Independent Mayoral candidate Rabina Khan has formally outlined her manifesto commitments at a press conference held on 2 June which she says will build a ‘fairer Tower Hamlets for all.’
Speaking at the event, Rabina Khan said, “I’m standing for Mayor because our borough needs to move on from the past and build a fairer Tower Hamlets for all. I’m standing because Tower Hamlets can’t afford a Labour or Tory mayor – nationally they support Tory welfare cuts that will leave children in poverty, and locally they have refused to commit to maintaining some of the essential services we offer that save people money, such as our unique education grants. As Cabinet Member for Housing I led in creating more affordable homes than any other council in the country, as Mayor I would take steps to tackle the East End’s housing crisis, stand up for vulnerable people against austerity, create sustainable growth and build grassroots politics that leaves no-one outside the room.”
Rabina has been Cabinet Member for Housing at Tower Hamlets Council since 2010, and has created more affordable homes than any other local authority in that time, while rehousing over one thousand overcrowded families and overseeing a £165m programme to bring every council home in the borough up to a decent standard. She is a former broadcaster and a mother-of-three from Whitechapel, as well as the only BAME woman on the ballot paper.
She announced her candidacy over three weeks ago, and promises an ‘open and listening council’ through People’s Question Times, more space for public participation at council and working with the government’s commissioners to address in some cases decades-old governance issues at the Town Hall.
Rabina is promising to help tackle the housing crisis with a plan to register landlords, cap leasehold charges and create 5500 affordable homes. This is part of her plan for community-led regeneration, which will include delivering the award-winning Whitechapel Vision, campaigning for a new Housing Zone in Poplar and creating GP surgeries, school places, and safer, cleaner, greener streets for all road users.
She will oppose austerity while committing to a new Women’s Employment Hub and championing disability provision.
Her economic strategy involves 20,000 new sustainable jobs, 8,000 Living Wage apprenticeships and 14,000 training opportunities alongside a Tower Hamlets card to boost the local economy and a programme of targeted support for small businesses.
She is also promising a new cultural strategy to celebrate the borough’s creativity and heritage, a fresh look at the Council’s relationship with Rich Mix and East End street parties.
She will also maintain the Education Maintenance Allowance, university grants, free homecare and other landmark policies implemented by the previous council administration to ensure that in one of Britain’s most deprived boroughs, support goes to those who need it most.
The mayoral election will be held on 11th June
Lillian Collins, chair of Poplar Baths stirring group said, ‘Rabina embodies the heart and spirit of Labour values more than many in the Labour leadership. Whilst the Labour party seems to drift ever further from standing up for working people, Rabina understands the need to tackle poverty, stand up to austerity and find community-based solutions to the East End’s housing crisis.’
Mickey Ambrose, footballer and community organiser said,‘As someone who’s worked with young people in the borough for years, Rabina is the only person I trust to stand up for youth services. When 350 youth centres closed in a year nationally, she was part of a Council that put £10m into young people. She’s planning new youth services, a new sports strategy and a new plan to celebrate the arts and creativity, alongside 8,000 Living Wage apprenticeships and education grants. She’s the only mayor that will stand up for young people.’
Peter Herbert QC, Human Rights Lawyer said, ‘Rabina, who from her days as a broadcaster to her days as Cabinet Member for Housing has fought tirelessly for equality and fairness. Her plans on community-led regeneration, her plans on female employment and her plans on accountability all point to a mayoral candidate that knows what people need, and knows how to get it.’
Lutfur Rahman, former Mayor of Tower Hamlets said, ‘When I was Mayor, Rabina led in the delivery of record numbers of affordable homes, rehousing over a thousand overcrowded families and setting up a £2million Preventing Homelessness Fund. Her commitment and ability for providing decent homes at decent prices is unparalleled and she will work with everyone to get the job done.’
Maggie Falshaw from Save our Surgeries said, ‘Rabina’s promising more GP surgeries and standing up to NHS cuts – she is a principled and grassroots politician who cares about austerity and its impact on public health. Rabina as Mayor would mean a Town Hall that is listening, campaigning and fighting for residents who need help most.’
Rabina Khan’s speech in full:
Thank you all so much for giving up your time to be here.
I’m standing here tonight to tell you that we need to start making politics matter.
We’ve just been through the most undesirable general election result in a generation, though I am not surprised.
We have a government that plans to slash the welfare cap once again – despite warnings from the Children’s Society that it will put our kids on the breadline. What’s really upsetting is that they are doing so with the support of the Labour Party.
For Tower Hamlets, where nearly half of our children are below the poverty line, that’s not good enough.
Nor is it good enough that my children’s generation are growing up with sky-high rents, sky-high tuition fees and sky-high living costs. Before the General Election, I remember Nick Clegg talking about helping young people with mortgage deposits. I know young people that are struggling with rental deposits.
Five more years of austerity might be too much for us to bear. Tower Hamlets needs the kind of leadership that can stand up to this government and its plan to pull the rug out from the most vulnerable in our society.
But it also needs the kind of leadership with the experience of redesigning services to get the most out of a reduced budget. I will never use central government cuts as an excuse to cut vital services.
