Divisions have appeared in the Labour party over council leader Stephen Alambritis' decision not to increase council tax but to press ahead with cuts.

Although the November spending review gave local councils the power to raise council tax by up to two per cent to fund deficits in adult social care, council leader Stephen Alambritis and 24 other Labour councillors voted on January 11 to push ahead with plans to slash the budget by £5 million.

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The Wimbledon Guardian has learned that on Thursday night, unhappy party members from the Dundonald and Merton Park Labour groups will vote in a private meeting to increase council tax, going against Coun Alambritis’ decision.

They are also demanding a free vote for Labour councillors on the issue as a matter of conscience.

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And, in further signs of trouble in the party, in can also be revealed that Chief Whip Tobin Byers has sent a letter to all members warning them not to speak to the Wimbledon Guardian about Labour group proceedings.

The letter, leaked to this newspaper, warns that "disciplinary action will be taken, and may include removal of the whip where there is a pattern of disciplinary issues."

Commenting on the letter, Coun Alambritis said: “Discipline is important in any political party. It’s important that discipline is maintained.

"It was a gentle reminder, to remind them what they signed up to when they became councillors and members of the Labour party – to abide by certain rules."

Speaking about the decision to keep council tax frozen for four years, Coun Alambritis said: "It’s our decision we keep that promise and do what we can to safeguard adult social care at the same time.

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"I don’t think the electorate would take kindly to promises being broken. The majority of the Labour group are with me."

The leader of Merton opposition Conservative Group, Councillor Oonagh Moulton, said: “Merton Labour have a choice. Get their house in order and deliver the £5million plus of savings that they have previously committed to in order to protect future social care budgets.

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“Or implement the two per cent precept to compensate for their mismanagement and ensure adequate funding for the most vulnerable in our community.

“Labour’s incompetence and infighting is now harming those residents in Merton who are most in need."