A COUPLE of Labour heads couldn’t help but rib me over how long it took to see a copy of Sarah Hayward’s email to her colleagues, the one where she told them that she was standing against group leader Nash Ali. Sarah’s camp might just be taking some encouragement in the fact that it took more than a week – rather than 15 minutes – for it to arrive in the drop-box. Does the equation work that the less leaks there are, the greater the togetherness in the group? It’ll be interesting to see.
For Sarah’s part, I think she feels her words to members provide a broader context to her decision to stand for the top job.
I am writing to you because I have told Nash today that I intend to stand for leader of the Labour Group and Camden Council at this year’s AGM. I have set out my reasons for this decision below and I hope you will take time to read this message.
Over the last two years Camden Labour has had to cope with the largest cuts the borough has ever faced. We have acted with communities’ and residents’ interests at the heart of our decisions and I am proud of our achievements.
As we reach the mid-point of our term, however, it’s clear that things are going to get harder, not easier. The scale of the challenge is like nothing Camden Labour or our residents have ever faced.
The Conservative-led government have caused the economy to stall and have said that we will face cuts until 2017. This means central Government actions will dominate our next administration too. And it isn’t just Council budgets and policy that are being ripped up, privatised and cut to extinction. The NHS might not survive its misguided reorganisation; London policing is being cut to the bone; and welfare reform may provoke the fastest social change that London has seen for decades.
In the middle of all this, May 2014, we will be asking Camden’s residents to judge our performance and re-elect us. The outcome of these elections is not a foregone conclusion. We need a leader who can ensure our campaigning from is the best it can be – this needs to start now.
While we have done well to get where we are in the face of overwhelming adversity, it’s increasingly apparent we need a step-change over the next two years to be able to deliver for our residents, win in 2014 and govern effectively beyond.
We face a choice: Sit back and react to the Government’s destruction of our Council, our Borough and the services our communities cherish. Or work as hard as we can, using all the talents and experience in Group, to pre-empt the changes and influence the outcomes for the people of Camden. We need to have the passion, and sense of urgency, that puts us back at the forefront of Local Government and the Labour movement. While we must learn from others and share ideas, Camden used to lead the way – we should strive to do so again.
Every day we need to remember that 250,000 people have entrusted us to spend nearly £1bn of their money on much-loved services. If we get it wrong, if we’re wasteful, if we don’t take them with us, they won’t trust us in the future. But we must also have the confidence to make the case for the difficult decisions we take. I have repeatedly demonstrated my willingness to make the case to our residents, to support ward councillors with difficult decisions, and to take the debate to the opposition.
We have developed the Camden Plan, but we need to make sure the detailed policy delivers Labour values in Camden and that we have a leader who will ensure it is delivered to build on the successes we’ve already had: To tackle inequality through any and every means possible. To build as much council housing as we can. To ensure our schools are being the best in London. To support business to, in turn, support our communities. And to aim to offer the same chance to succeed in life to all our residents, from wherever they start.
Over the past year many of you have asked me to stand to lead group. Until very recently I concentrated solely on my Cabinet portfolio. But I have now given the matter more thought and decided to seek your support to serve as your leader. I have always operated with transparency and always will. Since my mind is made up, I have decided to declare my intentions. While I know this email may seem early I want to encourage a debate about our future and listen to your ideas.
I want to lead because I believe I have the skills and experience to develop this Labour Group of talented and dedicated councillors, to provide a tough defence against this Government’s disastrous agenda and to deliver Labour solutions to the problems our communities face. To stand up for the people who elected us in 2010 and to ensure that there is a strong, healthy Labour administration to ensure our good work continues beyond 2014.
I have no desire to subject you all to an eight-week bombardment of campaigning, not least because the most important thing at the moment is playing our part in Labour victories for London and for Camden Town with Primrose Hill. But I will make time to speak to anyone who wants to about what a Labour Camden led by me would be like. See you on the campaign trail soon.
Cabinet Member for Communities, Regeneration & Equalities
King’s Cross Ward