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Farringdon Within Election

My 3-minute ‘speech’ at tonight’s Farringdon Within Ward Mote

Hello, I’m Virginia Rounding, and I was previously a Councillor in this Ward from 2011 to 2017, and would now like to take up the cudgels on your behalf again.

To summarise, and briefly expand on, the pledges contained in my election leaflet:

If elected, I commit myself to being available and attentive to your needs and concerns and, in particular, to help you get answers and navigate your way through what can at times appear like a byzantine system. The Corporation’s website, for instance, hides a wealth of information but it remains difficult to get at it. I will lobby to get that improved – a far more useful, comprehensive and engaging Contact Us page, for example, is needed, with clear links to clear answers and routes to information – but in the meantime, and in addition, I am prepared to provide that route, where necessary. People often tell me that, on balance, they enjoy living and working in the City – it can be and often is, a great place – but it is the accumulation of minor irritants – noise, roadworks, lack of sufficient recycling facilities, sometimes an overall sense of powerlessness to get issues addressed – that gets people down. I aim to improve that situation, including being available to advise and assist with crafting objections, when necessary, to poor planning or inappropriate licensing applications. In the worst case scenario, I do have hands-on experience of helping residents put together the evidence for a licence review. And I must stress that when I was last a Councillor I did this as part of a team of members, and that’s how I would do it again – it’s in working together that we get things done.

I will maintain pressure on City planners to improve the management of what used to be called ‘shared space’ – I learnt from one of the electors during this campaign that that term has fallen out of favour among urban designers – because actually we’re not very good at sharing space, with the competing demands of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, all of us in a hurry to get to where we’re going. I intend to champion the use of good research about street design and road safety, from wherever it comes in the world – such as that carried out by the Project for Public Space in New York – as well as pressing for more actual physical evidence to be collected here in the City about people’s behaviour at busy intersections – so that we don’t rely on anecdote or theory, but on what actually happens. One place where more evidence needs to be collected, and acted on – even if that just means banging on at Transport for London – is at Ludgate Circus, but that’s not the only place.

The austerity imposed by central government over the last few years has hit local authorities hard, and the City Corporation – in its role as a local authority, if not in all its other activities – is no exception. At a time when everything is being looked at to see if costs can be cut, I will add my voice to the need to maintain not just basic services, but all those strategies and initiatives that lead to people’s wellbeing – from protection from crime and the fear of crime, to the overwhelming need to improve our air quality and to combat climate change, to the provision of adequate healthcare for what is an expanding population of residents in our Ward, to the implementation and monitoring of an improved Homelessness Strategy.

And I add to that that I am politically independent, and passionately committed to equality and diversity, and to teamwork.

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Farringdon Within Election

The value of independence in local politics

At a time when party politics can appear increasingly toxic, it is a strength of local politics in the City that the vast majority of City councillors do not operate on a party-political basis. It is vital that, on issues affecting local residents and workers, as well as stakeholders in other areas managed by the City Corporation- from housing estates to open spaces – Councillors should be able to work together to determine the best outcomes, irrespective of the differences they may have in political viewpoint and ideology. For members to be subjected to a party-whipping system when determining policy, or for card-carrying electors to be ‘instructed’ to vote on a party-political basis, rather than by determining who they think would best represent them and their local concerns, would be a step in the wrong direction.
The vast majority of the 100 Common Councilmen and 25 Aldermen who make up the City’s Court of Common Council declare themselves as ‘independent’, even if quite a few of them are signed-up members of political parties. And for the purposes of their role in the City Corporation, they are indeed independent – often fiercely so. The advantage of this is that each issue which arises is discussed on its merits; alliances among members are of course formed, but these will change depending on the issue at hand. In my previous stint as a Common Councilman, there were many members with whom I would not agree politically with a capital ‘p’, with whom I do not share a ‘worldview’, but with whom I could work in full accord and effectively in order to address some matter of local concern, from roadworks to almshouse maintenance to oak processionary moth. There was never any question of a ‘party line’, a sense that because A did not agree with B about, say, the benefits of laisser faire capitalism, B could not expect support from A when advocating for traffic lights to be installed at a dangerous junction.
In these days of fragmented politics, with many people feeling disenfranchised – unable to support the manifesto of any political party in its entirety – should not more local councils go the way of the City Corporation and embrace independence for its elected members? Rather than the City Corporation going the way of a tired old system in the way the City Labour Party seems to want it to?
Independence has its costs – particularly at election time, when you don’t have an army of party volunteers to help stuff your envelopes and accompany you in your canvassing. But it’s still worth fighting for.
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Farringdon Within Election

