EXCLUSIVE: Our Sutton reporter CARL SHILTON on the latest leadership change in a south London borough
Tim Crowley today became the fourth leader of a Town Hall political group in south London in the past few weeks to announce that they are standing down.
Crowley, a councillor for Carshalton South and Clockhouse Ward, has been the leader of the opposition Conservative group on Sutton Council since 2014.
He follows Stephen Alambritis, who retired as leader of Labour-run Merton Council last month, and Croydon counterparts Tim Pollard (Tory) and Tony Newman (Labour) who have both stood down – albeit for very different reasons – in the past few weeks.
A successor to Crowley is expected to be named by Sutton Conservatives tomorrow, with Neil Garratt thought to be among the favourites for the job. Garratt is a councillor in Belmont ward and is the Tory candidate for the Conservative-held Croydon and Sutton seat at the London Assembly elections to be held next May. The timing of Crowley’s resignation may force Garratt to make some difficult choices over the balance of borough responsibilities and election campaigning.
Crowley had wanted to stand down as council opposition leader since the start of the year, but stayed on because of the covid-19 emergency. The timing of the departure is deliberate, to allow his successor a year and a half build-up towards the local council elections in 2022.
A councillor since 2006, in Crowley’s time as Tory leader in the LibDem-controlled borough his party have increased their council seats from eight to 18 (plus the three Beddington North independents, who tend to oppose Ruth Dombey’s LibDems), while his party has also won Sutton’s two parliamentary seats from the Liberal Democrats.
In a statement leaked to Inside Sutton, Crowley described told his councillor colleagues, “It has always been my intention to take the group to the point where it can go to the next level, and I feel that now is that moment.
“In the time I have been group leader we have gone from having eight councillors to 18 and we were the only council in London in 2018 to double our Conservative councillors against the Liberal Democrats.
“It was always my intention to stand down midway through this session but the covid pandemic meant I have stayed on for an additional six months whilst we entered this prolonged period of uncertainty. I know that I will be leaving the group in very good hands and I will obviously still be sitting as a ward Councillor. I wish my successor well and pledge I will do everything I can to make their bedding-in to the job as seamless as possible.
“I would like to thank all my fellow Conservative councillors especially my deputy leader, Cllr David Hicks, and all the officers and voluntary sector organisations that have assisted me greatly throughout the last six and a half years.
“Now more than ever we need to continue to hold this tired Liberal Democrat administration to account so that come the elections in May 2022 we can take control of the council and actually allow the residents’ voices to be heard and acted upon.”
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