Candidates from the Labour Party won all five seats representing Wanstead on Redbridge Council following the local elections at the beginning of May 2018.
Jo Blackman, Paul Donovan and Daniel Morgan-Thomas won Wanstead Village while Sheila Bain and Paul Merry won Wanstead Park.
Following their success, the newly elected candidates kindly agreed to answer some questions about issues of concern to the local community:
How do you feel now the campaign is over?
“We enjoyed meeting so many residents in the run up to the election and hearing about their concerns. We are grateful for the support that the people of Wanstead have shown by electing us to represent them and we are looking forward to serving all residents and delivering on our election pledges.”
Gwyneth Deakins, a former councillor in the Borough, has criticised the way the local elections and particularly the count were conducted. What are your views about her concerns?
“The count could have gone more smoothly on the night. There were some delays due to various malfunctions. However, it was a long night for everyone concerned, not only the candidates but the Council staff who did the count. They deserve our thanks.”
What were the issues in Wanstead Village and Wanstead Park which dominated the campaign?
“There were particular concerns over crime and pollution. On the wider political scene, a lot of people are concerned about the impact of Brexit, though this falls outside our remit as councillors. There was though also plenty of positive feedback. Most people, for instance, think Wanstead is a great place to live.”
What are your priorities for the next 6 months?
“Our priorities will be to deliver for the residents of Wanstead. This will mean standing up for issues that concern people in the area. It will also be good to see work on that swimming pool get underway.”
There has been some discussion online about a general impression of an increase in crime in Wanstead. Do you think this is true and what can be done about it?
“Crime is certainly a concern in the area that needs to be addressed. The cuts to policing have no doubt impacted on the rise in crime across the whole Borough. This is something the Government should be looking at. More police would no doubt help cut crime.”
In March 2018 it was reported that £5-£10m may be required to improve the safety of three Wanstead Park lakes which continue to be rated at “high risk” of flooding. What added impetus can be given to the long-awaited Heritage Lottery Fund bid?
“There has been close involvement on the part of the incumbent and new Labour Councillors in the affairs of Wanstead Park. The Corporation of London has to fund the flood prevention programme or suffer the consequences from the Environment Agency. This injection of funds could provide some much needed investment, though mainly focusing on flood prevention. The Heritage Lottery Funding bid is vital. We do hope, after much delay, that the Corporation of London will move on with the bid in order that the vision outlined for the Park can be brought to fruition.”
Some residents in Wanstead Village have expressed concerns about an increase in litter particularly in places like Christchurch Green. Will you be taking steps to address these concerns?
“We want an area that all can be proud of and it’s important that everyone plays a part in keeping it clean. We will be discussing this with Council officers as a priority.”
The food and agriculture policy alliance London Food Link recently revealed that Redbridge Council has yet to pass a resolution in support of Fairtrade and is not yet making significant progress towards Fairtrade. Do you feel this is important and will you be pushing the Council to show initiative in this area?
“Fairtrade can play an important role in securing livelihoods for farmers and their families in developing countries and we support efforts in that direction so will be raising this with Council colleagues.”
During the campaign, Daniel Morgan-Thomas said he wanted to put Wanstead “back on the map” after the area had seemed “remote from the wider concerns of Redbridge Council”. In practical terms, how do you think this can be achieved?
“The election of a Labour Council in Redbridge in 2014, together with two Labour Councillors in the former Wanstead Ward, was a significant step forward in putting Wanstead “on the map” and back at the heart of Redbridge Council’s priorities. We’ve seen amongst other things our local library refurbished, investment in our children’s centres, major improvement works planned at Wanstead High School together with a new public pool, and the doubling of free parking time on the High Street. Going forward, with five Labour Councillors now serving the Wanstead area, we will all work to ensure that Wanstead continues to thrive and benefit from Borough-wide investment programmes.”
It is sometimes said of local councillors that after being elected they disappear from public view. How do you propose to make yourselves as accessible and representative of the local community as possible?
“We will be holding regular surgeries, holding a weekly street stall on the High Street, as well as attending local events. We will also be looking to stay in touch with people via local media. Wanstead Ward News (now The Wanstead Post) and the Wanstead Directory have proved particularly adept at providing information during the campaign. We will certainly be doing all we can to sort out problems, get involved and stay in touch with the people of Wanstead.”