Labour group backs Grace Williams to be new leader of Waltham Forest Council

Grace Williams is set to become the new leader of Waltham Forest Council after being backed by Labour group members in a vote on Thursday evening.

Former leader Clare Coghill, the first woman to lead the council, announced she was stepping down on June 18. If Labour’s choice to replace her is accepted by a vote of the full council, she will be succeeded by the borough’s second female leader.

Cllr Williams, of William Morris ward in Walthamstow, is currently cabinet member in charge of children and families. Responding to the news, deputy leader Clyde Loakes tweeted his congratulations to his cabinet colleague, adding she is “gonna be #Amazeballs!”

Cllr Williams will remain only leader-elect of the council, rather than formally assuming the role, until the decision is voted on by all councillors at the next full council meeting.

However, the council meeting scheduled for July 15, has been cancelled and does not yet appear to have been rescheduled, so there could be a long wait.

In her current cabinet role, Cllr Williams has been involved in the plans for the new “families and homes hub” being built on the former site of the Wood Street Library.

She was also involved in the controversial decision to cut funding for children with special educational needs last year, which parents unsuccessfully tried to challenge in the High Court.

Former leader Cllr Coghill stepped down after four years in the role and 11 as a councillor for High Street ward, confirming she will not run for re-election next year.

She was absent from the cabinet’s first-ever meeting in the newly renovated Waltham Forest Town Hall, on June 22, with Cllr Loakes chairing the meeting in her stead.

She is one of four London borough council leaders to step down since the start of the pandemic, including the leaders of Croydon, Lambeth and Islington.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter