Wednesday, 13 November 2013

John Rolfe tribute

Our tribute to former Labour councillor John Rolfe, who passed away in September, at Full Council.

John was a Councillor for Priory Ward from 1998 to 2002 and then for Kilburn Ward with Phil Turner and Charlie Hedges from 2002 to 2006. Before becoming a Councillor John had been a highly effective representative of Hilgrove Tenants Association on Hampstead District Management Committee and as a Councillor he continued his work on behalf of tenants and those in housing need.

In 2003/4 he chaired the Scrutiny Panel on Housing Repairs and apart from serving for a time as Vice Chair of Housing during his term of office he also chaired Hampstead DMC. In the period after 2006 he chaired the Camden Tenants Federation and Swiss Cottage Community Association.

In this capacity I remember John as well-read - pragmatic, and not dogmatic – cutting through the noise and getting to the substance in a field which people have very strong views.

I served with him on the board of the Camden and Islington Mental Health and Social Care Trust during a period of great change.  Here as elsewhere John was an effective negotiator of the often tricky cultural difference between local council and NHS accountability structures.

John sought to improve public services – his evidence to House of Commons on Public Service Targets in 2003 appealed for a more dynamic way of holding public services to account.

We believe targets are a good idea within an overall performance management framework and culture, taking account of context and local priorities.  All too often the targets get in the way of effective delivery and become an end in themselves rather than a means to an end. They are a tool within a performance management framework and should not be seen as a weapon. Quite. 
John was a man with a powerful social conscience who was prepared to devote much time and energy helping individuals and working for tenants' rights and economic and social justice. He will be sorely missed by many tenants and residents of Camden and particularly by those who knew him well - he was a man of principle and of good humour.
He liked to define himself as a community activist: he was exactly that and the Camden community is the poorer for his passing.

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