Pay more tax, get more political representation?
Merton as a borough is a tale of two halves. When you look at the political map there’s a very clear divide. One half of the borough – the more affluent part around Wimbledon – is Conservative. They control ten wards and have 30 councillors.
The other half of the borough – the less affluent area of Mitcham and Morden – is Labour. They control nine wards and have 27 seats on the council.
There are no councillors of any other party in either half – the right is pure Labour. The left is pure Conservative.
There’s a grey blob in the middle that is Merton Park which is controlled by the Merton Park Ward Independent Residents.
Merton is a council with no overall control. The Conservatives hold exactly 50% of the seats. But if the Merton Park Independents supported the Labour councillors, they’d hold exactly 50% of the seats.
The Merton Park Independents thus hold the balance of power.
Then there is the mayor.
In Merton the Mayor is, like most places, a largely ceremonial role.
However the Mayor gets a casting vote over everything brought to the full council. If the council is 50-50 split in either direction, the Mayoral vote is the decider. And lets face it, with a party political division the way it is, that’s a decider that could get used quite regularly.
There’s now a mayoral election going on.
Merton Park’s independents are apparently pledging to support a Labour mayoral candidate. They claim they’re doing this to ensure that no one party takes control of the borough.
Into the mix wades Conservative councillor Rod Scott who, in a letter to the Wimbledon Guardian, proclaims:
“Wimbledon households contribute the greater part of council tax paid in Merton borough. In mayoral terms, this is taxation without representation.”
Or as the Wimbledon Guardian sums it up as…
Merton must have a Tory mayor because Wimbledon residents pay more tax
(The actual letter is not online, however the Guardian reports the story on its website along with extracts and responses.)
I can’t but have the feeling that Councillor Scott missed something. The bit about everyone having their right to vote; the right to have their say regardless of gender, ethnicity and indeed financial status. That money and power has not been a key to representation for more than a few years now.
Next year there will be another election. At this point Rod Scott and all his colleagues will be up for election. And where the power goes – to the rich half of the borough or the not-quite-so-rich half will be determined then. It will be done by the ballot box. By fair representation of the people. The make-up of Merton Council will be decided based on people making decisions.
And not by how much money they have.
The way it should be. The way it will be.
And in the meantime we’ll probably have a Labour mayor. And a group of Independents holding the balance of power.
Which is pretty much what the public voted for in 2006.
Sorry Councillor Scott, but money is not all that matters in such things.
(In a sense of slight irony, the map above was based on a ward map from the Wimbledon Conservatives website, and re-coloured by myself to help demonstrate the split visually. I’m sure they won’t mind me “borrowing” it from their website in order to help illustrate the democratic make up of the London Borough of Merton.)