March 2013

Dear Friend,

Hello and welcome to what was supposed to be my spring community newsletter. Outside, it still feels very wintry, of course, but hopefully there’ll be something in this month’s issue to make you feel a little less cold.

I’ve got details about a boiler replacement scheme for older people and some information about how to cut your energy bills. There’s even an update on your Council Tax too, along with a bit of news about toilets – this email is nothing if it’s not an unusual mix!

Council Tax – the freeze that might warm you up...
When I wrote last month, Merton’s Councillors were about to vote on whether or not to freeze your Council Tax. Well, I’m pleased to say that they did. Your Council Tax will not be going up!

As I’ve said before, these are hard times, and as we saw in the Budget last week, cuts are being made. Council services are not exempt from those cuts. But Merton Council is the only Council in South London that has frozen its Council Tax AND maintained the same level of Council Tax rebates for households on low wages.

The Big London Energy Switch
If you think you might be paying too much for your gas or electricity, you might want to know that Merton Council is supporting a scheme to help residents get a better deal on their bills. The Big London Energy Switch works by gathering together people from across London who want to cheaper bills. Once enough people have registered their interest, there is an ‘energy auction’, and energy companies will be invited to offer their cheapest tariffs to everyone who has registered. Whoever offers the cheapest tariff gets to offer you a new contract. You will receive a personal offer and once you have seen how much money you can save you will be able to decide whether to accept the offer or not.

Savings will depend on how much energy you use and the price of your current tariff. There is no guarantee you will save money (if you’ve recently switched you may be on the best value tariff already). But there is no obligation on you to accept the offer and a similar recent scheme has seen yearly savings of between £60 and £200 per household, so there is nothing to lose by registering. You can register directly here. And hurry – you have to register by 8 April if you want to take advantage!

Free Replacement Boilers
In a similar vein, a few weeks ago I got an email from a reader who has been installing boilers for 20 years. He mentioned that some of his work comes through grants from the Government or local Council and told me about a scheme that I thought might be of interest to you.

It’s called the “Affordable Warmth” scheme, which is also known as ECO (the energy companies obligation). The idea is that energy companies need to cut carbon emissions and there is £300 million from them to install new condensing boilers for free for older people and people on low wages. So if you are in receipt of Pension credit or Child tax credit (and your income is less than £15,860) why not find out more. You can get further details here.

The same scheme might also help you get free loft or cavity insulation. If you want to talk to someone about the process of applying over the phone you can call local firm Glowarm on 020 8685 9498 and ask to speak to the ECO Grant department. You can also ring the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234.

Free Money Advice event
I appreciate this is short notice, but I thought you might be interested in an event taking place later today (Wednesday 27 March). If you or someone you know are worried about debt, looking for a job or training, or are unsure about the changes to benefits, why not pop along for free advice and information at Melrose School, Church Road, Mitcham, CR4 3BE.

It all starts at 6pm, and the evening is being sponsored by Merton Priory Homes and Commonside Community Development Trust, who will also be there to provide advice on benefits and training. All sorts of groups will come together in one place to give you all the advice you need about dealing with debt, getting a new job, borrowing money at far better rates of interest and reducing your heating bills.

The groups coming along include:

  • Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Christians Against Poverty
  • Merton Credit Union
  • Merton Priory Homes

Their advice is completely free and trustworthy – so what have you got to lose by coming along? Everyone is welcome, so please mention it to your friends and neighbours. Oh, and don’t leave the kids behind. There will be lots for them to do! They will have a nice evening while you get things done.

Spending a Penny
So far this month, I’ve been mainly concentrating on finding ways to save you pennies, but one of the issues I get asked about most involves spending a penny. After the closure of McDonalds in Mitcham Town Centre, I’ve been sent a petition asking for a public toilet.

Well, apparently, as I learned at a recent Figges Marsh community policing meeting, there’s an answer to the question about where you can go if you want to go....

Thanks to the involvement of Merton Council, you can pop in to the White Lion of Mortimer or the King’s Arms if you need to go to the loo – and you don’t need to buy a drink, it’s completely free of charge, not even a penny.

New Vicar at St Mark’s
Finally, on a totally different subject, congratulations to Nigel Stone, who was introduced as the new Vicar of St Mark’s Church in Mitcham just a week ago. It’s a great church, and ours is a great community, so I’m sure he’ll fit in really well here. Good luck Nigel!

Anyway, I hope that this is all of interest to you. Hopefully there’ll have been something in this month’s newsletter to help you save some money, and maybe that will make you feel a little warmer. If not, I’ll be in touch next month, when there’s bound to be a heatwave... If you can think of any items you’d like me to put in a future newsletter, please let me know – and I’ll be in touch in a month’s time!

My best wishes,
Siobhain