Today marks a year since I stepped into office as Mayor of Newham. I wanted to say thank you for giving me and my administration the opportunity to put you at the heart of everything we do as a Council.
You’ll be able to see some of the things we’ve achieved from a series of #DeliveringForNewham messages on social media, including this one on housing - view video here. At next week’s Annual Council Meeting on 16 May I’ll also be outlining some of my plans for what happens next.
It’s certainly been a momentous first year, with some real highlights – getting my administration’s first Budget agreed, along with a new corporate plan (the first in several years) and a structure for the Council that will support the delivery of the promises I made to you when I was elected last May. We’ve driven forward an agenda of improving transparency and accountability, alongside involving residents in decision-making through the amazing Citizen Assemblies that we’ve held across borough.
We now have robust plans under way to deal with the housing crisis we face in Newham; I’ve laid down a huge marker about how we intend to deal with the climate emergency; and we’ve made a commitment to become a living wage council. We’re addressing poverty, tackling inequality and sharing economic prosperity through our Community Wealth Building agenda. Which means that investment coming into Newham, and already in the borough, benefits all our residents.
I’ve also announced great news relating to my promise to Newham voters that I would clean up the Council’s budget. A key element of that was to address the scourge of risky LOBO loans taken out before I stepped into office. On Friday, we finalised negotiations with NatWest Bank and I was thrilled to announce that we’ve terminated the RBS LOBO loans taken out under the previous administration, saving us £143 million that can be spent on Newham residents. Over the past ten years that the RBS loans have been in place, it’s cost us an extra £31 million in interest payments, so by terminating these LOBO loans, more money can be spent on services for Newham residents.
You’ll also have noted that my Cabinet and I have put our collective weight behind the children and young people of this borough – we will make sure our young people are safe, coupled with laying down the building blocks for generations to come so that their talent and potential is realised.
Safety of our young people continues to be a big issue for us and that’s why on Saturday, we’ll be holding an inaugural Love Life Gala at The Old Town Hall in Stratford to promote the importance of youth safety in Newham. The Gala promises to be an eclectic evening of food, entertainment and special appearances by renowned artists. All funds raised will be used to provide recuperative programmes and experiences for children and young people in Newham.
It’s also been a year peppered with challenges, which is why we’ll continue to drive changes at the Council so that we improve the way it serves our residents. There’s also been some low points in our borough, which is why I am humbled by the unity and resolve of our community following the horrendous attacks in Christchurch and Sri Lanka. We’re strengthened by coming together and I’m proud that Newham is a place where people embrace our diversity so positively.
When I was elected last year, I thanked Newham residents for putting their faith and trust in me; and in my vision for the borough. We’re already delivering for Newham residents, but there’s a lot more to do.
So I promise you this: as I progress through the second year of my administration, I’ll strive to achieve and deliver the best for you, your family and our community. Because the people of Newham are at the heart of everything that I do.