New Westminster Council leader’s war on benefit dependents

People must stop depending on benefits and take personal responsibility for their lives – Westminster Council’s new leader has declared.

As she was officially sworn in last night, Philippa Roe said that some Westminster families had been unemployed for generations and needed to get into the mindset of looking for work.

The 49-year-old defeated her two rivals in a tight leadership contest last week –claiming 54 per cent of votes from fellow Conservative councillors.

Having lived or worked in the borough for the past 27 years, Cllr Roe said that it was “a real honour” to take over as leader after Cllr Colin Barrow stepped down.

“We are having a change being led by central government where the policies are pushing people to move away from benefit dependency and through into personal responsibility,” Cllr Roe told the Wood&Vale.

“We, as a council, need to provide them with stepping stones to achieve that.

“The people living on our estates are sometimes three generations unemployed.

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“They do not have role models and it’s sometimes harder for those people in such conditions to get into the working environment.

“But, once they are in the working environment, life can take off and they can reach their full potential.”

After giving birth to twins, Cllr Roe left her role as director of financial services firm Citigroup and joined the council in 2006.

She looked after the housing portfolio between 2008 and 2011 before taking over as finance boss last year.

The Knightsbridge and Belgravia councillor says her “hands-on” leadership style will be “very different” to that of Cllr Barrow, who announced his intention to quit as leader in January.

Speaking about the weekend and evening parking charges furore which dominated Cllr Barrow’s last few months in charge, Cllr Roe said they were part of a “different era” that she wanted to “draw a complete line under”.

She said: “I like to be out there in the community listening to what people think and taking their feedback on board in order to make sure the policies and plans that we have actually do fit in on the ground.

“I want to be very hands- on. I want people to feel that if they have got issues about certain things they can come and tell me about them.”

With the Queen’s Jubilee, the London Olympics and Paralympics taking place in the next few months, she added that 2012 was going to be “an extraordinary time for Westminster”.