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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Nick Kemp to stay as Newcastle City Council’s Labour leader after surviving Dan Greenhough’s bid to oust him

Nick Kemp is set to stay on as Newcastle’s council leader, after surviving a bid to overthrow him.

Dan Greenhough had sought to oust Cllr Kemp as leader of the city’s Labour group in a vote among its councillors on Wednesday night.

But the reigning leader claimed a narrow victory to extend his two-year reign, in what is just the latest internal drama at the top of Newcastle’s ruling party over recent years.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that Cllr Kemp won by a wafer-thin margin of 23 to 21.

Sources from either camp who spoke to the LDRS ahead of Wednesday night’s Labour group meeting suggested it was likely to be a tight vote, but each side expressed confidence that they would emerge victorious.

Nick Kemp, leader of Newcastle City Council. Image: Newcastle City Council.

It is the second year in succession that Cllr Kemp has faced such a battle, though previous challenger Ged Bell ultimately withdrew before a vote could be held 12 months ago, as warring factions within Newcastle Labour continue to wrestle for dominance in a party that has controlled Newcastle City Council since 2011.

Cllr Kemp originally sought to depose former council leader Nick Forbes in 2021, before the more centrist Mr Forbes was then dramatically deselected in his Arthur’s Hill ward the following year.

The long-serving Byker ward councillor took over Newcastle City Council’s Labour administration in 2022 after emerging victorious in a tight leadership race against Clare Penny-Evans by 27 votes to 24.

And the east end politician narrowly came out on top again on Wednesday night despite suggestions that last week’s local election results may have favoured Cllr Greenhough, a backbencher who represents Denton and Westerhope and is the latest name from a flank of Forbes allies seeking to gain back power.

Labour lost four seats last week, two to the Green Party and two to the Lib Dems, but also made two gains in the outlying wards of Castle and Lemington.

The results included a defeat at the hands of Green candidate Nick Hartley in Byker, Cllr Kemp’s own ward following the retirement of his long-time ally Veronica Dunn.

Denton and Westerhope councillor Dan Greenhough. Image: Dan Greenhough.

Cllr Greenhough, who has never held a cabinet position within the council, is viewed as a strong backer of both Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell and the new North East mayor, Kim McGuinness.

News of Cllr Kemp’s win came just hours after it was confirmed that the leader of Sunderland Council, Graeme Miller, had been ousted.

He is set to be replaced by Michael Mordey, who has been installed by the national Labour Party after it stepped in and prevented local councillors from choosing their own leader at their AGM.

Cllr Kemp said on Wednesday night: “I am proud to have been re-elected as leader of this great city. We have started on an ambitious programme of change embedding our values as a proud Labour city.

“We are committed to delivering for our residents across all our communities and I look forward to working to deliver the best services for our residents and ensuring our city realises its true potential. Working with our newly-elected Labour mayor, it is time to really deliver for the city and region.”

During his time as council leader so far, Cllr Kemp’s administration has decided to scrap Your Homes Newcastle and bring the city’s council housing back under the control of the civic centre.

He has also overseen the start of restoration works on the Tyne Bridge, the launch of the city’s Clean Air Zone, and disputes surrounding the introduction and then removal of various low traffic neighbourhoods.

He has also been involved in controversy surrounding his role in the Orca housing developments and a row over proposed cuts to the city’s homelessness provision, which were known to have caused ructions within the Labour group and were subsequently paused.

At last week’s local election count, Cllr Kemp told the LDRS that he had “a proud record to stand for” – having previously pointed to the introduction of new economic and anti-poverty strategies at the council, support for residents during the cost of living crisis, and his role in negotiating the North East’s devolution deal.

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