Gospel Oak councillor ‘forced’ to resign because she cannot afford to live in Camden

Former Gospel Oak councillor Maeve McCormack. Picture: Dieter Perry.

Former Gospel Oak councillor Maeve McCormack. Picture: Dieter Perry. - Credit: Archant

A Gospel Oak councillor has resigned because she cannot afford to live in Camden.

Cllr Theo Blackwell

Cllr Theo Blackwell - Credit: Archant

Cllr Maeve McCormack said she had to make a “really tough choice” between doing what she loves and living where her finances permit.

“Sadly the ongoing housing crisis affects councillors too,” she wrote in a letter to her constituents.

“High prices have now forced me to move out of Camden to live elsewhere.”

A by-election will now be held – most likely within the next two months – to find a replacement for Labour’s Cllr McCormack, who rents in Broadhurst Gardens.

She added in her letter that it had been a “real privilege” to serve Gospel Oak and stressed the area is left in the “safe hands” of Cllrs Larraine Revah and Theo Blackwell.

Cllr Blackwell, speaking on behalf of Camden Labour, said Cllr McCormack had made a “really difficult decision” by stepping down.

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“A number of our councillors face that choice,” he said. “If people want to get on the housing ladder they are facing a choice between serving the community and owning a home.”

He added: “Camden is increasingly unaffordable, but we’re trying our best to provide homes for cheap rent.”

Cllr Blackwell, however, said there was “no real money” coming from central government and that the burden was being borne by Camden.

He said he is spending “40 to 50 per cent” of his own income on rent, and warned that in future it could “go back to the 1930s” – with only wealthier people serving on the council.

“People are being priced out – it could end up with just the extremely wealthy and people who have lived here a long time,” he added.

Cllr Blackwell said there are more than 350 members of the Gospel Oak Labour Party and a process will now begin to select a new candidate.

He said the main issue in the ward is housing and winning future investment for the area.

The Tories, meanwhile, are strongly expected to pick Gospel Oak candidate Marx de Morais for the by-election.

But Hamish Hunter, deputy chairman of the Holborn and St Pancras Conservatives, said Gospel Oak isn’t a “target ward” for the party.

“Labour won the ward by 40pc in 2013 and 35pc in 2014, so we recognise that they will hold the seat in this by-election,” he said.

“We’re obviously going to be running a strong campaign in the ward, and we hope to see a swing towards us. But the seat is probably out of our reach this time.”

He added that the priority for the Tories was the 2018 council election, where wards like West Hampstead, Fortune Green, Highgate and Camden Town with Primrose Hill will be targeted.