The Council stands accused on the front page of the Kensington and Chelsea News of engaging in a ‘class war’ over its decision to lease the old North Kensington Library building to a prep school while building a brand new, larger library 50 yards away. The accusation is thrown down by a councillor, but not just any old councillor, oh no, it’s the view of a ‘leading councillor’.
Well, call me old fashioned but I thought a ‘leading councillor’ wouldn’t need to hide behind a cloak of anonymity to air their views. I would urge them to gird their loins and come out and put their name to their words – I mean, what do they think will happen? I really can’t remember the last time I sent the boys round to sort out a political opponent!
But perhaps, having thought about just how baseless and quite frankly pathetic the accusation is, their desire not to be named becomes more understandable.
Let’s just take a close look at how the Council serves its less well-off residents. We can start with social care. That’s a hot topic right now. Can you guess what class- war waging council is the very last in the country to still provide help to vulnerable residents with ‘moderate care’ needs? Why it’s Kensington and Chelsea.
And what about our younger residents from poorer families? Are they casualties of a class war? Well, no, they are not. Exam results for children who receive free school meals in the Royal Borough are just about the best in best in the country.
I think we can safely assume that the children from poorer families don’t attend private schools in the area. They are educated in local state schools. The very same schools that, year after year, deliver just about the finest education you will find in the state sector, topped off with the best GCSE results in London. That’s called giving a child a good start in life.
Of course we know that some young people don’t have it easy and some end up in the care of their local council. Readers may be interested to know that when government inspectors recently rated our services for these vulnerable children and young people they said, if you are a child who needs help and protection, or to be looked after, Kensington and Chelsea is one of the best places in the country to live.
If we were indeed bent on class war then perhaps the recent years of austerity would have provided us with the perfect cover to slash and burn. But we didn’t. Our services have remained remarkably intact and our financial support for voluntary and community groups, that do so much to help the less well-off, has been maintained. We also remain one of a small minority of councils in London still paying council tax benefit that covers 100 per cent of council tax bills.
How has this been possible? One of the key ways is through property income which, during austerity, has trebled, thanks largely to deals like that on North Kensington Library. So this class war stuff is not only untrue it’s nasty with it. Because I know just how committed our councillors and officers are to protecting those in most need I am not prepared to have their efforts and integrity besmirched by spineless accusations of class war.