Baroness Couttie, leader of Westminster Council and former banker who changed course after serious illness – obituary

Her illness, Philippa Roe later told the Telegraph, prompted her to “re-evaluate” her life and left banking to “give back” to society. “I decided that the life of an investment banker wasn’t compatible with the kind of mom I wanted to be. Politics was always in the back of my mind; My mother was a Conservative MP. But cancer has brought it to the fore.”

She was a member of a panel of experts consulted by the John Major government on the establishment of the Private Finance Initiative and was a member of the Treasury Department’s James Committee and co-author of a report by the Center for Policy Studies on the reform of the PFI.

She ran for Westminster Council and was elected for the Parish of Knightsbridge and Belgravia in May 2006. A year later she became Deputy Cabinet Member for Childcare and in 2008 Cabinet Member for Housing before moving to Strategic Finance in 2011.

Philippa Roe was elected leader of the council in 2012, defeating future Conservative Minister Edward Argar when Colin Barrow resigned. She wasted no time in distancing herself from the activities of a former leader, Dame Shirley Porter.

She focused the council’s focus on improving social housing through renewal, upskilling and job creation. She also led the campaign to persuade the Cameron coalition government to introduce a 90-night limit on short-term rentals in the capital.

She ran the West End Partnership and was Deputy Head of the Local Government Association and Head of the London Councils for Reform and Decentralization. She was quoted in 2013 as saying the tight funding from the council was “an opportunity to break away from orthodoxy and review all the services being provided and see how they can be provided more efficiently”.

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No challenge was too great, and Philippa Roe’s husband recalled demonstrating a level of ambition and confidence, both in her family and at work, that “made people push beyond themselves.”

With that in mind, she ran for her party’s nomination to succeed Boris Johnson as Mayor of London in 2015. However, she did not make the shortlist; Zac Goldsmith was selected, narrowly losing to Labour’s Sadiq Khan.

When Cameron resigned after losing the 2016 Brexit referendum, he nominated her for a lifetime peerage. She took the title of Baroness Couttie of Downe in Kent and resigned from the council the following year when she was created Baroness in Waiting or Government Whip.

In the Lords she was a member of the Polling and Digital Media Select Committee and a member of the Work and Pensions Group.

From 2006 to 2007 she was Chair of the Conservative Party’s Public Sector Efficiency Group and from 2011 Adviser on Benefit Caps for the Department of Works and Pensions. Lady Couttie has been a Non-Executive Director of the Mitie Group since 2017 and Deputy Chair of the Guernsey Financial Services Commission since 2020. From 2006 to 2014 she was a councilor at Imperial College.

After being given the all-clear about cancer, she took an active role in Macmillan Cancer Support and was a patron of Breast Cancer Haven. But in 2016, the cancer returned in the form of mesothelioma.

Lady Couttie is survived by her husband, son and daughter.

Philippa Roe, born September 25, 1962, died December 12, 2022