IN A SHOCK move, a member of Greenwich Council's cabinet is plotting to oust his own leader after 12 years in power.

Councillor John Fahy will stand against his leader in a bid to take control of the council at Labour's annual general meeting next Monday.

Chris Roberts has led the authority for more than a decade, one of the longest leaderships in the capital, having taken over from Len Duvall when he left to join the London Assembly.

But News Shopper understands many councillors have lost patience with his notoriously authoritarian style and would welcome a fresh approach.

One said: "There's certainly a feeling that, after 12 years, it might be time for a change."

Another speculated the leader could even resign ahead of Monday's crucial vote, where Labour councillors will be balloted on the candidates.

They said: "One thing I know for sure is it's going to be a very tight contest."

The councillor claimed the local authority was in danger of becoming over-centralised, saying: "A change could lead to a more open style of leadership and that's one thing that has been concerning some of us.

"There needs to be more openness and accountability. With the recent cuts programme there was no community engagement process at all."

In a further revelation, it has emerged that deputy leader Councillor Peter Brooks is also facing a challenge from two colleagues - including Peninsula councillor Dick Quibell.

Cllr Quibell said: "In terms of the way the Labour group operates, I'm somebody who talks to and listens to everybody."

He added: "We're a mature political organisation and the existing leadership has been in place for quite a long time.

"It's very healthy for us to periodically have a bit of change."

But leader of Greenwich Conservatives Councillor Spencer Drury told News Shopper he held out little hope of a leadership change. He said: "I genuinely think they lack the bottle for it."

Cllr Roberts was unavailable for comment.

A strained relationship

Cllr Fahy, who has been part of the local authority since 1990, is currently cabinet member for culture and the Olympics and is looking to take control in the year of the Games.

At a recent cabinet meeting where the fate of Blackheath Bluecoat school was decided, his relationship with the leader appeared strained with a minor spat between the two when Cllr Fahy was denied the chance to speak.

That relationship is likely to have been further frayed after Cllr Fahy's failure to declare an interest at a cabinet meeting derailed plans to transfer the running of the borough's libraries last month.

The cabinet member, one of the only Greenwich Labour councillors happy to speak to the press, has also been increasingly vocal with his opinions online, regularly commenting on blogs and setting up an account on the Twitter website.

Cllr Roberts prefers his members to stay silent, speaking only through soundbites which are pre-approved by the council's press office.

When asked by News Shopper about his leadership bid, Cllr Fahy said he was sworn to secrecy about the specifics, but added: "I am standing for leader of the council."