A Brighton Labour councillor said this evening that she would be standing down at the local elections next year.
Caroline Penn shared the news on Facebook where the outgoing leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, Warren Morgan, paid tribute to her positive qualities.
Councillor Morgan’s three-year stint as council leader ends on Thursday (17 May) and he will also stand down from the council next year.
Although Councillor Penn made no mention of factional politics in her Facebook post, both she and Councillor Morgan are believed to have been in the sights of the left-wing group Momentum.
Few members of the current ruling Labour group on the council are closely identified with Momentum, which supports the party’s national leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Momentum is believed to be aiming to put up a slate of candidates at the local elections next year who are more closely aligned with Mr Corbyn than many current councillors.
In her Facebook post, Councillor Penn said: “It has not been an easy decision but with a heavy heart I have decided not to re-stand as councillor in the local elections in May next year.
“I decided to stand in Hollingdean and Stanmer after canvassing in 2013. It was clear that Tory austerity was already hitting residents hard.
“Many told me they were struggling with a rising cost of living, stagnating wages as well as the impact of cuts.
“Filling Jeane Lepper’s shoes was a big task. But … I knew Tracey (Hill) and I could make a real difference. (The bins in Tavistock Down will no doubt be my greatest achievement!)
“I am so very proud that we were one of only two Labour groups to win power in 2015. Despite the financial constraints and the frustrations of being a minority administration, everyone has risen to the challenge.
“Becoming the first ever lead for mental health was a huge honour. I hope by speaking out, challenging stigma and, more importantly challenging our health partners to do better, I have made a small difference.
“I was delighted to be appointed deputy chair of the Children’s Committee. I have used the role to highlight the strengths and failures in children’s mental health services.
“I’ve also been able to pursue things that I have been passionate about – improving attainment for children from families on low incomes, better provision for children with special education needs and getting more girls to take up STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
“As a ward councillor, I have met and worked with some of the most amazing people. Maybe I’m biased, but I think Hollingdean and Stanmer is the best ward in the city.
“Tracey and I have always been made to welcome and valued by tenants and residents. I will very much miss the warm welcome (my dog) Meg and I receive on the Bates Estate and from the fantastic people of Coldean, some of whom I now count as friends.
“Up and down the country, local government has been pushed to the brink by arms-length austerity.
“But despite huge cuts – £100 million in 10 years – we have kept open our libraries and children’s centres, built council homes and brought new mental health services to our schools.
“I want to thank my fellow councillor Tracey. Without her drive and commitment, I doubt we’d have won all three seats for Labour.
“She has achieved so much both in the ward and in her brief as lead for the private rented sector – and I know she will continue achieve so much more. Tracey along with Jeane and David (Lepper) have been an invaluable source of advice and support.
“Thank you too to everyone who has given up their time to canvass, phone banked, delivered leaflets. The party is dependent on volunteers and we don’t say thank you often enough.
“Over the last eight years, I have done everything from speaking at fringe events, be selected for the Jo Cox leadership course, be branch and CLP (Constituency Labour Party) secretary, election agent and the best board runner in the city.
“This role has helped me grow in confidence and to learn new skills. I never thought I’d be able to make a speech without feeling sick!
“I know that I am leaving the ward in good hands and that the candidates for 2019 will make fantastic councillors.
“I am taking a break, but when I return I look forward to playing my part in delivering the first majority Labour administration. A socialist council of which we will all be proud.”
Councillor Morgan said: “I can’t say how proud I am to have worked alongside you in the team these past three years.
“You have been a shining example of all that a good Labour councillor should be – and the party needs to think long and hard about why people like you do not wish to continue.”
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