Why I am standing in the City by-election on 24th July

VR photo #6 smallI have been involved in City of London life since I first moved into a flat in Long Lane in 1997. My side of the street was then in Farringdon Without, boundary changes bringing it ‘Within’ a few years later. I subsequently moved out of the Ward, but continued to be closely involved with it through my long-term association with the Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great, and now work only a few minutes’ walk away.

I was a Councillor for the Ward from 2011 to 2017 and, in these last two years away from the Court of Common Council but still in the City, I have taken the time to reflect: on my personal achievements – on ‘what I have done and what I have left undone’ – and, more widely, on what works well in how the City Corporation manages itself and on what needs to change. I would now like to take up the cudgels again on behalf of residents and workers in the Ward.

I have also focused on the Ward in my profession as a historian and writer, my most recent book (published by Macmillan in 2017) having been The Burning Time: The Story of the Smithfield Martyrs, described in The Times as ‘gruesomely entertaining’. I believe my historical perspective assists in understanding how change and development have affected, and will continue to affect, the area, and enables me to approach such change with sensitivity for the needs of residents and other stakeholders.

In the other aspect of my professional life, I have been Clerk to the Worshipful Company of Builders’ Merchants, a Modern Livery Company, for nearly three years, having previously been Clerk to the Guild of Public Relations Practitioners – and, before that, having worked in administrative roles for various organisations, including St Bartholomew the Great, the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, and the Consort of Musicke, a renowned vocal and instrumental ensemble.

During my earlier six years as a Common Councillor, I worked with other Councillors and local residents to address noise issues in various parts of the Ward, including Carter Lane and Cloth Fair, and took an active role in both licensing and planning matters, in formulating objections where appropriate and assisting others to do so. I also chaired two Corporation committees: the Hampstead Heath Management Committee and the Housing Management Sub-Committee, which looks after the City’s almshouses and social housing estates, located in the City and in several neighbouring boroughs.

Virginia was fantastic to work with. She was knowledgeable, understood the issues facing residents, approached problems with immense common-sense, and was always prepared to speak up and fight for local people. As Chair of Housing Sub-Committee, she was passionate about social housing, and helping vulnerable tenants in particular. Residents appreciated her compassion and the fact that she made the time to talk to them and to listen. And staff had huge respect and liking for her because she worked so constructively and effectively with us. 

[Jacquie Campbell, former Assistant Director, Housing & Neighbourhoods, City of London]

At a time when party politics can appear increasingly toxic, it is a strength of local government in the City that the vast majority of City councillors do not operate on a party-political basis. It is vital that, on issues affecting local residents and workers, as well as stakeholders in other areas managed by the City Corporation – from housing estates to open spaces – Councillors should be able to work together to determine the best outcomes, irrespective of the differences they may have in political viewpoint and ideology.

The issues currently facing Farringdon Within are numerous, ranging from national and global problems (climate change, poor air quality, homelessness,  the uncertainties related to Brexit) to the very specific challenges surrounding the advent of Crossrail, the Barts Square development, relocations of Museum and Market, and the emergence of the Culture Mile, all bringing increased footfall and transport ‘corridors’ to the area.

