Newham's mayoral candidates clash on police budgets cuts and academisation in live hustings debate
PUBLISHED: 10:00 19 April 2018 | UPDATED: 12:36 20 April 2018
Police presence and a lack of services were key sticking points in last night's election hustings held by The Recorder.
Mayoral candidates Rokhsana Fiaz for Labour and Rahima Khan for the Conservatives fiercely debated academisation, affordable housing and the Silvertown tunnel during the Facebook Live session.
Daniel Oxley from the Democrats and Veterans Party gave an opening statement before refusing to participate in the rest of the session. Gareth Evans of the Liberal Democrats and Chishala Kumalinga of the Christian People’s Alliance were unable to attend.
Ms Fiaz and Ms Khan clashed on policing – the Conservative candidate blamed Sadiq Khan for reduced officer levels, and pledged to reopen police stations with 60 visible enforcement officers. But Ms Fiaz said it was the Tory government who slashed police budgets, and questioned where Ms Khan would get the money to enforce her pledges.
Both candidates both pledged to review the directly elected mayoral model of local council leadership by holding a referendum, and were also in agreement on opposing the Silvertown tunnel scheme.
But they came to loggerheads on academisation, with Ms Fiaz firmly opposing the academisation agenda as pushed by the Conservatives. Ms Khan pointed out that academisation was brought in under Labour, and said she was in favour of seeing a diverse range of schools in the borough, including academies, grammars and comprehensives.
The Labour candidate pledged to deliver 1,000 council-owned homes at social rent levels by the end of her first term to tackle the “raging housing crisis” faced by Newham, while Ms Khan said she would take a three-pronged approach to housing. She promised to introduce more family-sized, affordable homes, ensure families weren’t priced out by foreign investment, and commit to more community land trusts.
The two candidates disagreed over the lack of services in the borough, with the Ms Khan arguing insufficient schooling and amenities in areas like the Royal Docks was unacceptable. She said she’d monitor the population to ensure enough services were provided, while Ms Fiaz branded it “absurd” to suggest populations weren’t already being monitored.
In their closing statements, Ms Fiaz reiterated her pledge to put people at the heart of council decisions, while Ms Khan said she’d bring the council to a place where decision-making is part of the community, rather than something she does alone.
Elections will take place on May 3.