I have been a Councillor since May 2014, an amazing four years, fascinating, sometimes very frustrating, occasionally boring but always interesting. I have seen Tower Hamlets Council at its worst – Lutfur Rahman refusing to answer questions, OFSTED saying that we had failed the youngest people in our society, an unwillingness to engage with residents, secrecy over spending £119 million, trying to kick the press out of Council meetings. The list goes on and that is part of my job to expose what is happening. If nobody holds the Council to account they are more likely to make mistakes and to not deliver, imagine the House of Commons with only one party in it!
But my fundamental impression of the Council is that while it is improving, it is doing so at 20mph an hour speed, the rest of the world is driving at 30mph and developers are building at 40mph. The Council needs to catch up and fast but it is still not fulfilling its potential despite some excellent officers and lots of S106, CIL & New Homes Bonus cash. Part of that is because I do not think the Executive Mayor model of government works.
The failure to replace the large climbing frame in Ropemakers playground for over a year now is a good example. The Council has more developers cash then it knows what to do with but cannot get around to replacing a critical piece of child play equipment. The complete failure to deliver any playgrounds in Millharbour (the densest small place in the UK) is another.
But the Isle of Dogs has some amazing things going for it. Canary Wharf, beautiful & historic docks, Island Gardens, the river Thames, Mudchute Farm. The ability to walk to Greenwich through the foot tunnel. Docklands Sailing Centre, the Rowing club. One of the most diverse and international populations in the world. The list could be even longer if the Council focussed more on quality of life and how to make Tower Hamlets a better, safer and more comfortable place to live.
It is why I have focussed so much on long term solutions. Much of my time has been spent working with the Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Planning Forum, it is non-political but it has real powers to deliver change. Only by changing Planning Policy can you influence the nature of development here. But unfortunately the Isle of Dogs has been required by the GLA & Tower Hamlets Council to deliver much of London’s housing targets. Canary Wharf ward as a result is the fastest growing small place in the UK. We are becoming more like Manhattan but without a plan for how that will work, something I am trying to fix.
I am half-German and grew up in Singapore, in both my mom’s home town and in Singapore I have seen better government, in some areas much better government. For me it is extremely frustrating to see how poorly Tower Hamlets Council performs in comparison. It is why I got involved in local government, I think I can make a contribution to making things better.
Now on the 3rd May it is up to you. The question will be whether you want to re-elect me or not and whether you want to help me in my work by electing Tom Randall as my running mate. The population of my ward will almost double again by the time of the next election in 2022, you need to elect the two most effective Councillors that you can, they will have more work than most other Councillors in London.
The simple rule should be if somebody does a good job you re-elect them, if not you throw the bum out :) But in this case I know some of you will vote on the basis of national issues to ‘send’ a message. That is your democratic choice but I will be standing on local issues, it is all I can do.
It is not that I do not have sympathy with those national issues. The decision to cut Police funding, the Windrush scandal (& it is a scandal), unhappiness over the process of Brexit etc etc (I could add even more). These are all valid concerns that I share but Councillors have no powers over national or international issues. That does not mean that I will not try and influence national debates as you can see from my articles for Conservative Home. https://www.conservativehome.com/author/andrew-wood
But most of my work is purely local and you have to decide whether you want to vote on local issues in what is mainly a Labour Borough or national issues (repeating lasts year general election).
After four years I know how to be an effective Councillor. I have made mistakes in the past and there are things I want to change in how to do my job and I think Tom & I can make a real difference in the next four years, I hope you will give us that chance by voting for the both of us.
Picture with from L to R with myself, Dr Anwara Ali (our Mayoral candidate) and Tom Randall, my running mate