Haringey LBC’s new left-wing leader has insisted the authority is not a “Momentum council” and admitted residents will judge his administration on its ability to successfully run services.
Joseph Ejiofor (Lab) spoke to LGC earlier this month in advance of the cabinet meeting tomorrow night at which a decision is due on whether the £2bn Haringey Development Vehicle regeneration partnership is scrapped.
Controversy over the plan to build 6,400 new homes and bulldoze social housing resulted in a row about ‘social cleansing’ which culminated in the departure of the previous council leader Claire Kober (Lab) who had championed it. She stood down amid claims of bullying and of the growing influence of the Jeremy Corbyn-supporting Momentum movement in the local party.
Asked by LGC whether Haringey was a Momentum council, Cllr Ejiofor, who took over in May, insisted his administration was a “broad church”.
“We have people from all wings of the party,” he said. “We have members of Momentum, we have Fabians. It’s not a Momentum council. It might be on the left but it’s a Labour council.”
He said he took “the view that Haringey has always been a Labour borough” with residents in its more prosperous western wards, “normally on the soft left of politics”.
“One of the key issues for us as a council going forwards is whether we deliver for our residents,” he said. “It’s not about ideology – it’s about whether bins are collected, it’s about education, it’s about what the environment’s like.
“Residents are more interested in that than whether we fly the red flag over civic centre.”
Cllr Ejiofor declared that his administration was “in local government to deliver for local people”.
“The focus that we have – particular priorities in the way that we are going to improve the lives of people in the borough – shouldn’t be a reason for others to hope that we fail.”
He admitted some policies “might not work as well as quickly as we’d like”, but insisted: “We hope we get the benefit of the doubt when we do things that might not work ideally.”
The Haringey leader also expressed an interest transferring the “Preston model” of a more interventionist council, working to boost local jobs and to keep money in the local area, from the setting of the Lancashire district to a London borough.
“How we can procure more locally and increase the capacity of our local businesses and local voluntary sector to engage with the council?” Cllr Ejiofor asked. “Over the forthcoming year we will see how effective we are at that.”
According to Cllr Ejiofor’s research, he is only the “sixth Afro-Caribbean council leader in UK history”. Many black councillors were “more set on being ceremonial mayor than leader”, he said, adding: “I might take a more cynical view that some of the more senior people running local government have not sought to share power around as much as they may have done.”
He urged politically-active black people to become more involved in local democracy.
“Rather than blame other people I urge my community – young black people with an interest in politics and an interest in serving their community – to get more involved,” he said.
“We can’t blame other people unless we’ve tried.
“I’ve come across people who say, ‘I’ve always voted Labour, that’s OK’. I say, ‘you have to join the party and get involved to set the agenda’.”