Robin Wales

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Sir Robin Wales
Mayor of Newham
Assumed office
2 May 2002
Preceded by New Office
Personal details
Born Robert Andrew Wales
(1955-01-18) 18 January 1955 (age 61)
Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire, Scotland
Political party Labour

Sir Robert Andrew "Robin" Wales (born 18 January 1955) is a Labour Party politician who has, since 2002, served as Mayor of the London Borough of Newham. He was Leader of Newham Council from 1995 to 2002 and a Councillor 1982–86; and 1992–95.[1]

Wales became the first Labour directly elected mayor in England in 2002.[2] He was re-elected in 2006 and 2010. In May 2014 he won a fourth consecutive term. Under his leadership, improving the economic prosperity of Newham's residents has been a consistent priority.

Wales made a number of pledges in the last ten years, including: a £5million investment in Workplace, an employment service; a housing allocations system based upon waiting time; a shared equity scheme to assist families get onto the property ladder; provision of free school meals for all Newham primary school children; a reading initiative which commits to a minimum 90 per cent literacy target by 2014; and a music education offer which gives all ten-year-olds the chance to learn a musical instrument with two years free tuition.[citation needed]

In his role as mayor, Wales' visibility has arguably increased since London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, as more than sixty per cent of the Games took place in the London Borough of Newham. From the beginning the London 2012 bid team and its supporters, including Wales, pointed to the potential for building a successful Olympic Legacy as the driving force behind and the social imperative underpinning the campaign to bring the Games to east London.

Background and early political career[edit]

Robert Andrew Wales was born in Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire, Scotland, on 18 January 1955. He spent his childhood in Kilmarnock; attending Kilmarnock Academy. He went on to study at Glasgow University and graduated with a BSc in Chemistry.

Wales joined the Labour party in 1970, aged 15. He served as Chair of Glasgow University Labour Club in 1975–76. He chaired Scottish Labour Students (SOLS) in 1976–77. SOLS members are renowned for their wresting back control of the National Organisation of Labour Students (NOLS) from the Militant Tendency in 1975. Wales was part of the contingent of Scottish Labour Students which famously took the 'ice pick express' (a bus covered in posters of an ice pick – the weapon used to kill Trotsky) to the 1976 NOLS Conference at Lancaster University.

Leader of Newham Council[edit]

In 1978 Wales moved to the London Borough of Newham and in 1982 was elected to the Council, representing Castle ward. He did not contest the 1986 or 1990 elections but was returned as councillor for Little Ilford ward in a 1992 by-election. At the 1994 election he again stood successfully, this time in Manor Park ward, and in 1995 Wales was elected Leader of Newham Council. In 1998 he was elected as councillor for Canning Town and Grange ward.[3]

From 2000–2006 Wales also served as Chair of the Association of London Government (ALG) – known as London Councils since 2006. London Councils is a think tank and lobbying organisation which serves the interests of the 32 London Borough Councils, plus the City of London Corporation. Wales was also recognised in the 2000 Birthday Honours List, receiving a Knighthood for his services to local government.

Mayor of Newham[edit]

In 2000 local authorities were granted the opportunity to directly elect an executive mayor with far-reaching decision-making powers. In this model of governance the mayor is directly elected by voters in the borough to serve for a period of four years. The elected mayor then chooses his or her cabinet; which must consist of no more than 10 councillors.

In 2002 Newham held a referendum and voted for the replacement of the traditional leader and cabinet model with the new directly-elected mayoral system. Sir Robin Wales became Newham's first and the first Labour elected mayor in England. He polled 20,384 votes (50.77%).

He was re-elected in 2006, receiving 28,655 first preference votes (47.9%); with a further 2,983 2nd preferences he achieved 68.2% in the final tally. Robin Wales easily won a third term in May 2010, with 64,748 votes (68.02%).[4]

Since 2005 one focus of Wales’ leadership has been to seize opportunities brought by the London 2012 Games to accelerate the social and economic regeneration of Newham.

Wales was part of the London 2012 Board which was involved in the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid for London. Social regeneration was at the heart of the London Bid and was instrumental in securing victory in 2005.

Wales has used his position on the Boards of both the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) and the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC); which was renamed the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) in April 2012, to ensure that a Games Legacy remains on the political agenda. He also chairs the Six Host Boroughs, an organisation which represents the interests of those boroughs most affected by the 2012 Games, and was instrumental in the establishment of the OPLC.

On 23 May 2014, Wales was elected for a fourth term as Mayor of Newham at the 2014 UK local elections. He received 47,095 votes (61.18%).[5]

Political career[edit]

Wales has spent the majority of his political career in Newham as leader and Mayor of the council.

