Welcome to Local Dialogue’s weekly London local election briefing, bringing you updates from the key battleground boroughs.
Contact the political team at Local Dialogue to receive our London-wide pre-election report, or commission a more in-depth study of any borough.
This week (10-16 March) in the key London boroughs:
Cllr Rokhsana Fiaz (pictured right) has sensationally beaten incumbent Sir Robin Wales for the Newham Labour Party mayoral candidate selection. Sir Robin has led the council since 1995, first as Leader and then Mayor after 2002, but the writing was on the wall when Cllr Fiaz picked up support from across the political spectrum, including senior Momentum activists, former cabinet member allies of Sir Robin, and local MP Lyn Brown. The margin was wider than predicted, with Cllr Fiaz taking 63% (859 votes) to Sir Robin's 37% (503 votes). We would expect significant change to cabinet figures when Cllr Fiaz takes office. Sir Robin's key lieutenant Cllr Ken Clark, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Chair of the Strategic Development Committee - who was at MIPIM this week - is unlikely to remain in post with Fiaz as Mayor.
In Barnet, the Conservatives lost their nominal majority on the council. Cllr Sury Khatri (Mill Hill), a group whip and Chairman of the Hendon Residents Forum resigned his party membership after being deselected by Hendon Conservative Association. He was one of three Conservative councillors, with a combined council service of 52 years, deselected earlier this week. Councillors Joan Scannell (Edgware), and Maureen Braun (Hendon, Chairman of the Hendon Area Planning Committee), suffered the same fate but have not left the party. Barnet Labour are portraying the factionalism as a purge of moderate Conservatives by more right-wing and Brexit-supporting members, but it will have little practical effect on the running of the borough with two weeks to go until Purdah.
London councils have sent in their comments on the draft London Plan. Labour-controlled outer boroughs have led the charge on opposition to proposed housing targets, with Brent saying it is “extremely disappointed” with its high housing delivery target, and Ealing expressing “grave doubts” about deliverability. Camden, Islington, and Westminster have suggested a number of policies are “too prescriptive”, and Lewisham and Hackney are known to have an issue with the changes to the density matrix.
The Labour opposition in Westminster announced more policy pledges. If they win in May, Westminster Labour will scrap the current homelessness strategy and undertake an urgent review into the Council’s approach. On housing, Labour pledged that at least 50% of new builds on council land will be for council and key worker rent levels. To “find new ways to build social and lower rent housing”, an incoming administration would set up a Westminster Housing Commission to be chaired by prominent Labour housing campaigner Steve Hilditch.
Prominent Tower Hamlets Labour councillor Khales Uddin Ahmed has been suspended from the party and therefore has been removed as a Labour candidate for the May election. The experienced Bromley North councillor has been under investigation for some time for alleged breaches of party rules including bullying and supporting opposition candidates. An administrative suspension was imposed by the National Executive Committee Disputes Panel this week. Cllr Ahmed is a noted internal opponent of Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs.
And finally… a chicken shop owned by a Redbridge councillor failed a Food Standards Agency inspection. Cllr Mohammad Ahmed (Lab, Loxford) has been the leaseholder of Chicken Bites in Ilford Lane for the last eight years, but claimed he recently contracted two people to manage the shop. Perhaps luckily for Labour, he is standing down in May.
Other local government news
The Financial Times reports that elected Labour Mayor of Salford Paul Dennett has written to Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid to complain that the £2 billion fund for council house building announced five months ago has not been released. In his letter, Mayor Dennett expresses "concern and frustration" that the guidelines for the allocation of grants have not been published, and that "no date has been set for when this funding will be made available”.
Sajid Javid has signed-off on a successful appeal against Redbridge’s refusal of Sainsbury’s plans to build 683 homes as part of its Ilford superstore redevelopment. The application offered just 4 per cent affordable housing, and was refused on this basis.