Proud to have been trusted to improve borough’s future

Hamida AliTHE FIRST 100 DAYS: Labour took charge of Croydon Town Hall for the first time in a decade 100 days ago today. Elected as a councillor for the first time was HAMIDA ALI, pictured, who here outlines her early experiences

The last three months have been deeply rewarding, challenging and bewildering all at the same time.

To see the council go red was an immensely important moment for the Labour movement in Croydon and beyond – and for good reason. The previous Tory administration had presided over a gradual decline of the town, a fly-tipping epidemic and it turns out venality at the very top – condemned this week by Eric Pickles, the local government and communities secretary, who said, “If they are on the fiddle they deserve to have their collar felt”, adding that it was “completely unacceptable behaviour”.

Our new administration had stood on a positive and optimistic platform for our town and lost no time in putting the council’s machinery squarely behind delivering our manifesto pledges set out in the only political manifesto published in Croydon – Ambitious for Croydon.

The first cabinet meeting was streamed live online – symbolic of our desire to restore public access and transparency to the proceedings of the people’s representatives in their Town Hall – which has been standard practice almost anywhere else for some time.

The first item on that agenda was Clean, Green Croydon – the strategy to clean up our streets through greater education of our responsibilities as residents, more enforcement action through pursuing more prosecutions combined with a real focus on making it easier for all of us to keep our streets clean right across the borough.

derelict houseThe same cabinet agenda introduced a paper on our manifesto commitment for a licensing scheme for private landlords in Croydon on which I gave my debut speech in full council during a motion on these proposals.

Five million homes in England still fail to provide housing of a decent standard and as many as one-third of those are in the private rented sector. Both Shelter and the CAB have called for greater use of these schemes and we believe that these proposals will help drive up the standards of housing for everyone.

A paper was also tabled on a Fairness Commission for Croydon – a movement started by Islington’s Labour administration and a pivotal commitment by Labour’s new council to use its political influence to tackle persistent inequality in our town. The work of the commission will guide the administration, examining a host of questions affecting all of us including, for example, why there’s a decade’s difference in life expectancy between some parts of the borough compared to others.

As one of three councillors appointed to be part of the commission I’m very much looking forward to playing an active role in its work.

The second cabinet took the agenda on inequality further by marking the first step to making Croydon Council a London Living Wage employer and delivering another manifesto pledge – increasingly important in our society when inequality – particularly wage inequality is only growing.

Papers on the agenda for Labour’s third cabinet meeting this coming Monday are now online and will take up more manifesto commitments – including doubling the minimum requirement of affordable housing to 30 per cent for housing developments outside the town centre.

What has the last three months meant for me as a new councillor? Just a quick look at my diary shows that in that time I’ve attended upwards of 70 meetings – with residents, with council officers, at community events and council meetings.

It's been a busy first 100 days around South Norwood and Woodside for new councillor Hamida Ali

It’s been a busy first 100 days around South Norwood and Woodside for new councillor Hamida Ali

What has that actually involved? This week I’ve spent time with Woodside and South Norwood residents and councillors looking at ideas for how we can deliver much-needed and well overdue regeneration in the South Norwood area. The People for Portland Road’s South Norwood Regeneration Working Group met this week.

The upstairs venue at The Gold Coast was packed with nearly 40 residents, all of them passionate about the area and committed to giving their own time and energy to improve it. Residents talked about this being “a long time coming”, that “I cry every time I walk up Portland Road” and that it’s “a lovely area but with a bit more effort it could be even better”.

So it’s fantastic that this administration is reversing the neglect of this part of town and is putting the South Norwood area at the top of their list for regeneration within the borough.

Being a member of the planning committee offers the privilege and responsibility to take part in decisions which directly affect the shape of our town – as well as a steep learning curve. After five meetings, I’m now more familiar with how the committee works – but I have to admit I’m still getting used to the language including “elevations”, “visibility splays” and “amenity space”. Our last meeting also touched briefly on something called, “Croydon vernacular”.

I am also a deputy cabinet member for safety and justice supporting Councillor Mark Watson for this brief which includes community safety. We made clear in our manifesto that tackling all forms of violence against women and girls, including domestic abuse and sexual violence, would be a priority. With two domestic homicides in the borough in the last two years and the highest rates of domestic violence in London (as the borough with the largest population), it is vital that women at risk in Croydon are protected and perpetrators held to account.

The horrific revelations from Rotherham haunt us all. We are working with chief officers in the council, police and health organisations to ensure the response and support for people, women in particular, experiencing this form of crime, is robust and innovative work is being led by the council to enhance the specialist services available to people at risk of this abuse.

I’m very proud to be part of this administration, driven by its political values to make a difference to the life chances of all of us and the future of our borough. I will continue to apply myself as a new councillor to live up to the trust people have placed in me and my party.

 The first 100 days:

Coming to Croydon

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