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Question time for the six hopefuls with their eyes on an election prize

Election candidates for Islington North

From left, Cllr Caroline Russell, Julian Gregory, Alex Burghart, Bill Martin, Jeremy Corbyn and Gregory Clough. Sitting, chairman Richard Rieser

Published: 24 April, 2015
by PETER GRUNER

SIX election candidates in Islington North fought their corner at a hustings attended by more than 100 people at the Arts and Media School in Finsbury Park on Monday night.

Questions included one on the current wrangle between residents and Islington Council over plans for a £33million development on the nearby Andover estate.

Other issues raised ranged from lack of inclusion for disabled children in mainstream schools to safe cycling, benefits and whether or not to keep nuclear Trident.

The five male candidates, and one woman, were Green councillor Caroline Russell, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn – MP since 1983 – Conservative Alex Burghart, Lib Dem Julian Gregory, Ukip’s Gregory Clough and the Socialist Party of Great Britain’s Bill Martin.

Richard Schunemann, chairman of Finsbury Park Community Hub and a resident on the Andover estate, accused the council of going back on a deal to provide a new health centre and social enterprise outlets along with a planned 140 new homes. He told the meeting: “The council want to build 140 new homes on our estate and were happy with our participation at the beginning. We wanted a health centre in a ward which has one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the borough. That’s now been removed from the table.

“So all we’ll be getting now will be years of building nuisance and loss of open space and no extra facilities.”                                                                                  

The council, however, argues that no decision has been made on whether the health centre and other facilities will be included in the scheme.

Mr Corbyn said he thought there should be better dialogue between residents and the council. “I’d be happy to help,” he added.

Conservative Mr Burghart was baffled. “It’s quite rare to get a group of residents to agree to work with the council,” he said. “It seems they’ve been let down. I would fight the council.” 

He denied an accusation from a member of the audience that his party would sell off the estate.                                                                           

Lib Dem Julian Gregory backed residents. “Too many parties want to take control away from residents,” he said. 

“We believe in devolving power. When our party ran Islington we were heavily involved with local organisations. Archway is a good example today where residents and council are working together.” 

Green councillor Ms Russell said she’d take up the issue at a full council meeting. “The residents welcomed the planned new homes and accepted the disruption on the understanding of the benefits,” she said. “Now these benefits may not be going through.”                                                    

Ukip’s Mr Clough spoke about the need for a proper mix of children in mainstream schools, including the disabled.                                      

He also supported Trident as “the ultimate go-away button.” Mr Burghart said: “I will give up nuclear weapons like Trident when the Russians give up theirs.”

Mr Corbyn spoke about the need to improve cycling in the wake of so many deaths and injuries. “I’m a cyclist myself,” he said. “One of my first acts as an MP was to oppose Archway Road widening and introduce a big lorry ban.”

The Socialist Party’s Mr Martin, a librarian from Archway, said: “We have a single policy, which is the abolition of the wages system. 

“We want the establishment of common and democratic ownership of the wealth of the world by the majority. In local terms it would mean that people have control of wealth directly.”

Record voters sign up

A RECORD-BREAKING 3,000 Islington residents signed up to vote on Monday, the deadline day for those wishing to take part in the general election on May 7. 

They were part of the nearly half a million people who signed up last-minute across the UK. In the month before the 2010 election, 5,500 people registered to vote in Islington. 

A council spokesman said: “This is a new record for us.”

 

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