Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Any Other Business

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Any Other Business

Article excerpt

Byline: By Peter Young

Rita Stringfellow's impending departure is only part of a looming mass exodus of Labour councillors at North Tyneside Council which fell into Tory hands 18 months ago.

As reported in yesterday's Chronicle, Coun Stringfellow, the council's former Labour leader, has decided to stand down at the 2004 town hall elections after 28 years service.

I'm told her husband, Coun Brian Flood, who was leader before Coun Stringfellow, has also decided to call it a day. In total, around nine North Tyneside Labour councillors are planning to leave in 2004.

They include some close allies of Coun Stringfellow, former group secretary Coun Peter Latham and, I understand, former deputy leader Rob Lackenby, both members of her cabinet when she was leader.

Coun Latham said he'd have stayed until the end of his term in 2006 had boundary changes not meant every seat on the council is up for grabs in 2004.

Coun Stringfellow was one of the most powerful Labour women on Tyneside and her departure marks the end of an era on the council.

Labour faces a tough task at the June elections and the party is hopeful a new broom, in the shape of John Harrison, who took over as leader earlier this year when Coun Stringfellow stood aside, can spark a revival in their fortunes.

They suffered a severe blow in May 2002 when the Tories won control after Chris Morgan became Tyneside's first ever directly elected executive mayor.

He has since resigned but the party kept control when Linda Arkley became mayor with an increased majority in a by-election six months ago.

Labour still has a majority in the council chamber and the immediate task is to stem the loss of seats to the Tories then begin the long, hard slog towards the next mayoral election. There is also a general election, probably in 2005, when the Tories will be mounting an all-out attack to recapture Tynemouth, a seat they lost to Labour's Alan Campbell at the 1997 general election. With a Labour majority of 8,678 it will probably be beyond them. But the once safe Tory seat could be vulnerable at the following election. …

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