Last night, Thursday 8th May, three of Tower Hamlets’ mayoral candidates joined each other on stage, in front of over 400 members of Tower Hamlets Citizens’ (local branch of national community organising charity Citizens UK), to respond to their people’s manifesto asks ahead of the borough’s hotly contested election on May 22nd.
All three candidates agreed to switch on lights in the borough that have previously been switched off, and increase the amount of lighting in key areas around bus stops, tubes stations and parks. The request came after the Tower Hamlets Citizens group carried out a piece of research that showed street lights in Kensington, West London were in some areas up to four times brighter than their counterparts in East London, and the intervals between street lights, shorter.
The Citizens Assembly was hosted at Queen Mary University of London, and was attended by mayoral candidates John Biggs, Labour, Lutfur Rahman, Independent, and Chris Wilford, Conservative.
The candidates responded to specific ‘asks’ that have been refined by the Citizens group following a listening campaign where individuals from member institutions reported issues of concern.
Nick Coke, Stepney Salvation Army Captain and Tower Hamlets Citizens leader, explains:
“Too often Tower Hamlets is portrayed as a broken and fragmented borough, but the diverse membership of Tower Hamlets Citizens, which includes churches, schools, mosques and universities, turned out last night to hold their local politicians to account and demonstrate that local residents work together for the benefit of their neighbourhoods.
“Last night we negotiated for huge improvements to the borough, including a pledge from all of the candidates to work with us and local housing association, Poplar Harca, to trial a ‘Living Rent’ model based on local wages to help tackle the housing crisis in Tower Hamlets.”
All three candidates agreed to work with Tower Hamlets Citizens to develop a strategy to stop pay day lenders in the borough targeting children with advertising, whilst candidates Biggs and Rahman both committed to making the Whitechapel redevelopment area free of pay day lenders and betting shops.
Across London members of Citizens UK are bucking the trend of voter apathy as thousands of them turnout to hold local politicians to account and challenge them to listen to residents’ concerns and include their people generated solutions in local party and Mayoral manifestoes ahead of the borough elections on May 22nd.