Newham: A blue print for democracy

​​Mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz has hailed a phenomenal and historic moment for Newham in a speech at the first Annual Council Meeting of her new administration.

The Annual Council Meeting was preceded by the first of a new kind of democratic forum, the Citizen Assembly.

The Assembly brings residents, councillors and council officers together to share experiences of living in the borough, to discuss the council’s priorities and to assess how the council is working.

Themes which emerged at last night’s Assembly included pride in Newham as a diverse and vibrant young borough, a desire to see the housing crisis challenged locally and a demand for more support for young people.

Mayor Fiaz said: “It was a unique event because it represents something phenomenal and something historic. It represents a council that after years of not listening, is going to be listening to our people, and we will be putting people at the heart of everything we do.”

She said: “I took office just over two weeks ago, but I started that listening process right away, meeting frontline workers at our homelessness service, listening to 100 young people at my inaugural event at Forest Gate Youth Zone.”

The Mayor said she has also been meeting people who are struggling as a result of the housing crisis.

“We have 24,000 people on our housing list and over four and a half thousand families with children in temporary accommodation. That is why I have made housing, and not just any housing but genuinely affordable housing at a social rent levels, my top priority. That’s why I am going to deliver in my first year 100 homes at social rent levels and a further 1,000 over the next four years.”

The Mayor also pledged young people would be at the top of her agenda.

Mayor Fiaz said she had spoke to young people about their fears around increasing levels of  street violence, and heard their first hand experiences including dealing with the death of friends due to violence.

She said: “They are traumatised and they feel that they have nowhere to go. I am not going to allow that to continue. I will be doubling the number of youth hubs, I will establish a youth safety board and I am going to be listening to our young people about what they want us to deliver for them.”

Mayor Fiaz pledged that her administration would be more open, more accountable and more transparent, and constitutional changes were passed at the ACM to rebalance power between the Mayor, cabinet, councillors and residents..
Among the changes:
  • An increase in the number of full council meetings
  • Reinstatement of a public question time as a permanent fixture on all council meeting agendas
  • Introducing Citizens Assemblies to Community Neighbourhoods
  • Cutting £180,000 from Special Responsibility Allowances paid to councillors
  • A regular update by the Chair of the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee on its work programme on holding the executive to account.
  • Ending the Mayor’s right to “final say” on motions.
​Closing the meeting Mayor Fiaz said: “Newham is going to become a blueprint for participatory democracy in this country. But we have to do this together. I need you all on this journey. I need your passion. I need your energy. I need your ideas, and I need your solutions. Together we will demonstrate how people can be at the heart of everything we do in this council.”


Published: 25 May 2018