SPECIAL REPORT BY LOCAL CAMPAIGNER PHIL COWAN
The Primrose Hill community centre opened its doors last night to a full house of prospective voters as well as candidates from all the parties being fielded in the ward of Camden Town with Primrose Hill for the local elections on May 3rd.
Those who hope to be elected as councillors were invited to introduce themselves and briefly set out their stall.
The topical issue of anti-semitism was highlighted by a Labour candidate. The Tories spoke about rising crime in the area, particularly moped-enabled thefts. Libdems focussed on housing and the Green candidate surprisingly brought attention to his view that there were not enough young councillors in Camden.
The most common thread among the introductions was the issue of air quality which certainly resonated with audience, but more on that later.
Planning policy on basements kicked off discussion with the incumbent councillors defending their record and explaining that they cannot control the outcome of appeals on these developments but have tried to discourage them with new policies.
Loss of green spaces and mature trees, some as a consequence of HS2 contruction was up next. People complained that replacement of large etablished trees with tiny saplings was damaging to the environment and streetscape.
Crime was a hot topic, particularly the reduction of visible street policing. Discussion became heated about whether this has been caused by central government cuts or is partly due to the merging of the Met forces of Camden and Islington.
Conservative candidates promoted a solution on moped crime by advocating better policy on securing the vehicles as they are often stolen specifically to commit crime. The Greens offered the idea that people should change the way they used mobile phones in public areas to decrease the chance of becoming a victim of theft.
The issues of education, adult social care and housing were also high on the agenda with all parties agreeing that none will be solved by waving a magic wand but due to the complexity of the population and their needs demanding a constantly innovative approach and ring-fenced funding.
Air quality questions upped the temperature considerably when an audience member revealed that since ‘no engine idling’ legislation with fines for offenders became law on March 5th 2018 the council has to date issued precisely zero tickets for this offence across the entire borough.
Incumbent candidates appeared to be unaware of this information which caused consternation. The conservative libdem and green candidates promised that should they be elected they would ensure that enforcement would be applied more efficiently.
As the evening drew to a close the spotlight was shone on democracy as a concept, local or otherwise, and it seemed that everyone agreed that a hustings event is a great chance for discussion. So thanks to all the candidates, Dick Bird who chaired superbly, all those who came along, and to our fantastic community association for hosting!
Pat Callaghan LABOUR
Richard Cotton LABOUR
Peter Horne CONSERVATIVE
Rik Howard GREEN
John Lefley LIB DEM
Catherine McQueen CONSERVATIVE
Mark Milaszkiewicz GREEN
Lawrence Nicholson LIB DEM
Lazzaro Pietragnoli LABOUR
Joel Roberts CONSERVATIVE
Anne Wright LIB DEM
Words and photos by Phil Cowan.