Health chief to stand down as Labour councillor for Houghton at next Sunderland City Council elections
A Sunderland Labour councillor has announced he is to stand down at next year’s local elections.
After several years representing Houghton on Sunderland City Council, councillor Neil MacKnight will not seek re-election in May 2022.
In a statement posted on the Houghton Labour Party Facebook page, the councillor cited increasing NHS work commitments as a reason for the decision.
“Representing the community where I live is a huge privilege, however it does require a great deal of time and effort to meet the needs of the community,” he said.
“It is becoming very difficult to manage my council duties and my NHS career, as my day job is increasingly taking up more and more of my time.”
In his professional capacity, Cllr MacKnight helped ensure care homes and hospital trusts across the region did not run out of personal protective equipment at the peak of the Covid-19 crisis.
His most recent NHS role sees him head up a number of Covid-related services and helping the NHS recover from the pandemic.
“I’m thoroughly enjoying my work. It’s a really challenging post that I anticipate will continue for the foreseeable future,” he added.
Cllr MacKnight was elected to the Houghton ward on Sunderland City Council in May 2018.
Though it wasn’t his first time in office, having previously served as a city councillor in the 2000s, representing the Washington East ward.
He currently serves as the chair of the council’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee, a key panel holding local health bosses to account.
Over the years, Cllr MacKnight has also spoken out against controversial planning applications in Houghton, alongside campaigning to bring investment and jobs to the ward.
Although standing down next year, he intends to remain politically active in the Labour Party in the city and will continue with his voluntary and community work in the Houghton area.
This includes being a director of the Aim High Academy Trust, coaching young players at Houghton Rugby Club and helping at Philadelphia Cricket Club.
The Houghton Labour Party have also announced their candidate for the 2022 local elections, with Mark Burrell expected to defend the seat next year.
In a statement published on Houghton Labour’s Facebook page, Mr Burrell said he was “delighted” to be approached to stand for Houghton.
“This was only possible due to the sad news that Cllr Neil MacKnight felt he could no longer stand for re-election due to his work commitments with his role co-ordinating the North East’s Covid-19 response,” he said.
“This is a job I think everyone will accept is challenging and even now, 18 months later, still requires full commitment to get us through this time.
“Myself and everyone at Houghton Labour is sad, but we understand why Neil came to this decision and we know he is keen to help us when he can.”
Cllr MacKnight added: “My priority will be to see Mark Burrell elected for Labour as my successor in Houghton ward.
“He’s an excellent candidate who will be an asset to our area.”