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Charith Gunawardena with Sian Berry Southgate Station
Green Party co-leader Sian Berry travelled to Southgate to welcome Cllr Gunawardena

A councillor representing Southgate ward has this week resigned from Labour and joined the Green Party, calling for more transparency and committing to defend and preserve strong local democracy

The decision by Cllr Charith Gunawardena to resign from the Labour Party and join the Greens means that since the local elections three years ago the ruling Labour Group has lost a total of eight councillors through resignation.

In his resignation statement Cllr Gunawardena cited his passion to deliver a greener future for Southgate and a commitment to stay true to the promises he gave during his election campaign, reaffirming his promise to work hard for the residents of Southgate. 

He said that joining the Green Party will allow him to continue his fight for transparency over the proposed Meridian Water regeneration scheme - one of the largest regeneration projects in Europe that will deliver up to 10,000 new homes in the area. He reiterated his desire to work with his former colleagues in ensuring proper scrutiny of the plans:

"Under these challenging circumstances, there is an urgent need for an inclusive political culture supporting open, honest and transparent policy discussions to reach solutions that benefit residents across the borough. 

“As a member of the Green Party, I will be better placed to scrutinise and challenge decisions that will have a lasting environmental and social impact in the borough for decades to come, and defend processes essential for preserving strong local democracy.”

In welcoming Councillor Gunawardena Sian Berry, Green Party co-leader and London Assembly Member, said: 

"I am thrilled to have Charith join our growing team of councillors across the country and in London. Greens across our city will benefit from his experience and enthusiasm, and we will support his efforts to win greater transparency in major developments and council scrutiny across all issues affecting our citizens."

"Progressive grown-up politics"

Isobel Whittaker, joint co-ordinator of Enfield Green Party, said that by joining the Greens Cllr Gunawardena has chosen progressive, grown-up politics:

"Charith has a proven track record on sustainability, the climate and the environment. He's dedicated and well respected and we are proud that he has taken the bold decision to think of the future and go Green.

"We look forward with real optimism to Charith's contribution as a new Green voice on Enfield Council, working for Southgate and the wider borough to stand up for climate justice, representing the thousands of Green voters in Enfield and holding the council to account and scrutiny on issues which affect everyone."

"A figurehead in holding the council to account"

Her welcome was echoed by the local party's other joint co-ordinator, Luke Balnave:

"Charith has been a figurehead in holding the council to account. His huge passion for the environment, both locally and beyond, as well as for social justice, means his alignment to fundamental green values is unquestionable."

"Working cross-party to deliver a stronger, greener London"

When asked why he had chosen to join the Green Party, Cllr Gunawardena said:

"I have been so impressed by the work of Sian Berry and Caroline Russell on the London Assembly - especially in relation to their work in housing - and their ability to work cross-party to deliver a stronger, greener London."

Councillor Gunawardena joins a growing band of Greens in local government. The party won an additional 99 seats across the country in the elections on 6 May and achieved their best result in London, with the biggest ever Green vote and an increase in the number of Green Assembly Members.

In the three by-elections for seats on Enfield Council that took place on 6th May the biggest swing overall was from Labour to the Green Party. The Greens averaged gains of 5.3%.

Cllr Gunawardena's resignation statement

Championing Wellbeing of People & Environment: If not now, when?

It has been an honour and a privilege to represent residents of Southgate ward in the London Borough of Enfield over the past three years.

I will continue to serve Southgate, but now as a councillor representing the Green Party, whose policies for a sustainable society incorporate key principles to tackle the climate crisis and deliver social justice. These are things I campaigned for and will continue to defend on behalf of Enfield's residents. I strongly believe this to be the best way to serve my constituents.

Unfortunately, I have recently felt restrained from championing the core needs of local residents as a Labour councillor and have decided to resign the party whip and to leave the Labour Party.

Enfield faces significant financial, housing and environmental challenges.

Enfield Council is under enormous financial pressures due to government funding cuts, the consequences of the Covid-19 crisis, a projected £2bn peak-debt burden and many irresponsible political choices.

The borough is trapped in an increasingly damaging housing crisis. There are not enough genuinely affordable homes being built (especially family sized homes), there are high levels of overcrowding, long waiting lists and too many people living in temporary accommodation and/or in poor-quality homes.

The borough must also play its part in responding to the environmental crisis, which will only successfully be achieved by offering considered, meaningful and evidence-based responses and policies.

Locally, Southgate ward residents have been raising concerns about the deteriorating town centre, rising crime, fly-tipping, traffic congestion causing delays and air pollution, and other issues.

Under these challenging circumstances, there is an urgent need for an inclusive political culture supporting open, honest and transparent policy discussions to reach solutions that benefit residents across the borough.

As a member of the Green Party, I will be better placed to scrutinise and challenge decisions that will have a lasting environmental and social impact in the borough for decades to come, and defend processes essential for preserving strong local democracy.

The Green Party is a grassroots democratic party, where activism is encouraged and where members with ideals and principles are valued. Very importantly, members are genuinely empowered to decide policy. I am looking forward to making an impactful contribution and working with all residents, ward councillors and council officers for a better Southgate & Enfield.

I would like to thank the campaigners, members of the Labour Party (past and present) and residents who helped to get me elected and who have continued to support me.

Charith Gunawardena
Local Councillor, Southgate Ward

Links

Councillors quits Labour to join Greens  (Enfield Dispatch 18 May 2021)

Councillor quits Enfield Labour to join Green Party (Enfield Independent 18 May 2021)

Green Party

Enfield Green Party

This report was amended at 2pm on 18th May to add the text of Cllr Gunawardena's resignation statement

 
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