Waltham councillor appointed to “15-minute neighbourhoods” role

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 Councillor 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 on May 25, Cllr 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”.

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.

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter