New council cabinet role to oversee ’15-minute neighbourhoods’

Kizzy Gardiner promoted to lead on the creation of easy-to-access local services, reports Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

Kizzy Gardiner (inset) will be leading on the creation of "15-minute neighbourhoods"
Kizzy Gardiner (inset) will be leading on the creation of “15-minute neighbourhoods”

Waltham Forest Council’s leader has created a new cabinet role to oversee the creation of “15-minute neighbourhoods” in the borough.

The creation of the role, which Kizzy Gardiner has been appointed to, follows the approval of a new “corporate framework” on the policy earlier this year.

The 15-minute neighbourhoods term usually describes designing a city to make sure that everything a person needs – such as work, shopping, education and healthcare – is within a 15-minute walk of where they live.

In addition, after six months of research last year, the council’s strategy focuses on “experiences” in a neighbourhood as well as “things”. It follows three main themes: everyone taking part and fulfilling their potential; benefitting from shared prosperity; and improving the borough together.

In her leader’s address at a full council meeting last week (25th May), Grace Williams said £500million in capital spending on projects over the next five years will “bring the plan to life”.

She added that 15-minute neighbourhoods will help create “a safer, fairer, greener borough” that is “entirely resident-focused” with “resilient communities [that] focus on the people that live there”.

She added: “The council will enable people to fulfil their potential, sharing prosperity, and be part of that decision-making process.”

Building projects that the council is investing in include housing developments on council-owned land at Waltham Forest Town Hall and Soho Theatre.

To oversee the 15-minute neighbourhoods, Cllr Gardiner has been promoted to a cabinet member position, which has a yearly allowance of £39,304, as a promotion from her junior “cabinet commissioner” role focusing on youth hubs and engagement, which paid £22,948.

Addressing the 46 Labour councillors in the town hall chamber, Conservative group leader Emma Best asked whether the backbenchers felt left out and joked that by the end of the year there would be a “cabinet member for cooking dinner” who could also help them “cook the books”.

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Aside from Cllr Gardiner’s promotion to cabinet commissioner, the council leader made few other changes to her cabinet team. The role of overseeing finance has been given to Paul Douglas, cabinet member for public service, and Elizabeth Baptiste’s cabinet commissioner role has switched from focusing on “shaping places” to “renters”. Cllr Williams has also asked Catherine Deakin to focus on health equality following the Sir Michael Marmot report into health inequalities in the borough.

Waltham Forest Council cabinet members 2023/24:

  • Leader: Grace Williams; strategy and policy, communications, public affairs, events and culture.
  • Deputy leader and climate and air quality portfolio: Clyde Loakes; climate action plan and behaviour change, waste, transport and parking.
  • Deputy leader and housing and regeneration portfolio: Ahsan Khan; housing targets, regeneration schemes and regulation of private housing.
  • 15-minute neighbourhoods: Kizzy Gardiner; ward engagement and funding, councillor development.
  • Health and wellbeing portfolio: Naheed Asghar; public health, sports and leisure, Whipps Cross Hospital development.
  • Jobs, social inclusion and equalities portfolio: Vicky Ashworth; financial support, jobs and overseeing the University of Portsmouth project.
  • Public service portfolio: Paul Douglas; finance and budget, libraries and leisure centres, human resources, commercial operations, emergency planning and democracy.
  • Community safety portfolio: Khevyn Limbajee; safety and crime, working with the police, planning enforcement.
  • Adults portfolio: Louise Mitchell; adult social care, well-being and poverty reduction.
  • Children and young people: Alistair Strathern; schools, children’s social care, youth offending, early help and special educational needs.

Cabinet commissioners:

  • Renters: Elizabeth Baptiste; relationships with housing associations, property licensing
  • Destinations: Rosalind Doré; cultural development, fellowship square, destinations
  • Housing transformation: Sharon Waldron; housing transformation programme, housing customer experience
  • Health equality: Catherine Deakin

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