This week, we would like to celebrate the hard work and determination of residents in Queen’s Park in London, who successfully set up a community council last year.
In 2007, the Government passed the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act, which, among other provisions, permitted the creation of community councils in London, with the aim of improving community control in urban areas.
Seven years later, residents of Queen’s Park in North Westminster made history by voting in inner London’s first ever parish council.
The Campaign for a Community Council in Queen’s Park (QP) was the first to make use of this relatively new power, with funding from NALC and the DCLG’s New Councils programme. The establishment of the council was the culmination of years of hard work by Queen’s Park residents, supported by the Westminster Council and Paddington Development Trust.
The ward has a long and impressive history of community engagement on which the community council can build to address the area’s high levels of unemployment and deprivation; and Westminster Council, through its 2012 Community Governance Review, laid the foundations for residents throughout the borough to take a greater role in shaping their neighbourhoods.
The area has a population of 12,750, and ranks high on the list of London’s most deprived wards, along with the nearby neighbourhoods of Harrow Road, Westbourne and Church Street, which is why the Queen’s Park Community Forum was created in 2003.
This politically-independent elected body worked closely with area stakeholders and service users to tailor community services (such as park management and neighbourhood planning) to local needs, as well as organising twice-yearly festivals and trips for young people. The forum was popular but was put in jeopardy in 2008, when funding dried up as a result of the recession.
Paddington Development Trust (PDT), which has worked with the Queen’s Park community for around 10 years to empower residents and facilitate local solutions to the area’s problems, helped members of the forum explore alternatives, such as independent fundraising and greater use of volunteers.
PDT also raised the possibility of forming a parish council, which was attractive as it opened the possibility of a guaranteed income stream, providing stability and independence for activists to continue working for the community.
Angela Singhate, the chair of Queen’s Park Community Council, outlined the community’s priorities: helping vulnerable residents, especially the old and isolated; providing activities for young people and maintaining the Avenues Youth Centre; working with local police to improve community safety and cleanliness; and helping people access local jobs through building links with businesses and making skills and training workshops available.
A long-time resident and former teacher, Singhate also stressed the effort that had gone into building community engagement and support for the community council (and the forum before it) through regular meetings and door-to-door outreach. The elected representatives on the new council reflect the diversity of the area, with councillors of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds.
NALC would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Queen’s Park on such an achievement; the hard work and determination of everyone involved in the creation of the new council is commendable. Queen’s Park is leading the way for many of the new council campaign groups that follow in its footsteps around the country which you can read about here.