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Exodus at Town Hall as councillors decline to stand at elections again

Leaving so soon? Several one-term councillors are departing

07 October, 2021 — By Richard Osley

Abdul Hai has been a councillor for 16 years

A LONG-SERVING cabinet councillor is among a series of local politicians who are not seeking re-election.

Abdul Hai has spent 16 years at the Town Hall – nearly of decade of which have been at the top-table of executive councillors who essentially hold the final say on policy.

But he is not the only one who looks set to say farewell to the council chamber ahead of next May’s council elections – the chance for everybody in the borough to choose who runs Camden for the following four years.

As the deadline for applications passed over the weekend, it emerged the deputy mayor Lorna Russell has not reapplied to stand in the Fortune Green ward, currently split between Labour and the Lib Dems.

She would have been in line to become the mayor.

Meanwhile, a host of councillors associated with the left wing of the Labour Party were not on a list of members putting themselves forward for re-selection.

Nayra Bello O’Shanahan, centre, campaigning with council leader Georgia Gould and Sadiq Khan a the last local elections

Simon Pearson, Nayra Bello O’Shanahan, Gail McAnena Wood and Georgie Robertson, all seen as broad supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s national leadership, are due to step down after just one term as councillors.

There have been debates about how valued backbenchers feel among Camden Labour’s giant contingent at the Town Hall, with limited opportunities to get onto the decision-making cabinet or other panels.

Three cabinet members have also claimed spots on the planning committee.

Other exits for Labour include Peter Taheri in the West Hampstead ward, again after just a single term, and Oliver Lewis in Highgate.

Peter Taheri will not seek re-election after just one term as a councillor

The so-called “centrist” caucus in the Labour group now have the chance to claim an even stronger stranglehold on the control of the council, after several years of infighting which at one point saw Town Hall leader Councillor Georgia Gould hire mediators.

One source of frustration was how left-wing backbenchers helped force the formation of a council scrutiny panel on Camden’s flagship Community Investment Programme.

There will also be voluntary exits on the Conservative bench: Henry Newman, who has risen to become a Downing Street adviser, and Maria Higson had already told colleagues of their intentions to depart.

Henry Newman is on the list of members who will not be on next May’s ballot paper

Cllr Hai, who always features on the Town Hall rumour mill as somebody who could one day seek parliamentary selection, said: “It’s time for me to step aside and make way for a new generation of Labour councillors to deliver public services based on our shared values of tackling inequality and social injustice.”

He included “bringing the coroner service into the 21st century so that it addresses the needs of different faith groups” as one of his proudest achievements.

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