A carbon-neutral green city with technology at its core and multi-billion renewal at its heart – that is the vision being unveiled today (March 5) by Westminster City Council leader Rachael Robathan.
Elected leader in January, Cllr Robathan today signals a radical change in direction for Britain’s flagship authority.
Three ambitious pledges underpin the new Westminster City Council plan, City for All.
Unveiling the measures at a City for All breakfast for partners, Cllr Robathan said it was time to “ensure Westminster is ready for the future while continuing to be the guardians of our heritage - the historic buildings, attractions, galleries and iconic streets that draw millions of visitors here and make us the heart of the capital. It is about putting an old master in a new frame.”
The Leader said: “The council declared a climate emergency last autumn and my focus now is on making sure that we deliver on the pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040. You will see us taking strong action to tackle poor air quality and support biodiversity, backed by a new £5m fund to support environmental initiatives.
“A diesel surcharge, a fast-expanding network of electric charging points and a clean air fund for schools are part of that mix. This is not some fashionable fad of the moment; it is our duty to safeguard the City for future generations.”
The council’s new capital programme will put nearly £2.5 billion into major infrastructure across the next 15 years, Cllr Robathan said. Led by schemes like the regeneration of Oxford Street, Westminster was about to undergo a scale of investment equal to £117 for every single square metre of the City.
“Public space and buildings in Westminster are getting a shot in the arm like never before”, Cllr Robathan said. The council would work to safeguard the West End as an economic dynamo that put £53 billion a year into the UK economy while ensuring the City’s 250,000 residents benefited from that success.
“Our mission is to make Westminster a great place to live through those excellent value-for-money services people expect - like clean streets and regular rubbish collection - but also our work connecting local people with job opportunities and bringing our teenagers onto the job market with the skills to succeed. The chance to grow up in Westminster, live here and find a job here all help maintain our vibrant communities.”
Cllr Robathan also set out plans for a major upgrade of technology. She said: “My ambition is for Westminster to be one of the best connected, most technologically advanced cities in the world.
“Installing smart technology in homes, expanding Wi-Fi coverage and ensuring wide access to super-fast broadband are a key part of our plans. The needs of our customers - those who live and work here - will drive how we roll out smarter technologies.”
Cllr Robathan told the breakfast meeting audience that there was now a strong case for Westminster City Council to be given more financial freedoms by central Government,
“We are continuing to urge the Treasury to give us the freedom to raise more of our own revenue locally”, the Leader said.
“A reform to business rate appeals, possible changes to bands at the higher end of Council Tax to reflect the reality of today’s property market and an overnight levy for tourists – all of these are possible and have the potential to help our financial position
“There is also the issue of business rate relief. I am glad we were able to offer iconic Westminster music venues like the 100 Club rate relief, but to torture a musical pun, you are going to see us turn the volume up on our case for more financial independence.”
The City for All breakfast followed Westminster City Council’s full meeting at which councillors voted to agree an inflation-matching 1.43 per cent increase in council tax, combined with a two per cent precept for social care. It means the council tax rise for a Band D property will rise by just under 12p a week.