The battle for Merton is hotting up in the final week before the May 22 elections.

The state of play looks very different from when Labour narrowly won minority control of the borough in 2010, by the tiniest of margins, edging the Cnnservatives with 28 seats to 27.

Merton Park Independents won three seats and two Liberal Democrat candidates were elected.

Rebel factions in the Conservative party, including former Merton Conservatives leader Richard Hilton defected to UKIP in Hillside, Raynes Park and Lower Morden last year.

Councillors Richard Chellew, Linda Scott and Chris Edge, who will not stand again this year, also left the Conservative group to become independents.

Council tax is this year's headline pledge, with Labour promising to freeze it and the Conservatives pledging to cut it by ten per cent.

UKIP has gone further with a 15 per cent council tax cut promise while the Lib Dems would introduce budget open days enabling residents to participate in financial decision-making.

Two candidates from the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition have also joined the battle in Labour strongholds Colliers Wood and Graveney, while the newly-formed Mitcham Independent Party is offering an alternative to voters in the East of the borough.

Keep Our St Helier Hospital Party (KOSHH) are putting forward two candidates - in Raynes Park and Wimbledon Park.


Wimbledon Guardian:

Councillor Stephen Alambritis, Merton Labour leader

"Before I became Leader of Merton Council, I was the head of the UK’s Federation of Small Businesses. And I have ensured Merton is run in a businesslike fashion.

"That’s how, despite big cuts in government funding, Labour in Merton has been able to freeze council tax for four years in a row - and because the party has got on top of the council’s finances, I can promise to freeze it again for another four years.

"Our track record of businesslike financial management means we’ve also been able to keep all our libraries and children’s centres open and protect the weekly refuse collection, while also building 2,000 extra school places so all our children can go to a good local school."

"The Tories hiked up council tax by £100 when they were in power and now they are making reckless promises they know they can not keep without massively cutting services.

"Labour does not make promises we can not deliver or that would mean terrible cuts to services and that is why residents support Labour’s promise of a big freeze.

"This year we were named Britain’s best council, and on May 22 I hope local residents vote Labour to keep Merton a great place to live."


Wimbledon Guardian:

Councillor Oonagh Moulton, Merton Conservative leader

"On May 22 you have the chance to vote for real change in Merton.

"An opportunity to elect a Conservative council that will end Labour’s annual £12.5 million overcharge and deliver a ten per cent reduction in council tax as well as great services at less cost to you, the taxpayer. 

"A Conservative council which invests in cleaning and improving our streets and town centres and a council which works to make our communities safer and Merton a borough of which we can all be proud.

"Whether you are a parent concerned about finding a place at a good school for your child, a young person looking for your first step on the housing ladder, an older resident seeking high quality healthcare and leisure services, or a taxpayer just wondering where all your money is going, we have the answers for you. 

"From planning to parking, cleaning to greening and finance to fun, I know that with your support, we can unlock Merton’s great potential. So if, like me, you want to see Merton become the very best that it can be, please vote Conservative on May 22."


Wimbledon Guardian:

Councillor Iain Dysart, Merton Liberal Democrat leader 

"The next four years will require difficult decisions and choices to be made.

"Merton is being offered clear alternatives. A Labour party which has not looked after our community assets - presiding over the sale of schools and then finding we don’t have enough places for our children.

"The Conservatives, who admit that they have absolutely no idea how to pay for the promises they make.

"Or the Liberal Democrats, offering a real alternative; safer and cleaner streets, a commitment to the local economy, putting the environment at the heart of the council, and making health and well-being a priority.

"Our manifesto "Innovation Merton" outlines how a vote for the local Lib Dem team will: keep streets cleaner and safer for all, with default 20 mph speed limits in residential areas; build a stronger community, where everyone reaches their full potential; prepare for our future, by thinking and planning ahead; protect our heritage and the outdoors; support the creative economy locally; open the doors of the town hall.

"Please support us."

Wimbledon Guardian:

Councillor Suzanne Evans, Merton UKIP leader

"While the old parties ignore it, Merton's UKIP councillors recognise the impact of years of EU interference and uncontrolled mass immigration on our borough.

"Local services are creaking at the seams, our schools are overcrowded and residents are paying double the council tax of neighbouring Wandsworth.

"Under Labour, council tax went up 55 per cent and then by a further nine per cent under the Tories to 2010. So we are offering something different.

"First a pledge to cut council tax by at least 15 per cent, paid for by cutting excessive waste and bureacracy at the council.

"Only UKIP councillors have challenged expenditure such as £130,000 a year on trade unions, £300,000 spent translating documents into 80 languages and 'Boomerang Bosses,' senior staff paid £178,000 in redundancy only to be re-hired as consultants on higher fees weeks later.

"That is just the tip of the iceburg. Having created over 4000 primary school places we need a new secondary school and we'll introduce a new grammar school for the borough to offer academic excellence on your doorstep.

"And we'll make Merton feel safer by paying for extra town centre policing teams in Wimbledon, Mitcham and Morden.

"We'll also introduce a 24/7 noise and anti-social behaviour service to report nuisance neighbours, fly-tipping and other blights.

