Having set out his vision for "freedom" so that local government can be even more radical to the Conservative Party conference, at a meeting I attended in Manchester this year, he today announced he would be stepping down as leader to concentrate on developing policies on devolving power from central to local Government to enable just that to happen.
Here's what Deputy Leader, and leading contender to be the next Leader of H&F, Cllr Nick Botterill had to say:
“I hope many people across H&F and beyond will want to thank Stephen for his tireless dedication to this borough and to local government. Thankfully, he will still continue to play a major role through his work with the community in White City.
“It is extremely difficult simultaneously to cut taxes, improve services and reduce the debt burden and yet that is just what Stephen has done at H&F. He has lifted the spectre of debts from future generations of residents - there can be no higher accolade than that.”The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, said:
"Stephen has been an outstanding council leader. He always understood that the role of the council was to stand shoulder to shoulder with the public. People in Hammersmith & Fulham are getting a better service at a much cheaper price. Hammersmith and Fulham is truly a council to be proud of.”Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, declared:
"Stephen has made a fantastic contribution to local government over very many years."
Cllr Greenhalgh is, according to the Council, helping to pioneer plans for a Neighbourhood Budget for the White City Opportunity Area. Nearly £70 million of taxpayers’ funds – or £17,000 per household – is spent in this area every year. Despite this unemployment is twice the borough average, the area has high levels of overcrowding, relatively low educational attainment and relatively high levels of crime. H&F wants to pool central and local government's spending into a single budget pot, involve residents far more in how that money is spent and ensure that every penny is focused on improving the life chances of the people living there.
“I am keen work with Whitehall and the town hall to develop a new approach to public spending at a neighbourhood level while continuing to serve the residents of Town Ward where I both live and work," he said.
“I do not think the people of White City are getting value for money out of that £70 million, nor do I think are wider taxpayers,” said Cllr Greenhalgh. “I want to focus that money on getting much better outcomes for people living there and ensuring that the neighbourhood is fully involved in how that money is spent.”He went on to say:
“Being leader of the council is a remarkable challenge which I have been thrilled to have taken on. I am immensely grateful for the energy and professionalism of my fellow councillors and staff in making possible such a radical transformation of the council over the last five years".I have to say I am going to miss the big man - he has to me been a Leader of two extremes: completely ignoring local people when his heart was set on a planning project, but then also someone who could set out what was actually quite an inspring vision for local government with local people in the driving seat and democracy being the better for it.
Let's hope his successor carries on the vision thing but pays a bit more attention to the listening too.
It's also worth noting, and this goes for all councilors from all parties, that being a Councillor is a pretty thankless task at the best of times. They are paid peanuts compared to the amount of hours they put in and on top of that they give up at least two, sometimes three nights per week. Try having a family life alongside that. So they're always easy to criticise, sometimes rightly so, but the vast majority are doing what they think is the right thing and are prepared to give up much of their personal lives in order to do it. So thank-you Cllr Greenhalgh, and good luck.