Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Labour Mayors Hoping Track Record Will Save Them from Blair Backlash; London Votes: May 4

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Labour Mayors Hoping Track Record Will Save Them from Blair Backlash; London Votes: May 4

Article excerpt

Byline: ROSS LYDALL;TAMARA COHEN

LABOUR'S new breed of town hall leaders hope their record will save them from a backlash against Tony Blair in the local elections.

Three London boroughs - Hackney, Newham and Lewisham - have been governed by directly elected [pounds sterling]70,000a-year mayors for the past four years.

Power was handed to each mayor - rather than the party with most councillors - to increase public awareness of who is responsible for local services.

The mayors are now up for re-election as part of the Londonwide borough elections next Thursday.

They hope voters will judge their performance rather than using the poll as an opportunity to punish the Prime Minister.

Lewisham mayor Steve Bullock said: "I want to be judged on my record, not on Tony Blair's or Gordon Brown's record." Mr Bullock has faced criticism for agreeing to demolish Ladywell leisure centre next year to create space for a new secondary school.

He said a dire shortage of development space was to blame, adding that its 40-year-old pool was in need of refurbishment.

But critics said it would be three years before a replacement pool opened.

Mr Bullock said he expected his majority to fall as a result but said being mayor had allowed him to take "brave" decisions that would pay off in the long term.

"If you are a Labour supporter and you think I'm doing a rotten job, vote to get me out. But if you are a Conservative supporter and think I'm doing a good job, please vote for me."

But James Cleverly, Lewisham's Tory mayoral candidate, said: "The situation is that he is well-known but not well-liked."

Independent challenger John Hamilton said: "The mayor is a bit of a puppet.

He does what his officers tell him."

In Hackney, mayor Jules Pipe has also faced controversy over swimming pools.

Residents are still unable to use the [pounds sterling]31 million Clissold leisure centre in Stoke Newington, which ran [pounds sterling]22 million over budget, opened two years late and shut after a year due to a series of major design flaws.

But Mr Pipe points to advances on recycling, clean streets and lowerthan-average council tax bills as evidence of how he has been able to reform what was one of London's most troubled boroughs. …

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