Only half Hackney’s Mayoral candidates attend hustings ahead of election on Thursday

Only two of the borough’s six Mayoral candidates attend a chaired panel event. Another sends a representative. Pic: Kate Balding

Hackney residents shook their heads in despair as representatives from only half the invited mayoral candidates turned up to speak at a hustings event just days before the election on Thursday.

Simche Steinberger, the Conservative candidate was unable to attend following a clash with another meeting and Simon De Deney, representing the Liberal Democrats, sent an apology for their absence on the evening.

Labour’s candidate Caroline Rebecca Woodley declined the invitation to concentrate on doorstep canvassing.

Therefore the panel consisted of Zoë Garbett for the Green Party, Peter Smorthit an Independent and organiser of the event and Brian Debus, who stood in for Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate, Annoesjka Valent, who was unwell on the day of the hustings. 

The event, held at the Premises Studios in Hackney on Monday evening, opened with panellists stating their position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The attack on October 7 was horrific,” Garbett told the room, stating she would continue to work with local faith leaders to seek community cohesion.

Similarly, Smorthit suggested introducing greater neighbourhood patrols to deter persistent and heightened antisemitism.

All candidates said they were committed to a ceasefire in Gaza and spoke of preserving people’s right to protest peacefully.

Debus outlined Valent’s position on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. by saying: “democracy should decide” which areas took up the policy. In contrast, Smorthit told the room he would ensure LTNs were: “scrapped altogether”.

Garbett took a more measured position stating LTNs were worth supporting if done fairly but acknowledged in Hackney this had not been the case.

When asked about crime, she went on to say there had been over-policing and under-protection of Black and ethnic minority communities and she planned to refocus police time on road deaths and violence against women and girls.

Debus said Valent’s priority would be to bring in elected police committees and reduce stop and search powers.

Speaking about young people, all candidates agreed more funding needed to be allocated to youth clubs with Garbett also proposing a space where young people could scrutinise youth budgets.

For Smorthit, the focus would be on post-school apprenticeships while Debus prioritised support for youth workers.

One resident asked for clarification on what candidates would do to stem rising Airbnb’s in the borough to which Garbett proposed expanding a pilot programme run by Hackney Co-operative Developments.

“FairBnB” was described as a way to channel a percentage of holiday rental incomes back into the local community, with Debus adding, that if elected, Valent would ensure 100% of council-controlled land would be reserved for council housing.

Before the evening concluded, a member of the Hackney Youth Parliament asked candidates what they would do to improve SEND education in Hackney.

Smorthit stated he would safeguard SEND schools and include greater provision for 1:1 support before Debus said money from “bloated” council salaries could be redirected to education through the implementation of a fair “workers’ wage.” 

Garbett said schools needed to be made: “more inclusive from the start.”

All candidates present said they would support a referendum to remove the directly elected mayor system and replace it with a more democratic citizens’ assembly.

The event was chaired by retired Hackney headteacher David Perks.

The previous mayor, Labour Philip Glanville resigned from his position in September following his connection to paedophile and ex-councillor Thomas Dewey.

Statutory Deputy Mayor, Councillor Anntoinette Bramble has served as acting mayor in the interim period. 

All Hackney residents will need a valid photo ID to cast their vote on Thursday.

Leave a Reply