Former leader of Brent Council vows to continue her political career

Cllr Ann John OBE was ousted from her seat by her deputy Cllr Muhammed Butt


The former leader of Brent Council, Ann John OBE, has vowed to continue her political career despite being ousted as leader by her deputy.

In a shock turn of events on Saturday, Cllr John was toppled by her right-hand-man, Cllr Muhammed Butt, whom she made deputy in 2010.

Speaking exclusively to the Times, when asked if she would be leaving politics after 22 years, the ward councillor for Stonebridge, said: “Absolutely not. The people of Stonebridge have been electing me for 22 years and I will not stop representing them.”

Cllr John, who was leader of Brent’s Labour group for 11 years, discovered Cllr Butt was planning to challenge her for the leadership role a month ago.

“I was surprised,” she said. “But I had been leader for about 11 years. You can’t go on for ever. But we have had huge electoral success in Brent over the years and I’m proud of my record. I’m proud to have led this borough for as long as I did.”

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Like most politicians, Ms John has experienced ups and downs as leader of the authority.

The 71-year-old remembers sleepless nights over the council’s involvement in the case of eight-year-old Victoria Climbi�, who was tortured to death by her guardian in 2000, and remembers removing members of the planning committee during the 1990s.

Most recently she faced fierce criticism for the council’s decision to close half of the borough’s libraries.

She said: “Closing libraries was not an easy thing to do. But times are changing. People access information in different ways. I don’t have any doubt that it was the right decision.

“The government cut our funding. The council was not to blame.”

Despite the obstacles along the way and the burden of leading the council through the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, Ms John says there were highlights too, including setting up task groups to investigate child immunisation and prostitution in Brent.

She added: “The opening of the new Wembley Stadium was another key moment.”

“I’m a proper Brent girl. I have lived here all my life. It is an amazing place to live. The people here are incredibly talented.

“I want to thank everyone who has supported me over the years. I won’t be going away.”

It brought much-needed regeneration to the area.

“I’m also very proud of the work we did on diversity and equality issues as well as improving the make-up of the council.

“Every estate has been rebuilt. A new civic centre will open next year. The place looks better and feels better.”

Awarded an OBE in 2009 for services to local government, Ms John was brought up on a council estate in Kingsbury and went to Kingsbury County Grammar School before settling in nearby Meadowbank Road.