Images above: Cllr Julian Bell; Cllr Peter Mason
Julian Bell has been voted out as leader of the Labour Party in Ealing. At a meeting of the party on Monday 10 May members replaced him with Cllr Peter Mason, councillor for Southall Green ward, who has challenged Cllr Bell in the past over the Council’s handling of planning decisions.
Cllr Bell still remains leader of LB Ealing until the Council Annual General Meeting is held on Tuesday 18 May, when he is expected to be replaced by Cllr Mason as council leader.
Julian Bell has been leader of LB Ealing for ten years and over his tenure Labour increased its council majorities in borough elections in 2014 and 2018, but recent policies introducing Low Traffic Neighbourhoods have been hugely controversial in Ealing, with demonstrations against them making national newspaper and TV news. Cllr Bell has been hanging on by a thread as Leader of the Labour group since a vote of no confidence in him in September was lost by just one vote.
Cllr Mason resigned as a member of Bell’s cabinet in September after failing to topple Cllr Bell. He had held the post of cabinet member for housing, planning and transformation.
Images above: Councillor Deirdre Costigan, elected Deputy Leader of the Labour Group, Councillor Peter Mason, elected Leader and Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, elected second Deputy Leader
Cllr Mason said:
“I am determined to demonstrate to the residents of our borough that Labour is on their side. Under my leadership, Ealing will be an open, inclusive and transparent council that engages and involves residents in tackling the big challenges we face.
“As we navigate the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, our efforts will be focused on supporting an economic recovery grounded in bringing well paid, good jobs back to our borough, re-greening our neighbourhoods and relentlessly tackling poverty and inequality.
“As someone who grew up in a single parent family on a council estate in the dying days of the Thatcher government, I’m proud to have been elected to lead our borough and to make change happen for those who most need it, just as the last Labour government did for me.“
Image above: Residents protesting against LTNs outside Ealing Town Hall
Opponents of LTNs in Ealing shouldn’t rejoice too soon. Councillor for Ealing Common, Jon Ball, Tweeted:
“Dramatic news from Ealing. Julian Bell kicked out by his own group! Was it the LTN row that did for him or is it a continuation of the ongoing faction fighting within Labour? Ironically his replacement works for Commonplace, who have the contract for Ealing’s LTN consultation!”
Greg Stafford, leader of the Consvervative oopposition, welcomed the change:
“On behalf of the Conservative Group, let me send my congratulations to Cllr Mason on his election as Leader of the Labour Group. Following over a decade of Cllr Bell’s tenure, Ealing has been crying out for a change of Leader and direction. Labour simply haven’t been listening to local residents and this is their opportunity to correct this error.
But he also warned residents that a change of leader wouldn’t necessarily lead to a change of policy on LTNs:
“Cllr Mason was a prime architect of the disastrous Low Traffic Neighbourhoods; under his tenure as Housing Cabinet member, the blight of skyscrapers across Ealing accelerated; and as a local councillor he has ignored the plight of people in Southall. Labour don’t just need a change of Leader but a change of leadership. To have any chance of rebuilding the trust of local residents, Cllr
Mason needs to scrap LTNs, stop the skyscraper overdevelopments and bring in proper independent monitoring of air quality in Southall”.
Cllr Gary Malcolm, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Ealing, who represents Southfield ward in Chiswick, said:
“On behalf of the Ealing Liberal Democrat Group, I send my congratulations to Councillor Peter Mason on his election to Leader of the Labour Group. He said that ‘Ealing will be an open, inclusive and transparent council that engages and involves residents in tackling the big challenges we face. I hope therefore that on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) he will do the honourable thing and either listen to the vast majority of residents who want to see the LTNs removed – or hold a referendum to settle the argument once and for all.
“Under his leadership, Ealing Labour needs to clean up our dirty streets and light up our streets properly so that residents are safer from being a victim of crime after the Labour cuts to lighting made over the past few years. Cllr Peter Mason needs to ensure that our open spaces are protected such as Warren Farm, which includes a rich, diverse range of flora and fauna. Open spaces are essential to the mental health of Ealing’s residents as we have seen during three coronavirus lockdowns.
“He also needs to listen to residents and ensure that the planning process is clean, transparent, and builds homes that are suitable for both families and those who need social housing, rather than large numbers of towers that people do not want under the false pretence of ‘affordable housing’. The Ealing Liberal Democrats look forward to work with you to achieve these aims.”
Local resident Steve Corner Tweeted:
“Julian Bell finally ousted as Labour leader of Ealing Council. Was it the multiple properties, was it the illegally implemented LTNs, was it the cronyism, was it the general incompetence? Good riddance.”
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