The Merton Labour group has been accused of “silencing” and “misleading” its members over alternatives to the planned cuts in adult social care.

On Monday, February 15, the Labour cabinet unanimously agreed to implement cuts of £5.06million to the adult social care budget rather than raise council tax by two per cent, despite protests from inside its own party.

February 16: 'Freezing council tax and cutting adult social care is a betrayal of Labour values' - party split as Merton Council cuts are approved

An email correspondence leaked to the Wimbledon Guardian between deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, Mark Allison, and Councillor Jeff Hanna suggest divisions are running deep within the group.

However, council leader Stephen Alambritis has disputed the contents of the email, and insists that everyone has had a fair chance for debate.

He insisted the Labour party remains open and democratic, and that everyone has had fair opportunity to discuss their opinions.

January 13: Scrutiny panel votes unanimously to challenge Merton Council over "devastating" cuts to adult social care

Council tax across London is due to be reduced next year when the Greater London Authority (GLA) stops collecting the Olympic precept, which helped to fund the 2012 Olympic Games.

For a Band D property in Merton, this will be a reduction of £19 per household.

Campaigners argue if this money was collected for adult social care funding, it would raise £1.3 million and be equivalent to a 1.7 per cent increase in council tax.

Wimbledon Times:

Protestors against the cuts have been demanding a rethink

Cllr Hanna has spoken in favour of this alternative along with Merton Park Residents Ward Councillor Peter Southgate, but in his email to Cllr Allison he complains that not enough people were made aware of it as an option and that his attempts to discuss it have been “silenced”.

February 3: Merton council leader Stephen Alambritis refuses to bend as rebel Labour party urges him to raise tax and 'save adult social care'

He writes: “All this has caused real divisions within the group and within the Labour parties in Merton, and is leading good, conscientious Labour councillors to consider voting against you at budget council – something which might be fully justified by the fact that group has been so seriously misinformed, whether deliberately or by omission, and has been denied the opportunity to debate the compromise solution, no least by my being silenced last time around.

“Openness from the start might have avoided all the damage that has been and is being caused.”

When approached for comment, Cllr Hanna said: “That was an email circulated to Labour councillors only. It was not for the press.”

Cllr Allison has not responded to requests for comment.

Wimbledon Times:

528 people signed an Age UK Merton petition against the cuts

However, shortly after the Wimbledon Guardian contacted him for a response, an email was sent to all members of the Labour group from chief whip, Councillor Tobin Byers, warning them not to use the council’s email system to discuss Labour policy as it is “not secure.”

He writes: “Sadly, emails sent in the last couple of days already appear to have been leaked to the local press.

“Please could all members therefore confine their use of email to council matters only and not group policy.”

This is not the first time Cllr Byers has warned Labour councillors about speaking to the press, and a letter leaked to this newspaper in January cautioned that “disciplinary action will be taken, and may include the removal of the whip where there is a pattern of disciplinary issues.”

January 27: "The majority of the Labour group are with me" insists Merton council leader as divisions over cuts increase

Cllr Alambritis said: “There has been no silencing of anyone within the debate and discussion we are having, to find ways to keep our promises to freeze council tax and look after vulnerable people.

“Everyone has had the opportunity to debate, discuss and put forward their views. We are a very democratic, open and local Labour party.”

Cllr Alambritis also highlighted the new £1.3 million ‘Savings Mitigation Fund’ set up by the council to help lessen the impact of cuts on vulnerable people, after Merton received a reward grant for the building of new homes.

He said: “We are in control of our own destiny.

“We have found our own money because we are a good council, and we have allocated that money to vulnerable people so we can do both and still protect those who could not afford a council tax increase.”

What do you think? Comment below or email or find us on Facebook and Twitter.