Monday, December 06, 2010

Morphew quits as City Council Leader

I had known for some time that Steve Morphew - who, like him or loath him, has put his heart and soul into Norwich politics for a long time time now - was planning to step down. I like Steve a lot; he's a decent guy, easy to do business with and has the City stamped through his heart. We've clashed, a lot, in the council chamber and he is a great advocate for the Labour cause and for Norwich. Ultimately he is wrong (on nearly everything, naturally) but credit where it is due - he dragged the City back from the financial abyss left the LibDems and has run a hung council with remarkable stability. In the end, Morphew could have quit over a number of issues - the Connaught collapse, the million pound unitary fiasco, Greyhound Opening ... but in a funny way I am glad he has gone in his own way and in his own time. I always praise genuine public service, and Steve Morphew has been one of the City's fine public servants. Like Brian Watkins before him, public life in the City will be poorer when he has gone.

My gripe, if I am allowed one, is that Cllr Morphew will lead Labour into the 2011 City poll and then a new leader will be elected afterwards. This means that when people vote they will not know who will be the next Labour Leader or, potentially, the next City Council Leader. This seems unfair on local people and not very democratic. So I am urging Steve to step down earlier to allow Labour a leader by the time of the poll. I think local people deserve that.

So good luck Steve; enjoy life with the family and actually trying to earn a living. Being City Council Leader is a full time job on a part-time salary and we all appreciate the sacrifices you make in public office (none more so than those of us who have done it). Enjoy the (brief) retirement, and then - who knows ...?


Norwich Taxpayer said...

I think your post is largely correct in relation to Steve Morphew but I have a few contentions.

Following on from your own comments I do believe he did passionately put the interests of Norwich first in his view - and one of the defining moments in his political career is his passionate case for a Norwich unitary.

He put more emphasis on building more low cost housing in Norwich by selling off council land - you can't disagree that Norwich is in desperate need for low cost housing, especially during these economically turbulent times.

I do think that we need someone who has strong credentials in the city to lead us through.

I fundamentally agree that in your own words "he dragged the City back from the financial abyss left the LibDems and has run a hung council with remarkable stability. ".

People do have short memories when it comes to the Lib Dems and those on the left and right do share the anger of Norwich residents towards the previous Lib Dem administration.

Where I disagree is I feel that the unitary fiasco is a two way street Antony. Furthermore I feel that the County Council has its fair share of the blame based on its ridiculous proposal for a Unitary Norfolk which would have destroyed Norwich's 800 historical legacy of being an independent city.

I do wonder what your views are about Norfolk Unitary? Did you feel more supportive of it now since you were voted out?

Antony said...

No Taxpayer, even after leaving office I remain convinced that unitary for Norwich was wrong; not in principle but now. If, as I said, they had gone away for 5-10 years and made City Hall run properly and then returned with a big for a 3star authority then I could see a way in which the Tories could have supported it. Add to that the "political" machinations of the Labour machine, led more by Hollis than by Morphew, and that was no chance we'd back the bid.

Norwich Taxpayer said...

My comment is also about a Norfolk Unitary. (not Norwich).

Do you feel that there was a case for a single Unitary for Norfolk?(not Norwich)

Antony said...

Apols for that; I thought that there was more of a case for a Norfolk Unitary than a City one given the 5 tests set down by the Labour government BUT (and its a big but) I would prefer status quo over them all.

City Girl said...

Antony - what a delightful post.

It is very difficult to image city life without the 4 great pillars; 2 gone, 1 leaving and 1 sidelined.

Council without Morphew, Little, Watkins ... and almost Ramsay. A council not worth bothering with.

To all 4 of you - thank you.

Comrade said...

With a sense of irony I have to say I first met Steve Morphew during campaigns against cuts in the early 1990s.

My last act on the City Council was to Chair the Labour group AGM when Steve was elected leader in 2002. At the time he was the only possible leader who could pick the city Labour party up from the huge mess they were in. He is a very shrewd and effective politician.

Steve was also very unlucky to run up against Clive Needle in the 1994Euro selection in Norfolk or to acheive either of the Norwich parliamentary nominations in the 1990s. In retrospect it was a shame he wasn't candidate in one of the other Norfolk seats in 1997 as he might have broken through in Mid or South West Norfolk. Still, this turned out to be Norwich's gain.

I am sure this is a retirement just from the council, not from politics.

EGL Resident said...

Here here, god knows what the new political leadership will look like now. It'll be "thingy", "you know", "that one" and "errr".

Norwich Taxpayer said...

The one thing that is a constant regardless of what leader will be chosen to lead the City Council through these difficult times, is that local government funding is being cut at an unprecedented rate.

It's interesting to point out that during this time Daniel Cox has resigned and Steve Morphew is planning to resign.
Maybe this is just innocent (i do hope it is) - but the cynic in me thinks that these departures may have been planned at just the right time, when local authorities are facing a huge funding crisis.

I do passionately believe in local government, and I feel that all too often the blame has been placed at the City Council and its leadership for party political gains by the County, and vice versa.

I do hope these cuts will not hit the poorest hardest, but I am concerned.

One thing I would like to see on your blog Antony is what you think should be included in the Big Conversation in the consultation on County Council cuts.

What do you think should be cut, and why? & Why do you think should stay, and why?

I feel I need to point out that there is a £100 million savings of County Hall which some of it could be used to prop up services, sadly there doesn't seem to be a political imperative to do so.

Paul said...

what a shock!

who can really blame Steve (and Daniel) for deciding to leave - it's going to be tough what these Lib Dems in government are going to do to this country. Especially for Steve who has been around for such a long time and contributed so much already... why give yourself a hard time.

of course my one sad claim to fame as far as Steve is concerned is that I sent him packing from the Council in '99 with over 50% of the vote :)

Norwich Taxpayer said...

"it's going to be tough what these Lib Dems in government are going to do to this country"

Paul you seem to forget this is a coalition government, and it takes two to tango.

Paul said...

indeed it is Norwich Taxpayer! :)

BTW - my understanding of the apparent fiscal mess that the LDs left the city in is that there was more going on behind the scenes that any of the opposition parties privy to the information would let on. And of course why would they.

I seem to remember myself having a bit of fun at the expense of Labour while I was around.

Only today, speaking to someone who would know corroborates this but then my source would have that view wouldn't they...

Daniel said...

Steve's departure will be a huge loss to Norwich CC. I have admired and respected his passion and commitment so i'm pleased that he'll be continuing in public service in some manner. Yes, we didn't agree on unitary but there were much more that we did agree on.

It's easy to be cynical about the timing of departures but there's never a 'right' time to go!