Haringey Council: New leader Cllr Joseph Ejiofor backs cabinet – despite internal party unrest

Joseph Ejiofor addressing the room after the Haringey local election results in May 2018

Joseph Ejiofor addressing the room after the Haringey local election results in May 2018 - Credit: Archant

Haringey’s new leader Joseph Ejiofor has said he has no regrets about his cabinet appointments, after appointing several councillors to the body who stood against him in last month’s election.

A battle is thought to be raging behind the scenes after Cllr Ejiofor topped a ballot by councillors, whereas a vote by constituency Labour Party delegates days before voted overwhelmingly for his leadership rival Zena Brabazon.

Cllr Ejiofor has appointed her, alongside Peray Ahmet and Kirsten Hearn, to his cabinet.

“It’s a cabinet of talents,” he told the Ham&High. “I didn’t want a cabinet of sycophants.

“I can’t see why you wouldn’t bring your best people in. I know the portfolios they’ve got. They’re passionate about them. I’ve got committed, dedicated, and able people. Why would I set off as second best?”

He said that he was always confident of ending up as leader, despite the non-binding CLP vote. Before the election, he had been leader-designate and fronted the party’s successful election campaign. While Labour retained control of the council, it suffered losses to the Liberal Democrats in the west of the borough.

He said: “I was always confident and comfortable that I was the right man to take the manifesto forward, one that the people of Haringey need and deserve.”

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Cllr Ejiofor takes on the leadership with two pressing issues: the Haringey Development Vehicle and the Osborne Grove Nursing Home closure.

HDV is expected to be ended at a cabinet meeting in July, although Cllr Ejiofor admits he doesn’t have the trust of the Stop HDV group.

He surprised campaigners by turning up to a meeting this week unannounced, and answered questions for an hour-and-a-half.

“Whilst we might be predisposed to making a decision, that decision has not been predetermined,” he said.

“I made it clear at the meeting what the council’s position is. I’m more than happy for people to continue to put pressure on us. It’s part of democracy. Anyone who has spoken to me over the past six months knows my position.”

It’s believed the council making the decision at a cabinet meeting in July may minimise the opportunity for Lendlease to sue the council for breaking the contract.

As part of the new outlook, the borough is also looking at Preston Council’s model of giving contracts to local companies to stimulate the local economy.

“It’s the local multiplier,” says Cllr Ejiofor. “If we spend £1 on a service elsewhere, it’ll stay there, whereas, if we spend £1.10 locally, that company will have staff here, who will spend their money here. That extra 10p may be worth £3 to the local community.”

After the past few months, his eventual election as leader wasn’t a surprise. He denies he’s always sought out the position, but said: “When you get into politics, you’ve got to have ambition to move into the top job if the top job’s available.”

Despite his new-found power at the town hall, there’s one thing he tells the Ham&High he still can’t achieve.

“I’m the leader of the council, but I still can’t get my daughter to tidy her bedroom.”