New Haringey leader plans more collaborative approach with residents
By Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
The new leader of Haringey Council has pledged to work more closely with residents – including on major regeneration schemes.
Cllr Peray Ahmet said she wanted Haringey to listen to residents and become a “truly, genuinely collaborative council” as she set out her priorities for the year ahead.
Cllr Ahmet made history by becoming the first Muslim leader of Haringey Council after receiving the unanimous backing of her Labour colleagues.
In her inaugural speech, Cllr Ahmet said: “We need a council that knows its people and listens – really listens – and collaborates with them because it wants to, not because it feels it has to.
“We are not here to do things to or for people – we are here to work with them to make things happen. I want to see Haringey become a truly, genuinely collaborative council, and this is how we will achieve the kind of change we were elected for.”
Born in North Middlesex Hospital, Cllr Ahmet grew up in Wood Green and lives in Tottenham with her family. A lifelong resident of the borough, she said this had shaped the way she wanted to see things done.
Cllr Ahmet told councillors the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Haringey had been “devastating” but had also created a “legacy of cooperation”, with the “dozens of mutual aid groups” that had formed showing there was “an appetite for a very different approach”.
This approach will involve co-designing what the council does with people, from bins to homes and social care, she explained.
Cllr Ahmet pledged a “seamless offer for the early years and under-fives”, which will be led by new cabinet member for early years, children and families Cllr Zena Brabazon.
She also vowed to support EU citizens affected by Brexit and engage with people on crime, safety and justice.
“We know that hate crime has jumped since the break with Europe – and as life restarts after lockdown, so too will crime and antisocial behaviour,” Cllr Ahmet said.
“We can’t change any of this alone, or from the top down, and we must work with our communities to do more to tackle the epidemic and trauma of youth violence in our borough.”
Cllr Ahmet told the meeting the idea of regeneration had “lost all credibility” because it was “something done to people, not with people and by people.”
“What we want to see is a place-making approach – an unrelenting commitment to rebuilding communities with the community,” she said.
“Building more social housing is one of the most powerful things we can do to reduce poverty and inequality – but the way we build matters.
“We have very different needs in Haringey, and we need homes that work for everyone – for younger families, older families, families with children, people with disabilities, everyone.”
The new leader said the council needed to build communities, not just homes, and take into account the need for schools, health centres, parks and other facilities.
Claiming residents did not feel listened to, Cllr Ahmet said there needed to be “a massive shift in the way the council talks to people and works with people.”