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Former Town Hall leader attacks ‘one term’ Labour councillors in West Hampstead

Both Labour councillors in ward have told colleagues that they will not seek re-election at next year's Town Hall elections

20 April, 2017 — By Richard Osley

Keith Moffitt congratulates Phil Rosenberg on election night in 2014

LABOUR councillors who ousted former Liberal Democrat council leader Keith Moffitt are to walk away from the Town Hall after just one term.

Phil Rosenberg and James Yarde told party colleagues on Sunday evening they will not stand again in their West Hampstead ward at next year’s local elections, sending emails known in local political circles as “heavy heart letters”.

The neighbourhood is unpredictable electoral territory and considered a target for the Liberal Democrats, who held it through Mr Moffitt and his colleagues for many years, and Conservative activists looking to swell the party’s numbers in the council chamber.

Cllr Rosenberg said he plans to start a family within the next four years, while Cllr Yarde said a career in academia was likely to take him away from Camden. Mr Moffitt, who led a Lib Dem and Conservative coalition administration at Camden Town Hall for four years until his polls defeat in 2014, said he himself was not planning a return to the election battleground.

But he added last night (Wednesday): “People like myself and [former councillor] John Bryant put years of hard work in for West Hampstead. We gave up work opportunities and put our personal lives on hold for many, many years for the sake of West Hampstead. “For the current councillors to say they’ve had enough after just four years is disappointing. I do not think they really understood what the role meant.” Labour unseated three Liberal Democrats in West Hampstead in 2014, but Angela Pober later quit the party and became an independent councillor after a fallout over cuts to the library service.

James Yarde, Angela Pober and Phil Rosenberg

Dismissing Mr Moffitt’s assessment, Labour supporters said the decision taken by the two remaining Labour councillors threw new focus on how difficult it is to juggle personal lives and professional work with being a councillor. This in turn could have an effect on how representative of people from different ages and backgrounds the political make-up of the council could be, they warned.

Cllr Rosenberg said in his message to Labour councillors: “I have wrestled with this decision for some months, but in the end I am expecting some significant changes in my life between 2018 and 2022 – hopefully buying a property and starting a family – and the flexibility of not being a councillor will mean I can hopefully have the occasional free evening for family and that I can widen my property search to outside as well as inside Camden.”

He added that he would, however, stand for a place on the council cabinet – the cabal of senior councillors who have the final say on council policy – for his final year at the Town Hall. The cabinet positions will be decided at the group’s AGM on May 2.

Cllr Yarde told colleagues: “It is with a heavy heart that I am getting in touch to let you know that I do not intend to stand again in local elections next year… I will soon be completing my PhD at the London School of Economics, after which I will be looking for a university teaching post. “Uncertainty in the academic job market – in no small part caused by Brexit – means it is important that I can be flexible around where I work. Sadly, I have accepted that this is likely to mean moving further afield.”

Conservative group leader Councillor Claire-Louise Leyland said: “We would like to thank West Hampstead’s Labour councillors for their work. And we’re very pleased we have a team of very hard-working local Conservative candidates in place, who are making sure their neighbours’ voices are heard, delivering results for their community, and who look forward to representing West Hampstead and Fortune Green on Camden Council in the future.”

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