All these issues need to be handled with sensitivity, in a non-partisan and collaborative spirit, but with a willingness to ask difficult questions, raise appropriate objections and hold developers and planners to account. I will do this.

 

Promoted by Virginia Rounding of 4 College Hill, London EC4R 2RB

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Farringdon Within Election

My pledges as a candidate in the City of London by-election in Farringdon Within

  • I will not make false or reckless promises just to get votes but, if elected, I will always be attentive to the concerns of residents and workers in the Ward and argue forcefully on their behalf for what can be achieved.
  • I will work to make it easier for those who live and/or work in the Ward to report issues of concern and to be sure that their comments, queries or complaints are followed up.
  • I will maintain pressure on City planners to improve the management of shared space, so that all road users, including pedestrians, can move around the City in safety.
  • I will work with the existing team in this and neighbouring Wards to maintain pressure on Transport for London to re-address traffic flow and crossing times at Ludgate Circus.
  • I will champion the needs of the City of London Police in resisting further budget cuts.
  • I will be an independent, non-party-political, voice in representing electors’ concerns and working to improve the quality of life in our Ward, our City, and wherever the City Corporation’s influence extends.

 

Promoted by Virginia Rounding of 4 College Hill, London EC4R 2RB

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Farringdon Within Election

By-election in Farringdon Within on 24th July

I am currently standing for election to the City’s Court of Common Council in the Ward of Farringdon Within, and here is my Election Flyer.

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Why vote for me in the Castle Baynard by-election?

VR photo #3

  • I have a track record of achievement from my earlier period as a Councillor in the City (for the Ward of Farringdon Within from 2011 to 2017). Those achievements include:

¨      Working with fellow Common Councilman Henrika Priest (a current member for Castle Baynard) to make life better for residents in Carter Lane and its environs by getting licensed premises to respect the terms of their late-night licences, agreeing MoUs between licensees and residents, and facilitating effective two-way communication.

¨      For several years I chaired and helped organise a Community Police Forum, involving representatives from the Ward policing team and residents and workers from the three adjacent Wards of Castle Baynard, Farringdon Within and Farringdon Without. Although the shape of Ward policing has changed since then, I will, if elected, seek to reinstate regular meetings of this Forum, in order to ensure effective face-to-face communication between the City of London Police and the communities they serve.

¨      As Chairman of the Hampstead Heath Management Committee, getting the City Corporation to listen to local feeling and to reverse its policy on new café leases – see https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/apr/10/cafe-serves-another-day-protest-hampstead-heath-benugo – and working with officers to develop a better system of genuine and effective consultation.

¨      Working with residents and business owners to prepare objections, based on solid planning grounds, to mitigate the negative aspects of major developments in the City and improve overall schemes wherever possible.

¨      Being Chair of  Governors of the City Academy Hackney, a school which is achieving some of the best results in Hackney and which is justly proud of the safe and stimulating environment it provides for its students.

¨      Overseeing the successful resettlement of residents at a sheltered housing scheme (Mais House), prior to its redevelopment to provide more units of affordable, general needs, housing.

  • Having been a Common Councilman, including being a Committee Chairman, means that I can start acting effectively on constituents’ behalf as soon as I am elected. I know who to go to within the City of London Corporation to get residents’ and workers’ voices heard and I don’t have to negotiate a steep learning curve; but neither will I make unrealistic promises.
  • I work as Clerk to a Livery Company, the Worshipful Company of Builders’ Merchants, based at College Hill near Cannon Street Station – so I understand what it’s like to work and move around in the City, and am close at hand.
  • I know the Ward of Castle Baynard well from having represented its neighbouring Ward of Farringdon Within for 6 years, and from having worked closely with several existing Castle Baynard Councillors.
  • I’m also a writer and historian (specialising in both Russian and London history) which has given me plenty of experience in public speaking and in presenting an argument succinctly and persuasively. (You may have heard me recently on BBC Radio 4’s Great Lives, for instance, talking with Matthew Parris and Barbara Stocking about the life of Catherine the Great.)
  • I’m also a good listener. I believe the best results are achieved through mutual respect and a willingness to understand other points of view, while not being afraid to express, and stand by, one’s own.

