Leader of Council underscores importance of residents

At the 20 June 2018 Full Council meeting Leader of the Council, Cllr Elizabeth Campbell said:

Madame Mayor, I turn to you first, ….

….Thank you for agreeing to stand for another year.

You have done a wonderful job this last year as Mayor, representing the Council with decorum and sensitivity in the most testing of times when our community was living with grief and pain.

As mayor, you are here tonight to chair this meeting.

Thank you for supporting and welcoming the community into the chamber tonight to tell us what they think on a whole range of topics.

By doing so, you personify and indeed are leading the change this council sorely needs. 

And if the past few weeks have taught us anything – it is just that.

The opening of the inquiry, as the bereaved made their testimonies and spoke in memory of those they had lost loved one – parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends and their children -  was raw.

No-one in the room left without being profoundly affected.

No-one.

People, recounted, recalled and were re-confronted by the visceral horror of events on the night of 14 June.

In response some collapsed, many were silent and in tears.

And last week was the anniversary.

A day marked by great dignity.

Grenfell United, the bereaved, survivors and the community joined hands and commemorated the tragedy as one.

I want to thank the people of north Kensington for allowing us to be part of the day.

This cannot have been easy – to have the leadership of this Council take part in the day of remembrance.

To invite us in to their church services,

…to invite us to march silently with them.

I know, understand and respect that there will have been many who did not want us there.

But…. in that moment…..

….during that day, we were there, by invitation, and it was meaningful and moving.

Thank you.

But this does not set a precedent. This does not mean we have turned a corner.

We must show we have changed.

That we have learned the lessons of the past.

That we do not think we are done – that this is the end.

This is just the beginning. This council must continuously show that it is changing, that it is hearing. That it is listening.

We must build and earn trust every day.

Inch by inch.

Grenfell was a momentous and awful failure. We must take this failure, own it and use it as our motivation to change, to renew, to listen.

And so I turn to my fellow councillors across the chamber and invite you to welcome and thank our guests, the public, our community, who have taken the time and made the effort to be here tonight. To speak to us. To petition us.

I thank you too.

Thank you for giving us a chance to better understand who you are, what you want and what you need. You are a part of the change. You will help us shape the new council. Please do not give up on us as we strive, slowly, to get this right.

It will take time.

Fellow councillors, this is not a done deal.

You are here because you want to forge change, to create a better Council, to work with your communities to make things better.

This is serious.

We are more than councillors, we are community leaders – a bridge from our wards to this chamber, to policy change.

We are more than voting machines and box-tickers shovelling through policy recommendations on the nod.

We must challenge and question and improve. You must truly represent our constituents. At times, you will need to make tough choices – you will need to take the difficult path.

Our first duty is to the people of this borough, not to your parties or this Chamber.

Tonight we introduce a new code of conduct for councillors which says that this Council needs to ensure that it attains the highest ethical standards in its governance.

I won’t rehearse the details here. We will come to this later.

For now suffice to say that this is about respect – respect for the people for whom we work, respect for difference and diversity

… we must listen, understand and to act.

It also reiterates our commitment to the Hillsborough Charter.

Robert you have put questions down on the agenda on this and I will take a moment to address them now – though we will come back to it later and in detail.

We have been talking with the Hillsborough Independent Panel and they have given us the benefit of their experience.

We have taken to heart much of their advice.

Here are a few examples…

We are changing the culture and style of working at the Council – we will become a listening Council

We will employ staff based as much on their behaviours as on their competencies – we want people wo are both good at their jobs AND good people.

We expect to launch new values for Council staff next month….

We will consult more with our communities and act on their feedback and we have been working with residents on the Lancaster West estate to understand what they want their estate to look like, to feel like, to be like….

We have added training on ‘Culture, religion and faith’ to officers, to help officers to understand our local communities better.

As I said, the last few weeks have been raw. As this council moves forward, we must hold that reality – that rawness.

It must be embedded in everything we feel, say and do.

I would like to end with words from a prayer from the Grenfell Anniversary Memorial Service at St Helen’s Church last Thursday. These words struck me and have stayed with me.

“We resolve to continue working together….

…to make our local community a place where everyone is valued –

…where everyone has the opportunity to live free from fear –

…. To become what they can be and to live peacefully with all."