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February 2013

Home / Mitcham and Morden / Newsletters / February 2013
Dear Friend,
Hello and welcome again to my latest community newsletter. As I’m writing this, there has been a massive twist in the St Helier saga, so I’m going to leap straight in to give you the latest news, but later in the email I also have details about a number of events that might be of interest to you – and a bit of good news about your Council Tax. So here goes...
St Helier – more twists and turns ahead
At the time of writing, it looks as though the decision to close services at St Helier Hospital has been postponed – yet again... A decision was due to be announced today, but officials have put off the decision following mounting pressure from residents and local Councils, including Merton.
However, before anyone gets carried away, the threat to St Helier remains very real. Last year, it was announced St Helier would lose its A&E, maternity, ICU, children’s unit, renal units and 390 in-patient beds, and our local NHS still needs to save £370m a year and sort out the financial difficulties at Epsom Hospital. Officially, two out of the area’s five A&Es will have to shut, and it’s reported a panel had decided one of the losers would be St Helier. Leaked documents show St Helier would only survive in the unlikely case that Croydon Hospital’s A&E is shut instead.
Sadly, the Government’s position on the NHS couldn’t be clearer. Earlier this week, 4 hospitals in North London were all told they would lose their A&E.
All this means that the Save St Helier campaign is more important than ever. If you haven’t already done so, please write to your GP and ask them what they are doing to stop the closure. GPs now have a big say over what happens in the NHS, and they are our best chance of stopping these closures. It’s being reported that one reason for the NHS postponing its decision to shut down St Helier is that GPs don’t agree. So why not send them an email, asking what they are doing to stop St Helier losing its A&E and maternity units? You can get your GP’s email address here, and it would be great if you could send a copy of your reply to me! If you are looking for other ways to help the campaign, click here.
Finally, it seems like a long time ago, but last week I held a meeting at the House of Commons, and it was standing room only, as this picture shows:

This is obviously the biggest issue in the area at the moment, and I’d like to thank you for your support. We have an uphill struggle if we are going to win, but every A&E in South West London is already overcrowded and seeing more people year after year – and every maternity unit is delivering more babies. If St Helier closes these services, where will everyone go?
Support Morden Little League
Morden Little League is the oldest and biggest Little League in the country, and offers an opportunity to play football to hundreds of boys and girls. I’m very proud of it, and of all the volunteers who keep it going.
I just thought I’d let you know about a fundraising event they are organising in a few weeks time. Their Charity Poker Night will take place on Thursday 4th April from 7pm to midnight at North Cheam Social Club (Goals in Sutton), London Road, North Cheam. If you are interested, it is only £10 to enter. I’m not a cards player myself, but I’m told the game will be “No Limit Texas Holdem”, with a 50% Prize fund going to Morden Little League. Each player will receive 1500 chips at the start of play and it’s expected that the top 8 players on the final table will all get a payout.
If you like cards, I’m sure that all means more to you than it does to me! To find out more or book your place please contact Andy Butcher at or 07853 990963.
Have your say on police cuts
I thought I’d better remind you about a meeting in Morden next week about the police service. Boris Johnson’s Deputy Mayor, Stephen Greenhalgh, will be answering questions about police numbers, station closures, and the police budget, so if you have any questions please do get along. The meeting is at the Civic Centre in Morden on 26 February, starting at 6pm (doors open at 5.30pm). The Met Police’s Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne will also be there, as will the Leader of Merton Council Leader, Cllr Stephen Alambritis. Stephen has said the Council will oppose any moves to run down local police stations or reduce the size of Safer Neighbourhood Teams in the borough. So it should be an interesting meeting, and it will be well worth popping along to have your say too!
Unfortunately, the meeting only lasts one hour and my colleague, Fiona Twycross, a Greater London Assembly Member, Fiona Twycross has complained that’s not long enough. Boris Johnson’s office propose to end the 24 hour service at Mitcham police station, Merton’s police admit the 1 Sergeant, 2 PCs, 3 PCSOs Safer Neighbourhood Teams will be abandoned, and we could lose local police offices in Lavender Fields, Mitcham town centre, and Pollards Hill. So please try to attend.  The more people who are there to tell the Mayor how important it is not to cut police, the better!
Something for the green-fingered
Every week, I meet many local people and groups who do terrific things throughout Mitcham and Morden, and I try and advertise them if I can. If you enjoy gardening and flowers, here’s one group you might like to know about. The Merton Abbey Horticultural Society meets in Colliers Wood, and holds regular flower shows, lectures and social events, as well as floral art, handicraft and cookery classes, and they are currently looking for new members.
To find out more, please contact Len Taylor, the Chair, or Barbara Silvester, the President at or phone 020 3609 1676. If you’ve got green fingers, this is the club for you!
Council Tax – another freeze on the way
In case you’ve not seen the news, for the 3rd year running Labour councillors are freezing the Council Tax here in Merton. That means you will pay no more in 2013 than you did in 2010. It’s the first time ever that Council Tax has been frozen for three consecutive years.
It’s quite an achievement, because you only have to open the papers to see that times are very tough for Councils, and because the Government are reducing funds for Councils by around 30% Merton is having to make cuts totalling £70m. But Labour Councillors know how hard it is for everyone at the moment. From 2006 to 2010, when the Conservatives ran Merton Council, typical bills went up by nearly £100 per annum for a Band ‘D’ property.
It’s a difficult balance, because the Council still has to collect the rubbish, sweep the streets, run schools, and provide care for the elderly, but it’s their top priority not to put up your Council Tax. According to reports, two of our neighbouring Councils, Conservative-run Croydon and Lib Dem Kingston are set to increase their Council Tax this year. Elsewhere in South London, Conservative Bromley are also planning a tax rise, as is Conservative Surrey County Council.
What’s more, Merton is one of only a handful of Councils in the country not to put up Council Tax for people on low incomes, after the Government cut funding for rebates by 10% and told Councils to consult about raising taxes. The decision means low income households will be hundreds of pounds worse off every year, and would have affected more than 14,000 households in Merton. However, Labour Councillors’ top priority is to keep Council Tax low, so if your circumstances are the same as last year you won’t have to pay any more.
Community fun day in Pollards Hill
It’s not often you get the chance to have a free day out and give your finances a spring clean, so I thought you might be interested in a local event this weekend, from 10am to 4pm on Saturday 23 February at the New Horizon Centre, South Lodge Avenue, Mitcham CR4 1LW.
The event is being organised by Moat, and not only is it your chance to take part in activities for the whole family, there will also be lots of advisors on hand to help you find work, improve your education, make your finances stretch further and answer any concerns you might have about the changes to benefits that are going to hit thousands of local families from April. There will be refreshments throughout the day, plus goodie bags and even a free crèche.
Among the attractions will be:
• The Police Safer Neighbourhood Team
• Rent and benefit advice from Moat’s Financial Inclusion Team
• Meet your local community group – Commonside Community Development Trust
• Citizens Advice Bureau
• Health and well-being advice from Livewell and others
• Help on getting back to work, and education advice from Croydon College
• Pollards Hill Youth Group
• And much more, including local Councillors and me!
The whole event is completely free. So this is a great opportunity to get direct, free advice from experts who often have waiting lists for their services. I will be there too, so come and join me if you want my advice about anything at all – or even if you just want to say hello! To find out more, or to book your place at the crèche, please call Laura on 0845 359 6885. It should be a really popular day, and I hope to see you there!
Anyway, I hope you’ve found this email helpful. In the time it took me to write it, there have probably been even more developments at St Helier Hospital, so watch this space! And as always, if you have any ideas for a future newsletter, please do get in touch. 

My best wishes,