London’s ‘five-star public servant’ Val Shawcross CBE has earned praise from across the political spectrum after announcing her retirement following a 24-year career in public office.
Mrs Shawcross has served as Sadiq Khan’s deputy mayor for transport since 2016, a position she will pass on to the Lewisham East MP, Heidi Alexander.
She started her career in municipal politics in Croydon, winning a seat in New Addington in 1994 before becoming leader of the council in 1997.
Responding to news of her retirement, Croydon council leader, councillor Tony Newman said: “She was a great leader of the council and she was an inspiration to me personally.
“My earliest memory of her was that drive to make sure that every child in the borough had an opportunity, whatever background they came from.
“She’s that rare politician whose had a lot of public support for over two decades.
“I don’t think you’ll see the likes of her again.”
Discussing her decision to step away from public life, Mrs Shawcross explained how a recent bereavement put life in perspective, and is now looking forward to spending more time with her family.
She said: “It’s been bloody hard work over the years and it’s just lovely to know that other people think it’s worthwhile.
“Everything I’ve ever done has meant working with other people, so these are big collaborative achievements.”
She pointed to her work as Labour Party National Women’s officer and her success in developing all-female shortlists, a policy which has done much to redress the gender imbalance in Parliament, as her proudest achievement.
Nevertheless, she is looking forward to a well-earned rest.
She said: “There is a pressure in jobs at this level which gets harder as you get older.
“I’m looking forward to a slower pace of life.”
Mrs Shawcross left Croydon Council in 2000 to represent Lambeth and Southwark at the London Assembly, a position she held until 2016.
Her successor Florence Eshalomi praised Mrs Shawcross for her work developing Windrush Square in Brixton – a public project to redevelop a square named in honour of the Windrush generation.
Ms Eshalomi said: “I’ve lived Brixton all my life and there was a time when Windrush Square was full of people openly dealing drugs but now it’s a safe meeting spot.
“Val was really instrumental in making that happen.”
Since then, she has been committed to developing London transport and her work has been rewarded with prizes from both Transport Times and the disability charity Transport for All.
Transport Times chief executive professor David Begg said: “Val’s greatest achievement was her long-term vision for London, including her ambitious targets for environmentally sustainable transport.
“She was both pragmatic and radical – a rare combination.”
Transport for All director April Clifford, lauded Mrs Shawcross’s work demanding at least 25% of London minicabs be wheelchair accessible.
She said: “On behalf of all our members, I would like to thank Val for her significant contribution in improving transport services for disabled and older people.
“She is a true champion for accessibility on our transport system.”