The Leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council and Wolverhampton Labour Group, Councillor Roger Lawrence, has announced plans to step down after 36 years as a councillor serving the city.
Councillor Lawrence was first elected in 1983 and has been Leader for 15 years. He steered the council through one of its most challenging periods, following the 2007 global financial crisis and subsequent Government cuts to local authority budgets. Funding for the council has been halved by £220 million since 2009.
Despite the scale of the financial challenges faced, Councillor Lawrence has been instrumental in overseeing huge transformation at the council, within the city and the wider West Midlands region.
In 2017, he led the council to success at the prestigious MJ Local Government Awards which saw the City of Wolverhampton Council named Local Authority of the Year – as well as winning three other major awards. Last year, he was named ‘Leader of the Year’ at the LGIU Awards.
These achievements recognised significant strides made to improve services to local people as well as boosting inclusive economic growth across the city. Councillor Lawrence has played a leading role in shaping the city’s regeneration strategy delivering £3.7 billion investment and bringing thousands of opportunities and jobs to local people.
He was the driving force, as initial programme board chair, of the fledgling West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), passionately advocating devolution of power and money from Whitehall to the West Midlands.
Councillor Lawrence is currently responsible for the regional transport portfolio – a post he has held for four years – overseeing much-needed investment across the West Midland’s tram, train and major road network.
Commenting on his decision to stand down, Councillor Lawrence said: “After more than three decades serving this great city, 15 as Leader of the Council, I feel that now’s the right time to make way for fresh leadership.
“I will not be putting my name forward during the leadership vote that follows city local elections on May 2. I will, however, continue to serve local residents in St Peter’s ward until May 2020.
“The challenges the city and our wider region face are significant. Brexit uncertainty, further cuts to public services, wider political, social and economic changes – they’re all long-term issues and I feel the time is right for new thinking, energy and focus and a longer-term commitment that I am unable to make.
“These challenges are not insurmountable, but they do mean that the council and the city need to continue to pull together, as one, to overcome them. And we’ve shown many times before that we can do this. I’m immensely proud of some of our big achievements. Record levels of investment and a new £150million Interchange connecting train, tram, bus and car.
“One billion-pound investment and thousands of new jobs at i54 – but only because we reached out across the political divide, had the courage to seize the moment and took calculated risks to invest in growth and jobs. Regeneration in Bilston with new facilities and millions of pounds of investment in new homes. Our ground-breaking Wolves at Work partnership with DWP which has helped 3,600 local people find jobs and is seen as best practice regionally.”
“None of these achievements could have been delivered without the support of very many people, council employees, residents, businesses, city and regional partners and I want to pay tribute to them and say thank you for what you have done for this city over the last decade.
“I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to serve this great city and I hope make a positive difference to the lives of local people. There are many talented and dedicated councillors who can now pick up the baton for a new generation and the council has very solid and professional senior officer leadership in place to build on strong foundations.
“I firmly believe that this place and it’s fantastic people have a bright future and I look forward to seeing our city go from strength-to-strength under new leadership.”