Merton Council Meeting Descends Into "Farce"

Row as Conservative motion is dropped

This week's Merton full council meeting was dubbed a "farce" when three Conservative motions were dropped following a row over procedure.

Labour councillors sought to introduce a three-page amendment to the motion from the Conservatives that had demanded publication of the independent report into the repairs and maintenance service at Circle Housing Merton Priory.

There were more last-minute amendments to two other Tory motions, taking all the amendments to more than 10 pages. Labour then refused to allow opposition councillors time to read the amendments. 

Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Merton Park Residents' Association councillors sought to have a 10 minutes adjournment to allow them to consider the Labour text, but this was rejected by Labour councillors and the Mayor, although the meeting was running ahead of schedule.

Councillor Oonagh Moulton, Leader of Merton Conservative Group, said: "Democracy here in Merton was the big loser on Wednesday night. Residents will rightly be appalled at Labour’s cheap political games and contempt for the democratic process. There was no excuse not to give opposition councillors a few minutes to read Labour’s last-minute 3-page amendments, particularly when the meeting was running 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

"Conservative councillors had brought forward motions on important issues around street cleaning, unauthorised traveller encampments and Circle Housing's repairs and maintenance service. Why are Labour so scared of a proper debate on the issues that matter to residents? No wonder they are scrapping the webcasting of meetings. Conservatives will continue to campaign on these important issues and to represent residents' views."

Simon McGrath, chairman of Merton Liberal Democrats, who in the public gallery at Wednesday's meeting said: "This shows that urgent changes are needed in Merton Council's procedures.

"How little confidence must Labour have in their own proposals if they won't let opposition councillors read them? This investigation into charging for housing repairs is a massive issue, and needs to be investigated fully.

"Local Liberal Democrats will be demanding an urgent change to the Council's rules so that amendments have to be given to all councillors at least an hour before the meeting, and not just sprung on them".

April 17, 2014