Two former council leaders honoured with Freedom of the Borough

(L-R) Alderman Nick Draper, Alderman Peter Southgate, Alderman Mark Allison, Alderwoman Oonagh Moulton, Alderman David Simpson CBE, Alderman Russell Makin, Alderman David Dean, Alderman David Williams MBE JP and Alderman John Dehaney

Last night (5 September), two former leaders of Merton Council were honoured with the Freedom of the Borough, while a further 10 former councillors were made Aldermen/women at a special council meeting, which was convened to give thanks to long-serving representatives who left the council at the last election.

Former councillors Mark Allison (who led the council from 2020-22) and David Tyrie Williams MBE JP (who led the council from 2006-10) were awarded the Freedom of the Borough, which is the highest honour which the council can award. As well as their stints in charge of the council, they accumulated 20 and 45 years of service as councillors respectively.

The motion to grant former Cllr. Allison Freedom of the Borough noted: “Mark held many positions on the Council and made a substantial contribution to the borough, especially in enhancing businesses, economic growth and prosperity, and in protecting those who are more vulnerable and on low incomes. Mark also played an important role in supporting charities in the Borough. As Cabinet Member for Finance, Mark oversaw the management of the Borough’s finances for over ten years. Mark also ensured all Council staff were paid the living wage and introduced bereavement leave for staff who miscarry.”

Former Cllr. Williams’ motion said: “David has served the Borough in many ways [other than being a councillor], including having been a School Governor at various levels for over 50 years, a member of the Endeavour Youth Club Management Committee in Morden for 35 years and a member of Merton Deanery Synod for 16 years. David has also served as a magistrate in Merton since 1986 and in 2019 received an MBE for Political Service in Local Government.”

Alongside the Freedom of the Borough honours, 12 former councillors were made Honorary Aldermen or Alderwomen of the borough. This title is bestowed upon any former councillor who dedicated 15 or more cumulative years to the council. The former councillors who were given the honour were: Mark Allison, David Williams MBE JP, David Chung, David Dean, John Dehaney, Nick Draper, James Holmes, Russell Makin, Oonagh Moulton, David Simpson CBE, Peter Southgate and Geraldine Stanford.

Councillor Joan Henry, Mayor of Merton, said: “Becoming a councillor is an enormous sacrifice, with office holders giving over much of their lives to the role. Because of this, virtually all those that serve in local government do it for one reason: a sense of duty to the neighbourhood that they love. To give 15 or more years of one’s life to this duty is a commitment that very few people could give. On behalf of the whole borough, I want to deeply thank all 12 former councillors who have been made an Alderwoman or an Alderman.

“To lead the council is an even greater sacrifice still. It takes a very particular type of person to be able to make the big calls that are required of a council leader, and it also takes great strength to open yourself up to the criticism that comes with a role in the public eye. David and Mark led Merton through two periods which presented their own unique challenges, and they both served with distinction. I whole-heartedly congratulate both of them on receiving the honour of Freedom of the Borough, and I wish them the very best in their lives after Merton Council.”