How RBKC Subverts Democracy to Prevent Change

This article is a defence of the principles of democracy and transparency – people’s right to know what is being done in their name and with their money. It examines Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC)’s claim that fundamental changes are being made in response to the Grenfell Tower fire of June 14th 2017, which killed 72 people. The analysis focuses on RBKC’s Twelve Principles of Good Governance policy. Council documents have revealed that the Twelve Principles policy has not been implemented and Councillors have not been held accountable for this despite the rising financial cost to the public. The Twelve Principles appear to be lost in a haze of bureaucracy; we examine how the Conservative’s grip on power in Kensington has been tightened and what this means for North Kensington.    

The Review – RBKC’s Policy for Change

In 2017 the Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS), – the national centre of expertise on governance and scrutiny – were commissioned, with funding by the Local Government Association (LGA), to carry out an independent review of RBKC. The local authority welcomed the CfPS’s subsequent report and adopted “12 principles of good governance we should embed in the council.” The Twelve Principles were bespoke; designed specifically for RBKC to act on its professed claims that they sought to “change” following the Grenfell Tower fire.

The principles:

  1. “Connecting with Residents”
  2. “Focusing on What Matters”
  3. “Listening to Many Voices”
  4. “Acting with Integrity”
  5. “Involving Before Deciding”
  6. “Communicating What We Are Doing”
  7. “Inviting Residents to Take Part”
  8. “Being Clearly Accountable”
  9. “Responding Fairly to Everyone’s Needs”
  10. “Working as Team”
  11. “Managing Responsibly”
  12. “Having the support we need”

The Democratic Society (Demsoc) supported CfPS in researching and writing the report over a period of six weeks. Their role: “Demsoc have helped to reach out to residents, asking about their experiences of being involved in decision making processes by the Council, and how involvement can be increased and improved in the future. This has been done by gathering evidence through surveys, desktop research and observing meetings, as well as talking face to face with focus groups and workshops”.

Urban Dandy understands that, given the scale of the work, the time frame was considered too tight by Demsoc.

The council’s own report endorsing the CfPS recommendations was titled ‘CHANGE AT THE COUNCIL: THE COUNCIL’S RESPONSE TO THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF GOVERNANCE’ (their capitals) and came four months after the independent review, with RBKC stating: “the council recognises that it (sic) essential to put these principles into practice.” The council’s leadership were to be held to account on this by the Executive and Corporate Services Scrutiny Committee.

The council leaders who held the relevant portfolios and who endorsed the report were Elizabeth Campbell (leader) and Cllr Gerard Hargreaves (responsible for Communities and Culture), both of whom were cabinet members prior to the Grenfell Tower fire. It was the fire that prompted RBKC to commission the review and so it is right that the council’s success in applying its Twelve Principles be measured against the gravity of what happened at Grenfell Tower.

It is worth dwelling briefly here on the role played by Campbell, who, on becoming leader of RBKC a month after the Grenfell fire, promised change. In a brief speech to fellow councillors and victims of the fire in July 2017, Campbell used the word ‘change’ eleven times. Her words are particularly significant given her key role in the decision to adopt the Twelve Principles as policy and in the subsequent roll-out of the policy.

COST

In correspondence with Urban Dandy the CfPS confirmed the amount of the grant paid to them and Demsoc to cover the cost of the review: Continue reading

Urban Dandy Exclusive: The True Cost of RBKC’s ‘Change’ Programme

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How does a local authority go from being a national embarrassment on the verge of special measures to being secure in its position and back to business-as-usual in under two years?

The 2017 Grenfell Tower fire was the worst domestic fire in Britain since world war two and it happened in the richest borough in the country. Seventy-two lives were taken, more have been lost in the fall-out. There have been no arrests of politicians, council officers or others who made fateful decisions and ignored warnings in the run-up to the fire.

In 2018 Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC) commissioned the Centre for Public Scrutiny and the Democratic Society to carry out a review of the Council and to produce recommendations to enable the local authority to move forward. The ‘Change’ programme that resulted has suffered from a severe lack of public scrutiny and has been anything but democratic…

Urban Dandy uses RBKC’s own documents to reveal how the Council adopted a policy known as the Twelve Principles of Good Governance, then proceeded to bury it in a complex bureaucratic system. The article shows how opportunities to apply the principles were spurned, and worse, how Councillors often seemed determined to ensure there would be no real change.

Overseeing the process has been the leader of RBKC, Elizabeth Campbell, who promised ‘change’ to survivors and the bereaved but who has appeared at key moments and in key meetings to help ensure no fundamental change has been implemented. We are awaiting comment from her on her role and the performance of her Council in delivering on her promises.

We also reveal the rising costs of the ‘Change’ programme, the methods by which RBKC has managed to stifle meaningful challenge to its approach and how they have been aided by the media and the national government. Questions are also raised about the role of the local Labour party and we look at the calls for devolution for North Kensington.

The article is a defence of democracy and transparency in Kensington and will be published at the start of September.

Our previous articles following this story can be found here.

