‘Ask what you can do for Westminster’ says council echoing JFK

“The days of something for nothing are over” according to the leader of Westminster Council who is calling on residents and businesses to give something back to the area they live in.

Echoing former US President John F Kennedy’s famous phrase “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”, Westminster has launched a new Civic Contract which lays out a series of expectations for its citizens.

Based on the principles of “responsibility, fairness and opportunity”, the 44-page document contains a number of proposals to ensure Westminster residents work to help their community in return for the council providing services.

Council leader Colin Barrow, who said he agreed with the John F Kennedy parallel, called the contract a “radical new departure for the council”.

He said: “We will design our services on the basis that the community is willing to do the right thing, and that will free up resources to help the most vulnerable and needy.

“If you want public services to work for you then you have to be prepared to do your bit to help the community with the spare time that you have.”

He added: “We are trying to make sure that our low level services that make life easier for people are done wherever possible by volunteers and that the heavy duty services do not have to be restricted.”

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The document outlines a number of major changes to Westminster’s service provision - including plans for unemployed people to have to prove they are volunteering in the community in order to qualify for certain benefits or social housing.

It also outlines proposals to means-test social housing tenants, give social housing priority to certain key workers, and ensure immigrants learn to speak English.

Residents will also be penalised, with social housing tenants evicted for criminal activity and benefits reduced for persistent anti-social behaviour.

The contract tells residents that too often they “sit back and passively receive services” whereas in the future everyone will support “the success of the city”.

However, London Mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone slammed the Civic Contract and said traditional council-run services are “an absolute necessity for a modern economy to work”.

He said: “I think Westminster would do much better to improve the quality of their services than by drawing up this waffle which most likely took them hours and hours. Who is going to read 44 pages of municipal garb?”

Residents can respond to the Civic Contract consultation, which is available at www.westminster.gov.uk/civiccontract, until February 10 next year.