Greenwich Council’s Labour leader Chris Roberts has fought off a challenge from cabinet member John Fahy at a meeting of the party’s councillors at Woolwich Town Hall.
The culture and Olympics spokesman had sought to usurp the long-serving leader, complaining that the council had become too secretive and needed to involve ordinary residents in decision-making.
But he lost a vote at the Labour group meeting tonight, meaning Roberts, who has run the council since 2000, will continue as leader.
This website understands Roberts won by 24 votes to 15. Peninsula ward councillor Dick Quibell also lost his bid for the deputy leadership of the Labour group, held by Peter Brooks.
There are 40 Labour councillors, with 27 posts attracting “special responsibility” allowances – three of which would be earned by Roberts, Brooks and Fahy.
It is believed there was particular anger among councillors that news of the vote had been leaked to a local newspaper, although it is not known whether supporters of Roberts or Fahy disclosed the information to the News Shopper.
While the challenge had long been expected in party circules, councillors are bound by a code of secrecy around their internal party meetings, and can be disciplined for discussing events at Labour group meetings.
Cabinet positions are also being discussed at Monday’s meetings, although these will not be confirmed immediately. It is not clear whether or not Fahy will retain his cabinet position after challenging the leader.
Roberts’ 12 years in charge of Greenwich has seen the council embark on ambitious schemes such as the Ferrier Estate redevelopment in Kidbrooke and bringing Crossrail to Woolwich. Before he was leader, he was in charge of planning and regeneration when Greenwich was selected to be the home of the Millennium Dome.
Last month, he said Greenwich’s recent designation as a royal borough was “the proudest moment” of his career.
But he has faced bitter criticism, not least from within his own party, for his style of leadership which has seen him impose tight discipline on his party’s councillors, while others complain the council has become remote from the people it is elected to serve.
His re-election as leader ensures he will be in charge of the council for the London Olympics, overseeing events in Greenwich Park, the Dome and the Royal Artillery Barracks.