An eye-watering package of cuts has been signed off by Merton Council in what its leader described as “a moment for sorrow and an occasion for regret”.

With the help of three independent councillors, Merton’s Labour-led administration passed the budget for the 2011/12 financial year, for which £26m worth of cuts has been agreed.

Labour, the biggest party on the council but without a majority, needed the help of the three Merton Park Independent councillors to vote for the budget, which was opposed by Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Out of Merton’s 60 councillors, 31 voted for the budgets (28 Labour, 3 Merton Park Independent), 28 voted against (26 Conservative, 2 Liberal Democrat), with mayor Oonagh Moulton not voting as is customary.

Councillor Alambritis blamed the coalition Government’s reduced grant to Merton Council as the reason for the swingeing cuts, which will affect almost all service areas.

Coun Alambritis said: “I am saddened by the fact that the council will reduce in size over the next few years and I want to pay tribute to all who work for the borough.

“Despite the major changes the council is going through staff continue to go the extra mile to ensure the council delivers excellent services.”

During the four-hour meeting at Merton Civic Centre on Wednesday evening, Conservative councillors lambasted the three Merton Park independent councillors for helping Labour pass its budget, which they said was done without proper consultation with residents.

Conservative leader, Councillor Debbie Shears, said: “This has been another top slicing budget with no strategic vision from the Leader of the Council as to where Merton is going to continue to make savings over the next 3 years.

“Residents that council services will change but they want change to happen in consultation.

“Rather than a top down imposed solution, residents are telling us they want to see front line services protected whilst everything possible is done to drive efficiencies in the council’s back office functions.”

This year’s cuts will mean 222 council jobs will be lost (costing £3.1m in redundancy payouts) as well as major services being stopped, such as Weir Road recycling centre, Taylor Road Day Centre, and the garden waste collection service.

Other controversial proposals were delayed or softened, such as keeping parks unlocked at night (postponed for a year); closing West Barnes and Donald Hope libraries for an extra day (taking effect in July instead of April); and taking away transport freedom passes for the mentally ill (£30,000 clawed back for extreme cases).

More from the budget:

  • Weir Road recycling centre closed to save £175,000;
  • Brightwell children’s respite centre grant cut by £70,000;
  • Garden waste collections will be stopped, saving £227,000;
  • Deen City Farm, Colliers Wood, will have a £15,000 grant cut in 2011/12;
  • Merton Music Foundation’s £26,000 grant will be cut;
  • Restructuring to school standards and park services teams, saving £471,000 overall;
  • Budget for long-term road repairs being cut by £157,000;
  • Transport provision for community care customers to be cut, saving £240,000;
  • Parks will not be left unlocked at night as planned, which would have saved £57,000. Instead, remote locking systems and changes to staffing structures will be explored;
  • Instead of 20 minutes free parking in some council car parks, time allowed will now be 10 minutes;
  • Cuts to the discretionary freedom pass for the mentally ill will be £70,000, with £30,000 reserved for the most vulnerable cases;
  • In July, West Barnes and Donald Hope libraries will be closed for an extra day a week, until when “Big Society” volunteers are encouraged to come forward;
  • Community forums’ meeting will still be scaled back, saving £45,000, but more will be provided for councillors to organise them independently;
  • Closure of Taylor Road Day Centre in Colliers Wood (delayed until July until alternatives can be established).