Merton Council

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Agenda item

Leader of the Council update

Councillor Mark Allison


Councillor Mark Allison, Leader of the Council, thanked the chair for the invitation. Mark has been a Cllr for nearly 20 years and is proud of his connection with the local area. He was born locally in St Helier and grew up in St Helier area before moving to Mitcham. Mark said that Merton is a great community but there are big challenges. Mitcham is one of the more disadvantaged areas and whilst huge progress has been made the COVID pandemic has undone some of the progress hitting areas like Mitcham and Pollards Hill particularly hard. Improving schools has been a vital element in improving life chances. Progress has also included a new leisure centre and new library.


As part of a mixed race family Mark said he is passionate about fairness and being inclusive, including appointing the most diverse cabinet in Merton’s history. As Leader he plans to celebrate Merton’s diversity.


Mark has been Leader since November so has only experienced the role during the COVID pandemic. Mark launched Merton Together to recognise how many in the community wanted to step up and help their neighbours. Mark thanked everyone in Mitcham who got involved in responding to COVID as their efforts have made a huge difference. Merton Council has worked with the NHS and other partners to help keep people safe but of course many families have lost love ones or had their circumstances changed and their lives may never be the same again. Supporting these households through this will be a major priority.


As a result of the major changes for many we launched the Your Merton engagement exercise to listen to residents about what they value and what their ambitions are for the borough. We are still analysing the results but it is clear that residents value their community, their local open spaces, and were much more conscious of their local area, especially their local high streets. Mark said he is still in listening mode and wants to hear want people have to say. Three major things have come out of the listening exercise:

  • Concerns about the cost of living – which is why we will not be raising parking charges
  • The need for better homes – being isolated in poor housing has had a huge impact on some so the council will be investing in development of affordable homes
  • People want to feel safe – although Merton is a low crime area people want to feel safe. £1m investment in CCTV coverage


Mark said he knows that there are other local issues that will need addressing and wants to work together, as we did during the pandemic, to tackle the challenges ahead. Mark said he was proud of Merton and Merton’s community, and wants to build on residents priorities.


A resident said that open spaces includes non-parkland including closed graveyards and footpaths that are not well maintained and do not feel safe. They would like the council to think about the small neglected spaces that set the tone for an area. Cllr Allison agreed that it was not just about the big spaces, and use of the smaller areas has increased during pandemic. Cllr Allison said he was happy to look into the specific areas raised. Sometimes there are no easy answers to improving safety in some cases but will want to work with the community to address their concerns.