Haringey’s new opposition leader wants ‘a focus on localism’ and progress tackling the climate emergency to underpin the Covid-19 recovery

Cllr Luke Cawley-Harrison. Picture: Haringey Lib Dems

Cllr Luke Cawley-Harrison. Picture: Haringey Lib Dems - Credit: Archant

The new leader of Haringey’s Lib Dem opposition group wants to see a focus on localism and a council with the ability to work closely with residents and businesses as part of the recovery from the impact of Covid-19.

Cllr Luke Cawley-Harrison (Crouch End) takes over as the council’s scrutineer-in-chief as the borough is easing out of lockdown, and nearly two years away from the next local elections.

He said Haringey’s Lib Dems would push to take action on the climate emergency, encourage house-building, and listen to the needs of local people.

Cllr Harrison said: “Obviously the priority has to be the Covid-19 recovery. It’s not just limited to Haringey. It’s going to take a massive amount of local focus on the recovery.

“The hit to the economy is going to have a huge impact. And how it continues to hit over the next few months, the next year or two years, we don’t really know. But we do know people who have lost jobs.

“For us as councillors on both sides of the chamber, this has to be our focus.”

READ MORE: Luke Cawley-Harrison is the new leader of Haringey Lib DemsThe councillor’s prescription for the recovery puts the emphasis on working with business and residents’ groups.

He said: “Society is going to change. I believe there’s going to be a much greater focus on localism and working in communities, and local authorities need to change to support that. There should be more help and resource in place for communities to determine what their vision of the recovery is.”

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Calling for the council to work closely with high street businesses, he added: “We have strong businesses across Haringey, and lots of strong high streets. But over the last few years they haven’t been in as good shape as they were. This is an opportunity to get people back into shopping on the high street and I think it’s important local authorities lead in that.”

Cllr Cawley-Harrison continued by saying the Covid crisis presented an opportunity to “take a step back” and consider what our societies should look like.

Looking back at lockdown, he said: “This is the perfect opportunity to focus on the environment and climate change. We saw really great decreases in air pollution, with industry, and travel down so much, and we need to remember that, and how nice it was to reclaim public space for walking and cycling.

“We need to be weaving climate change through every single decision we make as individuals and as councillors.”

READ MORE: Haringey say Covid-19 delays mean council likely to miss flagship housebuilding targetThe climate crisis has long been a focus for the Lib Dem group in Haringey, and Cllr Harrison said he remained disappointed at the progress the town hall has made since declaring a climate emergency in early 2019.

He said: “Now, 16 or 17 months later there’s no evidence of any action. We are supposed to have a climate emergency plan, a school streets plan, by now.”

Referring specifically to active travel, he added: “We have pushed so hard on this. Not because we’re cycling campaigners but because this is a great opportunity. Moving people out of the car, getting people walking and cycling more, that’s going to have such an impact on people’s health.”

Cllr Cawley-Harrison also criticised the borough’s “always ambitious, always arbitrary” council housebuilding target, and said: “We need to be more realistic in terms of what we are setting out to our residents. But Haringey definitely needs more housing. The whole of London definitely needs more housing. We are nowhere meeting our housebuilding targets.”

He said more should be done to make sure developers follow through on plans to build in the borough.

Looking to the next local elections, Cllr Cawley-Harrison pointed to the distraction of much-publicised infighting in Haringey’s Labour group, and said: “The more time they spend fighting, the less time they spend on residents. We will continue to be a voice that fights for residents, whether in seats we currently hold or ones we don’t.

Without setting a target for the next local elections, the opposition leader said the goal had to be to “build on the successes of 2018” where the Lib Dems close to doubled their representation on the council.

Pointing to the “volatility” of elections in the area in recent years, including the 2019 European Elections were the Lib Dems won in Haringey, he said while another exponential increase was unlikely, “we will push ourselves as the best party for the borough”.