28 March 2019
Welcome to you this morning and thank you for taking time out of your busy day to be here with us.
Alek, Sabreen, thank you so much for talking to us today – it’s hugely encouraging to see young people so engaged and showing such interest in what happens around them.
I share your views on places to visit in the borough, the appeal of our parks and vast array of museums, and I love our libraries too – many people agree with us and we determined to keep them!
In so many ways this school, its staff, and its pupils, are an example of all that is good about our borough. All that is good about Kensington and Chelsea.
The Council invested in this building, we worked with businesses, and created a new school in a location that really needed it. By investing in bricks and mortar we, in turn, invest in people’s lives.
And then people lead the way. Teachers doing what they do best, in an environment that enables pupils – like Alek and Sabreen – to get the best education and the best possible start in life. That is what this is all about.
I know councils and local government can be boring. To many children here, I expect I am boring! But what we do counts for so much throughout a person’s life, from early years learning to caring for the elderly. We are all here to make sure people get the best possible opportunities, the services they need, and a borough they can be proud of.
Kensington and Chelsea is a great place to live. For decades, people have come here to make this place their home, to pursue their aspirations and fulfil their ambitions. We come here and we stay here because this borough is one of the most attractive in central London, with clean and well maintained streets, beautiful parks and gardens, outstanding schools and strong, open communities.
Our promise to you is that we will continue to deliver the high-quality services that people expect. But, more than that, we want to work with residents – and our partners in the statutory and voluntary sectors – for the good of this place and the people who live here.
We have just conducted the largest conversation we have ever had with our communities and their views, your views, are at the very heart of our four-year plan launched today.
I want to thank those who took part in helping us create this plan. Whether you battled the winter drizzle to attend an event or a meeting, or spent time completing forms and surveys.
Thanks to those who made contact with their local councillor or engaged with us digitally through social media and our website, which by the way we are going to be improving!
In total, well over 2,000 people from every part of the borough provided over 5,000 comments and ideas through many different forums. It was especially encouraging to hear from over 1,000 young people, parents and youth organisations as we look to redesign and improve our youth services with them. For us. Every Single Opinion Matters. To get to this point we have asked you all to put in the effort.
From today, it is our turn. We have heard what you have said and now you need action. So, we will be building more social housing and improving and repairing our own council homes.
We will invest in education to ensure young people have the best start in life and achieve their ambitions. We will provide skills, development and training opportunities, including apprenticeships and increase access to employment.
And, of course, we will continue to do the things that you expect from us. Such as keeping our twice weekly bin collections from over 90,000 homes and making sure our roads are pothole-free. But we cannot claim to do everything well.
Our Council Plan is a plan for the future, but is grounded in what communities have said is most important to them now. The majority of residents have told us that they are very satisfied with Kensington and Chelsea as a place to live and with the job the Council does.
However, an uncomfortable truth is what happened on 14 June 2017 highlighted the fact that some people had lost faith in us completely. They had lost faith in the Council.
The Grenfell tragedy changed Kensington and Chelsea forever. Since that night, the Council’s focus and my own focus has been the response to that tragedy. Particularly the rehousing of families, and the provision of practical, emotional and humanitarian support to the bereaved and the survivors.
Where necessary, pushing other organisations to step in and assist – from the Government to the NHS. In recent weeks we have been hard at work, building a plan for the future. The Council and the NHS have agreed to commit a further £50m each to support Grenfell recovery over the next five years.
There are huge challenges ahead for families, for the community and for the borough. But we are beginning to look forward. And this is a crucial step for recovery and an important step for our residents and this authority. We cannot turn back the clock, we cannot change the events of that night. But what we can do is put what we have learned from it at the centre of everything we do.
As a direct consequence, this Council – many of its officers, its policies and its leadership – changed. We have adopted new values. We will be
- Putting our communities first
- Respecting others
- Acting with integrity
- And working together
Working together is why you are in this room, it is why I am here and why our big conversation needs to continue. We are not launching this plan and then setting it in stone as a rulebook to follow. Our plan captures your ideas, our ideas and the issues that we face – tries to balance them – and will guide us to make sure we focus on what is important.
