Our congratulations, from all at Thorncliffe, to Mark Allison, who becomes the new leader of Merton.
Mark is a friend of Thorncliffe, having worked as a colleague with us for five years.
Mark has been a councillor for nearly 20 years, ten years as cabinet member for finance, and deputy leader for seven years. He is firmly aligned to the moderate side of the Labour Party and will make no sudden change on the approach of Stephen Alambritis.
Mark is from Carshalton, and went to York University and Birkbeck London. In his early career he worked transcribing MP’s speeches for Hansard, as a marketing consultant, football writer, and political researcher. He stood for Sutton council in a 1995 byelection and was Labour candidate in Sutton and Cheam at the 1997 general election. For many years he worked for Siobhain McDonagh MP.
Having moved to Colliers Wood, Allison was elected to Merton council for the Lavender Fields ward in 2002 and immediately joined the cabinet with responsibility for customer services. Labour lost control after the 2006 election, but Mark took to opposition very well – attacking the Conservative administration for overspending and increasing council tax.
In February 2010 Mark managed to detach the Merton Park Ward Independent Resident councillors from their allegiance to the Conservatives; with their votes he defeated the administration over increases in parking costs. At the council election in May 2010 Labour managed to win one more seat than the Conservatives and this time the Independent Residents backed Labour to run the council.
Mark became cabinet member for finance, a highly politically risky post in normal times. He succeeded in keeping council tax rates down and frozen longer than in other boroughs, being partly motivated by electoral concerns. In early 2013 the Conservative group moved a no confidence motion in him, blaming him for making excessive cuts and under-spending against the budget; Mark reacted by noting the severe reductions in government funding.
The Labour group chose him to be deputy Leader in September 2013, and won an overall majority in the 2014 council elections. The continuing cuts caused a major political dispute in 2016 when the budget reduced spending on social care in order to continue a council tax freeze; several Labour councillors objected and one resigned.
Merton has not been among the councils obsessed with housebuilding, but Allison has sought to use available sites for housing. An attempt by an unidentified entrepreneur to use a derelict leisure centre in Wimbledon was rebuffed by him in 2018 as the council intended to develop homes on the site.
Thorncliffe has been working in Merton for many years now. If you have a project in this borough, or any other, email firstname.lastname@example.org.