England met with the applicant, Dundonald Rec Tennis Club and Wandsgas Bowls Club and Merton Council on 26 October 2012. Subsequent to this, further information was provided in relation to local need for bowling within the vicinity of the site and a draft Community Use Agreement was subsequently developed for the proposed pavilion and MUGA, which has now been submitted as part of the planning application.
 
The planning application involves the expansion of Dundonald Primary School, including erecting a part first floor part two storey extension to the existing rear annexe building, including new public changing room facilities, toilets, pavilion hall, kitchen and associated storage, and the creation of a new multi use games area (MUGA). The MUGA shall comprise three tennis courts. The proposed works would also comprise the demolition of the existing pavilion, MUGA, and bowling green. The existing MUGA comprises two tennis courts.
 
The proposed development would be sited on an existing pavilion, MUGA, and a bowling green, to the south east of the existing Dundonald Primary School building. Sport England considers that Exception E5 of its playing fields policy would be the most applicable to the proposal, which states:
 
The proposed development is for an indoor or outdoor sports facility, the provision of which would be of sufficient benefit to the development of sport as to outweigh the detriment caused by the loss of the sports facilities.
 
I have considered the information provided in support of the planning application and make the following assessment of how the proposed development would relate to exception E5:
 
Sports Development Benefits
 
The key potential sports development benefits of the proposed MUGA and changing pavilion are considered to be as follows:
 
§  The MUGA (providing three tennis courts) would replace the existing MUGA (providing two tennis courts). This would be built to modern standards and would be superior in quantity and quality to the existing MUGA that it would replace on the site in terms of a surface that is sufficient for use in all weathers
§  The MUGA would be suitable for a number of sports including netball, football, tennis, basketball and mini-tennis
§  The new changing facilities would be superior in quality to the changing facilities that are currently on the site
§  Opportunities for community use of the MUGA and changing pavilion on the site would be expected to be maintained and improved due to the improved quantity and quality of facilities that would be on offer. A draft Community Use Agreement (dated 11 January 2013) has been developed and submitted as part of the planning application in order to ensure that community/school use is specified and delivered in practice
§  The facilities would therefore encourage increased participation levels
 
Impact on Sports Facilities
 
The existing MUGA is shared by the community and school at all times. However, a draft Community Use agreement (dated 11 January 2013) has been developed and submitted as part of the planning application in order to ensure that community/school use is specified and delivered in practice.
 
Although the existing pavilion would be lost, it would be replaced by the proposed pavilion and the use of this facility would be secured by the Community Use Agreement (dated 11 January 2013).
 
Although the existing bowling green would be lost, it has been confirmed by the applicant, in writing, that the existing members of Wandsgas Bowls Club can be accommodated by the nearby Merton Park Bowling Club (John Innes Park, Mostyn Road, Merton Park).
 
The existing adjacent playing field would be unaffected by the proposed development and therefore existing playing pitch provision would be maintained.
 
On the basis of the above assessment, Sport England considers that the potential sports development benefits that the new MUGA and pavilion would offer would outweigh the detriment caused by the impact on existing sports facilities.
 
I therefore consider that the proposal meets exception E5 of Sport England’s playing fields policy. This being the case, Sport England does not wish to raise an objection to this application, subject to a suitable Section 106 Agreement, or other legal mechanism being delivered and signed, which secures the detail of the draft Community Use Agreement (dated 11 January 2013) which was submitted as part of the planning application.
 
Should your Authority be minded to approve the application without an acceptable section 106 agreement or other legal mechanism in place, then Sport England would wish to maintain/lodge a statutory objection to this application and in accordance with The Town and Country Planning (Consultation) (England) Direction 2009, and the DCLG letter of 10 March 2011, the application should be referred to the National Unit for Land Acquisition and Disposal at the Department of Communities and Local Government.
 
