Richard Watts to stand down as leader of Islington Council

Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council, speaking at a Fair Futures Commission meeting at Ar

Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council, speaking at a Fair Futures Commission meeting at Arts and Media School Islington. Photo by Em Fitzgerald - Credit: Archant

Richard Watts is standing down as leader of Islington Council after eight years in the role.

He has decided not to re-stand as leader of the Islington Labour Group at its next annual general meeting and plans to hand over the reins as council leader at the annual council meeting in May, he announced yesterday.

Cllr Watts, who has represented Tollington ward since 2006, then intends to serve the new administration from the backbenches until next year, when he will stand down as a councillor ahead of the 2022 local government elections.

He said: "It has been the greatest honour of my life to serve as leader of Islington Council since 2013 and to have led Islington Labour to two landslide election victories, to make our borough a fairer place and tackle the issues that matter to our residents.

"I'm proud of everything we have achieved," he added, citing a list including tackling the housing crisis, providing and protecting universal free school meals and implementing the People Friendly Streets programme.

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Cllr Watts explained he reached the decision to "hand over the mantle" of leading the Labour Group and the council over the Christmas break.

"I have never believed that a leader remaining in post for decades is good for any administration," he said.

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"Change and renewal are healthy. As you know, I have found the challenges of the pandemic intense, and at points draining.

"Throughout the pandemic, I have been fortunate to spend more time with my family and as my children grow up, I do not want to miss out on more time with them due to the pressures that come with leading a council."

Green party councillor Caroline Russell expressed regret to see Cllr Watts stand down as leader.

"We’ve not always agreed on everything - we’re in different parties after all - but Richard has been decent and fair in the council chamber and has led the council carefully through years of hideous government-imposed austerity," she said.

Baroness Debbie Wilcox of Newport added to a long list of tributes paid to Cllr Watts on Twitter, saying: "It is an all-consuming and difficult job to lead a council, particularly during this past decade of unprecedented cuts to public services. You have been exemplary and I wish you the very best in whatever you do in the future."

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