Race on to be next leader of Norwich City Council

A crunch decision tonight will see Labour decide who will take over as its group leader - and that person is set to become the next leader of Norwich City Council.

Only two candidates are in the frame and the city's Labour group will have to decide which of them is the right person to steer the party in place of long-serving leader Steve Morphew.

Mr Morphew decided to stand down following last week's elections and his former deputy Brenda Arthur is up against Alan Waters, cabinet member for resources, performance and shared services, in the race to succeed him as group leader.

Because Labour, who gained two seats from the Conservatives at last Thursday's local council elections, are likely to continue to run City Hall as a minority administration it means whoever becomes Labour leader tonight is almost certain to also become the next leader of Norwich City Council.

Former teacher Mr Waters, who last week successfully retained Crome ward, which he has represented for 17 years, has been a city councillor for 22 years.

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He was leader of the council between 1993 and 1998 and works for the Local Government Information Unit in London.

His opponent, Mrs Arthur, has been a city councillor for University ward since 2008 and is the cabinet member for housing. Before she became a city councillor, she worked for almost 17 years as the chief executive of Age Concern Norwich and is a previous Sheriff of Norwich.

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After last week's election results, Labour have 18 seats at City Hall, compared to the 15 held by the Greens, four Liberal Democrats and two Conservatives.

And outgoing Labour leader Mr Morphew said he believes the party is just 12 months away from securing overall control of City Hall.

Now president of Norwich Labour Party, Mr Morphew said: 'There was an outside chance of us taking control this time around, but it's pretty much what we expected and it sets us up for further progress in the future. It suggests to me that people are on their way back to us and some have made it.'

But Claire Stephenson, leader of the Green group, who are in opposition, was not convinced. She said: 'I don't think the Labour party is really any more popular - it's just that the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives are less popular.

'The Green party has been gaining seats all the time and people have a more positive reason for voting for us.'

A formal decision on who will run the city council and who will be leader will be made at the annual general meeting next Tuesday, but, with the Greens unlikely to seek a coalition, Labour looks set to form another minority administration.

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