Mayor leaves Labour group over ill-conceived schemes

1 Feb 01
A south London borough's £1bn-plus regeneration programme is under the spotlight after the shock resignation of its mayor from the Labour group last week.

02 February 2001

Councillor Harry Canagasabey, the mayor of Southwark, resigned on January 24 in protest at the group 'steamrollering' regeneration initiatives through without proper consultation and consideration for local residents.

'I want to see Southwark tackle poverty, not attack the poor,' he said in his resignation letter.

The council is evenly split following the resignation by Canagasabey, who held the casting vote. He says Labour will no longer be able to push policies through committees without support from opposition parties.

The government has given more than £100m to help the council push ahead with its regeneration plans, which include demolishing rundown estates in Peckham, similar to the one where Damilola Taylor was murdered, and building new housing.

Canagasabey, who has been a member of the Labour group for 24 years, will now sit as an independent. He told Public Finance: 'From now on, I will vote with my heart rather than with the party whip. I am worried that Labour's ill-conceived attempts at regeneration seem to do more harm than good.

'The Labour group will no longer be able to do things regardless of people's views, because they will be voted down. I have nothing against the Labour members – I just want them to put people first.'

Opposition parties in Southwark welcomed the opportunity of a 'more democratic' approach to Southwark's regeneration programme.

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, the second largest group on the council, said: 'Labour have talked to us in the past, but they do not listen. The regeneration programme needs to be reviewed.'

Labour claims it works closely with opposition parties on big decisions, and cites the sale of Southwark's education service, supported by the Conservatives, to management company WS Atkins last week.

Labour leader Stephanie Elsy said: 'We have no overall control now, but the mayor's resignation is irrelevant to regeneration schemes. There will be changes, but I hope that big projects are not affected.'


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