With Charlton going to the polls on Thursday to pick new councillors, The Charlton Champion asked each party if one of their candidates could answer a questionnaire about why they’re standing, what they’ve done, and what they can do. Liberal Democrat candidates IAN GERRARD, REBECCA IRELAND and CHARLIE ROME answered as one…
1. Why Charlton?
Ian: I’ve lived in Charlton since the mid 1990s and have worked in schools in south east London since 1991. I’m proud to call Charlton my home and I would be hugely proud to represent our area on the council if I were elected. Charlton has a real sense of community and I would love to play a part in protecting and enhancing the things that make it so special.
Charlie: I have been a Charlton resident since 2010, and I want to represent the area I’ve chosen to call my home. As a newcomer to the political scene I became more interested in local politics in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, and felt I needed to get involved to make where we live a better place.
Rebecca: When I first moved to London several years ago, all I wanted was to find a homely neighbourhood which had plenty of open space and a good (preferably heated) 50m lido. I feel spoiled to have found not only that, but also local friends, a station community garden, the Thames a short hop away, and great views of the London skyline from Charlton Road!
2. What can I bring to the job of councillor?
Ian: I have experience of serving as a local councillor in Greenwich and so I can bring an understanding of the role and the importance of it. I have worked as a teacher for 27 years (and counting!) and am passionate about the importance of education. I would bring the determination to listen to the views of local people and to represent them and serve them to the best of my ability.
Rebecca: I would say dynamism, an interest in a wide range of issues and tenacity! I like to get things done by consulting and working with others. Ultimately, I am a caring and approachable person and like to feel that the work I am doing helps to make tangible improvements to people’s lives.
Charlie: My background is in finance and I spent many years as a project manager for a large Government agency that worked with different parties who all had different priorities. I would be able to perform well as an opposition
councillor, working with Labour to best deliver effective services, represent local residents and deliver positive change for the ward and the wider borough.
3. What is Greenwich Council good at?
We feel that early years education is well provided for, given the pressures of funding cuts and an increasing population. For Charlie, being a stay at home dad to a toddler, he feels there is a wealth of activities and a good choice of successful nursery and primary schools, but it is a shame that this doesn’t seem to continue into secondary education. Also, we feel that Greenwich has a positive record on recycling which should be applauded.
4. What does Greenwich Council need to improve at?
One serious area of concern is how the council sees the area developing and how it handles planning. There are master plans that are woefully out-of-date and even where they exist they are not followed. Developments are seemingly pushed through by the Council leadership with local representation made to abstain in decisions and public consultation nothing more than a box-ticking exercise. It is hard to see this changing without more opposition elected to the Council in the upcoming elections.
5. What makes Charlton special?
There is a tremendous sense of community, which is difficult to find in London. Whether it’s those that share a love for our communal spaces, such as Charlton and Maryon Wilson Parks or those that share a love for an activity such as swimming at the Charlton Lido, all are very welcoming and work hard to make Charlton a friendly place to live.
6. What are the biggest issues affecting the people of Charlton?
As a councillor, it’s crucial to listen to people’s concerns and act upon them. Having spoken to people on the doorstep and on local community groups on social media, it’s clear that they way Greenwich Council handles planning is a major issue for residents in Charlton. There have been nearby developments approved despite great number of objections from local residents. Other developments have been cynically deferred until after the local elections, and the council have not followed their own master plans which called for mixed use developments, ruling in favour of large retail parks which put huge additional pressures on local roads. A long running theme is the lack of representation by local councillors on issues that affect the ward whilst the council leadership push applications through.
This needs to change, and this can only happen if meaningful opposition is elected to challenge the council’s leadership and stand up for residents’ concerns.
7. What are the biggest issues affecting Greenwich borough?
Having talked to local people, we think a huge issue affecting residents across the borough is air quality. Local group, Valley Hill Hub did research to show that we suffer from illegal levels of air pollution here in Charlton and it is a threat to every resident’s health and wellbeing, especially the young and old. We will firmly stand against the proposed development of the polluting Silvertown tunnel as well as the current plans for Enderby Wharf, which the Labour council has approved twice with no shore-side power supply. We will call for continuous air quality monitoring outside all schools in the borough and for the Low Emissions Neighbourhood in East Greenwich to be expanded to Charlton and beyond. We will also push for a resident led review of cycle routes in the borough and how they can be improved, and make sure buses and council vehicles are electric or hybrid as soon as practicably possible.
8. Why should people vote on Thursday?
Democracy is incredibly important, and is something that we should always cherish. It is always sad to see low turnouts for local elections, which arguably have a larger impact to the day-to-day lives of citizens than at a general election. There are huge decisions and developments ahead for Charlton and Greenwich and we want everyone to have their say. We hope that everyone who is eligible can spare just a few minutes out of their day on the 3rd May to vote on how the Council is run and how the area will develop over the next four years.
9. Charlton is on the brink of huge change with redevelopment due in Charlton Riverside. What will you do to make sure residents’ voices are taken seriously throughout this process?
We think the council needs to urgently update the master plan for the area. This should be undertaken with a full and transparent consultation of residents. Where concerns are raised, these have to be taken into account in planning decisions. The Council should report on feedback received and hold open debates in order to include the voices of residents in the framework for future developments. After this, the Council must then keep to the plan and not succumb to developer pressure to allow deviations from these plans.
10. How is a Liberal Democrat vote relevant in Charlton?
The Lib Dems believe wholeheartedly in the importance of local government. Moving power closer to the people is a fundamental value of the party. Lib Dems would supply fresh eyes to scrutinise the proposals put forward by council officers and other parties. We’d take a more serious approach to protecting air quality than the current Labour administration. Above all else, as local residents, your Liberal Democrat candidates will work hard to understand and champion the interests of the communities that we seek to represent.
Ian Gerrard, Rebecca Ireland and Charlie Rome are standing in Charlton ward for the Liberal Democrats. To find out more, visit www.greenwichlibdems.uk.
- See Labour councillor Gary Parker’s response.
- See Green candidate Clare Loops’ responses.
- See Women’s Equality Party candidate Pamela Ritchie’s responses.
- See Conservative candidate Macharia Gakuru’s response.
- See the answers given to The Valley Hill Hub.
- See who’s standing in your ward, find manifestos and hustings>
- Read what happened and see video from the Charlton ward hustings
Charlton ward candidates (three are elected): Gary Dillon (Labour), Macharia Gakuru (Conservative), Ian Gerrard (Liberal Democrat), Rebecca Ireland (Liberal Democrat), Catherine Latham (Conservative), Clare Loops (Green), Maya Mann (Conservative), Gary Parker (Labour), Linda Perks (Labour), Pamela Ritchie (Women’s Equality Party), Charlie Rome (Liberal Democrat). Polls are open from 7am to 10pm on Thursday 3 May.