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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee Room DE, Merton Civic Centre

Link: View the meeting here

No. Item


Apologies for absence



Declarations of pecuniary interest



Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 74 KB


The minutes were agreed as a true and accurate record of the previous meeting.


A Commission Member queried whether the OSC working group looking at the alignment of scrutiny panels would be established soon. Unfortunately, with scrutiny officer resource still being minimal, it is not currently possible to commence this project.



Equality, Diversity & Inclusion strategy pdf icon PDF 95 KB

Additional documents:


Susan Botros, Equalities & Community Cohesion Lead, gave an update on the work of the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Strategy 2024-26.


The strategy outlines Merton’s commitment to tackling inequalities and this refreshed Strategy has incorporated feedback from the public consultation, which ran from August to November 2023.


Beyond the nine characteristics protected by the Equality Act 2010, the strategy considers four additional groups who are at risk of experiencing disadvantage in accessing Council services. The four identified groups are:


·         Care experienced young people.

·         Armed forces veterans

·         One-parent households

·         Socio-economic status.


In response to questions from Commission Members, the Equalities & Community Cohesion Lead expanded on the following points.


There is a heritage action point that will continue the work on street names. Objective 4, improving our evidence base to inform our decision making, includes evidence gathering via consultations and ensuring these are inclusive of certain communities. Next steps will also involve getting in touch with Windrush community members and stakeholders.


An additional Monitoring & Evaluation document will be included alongside the strategy. Once the strategy is approved, monitoring and evaluation and KPI’s will be included.


The actions in the implementation plan are linked to the Council Plan and other key Council Strategies and delivery plans. The actions are also linked to consultation feedback.


The topic of blind recruitment sits with the internal workforce EDI. An internal strategy is being developed, with EDI at the heart of it and staff will be offered inclusive recruitment training.


A Commission Member suggested that parents and widows should also be considered along with the additional groups.


The Equalities & Community Cohesion Lead was thanked for her attendance.




Budget/Business Plan pdf icon PDF 2 MB

Please bring your Members Information Pack to the meeting.


The Chair invited Cllr Billy Christie, Cabinet Member for Finance & Corporate Services, to introduce the report. The second round of proposals follow on from the first round of budget scrutiny and includes information on the government provisional settlement and the proposals agreed at Cabinet.


The Cabinet Member added that although the new Government funding was announced today, we are far from receiving the funding that we need. We stand to receive £20m less this year than we did in 2010 (Received £93m in 2010. The coming year will see us receive £75m). Yet inflation in the years since then has increased by nearly 47%.


However, through some adjustments, we have been able to identify growth bids to further invest and maintain our vital local services (these are outlined in Cabinet papers). We are confident this budget is robust, reasonable, and sustainable and projects a balanced budget for the next financial year.


The Chair invited the Executive Director of Finance & Digital to comment on the MTFS for 2024/25. There are continued pressures around social care, and temporary accommodation.

This is the fifth year of receiving a one-off settlement which makes strategic planning difficult.


The Chair invited questions:


Pressures still exist, especially around social care, but there is good work being done in tackling agency costs.


Capital programme info – how can this be scrutinised? The Executive director of Finance stated that Members are welcome to request further detail on the projects. The Leader commented that several of the lines within the Capital Programme have been longstanding and included for years and therefore subject to scrutiny, discussed at multiple panels, published etc. Also, as with the budget process, questions can be raised at any point by Members, not just in scrutiny.  The Leader committed to take away the feedback about the request for further information to be included on the capital programme items.


Core Spending Power – Merton’s CSP increases by 5.8% but 3.6% of that is an assumption that we will be raising council tax by the maximum amount.

The Government Settlement is not enough, many Local Authorities are on the brink of bankruptcy.


Cost of Living crisis – Around 13,000 families are in fuel poverty. Helping residents through the cost-of-living crisis remains the administrations number one priority. We set up a cost-of-living emergency fund, young savers, hold advice days. Cabinet Member highlighted Merton investment of £13m into Council Tax support scheme, which is one of the most generous support schemes in the country.



Budget/Business Plan - Latest Cabinet Papers pdf icon PDF 144 KB

Additional documents:


Taken with Item 5.



Scrutiny of the Business Plan; comments and recommendations from the overview and scrutiny panels


There were no comments received from the Panels.



Identify questions for the Borough Commander


Commission Members were reminded to send any questions for the Brough Commander by 5pm on 5th February at the very latest. This will allow enough time for Clair Kelland to provide written responses as requested.  



Work Programme pdf icon PDF 132 KB