Sport England would recommend that the detailed design of the pavilion and MUGA accords with Sport England’s relevant design guidance in order to ensure that the facilities are fit for purpose and of an appropriate quality. The guidance is available to view on Sport England’s website at http://www.sportengland.org/facilities__planning/design_and_cost_guidance/artificial_sports_surfaces.aspx (Comparative Sizes of Sports Pitches and Courts 2011), http://www.sportengland.org/facilities__planning/design_guidance_notes.aspx?sortBy=alpha&pageNum=9 (MUGAs) and http://www.sportengland.org/facilities__planning/design_and_cost_guidance/pavilions__clubhouses.aspx (Pavilions and Clubhouses).
 
The absence of an objection to this application in the context of the Town and Country Planning Acts, does not in any way commit Sport England’s or any National Governing Body of Sport’s support for any related application for grants funding.
 
If this application is to be presented to a Planning Committee, we would like to be notified in advance of the publication of any committee agendas, report(s) and committee date(s). We would be grateful if you would advise us of the outcome of the application by sending us a copy of the decision notice. 
 
If you would like any further information or advice please contact the undersigned at the address below.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Yours sincerely
 
Dale Greetham

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dundonald Primary School expansion update

Last Thursday, Merton Council received the Mayor of London’s initial response to expansion proposals for Dundonald Primary School in Wimbledon.
From reading the initial response, it supports the overall proposals for the expansion, but in order to ensure the proposals fully comply with the London Plan, Merton Council has been asked to make the following changes:
1) Agreed hours of community use of the Multi Use Games Area during school hours
2) Installation of measures to ensure excess rainfall is drained effectively including rain water harvesting
 3) Increase in the number of cycle parking spaces

From the response received, the Mayor understands the need to increase school places, along with what has been proposed. Although I may disagree with Boris Johnson on many things, the response is both measured and constructive, and for that he should be commended.

The proposals should go before the Planning Applications Committee on Thursday 17 January and will take into account the Mayor’s representations. If the application is supported by the committee, the mayor has a right to call the application in within 14 days.

In Merton, we have experienced a 39% increase in the number of children entering primary school in the last five years. As a result, we've provided an additional 21 forms of entry with more in the pipeline. This has inevitably placed huge demands in terms of our capital budget as we fulfil our statutory duty to provide school places. The Labour administration believes that expanded schools should be of the highest quality in terms of buildings provided and it is why we have a very large programme for permanent school expansion.
Across London, many boroughs find themselves in a similar predicament, though approaches have varied with some going for very short-term solutions rather than looking at the longer-term as we have in Merton.

Currently Dundonald Primary is one of the most oversubscribed schools in the borough, and is also rated outstanding by OfSTED. The proposals for the school would significantly enhance the facilities both at the school and park, along with providing much needed spaces for local children. What is being proposed will also not go beyond the footprint of the current buildings.

The case is also before the Upper Tribunal as it will involve a covenant variance, this will be determined sometime next year, though it also has to be remembered that the school was built on Dundonald Park after the original covenants were implemented.

Sport England will also issue their views on the application prior to the Planning Committee.

While there has been a great deal of opposition to the application locally, there has also been support from parents who live locally and want to see the school expanded. Many parents are unable to obtain a place at the school if they live beyond 200 metres such is the demand for places. The Labour administration in Merton is strongly supportive of providing places to children within walking distance of a school, but also at schools that are judged outstanding or good by Ofsted. Dundonald expansion meets both these points. As you would expect, I am strongly supportive of the application and below are links about what we are proposing in terms of the expansion of Dundonald School.

The case for Dundonald School expansion can be accessed here: http://www.merton.gov.uk/council/getinvolved/dundon_parents_apr12.pdf All the papers relating to the application are available here under Dundonald School: http://www.merton.gov.uk/council/getinvolved/schoolsconsultations.htm

