This week I have spent some time with the City of London Police to better understand the City’s responsibilities under the government’s Prevent Strategy. Section 26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (the Act) places a duty on local authorities and school to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. Intelligence indicates that a terrorist attack in our country is ‘substantial’. Experience tells us that the threat comes not just from foreign nationals but also from terrorists born and bred in Britain. Through the City’s work at the Old Bailey, I have seen this first hand. It is, therefore, vital that the government’s counter-terrorism strategy contains a plan to prevent radicalisation and identify potential terrorists and implement structures of support to ensure that never becomes a reality.
This week also saw my return to the Guildhall’s Great Hall for a full meeting of the Court of Common Council. One of the major topics for discussion was to consider the proposals from the Tackling Racism Taskforce in relation to the statues of William Beckford and Sir John Cass within the Guildhall. Both Beckford and Cass had played an active roll in the Slave Trade. Many believed that the grand statues of these individuals should no longer should be celebrated in the historic building. However, a consultation showed that 71% of external and 75% of internal consultees had expressed a desire for the statues to remain.
This decision is also in-line with recent government guidance. The costs of removal from the Grade I listed building would be more than £100,000, in addition to extensive resourcing to manage listed building status approvals. Therefore, the Court agreed the recommendations to ‘retail and explain’ policy. None of us can wash over the stains of our country’s past, but we can better education ourselves and those around us to ensure we continue to work for inclusion and diversity. It is one of the reasons I actually like still being referred to as a ‘Common Councillor’ – I am elected to serve. For those interested, more information can be found in the report here.
The Court also participated in the election of a new Chief Commoner and the successful candidate was my Bishopsgate Ward colleague, Simon Duckworth. The new Chief will take up post next, which is set to be particularly eventful with Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. More to follow on these events.
I’ve also participated in a number of meetings in my role as Deputy Chairman of the Epping Forest & Commons Committee. We have held a local meeting of the Members to receive updates from Officers and provide additional guidance on matters arising. I have also met with the new Executive Director of the Environment at the City of London, who has only been in post for a short time to help prioritise workload. I have met with Councillors from the London Borough of Waltham Forest to keep them appraised of the work we are doing across the Forest. This week I have also been discussing the progress of the Charities Review, which is considering the governance and operating effectiveness of 9 charities, including those in the Open Spaces. It is an area which requires change to ensure the City, as Corporate Trustee, is having the best impact possible.
During the course of the week ahead, we have the Education Board strategy day, a meeting of the Open Spaces and City Gardens Committee, a meeting of the Finance Committee, a Members Briefing following the political party conferences and a visit to West Wickham, Spring Park and Coulsdon Commons. Never a dull moment in the Square Mile…