Westminster City Council’s leader today puts the authority on course to “a new era in openness” with a four-year agenda underpinned by fairness and opportunity for all – with local people having a more powerful say than ever before in decision-making.
The chance to live in an affordable home, raise a family in a healthy city and ensure young people can make the most of skills and training opportunities are among a raft of measures in the new City for All plan.
Westminster City Council is also going to overhaul its planning department – the country’s busiest – to put the views of local people in the driving seat.
Cllr Aiken said: “We are going to initiate a revival of local consultation and engagement, putting people’s views at the front and centre of decision making.
“This is going to be a City Council of the people, run by the people, for the people – from Bayswater to Belgravia, from Maida Vale to Mayfair, from Pimlico to Paddington.”
Westminster’s leader spoke as she unveiled the main points of City for All at a stakeholder breakfast held at Old Marylebone Town Hall.
Headline announcements made today include
· An overhaul of planning driven by an approach which takes decisions “not according to narrow rulebooks” but whether they meet the needs of residents
· Identification of enough space to build an additional 2,000 new affordable homes for the next generation
· News that the voluntary community contribution scheme has so far raised £400,000 – with that money going into local initiatives to help the homeless and lonely.
Cllr Aiken said: “It is this Council’s mission to make sure that we never become a borough characterised by the divide between rich and poor. Westminster needs mixed communities to thrive, and we want people on all levels of the income scale to be able to live here.”
The Westminster leader said the authority was taking tough decisions to stand up for its residents – including calling a judicial review on the CS11 cycling route; a review of CityWest homes and an overhaul of the planning system.
“We are not afraid to take difficult decisions. And we know when to say: ‘Stop, this is not going to work, let’s rethink.”
In a significant update, Cllr Aiken said Westminster City Council’s community contribution fund had so far raised £400,000 since its launch in April this year.
The scheme invites Westminster’s wealthiest Band H residents to contribute an extra amount alongside their council tax. While the initial suggested amount for donations was £833 – the Band H Council Tax for this year minus the GLA element – some individual contributions have reached £2,500.
Cllr Aiken said: “With a single letter, we have raised nearly half the amount we would have raised by putting Council Tax up by two per cent across the board.
“The community contribution was an experiment – one dismissed by some cynics who said that people do not care – but I have been reassured to see the generosity of the residents of the City of Westminster.”
A major strand of City for All is support for schemes like the #MyWestminster City Lions initiative, which promote skills and training for teenagers growing up in Westminster.
“We are the custodians of this City for the next generation, and I want to make sure that young people of all backgrounds have the confidence and opportunities to fulfil their ambitions”, Cllr Aiken added.