JAMES Alexander has tonight dramatically quit as leader of City of York Council as the local Labour Party's turmoil continues.

Cllr Alexander is also stepping down as York Labour leader after four years in the post, to take up a new role with Ed Miliband and the national Labour Party, and he will leave the council completely at next May's election.

He made the announcement just hours after opposition councillors announced they would call for a vote of no confidence in him, however his departure was clearly pre-planned.

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Cllr Alexander said he was proud of his achievements and said Labour had turned "a city in stagnation on to the path to prosperity", but said long hours, the pressure of coping with Government cuts and "personalised" politics had taken their toll on him and his family. He said his new job was too good an opportunity to turn down.

York Press:

Cllr Alexander at a tuition fees protest in St Helen's Square 2010

Labour has suffered five defections in little over two years, losing its majority at Guildhall, and those who quit Labour have consistently attacked Cllr Alexander's leadership style. The depleted group must now find a new leader less than six months before May's council elections. Cllr Alexander will remain in post until his successor is chosen.

Opposition leader Chris Steward had today accused Cllr Alexander of "riding roughshod" over the council for three and a half years and accused him of an "ego-driven mode of leadership".

This morning he announced the Conservatives would table a motion calling for a no-confidence vote at the December 11 council meeting, saying Cllr Alexander had concentrated on "flashy vanity projects" and had sought to "big up York for his own personal aggrandisement" rather than addressing residents' key concerns.

Rumours of Cllr Alexander's imminent resignation had circulated earlier this week. As late as this morning, he told The Press they were untrue, before issuing a written statement confirming his departure.

His new role will be as Policy Officer for Communities, supporting Ed Miliband and shadow ministers ahead of the General Election. Labour said he would be overseeing policy areas including transport, local government, housing, culture, media and sport.

York Press:

Cllr Alexander, during his role as Young People's Champion

Cllr Alexander, now 32, was one of the youngest council leaders in the country when he led Labour to a landslide victory in 2011, having ousted David Scott as party leader a year earlier. He first stood in York in 2003, in Huntington and New Earswick, and was elected in 2007 and 2011 in Holgate

He also served as Young People's Champion while in opposition and stood unsuccessfully for Parliament in the York Outer consituency in 2010.

Before being elected in York, he had been an election agent and constituency organiser for Hammersmith and Fulham Labour Party, and before that he was treasurer and president of the Students' Union at the University of York, where he studied.

>>> ANALYSIS: The ups and downs of James Alexander in York



Here is a selection of the responses following James Alexander's announcement:

York Press:

Hugh Bayley, MP for York Central: “James has put his heart and soul into leading the council. I’m very sorry he is going. During his time as leader the council has had to implement massive budget cuts imposed by the Government, but the council has still managed to bring investment and many new jobs to the city.”


York Press:

Chris Steward, York Conservative leader: "We welcome the news he has resigned. I think it's a positive and hopefully we can now work together for the good of York as one, rather than the divisive policies James has been so synonymous with."


York Press: Viv Kind

Viv Kind, chair of York Labour Party: “I congratulate James on his new role which gives York greater influence over national Labour Party policy. We know he will continue to have York’s best interests at heart in his new job. During his five years as leader of the Labour Group and four years as Labour council leader James has used his vision and challenge to maintain key services and deliver economic growth for York despite massive reductions in government funding. York Labour Party thanks him for his commitment and hard work and wishes him well in his new role”.


York Press:

Keith Aspden, leader of York Liberal Democrats: "It is clear the problems in the York Labour Group go deeper than the leader. From the botched closure of Lendal Bridge to the cuts to basic frontline services the Labour Group collectively has proved itself unfit to run York. The policies of the council need to change and this is why Liberal Democrat councillors have been working hard in recent weeks to try to force U-Turns on the plans to close Castlegate and Yearsley Pool. Our priority will be to continue to work with all councillors to force the Labour Cabinet to change its policies whoever is leading the cabinet between now and May. I personally wish James well for his future."


York Press: Andy D’Agorne

Andy D'Agorne, York Green Party leader: "I am sure this is very welcome news. Obviously it begs the question who will replace him."


York Press: Roger Marsh, chairman of the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership

Roger Marsh, chair of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, said Cllr Alexander brought a "challenging yet constructive dynamic" to the LEP and said: "In particular I am grateful to him for his support in developing the Strategic Economic Plan, which secured recently the largest sum of devolved funding to any LEP area in the country."


York Press: Coun Ken King

Cllr Ken King, who defected from Labour last month over the local party's actions: "I was expecting it and I think it is the honourable thing to do. Unfortunately there should be about two or three people resigning with him. He should not be left to carry the can on his own. There are a number of people in the Labour group who have ruined the group.... I would love to rejoin the Labour party and group but I could not do that the way it is being run."


York Press: Susie Cawood

Susie Cawood, chair of York Chamber of Commerce: "James has always worked trielessly for the city since his appointment and while chamber members have not always agreed with all his policies, James has always been willing to listen to business and give support where possible. We wish him well in the future and hope his successor will also fight for jobs and growth for the city."