The by-election to elect one Common Councilman for the Ward of Castle Baynard will take place on Tuesday 9th October at the Shoe Lane Library, Little Hill House, Little New Street, London EC4A 3JR, from 8am to 8pm.

On the day before the election, Monday 8th October, at 6pm, a Ward Mote will be held, also at the Shoe Lane Library, when electors will be able to ask questions of the candidates.

[Promoted by Virginia Rounding of 4 College Hill, London EC4R 2RB]

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Life goes on…

despite the City elections.  Over the last couple of weeks, my activities as a Common Councilman have included a visit to The City Academy Hackney where I’m one of the City-elected governors. As someone with a languages background (my BA degree was in Russian Language & Literature), I take a particular interest in the teaching of Modern Foreign Languages, & so I sat in on parts of two Spanish lessons & one French, all with Year 9 students. The lessons seemed a lot better designed to get the students talking than when I was at school, & there was a strong emphasis on the value of learning foreign languages for future career options. There was an element of humour too – I loved the way the student deemed to have made the most effort in the previous French lesson was rewarded by being given a string of garlic & a red beret to wear! Then in the evening I was back at the Academy for a governors’ meeting.

Otherwise, apart from the Court of Common Council meeting on 7th March (the draft minutes of which can be found here), this month has been kept relatively free of committee meetings – partly so that we can have some time to devote to our election campaigns. But I have managed to write up & circulate the minutes of the most recent West Area Police Community Forum meeting.

It is of course very difficult to do diary management at the moment, as every entry to do with the City Corporation has to have the caveat: ‘if I’m re-elected’.

And otherwise, in addition to e-mailing & leafleting, I’ve got on with the rest of my life – from proofreading a Ph.D thesis on the National Program of Public Works under the Rojas regime in Bogota, via reviewing a new biography of Rebecca West (West’s World: The Life and Times of Rebecca West) for the Daily Telegraph, to making preparations for the Spring Dinner of the Guild of Public Relations Practitioners to be held at Armourers’ Hall in April.

Tomorrow it’s the Ward Mote (12 noon at Cutlers’ Hall), and then the elections on Thursday.  And I am rather looking forward to them being over, whichever way the voting goes.

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City Elections: To Slate or not to Slate

According to the Guidance issued to candidates and agents, at City of London elections candidates can be considered ‘joint candidates’ if they do any of the following:

  • employ the same election agent
  • use the services of the same clerk or messengers
  • hire or use the same committee rooms at an election
  • publish joint addresses, circulars or notices at elections.

Such joint candidature is colloquially known as a ‘slate’, and candidates are running as slates in several Wards in the current City elections.  Reasons for doing so may include wishing to share the workload of delivering leaflets and communicating with electors, wanting to spare the electors a deluge of flyers through their letterboxes or e-mails in their in-trays, or because a group of candidates believe they genuinely have something to offer collectively which they could not necessarily offer as individuals.  Or maybe, for some, the slate represents, as suggested to me recently by one voter, ‘a cynical electoral vehicle’ – i.e., they hope to get elected almost by default, by presenting themselves as part of a ‘team’.

It has been suggested (by, for instance, Peter Kenyon, standing as the Labour Party candidate in the Ward of Aldersgate) that such groupings ought to register as political parties.  But people standing as slates in the City are clear that they are not political parties but merely, as described above, ‘joint candidates’.  The election material for some slates makes this very clear, with each individual member being given space to summarise their own past contributions, concerns,  and aspirations if elected.  On some election material, however, there is less space for this individual slant, and this may give rise to confusion and to a sense that the slate is less transparent than a political party would be, that there is perhaps an underlying dogma or ideology of which the electors are unaware.  At least with a political party you know what the manifesto is, the argument goes, whereas with a slate, you see only what the organisers of the slate choose to show you.  Such suspicions may appear to be bolstered when electors see that individual members of a slate are closely involved with, for instance, the Young Britons Foundation or, for that matter, Freemasonry.