Monday, October 29, 2012

MERTON LABOUR LEADER URGES CLAMP DOWN ON STREET DRINKING THROUGHOUT MERTON

LABOUR GROUP PRESS NOTICE DATE: MONDAY 29 OCTOBER 2012 RELEASE: IMMEDIATE LEADER URGES CLAMP DOWN ON STREET DRINKING THROUGHOUT MERTON Borough wide powers to control irresponsible street drinkers could be on the cards. Cllr Stephen Alambritis, the Leader of the Council, met with Merton's Borough Commander, Darren Williams , to pose the idea at their monthly meeting last week, (22 October). The next day (23 October) Cllr Alambritis was answering questions at Mitcham Community Forum when he confirmed his support for the measure to reduce the number of street drinkers in the borough. The meeting took place at Vestry Hall in Mitcham in front of a packed audience of residents and local councillors. Cllr Alambritis answered questions on a wide range of issues affecting Mitcham but it was his proposal to look into the scourge of street drinking that drew the interest of the audience. Cllr Alambritis said " I am pleased that the option for a borough wide ban on street drinking was on the agenda of last week's meeting of our Licensing Committee ( 25 October). There is still a long way to go and we will need to consult with residents. A proposal for a borough wide ban will also need council support and that could possibly be forthcoming at it's next meeting (21 November)." Alambritis added " We already have two such controlled drinking zones in Wimbledon and in Mitcham. By going borough wide we will be offering residents what is already on offer in Islington, Newham, Brent and Camden" ENDS NOTES TO EDITORS A Designated Public Place Order (DPPO) makes it an offence for people to drink alcohol after they have been asked not to do so by the Police. It is not a total ban on drinking alcohol in public, but is there to tackle irresponsible street drinkers. CONTACTS Cllr Stephen Alambritis Leader of the Council London Borough of Merton Merton Civic Centre London Road Morden, Surrey, SM4 5DX Tel: 020 8545 3424 Mob: 07958 139 498 Email: stephen.alambritis@merton.gov.uk

Thursday, April 19, 2012

New Merton Cabinet Member for Education announced

19 April 2012
Merton Labour Group Statement
New Merton Cabinet Member for Education announced
Merton Councillor Maxi Martin is to become both Cabinet Member for Education as well Cabinet Member for Children Services.

Cllr Stephen Alambritis, Leader of the Council, said "Peter Walker has done excellent work on Labour’s policy of expanding our best performing schools to provide more places for local children. However I regard this conduct as wholly unacceptable. It is not the way the Labour administration does business. I have therefore immediately dismissed Cllr Walker as Cabinet Member for Education. Cllr Maxi Martin, who is in overall charge of Children’s Services, will take over."

Ends
For further information please contact:
Leaders Office 020 8545 3721 Letter from Cllr Peter Walker Dear Stephen I am saddened by your decision to dismiss me from the Cabinet as a result of a complaint from the “Save our Rec” Campaign. Illegal fly posting in my local park, Dundonald Rec, by Save our Rec supporters is wrong. As you know, the Council itself and the local park keeper have repeatedly had to take down their fly posts. I now find myself in the strange position for being sacked for doing what Council staff had been instructed to do. Namely to remove illegal flyposts put up by supporters of Save our Rec in my local recreation ground I am very grateful for the opportunity you gave me to lead the major re-structuring of Education in Merton over the last two years. I am particularly pleased to have facilitated the expansion of good and outstanding local primary schools often in the face of determined opposition. I was delighted to announce last week that Merton had secured an additional £7.3M for our school expansion programme, and last night I was able to tell the Council Scrutiny Panel that we will be able to offer places to all our 5 year olds this coming September. This is a direct result of the expansion programme that I have pursued and ensures that the 39% increase in 5 year olds that we have had in Merton will be accommodated . Last but not least, this all came after the best ever GCSE results by Merton schools last summer. It goes without saying that I will continue to support you and this Council’s policies loyally from Labour’s back benches, and will use all my efforts to ensure that the progress that schools in Merton made while I was Cabinet Member for Education continues. Best wishes Peter Walker

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pollards Hill stabbing fatality statement

This morning, I received the shocking and tragic news that a stabbing incident had taken place in Pollards Hill, and that a 28 year old male had died from his wounds. As you can imagine, it was extremely distressing and harrowing to hear this news, especially as Pollards Hill is normally a safe area with relatively low levels of crime. In my time as a councillor, we've had no fatalities in the ward as a result of knife crime, and to hear about a fatal stabbing incident was a bolt from the blue. My deepest condolences and sympathies goes to all his family at this difficult time, and may he rest in peace.

