More than £22million is being invested into providing vital cost-of-living support to Merton residents following agreement of the council’s annual budget tonight.
Almost £1million will be spent to offer a council tax discount to residents living in Band A-D homes – reducing their rise from the 5% required by Government to 4% locally.
Another £11million will be spent to fund the highest available level of Council Tax Support, lifting nearly 7,000 residents out of council tax.
And £8million will be invested over four years to ensure that frontline workers across the borough, including home carers, will be paid a London Living Wage to put more money in their pockets each month.
And the successful £2million Merton Cost-of-Living fund which provided direct financial support to thousands of residents in 2022 will continue this year – offering direct help to individuals and support organisations.
The council will also be increasing its four-year funding agreement with the voluntary sector, injecting almost £5million to help fund voluntary and community groups supporting those families hardest-hit.
In addition, Council Leader, Councillor Ross Garrod outlined a long-term strategy to fund major improvements to increase civic pride, deliver a sustainable Merton, and create a borough of sport.
To bolster pride in the area, the council will be investing £1.5million over coming years to refurbish local high streets and shopping parades, as well as investing almost £1million into refurbishing parks and open spaces.
More than £2million will be spent on road maintenance and improvements, with a further funding programme of around £7million over coming years.
To kickstart ambitious plans around sustainability, the council will inject £29m of capital funds to start the building of 400 energy-efficient homes on council-owned land – the first for 40 years.
It will also continue the rollout of its EV lamp-post charging programme to deliver 500 new charging points this year, as well as funding the launch of e-bikes across the borough.
Outdated street lighting will also be switched to LED lighting, improving both efficiency and safety for residents.
Finally, the borough will create a blueprint to become a Borough of Sport – setting out a long term plan to encourage future sports stars from the area and encourage healthy lifestyles across Merton.
To get this underway, the council agreed an £11m programme of sports investment – including refurbishment of pitches and courts across the borough, plans for the development of a new running track in East Merton, and fund free tennis lessons for residents.
Councillor Garrod said: “Like every council, we’ve had to make some incredibly tough choices following the annual cut in Government support. But we’ve delivered a balanced cost-of-living budget which puts supporting our residents at its heart.
“I’m proud to say we’re funding council tax discounts to our residents, and proud to say that any contractor working for the council will be paying their staff a London Living Wage – making a huge difference for staff such as home carers.
“We wanted to find a balance between direct help now for our residents during the cost-of-living emergency, and investing into things that will make everybody proud to live in the borough.
Councillor Billy Christie, Cabinet Member for Finance, added: “For over a decade this council has been acclaimed for astute financial management. This year, we will balance the budget, give 1% back to residents who need our support, and invest into ensuring the council is fit for purpose as we head into exciting times for Merton.”