Chairman's Blog - Feb 2017

Council Proposal to surcharge diesel vehicles 

It will not be generally known that Merton Council is proposing to impose a surcharge on diesel vehicles for the cost of parking permits in controlled parking zones and business permits.  The suggestion was made in a report last autumn, and, if approved at a full Council meeting, could come into effect as soon as April this year. 

The surcharge, which has already been brought into operation in some other London boroughs, will target only diesel vehicles, which scientists say produce more hazardous nitrogen dioxides and small particulates than petrol or electric vehicles. These get into the lung and bring on long term illnesses.   

Local authorities are not allowed to bring in such measures for the purpose of raising income, but Merton’s proposals have been calculated to raise a staggering figure of extra income of £516,000 in the first year and over £900,000 by 2019/20. This extra income can only be used on transport measures, but will, obviously, be used to defray other council costs. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the proposal is driven by the desire to make money, rather than on grounds of health.  

There have been major published objections to this proposal. 

The first is that people do not change their cars every year, but only after a period of years, often three. Those who have recently bought a diesel as opposed to a petrol or petrol/electric car will be heavily penalised, given the depreciation in the value of any purchased car.   If the proposal has merit, it should be introduced over a number of years, as the Mayor of London is proposing for a surcharge/ban on diesel vehicles coming within the congestion zone, by 2020. 

The second is that the surcharge will unfairly hit the less well off, who can ill afford to change their vehicle, simply to avoid extra costs. 

The third is that most CPZ’s and parking permits are in the west of the Borough, where there is no objective evidence of bad air pollution, indeed the contrary.  

The fourth, and perhaps major one, is that the Council has not undertaken any public consultation on the scheme, and indeed has had no information campaign to inform the public of it.   This is another example, together with that on wheelie bins, of the majority party on the Council going ahead with an ill thought out policy without full public consultation and approval. 


Network Rail and South West Trains have warned of major impacts to services into Waterloo Station next August, between August 5 and 28.  For once, this is nothing to do with strikes or union disputes, but is for a good reason. Waterloo is due to have an £800 million upgrade, which will see the five platforms originally used for Eurostar, and which have been long disused, brought back into use. Platforms 1-4, which are used for the suburban trains from Motspur Park and Raynes Park, are being extended to accommodate 10 car trains.   According to Network Rail, the number of journeys into Waterloo has more than doubled to 234 million in 20 years.


The letter I have written to Transport for London about the traffic light sequencing at the Grand Drive/Bushey Road junction, and about Lower Downs Bridge is below:

 1. The junction of Bushey Road and Grand Drive, SW20, is saturated with traffic for much of the day. We understand that TFL are undertaking a review of this junction. Please let us know whether this is correct, and when we may expect to see the result of that review. In the meantime, the sequencing of the traffic lights has been changed, so that vehicles coming along the slip road from the A3 and wanting to turn right onto Grand Drive are held back far more than other traffic. My observations are that only some 5 cars at a time can get through before the lights change. The result is that traffic is now piled back onto the slip road and as far as the A3, causing obvious danger. To avoid the extended hold up, some vehicles now continue down Bushey Road and then do a U turn, which causes more danger.   I imagine that the purpose of this change was to ease congestion on the other routes, but this goes too far.


2. There continues to be a problem of high vehicles getting stuck under Lower Downs Bridge, SW20. This is despite the new notices warning on both sides that it is a low bridge, height indicators, and electronic warnings. The problem here is that the entrance to the bridge on both sides is higher than the arch in the middle, and this is not apparent to those unfamiliar with the structure. What is needed is a clear warning that the central arch of the bridge is much lower than the entrance. It would help greatly to have large metal rods (to the height of the central arch) hanging from both sides, which would give a visual and aural warning. 

I look forward to your reply. With thanks. JE


I have reported previously about the Council considering whether or not to increase the amount that it pays for social care in the community, on which so many elderly and disabled people depend for their day to day living. 

A resident contacted me, who herself cares for a neighbour who is disabled. She asked me to make the important point that most elderly and disabled people are enabled to stay in their own homes, and not have to go into care, because of the assistance given by members of their own family or strangers. The charity which supports carers, Carers UK, calculates that across the UK there are 6.5 million people who are unpaid carers supporting a loved one who is older, disabled or serious ill.  That is 1 in 8 of adults. Every day, another 6,000 people become carers. They make an enormous contribution to society and save the economy billions of pounds. 

The Government does pay a Carer’s Allowance if you spend more than 35 hours a week caring for a relative or friend who is ill or disabled.  You don’t have to live with them or be related to them.  This is currently about £62 a week. You can take up to four weeks break a year from caring and still receive the benefit. But you can only get this allowance if you earn less than £110 per week after tax, and other benefits you receive are taken into account also. 

Anyone already caring in this way, or thinking of doing so, should consult the local CAB services for details of the Carer‘s Allowance, particularly if they are already pensioners themselves where the arrangements are complex.  Or there is a form on line to complete to obtain this. 

John Elvidge  



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