The “giant” who led Waltham Forest’s Labour party to victory after eight years out of power has unexpectedly died.
Cllr Chris Robbins CBE, the borough’s mayor and former council leader for seven years, died on Monday April 5.
He was made a CBE in 2017 for his public service, having served as a councillor for 15 years and overseen the introduction of Mini Holland and the reopening of Lea Bridge Station while leader.
Council leader Cllr Clare Coghill said: “Chris loved the borough and its people – ‘our people’, as he would always call them – and his motto as leader was ‘Residents First’. You saw that in every decision he made.
“Above everything, Chris was utterly devoted to his family and my heart goes out to Shelley, Emma, Victoria and all of his relatives. We have all lost a great man and a great friend.”
Chris was born in 1945 in Bethnal Green and lived in east London his entire life, serving as ward councillor for Grove Green in Leyton since 2002.
He became leader of the Labour group in 2009 and led the party to win the majority, which it has not lost since, in the 2010 local election after eight years of no overall control.
He oversaw Waltham Forest helping to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the creation of Leyton Jubilee Park and the renovation of the William Morris Gallery.
Under his leadership, the borough saw Lea Bridge Station reopen after 31 years and the opening of the Waltham Forest Feel Good Centre, one of London’s largest leisure complexes.
In a tribute posted to Twitter, Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy said she was “shocked and saddened” by the news.
She wrote: “Chris lived and breathed this borough and the Labour movement with all his heart.
“He was also a proud family man who only last week was telling me how excited he was for the future and what he and they would do.”
On his election as mayor in 2019, Chris picked Haven House Hospice, who support the families of people with serious conditions, as his chosen charity. They are accepting donations here: https://www.justgiving.com/wfmbf