Looking back on four years of local Haringey politicsAs voters head to the polls this week, we take a look back at the last four years of local politics
Voters in Haringey head to the polls this week to elect a new set of councillors to represent them at Haringey Civic Centre over the next four years.
The last local election in 2018 saw Labour retain control of a borough it has ruled continuously since 1971 – but lose six seats to the Liberal Democrats in the west of Haringey.
In the aftermath of that election, Joseph Ejiofor was confirmed as the new council leader by Labour councillors. He had previously served as deputy leader under Claire Kober, who resigned as council leadership in February 2018 just a few months prior to that year's election, following the controversy that had surrounded the council's flagship £2billion Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) project. The HDV was a joint regeneration venture with developer Lendlease that put hundreds of council homes at risk of demolition across the borough. But within months of becoming leader, Cllr Ejiofor scrapped it.
As a co-ordinating member of Labour’s pro-Corbyn campaign group Momentum, Cllr Ejiofor pledged to bring public delivery of Haringey Council services in-house, reduce violent crime, invest in youth provision, and form a ‘fairness commission’ for communities to engage in decision-making dialogue.
The 2018 Haringey Labour manifesto also pledged to deliver 1,000 new council rent homes and provide a free school meal for every primary school child – promises that remain unmet.
With many commentators labelling Cllr Ejiofor’s administration the first ‘Corbyn Council’, divisions within Haringey Labour became more apparent as time went on. In 2020 the Liberal Democrats, the opposition party on the council, warned of “continued Labour infighting” after Zena Brabazon was dismissed from the cabinet for a second time in 18 months. It followed heavy crticism by a High Court judge following a child protection case.
Then, in May 2021, Cllr Ejiofor’s three-year leadership of the civic centre came to an abrupt end. An internal vote by Labour councillors saw Peray Ahmet, who had previously been sacked from Cllr Ejiofor’s cabinet in December 2018, chosen as the new Labour leader and thus also the new council leader.
Cllr Ahmet said her aim was to take a people-first approach, involving the community in decision making, tackling violence against women and girls, prioritising early years support, and bringing “unity to the Labour group”. But divisions in the party were made apparant again shortly afterwards, when local party chair James Chiriyankandath quit, claiming that rival Labour councillors had opposed everything Cllr Ejiofor’s administration had strived to achieve.
Despite the cancellation of the HDV, redevelopment remained a subject of contention in Haringey. Attention focused on the plans by developer Grainger to redevelop Wards Corner in Seven Sisters, involving the demolition and reprovision elsewhere of the 'Latin Village' market on the site. It also involved building 196 homes. It met a lot of local and national opposition, with a ‘community plan’ to regenerate the Latin Village while retaining its Wards Corner location being developed as an alternative by market traders, businesses and residents. The public pressure eventually persuaded Grainger to pull out and cancel its plans in 2021.
Cllr Ahmet indicated there would be a "new approach" to Wards Corner from the council and said she supported the community plan for the market, publicly urging site owner Transport for London to work with traders on the project. Grainger’s announcement to step back from the development was claimed as a “huge victory in the fight for a fairer city” by campaign group Save Latin Village.
However, yet another controversial redevelopment project in Tottenham continued to loom large. The 2,600-home High Road West (HRW) scheme proposes to regenerate Love Lane Estate and neighbouring areas opposite Tottenham Hotspur Stadium by demolishing the 297-home estate in White Hart Lane, as well as relocating several local businesses. Although 55.7% of estate residents voted to back the regeneration in a ballot, there have been calls for a re-run of the vote amid allegations of intimidation and vote collecting. Some councillors subsequently demanded an independent inquiry into the way the mandatory ballot was conducted – but the review was ruled out.
The decision on whether to approve planning permission for the High Road West scheme has now been postponed until after the election, following mounting local opposition which now includes Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.
Another controversy has been the rrebuild of Edmonton incinerator. In December 2021, Cllr Ahmet called for a review of the North London Waste Authority’s proposal to expand its current facility in Edmonton, citing concerns over pollution. She was the first leader out of the seven North London councils involved to do so, but campaigners and Lib Dem councillors have called for the council to go further in blocking the plans.
Voters in Haringey will this week have a chance to deliver their own verdict on the way the council has been run over the last four years. Labour remain strong favourites to retain power in a borough that it has controlled continuosly since 1971, although the Lib Dems will be hoping to pick up more seats in the west of the borough where it continues to enjoy strong support.
Full results from the election will be available on the HCP website on Friday afternoon, with the count not set to start until 10am on 6th May.