"Only UKIP really fight your corner. Vote UKIP on May 22."


Wimbledon Guardian:

Charles Barraball, Merton Green party candidate 

"Merton Green Party is committed to providing a caring, inclusive and democratic society which will enable everyone to do valuable work, follow their interests, interact with their community and enjoy nature.

"A Green Merton will have the courage to pursue responsible solutions to our social, economic and environmental crises through its commitment to fairness, citizen participation, shared responsibility, peace and environmental protection.

"A Green Merton will create jobs by making our homes and workplaces energy-efficient; our public transport and local food networks reliable and convenient; and our energy sources affordable, renewable and resilient.

"Merton Green Party will join-up with the calls from Green Parties across London to make the Minimum Wage a Living Wage, ensuring everyone earns enough to build a life around.

"Finally, Merton Green Party will support a cooperative, diverse and resilient local economy to meet our needs while reversing the status-seeking wealth concentration that is deepening social divisions and destroying the natural world. "


Wimbledon Guardian:

Councillor Peter Southgate, Merton Park Ward Independents leader 

"Unlike other groups standing for election in Merton on May 22, MPWIR is not part of any national political party.  We are truly independent.  Our mission is to safeguard the quality of life for the residents of Merton Park Ward. 

"For the past eight years we have held the balance of power under Conservative and then Labour administrations.

"We exercised that power responsibly, and worked with both to make Merton a better place to live.

"We will ensure major plans for Morden redevelopment safeguard local residents’ interests.   

"With demand for school places still rising, we are determined to provide a primary school place for every child within walking distance of their home.

"We will continue to support St Helier Hospital and all its services.

"We will defend and improve our street scene, maintain weekly refuse collections, demand free parking periods in shopping parades and focus on road safety and speeding, rat-running drivers.  

"We will ensure green spaces are properly maintained and policed and resist moves to undermine planning rules and the way they are enforced.

"As Independents, we are accountable solely to our residents.  We will continue to consult them on local issues and listen to what they say."


Wimbledon Guardian:

April Ashley, Merton Trade Union Socialist Coalition leader

"The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition stands for a Merton we can all afford to live in.

"We will fight to cap rents, not benefits; secure a £10 an hour minimum wage and say no to all cuts.

"We stand for a mass programme of affordable house building.

"The Labour council has allowed the Brown and Root tower to sit decaying and given the owners a no affordable housing deal.

"We would use compulsory purchase powers to force its redevelopemt with at least 40% affordable housing.

"If this does not happen Colliers Wood will lose its library in 2017 as the lease on the Donald Hope library expires then.

"Labour and the Tories both voted to transfer Merton’s housing stock to a housing association. When Merton Priory Homes approached the council to increase rents by 60% they allowed it on the promise of 35 new homes. These haven’t even been built.

"TUSC would use powers to license private landlords to introduce rent controls. No more than £120pw for a two bedroom property.

"Merton claims to be council of the year. This must have been for increasing reserves to over £70m. We would use this money to fund services."


Wimbledon Guardian:

Sandra Ash, Merton Keep Our St Helier Hospital Party candidate

"The KOSHH Party believes that the future of St Helier Hospital’s services is the biggest issue facing Merton.

Without the hospital’s A&E, maternity, renal and children’s units, the impact across the whole borough will be enormous, especially on St George’s Hospital in Tooting.

This will have an impact on Merton Council’s ability to provide health and community services that support the great work done by St Helier Hospital.

We are alarmed that Conservative candidates have told the public that St Helier Hospital is safe before the next raft of announcements about our local hospitals by the SW London Collaborative Commissioning Groups (SWLCCG) has been made.

Indeed, SWLCCG said in a joint statement in February that major service changes “are likely”. As well as cuts, this could also lead the further privatisation of hospital services.

There is no reason why Merton councillors cannot unite in support of our local hospital and for the councillors from the major parties to lobby their colleagues in Westminster.

Along with ensuring our streets are safe and clean, that bin collections remain weekly, libraries remain open and public money is spent responsibly, it is essential for all Merton councillors to get behind St Helier Hospital for the good of everyone's health."


Wimbledon Guardian:

Alan Hutchings, Mitcham Indepedent Party leader

"The current Labour council is failing us! Their wasteful expenditure on expensive temporary jobs is wasting money that could be spent on schools, services, road repairs, and more.

Council reserves exceed £100 million. We want this released and put to use.

We support parts of the Rediscover Mitcham plan for regeneration. However we oppose the, so far unproven, bus lane through Fair Green. It will ruin the pedestrian area and make the area less safe and attractive to shoppers. It will also hurt shops in London Road.

Litter and fly-tipping is a problem. We want measures to deal with fly-tippers and are proposing an inspirational anti-litter campaign in schools.

We support good quality housing for all. Developers and housing associations need to consider local people and provide homes of a high standard.

We want road safety improvements, particularly on Church Road where we propose one-way traffic for HGVs.

It is unlikely that a single party will win the election. We could hold the balance of power, which we would use responsibly to improve Mitcham.

As local residents, our policies affect us as much as our voters. We will always listen and ensure we represent them properly."