The race to appoint Hackney’s new mayor got underway in earnest this week with the announcement of the candidates. Former Mayor Jules Pipe’s departure to join Sadiq Khan as deputy Mayor of London for planning, regeneration and skills has led each political party to field a candidate for the election, which takes place on September 15. Hackney’s next mayor will have to contend with a shortage of affordable housing and school places, as well as the threat of gentrification that has already pushed out residents onto the fringes of the borough. EastLondonLines spoke to the candidates about what they think they can offer Hackney if elected.
Amy Gray for the Conservatives
The 32-year-old grew up travelling around the world following her father’s military postings, until she won a scholarship to study at Rugby School, and then another to study English at Oxford University. Gray was inspired to enter politics after working as an English teacher in Hackney and seeing first-hand how education can change a young person’s life. She was quick to tell ELL that for this reason she’s “known Hackney for longer than she’s known the Conservatives, and still sits as a school governor at a primary school in the borough.”
Before campaigning to become Mayor of Hackney, Gray stood as Conservative Party candidate in Hackney North and Stoke Newington in the 2015 general election, coming second behind a landslide win by the Labour party.
Speaking to ELL, Gray said: “I think a Conservative mayor would be better suited to the position. I’m not going to say that the council haven’t done some things right, because I use our local services and we’re very well served.”
Despite her appreciation of Hackney council, Gray believes that housing is an area that former Mayor Jules Pipe got wrong, especially in his support for the Tiger Way development.
“There have been quite a lot of inconsistencies in the way that Jules Pipe has approached development,” she said.
“On the one hand, he argued that the really large plans for Bishopsgate Goodsyard weren’t appropriate for the area; on the other hand, the Tiger Way development, a 14-story tower in the middle of a residential area, is apparently fine. This has left a lot of people living around Clapton a bit confused about why they’re being treated differently.”
Not fond of high-rise buildings in Hackney, Gray wants to implement a mid-rise solution to the housing shortage.
“I prefer the Create Streets model of high density, mid-rise housing supported by Zac Goldsmith in his bid for London Mayor,” she said.
Gray does, however, recognise that high rise solutions can work in some areas.
“If it’s right for the local area and it’s what’s needed, then I’m not against it. Down on our boundary with the City, towards Old Street, there’s probably more of a case for it.” Gray said.
Gray wants to utilise the disused land by Nightingale Estate and Kings Crescent for a house-building programme.
“There’s a line of three brownfield sites from East to West on the North side of Hackney Downs, one being Tiger Way and the two others mostly disused service stations. I want to use these sites to create affordable housing, the type of housing that we desperately need in Hackney.” Said Gray.
Gray wants to see more “innovative academy models, like free schools” in Hackney, believing them to be the solution to the borough’s lack of school places.
“They’ll give us the spaces we need and they have other funding streams apart from the government. Most of our secondary schools are now academies and it’s been a massive contributor to the rise in standards we’ve seen in our secondary schools.”
Herself a previous victim of crime, Gray believes that tackling high crime rates requires cooperation between local businesses and the police.
“The crime rate is particularly high in Dalston and Shoreditch, to me, this demonstrates that the crime is partly due to the development of the night-time economy. You can’t tackle crime which is targeted at people going out at night without working with businesses to ensure that they know what to look out for and that they know the troublemakers in the area,” said Gray.
Asked whether she thought there should be a greater police presence in Dalston and Shoreditch at night, Gray said, “Yes, if that’s what’s needed. I want to see more intelligence led policing so we can identify potential trouble spots and the police can head off crime before it happens.”
Dave Raval for the Liberal Democrats
The son of a solicitor and a legal secretary, 36-year-old Raval has spent the majority of his life living in East London. Raval told ELL: “I previously lived in Walthamstow before I moved to Hackney, I was born and raised in East London.” Raval is the chief executive of LoftZone, an eco-friendly company whose product, StoreFloor, won the 2013 Ideal Home Show award for Invention of the Year. Raval studied Engineering and Management at both Oxford and Cambridge University before founding LoftZone. A committed European Union supporter, Raval was the joint coordinator of the Remain campaign in Hackney.
