The Dear Leader resigns: Chris Roberts leaves Greenwich Council
Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts is to quit the authority altogether at next month’s council election, he’s announced in an email to councillors.
Roberts, who was first elected to the council in the 1990s and became leader in 2000, had previously announced he would stand down as leader but seek re-election in Glyndon ward.
This website understands that Roberts resigned as a director of council company Meridian Home Start after clashing with Labour councillors about the firm’s role.
Roberts’ resignation email in full:
I wrote in February last year to advise that it was not my intention to seek re-election as Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich following this year’s local elections in May.
The administration held its final Council meeting at the end of March and on Monday the formal period of election ‘purdah’ commences.
I am therefore writing to you now to advise that it is not in fact my intention to seek election to the Council at all. I believe the presence of a previous leader in the new administration, especially one who has held the post as long as I have, is unfair on any successor.
When I wrote last year, I expressed the hope that we would be able to complete the work necessary to secure the Crossrail station at Woolwich. This we were able to announce last July.
Our work on Crossrail was itself a crucial element of our growth agenda which has also seen the development of four new development master plans backed by targeted intervention by the Council to stimulate economic activity and generate employment.
These include commitments over the next four years to build a new leisure centre in the heart of Woolwich, a new cinema in Eltham High Street, a performing arts centre in the Borough Halls at Greenwich and the expansion of pier capacity at Greenwich, Woolwich, Charlton and Thamesmead.
In addition the Council is primed to finance up to £30m of investment in the expansion of school places to meet the growing demand of our population as well as securing more than 450 genuinely affordable homes to be built on the Greenwich Peninsula for those in greatest need.
Of course the final year of this administration has been overshadowed by the awful murder of Lee Rigby and marks the lowest point of my entire period as Leader. I am relieved at least that his killers were so swiftly brought to justice. I hope this, alongside the outpouring of support and thanks for Lee’s service to his country, provides some small measure of condolence to his family.
During this last year, I am particularly proud of the progress we have made in moving people off benefits and into work. A coherent and coordinated approach has enabled hundreds of families locally move into employment.
Our programmes for growth and anti-poverty have been recognised nationally, as indeed is our continuing strong record of financial management. None of the projects I have referred to above require additional support from the Council Tax payer.
We have frozen Council Tax seven years in a row and the Council’s finances have been left in a robust state which will enable this to be maintained during the four year life of the next Council.
I remain enormously grateful for having had the honour to serve as Leader of this Borough. As I write last year, I have been blessed with an extraordinary collection of Council officers who have embraced the agenda I have set, even when that agenda keeps expanding.
The same is true of the remarkable women who have worked in my personal office and given so much by way of support and help to me.
I was grateful for the huge number of kind messages I received to my message last year and while some have kindly canvassed my candidature for London or Westminster, it has always been my wish to ‘do’ something rather than ‘be’ something.
I have greatly valued the support and commitment of our wide and expanding array of partners to working with, for or alongside Greenwich during my time as Leader.
I trust this will continue and that my successor when she is elected in June will be equally blessed and that the work we have each committed to on behalf of the people of Royal Greenwich will continue into the future.
Leader, Royal Borough of Greenwich
Roberts’ resignation now opens the way for one of his close associates, such as current deputy leader Peter Brooks, to be parachuted into the Glyndon seat ahead of Monday’s close of nominations for the elections. It could be an interesting weekend in the Greenwich Labour Party.
A new council leader will be chosen by councillors in June. Roberts’ use of the word “she” would appear to confirm suggestions that cabinet members Denise Hyland and Jackie Smith are front-runners.