Camden councillors fail to practise what they preach and live outside their wards

MORE than half of Camden’s councillors don’t live in the ward they represent, the Ham&High can reveal as a turf war wages in the Kentish Town by-election over which party has the most local candidate.

Council by-elections aren’t known for geo-political dust-ups but a row over postcodes has dominated the race, which concludes on Thursday, and a string of other recent votes in the borough.

Conservative candidate Will Blair, who does live in Kentish Town, has made the most out of the geography in his favour sending out leaflets entitled “Living Here and Loving it” calling for residents to “Vote Neighbour not Labour”.

Meanwhile Labour, whose candidate Jenny Headlam-Wells lives just outside the boundary in Cantelowes, has dubbed the Liberal Democrat candidate, Kilburn resident Nick Russell, “NW6 Nick”. In turn Mr Russell has hit out at two Labour councillors for Kilburn who have left the area to live in Chalk Farm - just four months after being elected.

He told the Ham&High: “I lived in Kentish Town for 10 years.

“It’s about the knowledge of the ward.

“I was quite surprised to see Thomas Gardiner and Maryam Eslamdoust (Labour councillors for Kilburn) now living in Haverstock.”

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In previous votes the proximity issue has played its part. In the 2007 Haverstock by-election, Lib Dems criticised Labour candidate Mike Katz for living in West Hampstead; in the Hampstead by-election in 2008 Lib Dem Linda Chung blasted the Conservative campaign which made hay of the fact she lives in Frognal and Fitzjohns and most recently Glenda Jackson MP had to repeatedly defend herself as rivals of all parties criticised her for living in Blackheath.

Yet despite all the claims and counter claims the Ham&High can reveal all the main parties fall down on the local test with 31 of the borough’s 53 councillors living outside the area they represent.

This includes every party leader apart from the Greens whose sole member and de-facto leader Maya De Souza lives in her ward in Highgate.

Wards such as Regent’s Park, King’s Cross, Kilburn, Frognal and Fitzjohns, West Hampstead and Gospel Oak have no councillors who live strictly on patch.

Many offenders fall down by a matter of yards but others add a whole new definition to the term “local Government”.

Abdul Hai, King’s Cross councillor and community safety boss lives just over three miles away from his ward in Bethnal Green.

Mayor and King’s Cross councillor Jonathan Simpson lives a similar distance from the ward in Highgate.

Cabinet Member for Culture, Tulip Siddiq lives - far from the leafy surrounds of Regent’s Park - in Judd Street, which ironically is in King’s Cross.

Conservative Roger Freeman lives in Highgate three miles from his ward of Swiss Cottage.

When their own geographical failings are pointed out the parties are rather more sheepish than their election literature.

Mr Russell said the Lib Dems only used the locality argument to expose candidates without any local knowledge – unlike him.

“We have used this in the past but against candidates without any connection. The knowledge is what matters,” he said.

Labour councillor Theo Blackwell said his party only uses it as a form of “jocular ribbing”.

“The Liberal Democrats clobbered us about it with Mike Katz and now they are reaping what they have sown,” he said.

Even Mr Blair defends it in his colleagues’ case saying it’s mostly “just a matter of a couple of streets” even though that applies to the Labour candidate he is using it to discredit.

Where the politicians genuinely disagree is whether a councillor living in another ward matters in anything but electioneering.

Mr Blair, unsurprisingly perhaps, says it does.

“I live in the ward, use the services, commute every day from the station, use the swimming baths, go to local pubs and restaurants - it does matter,” he said.

“I think people do feel candidates are being parachuted in.”

Whereas Roger Robinson, a councillor for St Pancras and Somers Town who lives in Highgate says it doesn’t.

“Of course it doesn’t matter, what does matter is you’re a good councillor who does the work and is always there,” he said

“I am in my ward everyday of my life. It is just party political crap.”