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Gospel Oak councillor appointed London's first tech guru

PUBLISHED: 08:51 28 August 2017 | UPDATED: 09:40 30 August 2017

Gospel Oak councillor Theo Blackwell has been appointed London's first

Gospel Oak councillor Theo Blackwell has been appointed London's first "digital tsar" by Sadiq Khan triggering a second by-election in six months. Picture: NIGEL SUTTON

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The mayor of London has appointed Camden councillor Theo Blackwell his first "digital tsar" triggering a second by-election in Gospel Oak within six months.

Cllr Blackwell has been Camden Council's lead on finance, technology and growth. Picture: NIGEL SUTTONCllr Blackwell has been Camden Council's lead on finance, technology and growth. Picture: NIGEL SUTTON

Sadiq Khan announced on Friday the Labour Party representative for Gospel Oak had been put in charge of plans to transform how the capital’s public services are designed and delivered.

Commenting at the time, Mr Blackwell said: “The new chief digital officer post is an amazing opportunity to make our capital more open to innovation, support jobs and investment and make public services more effective.

“The pace of change over the next decade requires public services to develop a stronger relationship with the tech sector.”

Mr Blackwell will be responsible for making sure the capital makes best use of new technology and ensuring London’s 32 boroughs work together on sharing their data.

Gospel Oak councillor Theo Blackwell has been appointed London's first Gospel Oak councillor Theo Blackwell has been appointed London's first "digital tsar" by Sadiq Khan triggering a second by-election in six months. Picture: NIGEL SUTTON

As Camden Council’s cabinet member for technology Mr Blackwell has been credited with turning the borough into a national leader in data use.

But Frognal and Fitzjohns safer neighbourhood panel chair Jessica Learmond-Criqui said: “There is a higher percentage of older people in Camden compared to any other London borough who can no longer access services.

“It’s all digital, they’re not. And there are no alternatives. It’s a bad mistake. If other boroughs are treated in the same way, which seems the intention of mayor Khan with this appointment, then many older Londoners are being disenfranchised,” she added.

In response a spokesman for the mayor said: “This role is about more than getting people online, it is about transforming lives, particularly for groups excluded from digital services.

“Mr Blackwell will be working with a wide range of partners to address the barriers Londoners face in getting online and ensuring everyone, including older Londoners, has the skills and access they need to use improved public services.”

The £107,000 a year digital guru role means Mr Blackwell is also forced to stand down from his political office triggering a second by-election in Gospel Oak within six months after fellow councillor Maeve McCormack was forced to resign in March over the high cost of living in Camden.

A Camden Council spokesman said by-election details would not be confirmed until Mr Blackwell starts in his new post at City Hall in late September.

Phil Jones, Camden’s planning chief, also quit on Saturday to pursue a professional qualification in urban planning.

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