In the run-up to the May elections, we interviewed Rachel Blake, Labour Councillor and 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 Rachel Blake
Below, we speak to Rachel Blake, Labour Party Councillor 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?
Crime and antisocial behaviour are issues we hear on the doorstep. We know that police numbers do make a difference. We’ve previously invested £1million of council funding each year to fund more police on the streets and that’s in the context of falling police numbers. So, we will continue our additional funding for more police officers on the streets. We also want to secure more convictions as well, particularly, and we really want to emphasise this, convictions for hate and race crimes, and violence against women.
What initiatives or schemes will your party seek to put into place to raise the borough’s green credentials?
We want to continue our plans to deliver a net-zero council. We’ve planted 1,000 street trees, and we’ll continue this work by delivering a further 1,000 trees in the borough. We also want to instal 500 new bird boxes, bat boxes, and hedgehog homes. And, we want to increase the number of community gardens to support rewilding schemes across the borough.
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?
The real objective around livable streets is to reduce traffic and pollution and to support people to live in a better environment with cleaner air. That’s always been at the heart of these proposals. All of the schemes were developed in consultation with local residents. A number have been amended after the implementation to address the concerns that have been raised for example, with resident permits being implemented at some of the closure points.
We’re going to be reviewing progress and then, from all of the existing schemes before we progress any further schemes, all proposals that have been brought forward will be subject to a thorough local consultation.
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?
Going forwards, we want to take a cooperative approach and work with our residents. We also want to be really clear about being a campaigning council, making sure that we’re working together with all of our partners, whether that’s the NHS or police so that we’re getting value for money across all public services in the area.
Another area that we’re going to focus on is access to council services so people can access them through different channels. We face digital exclusion in the borough, and we want to make sure that we’re making it really straightforward for people to navigate some of our services so we’re working towards a no wrong door approach and working with other partners in the public sector to provide joint up and holistic services.
What is the single biggest problem facing Tower Hamlets and what is your party going to do to tackle it?
You can’t just bring it down to any one particular challenge. We know that people want to see a council that’s really on their side so we’ve been standing by residents when they need us, whether that’s through our children and family services, our council tax reduction scheme, or supporting them through the cuts to the community that we face.
So, I don’t think councillors are just about one thing; they’re about making sure that we stand by residents when they need us most and that’s what we’re putting forward in our manifesto.
How do you differ from the other parties?
It’s about our values; the Labour Party is a Democratic Socialist Party. We believe that by the strength of our common endeavour, we achieve more than we achieve alone. Several candidates are also standing as Labour and Cooperative candidates and we believe in those cooperative principles that bring people together to tackle some really difficult issues that we face at a local level and it’s only the Labour Party that’ll bring forward those values.
Labour candidates in Tower Hamlets
|– Bethnal Green East –|
|– Bethnal Green West –|
|– Blackwall and Cubitt Town –|
|– Bow East –|
|– Bow West –|
|– Bromley North –|
|– Bromley South –|
|– Canary Wharf –|
|– Island Gardens –|
|– Lansbury –|
|– Limehouse –|
|– Mile End –|
|– Poplar –|
|– Shadwell –|
|– Spitalfields and Banglatown –|
|– St Dunstan’s –|
|– St Katharine’s and Wapping –|
|– Stepney Green –|
|– Weavers –|
|– Whitechapel –|
|Faroque Mahfuz Ahmed|
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 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 Aspire Party councillor Kabir Ahmed.
Read our interview with Liberal Democrat Councillor Rabina Kahn.
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