BUDGET GETS THE BALANCE RIGHT

Merton’s budget for 2001/2 and council tax levels get the balance right between keeping costs down and spending more money on services for local people.

Peter Holt, leader of Merton Council, explains: “Local resident surveys consistently show that people want cleaner, safer streets and a better future for their children. But understandably they expect us to keep costs down. The budget gets the balance right. It will allow us to deliver services that local people have insisted they want, keep a firm control on spending – and set a council tax that is fair and reasonable.”

He adds: “We have proved our commitment to education by giving schools nearly £4m extra to support teachers and help raise standards. This includes a one-off grant of £1.06m from central government.

“Members of the council are aware that teachers and governors feel strongly that the money from central government should go direct to schools. We have listened to their case, and after careful consideration, have agreed that the money should indeed go direct to schools in order to support them during re-organisation and to help them pay for the increase in teachers’ pay agreed nationally.”

The authority has also earmarked an extra £1m to improve services for vulnerable children and young people in direct response to the recent critical report of Merton’s children’s services by the Social Services Inspectorate.

Funding for special initiatives outlined in the budget include:

Improving local schools
 £72m to be spent on education – the highest amount ever to be earmarked for education
 a total increase of over £1.1m to be spent on children with special educational needs

Making Merton’s streets cleaner and safer
 an extra £50,000 to tackle fly-tipping
 £40,000 for a new hit-squad to remove graffiti
 an extra £200,000 to clean every street at least once a week
 an extra £14,000 to remove abandoned cars
 £55,000 for a new garden-waste collection scheme for every home in the borough

Protecting vulnerable children and young people
 an extra £434,000 on safeguarding children cared for by the council, those on the child protection register and those receiving family support services
 an extra £500,000 on residential placements for some of the most vulnerable children in our care
 £100,000 more for the youth service to provide more interesting activities for young people and help keep them off t