Newham Council is issuing regular e-bulletins to residents about what’s happening at the Council and in the borough, including the latest information about how we are responding to Covid-19.
You can read the latest message from Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz below:
I hope you are safe and well. Please continue to play your part in preventing the further spread of coronavirus and reducing the risk of local outbreaks in our borough.
We can do that by keeping up with the social distancing, washing our hands regularly, following all the public health guidance and by wearing face coverings when on public transport. From tomorrow that also includes shops. The Government can’t seem to make its mind up about whether that includes cafes and takeaways. My advice is to keep them on. Don’t take the risk of catching or spreading the virus. We’ve had enough in Newham already.
I’ve been covering up. Mine is a natty black number of my favourite football team Clapton CFC, who are from Newham. Wearing one of their face coverings is doing some good too, with proceeds from sales helping the mothers and children at the Magpie Project in Forest Gate.
Our recovery from Covid-19 has been central to my thoughts this week. Yesterday I announced that Newham is to become the first borough in London to use livelihood, well-being and happiness as a prime measure of economic success. It’s all part of our ambitious recovery strategy in response to the coronavirus pandemic as we rebuild a better Newham.
You can read more about the Towards a Better Newham Covid-19 Recovery Strategy by following the link here and the press release here. I’ve been inspired by New Zealand, the first country in the world to replace Gross Domestic Product as a key indicator of its economic success. It instead focuses on the wellbeing and happiness of its population as a principle measure of progress.
Our strategy will also ensure that every resident under 25 will be able to access a range of positive activities to support their long-term prosperity. I’ll be announcing details of a new Youth Empowerment Fund very soon so watch this space.
Additionally, the strategy will focus on the borough’s six town centres and 13 local high streets as places for investment and revival, so that they become centres of community and civic activity where people meet, talk and celebrate, as well as providing commerce and business. I’ve looked at what they have done in Paris where they have enabled people to access all social, civic and economic essentials within a 15-minute walk or cycle ride. That would also fit our air quality and climate change commitments.
We are mapping the social value and civic functions of our town centres to make sure they have the spaces and facilities to serve their local area. Where gaps exist, we are identifying owned buildings which can support communities to thrive and recover from the economic impact of Covid-19.
We are at a critical moment in Newham. Coronavirus has laid bare the endemic inequality that exists in our borough. It has exposed the increased vulnerability of those most socially and economically deprived. The disproportionate impact of the virus in places scarred by deprivation and in communities enriched by diversity, has hurt us.
Covid-19 has been the reminder that poverty and race inequality lowers your life chances. The monumental impact it has wrought on our lives and ways of living requires a radical rethink and bold interventions to accelerate change in Newham for the better.
It will require more investment and adapting of our existing programmes and resources. It will also demand a range of behavioural changes and a readiness for future disruptions of whatever kind, be it another virus, climate change or something not yet known to us.
This strategy is the catalyst for a sea change in the agenda I started two years ago when I stepped into office, through my community wealth building and inclusive economy agendas. That’s why, as we reimagine a better borough, economic security, health, equality and the environment will continue to be at heart of our rehabilitation, recovery, and reorientation.
The economic impact of the pandemic on Newham is going to be significant. At our Council meeting last week we heard it has probably cost us £61m so far. Our recovery strategy will put us in the best place possible to deal with that in the months and years ahead. But three things will be central to this approach: the absolute prominence of public health; bringing out more explicitly the Council’s work in tackling race equality; and maintaining our commitment to tackling climate emergency.
The work has begun immediately. I also announced yesterday with the Mayor of London, a £13m Good Growth Fund to stimulate and support innovative and transformational projects in the Royal Docks, to make the area a more attractive place to live, work, visit and invest.
All the work the Council is doing at the moment is based around the needs of you, our residents. I will ensure you have everything you need to deal with the challenges of recession and thrive as our refocused economy recovers in the wake of Covid-19. We all deserve being able to lead healthier, prosperous and happy lives.
And on the subject of happiness, the school summer break is here. For many, school stopped in March with the outbreak of Covid-19. Keeping healthy and safe has meant we’ve stopped doing some of the things we usually do, we’re doing usual things differently and sometimes finding completely new things to suit our changed environment. My new normal includes attending virtual meetings, using new technologies and working from all sorts of locations, including my kitchen table!
Summer activity will however go on, but with a social distance twist which we’ve called Zoom into Summer. There will still be great, fun outdoor activities such as basketball, multi-sports, and rowing, but all delivered safely and in line with public health guidance. And there will be lots of stuff done virtually, using technology such as Zoom, including creative arts, reading challenges, workshops to learn new skills, courses to support your wellbeing and much, much more. I know it won’t be the same, but our key priority is for everyone to stay safe, stay healthy and keep our Covid-19 numbers down.
Just a quick update on the temporary mortuary facility that was built on Wanstead Flats in Manor Park as part of the response to Covid-19. By the first week of August it will have been totally removed and the City of London Corporation will begin to restore the grassland and return the area as a natural wildflower habitat.
From August through to early autumn the site will be compacted with layers of vegetation matter and a seed-bed prepared. During September and October local native flowers, including seeds harvested from nearby Epping Forest, will be introduced, with a second seeding next spring. During all this work the site will need to remain fenced to protect the soil and to give the native grasses and wildflowers a chance to grow strong. By this time next year, the site should be returned to a flower-rich grassland for visitors and wildlife to enjoy, which is great news.
Keep well and safe.
Rokhsana Fiaz OBE
Mayor of Newham