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Baroness: ‘I can’t serve in the Lords and lead the city council’

Local Tory leadership contest begins as Baroness Couttie steps down at Westminster Council

04 November, 2016 — By Alina Polianskaya

Philippa Roe is introduced in the Lords as Baroness Couttie, of Downe in the County of Kent

A LEADERSHIP contest has been sparked after Baroness Couttie, also known as Philippa Roe, announced she was stepping down as leader of Westminster City Council.

The Conservative said yesterday (Thursday) it would not be possible to continue her role at Westminster City Hall after her elevation to the House of Lords.

She said it was time to “hand on the baton”.

An election for a replacement is due to take place on December 7.

As Cllr Roe, the baroness took over as council leader from Colin Barrow in 2012.

It has been rumoured that councillors Nickie Aiken and Rachael Robathan may be the front-runners for the job.

The baroness said she was very sorry to be leaving her role as leader but “it’s just not possible to do both,” explaining that she was “not one to do things half-heartedly”.

She said: “It was very much my intention and hope that I would be able to continue in my role as leader of Westminster City Council at the same time as serving in the House of Lords.

“However, having now spent six weeks in the Lords and talked at length to fellow working peers, I have a fuller understanding of the time commitments required and how that will impact on my ability to discharge my duties as leader.

“I have therefore reluctantly decided that, in order to serve the best interests of Westminster, I must hand on the baton to a new leader for the city, as I do not believe it is possible to undertake both roles to the level I would wish to.”

As for who will be taking over the role, she said she is staying “completely neutral”, adding: “I don’t think it is my role to make a judgment.”

The baroness said she was particularly proud of recent work with the long-term unemployed, claiming the council had helped more than 900 people find jobs in the last 18 months.

Conservative West End ward councillor Glenys Roberts said: “I would like the next leader to look at the West End not just as a place to make money for the whole country but also as a place to live.”

John Zamit, chairman of the South East Bayswater Residents’ Association, said: “The news didn’t come as a shock to us that she was resigning. In fact we are surprised she hadn’t resigned sooner.”

Leader of the Westminster Labour group Adam Hug said: “The new leader, whoever they may be, needs to take this opportunity to think again about how to stop the devastating cuts to vital local services and ensure the council puts residents first.”

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