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.

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.

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

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


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

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