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Rosh Hashanah greetings

Sep 24

Shanah Tovah to everyone in Redbridge celebrating Rosh Hashanah today.

I hope this year is as sweet as the last!

A Levels, Skills and Education

Aug 22

Congratulations to everyone in Redbridge who got their GCSE and A Level results over the last week or so! I hope you all got what you wanted and I can only imagine how great it must feel for the wait to be over and get the weight off your shoulders.

I wanted to take the opportunity to write a little bit about the importance of education and skills not just for getting a job but also for personal development and fairness.

Over the last couple of decades we’ve seen huge changes to our economy. Britain used to be called the ‘workshop of the world’, with a huge manufacturing base employing a large proportion of the UK’s population. The world has changed significantly since then and the workshop has changed too, into an office, a lab, a university, or more or less anywhere with a high-speed internet connection.

New technologies and the knowledge economy have fundamentally altered the way we work, and generate growth and prosperity. This is why training and qualifications that match up to the demand for specific skills are so important to make sure that growth happens in an equitable and sustainable way.

Redbridge schools perform highly, with a large number of local schools receiving excellent ratings from Ofsted and consistently helping students achieve well above the national average in key exams. I am confident that we are doing well at providing our young people with a top quality education that can set them up for life.  In fact, over 66 per cent of the borough’s young people go on to university, which is way above the London average (56 per cent).

But in addition to the university route, we need high quality vocational education and youth apprenticeships which meet the needs of the local labour market.

The Council is already working hard to make this happen. Since 2009 we have run our own in-house apprenticeship scheme which has placed over 90 apprentices into hard to recruit posts such as social care, highways and horticulture. The scheme helps apprentices attain nationally recognised professional qualifications which will properly equip them to develop their careers.

The Council also works closely with local private and third sector employers to help residents take advantage of employment opportunities across the Borough.

The Work Redbridge Jobs and Training Fair will take place on the Thursday 18 September from 10am in Ilford Town Hall. A wide range of employers will be there, including City Airport, Sainsbury’s, ToysRUs, Adecco and Compass, to name but a few. It’s a great opportunity to speak directly to companies who are looking for new staff now, and who will be able to give some insider tips about getting the right job, training or apprenticeship.

But education isn’t just about growth –  it makes us who we are as people. It expands our horizons and enables us to make meaningful choices. Education lies at the heart of an active and engaged citizenry who can take part in our democratic processes and shape the world around them for the better.

The fact that we take the education of younger generations so seriously in Redbridge, that we will not kick away the ladders that so many of my generation benefitted from, should be a source of pride and a considerable source of hope for the future.

Operation Liberal

Jul 31

This week saw the Council’s Trading Standards Service working with a wide range of partners to carry out another successful Operation Liberal, cracking down on rogue traders and distraction burglars operating in the borough.

Operation Liberal targets a particular type of rogue trading. This includes ‘distraction burglary’ where a trick is used to get access into someone’s home to steal something from them, through to extortion and intimidation where groups of individuals will carry out repairs on someone’s property for huge fees, threatening them with violence if they don’t pay up or if they try to speak out.

These kinds of rogue traders frequently target elderly or vulnerable people.

Operation Liberal tackles the problem head on by putting enforcement officers out on the streets to give a strong message that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated in our borough.

The team challenge traders in local hotspots to prove their credentials to make sure the work they are doing meets legal standards and has been properly solicited by the people they are working for.

I was delighted to hear that over the course of two days this month, the Trading Standards Service stopped over 42 individuals to make sure they were acting within the law. Five notices were issued by Streetscene and the Trading Standards Service advised six businesses of their legal obligations to residents.

As a Borough, crime has been falling year on year. The statistics tell us Redbridge is as safe a place to live as it ever has been. These kinds of visible enforcement activities can make Redbridge feel safer so that perceptions meet reality.

As we promised to do in our manifesto pledges, we are working towards increasing the street presence of uniformed officers to tackle anti-social behaviour.  We are getting tough on fly-tipping and making sure our streets are regularly swept.

Making a difference to these day-to-day issues will improve the quality of life for people living in Redbridge and that is exactly what the new Labour administration is all about.

My Cabinet and I are committed to making Redbridge a greener and fairer Borough, where we are all proud to live. I want to take the opportunity to commend the excellent work being done by the Trading Standards team as a step in the right direction.

Happy Eid al-Fitr

Jul 29

I would like to wish everyone in Redbridge celebrating the end of Ramadan yesterday a happy Eid al-Fitr. I can only imagine how tough it must have been this year, with the heat and the long days.

This year’s festivities are also overshadowed by the tragic events still unfolding in Middle East. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone, whatever their faith, for the safety and wellbeing of loved ones who may be affected by the conflict.

Area Committees

Jul 18

Last night’s full Council meeting saw the end of Area Committees and their replacement with Local Forums.

We feel this decision will allow many more residents to get involved in Council decision-making as the Council faces difficult challenges ahead to find more savings.

Challenging times ahead

We need to get real about the size of the challenge the Council faces.

In Redbridge, we know that by 2018 we will need to save around £70 million. This is almost twice as much as the last administration had to deliver, and what’s more, these are the savings that will pose the biggest challenge to the way the Council delivers the services that residents rely on day-in day-out.

Unfortunately, we’re already approaching the point where we can’t squeeze any more out of the back office. We’re not alone in this, two thirds of councils across the country report that they are deeply concerned that further cuts can’t be delivered without significantly affecting frontline services.

We need fresh ideas

What has this got to do with Area Committees? As the above suggests, the nature of the conversation the Council has with residents needs to change. We have to find a way of talking to residents about the ‘bigger picture’ of service transformation and our vision for how the organisation will look in 2018. We can’t continue with business as usual – without fresh ideas from officers, councillors and the public, the Council simply won’t survive.

Area committees were a costly and slow way of making decisions. They drained Council resources by placing huge demands on officer time and gave a voice to only a tiny proportion of residents – generally repeat customers with the sticking power to sit through lengthy meetings and wade through thick agendas. It also meant conversations about issues affecting the Borough as a whole rarely took place as residents were split by area.

New proposals offer a dynamic and exciting debate

Our new proposals will revamp the way the Council engages with residents, giving them the opportunity to find support from a wide range of public, private and voluntary sector organisations. It will also provide a clear and transparent forum to hold the Council’s senior management and political leadership to account.

We want to encourage dynamic and exciting debate about what really matters. We want to take advantage of online platforms and social media to make sure as many people are included in the conversation as possible. While a couple of dozen people used to turn up to area committee meetings, Redbridge i has over 80,000 registered users. The case for change is clear: we need to bring the Council up-to-date with the ways people communicate with each other in the 21st century.

Involving everyone

Too often in the past Area Committees were seen as a way of replacing surgeries and other forms of meaningful engagement. These changes mean that councillors are going to have to work harder, and can no longer hide beyond officers or bureaucratic processes. They will have to bring together their knowledge of the Council with their expert insights into their communities to become meaningful advocates for change.

These next few years is all about pushing ourselves to the limits to find innovative ways of redesigning public services in Redbridge.

That’s what the conversation at the new Local Forums will be, and everyone – all sections of the community, not just the same familiar faces– must be involved to make sure we do not leave anyone behind.