Newham faces 'epidemic of uncertainty', mayor says

Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz. Picture: R. Fiaz

Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz. - Credit: R. Fiaz

The mayor of Newham has said the borough faces "an epidemic of uncertainty" amid the pandemic but the challenges can be met.

Rokhsana Fiaz was speaking about the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic at Newham's annual council meeting on Wednesday, May 26.

In a wide-ranging speech, the mayor reflected on the council's achievements since her election in 2018 and outlined future plans.

She said: "For our next steps we want nothing less than a fundamental shift, continuing to address those issues our residents care about.

"I have talked to people over the past year who suffered job and pay losses. We face an epidemic of insecurity."

In February, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed Newham has the highest number of furloughed jobs in the capital at 33,000.

The mayor pledged to work with businesses and communities to secure better jobs, training and a local economy which works for more people.

Plans to invest more than £1billion in housing would be a cornerstone of the local authority's work building homes and boosting the economy, she said.

A support service for renters in the private sector would also be set up.

The mayor repeated a pledge to invest in young people and devise a community safety plan following the deaths of Fares Maatou, 14, and 18-year-old Junior Jah.

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Plans are also afoot to address food insecurity, improve access to mental health services, spruce up estates and tackle the climate emergency.

Councillors heard Newham had seen a 91 per cent fall in the number of rough sleepers over the course of the pandemic and that it had distributed 30,000 food parcels.

A total of 130,000 people have been vaccinated.

The mayor also hailed work to "clean up" the council, as well as efforts to restore trust.

"Our residents had been let down," she said. 

She added the borough's finances have been set in order, including through saving £143m from "rip off" Lobo loans received during Sir Robin Wales's administration.

"Despite the achievements we have made, I know we remain faced with serious challenges.

"I'm confident, as the last three years have shown, that together we can meet those challenges," Ms Fiaz said.

The mayor's speech followed the election of Cllr Winston Vaugh as council chair and of Cllr Mumtaz Khan as his deputy.