Alan Johnson back on his old North Ken stomping grounds

Alan Johnson MP talking with social workersIn the febrile atmosphere of a general election campaign I have to be careful what I say, but anyway here goes: I rather like Alan Johnson, even though he is a Labour MP.

It’s certainly true that I’ve never actually met him, but I have seen him on the telly and I have read This Boy, the superb first volume of his memoirs. Continue reading

Nick opens up about the race to be the Conservative candidate for Kensington

As the world and his wife now knows, Sir Malcolm Rifkind is to stand down at the next general election and one of the most desirable parliamentary seats in the country is therefore up for grabs.

There is at least one formidable lady who has already asked me straight out whether I harbour any such ambitions to fill the vacancy. Continue reading

Budget speech 2015

Cllr Paget-Brown’s Budget speech Wednesday 4 March 2015

Madam Mayor,

I am very pleased to present the Budget for 2015-2016. I regret to say that whilst the national economic background has brightened considerably since my last Budget speech, the financial prospects for local government have not. Continue reading

On why the voluntary sector is a priority

Last week the Council announced that, for the third year in a row, it will be protecting the amount of money it gives in grants to voluntary sector organisations. And that’s despite the dramatic reductions in the Council’s own budget which has been cut by some £50 million since 2010.

Frankly it’s not been all that easy to protect cash for voluntary organisations again this year. In fact to make it possible, sacrifices have had to be made elsewhere and for that reason I thought I should spend a little time explaining why for us the voluntary sector is a priority. Continue reading

On why reserves are necessary to protect services and invest in the future

As I descend ever deeper into middle age, I find the BBC’s Question Time ever more difficult to watch.  Even in the programme’s pomp under Sir Robin Day I might occasionally have been irritated by a panellist who rather than a thoughtful response acknowledging the complexity of an issue would instead deliver a ‘clap line’ designed to get the audience applauding like seals.  But these days the clap lines seem to have taken over [and that’s not good for my ulcers].  And sadly clap lines are not confined to Question Time; they have been creeping into local politics too.

The one I am currently contending with is this: every time we have to make a tough decision, up pops the usual suspects to say “you don’t have to do this, Kensington and Chelsea has got massive reserves.” Continue reading

Our brave servicemen and women

George Dorrell flagstoneIn recent days two events have emphasised to me the debt we all owe to those in the armed forces who make such sacrifices on our behalf.

The first was when I had the privilege of meeting relatives of George Dorrell VC, MBE at a ceremony where a special commemorative paving stone was laid next to the war memorial in Kensington.  You can read more about Sergeant Major Dorrell’s heroism here – but just meeting the family of a man who showed such courage under fire moved me greatly.

The stone is part of an initiative to recognise the recipients of Victoria Crosses during the First World War. Sadly, as we know all too well, it was not the war to end all wars and many conflicts since have called once again for our sailors, soldiers and air force personnel to put themselves in harm’s way.  The result of doing so for some is another battle – this time against life changing injuries.

This was brought home to me when I watched with admiration the efforts of those taking part in the Invictus Games.  Teams of wounded service men and women from Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Georgia, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the USA joined those from the UK  and competed in nine sports over four days and their efforts amazed and humbled me.

While one hundred years separate George Dorrell from the Invictus games one thing remains the same, the bravery of British servicemen and women.