Philip Glanville declared he and his new cabinet have “hit the ground running” as he brushed off concerns that Labour locally could succumb to damaging infighting between the left and right wings of the party.
Fresh from being elected Mayor of Hackney with a thumping 69 per cent share of the vote, he has already vowed to make the borough London’s first to build five hundred “living rent” affordable homes as well as create new childcare bursaries.
In his first major interview since being sworn in as Mayor, Glanville praised “positive messages from Momentum as well as Owen Smith supporters” who backed him.
He also said he was confident that Hackney Labour will be unified regardless of who is leader of the party nationally.
The result of the Labour leadership contest, which has been undeniably acrimonious, will be announced on Saturday. Jeremy Corbyn is widely expected to emerge triumphant by retaining his position as leader.
Momentum, the grassroots group that enthusiastically backs Corbyn, is strong in Hackney – prompting speculation about possible changes of direction following years in which Hackney Labour was vilified by some left-wingers as “Blairite”.
During his own campaign to be elected, Glanville said he would “probably” abstain from voting in the Labour leadership poll.
Yesterday afternoon, as voting in that election closed, he insisted: “I’ve not voted.”
In a wide-ranging interview inside the Town Hall he told the Hackney Citizen: “The issues people have been talking about [at Momentum and Labour Party meetings] are the same.
“It’s around housing, jobs, the environment. I don’t think there’s much in terms of policy to come between us, and I do think that whatever the result on Saturday, the Hackney Labour party will stay united. That’s what I intend to help achieve.”
He also denied his decision to appoint councillors Clayeon McKenzie and Carole Williams to paid cabinet positions and his choice of Cllr Sem Moema as one of his mayoral advisers amounted to cronyism.
The trio helped run his campaign, but he said he “doesn’t recognise” the cronyism charge.
“I’ve appointed to senior positions two people [Anntoinette Bramble and Jon Burke] who actually ran in the selection process themselves,” he said.
Anntoinette Bramble, who he has chosen as his deputy “ impressed a lot of people in the campaign in terms of coming forward and setting out a vision”, he said.
He added: “She was born and brought up in Hackney, has been a local school teacher and I’m very proud she has become the deputy mayor.
“The whole process was an open application process within the Labour group, so I was looking at CVs and applications over a weekend.
“I was very clear in the campaign that I wanted to have at least 50 per cent women within the cabinet and administration.
“When I announce the mayoral advisers next week formally, it will be 55 per cent.
“It’s 45 per cent BME. It is as diverse and representative of Hackney as it could be, and I think that’s the most important thing when looking at who has been appointed.”
On the fate of the pathology lab at Homerton Hospital, which could be outsourced, privatised or see services moved outside of Hackney, Glanville said: “They’ve obviously had issues with the contractors and are now left having to re-evaluate it, but fundamentally the Homerton’s decision was they needed a new pathology lab.
“At the public meeting that Healthwatch Hackney organised there was a very compelling case to look at the diversity of Hackney’s population and the type of illnesses and conditions that the path lab sees and retain that expertise at the Homerton.
“You know, like anthrax [in 2008 Hackney had the only recorded case in London], high levels of HIV, sickle cell, tuberculosis. Having that expertise, knowing the communities that live here is really important.
“Clearly, it [the lab] could be on site and operated in a different way if that’s the path the Homerton takes.
“I think what the real fear is is seeing that expertise privatised and dispersed out amongst other centres in London – because then you are relying on courier services to start tracking those samples back and forth through London, and there is experience already that that leads to samples going missing, getting contaminated and not being delivered.”
Hackney has already taken in six refugees as part of the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement scheme run by the government and is the only council in East London to have taken any.
Glanville said he was proud of the borough’s role in giving people sanctuary, but added: “At this stage, we’re talking about taking tens, not hundreds.”
With help from charities, two refugee families (both couples with one child) have been able to secure housing in the private rental sector for two years. However, the way the scheme is set up means the Town Hall could potentially have to find them a council home after that time.
Glanville has pledged that seven Syrian families who come through the Vulnerable Person Resettlement scheme will be accommodated in Hackney by Christmas.
However, the Hackney Citizen understands that senior figures in the council have previously suggested as many as one hundred Syrian refugees could be taken by Hackney.
Glanville said: “Even that I wouldn’t say is beyond the capacity of the borough, especially if you’ve got landlords coming forward from the private sector to support.”
However, he added: “We’ve been very clear that the government must fund that and that it can’t take away from our own resources, whether it’s resources around children’s social care or whether it’s around the rental costs and the support costs.”
Sisters Uncut… and The First Husband
Coincidentally or not, protests about a variety of causes have been staged outside the Town Hall since Glanville’s election, including by direct action group Sisters Uncut.
Glanville admitted the feminist group had secured concessions from him on, among other things, filling empty council homes, examining options for using women only hostels for victims of domestic violence and reopening a playground.
However, he said he was “disappointed” about thousands of pounds of damage the group is believed to have caused to the Town Hall during demonstrations involving red paint and flares.
In terms of engagement with the media and public, seasoned observers of Town Hall politics already detect some subtle changes of tone. Unlike his predecessor Jules Pipe, who was averse to using social media and rarely spoke to the press, Glanville is active on Twitter.
His husband, the artist Giles McCrary, has been tweeting using the handle @1stHusband. So far he has kept his followers informed on domestic matters such as what time the Mayor of Hackney arrives home for dinner – but does he have political ambitions of his own?
So ridonkapleased Mr the Mayor is home for dinner before 10pm for the first time in weeks! #1stfamilysmallvictories
— Giles McCrary III (@1stHusband) September 19, 2016
“He’s very interested in politics and supporting the campaign, but I think some of that is mostly in jest,” Glanville said.
However, he added: “He did think that Bill might want to buy his Twitter handle off him if Hillary gets elected.”
Glanville was formerly the council’s housing chief and has resigned as a councillor for Hoxton, the ward he served for ten years, so as to take up the post of Mayor./ 22 September, 2016