Hackney’s mayoral candidates were grilled by residents at the Hackney Citizen‘s mayoral hustings event yesterday at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston.
Debating just days before Thursday’s local elections, the candidates answered questions sent in by email and directly from a packed crowd at the sold-out hustings.
The speakers were Mayor Philip Glanville (Labour), Alastair Binnie-Lubbock (Green Party), Pauline Pearce (Liberal Democrats), Harini Iyengar (Women’s Equality Party), Vernon Williams (Independent), and Jack Sutcliffe (Conservative), a Dalston ward candidate filling in for Tory mayoral candidate Imtiaz Lunat, who could not make the event.
Questions covered housing, cuts to special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), language barriers for Turkish-speaking residents, supporting BAME businesses, the Britannia Leisure Centre redevelopment, prostitution, HIV, anti-semitism, homelessness, old age, and mental health.
The debate was lively and substantive with each panellist given the same amount of time to answer every question and little heckling from the crowd.
The only heated exchange was when a resident accused the mayor of pursuing the Britannia Leisure Centre redevelopment against residents’ wishes.
The mayor replied that due to government cuts building private homes is the only way to pay for the new leisure centre facilities Hackney needs – a scheme he said a majority of residents support.
In his summing up remarks, Mayor Glanville said: “I don’t take anything for granted, and that’s why I’ve campaigned in all 21 wards in Hackney.”
He said he was campaigning to invest in infrastructure, tackle the housing crisis by building homes, and set up a council-owned energy company.
The Mayor said: “It isn’t about more of the same. It’s about delivering a fairer and safer and more sustainable Hackney, and if I’m re-elected on the third of May, I’ll spend my time in the next four years tirelessly doing that.”
Alastair Binnie-Lubbock, who is also standing in Hackney Downs ward, said: “I’ve lived in Hackney my whole life. I’ve been very lucky. Hackney’s given me a lot, and I feel it’s time to give something back.
“I’m fed up with the council doing things to people, rather than bringing them along and actually helping them achieve things themselves.”
He spoke about the housing crisis, air pollution and knife crime, and called on people to vote for the Green Party, “the second largest party in Hackney”, adding: “We’ll listen, we’ll empower communities, and bring you into the council chamber.”
Harini Iyengar, who is also standing in Dalston ward, said: “It means a lot for me to stand in Hackney because this is where I’ve raised my family for 20 years.”
She said the Labour-run council “says all the right things” but that she doesn’t see enough action on the issues that matter.
“If you want something new, and you want to crack a wedge into the Labour monolith then vote for the Women’s Equality Party”, she added.
Vernon Williams, who is also standing in Kings Park ward, said: “In my manifesto, which is now available in the [mayoral election] booklet, you can see what my objectives are.
“In terms of delivering those objectives, I have the means of achieving them. I have a degree in political science, I have a masters degree in business administration.”
Pauline Pearce, who is also standing in Brownswood ward, said: “I have no mass of qualifications, but what I do have is common sense.
“Everyone out there who knows Pauline knows they can knock on my door. And if I become mayor, nothing will change. That door is still always open.
Pearce, who has put knife crime at the top of her camaign, said: “I’m here because of passion, because I care.
“I have to be here to stand up for those who are disenfranchised and need a chance to have a voice that speaks out for them. So please consider me on the third of May.”
The panel was introduced by Hackney Citizen editor Keith Magnum, and chaired by Sarah Birch, a professor of political science at King’s College London, and a director of Citizen News and Media.