Merton Council

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Agenda item

Leader of the Council

Councillor Stephen Alambritis will provide and update and take questions


Councillor Stephen Alambritis provided an update and responded to questions. Finances across local government remain stretched and Merton was no exception. The latest Medium Term Financial Strategy shows that there is a budget gap of £19m from 2019/20 to 2022/23. This would be met through a mix of savings and income generation. Much of the cost pressures relate to Adult Social Care where the Council has a statutory duty to provide for some of the most vulnerable people in Merton. The Council has invested an additional £9m in Adult Social Care to help meet these challenges.

Children’s services where the Council is a corporate parent to 135 children and young people are also a high priority. The recent Ofsted inspection found that the Council was good with outstanding features and one of the top ten authorities in England.

Working in partnership with other boroughs has also helped reduce costs. Merton leads a legal services partnership on behalf of four other boroughs; shares regulatory services like licensing across three boroughs and has even let out three floors in the Civic Centre to colleagues in the NHS. Renting out parks has also brought in additional revenue but can cause residents concern which the council is sensitive to.

The new dementia friendly library in Colliers Wood was recently short-listed for the 2018 Library of the Year award. Wimbledon Arts Space is booked up until 25 November and will have a ministerial visit on 11 October.

The Council has created an additional 4400 extra primary school places since 2010 by extending 23 schools and a new secondary school, Harris Wimbledon, has opened in the former adult education site at Whately Avenue. The school will then move to a new building on High Path in South Wimbledon for the 2020 intake and is already oversubscribed. There are now 15 outstanding schools in Merton, including the most recently Harris Morden, a school which had previously rated as inadequate. The Council’s School Improvement Team continues to work across the borough to support schools. In last year’s GCSE results Merton had the highest scores for the Progress 8 school which measures progress from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 4.

There a number of important regeneration projects underway. Clarion Housing is investing £1billion in improving three estates, that will result in better quality homes and no loss of social housing. The More Morden regeneration is back on track, with a new local plan being developed in 2018, and a development partner being appointed to begin works on improving the public domain in 2021. The new £13m Morden Leisure Centre is due to open later in the autumn with a six-lane pool, diving pool, café and gym. The old leisure centre will then be demolished and returned to park land. On Plough Lane work is progressing on the new football stadium for AFC Wimbledon. The club will hopefully move in for the 2020/21 season. There will also be 600 new homes, at least 30% of which will be affordable. There is also a new draft Masterplan for Wimbledon Town Centre and residents are encouraged to give their views on it.

The use of Landfill needs to stop and the new rubbish and recycling service that began on 1 October should help increase the amount of household rubbish is recycled to over 45%. The new system should also save £1.6m in the first year, £2million a year thereafter and reduce litter on the street. The street cleaning performance of Veolia has not been good enough, and we are sorry for that. In 2017/18 we deducted 10% of the contract value and will do again this year if necessary. In response to questions about the new scheme Cllr Alambritis said that this was a four borough contract and was similar to many other schemes across the country. Veolia have allocated more resources and if more resources are needed for the contract management this will be looked at. 

Cllr Alambritis thanked all those who volunteered in Merton. Volunteers are an essential part of life in Merton and he was pleased that the Cabinet had just agreed to continue to support the voluntary sector through a new Strategic Partner Funding Programme.


In response to questions Cllr Alambritis said that the South London Partnership had a mandate to look at more shared services across councils but these have to fit the needs of the borough.


Cllr Alambritis also clarified that for those households who had received wheelie bins but had been reassessed and would not be keeping them the council would remove the bins as soon as possible. The same collection scheme in Sutton and Kingston had increased recycling to over 50%, and landfill across the four boroughs would be further reduced by the use of the new Energy Recovery Facility at Beddington.


Cllr Alambritis agreed with residents that Veolia’s performance on street cleaning has not been good enough and the council is applying pressure to get improvements and once the new collection system is bedded in we expect to see improvement. Deductions have been made from the contract and this will continue if necessary.


A residents asked about a planning application for the La Sporta site on Church Road. Cllr Alambritis agreed to look into this.


A resident asked about the costs and the air pollution issues at the site of the new Harris Academy. Cllr Alambritis said the project would cost the council £6m but would bring an additional £35m from other sources including the Education and Skills Funding Agency. The Council has an Air Quality Action Plan and is working with the Mayor London to address air quality. The Planning Applications Committee will look at all the evidence including Air Quality when it makes its decision. There is a big push to move all cars over to electric by 2040 and Merton is supporting this with new charging points across the borough.