As somebody born and bred in our wonderful and diverse borough (I was genuinely ‘Made in Chelsea’), I am very aware of the huge inequalities in Kensington and Chelsea. We know about the extremes of wealth, but the extremes of poverty in some areas are a surprise to many. As a local Councillor I cannot escape the harsh realities of my inbox, and the problems that come into Surgery in Golborne Ward, the joint poorest ward in London. Some days it’s heartbreaking.
The Independent has just published an excellent article on the subject: [link to Indie article]
Leading an Opposition Group on a very Conservative Council, I am thoroughly acquainted with the annual Statement of Accounts, and know that these extremes are not only severe and affect people’s lives – in our borough they are unjustifiable.
The daily battle for food on the table, credit in the gas meter, and a place to do your homework, is a war of attrition that affects many struggling and overcrowded families, with 26% of K&C children living in poverty.
And it is a world away from subsidised opera, Pre-Raphaelite art collecting, frog-hunts and the delights of long-horned cows grazing in Holland Park that are the experience of some in the self-professed ‘richest Council in the universe’.
Yes, Kensington and Chelsea really is the Marie-Antoinette of all Councils.
If you want to witness these disparities in action, I invite you to attend a Full Council meeting (next one 4 March), where you may be amazed and even shocked by the conduct of some Conservative Councillors who are supposed to represent you. Sometimes we have a packed Public Gallery of people attending Council for the first time. Yet TWICE in 2014 a Cabinet Member has told the people in the Public Gallery, who they are supposed to represent, to ‘SHUT UP!’.
So there is proof of the disdain they hold for the electorate, the residents whose vote put them there, and whose Council Tax pays their allowance.
A good Councillor represents all their constituents as best they can, and does not favour one group over another because of presumed political allegiance. A good Councillor stands for office to represent and help others, not to help themselves. And yet K&C Council is stuffed with self-servatives.
It is clear that the majority Conservative Group view the Council as a corporation and residents as shareholders, so they can then without conscience favour residents who are self-interested and may simply wish to park money here and leave, and contribute nothing (often not even tax).
What happened to our values along the way?
What happened to our values along the way?
The Council is not a business, we are public servants and representatives; some Councillors would do well to consider just whose interests they are representing and what outcomes they are encouraging.
We tried trickle-down; it is a fallacy. We tried to ‘cut red tape’ on planning and development; it is ripping the heart out of our borough.
What has become very apparent over the past two years is that the thousands of small ‘c’ Conservative residents are also very poorly served by our Council. Left and middle have a great deal of common ground and we do work together effectively on matters we all care about: protecting our mixed communities, not just in words but action; keeping the borough’s special character, avoiding pastiche and Disneyfication; caring for our vulnerable residents, old and young; ensuring public funds benefit the public; a sense of value and good citizenship. The list of Lords, Ladies and high earners queueing up to save the Sutton Estate in Chelsea epitomises this community spirit, and the fear that we are in danger of losing it.
So I say to K&C Council: ‘Time to show you care’.
Kensington and Chelsea is not a corporation but a place, full of life and heart and soul, and should be governed to benefit people who wish to live in it and help the borough thrive.
Our parliamentary candidate Dr Rod Abouharb [website] stepped forward, he says, as he was fed up with shouting at the telly. So stop shouting at the telly, get out there and tell people to vote.
Here are some tips to help you decide where to put your cross at the General Election on 7 May:
1. Make sure you’re still on the electoral register, and use your vote. People died for your right to vote.
2. Do your homework. Look at your candidates, who they are, what they are, what they think and how they will serve you.
3. Vote for the person, not just the party.
That is all.
If you want to find out if you are still on the register email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 020 7361 3931.
Information on electoral registration: