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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Merton Civic Centre

No. Item


Apologies for absence


Apologies were received from Cllr Dave Ward (with Cllr Ben Butler as substitute)


Declarations of pecuniary interest


There were no declarations of pecuniary interest.


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 151 KB


The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed.



Actions Log pdf icon PDF 494 KB


The Director of Environment and Regeneration provided further updates.


Thames Water review is not due until the spring. It would be wise to add this item to the Sustainable Communities forward plan post April.


The Chair requested the implementation timeline column be updated by officers where necessary.



Performance Monitoring pdf icon PDF 259 KB

Additional documents:


Follow up questions about the performance monitoring information were answered by the Director of Environment and Regeneration and the Assistant Director of Public Spaces;


Parking numbers are down - School streets is generating some revenue but across the board you’ll see that parking income is well below the estimate that we set at the beginning of the year.


In terms of the street rectification within target - the driver shortage continues to be one of the primary drivers behind the reduced level of service that we've had in the refuse collection services.


With regards to complaints received from residents who have been given multiple PCN’s for parking or driving through school streets – Officers are not aware of any signage that doesn't meet the regulations and the standard expected so whilst residents and motorists may not be happy with the signage, we don't believe that any of the signage is in contravention with the laid down regulations in this area. We have had residents and motorists who in some instances have had multiple tickets and we deal with each of those on a case-by-case basis in order to ensure that we apply the policies and the legislation fairly.



Tenants Champion update (verbal)


Cllr Nick Draper provided a brief update on his tenants champion work.


Since the last meeting, I have worked with Clarion on clarifying and getting together their leaflet to residents making clear what the process is for making repairs complaints. I made some clarifications on the infestations leaflet including use of plain English.


I have one test case which I picked up myself this weekend during a bit of canvassing and it was a fairly extreme case so I will be using that if you like as a test.


In response to a question about the opportunities for publicising the role further, Cllr Draper explained that there needs to be consideration given to the expectations that could potentially be raised that Councillors will do Clarion's work for them, when the process should be that all complaints are reported to Clarion and the only point at which the champion steps in is when things have gone irretrievably wrong.



Public Speaker


The Chair invited Kwajo Tweneboa to speak about his experiences


Thank you for inviting me to speak today on what is not only my thoughts but also the thoughts of residents.


As many of you will know, I campaigned and door knocked on every single house on the Eastfields estate and, with the help of ITV, exposed the horrific living conditions of residents on the estate, including myself. Since then I have continued campaigning on several other estates within Merton and beyond.


The property I lived in was already in disrepair when we moved in. We've always had mice, cockroaches, rodents and damp. Despite repeated complaints and request for help, the property deteriorated to the point of an unusable bathroom and kitchen and the living room ceiling collapsing. I was continually ignored and this feeling of being ignored is shared by all residents.


My biggest concerns which I have previously raised with the MP and Clarion’s Head of Repairs;


·         Use of cheap materials and poor standards of repair work

·         Some residents are still finding it hard to get repairs actioned

·         Fire safety - I requested on the 18th October to have a report for Eastfields, Sadler’s Close and Phipps Bridge in terms of when the last fire safety tests were carried out, but I have been ignored. 


Kwajo confirmed he is happy to share updates on complaints he has received with Councillors and whether/when work is completed.


The Chair thanked Kwajo for his campaigning and bringing this issue to people’s attention. All Panel Members thanked Kwajo for the work he has done and the help he has provided to other residents of Merton.



Clarion Housing Presentation - To follow


The Chair welcomed Michelle Reynolds, Vicky Bonner and Marek Witkofrom Clarion Housing and invited them to provide their update to the Panel.


·         Employed more Resident Liaison Officers.

·         Keeping residents informed with clear processes. 

·         Increase visibility in our neighbourhoods

·         Tasked with the development of a Customer Engagement Strategy in Merton

·         Issues log from ground up – staff and residents associations

·         Looking at more door knocking and pop up offices as part of the strategy


In response to Panel Member questions, the Regional Director for Clarion confirmed;


Assured that good quality materials are used, monitoring meetings with contractors are held in terms of performance and we are looking to undertake more post inspection work.


We will continue with regular letters and official engagement activities – The leaflet was the start of the process. We will update residents regularly through newsletters with reminders on how residents can report repairs and make complaints, as well as including information in the pack for new residents


Add to Action Log: Clarion committed to coming back on details of the regeneration timetable, non-material amendments to planning, the quality of materials used and also resending the information on investment that has taken place since 2010.

