A recent hustings-style event saw six ward candidates debate the key issues in Edmonton Green with voters, reports James Cracknell
Six local election candidates standing in Edmonton Green ward attended a hustings-style event at Community House to answer questions from voters.
The event was held this month as part of an ongoing project funded by the Public Interest News Foundation (PINF), which seeks to boost democratic engagement in specific communities.
Local residents were invited to attend the event, with 25 local people taking the chance to quiz the candidates in attendance, which included three Labour candidates, one Green, and two independents. The six remaining candidates for the ward – three Conservatives and three Liberal Democrats – were invited but declined to attend.
The 90-minute event centred around debates on three key local issues that had previously been identified from discussions with voters – housing, crime and the environment – although the six candidates began by introducing themselves and their own core election pledges.
Oktay Cinpolat, one of the two independent candidates, said he had seen how the Edmonton Green area had “deteriorated” over the years from “the lack of services the council has provided” and that if elected he would “challenge” the council to do much more.
Ergin Erbil, a Labour candidate who has served as a councillor in the ward for the past four years, said Edmonton Green was “one of the most deprived neighbourhoods” in London and that the key to changing the area’s fortunes was “pressing the government” for more support, highlighting that the Conservatives at Westminster had slashed the council’s government funding by more than half since they came to power in 2010. However, he noted that the council had nonetheless increased spending on street cleaning by £500,000 and was building more social housing.
Gunes Akbulut and Abdul Abdullahi, the other two Labour candidates, echoed what Cllr Erbil said, adding that building more social housing was crucial but that the choice at the election was between a Labour-run council that was investing in services or a Conservative administration that “does not care about Edmonton Green”.
Telesha Reid, the second independent candidate, said the council needed more independent voices that could “challenge” decisions such as the scheme to build a new, larger Edmonton incinerator. Together with Oktay, with whom she shares a policy platform, Telesha said: “We are 100% against the burning of waste – we want to challenge NLWA [North London Waste Authority].”
Peter Krakowiak, the Green candidate, said he was also against the expansion of the incinerator – “thanks, but no thanks” – but that he supported the creation of more low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) which he said “create safe streets” and help tackle pollution. He added that the Greens would oppose any new homes on the Green Belt, blaming the government’s ‘Right to Buy’ policy for worsening the housing crisis in London.
The debate around housing began with an audience member, Christina, describing the system for housing homeless people in temporary accommodation as “appalling” and the conditions that they live in “very poor”. She added that some people were working full-time but still ending up “living in poverty”.
Cllr Erbil agreed that more social housing needed to be built, although he pointed out that Edmonton Green has the highest number of social homes in Enfield borough. He said that “our housing repairs service has improved” as a result of Labour bringing it back under direct council control and added that a landlord licensing scheme, to improve standards in the private rental sector, had also been introduced.
Green candidate Peter said the council should be “guaranteeing rents” are within what people can afford, but acknowledged this was limited by national government policy and “there is a lot the council cannot control”. Peter also criticised the council’s flagship housing scheme, Meridian Water, for relying on shared ownership housing, which he described as “unaffordable” to most people.
Oktay said he didn’t think the council “had a clue” about what affordable housing means and said Treasury money was “being given to housing investors who then sell it back to us at unaffordable rates”.
Kicking off the discussion around crime, audience member Colin Lee-Own highlighted the link between high unemployment and high crime rates, and urged the council to support his 21K Digital Media hub at Edmonton Green Shopping Centre, which was giving local young people employment and training opportunities.
Cllr Erbil said tackling knife crime was his “main priority” but that it had been difficult to develop relationships with the Metropolitan Police because of a high turnover of management. However, he said the council had “been pressuring them” and had managed to increase the number of police officers based in Edmonton Green.
Abdul admitted it was “not just about policing” and that young people did need to have more opportunities. In light of this, he said the council was proposing a new construction skills academy at Meridian Water. Gunes, another a Labour candidate, said “it breaks my heart” to see young people walking around with knives and that poverty was one of the main causes.
Telesha said she wanted to see more youth centres in Edmonton Green “to keep young people busy” and also highlighted the high number of children being excluded from school as a key contributor to the problem.
Peter said the Greens were focused on solving the cost of living crisis, which he warned would exacerbate crime if it was not tackled.
The final debate of the evening was around the environment, which quickly became a heated discussion over the merits or otherwise of a new, larger waste incinerator being built in Edmonton Green ward. One audience member, Lorna, said the incinerator “shouldn’t be on my doorstep” and “shouldn’t be getting bigger” because Edmonton was already very polluted.
Cllr Erbil was asked to defend the council’s position of supporting NLWA’s plans for the project and said he “understood people’s frustration and anger” on the issue. Although he said the existing incinerator had been in Edmonton for 50 years and was no longer “fit for purpose” so had to be rebuilt, he added that the council’s priority was reducing pollution from motor traffic, which he said had a far greater impact, and planting thousands more street trees to “make Edmonton Green green again”.
Both the Green and independent candidates vowed to opposed the incinerator if elected. Oktay said he wanted the incinerator “moved out to an isolated area that is not populated” while Telesha said the council needed to focus more on “recycling and composting”.
To see a full list of the candidates standing in Edmonton Green:
For more information about the PINF Impact Fund: