'I want to make a difference': new leader for Haringey Council
- Credit: Cllr Peray Ahmet
The incoming leader of Haringey Council says “collaboration” will sit at the heart of her new administration.
Cllr Peray Ahmet (Noel Park) will be sworn in on May 24 to replace Cllr Joseph Ejiofor (Bruce Grove) after winning the vote in a leadership challenge at Haringey Labour’s AGM on Monday (May 10).
Following the change of personnel at the borough’s helm, the Noel Park councillor said she will stand up for Haringey’s most disadvantaged residents, as the outgoing leader said he was “disappointed” he will not see the “fruition of ambitious changes”.
Cllr Ahmet told the Ham&High: “I'm absolutely delighted that I’m going to be leader in a place that I grew up. I couldn't stress that more.
“I’m raising my family here. My family has lived here for 50, 60 years and it's an absolute privilege.
“More than that it’s also about using my insight and experience and knowledge of Haringey to make a difference, and that’s all I want to do really: to make a difference.
“I will never rest on my laurels. I will never be complacent. That's just not me.”
Cllr Ahmet became a councillor in 2014 and later became the lead for planning, overseeing Spurs’ move into its new stadium.
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She has held cabinet positions in two administrations, covering portfolios for the environment, and adults and health.
Currently chair of the overview and scrutiny committee, Cllr Ahmet was born at North Middlesex University Hospital, grew up in Wood Green and now lives in Tottenham with her husband and baby daughter.
Cllr Ahmet’s parents came to Haringey in the 1950s and 1960s from Northern Cyprus. Her mother was a machinist and her dad a welder who later ran a kebab shop in Barking Road.
Ahead of formally assuming the reins, Cllr Ahmet pointed to early-years services and encouraging women into politics as two priorities.
“What I want the lynchpin of my administration to be is co-production and co-design, and being a more collaborative council,” she said.
“If there's anything I want to get out there it’s that. It's a more collaborative council with co-production and co-design at the heart of what we do.
“How we engage and talk to residents is really important to me, and my own background has informed that.
“I am a working-class woman from an ethnic minority background so I’m quite used to people talking on my behalf, or trying to talk on my behalf.
“Seeing the experiences of my parents – not speaking English and being fobbed off – I passionately believe that everybody should have the opportunity to participate in decisions that impact on them, and not just those who are the most articulate and those who make the most noise.”
In 2018 Cllr Ahmet was the closest challenger to Cllr Ejiofor when he assumed office. The Noel Park councillor was appointed to the leader’s cabinet, before being sacked around six months later.
Cllr Ahmet will replace Cllr Ejiofor in a fortnight, and the outgoing leader said it has been the honour of his life to serve the borough for the past three years.
“I am immensely proud of all that we have achieved during this time: building a fairer Haringey and tackling the issues that matter most to local people,” he said.
“Delivering change takes time, and I’m disappointed that I won’t see the fruition of some of the ambitious changes we have made.
“From a standing start, work to deliver 1,000 new council homes at council rents is now well underway and our housing delivery team is up for a nationally recognised award.
“We have made huge progress addressing poverty and inequality in the borough through expanding eligibility for free school meals, making council taxation fairer, becoming a Living Wage employer, and helping residents access the benefits they’re entitled to.
“We have brought public services back in house – so that residents own what they pay for, not profit-driven private companies – made our council and our borough greener; invested in young people with youth hubs, a new University Bursary scheme, apprenticeships, and work experience opportunities.
“With the backdrop of austerity, Brexit and Covid-19, these achievements have been hard won. I believe that my time as Leader of Haringey Council is proof that progressive policies remain a necessity and can be implemented in even the most difficult circumstances.
“I know that Cllr Ahmet is keen to take on this role and I wish her well.”