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Lewis Herbert says the time is right to stand down as Cambridge City Council leader after seven years

Cllr Lewis Herbert is to stand down as the leader of Cambridge City Council after more than seven years in the role.

His Labour colleagues will meet next week to elect a new leader. Four candidates will stand to succeed him.

Outgoing council leader Lewis Herbert. Picture: Keith Heppell
Outgoing council leader Lewis Herbert. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cllr Herbert will stand down at the end of November, but remain as a city councillor for the Coleridge ward, which he has represented since 2004.

Announcing his decision, Cllr Herbert - who is the longest serving leader in the city council’s history - said it was the right time for new leadership.

He said: “I feel so lucky to have been leader of Cambridge City Council, serving in a city of considerable magic. It has easily been my greatest privilege in four decades of public service work.

“I am so proud of our council staff and all they do for us – never more so than over the pandemic, when they really have gone above and beyond for our residents. It’s been a privilege to lead such a talented team of Labour councillors, who have worked with real dedication over the past seven years to improve residents’ lives and help make our city the best it can be.

“We’ve pulled together to create ‘One Cambridge Fair For All’ by tackling inequality and promoting food justice and addressing the twin environmental emergencies of biodiversity loss and climate change.

“We’ve built over 500 new council homes and provided dozens of mobile homes for former rough sleepers. We’ve secured money to improve transport and infrastructure and maintained quality services throughout Covid despite a serious shortfall in government funding.

“We have a hugely able, experienced and collegiate team of Cambridge Labour councillors. All leaders should be ready to step aside when the time is right, and now is the time for new leadership.

“I will continue to serve my favourite area of Coleridge as a ward councillor and will be supporting the new leader of the council, along with all our Labour teams at city, county and Combined Authority level.

Cllr Lewis Herbert in the Guildhall. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Lewis Herbert in the Guildhall. Picture: Keith Heppell

“Our work for Cambridge and its residents continues at the same pace, and with the same aims. We are lucky to have residents with both high expectations and a willingness to volunteer and help each other, including working with the city council on so many of the local and national challenges facing Cambridge – particularly helping those in need and those who find themselves homeless, reducing their carbon emissions, campaigning for national action on climate change and so much more.

“Despite our bounce back economy and a community that cares so deeply, the next few years are going to be very challenging for both the city council and for Cambridge - particularly because the government continuously denies adequate funding for local authorities, especially during Covid, but also before the pandemic.

“The new leader will have my full support as we continue to make the changes and improvements needed for our city, assisted, of course, by our work alongside Daniel [Zeichner] as our MP, our universities and businesses, South Cambridgeshire District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council, as well as mayor Nik Johnson and the Combined Authority. Those partnerships are crucial to the way we work, and we value them very highly.

“We will continue to work together, to improve life for residents and businesses in the city that we all love, Cambridge.”

Cllr Herbert’s political career began early, when he became the youngest ever Greater London councillor at the age of 24 in 1980, serving with Ken Livingstone and John McDonnell when Labour ran London and the Greater London Council from 1981 to 1986, before Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher abolished the GLC.

He spent four years in New Zealand, working for its government on local government reform and environmental legislation overall.

Lewis Herbert at the election count in May 2019. Picture: Keith Heppell
Lewis Herbert at the election count in May 2019. Picture: Keith Heppell

He then became the first Cambridgeshire recycling officer in the 1990s, setting up new recycling and reuse schemes across the county and Peterborough after his family moved to Cambridge in 1990. He was head of waste and recycling from 2000 to 2003, before working at Anglia Ruskin University, designing and delivering more than 250 training courses for council planners and planning councillors, which he is continuing to do independently.

In June 2014, he became leader of the city council.

He served on the Greater Cambridge Partnership board until April, engaging in some lively disputes with the former Tory mayorof the Combined Authority, James Palmer.

And he led Labour to another election victory in May, when the party held off the Liberal Democrat challenge to take 27 of the 42 seats - one up from 2019.

The four candidates vying to succeed Cllr Herbert as the new leader of the Labour group are:

  • Cllr Rosy Moore (Coleridge), executive councillor for climate change, environment and city centre;
  • Cllr Martin Smart (King’s Hedges), non-statutory deputy leader and chair of planning committee;
  • Cllr Anna Smith (Coleridge), statutory deputy leader and executive councillor for communities; and
  • Cllr Katie Thornburrow (Petersfield), executive councillor for planning policy and transport.

Labour councillors will meet next week (from October 11) to elect a new nominee leader. The nominee will then be decided by full council at a special meeting in November.

Labour said plans are in place for Cllr Herbert to support the new leader into 2022 to enable a smooth transition.

Read more

Cambridge City Council Labour group will ‘repay faith’ shown in them

City council leader Lewis Herbert steps down from Greater Cambridge Partnership board

Lewis Herbert: We all need cleaner air, better buses and fewer cars

Read Cllr Lewis Herbert’s articles for the Cambridge Independent

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