Job swap for cabinet member campaigning to become MP

Alistair Strathern had come under pressure to quit role as cabinet member for young people, reports Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

Alistair Strathern in Mid Bedfordshire
Alistair Strathern in Mid Bedfordshire (credit East of England Labour)

A senior Waltham Forest Councillor who is campaigning to be an MP has been swapped out of his “vital” council job overseeing children’s services.

Alistair Strathern, the council’s cabinet member for children and young people, was selected as Labour’s candidate for Nadine Dorries’ Mid Bedfordshire seat last week.

Since then, he has posted several videos of himself on social media campaigning for Labour in Bedfordshire almost every day – the most recent calling for Dorries to resign.

This week, council leader Grace Williams announced that she had swapped Cllr Strathern’s role with Kizzy Gardiner’s, who was recently appointed cabinet member for 15-minute neighbourhoods.

The leader said that since Cllr Strathern is now dividing his time between the borough and Bedfordshire she agreed that his “vital” job should be covered by someone who can “focus exclusively” on it.

She added: “I would like to congratulate Alistair in being selected to run in the Mid Bedfordshire by-election and thank him for all the incredible work he has done as cabinet member for children and young people.

“This is a hugely important portfolio with considerable responsibility and during his time in the role Alistair has been a real champion for children and young people across Waltham Forest, working tirelessly to make sure they are represented by this council and given the best start in life.”

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In his 15-minute neighbourhoods role, the leader said Cllr Strathern will “ensure [residents’] voices are heard” in a series of “Let’s Talk” engagement sessions about local improvements this summer, the leader also added.

However, whether a by-election will take place for Dorries’ seat remains uncertain as she has not yet formally resigned. Cllr Strathern – who has launched a petition calling for Dorries’ resignation – will continue to receive a yearly allowance of £39,304 as a cabinet member.

The 33-year-old, who has represented Higham Hill since 2014,  is also on unpaid leave from a job at the Bank of England during the campaign.

Conservative group leader Emma Best, who urged the leader to replace Cllr Strathern earlier this week, said she is “pleased” about the announcement.

However, Cllr Best told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The cabinet role of 15-minute neighbourhoods also includes extremely important projects and engagement activities, especially over this summer, and we look forward to engaging fully with Cllr Strathern over what will be a very busy time in the borough within that role.”

In response, Cllr Strathern said: “I take representing the people who have put their trust in me seriously.

“This week I’ve been taking up casework as I do every week, and it’s been great to hear from residents supportive of my candidacy.

“I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the new cabinet role, and working back in Mid Bedfordshire where I grew up to help deliver the Labour government we need.”

Local Liberal Democrat campaigns officer Arran Angus said Cllr Strathern should not have a cabinet position “at all”. He added: “He has called for Nadine Dorris to resign so the Mid Beds constituents can vote for a new representative and if he does not want to be seen as a hypocrite he should do the same and allow the residents of Waltham Forest to elect someone who wants to represent them.”

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