Haringey must continue its focus on housing, poverty and the climate
Cllr Joseph Ejiofor
- Credit: Haringey Council
Last week, Haringey Labour group decided to elect Cllr Peray Ahmet to be the new leader of Haringey Council. I know that she has coveted the role for a number of years, and I wish her well.
It has been my experience that leading the council consumes your whole life. But it is a truly worthwhile experience.
Many people have kindly asked me how I am feeling.
Sad? Yes. Disappointed? That too. Surprised? Sort of. Bitter? No, not at all. That’s politics.
In order to have the honour of leading the council that delivers services and improves the lives of the people in our borough I needed to have the confidence of the councillors elected alongside me.
The new leadership will have a different focus, and new priorities. I will be lobbying them to ensure that tackling the housing crisis, the climate emergency and poverty will remain amongst them.
I know we have focussed much of our energy on increasing our stock of social homes. We have too many people in temporary, emergency and unsuitable accommodation.
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In order to create sustainable communities, we must enable families to have security of tenure in their housing.
However, we must also continue to address problems faced by people who rent in the private sector and problems faced by local people who wish to buy a home in our borough.
Climate change and the environment is another area in which the local authority must take leadership for the long term benefit of our planet.
That does not only mean increased biodiversity, or increasing the tree coverage in Haringey, it also means increased promotion of walking and cycling as modes of active travel. It means “persuading” people to use their cars less.
Moving to 100% renewable energy in our principal buildings is a good start to the Council becoming carbon neutral by 2027. And this must not slip.
On poverty, I am proud that we reintroduced the Welfare Assistance Scheme, that we have employed benefit maximisation officers to work with residents that we can identify as being eligible for benefits, who for whatever reason do not apply for them.
Our Council Tax Reduction Scheme is there to support the poorest families in the borough and we have expanded eligibility for free school meals.
All these are changes that I hope will be retained and built upon.
I’d like to thank residents for working collaboratively and collectively during this pandemic; for being good neighbours and reliable partners. As we ease down from lock down, we must continue to be focussed on the public health advice.
I would also like to thank cabinet colleagues who have worked closely with me and also council officers, from the most senior to the most junior for their professionalism and dedication.
So, as I exit stage left, what will I miss most? The ability to direct change, and to champion projects and causes I support, like the YMCA fun run in Hornsey, or the Unity Radio Youth project in Tottenham.
What will I miss least? The online trolls. The unmoderated personal abuse posted to chat rooms. The abusive emails and insulting letters and dog-whistle innuendo.
What do I look forward to most? Spending more time with my family, and when they have had enough of me, more time in my garden!
Cllr Joseph Ejiofor (Lab, Bruce Grove) is the outgoing leader of Haringey Council.