George Ayres, the Labour councillor for New Addington, is to retire before the local elections next year.
Ayres celebrated his 68th birthday earlier this month, and has advised the local Labour party that he will not be seeking nomination for the 2014 Town Hall elections.
First elected to the council in 2006, Ayres was elected again in 2010, but this time alongside the Tory, Tony Pearson, as Labour lost one of the two seats in the ward. New Addington’s seats are key targets for Labour in its bid to take control of the council in 2014.
“No ward is more important,” Ayres told Inside Croydon. “Together with Fieldway, New Addington is key to getting overall control of the council.
“It’s also the toughest ward in the borough for councillors, both in terms of the workload and the expectations of the residents.”
Labour in the neighbouring Fieldway ward on Saturday re-selected sitting councillors Simon Hall and Carole Bonner to stand for election in 2014.
“The area is traditionally Labour, and UKIP will target the estate, as they won the popular vote there in 2009,” Ayres said. “I hope the Labour party selects strong candidates for the ward who respect and work for the community.”
Ayres, from a family of union campaigners and suffragists, has been active in the labour movement for more than 40 years, having been elected to the national committee of the financial sector trades association at the age of 27, where he spent much time working for recognition rights in banks and insurance companies.
After rising to the role of chief executive in an international insurance company and working on the London markets, Ayres took an active part in local politics after his retirement.
There’s is a strong sense of unfinished business in New Addington for Ayres, who intends to continue his work for local residents in the coming 12 months. “We need to change the relationship, regain the respect from electors, to make the council much more a participatory democracy rather than a non-consultative democracy,” Ayres said.
Ayres has worked with Croydon Voluntary Action to secure £50,000 pilot funding from the NHS towards a project based in the old council housing offices and now vacated New Addington Library building to work on greater community involvement by local GPs.
Ayres talks of his ABCDs… the sort of Asset-Based Community Developments which were championed in Chicago by Barack Obama, and which involve local residents taking greater control over the management and delivery of public services, especially against a background of diminishing grant. “It’s going to be really challenging,” Ayres said. “I’m just not sure that the leadership of Croydon is ready for that.”
Ayres joins a number of Croydon councillors who will be retiring in 2014, including the Tories Graham Bass (Purley), David Osland (Coulsdon West), Avril Slipper (Ashburton) and Phil Thomas (Selsdon and Ballards).
Labour’s New Addington ward selection will see one woman and one man chosen. Short-listed for selection are 23-year-old Emily Benn, the grand-daughter of Tony Benn; and Allison Howe, who describes herself as “a socialist committed to equality and fairness”; while the men short-listed are Oliver Lewis, who is seeking selection for his first election, and Rob Elliott, the partner of Hall who was an unsuccessful Labour candidate in 2010.
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- Ten women declare for Labour’s Central shortlist (insidecroydon.com)
- Ukip becomes the official opposition in South Tyneside (guardian.co.uk)