This week marks the start of the Wimbledon fortnight, when we welcome tennis fans from across the globe to our great sporting borough.
Our world-class sports venues, including the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), the AFC Wimbledon football stadium in Plough Lane and the historic Mitcham Cricket Club are just some of the reasons why I am proud to call Merton home.
I am delighted that some of our newest residents, Ukrainian refugees and their host families, have been given tickets to enjoy the courtside action as, for the first time, the tournament continues through middle Sunday. The tickets were distributed through a partnership between AELTC, the council and the Polish Family Association at the New Horizon Centre in Pollards Hill last week.
Those residents not lucky enough to get a ticket can enjoy live coverage on a large screen, provided by ALTEC, which will be switched on at the Canons in Mitcham during the second week of the Wimbledon fortnight.
While residents and visitors watch the matches, each year the council plays a key role in the smooth running of the Championships. Food safety officers check the food and drink to ensure that visitors can enjoy their Pimms and strawberries safely. Our trading standards team ensure that merchandise is licensed and help to prevent sales of counterfeit items while the famous queue is hosted in Wimbledon Park.
This popular green space is one of many across the borough which have tennis courts available for residents who are inspired by the top seeded players to improve their own game.
We want to encourage everyone living in Merton to be more active and the council has just appointed its first ever dedicated Cabinet role to improving sports development.
My Cabinet met for the first time on Monday to begin work on our top three priorities. These are to be a great sporting borough, nurturing civic pride and building a sustainable future.
Our efforts will add to the global response to the climate emergency. We are also doing our bit to support residents through the national cost of living crisis with a new £2million fund and organising three events in our libraries, on 9, 16 and 23 July, where residents can seek advice and help with the struggles they are facing to make ends meet. This is in addition to the Council continuing to provide one the country’s most generous Council Tax Support Schemes, and funding Free School Meal provision over the school summer holidays.
Locally, our key challenge is cleaning up our streets and, earlier this month, I personally took the Managing Director of Veolia UK to see some of the worst hotspots in the borough and outlined my concerns about the standard of the service that they are providing. Following his visit, Veolia has set out an action plan of how they will strive to improve street cleanliness.
This will be a central part of our bold vision for a better Merton which is embedded in our communities. As in the tennis tournament, there is everything to play for in our great sporting borough.