But we cannot deliver on our own. We need you all to be a part of this. Over time, short-term priorities can change, issues will emerge, opportunities will knock. So we must continue to adapt and be responsive to the needs of you, our residents and businesses
For example, on knife crime and youth violence, a major issue in London right now. After the shocking cases in recent weeks we looked at our budgets and identified a further one million to invest to tackle knife crime in the borough.
Because where we can help, we will. Where we can’t, we will bring organisations and people together to find a way.
You see, we face many challenges, we need to deliver more affordable housing.
We need to reduce crime levels by funding extra police officers to reduce local crime and looking at more modern ways to tackle issues, working with our communities and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Met.
We have an ageing population with rising costs of adult social care. We need to revitalize our high streets as they face competition from online shopping.
We need to deliver our manifesto promise for better air quality, and we need to get nearly 5,000 more people into work.
Over 6,000 children are identified as living in poverty, 45 per cent of them live in just three wards.
So, our five key priorities will always remain. Running through our work like writing in a stick of rock. We will continue to support Grenfell Recovery, first and foremost. And we want a borough that is a great place to live, work and learn. A place that is healthy, clean and safe. A place that you want to come to and is great to explore. And a place that supports its most vulnerable people.
To get there, we have three strands that guide us, and I want to turn to them in detail.
This is an area I am determined that we do better. We will engage openly with our residents and those people using our services, seeking to capture all points of view to make better informed decisions. And we will use the talents and skills within our communities themselves to co-design and produce better results.
Prevention and early intervention
By focusing on this, particularly on adults’ and children’s services, we can find better value for money and promote people’s wellbeing to go beyond crisis management. We will ensure the health and social care needs of the whole community are being addressed now and in the future, for adults, children and families.
And finally, narrowing the gap
I have already outlined some of the challenges we face, and there can be no greater challenge than this. We want to improve outcomes for our residents by narrowing the gap between individuals and communities.
We want to ensure that people have equal opportunity to fulfil their potential wherever they live or whatever their background. Equal access to jobs, to housing, to education, to employment and to health and care services. This is our toughest test – but one we have to face.
All of you here in this room, and people right across the borough want the same. We need to work together to make it happen. But this is not going to be easy.
Recently we set our budget and our council tax and it was a difficult task. All councils are facing economic and financial uncertainty. So, we have to lobby for greater freedom. We collect over £320m a year in business rates – yet we receive back just £65m back.
We are an economic powerhouse but regarded as a sleepy London borough. This needs to change. We need to get back more of what we pay in, and invest it in our high streets, our cultural spaces and skills and jobs for our residents.
Nationally, there is a shift in local authority funding with less reliance on Government support and greater reliance on income generated locally. There will be a new funding formula for local government from next year and there are concerns that London, especially central London, may lose out.
This creates uncertainty. But we are planning for the unknown, including Brexit, which I don’t think is happening tomorrow – but you never know!
What we do know is that the Council will be more financially challenged over the medium term. We have to reduce our spending by 40 million over the next three years. This will mean facing up to difficult choices and making those choices with our communities. We won’t shirk this responsibility, and we welcome the interactions we have had with residents so far.
Our residents elected us a year ago. Being accountable and honest will be at the core of our relationship with them. But our challenges don’t just stop at the financial gates. We face demographic shifts, growing demand and complexity, changes in the London economy and advances in technology.
In order to meet these challenges, the Council will need to continue to work in close partnership to deliver better outcomes for people. Councils and boroughs, like ours, are about the people we serve. Their interactions, their family, their friends, their communities, their support, their happiness.
I’m talking about an elderly person living alone getting a visit from a care worker or a place to go and socialise; sorting out a noise problem at 2am when the city won’t let your baby sleep; or providing a teacher with the tools they need to put a teenager on the path to a successful career – like we have done here, in this very building.
These things matter to me – and they matter to our residents. It’s what we are here for and it’s what our focus will be. Our Plan is about putting communities first, showing respect to each other, acting with integrity and working together to create a better borough.
Thank you for being here today and I hope we can continue to work with all of you over the coming weeks, months and years ahead.
I am happy to take questions.