06 December 2018
Madam Mayor, residents and guests, fellow councillors and officers, my remarks tonight will be brief.
As the year draws to a close I simply want to thank everyone for all the work they have done and the huge contributions they have made. It is now 18 months since the Grenfell tragedy, but I genuinely think that the council is making, and has made, progress.
We bought more than 300 homes for those directly affected by Grenfell, and we are creating a personalised service to continue supporting them.
Yes, we will still have a number of families in hotels this Christmas. But most, it is true, are now are in new homes, or have accepted and are ready to move into their new homes.
We could have and should have done better in getting those new homes ready faster at the beginning of the year. We accept that.
But nonetheless we have come a long way. For example, Kim recently announced that we will be building 300 new council homes ourselves not using contractors, doing it ourselves.
At the same time, we continue to provide the best street cleaning and rubbish collection services on our streets, some of the best roads and pavements in our capital, and the best schools in our country.
So there are reasons to feel positive, but we have much, much more to do. My message is a simple one tonight. I want to thank those people who have helped us get us to this point. And to outline that this is only the start.
First and foremost I want to thank Grenfell United, the survivors and the families of the bereaved. They have been instrumental in holding us to account in driving what we do – or at least what we try to do – for all those affected by the Grenfell tragedy.
In talking to us they have shown great strength, great forbearance, and great dignity. They have the right to be angry, to turn their backs and to walk away. No one could or would begrudge them that. But instead they have talked to us, they have been honest with us, and they have shown us what we need to do.
I would like to thank Robert and his group. Not because I believe in their politics, because I don’t. But, Robert, I will say this – on behalf of your group you land firm blows when necessary. While this can be uncomfortable, I genuinely welcome it. It is good for democracy.
We all know how easy it can be to pick up our political shibboleths, to chuck around easy, casual political clichés like confetti – and in so doing alienate the people who elect us all.
It is simple. Residents want results. Not bickering and political point scoring, especially given the seriousness and the scale of the issues we are dealing with here in this borough.
I would like to thank the officers of this council, some of whom are here tonight. Officers are the people who carry out the policies that we decide in this chamber. They cannot answer back. They cannot make a case. They cannot defend themselves. They are trying to deliver services and polices under enormous stress and in an ever changing environment, and their decisions affect our residents in the most profound of ways.
One big policy change they are trying to deliver – and I must stress it is an on-going change – is how we run this council. We are changing. From a council that assumes it knows best to one that is listening and working in genuine partnership with our residents. Officers are setting up the listening forums and resident-led housing management meetings. They are delivering, with councillors, the resident-led co-design of estates.
What I have seen, and it is not a picture you will see painted by the media or those with influence outside the Town Hall, is that officers are working tirelessly to make things better.
And to all my own councillors in this chamber. Those of you who have stayed after the tragedy and those who stepped up in the spring elections in order to try to help. This council is in a process of change and learning. We all, with our different experiences and views, are motivated to try and improve life for our residents. That is what this is all about.
Thank you for our ward walks, for the commitment in your roles, and for the insight and support you have given me and the rest of the leadership team. We are a team, and I am genuinely very proud of that.
Finally, I thank all our residents. This is your council. In a world of shrinking budgets forcing all councils, including ours, to take ever tougher decisions, we turn to you to hear your thoughts and we are grateful to you for coming and giving us your views – from sunny Saturday mornings and cold November nights, to coming in on a rainy December’s evening like tonight. You help shape our services. This is important. Thank you to all of you.
Madam Mayor, we are on a long journey and colleagues on the opposition benches, and in the public gallery will rightly continue to challenge us, as you are doing tonight. We have got some things wrong; we have got some things right.
But all of us are trying harder, working smarter - striving to do more, to do it better, to be better. And if I may, I believe we are, slowly, making a difference. All of us. So tonight, I thank you for coming with us this far.
This is our last full council meeting this year, so I will take this opportunity to wish you all well as we approach 2019. There is a lot to do, but I feel we are up to the challenge.
Cllr Elizabeth Campbell
Leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council