Yesterday saw not only the London elections, but also a by election in the Newington ward in Bermondsey and Old Southwark. I stepped down as a councillor in the ward after serving six years and following my election to Parliament last May. James Coldwell was elected the new ward councillor with a huge majority well over four times that of the nearest rival. James ran a great campaign with team Southwark Labour and I am sure he will be a great councillor joining Maisie Anderson and Eleanor Kerslake for Newington.
I will miss being a Newington councillor and thoroughly enjoyed my six years serving local residents. Obviously, being a councillor meant being able to contribute across Southwark:
- as Deputy Cabinet Member helping introduce a hardship fund for disabled people and carers hit by Coalition welfare cuts;
- as a Planning Committee member helping literally shape our community;
- as part of the most innovative Labour group in the country keeping libraries open, delivering free, healthy primary school meals and developing the biggest council house building programme anywhere in Britain.
- But some of the most rewarding aspects of the role of councillor are in Newington and at the very local and personal level:
- Judging the Pasley Park dog show and seeing the event help contribute to the better use of the park by the local community;
- Helping found and fund the Walworth Society – now an established voice and forum for the local community;
- Tackling grot spots and creating schemes that enhance patches of the ward, including on Lorrimore Road and the community planters on the Brandon Estate;
- Through individual casework that may not seem high profile but make a huge difference to people’s lives, like getting fences repaired for older people on the Newington Estate to preventing a man being unfairly evicted on the Penrose or standing up for local leaseholders in court against the council; and
- Working with local community organisations like the Walworth Garden Farm and others to help them when they lost central Government funding – including running fundraising activities and attracting new volunteers.
I remain very grateful to Newington ward residents – and especially the fantastic local Labour team – for all their help, advice and support. I will continue to serve the ward in Parliament and wish James well joining Maisie and Eleanor serving Newington as councillors.