Release Date: 23 June 2017
Cllr Nicholas True, Leader of Richmond Council since 2010, announced at the Cabinet meeting last night (22 June) that he will not be seeking re-election to the Council in 2018. As a result, he will be stepping down as Leader of Richmond Council on 4 July to enable a successor to be elected to lead the administration forward up to and beyond next May.
Lord True said:
“This will leave a big hole in my life. The greatest honour I have ever had was to be trusted by local people and my colleagues to lead this special community for over seven years.
“My aim has never been self-promotion, simply to give the best, most dispassionate public service in my power day by day. While never belittling the need for challenge and counter-challenge in a democracy, I sought to look beyond party interest to take the best decisions in the public interest. Many of them have been popular, some unpopular, but all were based in solid principle: never promising what we could not achieve, honouring every promise given and trying each day to rise above the negative and follow the creative path, respecting the wonderful inheritance of our borough, but working innovatively for the future.
“At an age when many others think of full retirement I find myself with the privilege of a seat in Parliament at a critical time for our country. I will continue to be active there. We need a more generous-spirited, less angry, more understanding political discourse at every level, less quick to promote division, less prone to instant judgement and more respectful of the ideas and good intent of almost all. I hope to play my part in that. But I will never forget what I owe my borough and will always work to advance its interests at that level.
“It is hard for me to speak of my own record, but I am particularly proud of stabilising the Council finances as Deputy Leader and delivering 6 years without a Council Tax rise as Leader. At the same time I maintained and, I believe, improved local services; and of created over 5,000 new primary school places, setting up the pioneering Achieving for Children, delivering post-16 choice to young people via sixth forms and working for eight new schools, including keeping my word on a secondary school for Roman Catholic pupils.
“I am pleased we have been able to support our high streets, by scrapping taxes on car ownership, introducing fair parking policies and pioneering 30-minute free parking and the Richmond Card to help small shops. I am glad we revised planning policies to block high rise and protect back gardens from infill and backfill; invested hugely in parks and open spaces, saving and improving playgrounds; and with Uplift and Village Planning empowered local people, enriching our unique small communities like Whitton, Barnes and Hampton.
“I am glad we kept our libraries open and kept weekly refuse collections as we promised; made ours an award-winning, flowered borough; made it a zero-tolerance area for graffiti vandals; and invested millions in repairing long neglected pavements and residential roads.
“I am pleased we have supported business, post-16 and adult education. I am delighted we became one of the first dementia-friendly boroughs, sustained help with fuel poverty and introduced the Community Awards to recognise unsung heroes who give so much to others.
“I am glad we were able to save Twickenham Riverside from the concrete mixers and create the award winning Diamond Jubilee Gardens. And I look forward to seeing the delivery of a new heart for Twickenham and new homes in Ham, based on deep consultation with local people.
“Only by working together and by making compromise can communities go forward. That will become ever more necessary as public debt continues to soar and politicians of all parties duck the duty to explain that you cannot forever borrow to spend revenue for yourself today at the expense of the generations of tomorrow. That is why I have sought to protect front-line services by generating economies, saving millions on back-office costs in ground-breaking initiatives like the Shared Staffing arrangement with Wandsworth.
“Whoever is my successor – and that is not a choice for me – will, like me, be a hired hand with a task to do for local people. But they will have the privilege of the best job in the world in the best borough I know. They will never be short of a challenge, but they will have my unstinting support, just as I have been extraordinarily grateful for the support, hard work, ideas and encouragement of my colleagues in my Group on the Council.
“The next Leader will also have the support of that miraculous band of people who work for Richmond Council. Public servants in local government do not often get the thanks they deserve. They have mine. Not the least privilege of nearly 20 years on the front bench in the Council Chamber has been to know and work with such an outstanding, skilled and dedicated set of men and women in public service. I was proud to be Leader of Richmond Council, but it was an honour to lead Richmond Council’s staff. I thank them. I thank my Councillor colleagues. And I thank all those local people who gave me their trust.”
Cllr Lord True was first elected to Richmond Council as a Councillor for East Sheen Ward in 1986. He was Deputy Leader of the Opposition from 1998-2002, Deputy Leader of the Council from 2002-2006, Leader of the Opposition from 2006-2010 and has led Richmond Council since 2010. He became a member of the House of Lords in 2010. He and his wife, Anne-Marie, a local nursery school principal, have lived in East Sheen for over 35 years.
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Updated: 30 June 2017