Labour councillors are facing a difficult decision at this evening’s budget meeting, when all three opposition parties will unite to fight against cuts to adult social care.

The Merton Conservatives, Merton Park Independents and the sole Liberal Democrat councillor are submitting a joint amendment to the budget, calling on £1.3 million to be raised for adult social care through council tax without any increase to residents.

However, it has been alleged that Labour councillors have been threatened with disciplinary action if they do not support the budget this evening.

February 22: Merton Labour accused of intentionally silencing and misinforming councillors in leaked email dispute over adult social care cuts

And with Labour holding a majority of just 12 seats in council, it would take only six councillors to back the amendment for the budget to be defeated.

Council leader Stephen Alambritis has so far kept to his election promise to keep council tax frozen, despite being given the power to raise it by 2 per cent in order to fund adult social care.

Wimbledon Times:

Cllr Alambritis is hoping for a united Labour party at tonight's meeting

However, he has faced widespread opposition from within his own party for refusing to use a 1.7 per cent precept, which could raise more than £1.3 million, by using the money that will no longer be collected by the Greater London Authority for the Olympic precept.

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

Using this money would mean council tax will not go down, but will remain frozen at current levels.

Cllr Alambritis has argued that the council’s new £1.3 million Mitigation Fund will be used to help vulnerable people affected by the cuts.

He said: “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.

“I haven’t seen any amendments to tonight’s budget.  I will be putting forward our Labour budget which keeps our promise to residents to freeze Merton’s council tax and which sets up a new fund to protect vulnerable people from the worst excesses of the Conservative Government’s cuts.”

Independents Councillor Peter Southgate has been pushing for this precept since the idea was first raised in January, and denies that the cross-party opposition amendment is to score political points against Labour.

He said: “We want to achieve something that will make a difference to people who have otherwise been threatened by cuts. It’s not about political points.

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

“The real purpose here is to say that we must put this on a sustainable footing. By embedding it into council tax we can ensure the support continues.”

Cllr Southgate added: “There are enough Labour members who are deeply troubled about the need to get enough funding for adult social care, and do it on a basis that’s sustainable at the same time.

“There are people who see it as a matter of social conscience that this should happen. It’s a matter of weighing that against party loyalty.”

Leader of Merton Conservatives, Councillor Oonagh Moulton, said: “We are hoping that it will get support, not just from opposition members.

“Hopefully the right decision will be made for the most vulnerable residents in Merton.

“It’s up to individual members to decide what they want to do. I hope they will support what is the right thing to do.”

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