The Grenfell tragedy and its aftermath were devastating. We’re continuing to do all we can to support those affected, but I cannot ignore that one of the lasting consequences was that my council lost the trust of many in our communities.
We want to rebuild that trust, and our first mission has been to listen. We will listen more closely to local people around our borough, and hear what they say, and then make sure they have a real stake in what is happening on their own doorsteps and in their own lives.
To help us and our residents, earlier this year we publicly adopted twelve principles to guide our governance and make it better. Local people can hold us to account if they think we’re not living up to these principles.
We’re also working with experts from local government, people with experience of other tragedies and most importantly, our residents, to pave the way for decision-making in the future. I find the experience of those involved in helping the families affected by the Hillsborough tragedy is particularly valuable given the deep mistrust the official response caused. We can only rebuild trust with full transparency and by backing words with deeds. These are the lessons we are intent on learning.
We must be honest and make decisions based on reason and with integrity – this is a lesson not only for my local authority, but for the world of politics and leadership as a whole.
Over the next six months the pace of change will be increasing. We’ve set up a series of Listening Forums so people can raise local concerns directly with the council’s Leadership Team. We’re having a borough-wide conversation with residents on what our priorities should be. We are reviewing the way we take decisions and looking at what more we can do - with our residents involved at every step of these discussions. It has started on the Lancaster West Estate – the home of Grenfell Tower – where we’ve started a co-design process that truly puts residents at the heart of redesigning their estate and their future.
We’ve been working hard to improve, and we will never get everything right, but we know we’re still at the start of a long journey towards rebuilding local peoples’ confidence in their council. No matter how long the journey, I can promise my council will continue to strive to rebuild the trust of our whole community, and we will never stop learning and seeking to improve.
Elizabeth Campell is leader of Kensington and Chelsea RLBC