Mayoral hopeful Caroline Woodley has learnt how to cope in a crisis.
The Labour candidate for the 9 November by-election is cabinet member for families, parks and leisure.
She said: “I came into cabinet two weeks before we went into the national lockdown. I learnt how to be a cabinet member with crisis on crisis.”
Woodley, who was accompanied by a Labour press officer for this interview, is concentrating her time on campaigning in each ward twice in the run-up to the polls.
If elected, her plans include working on areas she is “really passionate about”, including support for children with special educational needs (SEND).
She acknowledged the council made a mistake when it gave parents of SEND children at schools facing closure just over two weeks to choose alternatives.
“As soon as I heard about it, I intervened,” she said.
Woodley described the mayoralty as a “mandate from everyone who votes”, and a “platform for great partnerships with London Councils and the police, hospitals and the NHS”.
“You operate for the borough,” she added.
The council could also be facing cuts, following austerity and the pressures of the cost of living.
“We will look at efficiencies, anything we can do to avoid cuts and closures,” said Woodley.
Unlike some of her rivals, she would not scrap low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) in Hackney.
Woodley accepted “there was something quite brutal about how we brought in LTNs during the pandemic”, but that “something had to be done” because of poor air quality contributing to deaths.
Her other aims include extending nature conservation projects, investing in green skills, and working with residents who are involved in green schemes.
“It is very heartening,” she said of the residents. “There’s something about they how they feel ownership of their neighbourhood.”
When it comes to housing, she hopes for a Labour government to help fund more homes.
She said the cost of building means the council must be in partnership with a developer, until the government provides more funds.
The number of people moving out of the borough because of the cost of housing is also concerning, she said.
Woodley welcomed the work of the Morning Lane campaigners who have been pushing for more social homes and pledged more community engagement.
Hackney’s police have come under fire in the wake of the Child Q scandal.
The mayor holds regular meetings with senior police officers, and Woodley said: “I am absolutely prepared to have tough conversations with the police.”
She said the council has also looked at institutional racism, the curriculum in Hackney schools, and the “review, rename, reclaim” project that has seen parks renamed to celebrate Black residents and ditch previous names linked to the slave trade.
“I would certainly build on that,” said Woodley.
She also emphasised the need to stress the solidarity amongst communities at a time when Hackney’s Jewish and Muslim residents are feeling anxious because of events in Israel and Gaza.
“This is a really fraught moment and people are upset.”
The by-election was triggered when Mayor Philip Glanville resigned over his association with disgraced former councillor Tom Dewey.
Glanville said he had not seen Dewey after finding out about his arrest last year, but a photograph later emerged showing them at a party just hours after Glanville had been informed.
Dewey was sentenced this year for possession of indecent images of children.
Woodley said: “I was deeply shocked to learn of Tom Dewey’s abhorrent crimes.”
The candidates standing for election on Thursday 9 November are: Zoë Garbett, Green; Caroline Woodley, Labour; Peter Smorthit, Independent; Simon de Deney, Liberal Democrat; Simche Steinberger, Conservatives; and Annoesjka Valent, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.