When asked if he would maintain our Mayor’s Education Award – a Labour policy in the first place – my opponent said he couldn’t guarantee anything. The unique support we offer young people has helped make our schools world-class and put us in the top ten for sending people to Russell Group universities in spite of severe deprivation.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Under my leadership as cabinet member for housing for the last five years, Tower Hamlets has seen more than 4000 social and affordable homes built – more than any other council in Britain as recognised by central government repeatedly awarding us the highest ‘New Homes Bonus’, some £78M.
We’ve established the landmark £2m Preventing Homelessness Fund, refused to pass on cuts in council tax benefit and said no to Bedroom Tax evictions.
The work the last administration has done is why I’m proud to have been a part of it, and why I’m grateful for the former mayor’s endorsement.
Lutfur Rahman has made clear his intention to appeal. The Spectator’s associate editor, an Anglican canon and a senior law lecturer are among those that agree the judgment was troubling.
I don’t want to dwell on the Election Court judgment here.
I want this conversation to be about the future of our borough.
But I’m not going to pretend there aren’t issues with governance at the Council.
In fact, there are issues predating Lutfur Rahman, possibly even by decades.
That’s why the first thing I will do if elected is sit down with the Secretary of State’s commissioners and work out how they can help me deliver my manifesto and improve the level of service we offer.
I will move beyond the partisan bickering that has run our borough into the ground for far too long, and set out a clear roadmap with all concerned for moving the borough forward.
Transparency and accountability should mean more then turning up at committee meetings to get lectured by other politicians.
Oversight and scrutiny are fundamental, but the best thing we can do for accountability is build a better, more open, more inclusive way of doing politics.
As a mum-of-three, a Muslim woman, and the daughter of an immigrant docker, I’ve often felt as if politics doesn’t speak for me.
That’s not how it should be – our Town Hall politicians should be at the heart of local life, bringing communities together, building bridges, talking to people and standing up for people.
As a councillor I’ve done nearly five hundred home visits and raised three and a half thousand enquiries on behalf of residents.
As a mayor I will keep up that work with People’s Question Time around the borough, more surgeries than any other directly-elected mayor and answering every question the public has for me at Cabinet and Full Council, which will have more space for public participation.
Our politicians should serve the communities they represent.
We want regeneration, but regeneration in the interests of residents.
The award-winning Whitechapel Vision is a model for how it should be done – a regeneration project that doesn’t just bring shops and luxury flats, but decent jobs, affordable homes, community facilities, open spaces, better infrastructure for small businesses and a new Town Hall that will serve as a genuine community hub while keeping a historic building in public hands.
I will build a Tower Hamlets where people are proud to live – with cleaner, greener, safer streets and more school places and GP surgeries.
I will also build a Tower Hamlets where people can afford to live. That means tackling our dire housing crisis head on with more than empty words.
That starts with the five and a half thousand affordable homes I’m pledging, after already having led in creating more affordable homes than any other UK local authority.
And I will always push for genuinely affordable homes, not the 80% of market rate definition that the Mayor of London seems to think is affordable.
I will introduce a rigorous landlord registration scheme to protect private renters, so that the farce of rogue landlords getting away with revenge evictions, neglect and keeping people in squalid homes at sky high rents comes to an end.
And I will protect services for those who need them most.
Female economic inactivity in Tower Hamlets is at nearly half.
Twice as many women as men have lost public sector jobs under austerity.
That’s why I’m prioritising a Women’s Employment Hub alongside more space for childcare, which will help ensure women get their fair share of the support for small businesses, the 20,000 sustainable jobs, the 14,000 training opportunities and the 8,000 London Living Wage apprenticeships that I have pledged.
I will prioritise provision for people with disabilities – including halving the number of people with severe mobility needs on the social housing waiting list, making space for 16-25 years olds with special needs and implementing the Time to Change pledge on mental health.
And I will keep our communities safe by working together. I will take drug dealers off the streets, but will have an approach to crime that aims to understand and rehabilitate rather than simply washing our hands of offenders.
But it can’t all be bread and butter – the East End has a proud, rich and diverse cultural history that should be celebrated and supported.
I’m promising a new cultural strategy to support the arts and our creative industries.
I’m promising East End street parties to bring people together, and community awards to celebrate our living local heroes, as well as a new sports strategy and a new arts and media centre.
My background is in broadcasting and writing – I value the power of creativity to change the world.
The last month’s election result has surprised all of us.
But it has also shown us people like Natalie Bennett, Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood developing progressive politics outside the Westminster bubble.
It’s about politics that’s in touch with communities and listens to people rather than polling data and focus groups.
It’s about politics that’s based on practical solutions to everyday problems.
It’s about politics that recognises the unique and valuable contribution that every single person can bring to the table.
And it’s about politics that never loses sight of a vision for the fairer future and stronger communities we all want to live in.
I’d like to leave with a pledge.
If I’m elected as Mayor of this great borough of ours…
Judge me one year on on these promises.
That’s the Tower Hamlets I want to build.