In the run-up to the May elections, we interviewed Nathalie Bienfait, Green Party candidate for Bow West.
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 Nathalie Bienfait
Below, we speak to Nathalie Bienfait, Green Party Candidate for Bow West.
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?
Affordable housing is a big issue in the borough, and I personally feel strongly about representing residents against the power of housing association landlords.
The main issues that I see are that the council has its hands tied with the funding regulations from central government, which don’t allow it to borrow money to build more council housing, so they have to sell off land in Tower Hamlets, which could be used for council homes, to private developers. The developers have their own way of balancing luxury flats to finance social housing, which is an entirely broken model. We’ve seen that it’s completely broken across London. That is something that needs to be done; looking at alternative funding models for building affordable housing which is truly affordable.
What initiatives or schemes will your party seek to put into place to raise the borough’s green credentials?
There are some simple things which can be done such as making sure that there are dropped kerbs to make it easier to cycle around, more bicycle parking both for overnight stays and short trips to the shops, including those along Roman Road.
Then another simple fix would be adding a section to current street bins that allow people to separate their rubbish into recycling and non-recycling.
A policy that I’m really passionate about is to make sure that businesses and council homes are powered with renewable energy. So, I would support residents and local businesses to switch to renewable energy providers, which usually are lower cost as well. We would put pressure on housing associations to buy renewable energy to power the homes in their charge.
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. This raised a lot of passion in our readers. Where does your party stand on this and how you will address concerns?
The residents voted for it. If there are things that we need to rethink, we will rethink them and make sure that the process is properly handled and carefully communicated to TfL. But, if we just need to act, then we will push to just act.
We would bring an independent voice: it takes somebody who’s not scared of losing their place and to bring that difficult point and say: ‘Look, people want this, we need to do this. The residents voted for the measures to be implemented, so we need to implement them.’
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?
Visibility for residents is probably the main way that residents will feel like they are getting a really good service from the council. We would actively approach residents by knocking on doors in Bow West and listening to people. We would also set up surgeries in varied places so that people feel like they can approach us with issues and see that we are fighting for them.
Getting the basics right is also really important, so making sure that refuse is collected promptly, the streets are clean and that residents feel they have someone fighting for them when getting things fixed in their council home.
What is the single biggest problem facing Tower Hamlets and what is your party going to do to tackle it?
The biggest problem for the council specifically is that it is a one-party state: 90% of the councillors are Labour. That’s simply not a healthy democracy.
I think more and more people are realising that decisions which are made under that situation, where there aren’t those radical voices in the room, won’t be solved in the way that they should be. You can see the flaws in the decision making when everybody is kind of worried about the fact that they’re all in the same party and they don’t want to raise their head above the parapet.
Obviously, we will be representing Bow West residents and specifically speaking up for them but having those additional voices in the room is really important for the whole borough to make decisions that are scrutinised properly and ensure real accountability.
How do you differ from the other parties?
I hope that all the answers that I’ve given have shown that we really are the only party that can do all of these things, work hard for residents, be an independent voice, and be really principled.
I think the other way that we can distinguish ourselves is to be a challenger party to Labour’s one-party state which, from a democracy perspective, is really good to see: Labour needs to have accountability.
Green Party candidates in Tower Hamlets
|– Bethnal Green Ward –|
|– Blackwall and Cubitt Town –|
|Caroline Anne Fenton|
|– Bow East –|
|– Bow West –|
|– Bromley North –|
|– Bromley South –|
|– Island Gardens –|
|– Lansbury –|
|– Limehouse –|
|– Mile End –|
|– Poplar –|
|– Shadwell –|
|– Spitalfields and Banglatown –|
|– St Katharine’s and Wapping –|
|– St. Peter’s –|
|– Stepney Green –|
|– 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 Conservative Councillor Peter Golds.
Read our interview with Labour Party Councillor Rachel Blake.
Read our interview with Aspire Party councillor Kabir Ahmed.
Read our interview with Liberal Democrat Councillor Rabina Kahn.
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