Prime minister urged to ‘level up’ Tottenham ten years after riots

Council leader writes letter to Boris Johnson on tenth anniversary of riots, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Haringey Council leader Peray Ahmet (left) has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) a decade on from the Tottenham riots
Haringey Council leader Peray Ahmet (left) has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) a decade on from the Tottenham riots (credit Haringey Council/10 Downing Street)

The leader of Haringey Council has urged the prime minister to help “level up” Tottenham ten years on from the riots.

Peray Ahmet warned the “real progress” made in tackling the problems affecting Tottenham could be lost in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic without extra support from the government.

In an open letter to Boris Johnson, she asked him to “commit to backing our residents as part of your levelling-up agenda”, referring to a flagship government plan to boost opportunities and reduce regional inequality.

The council leader’s letter points out that when he was mayor of London, Johnson was vocal in making the case for extra investment for Tottenham.  

Cllr Ahmet wrote: “With additional investment – to support our residents who have been hit particularly hard by the economic fallout of the pandemic – we could do more to back jobs and  drive local economic growth in all sectors, from green jobs to small start-ups. 

“I believe that we can and will achieve transformational change, working with our borough, but I also know that we could go further and faster with more help from you.”

The council leader said that since 2011 substantial work had been done by the council, its partners and the community, to build on Tottenham’s strengths and tackle problems such as racism, high unemployment, lower educational attainment, poorer health outcomes and “significant overcrowding”.

But she warned the Covid-19 pandemic had “hit Tottenham hard”, leaving it with the second-highest rise in Universal Credit claimants of any parliamentary constituency in England.

Cllr Ahmet said that while relations between the police and community had become stronger, the “disproportionate use of stop and search against black as well as other ethnic minority communities continues to be a real problem – in our borough and across the country”. She added that Tottenham still has one of the highest rates of youth violence in London.

The leader set out the work the council is doing to improve people’s lives, despite “a decade of real-terms reductions in funding” due to “government-imposed austerity”. It includes building 3,000 homes during the next decade, improving youth services, developing an early years strategy and rolling out schemes to combat climate change. 

But Cllr Ahmet warned: “I am writing to you today because there is a risk – without additional government support – that Tottenham will go backwards economically and that the wider progress that has been made will be lost.”

The government has pledged to publish a white paper on levelling up this year, which it says will set out “how bold new policy interventions will improve opportunity and boost livelihoods across the country” as it recovers from the pandemic.

It has already announced a £4.8billion Levelling Up Fund to support local projects. Boroughs have been ranked in three categories according to their need for funding, with category one representing the highest need. Haringey has been placed in category two. 

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We’ve committed more than £45bn to help councils support their local communities and businesses during the pandemic, with more than £64million of emergency funding given directly to Haringey Council.

“The £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund will invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK, including regenerating town centres and high streets, upgrading local transport, and investing in cultural and heritage assets.

“Over £10m from the Future High Streets Fund will be invested in regenerating Tottenham High Road, which will support existing and new businesses by strengthening retail quarters and supporting mixed-use development programmes and community facilities.”

This original version of this article quoted the government spokesperson saying £12bn had been provided to help local councils during the pandemic. They later clarified that the correct total figure is £45bn.