In the run up to the May elections, we interviewed Rabina Khan, Liberal Democrat Councillor and candidate for Shadwell and Tower Hamlets Mayoral Candidate.
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 Rabina Khan
Below, we speak to Rabina Khan, Liberal Democrat Councillor and candidate for Shadwell and a Mayoral Candidate for Tower Hamlets.
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?
All three go hand in hand. If you have a cleaner environment, it leads to better community safety. Affordable housing is about building neighbourhoods. So, when you have cleaner streets and affordable housing, you’re building communities and transforming lives.
For the last four years, I’ve been campaigning for community safety; it is very high on my radar because I have a high number of young people and families whom I worked with who have been affected by knife crime, and whose children and young people have been involved in drug abuse and need help and support. One of the motions that I introduced to council, whilst it didn’t get debated, although the Labour administration put amendments into my motion, was to introduce bleed control kits throughout the borough to safeguard young lives.
What initiatives or schemes will your party seek to put into place to raise the borough’s green credentials?
We need to start to think about sustainable streets. This means installing electric parking charge points in underground parking facilities. I’ve had residents ask me to inquire whether we could have electric charges in underused underground parking facilities.
In terms of recycling, that agenda has to go into diverse communities. Over 30% of the borough are Bangladeshis; we’ve got to get to the communities who so often feel that they are not involved in the climate change agenda. It’s a fact that across this country Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities don’t feel engaged. Our fundamental goal is, if we are to take the climate change agenda forward, we’ve got to reach these communities and talk to them.
Life sciences is very key in this borough. By focusing on that, we could also promote green growth, and invest in low carbon solutions and reject funding for technology that harms our environment. That is one thing that we should epically begin to have in the council and encourage our partners and the people that we contract out to.
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 first thing that we have to do is make sure it’s an inclusive agenda. If we do not take communities with us, we will not be able to implement projects that enhance our communities.
For example, when it came to Shadwell [to talk to residents about low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) ], I made sure not only was it online, but that I did about seven or eight site visits with council officers. There are people whose first language is not English; there are older people who do not access the internet; there are people who have disabilities who cannot access things online and who will not know that there is a survey.
You need people on the ground, explaining to people we can implement LTNs a certain way. People wanted trees along Cable Street and, when the Cable Street roads became a bit narrower, people were fine. Do you know why? Because we had a conversation with them. They wanted trees, they wanted shrubbery, they wanted to make it look prettier and nicer. Yes, we have some problems but we can do this if we listen to people and take them with us.
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?
Most people are happy to pay their council tax if they receive the service that they want. That service not only includes having their rubbish and recycling collected and cleaner streets, but it also relates to adult social services.
We have a growing number of older citizens in the borough. There’s been problems with adult social services that I’ve had to make lots of inquiries about. In fact, the local Adult Social Care Ombudsman, in summer 2020, raised concerns that there were systemic problems within the council and many of them related to adult social services.
So, as a party, the first thing we would do is make sure our rubbish and recycling are collected on time, our streets are clean, and to make sure that our adult social services improve.
What is the single biggest problem facing Tower Hamlets and what is your party going to do to tackle it?
Every door we’ve knocked on has spoken about community safety, especially as we are coming out of Covid. We don’t have a Covid preparation plan, and that’s not just for poorer communities and households, but for every person in the borough. We want to put in place a Covid preparation plan; we just don’t know what the mental health issues are, and the problems we are facing.
One way to bring in the funding is to be a leader in the life sciences space. I’ve campaigned that we need to have life science investment in our borough from the government because we have the largest DNA diversity in the NHS Bart’s hospital.
The second is we have valuable land and, as a party, we welcome good investment. But we will also seek to protect our land for the benefit of our residents. To do that, we should be charging developers higher fees. At the moment, we don’t.
How do you differ from the other parties?
At this moment, this borough needs a party who will know how to be resilient and provide that resilience so that we can move forward.
We’re not in a good place at the moment, not with what’s happened in the last few years in terms of, not only the cuts, or the hikes in council taxes and the cost of living, but also the increase in young people who are at risk of knife crime and are struggling.
We have to move forward with the Liberal Democrats if we are to bring changes, stand up for leaseholders, create a greener economy, and tackle the issues of knife crime, antisocial behaviour and drugs. The Liberal Democrats is the way forward. We’ve manned this borough once, and we can do it again.
Liberal Democrat 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 –|
|Muhammad Fakar Uddin|
|– Limehouse –|
|– Mile End –|
|– Poplar –|
|Habibur Rahman Tafader|
|– Shadwell –|
|– Spitalfields and Banglatown –|
|– St Dunstan’s –|
|Mohammed Shafiul Alam|
|– St Katharine’s and Wapping –|
|– Stepney Green –|
|– Weavers –|
|– Whitechapel –|
|Muhammad Abul Asad|
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 Aspire Party councillor Kabir Ahmed.
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