The Chair requested Clarion also circulate some detail on fire safety


Chairs Action: Following a suggestion by a Panel Member, the Chair is to consider organising a tour of the Clarion estates.



Clarion Performance update (Head of Housing Needs) - To follow pdf icon PDF 398 KB


The Head of Housing Needs praised Clarion on their engagement work so far and stressed the importance of continuing this agenda going forward. Again reminded the Panel that the Local Authority does not have a regulatory role and there are 22 other Housing Associations that could also be involved in the scrutiny process.


Updates to the Merton housing advice web page include;

·         Matrix of performance data

·         Housing association tenants’ rights

·         The role of the tenants champion and his contact details

·         How to contact the local government ombudsman


The Chair asked it to be officially noted how much the Sustainable Communities Panel wished to thank Steve Langley for his long years of service and his hard work on keeping homelessness down as well as the recent work in supporting residents across the borough.



Waste and Recycling pdf icon PDF 2 MB


The Assistant Director of Public Space gave an overview of the presentation supplied and discussed how the biggest blocker to improving our recycling rate is contaminated waste.




The Panel were reassured to hear that Merton's current recycling rate places us in the top quartile in London and would like to build on this work. However it should be noted that whilst Merton delivers similar levels of food waste and recycling as its neighbouring boroughs, our garden waste is much lower in comparison which has led to the Panels suggestion at point


Panel Members also asked questions in relation to resident queries they have received regarding contaminated waste, with the Assistant Director of Public Space agreeing that this issue is the biggest blocker to improving the recycling rate.


The Panel RESOLVED (six votes for, one abstention) to send the following recommendation to Cabinet;


The Sustainable Communities Panel recommends Cabinet look at the feasibility of offering discounted access to our paid for waste services, to those residents on council tax support, in order to incentivize take up of these services and further increase the rate of recycling. This should include garden waste collection.


Furthermore the Panel recommended (five votes for, two abstentions) that as a Council we lobby the government to accept central responsibility for producing effective policy and legislation to deter and deal with fly tipping.


Lastly, all seven voting Members of the Panel agreed to recommend that the Council, over a suitable time frame, proactively writes to all those blocks of flats with communal recycling, with details on how to recycle correctly and avoid waste contamination



Budget and Draft Business Plan pdf icon PDF 7 KB

Additional documents:


The Director of Corporate Services provided an overview of the report in front of Members including the various issues and assumptions.


Some of the current challenges are;

·         Prices - particularly energy costs and rising inflation - so we've had to adjust some of the assumptions that we put into our previous MTFS to allow for this.

·         Pay awards - the unions have currently rejected the current offer of 1.75% so we've adjusted pay inflation across the MTFS as well.

·         Impact of the reversal of the emissions based charging proposals.


We have set savings targets for each of the four departments based on the same ratios as previously given, so Children, Schools and Families have the lowest ratio, followed by Community and Housing and then Environment and Regeneration and the Corporate Services department share the same ratio to deliver on those savings.

Those targets are set out for you on page 26 and we are looking to bring proposals to meet those savings targets to the December Cabinet.


Subsequent to this paper being published has been the spending review of the Government's budget last Wednesday however we will not find out the specific allocation back to Merton until we get this provisional settlement around the 15th December. The January update will have some of the impacts of that and we also plan to bring some additions to the capital programme, as well as some of the sales proposals, to those Scrutiny Panels in January.


It is likely at this stage that there will be the referendum limit of 2% on council tax again - that will be confirmed in the provisional settlement - and it is likely that we will be able to raise an adult social care precept of 1%.


In order to minimise the impact on departments of trying to find savings next year, particularly with the impact of savings not being achieved for the previous two years, we've looked to ear mark some reserves.


In response to a Panel Members question, the Cabinet Member for Finance commented that given the successive years of government cuts to the council's budget, coupled with some of the cost pressures that we saw last year, particularly with the pandemic but also with the DSG had left the Council in a particularly difficult position. If Members review the financial monitoring report that will be presented to Cabinet next Monday, they will see that we are in a very similar position with continued covid costs and no further government support for these. 




Work Programme and AOB pdf icon PDF 169 KB


The work programme was agreed.


Cllr Daniel Holden requested this panel look at reviewing the diesel surcharge so it's more harmonized with the Mayor's ULEZ. Cllr Holden has received multiple letters from residents concerned over the anomaly of being able to drive all day long in the Mayor's ULEZ but returning to Merton and having to pay large amounts.


The item was noted for future planning