The Second Hustings Meeting (30.04.23) to question and listen to candidates standing for election as councillors in Evington ward, Leicester
Eight out of the twelve candidates came along to this hustings. They were from left to right:
Zuffar Haq, (Liberal Democrat)
Nitesh Dave (Liberal Democrat)
Farida Patel (Liberal Democrat)
Ruma Ali (Independent with an agent: Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition)
Baljit Singh (Independent)
Naj Hassan (Labour)
Deepak Bajaj (Conservative)
Jenny Joannou (Conservative)
Introductions from right to left:
Jenny Joannou has been a teacher and a magistrate for 30 years and loved this work. She is an Evington resident who is passionate about green spaces. She sees the deprivation in the Rowlatts Hill area as a huge job to be tackled. If elected she is committed to looking after local people and improving the area by tackling traffic, parking, churned up verges and litter problems. “It’s about doing things about local things for local people”.
Deepak Bajaj has been a councillor in Evington for 16 years and he works full time as well. He has a family of three children. As a councillor he has dealt with thousands of case from constituents, supported new schools and the changes at the General Hospital. He has also supported 19 different groups and the Evington Village Fete and Show as well as other celebrations. He works with the police Commissioner for responsive policing. He has helped charities across the city and food banks.
Naj Hassan is standing in Evington for the first time. He says that when he has been door knocking the biggest issues raised have been the traffic problems. He made it clear that with any issues it shouldn’t be a solution first approach but a consultative approach. He said the problem we have is for consultations that are robust and effective with the people involved.
Naj has been a magistrate for 12 years, a trustee of an educational charity and a parent governor. He will fight for the people. His website is naj.me.
Baljit Singh was a councillor in Evington from 2011 to 2015. During that time good things happened including a successful partnership project to revamp Evington’s war memorial and surrounding area. He is a politician with 40 years of experience and believes that being a councillor is about putting the community first. He would like to see Evington Park House as a public resource for all and is committed to making this happen so that infrastructure is in place for helping the local community. He is leading on the business plan for Evington Park House to be a Neighbourhood Centre with community support through Friends of Evington. He sees Evington as the Jewel in the Crown of Leicester and will campaign to preserve open spaces in Evington and apply for preservation orders. He will make the community voice heard. He says that Rowlatts Hill and other struggling estates need investment, involved policing, affordable housing, rent controls and job opportunities.
Ruma Ali was the youngest councillor on the City Council and the first female Muslim councillor. She has lived in Evington most of her life and loves Evington and wants to help the local community. She protested about the blocked roads in Evington. She supports local charities and the food banks. She works with local schools and has organised events, festivals and other activities. She fights to protect all green spaces and would abolish the right to buy Council houses and build affordable houses and support local shops. She says there should be better investment in the infrastructure, particularly in poor areas like Rowlatts Hill.
Farida Patel lives locally and will bring what experience she can to work with the local community. She will build relationships with younger voters and not let Evington go.
Nitesh Dave is a special needs teacher and enjoys supporting vulnerable people. He is inspired by Gandi to ‘being the change’ and working with the community around. He sees road and traffic as the main issue He has worked with the scouts and helping young people
Zuffar Haq is passionate about Leicester. His grandfather came to Leicester in 1919, so he has a long association. He wants to improve the state of the streets. “ The City is a mess”. He has helped to set up Crimestoppers in 1994, and has been involved in International Voluntary relief and other campaigns to get things done and support people to improve their lives. In Evington he has successfully campaigned for new bus shelters and the removal of the road blocks, particularly on Davenport Road. He said £20,000 had been wasted by this scheme. Zuffar believes in getting things done and in Evington a ton of fruit from local gardens has been collected by the local community through Zuffar’s leadership, to go to local food banks. Zuffar thinks that other brown field sites might be better for the four mobile units proposed for St. Denys car park. He outlined the poor mental health issues and the problems that arise in areas where ‘nobody cares’.
The following questions were asked by the audience:
- Would you abolish the post of Mayor?
The Conservative candidates said ‘Yes’. The Liberal Democrat candidates would like a referendum. The Labour candidate said that he supported the principles of the Labour Party, but for this issue it was important to look at what was actually happening. The other candidates said yes and wanted more City Council spending to go to local neighbourhoods and not be focussed in the centre of the City and Belgrave Road.
2 What knowledge do candidates have of the issues facing residents in Rowlatts Hill and could they give examples.
All candidates spoke about the deprivation in the area and there was no lack of specific knowledge from the candidates.
- A question about a proposal to build 4 hubs for homeless people in the car park at St. Denys Road. All candidates spoke about the suitability of the site.
- A question for Zuffar Haq only was about how he justified his claims concerning Davenport Road. Zuffar explained how he listened to local people and was there supporting local people with their campaigns and was very much hands on in supporting local people’s wishes.
- A question asking all the candidates to state their first priority for improvements for Evington and how they will go about it.
Ruma Ali said for her it would be delivering community services and tackling poverty and the cost of living crisis – How would be through food banks, charity work including Youth clubs where children and young people could get involved in doing things to help.
Baljit Singh said for him it would be through setting up the infrastructure of a neighbourhood centre so that services like social services and police would be there to help. How? In the same way he fought for and succeeded in setting up Highfields Community Centre which is managed by a committee of residents who are responsive to their local community and are also able to liaise with the Council and local officers.
Naj said it was for Safer Streets and to reduce crime with appropriate specific solutions for each problem identified. How would be through full consultations first and then involving specialists to help as appropriate.
Farida said it would be austerity services – food banks, etc. How through speaking to members of the public and getting support to run these services.
Deepak said it would be through effective City Warden work which would help sort out the traffic problems and anti-social behaviour. How? Through issuing fines for traffic offences and reporting anti social behaviour, so everyone feels safe.
Jenny said it would be help for elderly people. How would be through involving all streets in looking out for their residents to support each other.
Zuffar said it would be sorting out the problem of traffic and schools. How would be by setting up a bus service to go from Hamilton and to drop the children off at their local schools.
Nitesh also said it would be by sorting out the traffic problems. Another how would be through all working together and by subsidising bus passes, which might at least cut traffic by half.
The organisers of this meeting, Helen and Val from Friends of Evington, invited all people present to come to an informal gathering at The Cedars on 9th May, from 11am to 1pm after the elections to meet the three elected councillors for an informal chat, where the Manager, would provide refreshments (tea and coffee and snacks) in a suitable venue, which could be the garden area, weather permitting.
Helen thanked the audience and candidates for giving up their time to take part in this Hustings.