It has certainly been a busy time both in Wimbledon and in Westminster politics since my last email. Earlier this month we saw the Prime Minister’s speech at the Conservative Party Conference. While the media chose to focus on the more trivial events, the speech itself was ambitious about tackling injustice. I was especially pleased to see the extra £2bn committed to affordable housing, bringing the total budget to £9bn, which the National Housing Federation welcomed.
Locally, in recent weeks, failures of the local Labour Council have become even more evident. In parts of our area rubbish is literally piling up on the streets as the Council fails to provide a basic service. I have also been working with residents who are opposing the Council’s decision to build a new school on the High Path Estate, and knock down the majority of Merton Hall on Kingston Road to relocate the Elim Church.
Finally, below are just some of the things I have been doing since my last email.
- Met with the Borough Commander, and the Deputy Mayor of Policing, about the plans to close Wimbledon Police Station.
- Attended the opening of Merton Arts Festival.
- Held public meetings in Raynes Park, Motspur Park and the Town Centre to discuss Crossrail 2 and other local issues.
- Attended one of the High Path Regeneration update events, and spoke to residents about problems on the estate.
- Asked the Minister for Schools once again when summerborn and premature children will have the right to start reception at the age of 5.
- Met with Haydons Road North residents to walk along the Wandle Trail
- Asked the Secretary of State for Transport to give a statement on delays to Crossrail 2.
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Wimbledon residents' victory on boundary proposals
Today the Boundary Commission have released their revised proposals.
I am delighted to say that the Boundary Commission have listened to the many Wimbledon residents who objected to their plans to cut our community in two, by keeping Wimbledon together in their latest proposals.
This was a spectacular effort from the people of Wimbledon who made it very clear for the second time how cohesive our community is. The strength of our submissions led to the Boundary Commission actually visiting Wimbledon and concluding that Wimbledon Park and Wimbledon Village are integral parts of the community.
However, these are not the final proposals, and a final consultation will now run until 11 th December. I would encourage everyone to take a look at the proposals, and respond to this consultation to show your support for their plans to keep Wimbledon together.
Save Wimbledon Police Station
The consultation on the Mayor’s plan to close Wimbledon Police Station, and move the services to Mitcham, has now closed. Thank you to everyone who signed our petition and wrote to the Mayor. I have written to the Mayor to ask for a meeting to discuss this further, and to present the petition to him in person.
Our Police Station is very well located near the Town Centre, which has a huge night-time economy and a large transport hub which needs policing. The recent terrorist attack on the District line starkly demonstrates this. Furthermore, Wimbledon’s transport hub will only become larger and more significant when Crossrail 2 is completed.
Wimbledon hosts the Championships, bringing a huge number of visitors from all over the world who need to be kept safe.
A look at the crime statistics over the last two years backs this up. Trinity ward, in which the police station is located, had the second highest crime rate in the Borough in the 2015/16 financial year, and the 4 thhighest in 2016/17.
It is also important to note that Wimbledon Police Station had 2.6 crimes a day on average reported at their front desk, whereas Mitcham only had 0.7, according to the Police’s own statistics.
Crossrail 2 remains one of the issues which concern local people the most, which was made clear at the three recent public meetings I held.
In March, at the request of the Government, TfL submitted an updated business case and funding plan for Crossrail 2 to the Department for Transport.
However, since then there has been no news, despite a number of questions I have asked in Parliament, which you can see here.
As ever, I will continue to keep you updated. I have also updated my website with a full article about Crossrail 2 locally and my views, which you may find interesting and can be found here.
Brexit and the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Last year I campaigned, and voted to remain, as did an overwhelming majority of my constituents. However, like most people I accept the result of the referendum and since the result I have been working constructively with the Government to ensure Brexit works for us here in Wimbledon and in London by opposing a hard-Brexit.
The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill starts the task of separating EU law and UK law and establishing new domestic regulatory and administrative system. This is the biggest legislative challenge the UK has ever faced, especially as it must be completed in under two years.
