Longest-serving Council Leader to step down after a decade

Stephen Alambritis has announced he will step down as Leader of the London Borough of Merton in November, ten years after he first won election to the role.

The council’s longest-serving leader, Cllr Alambritis will formally leave his post at the next meeting of the Council on November 18, when a new Leader will also be proposed for election.

First elected to the council as Ravensbury ward councillor in in 2003, Cllr Alambritis became Labour Leader in the 2007/8 municipal year, and took the council’s most senior role in 2010 following the first of three successive election victories.

With over a decade of service, he has led the authority for longer than any previous Leader since the council was formed in 1965.

In 2013, Merton Council was named Best Achieving Council at the prestigious MJ Achievement Awards.

Under Cllr Alambritis’s leadership, a wide range of improvements have been delivered for the borough:

Supporting the most vulnerable

  • Establishing and maintaining 100% council tax support to those on low  incomes in the borough.
  • Ensuring those leaving care don’t pay council tax until they are aged 25 to help them get started.
  • Development of the new learning disability centre at Leyton Road.
  • The fight continues against  proposals to downgrade St Helier Hospital.

Improving services for families

  • The development of a brand new leisure centre at Morden, and new library at Collier’s Wood. The borough’s seven award–winning libraries have all been kept open, as other local authorities close libraries.
  • Significant improvement in school exam results, with all secondary schools now rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted.
  • Expansion to more than 20 schools to create 4,500 new school places.
  • A brand new secondary school building, nearing completion in South Wimbledon.

Being more business-like in how the council operates

Cllr Alambritis used his background in business – before leading the council, he had a successful career at the Federation of Small Businesses – to run the council in a more business-like way.

  • Managing local spending and maintaining a 0% tax increase for six years out of ten.
  • Delivering best-in-London performance in supporting local businesses with grants during the pandemic.
  • Improving resident satisfaction with the way the council is run.
  • A football fanatic (and season ticket holder at Fulham FC), he led the council’s support for local club AFC Wimbledon to achieve their goal of returning home to Plough Lane in a brand new stadium, which is part of a development of 800 much-needed homes.

Most recently, Cllr Alambritis has chaired the council’s COVID-19 task group, leading the council’s response to the pandemic, during which time more than 8,000 vulnerable people were directly supported by the council.

In addition to his role as Council Leader, Cllr Alambritis has been a member of the Better Regulation Task Force at the Cabinet Office, and a Commissioner at both the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) and at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Cllr Alambritis is also a trustee on the board of London Sport and a member of the Leaders’ Committee at London Councils.

He will remain as a backbench councillor, representing the Ravensbury ward, which he has served since 2003.

Cllr Alambritis said: “It has been an incredible privilege to serve the borough I love for so long. There have been great times, and of course some difficult ones, but it has been an honour because Merton is my home, and my family’s home.

“I said back when I started as Leader that I wanted to improve services for families, support the most vulnerable in the borough, and get a more business-like focus at the council. I really believe we’ve done that.

“We’ve improved and expanded schools – with better exam results and more capacity, as well as the new school in Wimbledon – built the new leisure centre in Morden and opened a new library in  Colliers Wood, and delivered six tax freezes in ten years despite funding cuts. We’ve maintained 100% tax support for those in need, and delivered the new learning disability centre at Leyton Road.

“Together, we’ve built one of the best partnership environments in London. Our public services, health and voluntary sectors work hand-in-hand, and that’s never been more evident than during the current pandemic.”