CAMDEN Council leader Sarah Hayward has this evening told Labour councillors she is standing down at the group’s annual general meeting on May 2. She will also not seek re-election as a councillor in King’s Cross at next year’s boroughwide elections.
Here’s her full email to the Labour group:
Just over five years ago, I wrote to Labour group to say that I thought it was time for a change of leadership of Camden Council. Today I write with the same message.
I will not be seeking re-election as leader at this year’s AGM.
Before the 2014 local elections, I promised myself (and my husband) that I’d do just one more term as a councillor. As I will not be seeking re-election as a councillor next year, now is the right time to pass on the baton of leadership to my successor.
When I started as leader, I set myself two principal goals: to leave Camden in a better place than when I started and to leave group with options for a strong successor as leader.
I believe I have achieved both.
As a result of successive selection processes, Labour group is full of talent and I believe that we have one of the strongest cabinets of any council in the country. There are strong, talented options for succession and I have played my part in bringing that talent through. It is now down to you to decide who the right person is to take Camden forward.
While we have also left Camden borough in a better place overall, this is less straightforward. Seven years of Tory cuts have taken their toll on many much-loved services and have had a devastating impact on some of our residents. Cuts to benefits, cuts to the police and to the NHS have all had an impact our work and have made it harder. There is no doubt that the scale of the cuts have had a very negative impact on our borough and many of our residents.
However I have been determined, with your support, to ensure that neither we as an administration, or the officers who’ve helped us deliver, have ever been cowed by the scale of the challenges we’ve faced. I’ve worked hard to ensure people have remained inspired by the level of our ambition for the borough. Despite the challenges, Camden is in a better place because of the work we have done as a Labour administration, putting our Labour values in to practice.
Looking back on our achievements during the last five years, I am proud to say that we have made a difference. Together, we have stood in the best traditions of Camden Labour and there’s a lot to celebrate – too much for one email. But our achievements that make me most proud are:
– tackling inequality: Camden has a long and proud history of tackling inequality and this has been at the heart of everything we’ve done as a council. The Equalities Taskforce brought this into the mainstream, not just for the council but also with our partners, in a way that has never been seen before. Committing the council to being a Living Wage employer, with full implementation this year, is something we can all be proud of. We were also the first public employer in the country to publish pay gap data not just by gender but also by ethnicity and disability – we can only tackle problems if we’re honest about them;
– housing: we have shown real leadership on building council homes, quality in the private rented sector, short lets on home sharing websites, municipal housing companies, reducing the use of temporary accommodation and much more;
– fighting HS2: we have achieved concessions that many people said were impossible, particularly on replacement housing and open space as well as compensation;
– refugees: we have given sanctuary and housed more families and unaccompanied children than any other London borough and we continue to lead the national fight;
– preventing homelessness: our pioneering work has stopped families becoming homeless as a result of the benefit cuts and we have the lowest use of temporary accommodation in London;
– community cohesion: there have sadly been a significant number of events that have threatened our communities and our diversity, I’ve consistently worked with other councillors and faith and community leaders to seek to preserve our diversity and ensure everyone feels safe and welcome, and that Camden is no place for hate;
– policy innovation: we are leading the way on childcare and women’s employment and we have not been afraid to try new things like adult apprenticeships and good quality flexible working. We have developed new initiatives in mental health through our Camden Healthy Minds fund and work targeted at improving employment among BME women – a model that is now used London wide;
– cross-Camden leadership: we’ve built really strong partnerships across the community, business and the public sector. I led the creation of the business board and faith partnership and, together with Pat, developed the health and wellbeing board – all of which now deliver strong results for Camden and our residents;
– budgeting for outcomes: we could have left ourselves managing decline of dwindling service budgets. Instead we took the bold step to identify outcomes and relentlessly focus our resources where they can make most difference. This process led us to invest in domestic abuse services when others have cut it to the bone, and really shows Labour vales in action when resources are tight;
– making council tax more progressive: second-home owners and people who keep empty properties are charged more, while providing continued benefit (which was cut by the Tories) for those on low incomes, and exempting foster carers;
– quality public services: through all the challenges we’ve faced, we have maintained our focus on delivering high-quality public services that our residents need and value;
– resident satisfaction: Camden’s residents believe that today’s council services provide better value for money than at any time in our history;
– campaigning and listening to residents: I am proud of my part in turning us back in to a campaigning party after the 2006 loss, including the establishment of campaign targets and the Labour Group campaign fund. We now constantly listen to residents and act on their concerns. It’s worth remembering that almost no-one thought we could retake the council in 2010 – including London Region. We did it anyway, and 2014 saw record numbers of councillors elected;
– showing there is an alternative to Tory dogma: my proudest achievement is the cumulative impact of all of the above. Together, we have shown time and again that there are alternatives to Tory slash and burn.
There is a lot more I could celebrate here, much of which has come from you and your work as ward councillors and on scrutiny. With your support, we have initiated a policy making process for the future. A future that will bring its own challenges and in which Camden will make further progress. Our achievements go to show just how important it is to be able to win power and put our principles into action. Losing the 2010 election was not a luxury that we or our communities could have afforded.
Looking forward to 2018 and beyond I can, hand on heart, say that the London Borough of Camden and Camden Labour are in a better place than they were five years ago. A lot of that is down to your talent and your hard work. You can go in to next year’s borough-wide elections with a solid financial base and a policy platform that is ambitious and truly innovative. You will have a strong slate of candidates that will blend your experience with new talent that will show people, not just in Camden but far beyond, just how bold and serious Labour can be.
Good luck for the future. I’ll be watching from the side-lines and rooting for you every step of the way.