This Bill is necessary and sensible in principle, and that is why I supported it at Second Reading. If we did not have a Bill like this, people and businesses in the UK would face a regulatory cliff edge at the point we leave the European Union.
However, the Bill is not without major faults, and this is why along with my colleagues I have put my name to a number of amendments, which would ensure the European Charter of Fundamental Rights is included in British law, to ensure there is a vote on the final deal, and to provide for more Parliamentary scrutiny of any changes to retained EU law.
You can find the amendments, and a fuller discussion of the Bill on my website here:https://www.stephenhammond.net/news/european-union-withdrawal-bill
Last month, the Secretary of State for Education set out the Government’s final proposals on a new National Funding Formula. Under this, an extra £1.3billion will be invested into schools over the next two years.
With this additional funding, the basic funding every student in every school will attract will raise.
Under the last proposals, overall schools in Wimbledon received more money, but some primary schools missed out. I am therefore pleased that the Government have listened to us, and that every school in Wimbledon will receive more money.
New Harris Academy at South Wimbledon
Over the last decade I have consistently supported the need to increase the size of primary schools locally and for a new secondary school to cope with the growth in pupil numbers.
However, I am increasingly concerned as local education lists and the statistics highlight that there may no longer be a need for new secondary school. The number of pupils entering Reception year has now fallen some 7.5% since its peak and currently secondary schools in Merton have 141 vacancies.
Whilst parental choice is obviously desirable and a new Academy will provide that, given the current roll numbers in Merton, the Labour Council do need to prove the need for a new school as opposed to increasing entry at current schools which was the solution for primary schools.
I am also particularly disappointed that Wimbledon Park residents will not have this choice of school for their children. I believed that Harris had promised that Wimbledon Park would be a “nodal point” for entry consideration. It was a real surprise to me and many Wimbledon Park residents to find their “nodal point” has been substituted for one in Colliers Wood.
There is a clear interest from Wimbledon Park parents in the school and I believe Harris should reconsider its position and let parents from across Wimbledon consider joining this school if it is best for their child.
Ashcombe Road Bridge Closure
I have been receiving many complaints about the closure of Ashcombe Road Bridge and a lack of information from the Labour Council.
I know from my own experience how disruptive this has been, especially now there is no pedestrian access.
I asked the Council for an update, and please find below their response. I was also informed that a temporary footway will be installed on the 16th of October, which now appears to be open.
We are undertaking essential engineering work to strengthen Ashcombe Road Bridge. Unfortunately, while carrying out the excavation works, we found live electricity, gas and water mains services which were not previously identified by the utilities companies’ asset information that was submitted to the council and this has inevitably delayed our works.
These services have to be cut and capped or diverted by the utility companies themselves to make the site safe and before our works can continue. The safety of our residents is very important and we recognise that this is a busy route for school children too. With exposed utility cables, the site is therefore unsafe for pedestrians to be very close to these works so we have had to restrict pedestrian access in this area.
We hope to complete the bridge strengthening works as early and as safely as possible and I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for the inconvenience that residents are experiencing within the area.
At this stage of the works, I can assure you we are doing everything possible for this to happen as soon as possible. However we are unable to give you a definite date for the reopening of the footway and carriageway until the utilities companies have carried out their safety works.
You will not see council contractors working on the site for the same reasons; however we will be back as soon as the utilities companies have carried out their works.
We have installed additional signage at the end of all roads leading to Ashcombe Road Bridge so people do not have to make a trip until the closure point and then find out about the footway closure. These signs will be updated weekly to inform pedestrians of the likely date when the footway will reopen.
Once again, I apologise for this unexpected occurrence and please be assured we are doing everything we can to support the utilities companies on progressing works as soon as possible.
Common of the Year
I am delighted that Wimbledon Common and Putney Lower Common both won Gold awards in the “Common of the Year” category of this year’s London in Bloom competition.
This is great news and I wish to congratulate Prue Whyte, the Chairman of the Conservators, the Conservators, the Chief Ranger Simon Lee and all his excellent team on this exciting news.