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Hackney loses a champion

WORKPLACE: Vernon will no longer be a councillor in Hackney (PA)

I HAVE been lucky to be part of the Labour administration led by Mayor Jules Pipe which has made Hackney one of the most successful local authorities in the country. We have made big inroads around education, housing, regeneration, environment, creative industries and making Hackney a safe place to live.

In my role as a ward councillor over the last 8 years working with fellow Cllrs Emma Plouviez and Tom Price we have supported hundreds of residents in doing case work ranging from housing disrepair, overcrowding, anti-social behaviour, planning, licensing, neighbourhood disputes, domestic violence, and small enterprises. One of the biggest issues in the ward has been one of gun/ knife crime and gangs particularly on the Holly Street estate and London Fields.

This was reflected in the murder of Stevens Nyembo-Ya-Muteba who was stabbed to death in a stair well in the block where he lived with his wife and two children in 2006.The family had fled the Congo over a decade to start a new life in Hackney.

After 8 years the widow Veronique Masosa is now rebuilding her life with her children. She was very passionate on the issue of crime in the community. I was able to persuade North London Muslim Housing Association to sponsor a peace bench on the Holly Street on the 5th anniversary of his murder on the 1st of October 2013 to commemoration his achievement as father and talented mathematician whilst giving hope for local residents.

I have also supported the role of heritage in the borough by supporting the work of Hackney Museum and Archives around family history, and cultural dialogue. I was proud to chair the Nelson Mandela tribute at the Museum in January this year which also promoted the award winning Sankofa exhibition on the history of Black History Month in the UK.

I worked closely with Selma James and BEMA Arts as part of the CLR James campaign to ensure that his name was retained as part of the new library in Dalston. I lobbied fellow council colleagues to advocate the historical significance of James as icon for black and white people in Hackney and the world.

I was appointed in 2007 as Hackney Play Champion and the Chair of the Play Pathfinder steering Group. Working with the Cabinet member for Children and Young People, I lead with officers being selected as a Play Pathfinder area which provided fi3 million funding for capital development for 28 adventure areas and play facilitates in the borough.
One of my proudest moments of being a Councillor was supporting the deputation in November 2009 of pupils from London Fields Primary School in making the case for the banning of plastic bags in the borough.

This was the first time in the history of the Council that children were invited to make a formal deputation to councillors at a full council meeting. This gained considerable positive media coverage locally, added by the endorsement of Leona Lewis.

One of the key areas of concern that I have raised over the years with the council and the police has been the excessive use of and stop and search and inappropriate collection of DNA from young black youth. However, sadly it was the riots in 2011 in Hackney which has now give this issue a more serious focus.

As a member of Community Scrutiny Safety committee we have reviewed stop and search in Hackney and we receive regular comprehensive reports from the police. We also work with young people to gain their perspectives on current policing practice. Over the last 18 months the total number of stops has reduced significantly in Hackney compared to Lambeth, Brent or Southwark.

One of my last activities as a Councillor in March was the planning the official visit to Hackney of the Jamaican High Commissioner, Her Excellency Mrs. Aloun Ndombet-Assamba where she spent the day meeting local residents and politicians.

We also went to visit Urswick School where we had the privilege of meeting staff and pupils and also Shereka Marsh, the 15 year old teenage who was subsequently murdered a week later. Her death gave a strong shock wave not just only in Hackney but across the country that we need to vigilant on the issue of guns in the community and vulnerability of women and girls.

I am very proud and honoured to serve as a local Labour Councillor in Hackney and I would like to thank local Party members, fellow councillors, supporters, friends, family and mostly importantly the voters of Queensbridge Ward who have supported me over the last eight years.

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