Raval stood for the Liberal Democrats in two general elections; in the 2010 election he stood in Hackney and came second, then in 2015 he stood in Leicester East, coming sixth.
Raval is the first candidate ever to sign up to More United, a crowdfunding source for progressive politicians that want an end to adversarial politics.
“I want to be part of a progressive movement where parties work together on things that they agree on. I’m not running a negative campaign; I’m not going down the route of slating other parties. I want to make it clear that I’ll appoint members of other parties as Deputy Mayors, as long as they sign up to the More United principles.” Raval said.
Raval believes that the UK leaving the European Union is the biggest issue that’s facing Hackney at the moment.
“We have lots of people from Europe living here who now could potentially face or are already facing stigma and discrimination. As well as this, we don’t quite know yet how the economy is going to be affected.” Raval said.
“There are tens of thousands of EU citizens living in Hackney who couldn’t vote in the EU referendum, yet had the most at stake. If the government decides to enact Article 50, I’ll use Hackney’s voice to make sure that EU citizens in the borough keep their right to live, work and vote.” Raval added.
A passionate cosmopolitan, Raval has been inspired by London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s London is Open initiative.
“London is Open is about showing the world that London remains entrepreneurial and we extend welcome to international visitors. I want people to know that Hackney remains a cosmopolitan, globally accepting borough.”
As a Liberal Democrat, Raval supports giving greater freedom to schools, but doesn’t exclusively support one type over another.
“I wasn’t in favour of forcing schools to become academies when the government proposed it. We want more school places and freedom for schools to manage themselves independently of Whitehall, but I’m agnostic regarding the structure of these schools, that’s up to the local community and the local professionals. So long as each school meets the minimum requirements of teaching the national curriculum and promoting inclusivity, they’re fine by me,” said Raval.
When asked how he would deal with Hackney’s housing shortage, Raval said, “There’s a large demand for housing in Hackney, but we have plenty of brownfield space here, and excellent public transport infrastructure, so we have the means to deliver more housing.” Raval added
Raval wants to prevent the further “gentrification of Hackney Wick” which he says is pricing out residents. “The council should use its planning authority to make sure the area remains a mixed use location. I don’t have a problem with high-rise buildings so long as they aren’t made up of luxury flats that people purchase as capital assets and that anybody that’s displaced by new buildings is relocated.”
Samir Jeraj for the Green Party
Born to parents of Kenyan and Irish origin, 31-year-old Jeraj grew up in Hertfordshire. Jeraj’s mother was a librarian and his father a hospital pharmacist. Jeraj studied History and Economics at York University, going on afterwards to complete a Master’s degree in Development Studies at the University of East Anglia. Jeraj told ELL that the main two events that steered him towards the Green Party at 19-years-old were “the Iraq war and the introduction of university fees in 2004 under Tony Blair’s Labour government.” Jeraj has worked with development NGOs as well as local councils; he was economic development officer for North Norfolk Council and then elected Green Party councillor for Norwich City Council. Jeraj is currently Policy and Practice Officer for Race Equality Foundation, a charity that aims to research and tackle race inequality through social support. Jeraj also works as a freelance Journalist, with articles in the Guardian and the Independent, as well as other publications.
Jeran stood as Green Party candidate for North East in the Greater London Assembly election earlier this year, coming third out of eight candidates.
Jeraj believes that his most important hurdle, as Mayor, would be tackling housing shortages and rogue landlords.
“Housing is the biggest issue that’s facing Hackney; there’s a lack of housing to meet the growing demand and as Mayor, I’d use the available brownfield sites to build social and affordable housing,” said Jeraj.
I want the projects to be community-led with heavy involvement from residents. I’m against the council pushing through applications and then seeking public approval afterwards, I’d rather Hackney’s citizens were given a say from the very beginning,” Jeraj added.
“For private renters like myself, the cost of rent is spiralling up, there’s very little security and conditions tend to be bad. I would introduce landlord licensing as Mayor, as Newham has; it would bring accountability to bear on landlords and allow the council to raise the standards of available accommodation.” Jeraj added.
