In a wide-ranging interview with Haber newspaper, Enfield Council’s deputy leader Achilleas Georgiou revealed Enfield would not be hosting Syrian refugees, defended changes to bin collections in the borough and admitted council tax could rise again this year.
For its inaugural English issue, Haber newspaper turned to the leadership of Enfield Council, the most Turkish-speaking part of the country.
The local council has had to make vast cuts to the services it offers as they absorb reductions to the funding they receive from central government.
After many years of keeping council tax at the same level, Enfield Council announced last year that it would increase the charge by 1.78 percent.
Part of the reason for the increase is adult social care, provided particularly to elderly people, which is becoming more and more expensive every year for councils across the country.
Social care pressures
“We do have a growing elderly population in Enfield,” Cllr Georgiou told Haber in an interview this week.
“What the government said to local authorities is that we’re going to allow you to raise your council tax so you can pay for social care, and all the money that you raise – that extra 2 percent – would go towards social care.
“We took that opportunity [last year].”
The council had not decided what to do with council tax from this April, he said, but he did not rule out another rise.
“One of the options will be to increase council tax again within the limits that the government allows and that would be between 2 or 3 percent. But all that money is focused and directed towards adult social care, so the extra money that’s raised will go towards that.”
Rubbish bins and how often they are collected is always a contentious issue for residents, and changes planned by the council from this spring are likely to be controversial.
From March, Enfield residents’ green bins used for garden waste and kitchen scraps will only be collected fortnightly. But surely it’s precisely that refuse – including leftover food that rots and creates a smell – that needs to be collected more often?
“Put it in your black bin [for ordinary refuse]. In that week, they can put it in their black bin,” Cllr Georgiou said.
When Haber pointed out that would be very efficient in terms of recycling, he replied: “No it’s not, but that’s the consultation we did and that’s what came out as a result. Yes, we do have to make saving and it was either that or we charge extra.”
Cllr Georgiou said the housing crisis, where it is increasingly hard for Londoners to find affordable places to live, is affecting Enfield on two fronts.
First, the council is spending vast amounts of money on paying local landlords to accept homeless families and second, richer inner-London councils are housing some of their own families in Enfield, where rents are cheaper.
“They’re placing their people here as well, which creates greater pressure on us because not only are all those people living here, they’re here with their children who need schooling, they here as families, they need other services, social services, health services, they all have to be provided here,” he said.
“Large parts of Edmonton, those areas which have some of the highest levels of poverty in some parts, are really feeling the strain.”
Part of the council’s solution is a new company, Housing Gateway, which buys up properties in the borough. Properties like these can be given back out to those families who need housing and, Mr Georgiou says, because the landlord is the council, the living conditions are generally far better than those under private rentals.
No Syrian refugees
“We are saving Enfield Council taxpayers £1.5 million each year because of Housing Gateway. That was money that would otherwise have been spent housing people in the private sector with landlords,” he said.
Rising costs is part of the reason why Enfield decided not – for the moment – join the government’s scheme to resettle Syrian refugees in the UK.
“We said alongside other London authorities is that we will accept more refugees if the government pays, for them because the problem is a national one, it’s not a local authority problem,” Cllr Georgiou said.
“If the government made a commitment, which it did, to take in more refugees then it’s beholden upon them to finance those refugees.”
Local elections will be held next year where Enfield’s Labour leadership will be hoping to remain in charge of the council. Is Cllr Georgiou confident of winning their third consecutive term since 2010?
He replied with a question.
“Has Enfield deteriorated? I think most people will say Enfield is still a good place to live. Our parks are great, the environment is good and will only get better. My rubbish is picked up and collected every week. The schools good.
“Someone who wants a family life in suburbia where there are opportunities with good living environment, why wouldn’t you want to live here?
“And we think we are still delivering and people will hopefully once again return a Labour council.”