Councillor Matt Hartley has announced his intention to step down as Leader of Greenwich Conservatives after five years in the role. The Coldharbour & New Eltham ward councillor announced on Friday that "it is time for the honour to pass to someone else" and that a new Leader would be elected at the Conservative Group's AGM next month.
In an email to colleagues, Councillor Hartley said:
"It has been a real privilege to do the job for these last 5 years and I want to thank you for all your support during that time. I realise this might have come as a surprise. I’m grateful to everyone for their support, but of course particularly so to Mark and then Nigel for being brilliant Deputy Leaders, and to Geoff for everything he does as our Whip.
"My first aim was always to take us through the 2018 elections and to be honest I’m still buzzing from that Team Greenwich campaign and the amazing result we achieved together, which has allowed us not only to carry on as a strong Opposition, but also bring about some real positive change for residents too.
"100% Council Tax Support, the new Parks Fund, better support for care leavers and Armed Forces members/veterans, the cross-party commitment to Net Zero and a more tangible Carbon Neutral Plan - the list goes on and all of these are things we should all be really proud of. None of them would have happened without our efforts as a Group over the last 5 years.
"At the same time, we can point to millions of pounds of waste saved for the council taxpayer and other successes arising from our alternative Budgets - as well as what we’ve done as a responsible Opposition in uniting across party lines when we had the Far Right in the gallery, the recent anti-semitic graffiti and other incidents."
"Five years is a long time to do any job like this one, and a change is always refreshing – I’m also conscious we’re about to enter a new electoral cycle, with the boundary changes and the run up to the 2022 elections – and it feels like this year is the right time for the leadership of the Group to pass to someone else. I’m looking forward to being a member of the team and contributing in a different way from now on."
The councillor for Coldharbour & New Eltham ward, who was first elected to the council in 2014 and stood for Parliament in the borough in the 2015 and 2017 General Elections, has said he plans to stand for re-election as a Councillor in the next local elections in 2022.
Councillor Nigel Fletcher, Greenwich Conservatives Deputy Leader, said:
“This is really sad news for us. Matt has been a superb leader, and is leaving at the absolute top of his game, with the recent budget debate showing just how effective he is at holding Labour to account whilst promoting a constructive, credible alternative.
“It’s a rare thing in opposition to have a record of genuine achievement, but he has managed it, delivering changes that will benefit the most vulnerable people in our borough. He can be rightly very proud of that.
”As we move to choose a new leader, we know they have a really hard act to follow, and on behalf of all my colleagues, I say a heartfelt thank you to Matt for all his hard work over many years.”
The Conservative Group will elect a new Leader at its AGM in early April.