New mayor pledges to promote ‘kindness’

Karen Bellamy is the new mayor of Waltham Forest
By Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

Karen Bellamy (credit Waltham Forest Council)
Karen Bellamy (credit Waltham Forest Council)

Waltham Forest councillors elected “long-standing community activist” Karen Bellamy as the borough’s new mayor last week.

Cllr Bellamy, who represents Highams Park ward, became mayor on 25th May at the council’s first full meeting after the local election.

Accepting her new post, the new mayor told the council chamber she wants her time to be “about kindness” and doing anything she can to support the community.

Cllr Bellamy described herself as a “girl from the Roman Road and an Eastender” brought up by working class Irish parents who taught her not to be judgemental, particularly those who are down on their luck.

She said: “On Sundays we used to go and feed what were then called vagrants, my dad used to drive my mum around giving dinner to elderly people that didn’t have a family.

“So, kindness I learned at home from my mum, she’s not been with us for 36 years, but she is still my hero. 

“My dad taught me from an early age to have an opinion, I was always taught to have an opinion, I was involved in family discussions and told I could be anything I wanted to be.”

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The two main charities the mayor will fundraise for are the Whipps Cross breast clinic and Solace Women’s Aid, who run women’s refuges. These are because the Whipps Cross Hospital team supported her through cancer in early 2020 and her experience of “quite extreme” domestic violence.

Alistair Strathern, her fellow ward councillor, nominated Cllr Bellamy and praised her work as a “long-standing community activist” for which she received an award in 2005. He added that she has a “record of standing up for people in Higham Hill” and credited her with the success in pushing to open Highams Hill Hub and improving Cheney Row Open Space.

Outgoing mayor Elizabeth Baptise also received praise for her work following the death of former council leader and mayor Chris Robbins, in April 2021.

Council leader Grace Williams said Cllr Baptise attended 270 events in the past year.

In her departing speech, Cllr Baptiste said: “The role of mayor is unique and is very special, I hope that I have responded to the trust you have put in me to carry out the duties. 

“One of the borough’s greatest strengths is its diversity, it was my job to represent every resident with equality.”

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