The race to become Lewisham's firstly directly-elected mayor is hotting up with the main parties now choosing their candidates. Chief reporter ANDY LAITHWAITE spoke to the election's only independent contender so far

A BUSINESSMAN aiming to become Lewisham's first directly-elected mayor says it is time to dump Labour.

Richard Merry, 46, of Embleton Road, Lewisham, has announced his intention to run as an independent candidate. He says after 30 years of Labour control, the borough's residents should vote for a fresh approach on May 2.

He believes the state of council services and democracy in the borough should be cause for concern.

The married father-of-two, who is Lewisham shopping centre manager, wants to make council services work for people in Lewisham.

He said: "It is time for a change in Lewisham and people have a unique opportunity to bring it about with an independent mayor.

"Council initiatives are managed badly, there is poor quality control and residents who complain are given the run-around."

Last week it was announced the borough's Labour Party members were to be re-balloted after it emerged the rules had been breached during December's vote to pick its mayoral candidate.

About 200 Lewisham Labour Party members, either in arrears or whose membership had expired and were therefore not entitled to vote, took part in the ballot.

An independent body will be appointed to oversee the re-ballot where members will again choose between current mayor Councillor Dave Sullivan and outsider Councillor Steve Bullock, who originally won the vote.

Mr Merry said: "I would be concerned that if they (Labour) can't organise a ballot, why should the residents have confidence in them to organise other things."


Another confirmed candidate is the Green Party's Sinna Mani, the former Labour mayor of Lewisham, who defected from the party last year.

The Conservatives are currently balloting party members over several potential candidates and the final choice is expected to be revealed this Sunday.

The Liberal Democrats are going through approval processes and some members are interested in standing. The party's candidate should be selcted by March.

For the first time borough residents will choose their own mayor, rather than the old system where he or she was chosen by councillors from the majority party.

The American-style system means the mayor, who will serve four years in office, now has the power to choose and dismiss councillors for his cabinet.

The incumbent will also be able to decide whether decisions are taken personally or by the executive.

Are you thinking of running for mayor? Or do you have a story about one of the candidates?

If you do, call chief reporter Andy Laithwaite on 01689 885711 or email him at: