A council by-election is due to take place in Ladywell this Thursday 4 November, with nominees from five parties vying for the chance to replace departing Labour councillor Tim Shand.
Shand, who was elected only months ago, tendered his resignation in September in order to take up a job at Sonke Gender Justice Network in South Africa. He said: “It has been a heart-wrenching decision to stand down but to go and work in some of the poorest communities in the world on big problems like HIV and sexual violence is something that I could not refuse.”
In May’s council election, Shand was one of three Labour councillors elected to the ward. He received 1909 votes. The Green party provided the most serious competition, narrowly missing out on a seat after their most successful candidate, Charlotte Dingle, gained 1845 votes.
On Thursday, candidates representing the Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour, Green and Lewisham For People Not Profit parties will stand in a bid to win the vacant borough councillor position.
Representing the Conservative party is Ben Appleby, a management consultant from Hither Green. He is campaigning to keep Crofton Park Library open, and also recently led a rally to call on Mayor Boris Johnson to bring his ‘Boris Bikes’ cycle hire scheme to Lewisham. “It would be a great way to help keep fit and reduce congestion on local roads,” he said. The local Conservative party describes Appleby as ‘an experienced and passionate campaigner, guaranteed to be a strong voice on Lewisham Council.’
Liberal Democrat candidate Ingrid Chetram, a mental health support worker, emphasised her belief in preserving local services in the face of cuts. She has also opposed the library closure, as well as advocating safer streets and more recycling in Lewisham. Acknowledging that ‘there is no magic cure’ to social problems, she maintained: “I will try my hardest to do what is right by my fellow citizens.” “I want to be a guardian of our local values and standards,” she added.
Standing for Labour is Carl Handley, a part-time worker for a welfare-rights and independent living charity for the disabled. Having previously represented Ladywell as a councillor between 2002 and 2006, Handley is described by his party as ‘a community activist with a wealth of council experience.’ “Carl is a champion for children, young people and all of the community,” said Lewisham Labour Group Chair Alan Hall. “He is a tremendous asset for Lewisham.”
Green party nominee Ute Michel is also a previous Ladywell councillor. An NHS worker and former European parliamentary research assistant, Michel has opposed the opening of a new bookmaker’s in the area, as well as campaigning against cuts to social care services. Emphasising her party’s narrow loss in Ladywell’s May election, when they failed to gain a seat by just 65 votes, she said: “I worked hard over four years to help individual residents and the local community, and I would be honoured to serve Ladywell again.”
Campaigning on the local-interest Lewisham For People Not Profit ticket is Helen Mercer, who describes herself as ‘a long-term resident of the ward.’ Emphasising her ‘leading role’ in campaigns including the effort to save Lewisham Bridge School, Mercer has also opposed the closure of local libraries. Describing her party as ‘the new kids on the block,’ she added: “What we have are people who have been involved in campaigns in Lewisham for a long time, people who are close to and understand the concerns and needs of ordinary people.”
Thursday’s winner will take their place on the council alongside sitting Labour representatives Davis and Gibson, who were elected alongside ex-Councillor Shand in May.