Labour Retains Control of Merton But Leader Defeated

Mark Allison ousted as Liberal Democrats established as main opposition

Mixed emotions for former Merton Council leader Mark Allison

A third recount in one ward and the shock defeat of the council leader in Merton couldn’t stop Labour retaining control of the authority for another four years.

Most of the ward results came in early on Friday morning however Lower Morden ward required several recounts, with the third scheduled to take place at 2pm.

But by that point Labour had secured its majority, winning 29 of the 57 seats up for grabs, despite its incumbent council leader Mark Allison losing his seat to Liberal Democrat Kirsten Galea. She was one of 17 Lib Dems to secure a seat, marking a strong performance from the party which gives them some clout as the biggest group in opposition with 11 more councillors.

It came at the expense of The Conservative Party which took a pasting, winning just six seats, having held 17 the previous day. Merton Park Ward Independent Residents won the two seats up for grabs in their ward after one seat was lost in a boundary review.

The boundary review means most wards in the borough have slightly changed and the council now has a total of 57 councillors, a reduction of three seats.

The Conservatives are left with just 6 seats in the area of the Wimbledon constituency for the Westminster elections raising questions about their ability to defend it in a General Election.

Speaking after the election results were announced, Cllr Anthony Fairclough, Merton Liberal Democrats leader and the new leader of the opposition on Merton Council, said, “I’d like to thank every Merton resident who put their faith in us at these elections. The Liberal Democrat group will work tirelessly on your behalf over the next four years to hold the Council to account and deliver the real change local people have demanded.

“Local residents can count on their new Liberal Democrat councillors to be real local champions, who will stand up for them on the issues that matter. The hard work starts now; we will give Merton the fresh start it deserves.”

The seventeen Liberal Democrat councillors on Merton Council
The seventeen Liberal Democrat councillors on Merton Council

For five months there was an empty seat on the council following the resignation of Labour councillor Tobin Byers.

One of the big issues in the borough in the lead up to the election was the condition of social housing. Three estates managed by housing association Clarion are set to be demolished as part of the £1 billion Merton regeneration project designed to improve housing in the borough.

But in recent months, poor living conditions on the three estates have been exposed.

Tara O'Connor, Local Democracy Reporter

May 9, 2022