In the ninth instalment of our blogs on the forthcoming local elections in May, Josh Macmillan takes a look at the London Borough of Enfield.
The past four years
Following the 2018 Local Election, you would assume a lot wouldn’t change. The party of the national Government over the last eight years would lose votes and the opposition would pick them up in an area that has steadily grown into a Labour stronghold since they took control in 2010. However, you would be wrong to think that. The incumbent leader, Doug Taylor, lost the leadership election by a margin of two votes to Nesil Caliskan. At the age of 29, she became the youngest Leader of a Council in London. Her first four years would see an array of divisions and general instability, from resignations and by-elections, to defections and the formation of a new opposition group.
Within a year of becoming leader, rifts within the Enfield Labour Party would start to emerge with the resignation of Daniel Anderson, then Deputy Leader, stating that Nesil Caliskan was ‘intolerable’ to work with and that he had been ‘systematically undermined’. The aftermath would see half the cabinet resign and complaints being made to the National Executive Committee, who issued a rebuke to the local Labour group and banned them from running the candidate selection process for the next election.
The subsequent year after the fallout and the party suspension of Anderson for aggressive behaviour, tensions with councillors who had opposed Caliskan would boil over, resulting in Councillors Levy, Barry, Anderson and Lemonides abandoning Labour to form a new group called Community First.
With a new political party and all the other disputes occurring, you would be forgiven if you were confused over the state of affairs in Enfield Council. Since the election, there have been seven defections from the Labour Party, two Conservative suspensions and resignations and five by-elections – one of which resulted in a shock Conservative win in Chase Ward where they increased their vote by 22%.
Aside from the internal turmoil, the local election looms and the key issue which candidates will be campaigning on is the lack of affordable family homes. In every planning application, this concern has been raised. As a result, councillors have placed a major focus upon the large Meridian Water development to deliver the 10,000 homes it has promised. The importance of the issue can clearly be seen with Liberal Democrats and Labour Party focusing their manifestos on this matter.
The Conservatives, who are looking to overturn an eleven seat Labour majority, have outlined their plan to make the borough ‘cleaner, greener and safer’ by protecting the Green Belt, bringing back weekly bin collections and to introduce more school streets to protect children.
Despite the chequered performance Labour has had with council debt rising over £1bn and the loss of eight seats, Enfield will remain a Labour stronghold. The boundary changes will likely be beneficial to the Conservatives, but they won’t make significant inroads. The new ward of Ridgeway, created from the Conservative ward of Highlands and half of Chase, a split ward that saw a major swing and Conservative gain in last year’s by-election will be an obvious target.
With the previous Labour councillors who defected to Community First deselected and replaced, Caliskan will likely consolidate control over the council. Thus, we expect the next four years to be less turbulent than the previous four and more focused on delivering more affordable homes and the current living standards squeeze.