 

@urbandandyLDN @tomhcharles

Recherché

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I sit amongst my dreams

in the graveyard of my mind

like Legion – no chains can bind me

Tormented by my failings

as a father – as a man

a husband, lover, friend…

walking with the dead

into the mist

leaving society…

 

Pacing slowly towards eternal insanity

chanting in unison

sharing candlelit pitiful piety

with aged knights

wearing armour

that has rusted into futility

stopping neither arrow nor sword

my heart pierced by steel

no crown of thorns

as I cling to the cross

thirsty for my saviour’s blood…

 

Forever carrying the splinters, the scars

of infinite salvation

offered freely – yet costing all

morality of the highest order

expected – demanded

countered by universal grace

judgement defeated – vanquished

 

My feet bleeding

from walking on flint

knowing like Joab

I will be struck down

clinging to the altar of the Lord…

 

 

by M.C. Bolton, August 2019,

photo of Bole Hill Quarry, Peak District by OG

9:1 Soul

An uncountable number of books have been written on attaining serenity. Access to this ease of being, our birth right, is offered up in works ranging from the sublime to the quick fix.

The texts aim to end anxiety and promote peace. Some to make money and fame for author and publisher. After all it’s a whole industry, this outward search for meaning.

There are gurus and mentors who have been on their own journeys, seeking peace of mind and they offer up their words to help others.

There are religious sermons, retreats of all kinds, a wide variety of techniques are on offer. But the common factor of all genuine teachings is that they point within. Why?

Jesus said: “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21).

A book or speaker might connect you to this teaching for some moments. Faith also plays a part in this and faith brings hope; hope in something greater than this world, beyond our space time dimension…hope brings dopamine and peace.

Lifted by the reminder, the effect wears off and the search begins again – online, elsewhere…The feeling was so freeing, but so fleeting; the search for more is not optional.

So, this 9:1 ratio is a reminder too, that what you seek is not necessarily out there. It would be so convenient if it was consumable like a product, but even the 10% that is consumable is a deceptive figure. This 10% is mainly made up of reminders of the 90% so your outer search will only lead you back inward again.

9:1 is so lopsided a ratio that it means you cannot be in a heavenly, hippy, heightened state all the time – it must incorporate the mundane too. The compartmentalisation of the spiritual from the cerebral and physical is part of the spiritual industry – but, they are all intertwined. Some folk are so heavenly minded they are of no earthly use!  It’s about seeing and doing the mundane and knowing that those acts are on the same path

The 9:1 ratio is not a life of passivity, sitting at home or sleeping for nine hours out of every 10. It is a reminder of what is already known – give up the search for a conveniently packaged messiah and embrace your self. IQ, knowledge and any amount of activity crammed into a lifetime will not save your soul.

The seeking is not confined to what are usually categorised as ‘spiritual’ activities – meditation, chanting, praying, yoga, reading Rumi and so on. Most human activities have peace of mind as the end goal; body building, blogging, gaining knowledge…everyone is seeking peace.

Turn inside to what is constantly available; timeless vastness, where thoughts come and go apparently from nowhere and apparently to nowhere. Who or what is watching the thoughts?

Somebody recently expressed peace this way: “the ever-present flow of love and knowledge within.”

But the 90% experience is beyond words, no matter how eloquent, beautiful and succinct. Expressions of peace are only that, pointers and reminders…

Ponting your attention back at you and reminding you that it is all within.

 

Mark Bolton &

Tom Charles @tomhcharles

 

 

RBKC Scrutiny #3 The Administration Committee Meeting

The future is unwritten…events this week at Kensington and Chelsea council (RBKC) could have triggered a political realignment in the north of the borough. Or they could have consolidated Tory power… 

What happened?

On 15th July at RBKC’s regular administration committee meeting, Councillors voted to scrap a council committee that scrutinises RBKC’s response to the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire.

The decision to abandon the scrutiny committee is based on a “residents’ conference” to which 15 people turned up, in addition to 77 who contributed to the consultation in writing.

The two Labour members of the council administration committee joined residents in walking out of Monday’s meeting in protest at the move, leaving four Conservative Councillors to vote through the recommendations. The Tory Councillors had been whipped (compelled) to vote to abandon the scrutiny committee.

The plan for the changes to scrutiny was made by a council panel made up of four Conservatives and one Liberal Democrat, effectively bypassing North Kensington, where all elected Councillors are from the Labour party.

from rbkc.gov.uk

The scrapping of the committee, which will be ratified at full council meeting on 24th July, is part of a review of the council’s scrutiny committee structure which will see the current six specialist committees shrink to four “select committees” overseen by an overview and scrutiny body. Continue reading

RBKC Scrutiny #2

The second in a series of posts about scrutiny of Kensington and Chelsea council (RBKC)…

Watercolour of Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall by the architect Sir Basil Spence.
Copyright: the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Libraries (RBKC Libraries)

Since the June 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, North Kensington residents,  campaigners and writers have attended RBKC meetings to challenge the local authority, bear witness and watch for any signs of a return to business as usual. The latest meeting revealed a local authority losing its credibility, and possibly its grip, on North Kensington. Continue reading

RBKC Scrutiny #1 Grenfell United in Parliament

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There have been plenty of significant developments in North Kensington as Kensington and Chelsea council (RBKC) and the local population deal with the fallout from the entirely preventable June 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, where 72 people died. The mainstream media might be busy elsewhere, but there is still a lot going on. With justice and change still not forthcoming, it is important to maintain a factual record and keep up the scrutiny…

Grenfell United

Our updates start in parliament with the survivors and bereaved group Grenfell United (GU) bearing witness to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee on the situation regarding housing conditions nationwide and developments with RBKC. Although GU’s latest testimony to lawmakers had little or no media pickup, it was of the utmost significance to those wanting to understand what has been happening in Kensington and possible future developments. Continue reading