In the run up to the May elections, we interviewed Kabir Ahmed, Aspire Councillor and candidate for Weavers.
The local elections are fast approaching. On Thursday 5 May, you can head to your local voting station and have your say on who will be councillor for your ward.
The last time such elections took place was in 2018.
In the run up to this year’s elections, we speak to one candidate from each of the main political parties to ask them what their party would do if elected or re-elected to the council. We also include a list of the candidates who are running for election in the borough’s 20 wards.
Q&A with the Kabir Ahmed
Below, we speak to Kabir Ahmed, current Aspire Councillor and candidate for Weavers ward.
In the Tower Hamlets Annual Residents’ Survey, residents have repeatedly cited that crime, affordable housing, and litter in the streets are causes for concern. If your party were elected/re-elected, what would it prioritise?
Crime would be the first issue. I would specifically set up a knife crime strategy and then look at other accumulative crime around that, such as drugs. At the moment, there’s only Operation Continuum (a drug-based and associated crime strategy plan) and knife crime is simply put into that as a subcategory. So, for us, it’s very serious and important; every life taken is not acceptable. Knife crime that goes on is not solely related to drugs. There’re a number of other issues ranging from mental health to peer pressure to postcode wars.
So, in that spirit, I would say we develop a specific knife crime strategy that can also relate to other violent crime as well which can be similarly interlinked.
What initiatives or schemes will your party seek to put into place to raise the borough’s green credentials?
A key priority would be to increase recycling, but you need to educate people around the benefits of recycling and let residents have ownership of recycling.
It’s a tiered approach. For a start, having your recycling collected helps so first, we would get service levels back where they should be, which is at least one collection a week. Then, look at how we can enhance those areas that need more than one collection a week. And then, the third tier of it is, we increase how much recycling we can do, how we process the recycling, and what use we can do with the recycling.
We have recycling plants, but I don’t think many residents are aware of that. How practical we make that is giving residents that information, empowering residents to do that. That’s then reducing Council recycling, but the recycling will still be done.
After residents backed plans to reduce traffic flow in the area in 2020, the council stated that traffic calming measures were to be introduced in Bow in 2021, as part of Tower Hamlets’ Liveable Streets programme. Residents are telling us they are still to see progress. This raised a lot of passion in our readers. Where does your party stand on this and how you will address concerns?
I don’t subscribe to the view that blocking roads will immediately reduce pollution. I feel it actually creates pollution or redirects pollution from one road to another. Road networks play an integral part of daily life for numerous people in and out of the borough.
From where I am in Weavers, where a lot of roads have been blocked, it’s created what’s known as ‘Asbo Plaza’ by residents. It’s created a whole heap of drug users who have pretty much taken up refuge in the local parks and some of the roads and streets. When residents call the police, the police have said it’s going to take us 20 to 30 minutes to get there so by the time we get there, these people are off. I know it sounds very, very heightened but the fact is these are real life impacts that people are facing.
We are committed to reducing carbon emissions, but we need to do it in a sensible way and with the consent of the people. To get consent of the people, you need to educate them around it such as ways around exercise, and ways around healthy living but we can’t dictate people to do things that they don’t choose to do.
For me, it’s a balancing act to motivate people to use cars when they need to use cars and not use cars when they don’t need to. That is a challenge but that’s something that we have to endeavour to do.
Between 2017 and 2021, the percentage of those who believed the council provides good value for the council tax they pay dropped by almost 20% – how will your party regain residents’ confidence that they are getting good value for their council tax?
We want to make sure that the investment is done correctly in areas such as rubbish collection and street cleaning and that the council is in a place where it can deliver good quality services. And with that, you need to add wraparound services. So, it’s not directly integral to council tax itself, but things like Meals on Wheels which used to be there, and support the most vulnerable in the community, investment in the libraries, social care, and our leisure centres. So, if you have those wraparound services, the council tax can actually do what it’s supposed to do.
What is the single biggest problem facing Tower Hamlets and what is your party going to do to tackle it?
The single biggest problem is housing. We do have a housing crisis; it’s a supply and demand issue, the supply has not been forthcoming. So, for us, we need to increase the supply. Our pledge is to build 1000 good quality new homes per year, over the next four years. This will take serious work with developers, housing providers, management teams, and we have to work out locations and so on and so forth, but the aspiration is to build 1000 affordable homes a year for the next four years.
How do you differ from the other parties?
What sets us apart is we are locally based. Every member of Aspire is a stakeholder within Tower Hamlets. Other political parties, their allegiance is to the national political party; for us, our allegiance is to the residents we serve. We don’t take anything for granted. For us, every bit of hard work we do will be reciprocated in kind by residents supporting us. Other political parties sometimes go on snooze mode; they believe that the branding, the tribalism of their political party, will automatically get them in positions of power. We don’t take that for granted. We’re here to represent residents as an independent local party.
Aspire candidates in Tower Hamlets
|– Bethnal Green –|
|Syed Hasan Abdullah|
|– Blackwall and Cubitt Town –|
|Ahmodur Rahman Khan|
|– Bow West –|
|– Bromley North –|
|Abdul Mannan Nazrul|
|Saif Uddin Khaled|
|– Canary Wharf –|
|– Island Gardens –|
|Syed Shofor Ali|
|– Lansbury –|
|– Limehouse –|
|Atia Begom Jorna|
|– Mile End –|
|– Shadwell –|
|– St Dunstan’s –|
|– St Peter’s –|
|Abu Talha Chowdhury|
|– St Katharine’s and Wapping –|
|– Weavers –|
|– Whitechapel –|
The important bit… FAQs for local elections
When is polling day?
On Thursday 5 May 2022. Voting takes place between 7am and 10pm.
Where can I vote?
There are 75 polling stations across the borough (roughly one station for every 0.1sq miles so you won’t have far to travel!). Find your nearest one here.
How can I vote in the elections?
You have to be registered to vote. You can apply to register to vote by visiting www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. The deadline to apply to register for the election is Thursday 14 April 2022. Registered voters will then be able to vote in person at their designated local polling station. There are also options to apply to vote by post or by proxy. If by post, you can request a postal application form at any time of the year. The deadline for the receipt of a postal vote application form is Saturday 23 April. If you want to vote by proxy (nominate someone to vote on your behalf), either download and fill out this form or contact Tower Hamlets Council visit www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/vote.
How are the councillors elected?
Councillors are elected using a first-past-the-post system where you will be asked to put an ‘X’ in a box on the ballot paper next to the candidate of your choice (or candidates if you have more than one councillor representing your ward). The candidate(s) who receive the most votes are duly elected.
And, of course, the most important question is… am I allowed to bring my dog to a polling station?
Yes! Dogs are welcome to accompany their owners to vote but owners must keep their dogs under control at all times. With over 45,000 hashtags, #DogsAtPollingStations has become a popular and fun way to include your dog on election day on social media.
Hear from the other party candidates in Tower Hamlets:
Read our interview with Green Party Councillor Nathalie Bienfait.
Read our interview with Conservative Councillor Peter Golds.
Read our interview with Labour Party Councillor Rachel Blake.
Read our interview with Liberal Democrat Councillor Rabina Kahn.
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