Five new councillors have been given seats on Greenwich Council’s main planning committee after new leader Danny Thorpe carried out his pledge to remove cabinet members from the Planning Board – but chief whip Angela Cornforth has joined it.
Thorpe had pledged to take cabinet members out of planning after complaints that his predecessor, Denise Hyland, was the only council leader in London making planning decisions in her own borough.
Now Labour’s contribution to the 12-strong committee is entirely comprised of non-cabinet members, although these include both Cornforth and her deputy.
Planning decisions are, by law, supposed to be non-party political; but Greenwich blurred the lines by having council leaders and cabinet members on the planning board.
Sarah Merrill, Thorpe’s fellow Labour councillor in Shooters Hill, will replace Mark James as the chair of the committee, with veteran Labour figure Norman Adams (Kidbrooke with Hornfair) as vice-chair.
Newcomers Gary Dillon (Charlton), Ian Hawking (Middle Park & Sutcliffe), Adel Khaireh (Glyndon) and Ivis Williams (Woolwich Common) will join the committee, along with new Charlton councillor and deputy chief whip Linda Perks, who was condemned by a judge last year for “flagrantly” breaking the rules in a union election.
Clive Mardner (Abbey Wood) and Conservative Geoff Brighty (Blackheath Westcombe) stay on the committee, while Nigel Fletcher – re-elected in Eltham South after four years off the council – takes up the other Conservative seat.
Peninsula councillor Chris Lloyd – who recently deleted his Twitter account after using the social network to brand one of his Green opponents a “bad loser” – takes up the key role of chairing the council’s overview and scrutiny committee, despite Conservative objections that an opposition councillor should be in charge of the committee.
Middle Park and Sutcliffe councillor Christine May will be the new ceremonial mayor, replacing Peter Brooks, with Mick Hayes – a key figure from the Chris Roberts era and mayor in 2014 – as deputy, lining him up to wear the robes once again in 2019.
Speeches were short at Wednesday’s meeting, but warm tributes were paid to outgoing council leader Hyland. “Anyone can see how hard she has worked for this borough,” Conservative leader Matt Hartley said.
“She has also shown great community leadership in difficult circumstances when it has mattered the most. She is a true public servant and can look back with great pride over the last four years.”
New leader Danny Thorpe recalled when Hyland “faced down members of the far right in this chamber“. “She will be a difficult act to follow,” he said.
Councillors will not meet again for a full public meeting until Wednesday 27 June. But they will gather again at the Old Royal Naval College on Wednesday 30 May for the invite-only mayor-making ceremony – an event most other boroughs incorporate into their usual public meetings.
The new planning board will get to work much earlier, with the first meeting scheduled for Tuesday 5 June.
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