CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Housing the main issue at lively hustings

20 April, 2018

Conservative candidate Mick Collins, alongside council leader Richard Watts

• ON Tuesday, Islington town hall saw 100 locals question a panel of four candidates for the May 3 election: Rod Gonggrijp (Greens), Ilana Lever (Lib Dems), Mike Collins (Conservatives) and Richard Watts (Labour), the council leader, (Election candidates at odds over future of Holloway Prison site, April 20).

The lively event was chaired by Eric Gordon, of the Islington Tribune. Nicky Uppal, of the Women’s Equality Party (WEP), which is contesting two of the 48 seats, also spoke and answered questions from the floor.

Housing emerged as the key concern, including worries from housing association and private tenants. The Lib Dems want the Labour council’s licensing of landlords, which they introduced in two areas, extended to the whole borough.

All but the Tory supported five pledges on Holloway Prison site: keep land public, with 70 per cent council housing, a women’s centre and public green space, and not let developers undermine these demands. The Greens and Lib Dems said they would go even further.

The much-criticised housing maintenance contracts, signed under previous Lib Dem council leader Steve Hitchins, were denounced by the new Lib Dem candidate. She compared this with Labour criticisms of Tony Blair.

The impact of government cuts on the NHS, education, policing and more were strongly criticised by all except Tory Mike Collins, who more than once started with “This won’t make me popular but…” For example, he favoured ending secure housing tenancies, provoking many boos. The WEP speaker criticised the different rights to treatment in different trusts.

Racism and islamophobia were condemned by all, but it was reassuring that nobody raised concerns on the media headline issue for the past two weeks, antisemitism.

Disabled activist Richard Reiser highlighted the treatment of disabled people by government, calling it “disablism”, and most of the panel agreed, noting the escalation of mental health problems and the number of people driven to suicide.

The Greens were particularly concerned about pollution, which is worryingly high despite Islington being a low car-owning borough. Labour’s council leader spoke positively of bringing previously privatised services back in-house, giving significant savings and improved quality.

The evening raised a few more questions than answers, which should add to the political debate over the next two weeks.

ANDY BAIN
Chair, Islington Homes for All – Axe the Act

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