Given the seriousness of the issue, Siobhain McDonagh MP and the local councillors for Pollards Hill will be organising a meeting in Pollards Hill at 7pm at the Community Centre, South Lodge Avenue, Mitcham on Tuesday night(25 October). The meeting is to give re-assurance to the local community, many of whom are inevitably concerned at what has happened and to update them further. Tomorrow night (Monday 24), a number of people will be meeting outside the community centre at 5pm to talk to local residents about the incident and to let them know what is happening. A leaflet will also be distributed locally to residents in Pollards Hill. If you can help deliver leaflets, or talk to local residents please drop me an e-mail on martin.whelton@merton.gov.uk or call 020 8542 4835 or 07941514589.

The incident took place around 11.40 pm last night and if they're any witnesses or anyone with any information should call the Incident Room on 020 8721 4906 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Further information about the identity of the victim will be released shortly but today has been a difficult today for both myself and the community of Pollards Hill. I am proud to have represented this area for the past nine years on Merton Council, it's a diverse community with many fantastic people in the area. This incident is no-way reflective of everyday life, it is a tragedy, but I have no doubt that the community locally will come together after this terrible incident.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Letter to local residents from Siobhain McDonagh MP about riots in the Tandem Centre and Priory Retail Park

Dear resident,

I was out in Colliers Wood at midnight on Monday night as shops in the Tandem Centre and Priory Retail Park were being burnt and looted. I cannot remember when I was so angry. Kids are coming out and starting riots and adults are driving round in cars to see what they can steal.


I would ask all parents to keep their sons and daughters in over the next few nights. Many young people are getting caught up in these riots who have not previously been in any trouble - so the safest thing is for them to be off the streets altogether as they could easily be arrested and end up with serious criminal records that will affect them for the rest of their lives.

And as for the adults. They are preying on the most vulnerable people, taking or destroying property from people who have very little and often have no insurance. People’s jobs and livelihoods are being stolen from them. So can I ask if you know anyone who has looted, or if you are offered stolen goods, please call 999 and tell the police.

If you are worried about passing on this information then tell me and I will speak to the police and keep your details confidential. With Westminster in recess I am working in the constituency full time. So you can get me at my Morden office on 020 8542 4835. If I'm out on a visit then leave a message with Amy and I will call you back.


Can I also take this opportunity to say to parents that there are lots of events over the summer for children and teenagers. Here are examples of two free events in the next week -


Commonside Development Trust ‘Funday’

Saturday 13 August midday to 5pm

Donnelly Green

South Lodge Avenue

Pollards Hill

There is a day of activities and events for all ages, including army assault courses and a barbeque, and for younger ones there is also a bouncy castle, face paints and stilt walkers. There will even be an Elvis impersonator, so please come along. All are welcome!



Free Basketball Taster Day

Thursday 18 August 11am to 3pm

Lavender Park

Steers Mead

Mitcham CR4 3HL

All ages and abilities, including beginners are welcome. There will be expert coaching, skills and drills and prizes and giveaways. There will also be free weekly basketball sessions every Tuesday from 4-6pm at the same place for the rest of August and September.


I have also put together a full list of one off summer events, plus a booklet on regular all year round youth clubs. If you'd like copies of these, again call my office 0208 542 4835 or email me on siobhain@mmlp.org.uk. Or simply call in to my office at 1 Crown Road, Morden SM4 5DD (it’s just behind the civic centre) to collect your copy.



With good wishes,



Siobhain McDonagh



PS if there is any trouble at all local Councillors and I will always come out at night to make sure local residents are safe. This is our community and we must not let a minority wreck it. But please tell the police or me if you know anything. These mindless individuals are putting our neighbours’ livelihoods and lives at risk.