A town hall leader who helped bring AFC Wimbledon back to their spiritual home has stood down.
The leader of Merton council, Steve Alambritis, has been in charge for 10 years and the leader of the Merton Labour group since 2007.
He made the announcement at the council’s annual meeting on Wednesday and will officially step aside on November 18.
Councillor Alambritis will remain on the council as a backbencher representing Ravensbury ward.
He 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 10 years despite funding cuts.
“We’ve maintained 100 per cent tax support for those in need, and delivered the new learning disability centre at Leyton Road.”
At the meeting, leader of the Conservative opposition, councillor Nick McLean, paid tribute to the outgoing leader.
He said: “I would like to add the Conservative group’s acknowledgement of the immense public service and dedication to Merton Cllr Alambritis has shown.
“We clearly are on opposing sides but one cannot fail to be impressed by his election-winning capability and with three election wins that is certainly there.”
Cllr Alambritis steps down from the role as the council faces serious financial challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Cuts could be on the horizon, with the council looking at a budget gap of more than £23 million.
AFC Wimbledon look set to return to Plough Lane in the middle of this football season. The club left its home of nearly 80 years in 1991 after the ground was deemed to be unfit to convert into a modern all-seater stadium. The plot was sold to build flats.
Merton council, under Cllr Alambritis, launched a joint bid in 2013, with Galliard Homes, to build a new ground on the site of the ageing greyhound stadium next door, with 600 flats.
It was approved in December 2015 and looks set to be completed as early as next month.
After Cllr Alambritis’s announcement, London mayor Sadiq Khan Tweeted: “From improving services for families, to supporting the most vulnerable residents, over the last decade the lives of thousands of Merton residents have been transformed for the better under Cllr Alambritis’ leadership.”
Pictured top: Merton council’s offices
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