Speaking of the controversial Tiger Way development, Jeraj said, “The process of consultation was very poor. Jules Pipe was against high rises in the South of Hackney, but okay with them in the North, it’s a contradiction.”
“The lack of any social or affordable housing in the development is outrageous. I sympathise with the need to provide more school places by using the revenue to fund the schools below, but that’s no excuse for not demanding affordable housing from developers and that’s something I would do as Mayor.” Jeraj added.
Jeraj is against the introduction of further free schools and other academy models, believing instead that local authority schools are more suitable for Hackney.
“I absolutely believe that we need more school places to meet rising demand, but the evidence doesn’t support free schools and academies achieving better results than other mainstream forms of schools. We need to involve parents, students and teachers in the decision making process at council level to provide solutions that are community-led.”
“The Green philosophy on schooling is that we should focus less on testing and more on developing the skills and talents of each pupil. If less direction from central government means we can put more emphasis on student development, then I’ll support it, but the emphasis of the current government has been more on shifting responsibility onto schools while also cutting their funding.”
Jeraj wants to stand up for artists in Hackney Wick.
“The gentrification of an area with a flourishing creative economy not only threatens to displace artists that live there, but in doing so, it puts the heart and soul of Hackney at risk. If elected, I’ll stand up for the artists and fight hyper-commercialisation in the area,” said Jeraj
As well as supporting the London Living Wage in Hackney through council services, Jeraj wants Hackney to become more environmentally friendly.
“I’d seek to divest the council of fossil fuels and move towards sustainable sources of renewable energy, like solar panels on council owned buildings, housing and schools.”
“Within the landlord licensing scheme, I’d like to include measures for effective, environmentally friendly insulation that not only decreases carbon emissions, but improves their health, tackles cold homes in Hackney and ultimately saves money on people’s energy bills.”
Phillip Glanville for Labour
Glanville left school at fourteen without any qualifications, attending college to study for his GCSEs and A Levels, before studying at the London School of Economics. Glanville has served for ten years as Councillor for Hoxton West, for six years as Cabinet Member for Housing and is currently Deputy Mayor of Hackney. “I love Hackney – it’s my home, and I spend every day fighting to make it better, fairer and more sustainable,” he says in his campaign. Glanville stood with residents of New Era Estate in their battle against eviction after a group planning to charge market rate rents bought the estate; Comedian Russell Brand famously joined the protests.
Glanville believes that housing is the biggest challenge that faces Hackney.
“The lack of affordable housing in Hackney is by far the biggest problem facing us. Too many are being priced out, too many are languishing on the waiting list for council houses, and far too many desperate families are struggling in temporary accommodation,” said Glanville
“As Cabinet Member for Housing, I’m proud that we have delivered genuinely affordable council homes to rent and buy against the odds. We’ve now built 268 homes, are onsite building 738 more, and I’ve started work on a second programme of 500 homes with 70% of these new council homes as genuinely affordable, a mix unheard of in London.” Glanville added.
Glanville believes that as Mayor, he could progress the house-building programme in Hackney even more.
“But as Mayor, working across the Council I could go so much further. If selected, I pledge to double the number of council homes we build from 2018; and I will commit Hackney to being the first borough in London to build 500 of Sadiq Khan’s London Living Rent homes – where no one pays more than a third of their income in rent,” said Glanville.
Glanville wants to fight to protect services in Hackney, including Local Authority Schools and the NHS, which he believes is under the threat of privatization. As well as this, Glanville wants to build more schools in Hackney to provide much needed places for the growing number of children in the borough.
Glanville’s wants to facilitate better access for young people to get into apprenticeships and other training schemes, as well as better access to jobs in Hackney. Wishing to support the voluntary sector, Glanville also wants to establish the Active Hackney Network, a community involvement initiative to provide more volunteers for the borough.
Keen to ensure that Hackney remains a cycling borough and support a healthy citizenry, Glanville pledges to tackle air pollution near schools and town centres.