Monday, March 27, 2006

Joe Abrams OBE and Danny Connellan

Tonight Merton Council will award freeman of the Borough status too Joe Abrams OBE and Danny Connellan, two Labour councillors who have served the Borough with great distinction and have a combined service of 47 years on Merton Council. In the 41 year history of Merton Council, only one other Labour Councillor has been awarded freeman of the Borough (George Pearce), indeed in the last thirty years only one other freeman of the Borough has been created and is this is the first Labour freemen in over thirty years.

In terms of service, Joe Abrams was first elected in 1982 in Graveney ward. This was a very bad year for Labour in Merton when we were reduced to just 13 seats on Merton Council, Joe's result was one of the few positive highlights as he gained the seat off the Tories, his running mate who was unsuccessful was actually Danny Connellan. After eight years in opposition, when we took control in 1990 Joe became the first black mayor of Merton Council. He then went to then serve as Chair of the Personnel and Equalities Committee.

In terms of race relations, Joe was Deputy Chair of the Commission for Race Equality which led to him being awarded the OBE in 1990. His commitment to race relations and equality has been second to none and he was also involved in as Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission in Steven Lawrence enquiry.

In recent years Joe was Chair of the Golden Jubilee Committee in 2002 and recently led a scrutiny review into Merton as a disabled employer.

Joe has given great service to Merton Council and will be missed by many when he leaves the Council in May.

Danny Connellan is currently Deputy Leader of the Council and is a lynchpin of Merton Council in terms of his knowledge and handling of the Council finances.

First elected in 1971 in Cannon Hill ward with Philip Jones (still a councillor) it was key to ensuring that Merton was Labour controlled for the first time since being created in 1965. In his first term on the Council he served as Deputy Mayor for 1973/74. At the 1974 elections he lost in Mitcham East (now part of Pollards Hill ward). In 1986 he was returned to Merton Council in Figges Marsh ward.

When Labour took control in 1990, Danny became Chair of the Planning Committee a position that he held for a number of years. In 2000 Danny became Deputy Leader of the Council and in that position he was involved in establishing the PFI for Secondary schools and then from 2002 as the Cabinet Member responsible for the Budget when he successfully managed to hold Council tax rises down and reduce debt which had been a problem for Merton Council over many years.

Danny is the fount of all knowledge, indeed when it comes to the history of Merton and what the tories record in office in Merton he is second to none. It will be hard to believe that he will not be on Merton Council after May, as his wisdom and knowledge has been a huge asset to the Council.

I wish both well in retirement, due to another commitment, I will be unable to attend tonight but this can be seen as my tribute to both Joe and Danny.


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