The leader of Merton Council has condemned Government plans to raise council tax further to fund adult social care and insisted he will not step down while he is being formally investigated.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid announced today that local authorities around the country will be allowed to raise council tax by six per cent over the next two years in attempt to alleviate the pressure on the struggling adult social care sector.

From today: Six per cent rise in council tax to fund adult social care announced by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid

Mr Javid estimated that a three per cent rise in 2017/2018 would raise £208 million for adult social care, and a further three per cent the year after would bring raise around £444 million.

Wimbledon Times:

Sajid Javid made the announcement today. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire​

Merton Council was one of just eight councils in England who refused to use the council tax precept for this year and raise council tax by two per cent in order to fund adult social care.

And, although leader of the council, Councillor Stephen Alambritis, said it was impossible to give a simple “yes or no” answer as to whether Merton would raise council tax levels next year, he heavily criticised Mr Javid’s proposal and said the real answer to the crisis facing the care sector would be a collaborative effort between the NHS and adult social care sectors.

Cllr Alambritis said: “This isn’t the way forward. This is a national issue, it shouldn’t be up to the local council tax payer to fund it. The Conservative government has let the adult social care sector down immensely and is looking to the council tax payer to bail them out.

“The current policy is to freeze council tax. I made a commitment to residents in this borough that between 2014 and 2018 I would freeze council tax. The cynicism around politicians, at a local and a national level, is because of making promises which they then go on to break.”

However, he added: “The decision on council tax levels is one for the full council to take up on March 1. The purpose of having a debate and a council meeting to decide the budget, so between now and then there will be a lot of meetings and discussions.

“There’s no yes or no answer about raising council tax. The debate will rage until March 1.”

Cllr Alambritis is currently facing a formal investigation over a Labour backed letter and questionnaire he sent to residents in St Helier ward encouraging them to vote against raising council tax in an official Merton Council investigation.

From yesterday: Leader of Merton Council Councillor Stephen Alambritis will be formally investigated over council tax consultation as critics accused of 'witch hunt'

However, Cllr Alambritis, who described himself as being “castigated for wanting to know what residents want” said he would not be stepping down from leadership while the investigation is carried out.

He said: “This is a standards investigation into what I regard to be politically vexatious complaints

“I have a job to do, and I will carrying on doing that job until the electorate of the London borough of Merton decide otherwise.

“It’s a ruse by the ineffective conservative party who have no solutions to the issues facing the residents of Merton.

“The investigation will be respected and will carry on as normal. There’s a job here for me to do, and that’s what I will do.”

However, Conservative finance spokesman, Councillor David Williams, has called on Cllr Alambritis to step aside, and asked the chief executive of Merton Council whether there will be a police investigation into Cllr Alambrits’ improper use of the council’s business reply address.

Cllr Williams said: “At the heart of this is a conceit that comes with the arrogance of power. Not only do they think that they have done no wrong, but they think they can do no wrong

“A little humility would be very welcome.

“They have completely undermined the integrity of the council’s own consultation and they don’t seem to think that matters. That’s an arrogance of power. It’s a conceit. It’s a dreadful thing.

“I have been a councillor for 40 years and I have never seen anything like this.”

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