I was first elected to the Court of Common Council as a member for Farringdon Within in a by-election in March 2011, and was re-elected for a four-year term in March 2013. I am now seeking re-election for a further four-year term.
There are 8 seats in Farringdon Within (it’s a large Ward), and 15 people contesting them. So what makes me stand out as worthy of your vote? In no particular order:
• I’ve been around long enough, but not too long. You need a bit of a track record to get taken seriously at Guildhall and to begin to exercise some influence on committees (where the decisions get made). But if you have too long a track record, you can get stale (and people stop listening to you). After my six years on the Court – and as a chairman of a committee and of a sub-committee – I’m at the right stage to be really useful over the next four years.
• I have a track record of working with residents to bring about positive change and to avoid the worst effects of late-night licences, multiple road works, disruptive developments, inadequate parking enforcement, and crowded streets and pavements. I don’t make false promises and can’t work miracles, but I do know how to make effective representations to planning and licensing committees.
• One of the things I’m proudest of in my last four years as a Councilman is having successfully challenged the City of London Corporation’s official line over the café leases on Hampstead Heath (I’m currently chairman of the committee that oversees its management). I turned the mood at an initially acrimonious public meeting – see this piece in The Observer – by agreeing that the Corporation had got it wrong on this occasion, and that we had not consulted properly. Since then we have been doing far more listening and working much better with all our stakeholders. Spending time on the management of the Heath and other North London Open Spaces may seem a far cry from the concerns of Farringdon Within – though I hope all residents and workers in the City do sometimes manage to get up to the Heath – but the way I have steered this committee through some choppy waters does demonstrate that I’m an independent voice, can get things done, and am not afraid to take a stand.
• Another thing I’m proud of is having been Chair of Governors of The City Academy Hackney. I take no particular credit for the fact that my chairmanship happened to coincide with the most spectacular GCSE results achieved by our students, but it still gives me great pleasure to think that I may have made some contribution to improving the life-chances of young people in an area of deprivation in a neighbouring borough.
• The other aspect of the City Corporation’s activities I’ve been most involved with over the last few years is the management of its social housing estates. (There are two in the Square Mile, and ten others spread over six London boroughs.) This has included working on a programme to build 700 new homes, as a small contribution to helping solve the capital’s housing crisis.
It will be clear by now that much of what Common Councilmen get involved in – if I’m at all typical – is only indirectly related to the concerns of the people who elect them. This can be a problem, and there’s no point denying it by pretending at election time that one’s interests are narrower than they actually are. The Corporation is more than a local authority – it has irons in a lot of fires – so when you decide who to vote for, you may want to consider more than who will best represent your personal concerns about life in the Ward but also think about who shares your wider concerns for the future of our capital city.
A few things about me:
• I am Clerk (three days a week) to the Worshipful Company of Builders’ Merchants, with an office in College Hill (near Cannon Street station);
• I’m also a freelance editor and proofreader, and have been a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the Courtauld Institute of Art;
• I have been involved at the church of St Bartholomew the Great, as singer, server and PCC member (not all at once) since 1987, and am currently the Parish Clerk;
• I’m an author – of history – and have a book coming out in April about the martyrs burnt at the stake in West Smithfield in the mid-sixteenth century;
• I’m not standing as part of a ‘slate’ as I feel they lack transparency, and would rather speak for myself.
I would very much like to be given the opportunity to make a further contribution to the life of the City of London, and to continue to be an independent and effective voice for the people of Farringdon Within, for the next four years. If you are an elector, please use 1 of your 8 votes to vote for me.
Produced and promoted by Virginia Rounding, of 4 College Hill, London EC4R 2RB