A packed council chamber welcomed the newly-elected Mayor of Redbridge, Cllr Gurdial Bhamra, at a May 12 meeting in the borough’s town hall in Ilford.
Mr Bhamra, who replaced Cllr Barbara White in the post, moved to the borough in 1976 to become a Metropolitan Police sergeant, having previously lived in the Punjab, Mombasa and Nairobi. Under Kenya’s Africanisation programme, he left the country in February 1968, arriving at Heathrow just two hours before the deadline set by the British government for East African Asians.
Although he had worked as a teacher in Kenya, Mr Bhamra’s teaching qualifications were not recognised in Britain so he took jobs in local factories before deciding on a career in the police force, which he joined in September 1970. As the only non-white officer in Southwark he faced many challenges but, determined to succeed, he passed his sergeant’s exam in 1976 and was promoted in the same year—the UK’s first sergeant from the Black and Asian community. He later achieved another first when, in 1982, he rose to become the country’s first Inspector from the Black and Asian community.
Thanking Cllr Barbara White for her hard work and dedication during her own time in office, Gurdial Bhamra said he felt privileged to have been elected Mayor of Redbridge and would use his powers wisely to ensure equal benefits for all the borough’s citizens.
Projects he will be supporting during his tenure include Redbridge’s Healthy Living Project, the Disabled Asian Women’s Network, Redbridge Giving Tree and disability charity Vibrance. He is also looking to set up a Mayor’s hardship fund to support the borough’s most vulnerable residents.
‘I have decided to support grassroots charities and need your help for them to make a difference and provide much needed services,’ he said.
He also called on all the borough’s residents and businesses to make Redbridge greener, cleaner and a more enjoyable place to live. ‘We can all achieve this by working together and taking pride in keeping our streets clean, our gardens greener and developing a community spirit.’
Mr Bhamra will be supported in his role by his daughter Sunita Kaur Bhamra and Deputy Mayor Cllr Zulfi Hussain of Clementswood ward.
A civic reception followed the meeting, attended by 230 guests.