Merton has undergone many changes in the last 20 years. We now have better schools, libraries, leisure facilities and shopping parades. We have a more diverse borough than ever before, with residents from different cultural backgrounds living together and looking after one another.

I am proud to have been able to witness all these changes and contribute to shaping our local communities on a daily basis. I am also delighted to acknowledge that the council could not have done any of the above without the Merton Partnership, a close-knit group of faith, voluntary, and public organisations as well as local businesses who provide vital services to our communities and are at the heart of our community planning.

The new Community Plan has eight thematic priorities and an overarching priority to increase social capital in communities and neighbourhoods experiencing the poorest outcomes. This follow extensive research on social capital in Merton, detailed needs analysis and engagement with residents. The new Community Plan aims to inspire our residents to create robust social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them. Increasing in social capital will strengthen the social fabric of our communities and revitalise human relationships among neighbours and across communities. Partners, residents and businesses will need to work together to develop the social infrastructure to achieve the priorities set out in this plan and enable social capital to flourish across the borough.

A great example of social capital in action is provided by the emergency response that our local communities have put into place to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Local people working alongside a range of partners from across the public, private, voluntary and faith sectors have been supporting vulnerable residents and key workers. Merton Council and our partners have provided the framework and the resources for the local emergency response, but our residents were the human capital who have made the emergency response possible and successful. This way of working symbolises the spirit of the Merton Partnership upon which the new Community Plan is built.

The new Community Plan has given me the chance of getting to know some of our residents who dedicate their lives to serve Merton communities. They are the pillars of the borough’s social infrastructure which have been developed over the years across the borough or have originated as a result of the pandemic. I am grateful to them for their daily commitment and dedication, but also for agreeing to feature as case studies in the Plan.

I would also like to thank everyone who has contributed to developing the Plan for all the energy and time that they have dedicated to creating an inspiring framework which will guide the council and partners’ actions for many years to come. My thanks go to our former Fire Brigade Borough Commander Darren Tulley and Police Chief Superintendent Sally Benatar who have both led on the development of the Plan, and the many local organisations who make up the Merton Partnership and help our communities to thrive.

Finally, I am proud to say that the new Community Plan will sit on the Merton Partnership website, for communities to view, update and enrich throughout the Plan’s lifespan. Now let’s get together and bring about change.

Councillor Stephen Alambritis, Chair of the Merton Partnership and Leader of Merton Council