So why have I decided, unlike most of my colleagues in Farringdon Within, not to stand as part of a slate?  For one thing, I want to be able to stand on my personal record of my first two years as a Common Councilman (I was elected in a by-election in March 2011).  Secondly, I was very mindful of the reaction of some of the electors I met during my campaign for that by-election, who expressed precisely the view I have mentioned above – that a ‘slate’ is less transparent than a party-political programme, and undermines the very concept of the ‘independent’ candidate.  I want electors to see clearly what they are getting if they vote for me.  I don’t want to appear even tangentially connected with groups and ideologies that are very far from my own convictions (which are, for the record, left of centre,  passionately pro-European, with a bias towards the poor, and very far removed from the right-wing young hopefuls of the YBF).  I want to retain my independence in how I present myself, as well as in what I stand for, and so for me not being part of the slate was the obvious choice.

[Promoted by Virginia Rounding of Flat 3, 136-138 Hoxton Street, London. N1 6SH]

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City Elections 2013: ‘Pledges’

In January, like most of my fellow Common Councilmen, I received an e-mail from Naomi Colvin of the City Reform Group, asking me to sign up to what she called ‘our Pledges’.  These were listed as:

1.     We will promote commerce within the City on the basis of its ability to serve its customers.

2.     We will allocate resources in order to promote fiduciary standards and responsible business practice.

3.     We will not be afraid to speak out when we encounter practice that falls below the highest standards.

4.     We will recognise our responsibility to the common good.

5.     We will administer the Corporation democratically, efficiently and accountably.

6.     We will be open and transparent in all our dealings

7.     As elected officials, each year we will publicly report on how we have met these pledges.

 

Here is what I replied today:

Dear Naomi,

Thank you for your message in January.  As you will see from the publication of nominations today, I am indeed standing for re-election on 21st March.  As a Common Councilman, I am fully signed up to the Members’ Code of Conduct which includes adherence to the following General Principles for standards in public life:

Selflessness – members should serve only the public interest and should never improperly confer an advantage or disadvantage on any person.

Honesty and integrity – members should not place themselves in situations where their honesty and integrity may be questioned, should not behave improperly and should on all occasions avoid the appearance of such behaviour.

Objectivity – members should make decisions on merit, including when making appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards or benefits.

Accountability – members should be accountable to the public for their actions and the manner in which they carry out their responsibilities, and should co-operate fully and honestly with any scrutiny appropriate to their particular office.

Openness – members should be as open as possible about their actions and those of their authority, and should be prepared to give reasons for those actions.

Personal judgement – members may take account of the views of others, including their political groups, but should reach their own conclusions on the issues before them and act in accordance with those conclusions.

Respect for others – members should promote equality by not discriminating unlawfully against any person, and by treating people with respect regardless of their race, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability. They should respect the impartiality and integrity of the authority’s statutory officers and its other employees.

Duty to uphold the law – members should uphold the law and, on all occasions, act in accordance with the trust that the public is entitled to place in them.

Stewardship – members should do whatever they are able to do to ensure that their authorities use their resources prudently and in accordance with the law.

Leadership – members should promote and support these principles by leadership, and by example, and should act in a way that secures or preserves public confidence.

I will of course continue to abide by such principles if re-elected (&, indeed, if not re-elected!) & do not feel it necessary to sign any further ‘pledges’ drawn up by a grouping of which I am not a member or connected to in any way.  If any of the electors of my Ward of Farringdon Within wish to discuss anything they would like me to pledge myself to, that would be a different matter, as they are the people I am here to serve.

With best wishes,

 

Virginia Rounding

Common Councilman for Farringdon Within