THE Labour leader of Edinburgh District Council, Councillor Mark

Lazarowicz, yesterday formally confirmed his decision to stand down.

He will move to the back benches in May, ending a seven-year reign.

''It was the worst-kept secret in politics that Mark was giving up the

leadership,'' said a council colleague.

Councillor Lazarowicz will concentrate on his career as a lawyer. His

announcement signals the start of formal moves to replace him. Jockeying

campaigns for two contenders began behind the scenes some time ago.

The two names in the ring so far are Councillor Lesley Hinds, who is

chairman of the Labour group, and the group secretary, Councillor Frank


Councillor Lazarowicz, 39, is credited with transforming the image of

the Labour group in Edinburgh after the departure of the previous

hard-left incumbent, Alex Wood, who enjoyed a good clash with authority,

any authority.

After Labour wrested control of the city in 1984, ''Wee Alex'' led the

council in a barricade storming style which brought it into head-on

conflict with the Government and the Edinburgh establishment. Running

the Red Flag up the flagpole of the City Chambers was the least of the

vapour-inducing actions of the erstwhile leadership.

The more emollient and pragmatic style of Mr Lazarowicz, who took over

the leadership in a 1986 soft-left coup, was in sharp contrast. He was

styled leader of the ''Sensible Tendency''. His predecessor quit the

council and the party, and went on to political oblivion.

Councillor Lazarowicz, however, managed to build a more cohesive

Labour group, less clique-ridden and less inclined to scare the more

conservatively minded.

But Councillor Lazarowicz had his critics within the Labour group.

Some accused him of epitomising the party's sharply grey-suited

Kinnockite faction. He tried twice and failed to unseat Defence

Secretary Malcolm Rifkind from his Pentlands seat.

Announcing his decision to step down as leader yesterday at the annual

meeting of the Edinburgh District Labour Party, he said: ''Having given

up my job eight years ago to concentrate on my council duties, I now

wish to develop my own personal career outside the council. But I will

be staying active in politics as councillor for my Wester Hailes North


''I am glad to have led a council which has been at the forefront of

progressive local government, a council which invested heavily in

housing, arts and recreation, and environmental services.''

Edinburgh's Labour council had placed emphasis on creating a sound

economic base for future employment in the city, he said, and had for

the first time promoted Edinburgh as a leading European city.

''I am also pleased at the way in which the council has operated an

open style of government in parnership with the wider community.''

Councillor Lazarowicz is credited with skilfully developing harmonious

relations with the business community through joint initiatives to sell

the city.

His negotiating strengths were never more needed than after the last

district elections, when Labour lost the balance of power on the council

but managed to maintain its position as the dominant party by persuading

the two SNP members to support its policies.

The price was the role of Lord Provost, which was given to SNP

Councillor Norman Irons.