New council leader puts housing first

Cllr Joseph Ejiofor promises to do things differently to ensure development plans deliver for residents

By Ellie Rae Ward

Cllr Joseph Ejiofor

 

The new leader of Haringey Council has described housing as his administration’s key policy area to address and vowed to include residents in housing and regeneration plans for the borough.

Cllr Joseph Ejiofor told Tottenham Community Press (TCP): “Our key policy is around housing Haringey’s people and – without criticising the previous administration – I think previously there was a desire to build housing per se… But the housing that was being built wasn’t focussed enough around the needs of the people who actually live in Haringey.

“There wasn’t a commitment to a single new council house. Our view is that whatever we’re doing with regards to housing, we’ve got to look at the people who are here and ensure the housing policy delivers for them.”

Ejiofor, was elected leader of the Haringey Labour group on 9 May, five days after Labour were voted back in to run the Council, despite losing seven seats to the Liberal Democrats. Ejiofor has been a councillor since 2010 and was previously deputy leader under Claire Kober’s leadership.

There wasn’t a commitment to a single new council house

When asked for a definitive answer about the future of the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), Kober’s flagship £2bn regeneration plan, Ejiofor responded: “The Council will make a decision on the future of the development vehicle at its cabinet meeting on July 17th.”

It seems almost inevitable however that the HDV will be scrapped in July. TCP asked Ejiofor what successful regeneration and development looks like in practice.

“Regeneration isn’t just about shiny new buildings,” he responded.

“It’s about social and economic regeneration as well… Whatever regeneration happens, it has to benefit the local economy as well. It’s not just about improving the infrastructure. It’s got to bring jobs, additional prosperity and additional opportunities. And I’d like to say it improves the cohesive feel of the community, bringing people together. They’re brought together over the design of what gets built, and help to make things happen… That’s what successful regeneration means to me.”

Ejiofor also addressed plans for the development of Northumberland Park specifically. He said: “Post-HDV: What are we going to do about Northumberland Park? Cllr Brabazon is going to be leading on a project called Northumberland Park Resident Engagement. The aim of that is going to be to talk to residents of Northumberland Park and ask them simply, ‘how is it that this Council can redevelop your estate?’

“We need more housing on Northumberland Park itself; and we need different sizes of houses. There’s not enough family housing and too much one bedroom and studio housing… There are many different ways of doing that. We want to be clear that whatever changes we make will have the support of the local community.”

Cllr Emina Ibrahim has been named as the deputy leader of Haringey Labour Group. Ibrahim is also the vice chair of the pro-Corbyn campaign group Momentum, of which Ejiofor is a member of its national co-ordinating group. Some commentators and activists have described the new administration in Haringey as the first ‘Corbyn Council’.

Ejiofor told TCP: “We have a particular view about how services should be delivered. We’re keen that public services have democratic accountability and that means most of them need to be, in my view, delivered directly from and by the Council.

“This is not to say that we are going to in-source everything, because I do not think it is either possible, practical or for that matter, desirable. But it does mean that when we consider how a service should be delivered that we consider delivering it ourselves first.”

When asked about how the Council will balance the desire to bring services in-house whilst managing a tight budget, Ejiofor responded: “We are going to be a prudent authority We are not going to waste money unnecessarily because we don’t have money to waste. We’re clear about our direction of travel but we’ve got to maintain quality and look after council tax payers’ money.”

This is a new administration that has different priorities

Ejiofor also spoke to TCP about his views on the spike in violent crime in areas of Haringey, including Tottenham, and about the Council’s commitment to support young people. He said: “It’s naive to think that reduced police numbers has no impact on increased crime. But at the same time what we need to ensure is that the police are able to police the community with its consent and sometimes that means the police looking hard at some of the things they do, which sometimes reduces the trust that the community has of the police service.

“At the same time, the Council has a commitment to ensure there are appropriate services for young people; that we address and deal with youth offending and re-offending; and that we have people who are able to help mediate between gangs or who can work with people to help get them out of gangs. These services are expensive.

“We have a commitment to design the youth service around the needs of young people. And that means they’ve got to be central to whatever that youth service is.”

Ejiofor confirmed that he has asked the chief executive of the Council to pause further progress on the deal to build a £6.5m Youth Zone in partnership with national charity Onside, which TCP reported on in May. The cabinet will come to a conclusion after its youth strategy has been formed in the “next couple of months”.

While the individual strategies for different issues in the borough are yet to be decided by the newly elected cabinet, Ejiofor confirmed that a Fairness Commission, led by Cllr Zena Brabazon will be launched. It will consist of a borough-wide discussion over the forthcoming year to find out what change residents want to see in their local area.

Ejiofor said: “I urge everybody to engage with the fairness commission and its work at whatever level – whether it’s traders associations, resident’s groups, neighbours… come and get involved.”

When asked if he had a final message for residents of Tottenham, Ejiofor concluded: “This is a new administration that has different priorities and will be doing things in a different way. What we ask is that you give us the opportunity to prove that and don’t prejudge us.”