Parties Talk Over Control Of Merton Council

Following local election results with Labour having only one more seat than Tories.

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Talks between the political parties will be taking place over the control of Merton Borough Council, after Labour won one more seat than the Conservatives in last week’s local election.

But Labour, which now has 28 seats, against the 27 Tory seats, is confident it will be taking control of the council when it has a full council meeting on May 26.

The result, which also saw the Liberal Democrats gain two seats and the Merton Park Ward Independent Residents retain their three councillors, bucked the national trend as the Conservatives lost three seats.

However the Conservative group, which had previously controlled the council, have said they are opening negotiations with other parties over who will run the council.

The new Tory group leader, Debbie Shears, said:
“Clearly we are disappointed not to be in a position of overall control. However, with only 28 seats themselves, Labour have also failed to win a majority on the council and do not have a clear mandate to form the next administration.

“Conservatives have a strong record of running the council during the last four years. We have made Merton one of the top 25% of local authorities in the country. We are therefore exploring the best way of working with smaller groups on the council.”

But Labour group leader Stephen Alambritis says his group has already had discussions with the Independents and the Liberal Democrats and is confident his party will be in control and he will be the new leader of the council.

He said: “The residents have decided the Tories in Merton are a party they can do without. On the basis of my conversations, I am expecting to be leader of the council and there will be a Labour cabinet. It is all set to be finalised on May 26.”   He added that he would be open to the Tories looking at taking up positions on council committees and panels.

Lib Dem group leader Iain Dysart said: "We have been approached by Labour and the Conservatives; both are keen to tell us their views on who should form the council administration. We will talk to all parties to find out who is going to offer the best deal for Merton's residents, and to examine all the options."

Peter Southgate, Merton Park Ward Independent Resident councillor, said talks were still on-going and he would not yet be drawn on how his group's three votes would be cast.   He said:
"Negotiations are still going on and we have to come to a view. We will not enter into any coalition as we are independent and we have to stick with that. It does need to be resolved soon so the council's work can continue."

May 18, 2010