Merton Council brightens up Blue Monday

Merton Council has been coming up with new ways to lift those Blue Monday (19 January) blues, including encouraging small businesses in the borough to take advantage of its small business rate relief.
In advance of central government’s announcement last week of a business rescue plan guaranteeing up to £20bn of loans to small businesses, Merton Council is ahead of the game having already sent out 900 rate relief application packs to small businesses in the borough. The council has received nearly 200 responses since the packs were sent out before Christmas. To qualify for rate relief businesses need to apply to the council within six months of the end of the relevant financial year. Details about rate relief and the application process are at: http://www.merton.gov.uk/smallbusinessrelief
To make life a little easier for residents feeling the pinch the council is also urging as many people as possible to support plans for a new Credit Union.
In readiness to submit its bid to the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the council is asking residents to register support for the initiative via its website. This is so it can prove to the FSA that there is demand for a Credit Union service. Credit Union is a savings and loans co-operative which encourages people to save rather than borrow but also provides low cost loans to its members in times of need. To pledge support and find out about the benefits, residents should go to http://www.merton.gov.uk/creditunion
The 19 January is officially the most depressing day of the year when the post Christmas credit card bills come through and reality kicks in after the holiday season. People will especially be looking to friends and family and even their local council to come up with cost saving ideas.
Merton Council has set in motion a raft of credit crunch-busting measures to help residents through these tight financial times. They can be found at http://www.merton.gov.uk/creditcrunch and include:
1. Reducing energy bills: Injecting £100,000 cash to run the London Warm Zone scheme in Merton, the council is delivering energy saving services to residents over 65 years. Nearly 250 Merton lofts and 120 properties with cavity walls have been insulated through London Warm Zones in the last year. Merton Council also sets aside up to £75,000 per year to help residents living in council properties to decrease energy consumption and bring down fuel bills.
2. Money advice: Financial literacy projects are run at several venues across the borough promoting financial awareness and skills such as budgeting to help people avoid the debt cycle.
3. Welfare benefits service: Sessions are every Thursday at the Civic Centre, Morden, to ensure residents are aware of their benefits entitlement.
4. Healthy eating: In partnership with the Primary Care Trust, Merton Council offers its tenants and leaseholders Healthy eating on a budget workshops.
5. Help to businesses: The council’s Mitcham Means Business (MMB) initiatives work in partnership with Merton Chamber of Commerce and Prospects to provide business support to local companies as well as a variety of business training packages and advice on writing CVs. The Merton Loan Fund is also available to provide loans to start up or expand small businesses in the borough. MMB also runs free courses to people who are unemployed or who are starting up their own business. Courses include website design, beauty therapy, food hygiene, jewellery making and interview techniques. Child care and travel costs are provided to everyone attending the courses.
6. Free things to do: Merton has a wealth of free or low-cost activity that can be enjoyed by all the family. Books, DVDs and CDs are available to rent in the libraries and the Internet is accessible for free at all branches. The libraries also play host to book readings and performances throughout the year. Merton’s many open spaces provide places everyone can enjoy for free.
7. Merton Adult Education: Free workshops on a variety of subjects including wedding on a budget and how to be an Olympic volunteer are on offer through the adult education programme.
Deputy Leader of Merton Council Councillor Samantha George said: “We are committed to helping local businesses and residents through this challenging financial time. Our website is a great place to start to find out about all the credit crunch-busting initiatives we have in place. Putting the needs of our residents first, I would really encourage everyone to register their support for a local Credit Union whether they personally need it or not as such a union will give those in most need more realistic financial flexibility.”