In summer 2014 I brought two babies into the world and over the following year I plan to give birth to five more babies but I need your help to do it
The first baby was the Facebook group "Canary Wharf & Isle of Dogs Residents" which was born on the 29th June 2014. I started it because many of my residents live in towers that I cannot access, so how do I talk to them as their elected Councillor and more importantly how do they talk to each other? This is the only place where many people (but obviously not all) can communicate with each other about issues, lost cats, recommendations, naked men & dog poo :) With over 11,000 members it will continue to grow and my main role now is a bit like being a gardener. I pull out the weeds, put some fertiliser down and check that people entering the garden are the right people to come in.
I cannot count how many posts I have made in the last 4 years but recently FB said my FB Friends had liked my posts 40,000 times. But on my main email account cllrandrewwood@gmail I have received 17,472 emails and sent 4,536 emails in 4 years (I also have 3 other email accounts with even more emails)
Not forgetting this website
But I was surprised by how little my fellow Councillors communicated by comparison with the exception of Peter Golds. There are 9 Councillors in the core area covered by this group (Limehouse, Poplar, CW, Island Gardens, Blackwall & Cubitt Town) do you know who they are? outside of the election period how much work have they done?
Some have done a good job at the Town Hall but you need Councillors who will do both jobs, the Town Hall job and the local job of working with & for residents.
I also try to communicate on Twitter at @andrewwood17, Streetlife and now Nextdoor. There are 7,000 plus homes in Canary Wharf ward with over 9,000 voters but maybe only around 2,000 doors can you easily knock on which is why I spend so much time on social media but am also door knocking where I can
The 2nd baby born in summer 2014 was the Isle of Dogs Neghbourhood Planning Forum. It is a non-party poliitical resident led group and its membership includes Lib Dems, Greens, Marxists, Conservatives etc etc. Labour party members & candidates are in it as well and are also on the Committee and have made important contributions especially on estate regeneration policy
But over the last 4 years I have done the majority of the work, first setting up the Forum, doing its Comms (except during election periods), gathering the evidence, setting up meetings and talking to stakeholders.
But I have done so as a resident not as a Conservative Councillor regardless of what others think (but being a Councillor does help open doors) and will continue that work regardless of the election outcome
Only by changing planning policy can residents influence what is happening. It has more power then many people realise, you can get a feel for the scale of work by looking at the Councils website
I have chosen or need to be non-party political for the following reasons:
One - I hate the tribalism of British politics. I am half-German and I naturally prefer a more consensual style of politics
Two - I know many of you are put off by UK party politics (sensible people)
Three - some people really do hate people from other parties, I don't, democracy is about choice and the role of policians like me is to provide you with choices at election time
Four - both the Forum and Facebook work better if party politics are left outside of it
So you wont have seen from me posts extolling my party or saying how crap the other party is (although I have been critical of the Council, they are not yet good enough and my job is in part to hold them to account). As you may have noticed my party, the Conservatives are not doing very well right now at a national level but I could say the same about the Labour party as well but these are local elections on local issues (even if you are voting on national issues that does not change the job of a Councillor). All the parties in this election have good candidates and some not so good candidates (and a few who should not be re-elected), it is your job now to sort out which ones are which :)
These are the 5 things I want to do - the new babies I refer to
1. Set up a new Neighbourhood Planning Forum for the northern Isle of Dogs. In April 2016 the Council removed the northern part of the original area that residents voted on in November 2014. I should have done this sooner but have been too busy.
2. Re-start the Police Safer Neighbourhood ward panel, I brought the ward panel back into Canary Wharf ward when i got it restarted at Alpha Grove Community Centre but it has lapsed again (I am not allowed to Chair it) but I have helped the Limehouse Ward Panel expertly led by Conor and know what a difference a good ward panel can make
3. Set up a website as the mirror image of this FB group but to make it easier to find information. I tried to do this last year but again ran out of time to finish it
4. Try and get the Council to improve the security of the area by setting up Public Space Protections Orders like was done around Ropemakers. I was the 1st person to mention PSPO's there. Also introduce physical secuity measures like CCTV (we have no Council CCTV cameras in any residential area of CW ward) better lighting, anti-moped gates etc using the £169 million of funds from developers and the government sitting in the Council bank account
5. Last but not least ask you if you want to set up a Town (Parish) Council for the Isle of Dogs. It would be a new lower level of local government, with its own powers, budget and staff (TH Council would stll be responsible for 95% of what it does but purely local stuff could be managed locally)
I do not think TH Council does a good job of managing the island, they are too big, too remote, do not know the area and have too many false assumptions about the area. I think a Town Council run locally by local people could restore some power back to the island and provide better services.
I grew up in Singapore and have seen what effective government looks like (which is why John Biggs jokes with me that I am really a member of the Peoples Action Party of Singapore) and except for their policies on democracy and capital punishment there is some truth in that
Plus many other things I want to do but this post is long enough
But I need your help now to do all of this.
If you want me to do these things and to continue the work I have already done then re-elect me on the 3rd May. But my workload is enormous and I am currently failing to keep on top of everything (& being a Cllr is meant to be a part time job!)
So I really need help, so please, please elect Councillors who will do the work & also communicate with you elsewhere regardless of which party they belong to. But in my ward elect Tom Randall to help me. He does a lot of work locally behind the scenes to help me to do my work.
Some of these things I can do & will do if I do not get elected (ironically not being re-elected would give me more time :)) but on balance being a Councillor would make my work easier and I wont be able to help people as much if I am not a Councillor
So it is up to you now
1. Vote - even if it is not for me - turnouts on the IoD are too low compared to others areas in TH - if you are a Commonwealth or EU citizen you can vote as well
2. Tell your friends & neighbours who you are voting for especially those not on social media - in 2014 I got elected because a local Marxist told people to vote locally for Conservatives because we do the work
3. If you want me to be re-elected and to give birth to those 5 babies then please share this message on FB or by email
And for members of other parties who will inevitably object to this post, perhaps your party should have tried harder to communicate with residents over the last four years by setting up your own FB groups or getting involved in this one but you are welcome to add to this post what you will do
PS this is what I look like when I do the majority of my work, drinking tea on a sofa, looking at my laptop, looking a mess
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