Thursday, July 12, 2007

Merton Full Council meeting

The Merton Full Council was a subdued affair for Labour Councillors, many of our thoughts was with one of our colleagues whose daughter was having her life support machine switched off at 10pm last night. At the end of the meeting at 10pm all Labour councillors remained in the Council chamber to remember her, a very upsetting moment for many of us and one that cast a shadow over the whole meeting. My thoughts and prayers are with my colleague at this difficult time.

In terms of the meeting itself, David Williams the Council leader announced a new initiative to start in September to engage with Merton residents and to hear their views on Council services. It remains to be seen how this process will be conducted and how the process will work but it will apparently involve a series of roadshows across the Borough. Time will tell whether this will actually involve genuine dialogue with Merton residents or turns out to be an expensive PR gimmick.

In terms of the main debate, it was on Corporate Capacity following the recent publication of the Comprehensive Performance Assessment which rated Merton as a three star authority. Most of the improvements were down to the previous Labour administration and our contribution towards the improvement rating has been recognised by the Conservative Council Leader David Wiliams and Merton Park Resident leader Peter Southgate who said that the improvement is "80% down to Labour and 20% to the Conservatives". The period in which the assessment covered fell predominately during the time the Council was controlled by Labour. However, in the speech I made to Council I raised concerns about the drop in Council Tax collection, the rise in processing Housing Benefit claims and increased waiting times in Merton Link. At the Way We Work Panel next Thursday we'll be looking more closely at performance in these areas. The main motion which was proposed by the Leader of Labour Councillors Andrew Judge and amended by the Tories which we accepted, the motion was passed unanimously.

With regard to the two other motions consensus was certainly not in the air. The Council debated a motion on Assistant Cabinet Members which we opposed along with expressing concerns about the way it had been handled at Standards Committee by the Conservative administration. The debate contained two excellent speeches by my colleague Peter Mc Cabe and Richard Williams my ward colleague in Pollards Hill.

The other motion that was debated was on the Freedom Pass and the on-going funding guarantees between the Labour Mayor Ken Livingstone and London Councils the umbrella body that represents London Boroughs. This relates to funding increases that have taken place in recent years in what Tfl charge London Boroughs, although the figure has increased by 52% since 2000 this includes inflation, the increased National Rail charges(which is nothing to do with Tfl) and the extension of the pass to men over 60. In real terms the increase is 7% and given the huge expansion and improvement in bus services under Labour Mayor the increase been stated was distorted. Indeed Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond recently described the scheme as "onerous" which is code for saying that costs need to be reduced, while the motion pledge support for the Freedom Pass nevertheless it called for powers to be removed from Ken Livingstone and given to the Secretary of State for Transport in terms of guaranteeing the scheme, so much for local democracy. With the mayoral campaign coming up it was an opportunity for the Tories to indulge themselves in another Ken bashing session and given that they've still not found a mayoral candidate part of their campaign to paint Ken in a negative light.

In terms of other issues, the stock transfer to Raven Housing for Council housing stock in Tadworth(which is outside the Borough) was agreed, at a meeting on Tuesday night the proposal was amended at scrutiny to allow 100% nomination rights for Merton instead of the proposed 70%. The revised Code of Conduct was also agreed at the meeting.

The next meeting of Council will take place in September with the main item being Health. Council allowances will also be debated as the current scheme expires in October, a cross-party group is to be established on allowances and will report to the meeting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. What was Andrew Judge's exact (amended) motion please?
2. Please amplify your comment on the Raven Housing stock transfer outside the borough etc. (Outside???)

3:42 am  
Blogger Martin Whelton said...

In terms of the actual motion the original text is available on the website under Full Council, the full motion will as passed will be available when the minutes are published or you may want to call up Democratic Services at Merton Council.

Tadworth is situated in Reigate and Banstead Borough. I understand that on the formation of Merton in 1965 the predecessor authorities has stock in this area as did Sutton (which has also recently transferred to Raven), it's an historical anomaly and is the only stock we had outside Merton.

10:02 am  

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