This week marks the four-year anniversary of the London Bridge terror attack – a horrific act which took the lives of eight innocent people and injured almost 50 others, writes Southwark Council leader Cllr Kieron Williams…
The memorial service was a deeply sad and moving moment. As I stood alongside London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the Bishop of Southwark and representatives of our emergency services and local community my heart went out to all those who have been left grieving. I was reminded too of the incredible bravery of those who intervened that night to save the lives others.
There are so many reasons to be proud of our borough but one of the greatest has to be our community’s rejection of hate. The terrorists who attacked on that awful night sought to divide us, but in the wake of the attack our community came together, to condemn the attackers and offer our support to all those affected. As Leader of the Council I am determined to keep bring our community together, to make Southwark a better and fairer place for everyone in our community.
Last week we saw another tragic anniversary that has impacted on our borough in a very different way. The murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis last year sparked protests around the world against racism, injustice and inequality. In Southwark we listened carefully and reflected on the changes we need to make here in our own community, and so we launched Southwark Stands Together. This programme was built to make sure that at every level, and in everything we do, we remain actively anti-racist, fair, representative, and supportive of all our people – and that we work together to do that.
Having listened, we are taking real action to address inequalities that people told us they are deeply worried about. Including action to reduce the number of children who are unnecessarily excluded from school and to make the use of ‘stop and search’ by the police fairer, both being issues that disproportionally and unfairly affect our Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. As well as action to make sure local boards of school governors and of local charities, as well as the top of the workforce of our council are more representative of the local community they serve.
Last week I also announced my new leadership team for our borough who will be standing shoulder to shoulder with you as we as we cautiously emerge from lockdown. They are a Cabinet team who reflect the rich diversity of our borough. Together we will continue to deliver on the issues that matter most; keep our community safe from COVID, tackling the housing crisis, supporting our local economy, greening our borough to deal with the climate emergency and delivering a new Youth Deal.
I am particularly excited about our new Youth Deal to support the next generation of Southwark residents. Our children and young people have been hard hit by this pandemic, with their education disrupted and a jobs market that looks especially hard for young people starting out in the world of work. Our Southwark Youth Deal is creating real opportunities for local young people, helping them into jobs, apprenticeships, paid internships or with scholarships to go to university. As well as investment in our youth services, adventure playgrounds and young people’s mental health services too.
We are shaping our Youth Deal by listening to, and hearing from, young people themselves. That is why we will launch Southwark’s new Youth Parliament next month, to ensure there is a formal, trusted route for Southwark’s young adults to engage with the council at the highest levels.
Whoever you are in the borough, whatever your background, I hope you can see that we mean it when I say that this council is on your side, and we will build the views, aspirations and values of residents into everything we do.
Only then can we move forward together.