At this time of year, the Council has to declare its thinking about the budget for the municipal year to come; 2017-18 will be the seventh year in a row in which our grants from central government will decline. Continue reading
One of the biggest bugbears for residents of the Royal Borough is a thoughtlessly noisy neighbour or building works that disrupt what should be the peaceful enjoyment of their homes. We get lots of complaints about noise, which is not that surprising given just how densely populated Kensington and Chelsea is.
Now, I think it’s important to recognise that, in reality, you can’t live in the middle of a world city and expect the tranquillity of a Hebridean island. You also have to be realistic and accept that there will be building works and that neighbours, from time- to-time, may have a party. Continue reading
Regular readers will have by now picked up on the fact that I’m a champion of the borough’s parks and open spaces. They are very dear to my heart. I admit that my time served as Cabinet Member with responsibility for our great green spaces has given me some real insight and appreciation into just how valuable they are and the hard work and care that goes into maintaining them.
When you’re such a small, densely packed borough as ours you have to cherish your outdoor space. We simply don’t have a lot of it. And if it hadn’t been for the vision and drive of one man 40 years ago we’d have even less.
I had the pleasure of attending an event recently to mark the 40th anniversary of the evocatively named Meanwhile Gardens in North Kensington. These wonderful gardens owe their existence to the drive of Jamie McCullough, a sculptor who wanted to see if some derelict land could be turned into a park. At the time, this particular piece of our turf fell under Westminster Council’s jurisdiction and they decided that temporary permission could be given for the gardens – which gave rise to the name ‘Meanwhile’. Continue reading
The clocks have gone back and Halloween is behind us so I can write confidently that whatever the temperature might be as you read this, winter will soon be upon us.
Now I like to try and get into a mindset of looking forward to the winter. It brings with it after all the wonderful festive season and a New Year full of promise and challenge.
But I am a fortunate man. I’m not that old, I’m in good health and I live in a nice warm home. So for me the cold is not a threat, it’s probably more of a conversation piece on a freezing day. But the reality for some is very different. Cold homes are said to contribute to the deaths of almost 44,000 people in the UK every winter. Continue reading
Faced with a mountainous backlog of emails the other week I did what any responsible politician would do and took off round our Town Hall for a bit of a stroll.
I no longer harbour any delusions that my sudden appearance on the shop floor will lead to an increase in productivity à la the Hawthorne effect; in fact, the best I managed on my perambulation was a “good afternoon” from a rather eager graduate trainee and a barely perceptible nod from a press officer up on the third floor. But that doesn’t bother me at all. Not in the slightest. Continue reading
It’s both troubling and pleasing for me to note that since the beginning of the year legal cases taken by the Council have seen landlords and property companies fined in excess of £237,000.
Of course in an ideal world all landlords would meet their obligations to tenants and everything would be just so. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Amongst all the good, law-abiding landlords you will find some bad apples out there in the private rented sector: we certainly have and some tenants’ experiences were highlighted in a recent report into the sector by the Kensington and Chelsea Social Council. Continue reading
Just lately, hate crime has tended to be discussed in the context of Brexit. But whether, and to what extent, there has been a real spike in hate crime directly caused or licensed by the vote to leave the European Union is open to question. Personally, I’m going to wait for further and better evidence before coming to a view on that; hate crime is just too serious to let it be used as a way of advancing a political agenda. Continue reading