Southwark’s two newest MPs have announced their resignation as councillors, ending their controversial dual-roles ten months after being voted into parliament in last May’s General Election.
Neil Coyle, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, and Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, have dropped their Tooley Street positions and will now focus solely on their Westminster duties.
Mr Coyle – a councillor in Newington ward – said in a resignation letter to Southwark Council leader Peter John that “the time has come for change.”
He said: “The balance of parliamentary and council work leave me in a predicament. With a baby due in less than two weeks and a new place on the Work and Pensions select committee, pressure will rise further rather than fall this year.
“I also feel I am no longer able to give the same attention to Newington as Eleanor and Maisie [his fellow ward councillors], leaving them with a disproportionate burden which a new, third councillor would be able to alleviate. They need and deserve an equal partner in managing the ward’s issues which I have been proud to have focused on for six years.”
Helen Hayes MP said it had been an “enormous privilege and pleasure” to work as councillor for College ward but said “it is now right” to step aside.”
She said: “I have been proud to serve within a Labour administration committed to delivering a fairer future for all our residents, to improving services and to protecting Southwark residents as far as possible from the impacts of the government’s cuts.
“Since being elected as Member of Parliament for Dulwich and West Norwood in May 2015, I have continued to serve College ward residents as their councillor and MP, but I believe that it is now right to give someone else the opportunity to serve as a councillor in College ward.”
The pair had previously dismissed calls to step down as councillors. Mr Coyle even criticised Southwark Lib Dem leader Anood Al-Samerai’s complaints that the pair would struggle to balance their responsibilities as “neither liberal nor democratic.”
Their U-turn after struggling to balance their responsibilities was welcomed by Cllr Al-Samerai, who was particularly critical of Mr Coyle when she told the News this week: “Lots of residents have been telling me that they haven’t seen the new MP for Bermondsey. I hope that him stepping down as a councillor will give residents the proper service they deserve and which they had for 32 years with Sir Simon Hughes.”
A by-election for Newington and College wards are expected to be held on May 5, the same date as the London Mayoral and London Assembly elections. This date is yet to be officially confirmed.
Read editorial: Why did MPs wait a year to resign as councillors