Welcome to my latest community update.
Together with the local residents association, I organised a public meeting last October to explore ways of stopping the closure of the much needed Vineyard Hill Surgery. I am delighted to report that the practice will now remain open. New partners, led by Dr Jeremy Harris, will join the surgery which will also be modernised to provide new services.
This is very good news and my thanks go to Iain Simpson and Paresh Modasia of the Wimbledon Park Residents Association, plus local Wimbledon Park councillors Oonagh Moulton, Linda Taylor and Janice Howard for all their help.
I have also met with Merton Clinical Commissioning Group and Trinity Ward councillors Abdul Latif and James Holmes to discuss GP provision in their area. We have asked NHS England to address rumours about the GP surgery in Princes Road. I will ensure that there is no gap in local provision if the GPs decide to retire and close. NHS England have confirmed that, prior to any changes, there will be a full consultation of local residents. They have also confirmed that they are already exploring local alternatives.
More good news! The Nelson Local Care Centre will be re-opened between March 31st and April 1st. After years of Labour indecision, the Nelson has been re-built in less than four years under the Conservatives. The Nelson will not only house two GP surgeries but also many other day care facilities. This will be a welcome and much used local asset.
I was delighted to hear that the Department of Education have given the go ahead for the Harris Federation to provide a secondary free school in Wimbledon. Whilst there has been much concentration on the need for extra primary places, we will of course need extra secondary places in a few years. Harris are a proven provider of excellent education.
However, Merton Council have been in discussions with Harris about using the Merton Adult Education site on Whatley Road site. This is simply not the right place for a new secondary school.
As you will be aware, I oppose Merton Council’s move to stop MAE services on Whatley Road. The Council seem determined to move the service to other sites and inevitably some of the services they provide will be affected and are likely to cease.
Conservative Councillors again called in the decision for scrutiny and despite the inability of the Labour Cabinet Member, Cllr Whelton, to provide any financial case for the decision to close the site, unfortunately the Council seem resolute on the matter. I believe this is the wrong decision. However, I shall continue to fight the closure as I believe this service is valued by many local people from all different types of backgrounds and would be a real loss to our community.
Secondly, if Whatley Road were to be used as a site for a new school, there would be considerable impact on Joseph Hood Primary School, which I recently visited. This is now an excellent local school. I was really impressed with the commitment of the teachers and pupils and was delighted to hear of improving results. Finally, the Whatley Road site is too small for a secondary school. Merton Council must now review the local area and find a more suitable site for the Harris Federation.
The consultation on the proposals for a change to the road scheme in Cecil Road and Balfour Road, close to South Wimbledon tube station, has ended with no majority support for the changes proposed. The consultation has heavily divided local people and businesses. There is now an opportunity to come up with a plan around which local residents can hopefully unite.
Last December, I met with Transport for London to discuss the South Wimbledon junction and more recently with residents from both Balfour and Cecil Roads to discuss other options. I shall be meeting the Chief Executive of Merton to find a plan that all local people will support and will keep residents in those roads informed of any progress.
Last year, Merton Council also proposed changes to the Ridgway which were universally unpopular. However, I am aware that many local people would like a scheme that would control the speed of much of the traffic. Recently I met a group of concerned local residents who want to explore options for reducing speeding. I shall be contacting local Residents' Associations to discuss options to take forward.
Formal Complaint to Council Auditors
This week, you may have received Merton Council’s ‘My Merton’ magazine and noticed adverts, pictures and editorial claiming credit for council tax freezes. Unsurprisingly, the Labour run Merton Council, don't point out that the freeze has only happened because the Chancellor provided £12 million of extra money through the Council Tax Freeze Grant to the local council to enable them to do this.
Council Tax money that you pay is being used to fund this marketing by Merton Council. Meanwhile, the annual cost of the publicity budget for Merton’s Labour-led council is £600,000 and last year, they overspent on marketing by £75,000!
We have lodged a formal complaint to the Council's External Auditor and other relevant authorities about the use of tax payers' money to fund what is clearly political propaganda.
I have always tried to make this column non-political but at a time when the local council are crying out about supposed hurtful central government funding and they are closing Merton Adult Education and cutting funding for the disabled; this spending of such a large amount of your council tax money on self-publicity for Cllrs Alambritis and Judge is appalling and must be called to account.
Dates for the Diary
I will be out and about in the constituency over the course of the next few weeks, and have highlighted just a few dates below. I am always happy to meet with local constituents who need my help, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you require any assistance.
South Ridgway Residents Association - Wednesday, 18th March – from 7.30pm – Christ Church Hall at the top of Cottenham Park Road
Community Clean Up Day - Saturday, 21st March - 10 am - 12 noon, meeting at Nelson Gardens in South Wimbledon (opposite Staples)
Raynes Park Forum - Wednesday 25th March – 7.15 to 9.15, Raynes Park Library Hall, Approach Road, SW20 8BA