Welcome and congratulations on your new position. We look forward to you presiding over our business for the forthcoming year.
Traditionally, this is the meeting (Council AGM Wed 24 May) where we make new appointments and announce changes. This year is no exception, as you will see from the papers laid around the chamber I am proposing a number of changes tonight.
Let me start with Elizabeth Campbell who has been Cabinet Member for Families and Children’s Services since 2012 when Shireen became ill. Elizabeth has done the most fantastic job in this most sensitive and complex of briefs. All of us are extremely sensitive to our responsibilities for safeguarding and looking after the most vulnerable babies and young children. That often means needing to address a wider range of family issues and she has done this with great sensitivity and compassion. OFSTED recognised the quality of our services last year – but we can never just take this for granted. Elizabeth has also had to take a number of difficult decisions on services which she has done in the most resilient way and last year she agreed to stay on for an additional year as we grappled with some of the tri-borough issues and the aftermath of the departure of Mr Christie. Our endemic tri-borough structural difficulties are now heading towards resolution with Hammersmith & Fulham going their own way and we are looking to make an internal appointment for the new bi-borough director. Consequently, Elizabeth is going to take a breather from the Cabinet as she wants to spend a bit of time supporting Colin in what he is doing to support the British entry in the Americas Cup. This will involve some travelling and the better the British team does, the more this is likely to be the case. However, this is very much a sabbatical and she will return to the Cabinet at some point in the future.
Consequently, I am pleased to announce that her successor as Cabinet Member for Families and Children’s Services will be Emma Will. Emma joined the Cabinet in 2013 with responsibility for Education and Libraries and has worked closely with Elizabeth. During her period we have seen improved results in schools, the resolution of the Parkwood Hall issues, an active capital programme to improve facilities and to provide more two form entry, the opening of the Kensington Aldridge Academy and the major challenges around further and adult education at KCC. She has also launched the library strategy and been closely involved in the planning of the new North Kensington Library.
Moving up creates a vacancy and I am delighted that Catherine Faulks has agreed to join the Cabinet with responsibility for Emma’s old role. They will work closely together and continue to hold joint policy boards. This is a big agenda and the effective protection of vulnerable children and families requires close working with schools. In addition to ensuring that the Council continues to support schools in achieving the best possible standards and giving children the best start in life, Catherine will also continue with her special focus on mental health and take over Emma’s work ensuring that our libraries serve the widest possible range of users.
Warwick Lightfoot has managed our finances ever since Tom Fairhead left the Council in 2010. He has steered us with great skill and purpose through the most difficult period of local government financial cutbacks that any of us can remember, and has always ensured that we were expertly briefed on the financial position and the options facing us. This has, at all times, been informed by a clear sense of our duties and responsibilities to our most vulnerable residents. Under his stewardship we have been able to protect front-line services, maintain an active capital programme, fully fund our pension scheme and avoid the temptation of taking unnecessary risks with our investments. His in-depth knowledge of social services has really helped us to avoid making the kind of hasty and ill-considered changes to services that can do great harm to those who need most help.
Mary Weale meanwhile has handled the equally sensitive role of Adult Social Care and Health with great aptitude and good sense. She has had to take on the new responsibilities we have for health with the management of homecare contracts for the most vulnerable elderly residents, working at the point where good quality homecare packages and early intervention can reduce the need for lengthy hospital stays. She handled the closure of Thamesbrook with sensitivity and has kept the Council closely involved with developments in mental health, dementia and addiction. In particular, she has been at the front line of all the issues we have had with H&F over management of the tri-borough department, but has managed to establish a good working relationship with both her opposite numbers.
I have therefore asked Warwick and Mary to swap roles. However, this will not take place formally until the 1 September to allow a lengthy handover period during the summer whilst Mary leads the appointment of a new Executive Director for Adult Social Care covering Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster, and resolves the current issues surrounding the homecare contract and Warwick oversees the traditional June and July early budget planning meetings with Cabinet members. I have asked Mary to build on Warwick’s legacy and also to give special attention to the Managed Services contract as we move towards a new solution from 2019.
The final change relates to the ‘Tims’. They have both done an enormously good job of handling the challenges of planning and environment. There is no area that causes more concern to residents than planning and the built environment and, as I have often had cause to comment, the legislation in this area is permissive, favours development and takes little account of the particular needs of highly dense urban areas such as ours. Tim Coleridge has been on the front line dealing with basements, Crossrail, construction traffic, pay-by- phone parking and the local plan review. That last piece of work is now complete – as we heard at the special Council meeting, but Tim has had endless reservoirs of patience in dealing with all of it.
Tim Ahern, in turn, has managed the waste and refuse contracts, parks, the opening and management of the new leisure centre and the new restrictions on construction noise. Both have made the quality of life hugely better for residents. I am therefore going to ask Tim Coleridge to move to take on Tim Ahern’s portfolio with a special focus on waste. He will keep his Arts’ responsibilities. Tim Ahern will reprise his role in planning and use his engineering skills to good effect in heading the Transport portfolio.
You will remember that Gerard Hargreaves’s portfolio changed last year to include Community Safety and that will continue at a time of potential great change and challenge. As Monday’s awful events (Manchester Arena 22 May 2017) have reminded us, councils have to have good and constructive relationships with the police and other emergency services.
Paul Warrick will continue to work on procurement and ensuring that we improve our contract letting and purchasing and have as much possible early warning of challenges. He is also working hard to improve the management of this building and to ensure that the work to upgrade the halls and civic entrance can move forward.
Finally, I do not think that now is the right time to make changes to the Deputy Leader’s responsibilities. Rock has briefed us on several occasions on our regeneration ambitions and this is work which is enormously complex and slow-burning. A number of plans will come to fruition over the next year and he is doing a huge amount to work with residents and developers to ensure that as we build more houses we do not make the mistakes of the past. He is clear that as we build additional houses, these need to sit in proper neighbourhoods that are attractive and safe to live in, with good access to jobs, transport and schools. I am very grateful to him both for that, the work he does overseeing our own property portfolio and for all the help and support he gives me.
So Madam Mayor: a number of changes to responsibilities and new post-holders able to draw on the knowledge and experience they have gained in other parts of the Council. In the four years that I have been Leader we have had five new Cabinet Members. Taking on a Cabinet responsibility is itself a major commitment, but delivering our manifesto pledges, contributing to the quality of life and opportunities which need to be available to everyone in the borough is what really matters and I am proud to present a team that can do just that.