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Westminster Council leader in shock resignation

PUBLISHED: 12:36 16 January 2012

Cllr Barrow has been Westminster leader for four years

Cllr Barrow has been Westminster leader for four years

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Cllr Colin Barrow stunned his colleagues by announcing that he is to stand down in March - but he says the decision is not based on the row over parking charges

Westminster Council leader Cllr Colin Barrow says the recent furore over increased parking charges in the borough is not the reason for his shock resignation.

The Conservative leader stunned fellow party members when he announced the decision on Saturday after he had informed members of his inner circle late on Friday night.

Cllr Barrow, who is in his fourth year as leader, has come under immense pressure recently over his decision to introduce parking charges in parts of Marylebone and the West End on evenings and weekends.

The move was halted by a High Court judge who granted a judicial review last month and Cllr Barrow delayed the implementation of the charges until after the Olympics.

But Cllr Barrow, who will step down as leader and Hyde Park councillor on March 7, says he made the decision “in the middle of last year to step down when I reached 60 to devote some time to writing and lecturing”.

Speaking on BBC’s Sunday Politics show, the departing leader said: “After four years running Westminster I felt it was time to move on and I took this decision six months ago.

“I in fact delayed it in order to get this parking thing to the point where it was going to be implemented which was scheduled to be in January.

“Now there is a pause so I thought there was an opportunity to step aside and serve the public in another way.”

When asked whether the parking issue had forced his hand, Cllr Barrow added: “I am not standing down because of parking at all.

“I am standing down because I have done what I came to do. I wanted to do something about education in the city, I wanted to do something about housing in the city and I wanted to do something about the public realm, and I think we’ve done all those things.

“This has of course marred it. It would be wrong to say that it hadn’t and this has been controversial and difficult.

“But we make controversial decisions every day in Westminster – this one just got a bit noisier than most.”

Cllr Barrow made his move into politics in 1997 after building up financial firm Man Group’s fund management business.

He was deputy leader of the Conservative opposition in Suffolk County Council before being elected to Westminster in 2002 where he became deputy leader in three years later and took over as leader in 2008.

The Westminster Conservatives are now expected to conduct an election at the end of February to decide a new leader who will be formally elected as the new leader of the council at the budget meeting on March 7.

For more see this week’s Wood&Vale out on Thursday

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