My Experience and Achievements
In my earlier letter, I described why I would like to be Leader of the Council and what my priorities and ambitions would be. I would now like to explain why I believe that I have the necessary experience, gained in a variety of challenging roles, to undertake this responsibility.
During my time on the Council I have been able to play a key role in delivering successful, ground-breaking policies, controlling budgets, communicating openly and clearly with colleagues and building trust and rapport with residents and partners. Here are some examples:-
Breaking new ground – delivering successful policies
I was responsible for negotiating with the Metropolitan Police to obtain the first Community Support Officers, for rolling these out across the Borough and for setting up and chairing the first Safer Surer Board in London. This body enabled the Council to develop a close working relationship between the Borough Commander and senior officers in order to address public concern about crime and anti-social behaviour on a ward-by-ward basis.
I was responsible for managing the Single Regeneration Budget in North Kensington. My achievements included the commissioning and letting of Baseline Studios under Lancaster West to create local affordable business space and supporting the development of Westbourne Studios. I was successful in lobbying to ensure that North Kensington, rather than Westminster was the location for the new Job Centre Plus. I oversaw the merging of the two Social Councils into one body.
The Royal Borough Environmental Project (RBEP)
I established this originally to clean up “grot-spots” and to encourage greater community pride in the neighbourhood. It now has several thriving locations and a wide range of award-winning Community Kitchen Gardens. Residents have had new opportunities to make friends and meet neighbours. Their children have also had an opportunity to grow fresh produce and to learn about food and nature.
I set up the Market Streets Action Group to establish a strategic vision for revitalising Portobello and Golborne Roads. It has delivered refurbished toilets, improved bridges and lighting, art on Portobello Wall, the refurbishment of Tavistock Piazza and the closure of the Portobello Road to traffic on Saturdays. I have also sought to improve the promotion of the markets and succeeded in resolving the long-standing dispute over traders’ waste charges.
Taking tough financial decisions
I have not been afraid to take firm action to cut costs and to share plans with colleagues at an early stage. The environment department has seen a number of senior managers depart and I have consulted the group before making major changes to waste collection, street sweeping, parks and arts budgets. I took the decision to end the York-stone paving programme having first discussed it with the group. I believe that these decisions have been largely understood and accepted by residents.
I have supported the tri and bi-borough programmes for reducing back-office costs and duplication rather than front line services. I have set mechanisms in place in environment and transport to ensure that members continue to control policy and overall management - in line with the sovereignty guarantee. Despite a much thinner officer team, we continue to operate very distinctive policies from our neighbours.
I have taken opportunities to increase income, especially from disruptive road works and parking bay suspensions, listening to our group’s recommendations on charging.
Working with residents
Roles in housing, social services and the voluntary sector
In my earliest days on the Council, I chaired the Public-Sector Housing Committee and the Tenants’ Consultative Committee. I was also vice-chairman of the Housing and Social Services Committee. Housing allocation, management and estate refurbishment and regeneration will not succeed without the establishment of good and open relations with tenants and leaseholders. My first Cabinet position gave me responsibility for working with the voluntary sector, with a particular focus on North Kensington, and I believe that I helped to win the Council new friends there.
I believe that our consultation with residents over refurbishment of parks including St Luke’s, Westfield and Little Wormwood Scrubs has set a high standard for involving park-users in the proposed changes. A carefully managed capital investment programme has seen our parks become some of the best in London with top quality play equipment, improved landscaping and planting and the upgrading or replacement of many tired and ugly park buildings. Our innovative and dedicated horticultural programme has ensured repeated success in “London in Bloom” and “Britain in Bloom”. Little Wormwood Scrubs has been transformed from little more than waste ground into one of London’s best parks. I was instrumental in setting up a campaign to lobby the Mayor of London to designate LWS a priority park thereby winning £400,000 of additional funding.
Exhibition Road and Highways upgrades
I oversaw the delivery of this huge improvement to the streetscape on time and on budget and made sure that we had regular meetings with residents’ representatives around South Kensington. Significant changes to original plans ensued. I have overseen the introduction of other streetscene projects including Holbein Place, Hans Road/Basil Street, Tavistock Square and the refurbishment of Albert Bridge and have, in all cases, taken careful account of the comments of residents and users.
Getting agreement from colleagues
As Chief Whip, I believe that I struck the right balance in a Group with a large majority. I sought to encourage committed colleagues. I have been firm where necessary and our Majority Party Rules and Conventions attempted to strike the right balance between independence and discipline. Induction courses, mentoring and briefings for new members were introduced during my period. Where possible, I have sought to encourage a consensual, collegiate, problem-solving approach to our work.
As Cabinet Member I have been fortunate to be supported by both formal and informal lead members who have been involved in policy discussions and options at an early stage. I would like to see this extended to other members with an interest in decision-making.
Useful experience from beyond the Council
In business I worked for a small start-up company in the City which established the UK’s first online research service for financial institutions. This was acquired by Reuters in 1985 and I was appointed international marketing manager for a range of Reuters’ research products with global responsibility for promoting them. In 1991 I was head-hunted by Knight-Ridder Information of the US to set up their London office. Subsequently I set up a small consultancy business which produced a corporate newsletter on energy and environmental policy and offers training and consultancy on a range of public affairs issues.
I was Parliamentary candidate for Don Valley (a South Yorkshire Mining seat) in 1992 and chaired Kensington & Chelsea Conservative Association between 1999 and 2001, which included the period of Alan Clark’s death, the selection of Michael Portillo and the subsequent by-election.
I do hope that, taken in conjunction with my earlier statement, you will feel that I have the right degree of commitment, vision and experience to prove an effective Leader of the Council.