My address to fellow councillors.

Posted 20 Jul 2019 by Walaa Idris

Last year at the council (Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) we spent nine months reviewing our governance. One of the outcomes was to change the way we do scrutiny. The public wanted to have greater involvement in scrutiny, and the findings to be more policy making than just recommendations. We listened and the result was a total revamp of scrutiny committees. We now have an overarching Overview Scrutiny Committee, that oversees all scrutiny and directs the work of the four select committees below it. Thus giving the process greater focus while allowing for more specialisation and more in-depth examination. The four committees are, Adult Social Care and Health; Environment; Family Services; and Housing and Communities.

I decide to put myself forward to chairing the Family Services Committee. See below my address to fellow councillors:

I am writing to ask for your support in my decision to chair the Family Services Council Select Committee. Last year I served in the Adult Health & Social Care Scrutiny Committee, besides that experience, I bring personal and lived experiences to this role.

As a mother, a sister and a daughter, family is very important to me. It is the umbrella under which we rear and empower our young, and support and care for our old. As Conservatives, we understand that family is the foundation of every community and the bedrock of every society. By nurturing all our families, whatever shape or size, we enrich our communities and strengthen our futures.

Safeguarding of vulnerable children and support for families will sit at the heart of my chairmanship’s work as it is among the council’s most important statutory responsibilities. We have excellent schools. Both my daughters used local authority schools: first St Mary Abbott’s, and then Holland Park. They also used after school clubs and summer programme activities. It was the only way I could afford to work full time and raise them as a single parent. I was so impressed with our youth services provision, I became a trustee and campaigned alongside residents to save a failing local youth project from closure then helped to turn it around into a successful programme. Keeping the youth safe and occupied by providing them with after school activities is a lifeline for many parents. And, although I never adopted or fostered children, I came across some who did, many found the process good but some felt it needed improvements. If elected; I promise to closely scrutinise the process, in order to promote greater kindness and efficiency.

In my first year as a councillor, I shadowed Gerard (Cllr Hargreaves) and got to know and understand many aspects of the diverse communities in our borough. During that time, I understood good chairing and how to bring out the best in people – by giving a voice to those too quiet to hear or a little shy to speak. This experience, plus part chairing a number of meetings throughout the year, has allowed me to understand and appreciate effective chairing, collaborative working and respect to members’ valuable time and contributions.

As a member of the Governance Review Panel, I listened to and spoke with hundreds of residents: and it is because I know our constituents want to see scrutiny groups active and out in their communities that I am so determined to take on this role. At this Council, we want scrutiny to be more resident – facing, more geared towards policy development and less Town Hall centric. Those priorities directly respond to what residents told us they want from scrutiny. And to bring that dynamic scrutiny vision to life, we need people who believe in it.

Besides bringing life and personal experience into the fold, I can empathise and effortlessly relate to others’ experiences. That coupled with my calm and measured reasoning, will make me a suitable chair for this committee. I want to empower residents to be consistently engaged, trust the council more and not be afraid to come forward with new and untried ideas. I also want meetings to become extra efficient and run to time. Additionally, I want to engage members of the committee further by enabling them to have more say and bigger involvement in working groups. I want them to feel that their opinion and the issues they value are valued.

We are very lucky in this borough, as we have good public services and some of the best schools in the country. But the best is only as good as our commitment to excellence. And excellence can only be achieved with robust scrutiny.

Thank you for your time.


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