In our regular councillor’s column, Katherine Chibah talks about cuts and campaigns
I was proud to be elected as a Labour councillor in Bowes ward in May this year. I wanted to stand because I truly believe in the power of politics to transform lives.
But there is no way to sugar the pill; central government cuts are hurting Enfield badly. In Bowes, the cuts translate into a myriad of issues. People come to surgery each week with well-founded anxiety about crime and the absence of police, or describe how soaring rents and harsh benefits cuts are pushing them to the brink – even when they work long hours.
Meanwhile, Enfield Council has itself lost half its central government grant since 2010. It gets harder by the day for councillors to help the people we represent. In this climate it is crucial that we listen to communities and work to stretch every pound left available. But we must be clear; austerity has been inflicted upon us and our communities because of political choices made by central government.
That is why I and many of my Labour colleagues support ‘Breaking Point – Labour Councillors Fighting Austerity’. As part of this campaign, more than 5,000 Labour councillors have signed a petition which was delivered to Downing Street, appealing for an end to the cuts in October’s budget. Sadly it fell on deaf ears; the planned £1.3billion government cut to councils will go ahead in 2019/20.
I and my colleagues will continue to fight this assault on our communities, not only through protests but also through creativity. Whether you want to call it ‘community wealth building’ or ‘municipal socialism’, Labour councils are looking at radical ways to fight back against austerity.
In Enfield, schemes such as the ‘Energetik’ local authority energy supplier are looking beyond short-term profits and putting communities first. Similarly, the ‘Housing Gateway’ scheme is keeping public money in public hands and providing housing for the most vulnerable.
I also believe we can learn from radical innovations such as the ‘Preston Model’ which aims to truly transform local economies for the benefit of the community. In the coming months I look forward to working with colleagues to work in ways that benefit the many, not the few, in Bowes and across Enfield. For me, that is what being a councillor is all about.
Cllr Chibah is one of three councillors elected to represent Bowes, alongside Yasemin Brett and Achilleas Georgiou (all Labour). Surgeries are held every Saturday morning between 10.30am and 11.30am at Bowes Methodist Church, Palmerston Road.
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