Norwich City Council leader defends his policy on successor

The departing leader of Norwich City Council has defended his decision not to name his successor as Labour leader before he steps down at this summer's elections.

Steve Morphew announced last month that he would not be standing in May's city council elections, which will bring to an end his 15 years as a city councillor.

But he will still lead Labour into those elections and his political opponents have questioned why the Labour group has not named a successor.

Claire Stephenson, leader of the opposition Green group, said: 'I understand and respect Mr Morphew's decision to stand down as a councillor following five years of dedication and hard work as leader of the council, and nine years as leader of the Labour group.

'However, his decision to remain leader of the council until after the election means that voters will not know who would be leader of the council if Labour were still the largest party after the election. Why has Mr Morphew decided not to let his successor take over as leader of the Labour group before May?'

Mr Morphew, who represents Mile Cross ward, defended his decision. He said: 'One of the most important roles of any leader is to plan for what happens when they step down.

'The leader is elected by council, not any group, and it is crucial to ensure that any transition is as smooth as possible.

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'In politics that is frequently difficult but by announcing my intentions some months in advance it gives time to make arrangements.

'I don't think many in the city determine their votes on the basis of who leads their party in council.'

He said he believed Labour would maintain control of the council after the May elections and said the interim gave the next leader a 'learning opportunity'.

He said: 'It is incumbent on me to ensure that colleagues who might aspire to succeed to the role of leader of the Labour group and leader of the council have time to familiarise themselves will all aspects of the role and arrange their lives to take account of the change and disruption to their lifestyle that will ensue.

'Ultimately, the new Labour group formed after the elections in May will choose their leader and doubtless that person will be the Labour nominee.

'There are already exceptional candidates and I have every confidence that whoever takes over from me will be well prepared, well briefed and well able to handle the challenges.'

Possible contenders to lead Labour are deputy leader Brenda Arthur and former leader Alan Waters, who is cabinet member for resources, performance and shared services.

What do you think of Mr Morphew's decision to stand down? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email