Elizabeth Howlett AM

24 Nov 2007 04:05:24

Elizabeth Howlett on the importance of community projects

Our latest report from the Greater London Assembly.

At the Conservative Party Conference in October, the Canary Wharf Group very kindly sponsored our fringe event with Boris Johnson. Zakir Khan, the group’s Community Affairs Manager, spoke passionately about the work they do in the community and how any future Mayor of London should do more to help community projects. He made such an impression that the London Assembly Conservatives asked him to show some of us around the projects he works with.

Yesterday we travelled to Canary Wharf to meet with Zakir before heading into Tower Hamlets to be shown around. All members have youth projects in their constituencies, all of which carry out outstanding work, but some of what we saw yesterday was truly inspiring. We visited the Shadwell Basin Project, the Strafford Friendship Club and the Teviot Estate Group.

This latter group was set up on the Teviot Estate in 1998 to offer the community ways of moving forward and changing the quality of life: alleviating poverty; reducing crime and racial tension; and regenerating the estate. The director of the group, Mrs Crissy Townsend, is an inspirational leader who, despite not being able at that time to read or write, set up the group which has since gone from strength to strength. They provide facilities for the whole community: from recruitment services to after-school clubs; from bingo sessions to football clubs. All this on a turnover of £50,000 a year – all funded by grants.

Crissy spoke passionately about the struggle the group faces to procure funds: they are all volunteers, many working five days a week. However; the services they provide need funding. Their situation made it plain to see that any future Mayor should do much more to help these wonderful local projects which are the lifeblood and glue to social cohesion.

It is a credit to the Canary Wharf Group that they help projects such as these, which provide invaluable services to their communities.