Haringey’s leader says the council has made a “good start” on delivering the Labour Group’s ambitious manifesto pledges – including a bid to build 1,000 council-owned homes.

Cllr Joseph Ejiofor admitted it had been a challenging 12 months since he was elected as council leader in May last year but said his administration had already fully delivered three manifesto pledges and made a start on 50 more.

Cllr Ejiofor’s leadership signalled a change of direction for the council after key figures from the previous Labour administration were ousted in the run-up to the 2018 local elections.

It came as part of a wave of protest against multi-billion pound regeneration scheme the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), which opponents feared would push poorer residents out of the borough.

The HDV was scrapped shortly after the start of Cllr Ejiofor’s administration, which was elected on a pledge to provide more affordable homes.

Cllr Ejiofor said: “I think we have made a good start. I think there were 60-odd proposals we were going to deliver in the manifesto; we have done three and started 50, so I think that’s a good start.

“The big thing is always going to be around housing. We are focusing on delivering social housing, as well as other forms of affordable housing.

“As a council, this is the thing that we felt was most important – 1,000 additional council homes.

“It is a challenging target, but it is something we believe we can deliver.

“We need to use all the different levers available to us to deliver these homes. We are not able to build them all ourselves – we don’t employ any brickies or architects. This is a capacity we are building and developing.

“This summer we will be putting a shovel in the ground on the first homes built directly by the council, down in Seven Sisters ward.

“We have had to use other routes available to us by buying housing that would have otherwise been affordable and turning it into social homes.

“There are a couple of other, standalone developments that have become council homes. I think we have 227 in the pipeline towards our 1,000.”

The new leader has also been focused on providing more support for financially vulnerable residents, tackling crime and ensuring more wealth stays in the local economy.

Cllr Ejiofor said one of the biggest achievements of the past year was the extension of support for people who struggle to pay council tax – the council tax reduction scheme – to 100 per cent for some of the poorest families in the borough.

He said: “It was an early decision – we’d decided, we are definitely going to do this, we have found the money to make this real.

“The changes we have made, taking 600 or so families out of council tax altogether, increasing the opportunity for other families to get a greater reduction in their council tax, are really important for a number of the poorer families in Haringey.”

Serious youth violence – defined by the Metropolitan Police as “any offence of most serious violence or weapon-enabled crime where the victim is aged one to 19” – is a major problem in Haringey.

There were 346 victims of serious youth violence in the borough during the 12 months to January 2019 – meaning one in every 99 young people aged between 10 and 19 was a victim.

The borough has adopted a “public health approach” to the problem – a long-term plan that aims to tackle the root causes of crime.

But Cllr Ejiofor said his administration had also taken immediate action to improve youth services and stop people getting caught up in crime.

He said: “One of the first things we did is to put an extra quarter of a million pounds into youth services.

“We have managed to lever in £1.5 million on top of that investment (from the Mayor of London’s Young Londoners’ Fund).

“That will help with some of the outreach work we’re doing and create services for young people, which will hopefully keep them away from gang violence.”

Another key ambition of the borough’s Labour administration is to boost the local economy by adopting the ‘Preston model’ of running public services.

Named after the Lancashire town where the approach was pioneered in the UK, the Preston model involves spending more money on local businesses so wealth stays in the community.

It was credited with helping Preston achieve “most improved city” status in a recent study.

Cllr Ejiofor said: “Another thing we are looking at is how we make our communities wealthier. That is about ensuing as much council public spend that we get rattles round our local economy.

“That is part of our community wealth-building agenda – it is about ensuring that if a public sector entity spends some money, it doesn’t just bounce off the high road.

“It is about how we can deliver the Preston model in an urban setting.”

Cllr Gideon Bull has been tasked with rolling out the Preston model after being appointed to the new position of cabinet member for local investment and economic growth.

Cllr Ejiofor likened the experience of taking over and trying to change the council’s direction to turning a supertanker around – “even though you are moving the wheel, it is still going in the other direction”.

And it has not all been plain sailing during the past year, with some major regeneration projects – including the planned demolition of the Latin Village Market in Seven Sisters – causing controversy.

In January, Victoria Alvarez, one of the heads of a group of market traders, accused the council leader of refusing to engage with traders over the demolition.

Cllr Ejiofor said he could understand the cynicism of the Latin Market traders but asked for the council to be given the opportunity to earn their trust.

He said: “The most important thing is to be sure that the societies, the businesses, the communities that are there before any regeneration or renewal happens are an integral part of that neighbourhood’s future.

“What we have committed ourselves to do is to ensure that when we bring any change forward, we engage with local communities and ensure that, as much as possible, they can be part of that area’s future.”

The leader said the council had improved the terms being offered to traders and was committed to a sustainable market at Wards Corner.

Cllr Ejiofor said: “When the project started in mid-2000s, there was not going to be a market on that site.

“It is from the traders’ fight and determination that we got to the stage a few years ago where there was a Section 106 agreement that commits the developer to ensuring there is a market on that site.

“This administration has been prepared to make a further commitment that we will support a sustainable Latin Village market on that site. That is the objective of the council.”

Cllr Ejiofor said the council had introduced a rent cap so that “effectively traders know what their rent will be for the next five years” and would work with them on the design of the new market.

He said: “I am not saying we have got all our communication with the traders direct and perfect, because we haven’t – but we have accepted where we have made mistakes and sought to put them right.

“I am aware that traders might have been concerned that the council wasn’t really on their side. We are.”

There has also been some turmoil in the Haringey Labour Group, with two cabinet members sacked on New Year’s Eve and the cabinet member for finance quitting in March.

One of the sacked cabinet members, Cllr Zena Brabazon, recently returned to the top table as deputy leader following a vote by Labour councillors at the group’s annual general meeting.

She replaces Cllr Elin Weston as cabinet member for children and families

Cllr Ejifor said: “We should always respect the voice of the electorate. My Labour Group colleagues have decided that Cllr Brabazon is the appropriate person to be deputy leader, and I will work with her constructively because that is what the group has asked.

“As leader, it is my responsibility to lead us toward the delivery of the manifesto and our objectives.

“Cllr Brabazon has experience dealing with education and childcare in inner cities. I am confident she will be able to take Cllr Weston’s work forward.”

Enfield Independent:

Cllr Ejiofor said the council was making progress on insourcing some of its contracts and other manifesto pledges – including the Fairness Commission, which was set up to tackle inequality and promote fairness in the borough.

He said: “It hasn’t always been easy this year. I know we have had a challenging year over the past year.

“I’m looking forward to working with a cabinet that is much more united to set out and deliver the things our residents are really concerned with.

“It is about getting closer to our 1,000 homes, about making our community wealth-building agenda for businesses, for people who need new jobs, for communities who feel they have been left behind.

“It is also really important that the Fairness Commission works and our Young People At Risk Strategy has the support of stakeholders, police and young people.

“These are the things that matter for the people of Haringey, and we need to continue to be a responsive council.

“I need people to be able to come to us, and when they speak with and engage with the council, we will listen.

“We will do our best to take on board the things that matter to our residents and to deliver for them.”