Today is something a bit different; a guest post by new Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe explaining what he hopes to achieve in his new role. Thanks to him for taking the time to do it.
I am honoured and delighted to be given the opportunity to lead the council in Royal Greenwich – a place I’m proud to call my home.
For the past two years I have served as deputy to Denise Hyland, a leader who has worked tirelessly to deliver affordable housing, greater opportunities and quality services to all our residents, while at the same time dealing with the government’s austerity cuts. Denise is a tough act to follow.
My early experiences ignited my determination to make a difference to people’s lives and my sense of social justice. The first few years of my life were spent on the Ferrier Estate, before moving to the Page Estate in Eltham.
I went to Haimo Primary School and then on to Thomas Tallis School – a true comprehensive with children from every background.
One of my teachers asked me to represent students on a Council run project and I helped establish the first ever Young People’s Council in Greenwich. It was an incredible opportunity which taught me the importance of youth services, and of early intervention.
I know first-hand the crucial role schools play, not just in providing an education, but in shaping the future lives of young people.
This Council will work with our schools across the Borough to create outstanding education opportunities for all our children.
When I was growing up I saw real improvements in my community. Decent homes became a right for everyone, not a luxury for a few. Today, one of the biggest challenges we face is ensuring that decent, affordable housing is available for ordinary people.
A key part of this Council’s work will be delivering more council and genuinely affordable housing. Under my leadership, we were the first Council in the country to bring greater transparency to planning viability assessments, a move which stops developers reneging on their affordable housing promises. I am proud that this is now a policy taken up by the Government.
To maximise our ability to provide affordable housing I am setting up a housing delivery board to undertake a full review of all our current projects to identify what resources we can find to build Council homes. We have to ensure that significant, game-changing investment is available for the Council’s housing building programme across the borough. I’m also committed to working with Meridian and other partners to get building going.
Recent years have seen massive change in Royal Greenwich and I have been part of driving that forward. But I know there are residents who feel uncertain about the speed and level of development. We need to make sure that tenant and resident engagement is at the heart of all our work as a Council.
I want greater transparency and fairness in our planning process. There will be increased community engagement in planning and regeneration, with more local representation.
No Cabinet Member will sit as a Member of the Planning Board under my leadership.
A crucial issue for our residents is clean air and the environment. Following the Government’s announcement to progress with the Silvertown Tunnel development, we will need to take stock of the decision and how this will affect the Borough and residents. I will be seeking an early meeting with the Secretary of State to understand why our proposals for a sustainable transport fund appear to have been rejected.
Royal Greenwich has started work on schemes to reduce traffic and improve air quality around our schools and establish a programme of healthy streets across the Borough and this is something I’m going to drive forward. I’ve taken a close interest in the work delivered by Mayor Phillip Glanville in Hackney on this and it’s really made a difference to local communities. Equally, the work happening in Waltham Forest around healthy streets is exemplary and I’m looking forward to meeting colleagues from across London to see what Greenwich can learn and take forward.
We need to do more to boost the local economy. We will review our procurement strategy to increase, year on year, the amount of money we spend in our communities. We will examine how we can best use our properties and assets to support local business growth and local creativity.
Like every Council, we face the twin challenges of continued Government austerity and increasing demand on our services. I am currently establishing a Cabinet, which will include a dedicated Cabinet Member post for Finance and Resources. This is part of our commitment to ensuring that every pound we are spending is delivering on our priorities.
And of course, a very real concern for many families and parents is the rise in knife crime and serious youth violence across London. There have been a number of serious incidents this week in Greenwich which have caused concern across our communities.
As well as looking at what we can do to work with young people in our schools and communities, we will liaise closely with our colleagues in the police and criminal justice system to face these challenges head on.
I became involved in politics for the same reason I became a school teacher – I want to make a difference in people’s lives and do what I can to ensure other people in the Borough have the support and life chances that I had.
I am immensely proud to be elected Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich and am excited at the future prospects for our fantastic Borough and everyone who lives, works or learns here.