Haringey's Liberal Democrat Leader to step down

Haringey’s Liberal Democrat council group leader, Neil Williams, has announced he is stepping down as leader. Cllr Williams, who has led the Liberal Democrats for the past four-and-a-half years, is to complete his term of office at his party’s Annual General Meeting in May, where a new leader will be elected.

Cllr Williams wants to give a new leader plenty of time to prepare for the next local elections in 2010, where the Liberal Democrats need just a handful of votes, and three more councillors, to take control of Haringey Council, ending four decades of continuous Labour rule.

Neil Williams was first elected to Haringey Council in Highgate in May 2002, where a big swing wiped the small Tory opposition off the political map in Haringey.He took on the leadership of the Lib Dems 18 months later, in January 2004, leading a group of 15 Liberal Democrat councillors. Since then, the party has gone from strength to strength. The Liberal Democrats have won four landslide local by-elections, taken seat after seat from Labour in the council elections in 2006 and seen the election of Lynne Featherstone as the Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green.

Commenting on his time as Haringey’s Liberal Democrat Leader, Cllr Neil Williams says:

“I’ve really enjoyed leading the council group for nearly five years now, and it’s been a great pleasure to play a part in so many successful campaigns. There have been tremendous highlights. I’ll always remember waiting at the bus stop with Lynne Featherstone on the first day of the 603 bus running through Highgate. After so many years of campaigning, it was a great moment and we were both choked. More recently, the campaign to save Jacksons Lane, and the huge response from Highgate residents, was a real highlight.

“I’ve really enjoyed the election successes too, with so many new friends made, new party members, and council seats gained from Labour, but especially the moment when I phoned Lynne Featherstone to tell her that she had been elected as MP for Hornsey and Wood Green in 2005. These are the moments you don’t forget.

“However, we need a leader to take us through to at least 2014. Ten years in the role I feel would be too long for me, so it’s definitely time for a change. The Liberal Democrat Council group in Haringey has so many great people coming through. It’s a fantastic group that is just raring to go when it comes to taking control of the Council. I’m really looking forward to the new team in place, but most of all I will have more time to spend on the most enjoyable part of the job, which is working with my two ward colleagues Rachel Allison and Bob Hare as a ward councillor for Highgate.”

Lynne Featherstone MP adds:

“Neil has been a brilliant Leader of our council group. It’s not just that he is talented in the chamber – which he is. It’s not just that he has guided our Liberal Democrat group from 15 to 26 members ready to take Haringey Council next time – which he has. It’s not just that he has a sharp political brain – which he does. It’s that he has been a friend and trooper for over ten years and co-author of the rise of the Liberal Democrats in Haringey. I’ve no doubt that whatever role he takes on next Neil will be brilliant again.”