On Monday 23 April, we went along to a husting with local councillor candidates from across Tottenham, organised by Save Latin Village, Wards Corner Community Coalition and Stop HDV and held at the vibrant latin bar Zumable near Seven Sisters.
The below summarises the opinions of the candidates and the audience, not necessarily that of Discovering Tottenham.
The scene was set by talking about the Wards Corner and Save Latin Village campaigns, which have been fighting against the council’s CPO and plans to demolish and rebuild the Seven Sisters Market and surrounding buildings. The hosts also explained that they were almost certain that the HDV plans won’t go ahead after the elections. The HDV, or Haringey Development Vehicle, is the council’s controversial plan to sell off £2billion worth of council land across the borough and form a 50/50 partnership with developer Lend Lease which may lead to the demolition of up to 17 estates.
Themes discussed included social and affordable housing, youth services, and regeneration and demolition and its impact on the community. The candidates in attendance were Raymundo Obedencio (Green), Clive Carter (Liberal Democrat), Isidoros Diakides (Labour) and Daniel Babis (Conservative).
They kicked off with summaries from each candidate.
Daniel Babis (CON):
- knows the history of Wards Corner, wants to save it, revision on structural details needed, need more work to protect it
- Pelham Road development – has been fighting the council with it for a long time
- never gets help to improve roads
- wants to bring opposition and control to Haringey Council
Clive Carter (LD):
- currently Highgate ward councillor, transferring to Northumberland Park as felt strongly about the HDV
- has been on the planning committee for the last four years
- Wards Corner situation shows council not listening to the community
- disagrees with strong leader cabinet model for council
- believes the HDV is a deeply flawed, terrible idea
- believes in proportional representation – every vote counts equally
- against dispersing people, believes the term ‘decanted’ shouldn’t be used
Isidoros Diakides (LAB):
- has been involved in campaigns against the Wards Corner development and HDV for quite some time
- believes that we need to respect the amazing physical and cultural heritage more
- austerity has taken it’s toll
- crime, poverty and grime reaching breaking point
- society for the many not the few
- new blood and new candidates fighting against austerity – referred to the Labour manifesto
- there is a housing crisis, rising youth crisis, social care crisis, inequality and alienation
- believes we’re going to see massive change/improvement over the next 40 years
Raymundo Obedencio – Obe (GRN):
- talked about the enclosure act, which saw millions of acres of land stolen from people 100s of years ago and every 100 years land is taken away. He said that the fifth enclosure act is happening now – selling off of public land
- He always thought Tottenham was so big it could never be gentrified but he became aware of the Stop HDV and Save Latin Village/Wards Corner campaigns last year
- wants to promote issues as much as possible
- believes in proportional representation
- no longer trusts current Labour council
The first question talked about how the Seven Sisters Market has many children and young people who play there and hangout. ‘How will you protect the market’s function as a youth centre?’
Diakides (LAB) said he wasn’t sure that the process could be reversed and it’s a matter of what deal can be negotiated.
Carter (LD) told us that the council needs to recognise that the community doesn’t want the market demolished, and acknowledged that there had been various campaigns over the last 10 years. He said that the London Plan calls for the gentrification of areas approximate to transport hubs, highlighting Seven Sisters as a major transport hub, but believes they can’t have a blanket policy and that the council needs to work on behalf of the community. He also pointed out that the current council are forcing through a youth zone to centralise services in one spot in the borough.
Obedencio (GRN) said regeneraton is a code word for demolition and the building of luxury flats. He believes affordable housing is unaffordable to most people and supports renovation over demolition. He thinks the Seven Sisters Market should remain how it is rather than being turned into another clone. He said more funds were needed for youth centres and Haringey could apply for them from the London Assembly.
Babis (CON) said that youth need to be kept off the streets and given things to do and that the market is only one problem. He said that the estate on Pelham Road, N15 is another issue and needs improvements including more places for kids to play. He believes more after school clubs should be on offer.
Another member of the audience said that the community has done a brilliant job coming together and resisting the HDV, but wanted to know what the councillors were going to do about the council estates that they were originally thinking of knocking down.
Carter (LD) was on the board of Homes for Haringey in 2014, and said that the HDV has sidelined Homes for Haringey and turn over of staff is a big worry. He says there is little or no regard for the actual management of council estates. He also pointed out that the HDV had led to the first full council meeting in nine years, which resulted in it’s postponement.
Obedencio (GRN) reiterated that he believes in renovation not demolition, and that homes should be habitable for humans. He spoke about how demolition could cause a large amount of asbestos in the surrounding air and believes that demolition and the ‘decanting’ of people prevents them from returning to their community.
Babis (CON) told us that he believed some estates are beyond repair but current blocks need more protection and improvements like better insulation.
Diakides (LAB) said there is a housing crisis and asked why. He said there is an affordability crisis and demolishing flats also means that people on the waiting list can’t get in. He referred to the Labour manifesto and wants to stop demolition where it can be reversed. He pointed out that the full council meeting was held after the council had begun to stall on the HDV. Diakides also feels that there is more unity of purpose across parties than ever before and that it is important to be united.
