Cllr Kim Taylor-Smith writes to the community as he moves from his role as lead member for Housing, Grenfell and Social Investment to a new brief.
Letter from Cllr Kim Taylor Smith
Disaster struck our community, when the worst tragedy imaginable unfolded at Grenfell Tower on the 14th June, 2017. I will never forget that day, and the days that followed. The image of the tower, destroyed, is etched into my consciousness, like it is for so many other people across Kensington, and across the country.
My memory of that morning was riding to North Kensington on my scooter and wanting to help in any way I could – as so many people did. No matter what people needed, I wanted to help them. Booking taxis on my phone, arranging hotel accommodation, handing out water, and putting my arm around people who I either knew or had never met before. It was impossible, and still is impossible, not to care about what happened, and in some way try to fix the unfixable.
I devoted the next six years trying to right a wrong. Of course, I made mistakes, personal ones, and the organisation and departments made mistakes under me – but I was always keen that we learn from them, and move forwards. By working together with residents and families, I always felt we were making things better together, even when a new strand of work or a new relationship only started because something had initially gone wrong.
The time for a change in my role has now come, and I wanted to thank every person I have met throughout my time as lead member for Housing and Grenfell and for giving me the opportunity to work alongside them, learn from them, and help me do the most important job I feel I have ever done.
I care about this borough and community, and it has been the greatest privilege of my life to serve our residents, but above all, to support and serve the families who suffered so terribly and continue to do so to this day. Nothing can ever change what happened at Grenfell Tower, but I always wanted the best for the people who lost so much, and for something positive to come out of something so awful. It is never lost on me, that I represented the Council which lost all trust and confidence, yet people gave me the space and time to work with them. Instead of slamming doors in my face, they opened doors to me and agreed to meet, and work alongside. That says everything you need to know about the community of North Kensington.
I also want to thank officers at the Council for their hard work, and my wife for her support and the time and patience she has given me to help me do what I felt was my duty.
I am proud that we brought housing back in house, and we are steadily changing the culture in the organisation, especially in our focus on safety. We have fought for, and won, investment in the Lancaster West estate and surrounding area, and we are starting to see the difference that makes to the area and to the people that live there.
We have built social homes for the first time in a generation, including Kelso Cochrane House, which is a real marker of the changes we have made.
And we listened and worked with residents to save the Sutton Estate, and make long-lasting commitments on the future of Morley College and North Ken Library.
As ever, there is more to do.
I am not going anywhere, and will take on new brief and stay as Deputy Leader. Families will always have my unwavering support for the changes they want to see nationally, and I am very much looking forward to contributing, in different ways, to the Grenfell recovery, which is a long-term challenge and one that the Council and all partners must continue to embrace.
From the bottom of my heart, to everyone I have met along the way, and to those who still doubt me and this organisation to this very day. Thank you.