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.

Walaa

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My Freshman Year in RBKC

Posted 26 May 2019 by Walaa Idris

This May, I am celebrating my first year as an RBKC (the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea) councillor. The saying “time flies when you’re having fun” is very true. The past twelve months went by in a flash. I was very lucky to have a number of varied positions. I sat on the Planning Applications Committee, Adult Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee, the Governance Review Panel and was deputy to the Communities & Culture lead member. I judged competitions, chaired a number of meetings, visited community hubs, sat on neighbourhood safety briefings and even accompanied Madam Mayor on a few events. For an afternoon, I was a book in the Human Library and spoke in the Council Chambers on Brexit, saving the No 11 & 19 Buses (which we saved), Housing, Policing, Transport and gave my maiden speech. I also responded to hundreds of emails and addressed a number of residents’ issues in the ward and borough wide.

It was truly a memorable year. One where I learnt a lot about myself and others. I met some fantastic people in the Town Hall, my ward and the borough. I made new friends, and strengthens old relationships. At times I was more tired than I ever imagined I could be, but it was all so exhilarating I didn’t mind it much. Luckily, a few weeks after I got elected, I was advised by a former councillor to 1) pace myself and not over do things, and 2) carve out some down time to recharge. I did both and they helped me to stay relaxed while being productive. I highly recommend doing both.

My second year started with a bang. A few weeks ago, I was asked by our incoming Mayor, Cllr Will Pascall, to become his deputy. This was one of the roles I dreamt about holding one day, and in all honesty expected to, but one day in the very far future not on my second year. So, as you can imagine, I was over the moon with joy and proudly accepted. I will continue sitting in Adult Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee, and as Vice Chair in the Planning Committee. I will also sit in the Executive and Corporate Services Scrutiny Committee. So, more to do and much more to learn.

All of this won’t have been easy if it wasn’t for the love and encouragement I get from my beautiful daughters. Thank you for always being there, for your unconditional love and unquestioning support. I shall use all you give me to make RBKC a little better by the end of my sophomore year.

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My Maiden Speech

Posted 18 Oct 2018 by Walaa Idris

It’s been almost a year since my last blogpost. No, I did not give up blogging all together, but took a break to focus on getting selected and elected Councillor in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

For those who don’t know yet. I was selected to stand in my home ward Brompton and Hans Town and proud to say in May 2018 I was elected Councillor. I have since, spent the past months settling in my new role and getting to know and understand my duties and the people around me who help me do them.

To date I have attended a number of committee and scrutiny meetings and three full council meetings. Last night I gave my maiden speech, below is the full text.

Good evening!

Thank you, Madam Mayor

I am honoured and delighted to stand before you as an elected Conservative councillor of this outstanding borough. And, especially as a representative of my own ward the beautiful and vibrant Brompton and Hans Town.

But before I get carried away. I would like to pay tribute to my former councillors and dear friends Tim Coleridge and Nick Paget-Brown. Who between them served this borough for 64 years. And, on behalf of the ward’s residents thank them for their long service and selfless dedication to public life.

Nick & Tim had many wonderful achievements Borough wide. More recently was turning Exhibition Road into a landmark and making it more accessible for disabled and elderly visitors to the museums.

Madam Mayor, 27 years ago, with a toddler and six months pregnant, I immigrated to the UK from the Sudan. London and RBKC became our home. But unfortunately, in 2002 we became homeless. After 3 years of moving from one temporary accommodation to another, we qualified for permanent housing south the borough, in the then Hans Town Ward.

Our 2-bedroom flat, with its charming balcony overlooking beautifully kept gardens was built in 1947 for war veterans and their families. Wiltshire Close is a warm and diverse community in the heart of Chelsea.
That is why, as a council tenant, I am excited by Cllr. Taylor- Smith’s commitment to build a variety of social housing. I am also delighted the government will lift the cap on how much councils can borrow to build new homes. Both are excellent news.

Madam Mayor, I entered politics to help those who need helping. After years of flirting with the idea of becoming a Member of Parliament I realised I will better serve my community and give back to my adopted home by becoming a councillor. By achieving small significant changes to improve people’s lives, I will attain more and help better. It took me a few years to get here but it was worth the wait. Because now, I represent my home ward and my neighbors.
Brompton and Hans Town with it’s pretty streets, historic buildings, boutiques, shops, restaurants and many international attractions, is also home to over 5500 residents and hundreds of fashionable and international businesses.

This beauty and vibrancy come with its own challenges. Millions yearly visiting the museums, high end retailers and establishments, puts enormous pressures on residents’ lives, council services and the community. But, it is also what makes this ward so desirable to live and work in.

As a resident, I know too well these challenges and face them daily myself. From roaring supercars, to the chronic begging outside Harrods or amplified busking around Exhibition Road and South Ken station. Plus let’s not forget the latest craze of motorcycle crimes. All these are issues I aim to work hard to reduce if not totally eradicate in my tenure.

As a K&C councillor, my duty extends to the whole borough. And as such I intend to passionately serve every corner of it. In the past few months, I saw clearly the pain felt by some in north the borough. My goal is to soothe that pain. I know it’s an ambitious goal, some might even say it’s a dream.

But Madam Mayor, I am a dreamer, who dreamt of studying in the US and I did. Dreamt of making London our home and I did. Dreamt of becoming a K&C councillor and I am. My dream now, is to play my part in easing that pain, and I will.

Thank You!

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