A young woman in the audience asked if they could make a clear commitment to reopen the youth centres.
Obedencio (GRN) answered ‘yes, we would do our best to reopen the youth centres’. He pointed out that funding from the London Mayor was available and that Haringey are able to apply for that funding. He said he is standing for the 99% of the community.
Babis (CON) said he had heard about lots of movements to reopen centres and fully supports it. (An audience member jeered, can you get the Tories to send us the money?) Babis replied saying that everyone makes mistakes and a lot of the centres have been closed which should have remained active.
Diakides (LAB) said that the budget has been dramatically cut for youth services. He continued saying that 40% of the council budget is gone so they had to cut somewhere but thinks that the youth budget was wrongly cut. He said they need to support the reopening of the youth centres and more budget needs to be spread more widely rather than focused in one centre.
Carter (LD) said ‘yes, but it needs to be put into perspective.’ He said that further impact on the budget is in prospect and the Haringey youth zone set to be concentrated in one spot in Wood Green scoops up almost half of the whole youth budget.
Another member of the audience said he had been involved with Seven Sisters Market for more than 20 years. He asked why the Latin market couldn’t be like China Town or Bangla Town. He asked them what the council would do to promote Amigo Month which is the Latin, Iberian and Lusophone history month.
Babis (CON) told the audience that he came from Poland, and talked about the continuous movement of people. He said when he moved to Tottenham 15 years ago the Latin community was just growing and the market had more of an African/Carribbean community there. He enjoys the diversity of the area and thinks that with the help of the community they can fight for it and support it.
Diakides (LAB) said ‘rest assured the council will be supporting one way or the other’. He repeated that it might not be possible to reverse the development of the market, although it might be, and that the council needs to work together with the existing community, and give them more input.
Another member of the audience shouted out asking ‘when are you going to start doing that?.. You’re not doing anything now’. Diakides said that he’s doing what’s legally possible behind the scenes. Fighting for rights and planning. He wants to see a commitment to replace the market and protect the traders as much as possible. The audience member exclaimed that ‘promises have been broken by everybody’ asking ‘where’s the protection [for the traders]?’
Carter (LD) agreed that Diakides has been a sincere campaigner on behalf of Wards Corner and the Latin community, but this hasn’t led to meaningful change. Carter believes that the current council are insensitive to public opinion. He said he too has been following for many years and has attended some of the hearings. He also attended the hearing surrounding the closure of the last nursing home in Haringey, Osborne Grove, and is relieved that the closure is not going ahead.
Obedencio (GRN) said that China Town has become an expensive tourist trap and restaurants are being hammered with rental increases which is destroying everything which makes London what it is. He said London is turning into Paris where only the richest people can live which is bad for everyone. He believes that there is a way to stop the redevelopment of the Seven Sisters Market and urged the community to continue to fight. He wants to get rid of the Labour council or reduce the majority so they have to start listening.
After an energetic debate, there was time to hear from three final audience members, and to save time the candidates were asked to incorporate their answers, along with their closing statement into one response.
One woman asked a question around the resources to re-provide a youth library in Marcus Garvey Library and the final question was ‘how can you explain selling Apex house for peanuts? Are you going to continue to sell off community assets – what are you going to do to prevent it?’
Diakides (LAB) said that he agreed that selling council assets shouldn’t happen and Apex House was the wrong approach. He said it’s important to celebrate other cultures and meet your neighbours and Tottenham is a multi-cultural place and needs to be celebrated.
Diakides continued to say that many wrong things have happened, and some people meant well but went the wrong way. ‘We have succeeded to have a revolution in Haringey’ and the community coming together has helped there to be changes to policy. He believes there have been too many council budget cuts, but explained that the council didn’t want to cut services, the cuts were imposed. He feels that the best thing is for Labour to win nationally rather than on a local level. His final remark was ‘don’t take it for granted that something is absolutely safe.’
Carter (LD) said that demolitions are expensive in cost and carbon cost and it’s better to refurbish. He said that there are plans to turn areas around tube stations into homogenised airport style places that are all the same and we need to value an unusual development like the Seven Sisters Market. He added that he is the LD spokesperson on libraries, and that centralising library and youth services is not benefiting the community. He also said that sell off is a continuing theme but community action is what’s thwarted proposals.
Obedencio (GRN) added that a Corbyn led government would be good. He believes that the whip system is a problem and if councillors rebel from their party too much they will get deselected. He would like to see the green party with more councillors in London and across the UK.
Babis (CON) said he is active in developing and improving estates and Tottenham High Road and wants to work with the community to improve them. He believes there needs to be better negotiation for temporary accommodation and suggested that Tottenham Green is turned into a week long Christmas market where local businesses could trade. His closing remark was ‘problems can only be solved when we all work together.’
The election of councillors to Haringey Council will take place at polling stations on Thursday 3 May 2018.