Six long-serving Edinburgh Labour councillors will not seek re-election next year

Six senior Labour councillors, with well over 100 years' service between them, are to stand down at next year's council elections.

Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 4:55 am

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Former Lord Provost Donald Wilson, education convener Ian Perry, planning vice-convener Maureen Child and Ricky Henderson, who chairs the Integration Joint Board overseeing health and social care, have all decided not to seek re-election next May, along with transport vice-convener Karen Doran and outspoken backbencher Gordon Munro.

It means more than half the current Labour group will quit the City Chambers.

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Six councillors are standing down

Group leader Cammy Day called them “some of the most experienced, hard working and loyal Labour councillors ever” and said they would be a huge loss to the city.

"I want to put on record my sincere thanks and gratitude for everything they have done to support the city over many decades of public service. They now open the door for another generation of local Labour councillors."

Marathons, garden parties and an electric car

Donald Wilson, who was Lord Provost from 2012 until 2017 and is now convener of the culture and communities committee, has represented the Gorgie/Dalry area since 1999, first as councillor for old the single-member Dalry/Shandon and now for multi-member Sighthill/Gorgie.

Donald Wilson ran five marathons as Lord Provost

Before joining the council he taught computing at Penicuik High School for 17 years and then at Newbattle Community High School.

And his early work as a councillor included pioneering the “Smart City” and chairing the Edinburgh and Lothians Tourist Board,

As Lord Provost, he ran five marathons for local charities and hosted three garden parties in the grounds of Lauriston Castle to honour unsung heroes of the city including legendary impresario Tommy Carson and ex-soldier tuned charity fundraiser Tom Gilzean.

Among his achievements he also lists choosing an electric vehicle as the Lord Provost’s official car; revitalising the One City Trust which was set up to combat inequality and exclusion in the city; and starting the Lord Provost’s Burns Supper which then raised £30,000 annually for the trust.

Ian Perry has been councillor for 33 years

But at 62 he has decided it’s the right moment to move on. "It's probably time to hand over to somebody else so they can bring a fresh approach and new energy to the job.”

He plans to continue his work with various charitable organisations and hopes to have more time with his family.

Seventy not out

Ian Perry, the longest-serving of the Labour councillors, was first elected in 1988 and has held numerous roles over the past 33 years, including vice-convener of economic development, environment convener, planning convener, deputy leader of the council and now education convener.

Maureen Child "never wanted to be on the council".

He says one of his key achievements was helping to set up the Capital City Partnership in 2000 as Edinburgh’s city-wide social inclusion partnership. “From an early stage it took the view that the most effective route to inclusion for most people was through finding and sustaining employment in Edinburgh’s robust labour market. The partnership’s ‘Joined up for Jobs strategy’ was launched in 2001 by Alistair Darling and remains the basis for the City Strategy.”

Cllr Perry, who worked as a lecturer at Stevenson College, has also been chair of green charity Changeworks – previously Lothian and Edinburgh Environmental Partnership (LEEP) – for 25 years.

Now 70, he has decided to step down as councillor for Southside/Newington. “I would like to thank all those who have voted for me over the years and hope I have been of help those who have contacted me for help and support.”

‘I never wanted to be a councillor’

Maureen Child’s 26 years as a Portobello councillor has included a long spell as finance convener and an almost unbroken stint on the planning committee.

It started with her election in Milton ward in the “shadow year” of 1995, when the old two-tier system with Lothian Regional Council and Edinburgh District Council was being replaced by the new single-tier city council.

Ricky Henderson chairs the Integration Joint Board

"I never wanted to be on the council in the first place,” she said. “What on earth would I want to be a 'City Mother' for? I didn't have a clue what the job entailed, but I was persuaded to stand, then got selected.

"I contemplated whether to put up a poster saying 'Vote Child Labour' but I didn't think that would work.

"Then when I was actually elected I was horrified. I didn't know what I was letting myself in for.

"But I've learned a tremendous amount and done things I never thought myself capable of, not least speaking in public.”

She remembers getting involved in an early battle over the refurbishment of Portobello swim centre not being included in the capital budget. “We won that campaign and I think that was probably the first Portobello campaign to flex its muscles.”

Cllr Child shared an office with fellow Labour councillor Angus MacKay and says when he became finance convener he persuaded her to become his deputy and later encouraged her to take over the role when he was elected an MSP.

She is currently vice-convener of planning and has been on the committee for most of her time as councillor. She never wanted to go on planning, she says, but agreed to do so in return for being allowed to chair a sub-committee on sustainability.

She has enjoyed her time on the council, she says. “But less and less so. The reduction in funding, the constant blame that comes from other levels of government – they squeeze us and then say ‘How come you can’t do this, that and the next thing?’ They give you more and more things to do, less and less power and less and less resources. The expectations are huge and the capacity to deliver so much less. I am constantly astonished that such amazingly good work is done by councils, unsung and unappreciated.”

‘The best job in the council’

Ricky Henderson, who represents Pentland Hills ward, was first elected in 1999. He served as convener of culture, leisure and sport, 2003-2006, and transport convener, 2006-2007. He was deputy leader of the Labour group, 2010-2017, and convener of health, social care and housing, 2012-2017, before the Integration Joint Board took over health and social care.

He remembers “some good times, some really challeging times” but says it has been fulfilling and a great privilege to represent the people of the city.

He most enjoyed his time at culture and leisure. “That was fantatstic – that's the best job in the council, getting involved with people in the sports scene, the cultural scene, libraries, the festivals, theatres, museums and galleries.”

Other roles were equally rewarding, he says, “but more businesslike”.

"I’ve decided to stand down because I’ll be 60 next January; I’ve got a couple of young grandsons now, aged six and nine month, and I’d like to spend more time with with them;

and I’ve got a bit more responsibility coming my way in my work for the Communication Workers Union.”

Karen Doran, City Centre councillor since 2012, is also standing down. She has served as vice-convener of the transport and environment committee since the 2017.

And Gordon Munro, first elected in 2003, announced in July that he would not seek re-election in Leith. He said working from home since Covid had helped reduce his blood pressure and he wanted to maintain his improved health, but he was also frustrated that funding cuts had reduced the scope for councillors to make a difference.

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Long-serving Edinburgh Labour councillor to stand down at next year's elections

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Gordon Munro with Jeremy Corbyn at the foot of Leith Walk
Karen Doran is vice convener of transport and environment