In May, Cllr Danny Keeling and the Greens get the first ever Leader of the Opposition speech at the inaugural meeting of the political year (for 2023/24) at Newham council.
The video can be viewed here
Below is a transcript of the speech:
Good evening council, and thank you Chair. It’s wonderful to welcome you to your new position.
I want to thank the council officers for their exceptional dedication and special recognition to the Interim Chief Executive Colin Ansell for his invaluable support.
I also want to acknowledge and stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian community - the largest in the country. We condemn the ongoing illegal invasion of Ukraine and we are proud of Newham residents, for their support and hospitality towards Ukrainian families. Although our campaign to host Eurovision in Newham – an event celebrating European unity – was unsuccessful, it truly was Ukraine’s party in our house.
Newham faces a longstanding cost of living crisis, due in part to the Tory/Lib Dem choice: austerity. Public services have been decimated. The housing crisis is at boiling point, with the fastest rent increases nationwide. Temporary housing conditions, shown by the Ali family, all seven of them forced to live in a house full of mould, is disgraceful. Our air quality is lethal, and the COVID pandemic have only made things worse.
I’m proud to stand with every striking worker fighting for fair pay and conditions, including desperate healthcare workers and even, our bin workers.
Enough is Enough! and the Green Party are the only party to have endorsed the campaign’s demands.
Greens have consistently opposed austerity and we know addressing the cost of living crisis is intertwined with tackling the climate and ecological crises. Meanwhile, Labour’s Sadiq Khan refuses to stop the Silvertown Tunnel. Newham Labour must now back alternatives for the tunnel – starting with supporting our motion.
As Greens, we represent almost 20% of voters in Newham. We have been bold and ambitious for what we can achieve – and we have delivered.
We have shown that where Greens lead, others follow.
Our recent successes include overturning the misguided Public Space Protection Order that endangered sex workers. Thanks to the collaboration of Greens, residents, campaign groups, and academics.
It was right that the first motion we proposed was in support of Proportional Representation and Votes at 16.
Our second successful motion affirms our commitment to trans rights. Being in Newham, which has the highest proportion of trans residents in the UK, we take pride in safeguarding their rights.
The Tories and the media have got to stop their relentless attacks on my community. As a non-binary councillor, I know we must also change and improve our council’s culture and I’m proud of working with the Interim Chief Executive to establish a Gender Diversity program for councillors. We must also support teachers fighting to educate young people about the wonderful diversity of our society.
We take our role as the Opposition seriously. We've supported groups like Newham City Farm and attended Beckton Masterplan events. We've fought London City Airport expansion where the Labour Mayor Khan is actively backing the use of private jets for the 1% in a climate crisis.
We opposed a budget with nearly 20 million £ in cuts whilst the council spent over £160,000 on the coronation, the second highest in the UK. Cllr Higgins blocked a budget scrutiny recommendation to increase minimum residency requirements for housing.
Stratford Olympic Park residents appreciate our regular litter picks, support on community assemblies, fighting for a new zebra crossing, and hosting a community safety meeting attended by over 150 residents.
We’ve advocated for residents with various local organisations, ensuring their concerns are addressed. We are proud of challenging East London Energy, achieving a year-long bill freeze and demanding better customer service, we will also continue to fight unjust park charges.
Most of all, we have been visible. We listen. Greens work hard all year round – residents deserve nothing less!
We’re proud of the relentless effort we’ve put into opposing the MSG Sphere. It is an assault on democracy. After six months of Green demands, Mayor Fiaz finally acted to push her Labour colleague Sadiq Khan to take action on the Sphere.
However, this year, we witnessed filibustering, agenda manipulation, and cynical copying of motions. The promised constitutional review must be prioritised now.
We're ready to work constructively with the Labour Group - for Newham's benefit. I want to be able to find common ground to improve the borough and residents' lives. We are open to working collaboratively and constructively and I hope to do so in this coming year.
Thank you and we wish you all a lovely evening.