Late-night drinking laws centre of debate at Merton Council meeting


A Conservative motion to address problems arising from 24 hour licensing laws was opposed.


By Hubert MacGreevy

Late-night drinking and littering were at the centre of debate during a Merton Council meeting last week.

Merton’s Labour and UKIP councillors dismissed claims by Tory councillor Richard Simpson that the council is soft on late-night drinking and littering.

In a speech during a Full Council meeting on Wednesday evening, Cllr Simpson claimed that the government had granted Merton Council new powers to deal with anti-social behaviour, but that neither Labour nor UKIP supported using them.

“We all like a night out and want to see Merton’s night time economy thrive. However, we also want all bars, restaurants and clubs to respect their neighbours,” he said.

“Residents are clearly concerned about the increased littering, noise and anti-social behaviour resulting from the proliferation of ever later alcohol licences allowed under the previous Labour government’s 24hour licensing laws.”

Labour councillor, Andrew Judge, who is Cabinet Member for Environmental Sustainability & Regeneration, stated that the claims made by Cllr Simpson were inaccurate and that Labour had successfully implemented the necessary reforms.

“The Conservatives are wasting their time with pointless and inaccurate council motions about things the Labour Council is already doing,” said Cllr Judge.

He added that Labour-run Merton Council had already established a borough-wide Controlled Drinking Zone, in which the police had powers to confiscate alcohol being drunk in the street.

Cllr Judge contrasted Labour’s record favourably with that of the Conservatives, whom he said, wanted to cut council services by £8 million.

“This could mean cuts to town centre CCTV and the end of the weekly refuse collection, resulting in more dirt and disorder on our streets,” he said.

UKIP councillor, Suzanne Evans, also challenged the claims made by Cllr Simpson regarding the use of new powers.

“What new powers? We are not aware of new powers. Basically, the Tories are trying to pull a fast one here,” said Cllr Evans.

She added that the Conservatives had admitted they did not need new laws to help them do their job properly and that UKIP’s policy was that new measures were not needed.

Asked if UKIP sided more with Labour than the Conservatives on the issue of licenses, Cllr Evans dismissed the differences between the two parties.

“You would think that Labour and Conservative are the same party. They’re all saying the same things these days. You couldn’t put a cigarette paper between them,” she said.

Cllr Evans added that both parties chose to gang up on UKIP when it suited them.

Asked about UKIP’s position in South West London overall, Cllr Evans said that London was not a stronghold of UKIP support, but said she was optimistic about the European Elections next month.

“Let’s wait and see what happens after the elections. I would like to see where the vote turns out for UKIP [then].”

Cllr Simpson has not been available for comment on the speech he made last week.

Photo courtesy of Jackal1, with thanks.

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