RH: How proud are you to be representing the people of Hackney/London Fields?
AB: As someone who has lived in Hackney all their life, I’m incredibly proud to represent the borough where I grew up. Hackney is home to such a diverse community and I take pride in being part of this. As Councillor for London Fields I am passionate about maintaining and celebrating Hackney’s uniqueness – its rich diversity, thriving businesses and green spaces.
What are amongst the pros and cons of being deputy mayor?
Being Deputy Mayor is a privilege. I’m privy to the acute needs of our community. While it is a challenging time to be in Local Government, I feel empowered within my role to have the opportunity to effect real change.
Seeing our work become inspirational to European Councils and being able to place Hackney amidst European innovators is particularly rewarding. In 2017 our Improving The Outcomes For Young Black Men scheme was a finalist in the Innovation In Politics Award and was hailed as one of the best of 80 political projects in Europe. Our 2018-2022 strategy addresses the disproportionate outcomes for young black men. We want to demonstrate that there are many black boys, families and young black men that are providing positive role models by focusing on examples of success, identifying potential, increasing their visibility and tackling inequalities.
What makes Hackney and its people so unique?
Anyone who’s been to Hackney knows how multicultural it is and how open and welcoming we are to anyone who wants to call us home. It makes for a real sense of community pride. From our Windrush Generations Festival, Black History Season, to the lighting of the menorah in the Town Hall square – we relish and acknowledge the benefit of sharing each other’s cultures.
People in Hackney have a real connection to the place we live . Our ‘I Love Hackney’ branding is worn everywhere – not just within the borough! Hackney also has a vibrant creative sector.
What are amongst your priorities as Cabinet member for education, young people and children’s social care?
As a former acting assistant head teacher for a primary school, this role is very close to my heart. I loved working with children and miss seeing children every day, however being deputy mayor gives me an opportunity to impact the lives of young people on an even broader scale. In 2019 we devised the Hackney Schools Group Board, on the back of our schools for everyone consultation and discussions with Councillors, schools, governors, parents and residents. The board has an independent chair, representatives from schools across the borough, elected members as well as independent experts, to provide influence to school system and improvement in Hackney. It will build on school collaboration and a series of panels with look at specific areas including achievement, professional development and innovation, as well as support for vulnerable young people. Also Children’s Social Care provision continues to remain a priority for us. We are coming to the end of the learning from the Contextual Safeguarding pilot and plan on embedding our learning into everyday practise.
I’m also incredibly proud of how engaged our young people are and our Young Futures Commission is a shining example of that. We delivered the largest consultation undertaken with over 2,400 young people aged between 10-25 years olds taking part. The commission connects young people with councillors, heads of services and other partners, so we can truly listen to them and improve the lived experience of young people in Hackney.
What does the future hold for the borough?
We’re aware that the next five years of Tory government will present its challenges but we are ready to stand up and fight for the people in our community and continue to lobby central government for the funding we need.
The year ahead is already looking bright – Discover Young Hackney will evolve from a six-month festival to a year round project of opportunities for young people in the arts, and we’re about to announce who’ll be commissioned to create a permanent artwork honouring the Windrush generation. Despite the financial challenging times in Local Government where we have lost 60p in every £1 that used to spend by Central Government, we remain aspirational and are working tirelessly to deliver on a very ambitious manifesto for our community.