Sir Robin Wales: What I have done for Newham in the last 16 years
- Credit: Archant
After 16 years, my tenure as Labour Mayor of Newham has come to an end.
It has been a privilege to represent this borough and its residents.
Whilst there is always more for the council to do, we have made Newham a better place to live and I am proud of what my brilliant team of councillors have achieved.
When I was first elected Newham faced high levels of entrenched unemployment and deprivation – our residents’ life chances trailed behind those in more affluent parts of London.
But I joined the Labour party when I was 15-years-old precisely in order to bring about change, and this goal has been the driving force in all of the initiatives we have pursued.
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I firmly believe that the best and only sustainable way to create a prosperous future for our residents is to help them help themselves.
Our response has been to build personal, economic and community resilience.
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Our resilience agenda resulted in a jobs brokerage service that ensured growth in the borough did not pass local people by.
Workplace has filled 36,000 jobs with local residents. As a result there has been a huge fall in relative deprivation in Newham, moving from the second most deprived borough in 2010 to the 25th in 2015.
Resilience meant providing education programmes such as the introduction of free school meals to all primary children, ensuring no child goes hungry at school; our Reading Guarantee which gave one-to-one tuition to children falling behind and our Every Child programme which has delivered more than one million free musical instrument lessons to every child in Newham.
In education, we haven’t obsessed over the governance arrangements of schools. We have worked with all of the schools in Newham – whether they are an academy, free school or local authority maintained – and improved the life chances of our children.
Resilience also means ensuring our residents have a decent home.
In the face of the challenges such as Right to Buy which strips local authorities of their housing, Newham has implemented a range of initiatives to intervene in the housing market.
Newham has delivered the second highest number of new homes for social rent in London, the third highest number of affordable homes.
We also set-up a housing association – Local Space – to provide housing for homeless households. We have helped a total of nearly 3,600 homeless households.
I have left plans in place to build thousands of council-owned homes through our housing company Red Door Ventures. This council-owned housing company will build homes that are protected from Right to Buy legislation and reinvest profit back into housing.
We were the first council to implement a borough-wide licensing scheme and have prosecuted more landlords than the rest of London combined.
Of course I was incredibly proud of Newham’s role in the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Games brought an incredibly positive atmosphere to London, and along with it London began to ‘move East’. Myself and the other host borough leaders worked to ensure a proper legacy for the East End.
With this resilience agenda Newham has had the largest increase in employment in London, poverty has declined and education results are at an all time high.
But local authorities are facing massive challenges – from housing to severe Tory budget cuts – and we have shown that Labour councils are on the front lines of fighting austerity. We can fight against the government’s cuts to services when we run progressive local authorities.
We have protected our residents from the worst of Tory austerity.
Despite a shocking 48per cent cut – worth £141 million – to our government grant since 2010 I have kept Council Tax frozen for 10 years in a row, recognising that this regressive tax hits our poorest residents the hardest.
We have also implemented no front-line service cuts.
I will continue to champion the Labour values I have held for 48 years, and lobby for what I think is right: challenging payday loan companies and high street bookmakers; championing free school meals and calling the Tories to account for their shameful cuts.
I hope that Newham Council will continue to do the same.