Nesil Caliskan might be the country’s youngest female leader but she has big plans.
In an LGC interview after she was voted in as Labour leader of Enfield LBC, Cllr Caliskan spoke of her ambitions and plans as leader.
“We’ve got to be ambitious - if you reach for the stars you’ll get something just below,” Cllr Caliskan said. “We’ve got huge areas of inequality in the borough and my overriding motivation lies in promoting fairness and equality. It’s why I got involved and why I ran as a councillor in the first place.”
Cllr Caliskan’s top priorities are tackling crime and poverty, and building more homes.
The new leader’s vision could be likened to the previous leader of Haringey LBC, Claire Kober, who this month left the council after almost 10 years of leadership on a progressive ticket following a fall-out within the party.
While Cllr Caliskan, aged 29, is a young woman from north London with a big vision to overturn inequality in her borough, she said that is where the similarities with Ms Kober (who was made leader aged 30) end.
“We’re both Labour party people, we’re both women but I’m very much on my own journey in politics,” she said. “I’m from Enfield and Enfield isn’t Haringey. I’m delighted to be a leader of a borough I’ve lived in my entire life. I know it’s a really tough time for local government, everyone knows we’ve had our budgets absolutely decimated, but I’m unashamedly ambitious for Enfield.”
Despite those ambitions, Cllr Caliskan, who was first elected in a by-election three years ago, recognised the “realities” of serving under a Conservative government that is ”tying our hands”.
With regards reducing knife crime, Cllr Caliskan said her plans were constrained by the loss of 200 police officers in the borough since 2010. However she plans to work with the police and source more of the Mayor for London’s crime budget.
“We have got to make that argument and I will be leading on that argument,” she said.
While Cllr Caliskan wants more “genuinely affordable” housing, she also recognises the need to work with the private sector.
“I’m very aware of the limitations of the government puts on us,” she said, before adding: “I will be fighting against that and pushing the boundaries.”
Ultimately, Cllr Caliskan wants to build more council homes, with a minimum target of 50% affordable homes to help remove 3000 people from temporary housing (“that’s the second highest number in the country”).