Opinion: We need to focus on people, not potholes

Cllr Joseph Ejiofor, "we can get through this if we pull together"

Cllr Joseph Ejiofor, "we can get through this if we pull together" - Credit: Archant

I want to start off with a thank you. Thank you to every single reader who is staying at home for as long as they are able to.

The simple act of following the Public Health England guidelines is holding back the spread of the coronavirus, keeping people safe and protecting our wonderful NHS. I know the lockdown isn’t easy, and we all wish we had the freedom we enjoyed before, but it is vital for us, for our families and for our wider community.

I also want to take the opportunity to thank the incredible public servants who work for Haringey Council, other local authorities, the police, the fire service and of course the NHS.

I have seen with my own eyes over the last few weeks how our staff, working with partners from across the public sector, voluntary and charity sector and businesses, have toiled day and night to maintain our essential services and support the most vulnerable in our society. Not only that, but in just a couple of weeks they have developed brand new services, including some of the nation’s first food delivery hubs at Alexandra Palace and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

It is a humbling time to lead this incredible organisation.

As we continue to strive to rise to every new challenge that comes our way as a council, we know there will be things that we can no longer prioritise. You will already be aware that we have had to close our reuse and recycling centre, libraries and leisure centres. In the weeks ahead there may be other services that we will have either to curtail or slow down delivery. We will only do this where it is absolutely necessary to protect our critical services for the most vulnerable – those residents who need shielding completely from the virus; isolated people who need support to access food and other basic essentials; those who may be at risk from domestic violence.

As we have taken to saying in Haringey, we need to focus on people not potholes during these next few months. I know we will have the support of our residents in making these tough decisions.

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But amongst all the anxiety, I also want to encourage you to look forward with hope. We always say that the best thing about Haringey is our people. That has never been truer or more evident than it is now. The current lockdown, as you know, is described by public health experts as “social distancing” but I believe that what we are seeing in Haringey is better described as “physical distancing” coupled with “social solidarity”.

We see this solidarity in the hundreds of volunteers who have been in touch via our dedicated Haringey Together webpage; the mutual aid groups; the tireless efforts of people like care workers, shop workers, bus, train and delivery drivers, postal staff and teachers still working to look after pupils who can’t stay at home; and we hear it every Thursday as we stand on our doorsteps to clap for those who can’t stay safe at home because they have a very important job to do for all of us: NHS staff.

There are lots of things we don’t know about the future. But what we do know is that we can get through this if we pull together - keeping our physical distance but working together to ensure no one has to weather this crisis alone.