Waltham Forest Citizens secure council promises following pre-election summit
Public life is often dominated by slurs, egoism, and disrespect, as people who feel powerless attack decision-makers.
Yet the problems we face – youth violence, inequality, a lack of genuinely affordable homes, creating a decent and fair society – cannot be tackled by politicians and government alone. The only real way to make long-term change is to return to the root of the word ‘democracy’, from the Greek ‘demokratia’ (literally ‘rule by the people’), and start at the local level. It requires each of us, as citizens, to take responsibility for our area and work in partnership with councillors and officers to achieve change.
Waltham Forest Citizens is a society alliance of nine faith and education organisations; mosques, churches, colleges and schools; with 15,000 people in our membership. Together, we harness our collective power to find out what matters to our members and build accountable relationships with people in power to transform our communities for the common good.
In April, 603 local leaders from member organisations of Waltham Forest Citizens held the biggest local pre-election accountability assembly in London with Cllr Clare Coghill (Labour) and Cllr Alan Siggers (Conservative) discussing the issues of genuinely affordable homes for local people and tackling youth violence and opportunities for young people.
Specifically, we won commitments from them both to ensure that Waltham Forest Citizens has a seat around the table to participate in the disbursal of £4.35million of money from the London Borough of Culture award and ‘integration’ money, to ensure it is used to benefit the young people of our wonderful borough.
We also secured commitments from Cllr Coghill to meet with her and her officers in advance of Waltham Forest Council’s upcoming Life Chances Report to discuss its recommendations and then be involved in its implementation.
In terms of genuinely affordable homes, we secured agreements to build 50 percent affordable housing across all developments on public land. Now we look forward to Cllr Coghill delivering on her ambitious commitment by ensuring that half of the new homes set to be built on The Score site, opposite Leyton Orient’s The Breyer Group Stadium, are designated affordable.
This seems a fully achievable goal given the scale of the £48m deal the council has agreed with developers Taylor Wimpey. Spending just half of this amount on affordable homes would ensure that The Score moves from the current agreement of 25 percent to 50 percent.
In addition, over the next four years, councillors agreed to build an incredible 600 Community Land Trust (CLT) homes, where the price of the home is connected to the median local income, not the market price. They also agreed to build 1,200 social rent homes.
Finally, credit to Cllr Coghill on the new deal secured with the Mayor of London to build 525 social rent homes in the next few years. These are the victories that local communities can win if we are organised and powerful.
However, we must remember that long-term change is only possible if we are able to build respectful, reciprocal relationships with the council and collectively raise the bar in public life.
This article was written by Gill Burbridge (Principal, Leyton Sixth Form College), Vanessa Conant (Rector, Parish of Walthamstow), Averil Watan (Warden, St Barnabas Church), Andy Trenier (Rector, Parish of Chingford) and Saira Mir (Faizan-E-Islam).
If you would like to get involved with Waltham Forest Citizens, please contact the senior organiser for Waltham Forest, Daniel Mackintosh: