Recognising the growing disparities between Queen’s Park and other parts of Westminster, a group of residents took the opportunity presented by the 2007 change in legislation. They began their campaign to form the Community Council on Saturday, 22nd January 2011, at a public meeting in the Beethoven Centre. Their aim was straightforward: to empower local people to make decisions addressing local issues.
The Campaigners needed at least 10% of the registered voters to sign the petition requesting that the City Council permit forming a Community Council. The group mobilised residents with the message: “Your Community Needs You” and distributed booklets outlining the need for local decision-making. Since Queen’s Park is one of the poorest areas in the City, the campaign was an uphill battle as the new Community Council would raise its funds through a ‘precept’ – a small addition to the council tax paid by residents. However, the campaigners made their case to residents and gained momentum. In the end, a thousand six hundred residents signed the petition.
On Monday, 9th May 2011, Campaigners presented their petition to the City Council Leader Colin Barrow and Chief Executive Mike More. Following this, the City Council launched a community governance review, consulting community groups on whether they supported the setting up of a Community Council. When the results of this consultation came back in favour, the City Council called a referendum – the final step in deciding whether or not to form a Community Council. The referendum took place in 2012, and with 70% of votes in favour, forming a Community Council was permitted. However, the City Council ruled that the election of Community Councillors could only take place in 2014 when local ward Council elections were due to take place.
Getting to work
Despite this, the campaigners kept the momentum. A Development Group was set up and got to work consulting with residents to discuss and agree on policies and procedures that would guide the new Community Council. One critical commitment from these discussions was that the new Community Council would be non-partisan, and all Councillors would primarily serve the interests of local people rather than political party affiliations. The group also ran various other activities and projects, such as the Queen’s Park Summer Festival, the Fireworks Display and the installation of new equipment in the Queen’s Park Gardens.
The First Elections
On 22nd May 2014, seventeen local people stood in the elections to become Community Councillors. The first twelve democratically elected Community Councillors were announced in the early hours of the following day. Voter turnout at this local election was among the highest ever.
Continuing the Work
Within the first year, Queen’s Park Community Council continued the projects started by the Development Group and initiated a range of new projects, including:
- Initiating the ‘Community Grant’ programme- funding residents and local organisations to run events, projects and services that benefit the community.
- Working with police to address dog issues in Queen’s Park and with the City Council to formulate a plan for the management of Queen’s Park Gardens
- Managing the Harrington Court allotments
- Publishing the e-bulletin and the Queen’s Park Voice newsletter to share updates and news with residents
- Organising the ‘Front Garden’ competition, a local ‘Clean Up Day’, and a Community ‘Tea Party’ collecting unwanted items that were too difficult to dispose of
- Auditing local assets to be brought into Community ownership if the opportunity arose.