Wales and other East London Leaders, as well as the Mayor of London, have claimed to be working towards achieving Convergence; meaning the improvement of the social and economic chances of people in the East End, raising them to the London average. This requires increasing employment, improving health and reducing poverty.[6]

Wales has said he is committed to helping residents benefit from economic development in Newham, particularly in terms of employment and skills. He names the Westfield development in Stratford as fundamental for securing the future prosperity of the area. He is often cited as believing the Olympics forms only one part of the transformation of Newham and the wider East End of London. Other key developments include the regeneration site at Canning Town and Custom House and in the Royal Docks and Silvertown Quays.[7]

Wales has personally championed Workplace to business partners, emphasising its close relationships with employers to understand their needs as well as a highly personalised approach to enabling people get into employment. Since 2007 Workplace has reportedly helped over 13,000 local people get jobs.[8]

Wales believes that local employment opportunities are a critical success factor of regeneration projects; and is something that not all regeneration projects deliver. He has named Canary Wharf and the Olympic Delivery Authority's construction of the Olympic Park as two examples of where local people have benefitted less than hoped from the job opportunities created[9] .[10]

Employment is a key theme in the political vision set out by Wales and publicly launched in the pamphlet Quid pro quo, not status quo. Quid pro quo. Why we need a welfare state that builds resilience (2011.)

The pamphlet outlines his approach to achieving Convergence. The concept of resilience (broken down into three dimensions: personal; community; and economic resilience) is presented as the embodiment of the various strands of this approach.[11]

Wales defines the Resilience approach to policy is one which recognises that personal skills, experiences, environment and upbringing are factors shaping an individual or community's resilience; which encompasses measures of its prosperity, cohesion, aspiration and ability to cope with setbacks. It also intends to recognise that personal responsibility is important in building successful, resilient communities and aims to ask more of people as citizens.[8]


Sir Robin Wales was involved in a bitter battle with the Friends of Queens Market,[12] which represents the market traders at Queen's Market. The traders and residents were objecting to plans to demolish the market and replace it with a new market hall with 164 stalls and 6,374 m2 of shop units, 350 homes, a new civic building and a library.[13] In May 2009, Mayor of London Boris Johnson over-ruled Sir Robin Wales' decision to build the 31-storey tower.[14]
Wales has attracted further controversy by being awarded a 4% pay rise taking his salary to £80,029, at a time when government has called for public sector wage restraints and job losses and pay freezes at Newham Council. Wales publicly stated that he would be giving the whole of his pay rise to charity (Mayor's consultation meetings October 2010).[citation needed] However, Wales' pay has increased 40 per cent from £58,500 since 2002.[15] Newham Council defended this pay increase stating that it reflected the responsibilities of his position.[16]

It has also been reported that Wales refused to work alongside the former Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman,[17] who was later removed from office for breaching electoral rules.[18]

As Mayor, Wales' Newham Council have come under heavy criticism for their £111m project to relocate council offices in a single Newham Dockside block, including £18.7m of design and refurbishment costs. An investigation by the BBC found this to include at least 5 items of designer lighting each costing over £1,800.

Following the London Olympics in 2012, Wales was criticised for proposing to invest £40m of the borough's money in a stake in the Olympic Stadium.[19]

In 2014, the Mayor and Newham Council were in dispute with the Focus E15 Mothers group who had complained about the lack of social housing within the borough. The Mayor has since apologised to the Focus E15 families about this. [20]


  1. ^ "Biography". Newham Council. 20 May 2010. Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  2. ^ Stevenson, Alexander (2013). The Public Sector: Managing The Unmanageable. ISBN 978-0-7494-6777-7. 
  3. ^ Newham Election Results archive –
  4. ^ Newham local election archive –
  5. ^ Morton, Sophie (23 May 2014). "Local elections 2014: Sir Robin Wales wins fourth tem as Mayor". Newham Recorder. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  6. ^ Hill, Dave (30 July 2012). "Olympics diary: who gains if East London becomes richer?". Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  7. ^ "Construction stage complete at Westfield Stratford City". Westfield Stratford City. 12 May 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  8. ^ a b "Sir Robin Wales". ProgLocTV. 4 September 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  9. ^ "Olympics: Legacy relies on investment in people". 16 June 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  10. ^ Olympic Games and Paralympic Games 2012: Legacy, Oral and Written Evidence. House of Commons, Culture Media and Sport Committee. 2010. Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  11. ^ "Quid pro quo, not status quo. Why we need a welfare state that builds resilience." (PDF). Newham Council. 12 September 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  12. ^ "Queens Market- St Modwen not wanted!". Retrieved 15 May 2010. 
  13. ^ "Group looks to mayor to halt market plans". 1 May 2009. Retrieved 15 May 2010. 
  14. ^ "Queen's Market saved as Mayor vetoes development". 15 May 2009. Retrieved 15 May 2010. 
  15. ^ "OLYMPIC MAYOR GIVES HIMSELF INFLATION-BUSTING PAY RISE". 29 June 2010. Retrieved 29 June 2010. 
  16. ^ Newham Recorder (30 June 2010). "Mayor pay increase defended". Newham Recorder. Retrieved 7 July 2010. 
  17. ^ Full interview with Lutfur Rahman, mayor of Tower Hamlets New Statesman, 18 November 2010
  18. ^ "Tower Hamlets election fraud mayor Lutfur Rahman removed from office". BBC News. 23 April 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  19. ^ Beard, Matthew (21 September 2012). "£40m for stake in Olympic stadium is worthwhile, says Newham mayor". Evening Standard. Retrieved 10 May 2013. 
  20. ^ Robin Wales. "I apologise to the Focus E15 families, but this is a London housing crisis". the Guardian.

External links[edit]

Political offices
New office Mayor of Newham