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Cllr Joanne Laban is the Leader of the Conservative Group on Enfield Council.

Last week, Enfield achieved one of the biggest swings to the Conservatives on a night where many councils went to Labour in London. We halved the Labour Group’s majority. I did not think Enfield would ever have a bigger Conservative Group than Barnet, Wandsworth, or Westminster.

The Labour Party had been in control of Enfield since 2010. After winning a huge majority in 2018, the Labour Group decided to dump its leader. Winning a huge majority was not enough for the Labour Group. The new Leader of the Council was found to have broken the code of conduct for bullying another colleague early on. The arguments within the Labour Group led to eight councillors leaving to become independent and to by-elections. It became a regular occurrence for members of the Labour Group to stand up at a Full Council meeting and announce that they were becoming independent. The Conservative Group used to enter Full Council meetings wondering who it would be next to exit the Labour Group. This mass exodus was covered by the media.

Arrogance

When I called in a decision about consulting on moving to fortnightly bin collection, the decision was referred back to the Cabinet Member. Three days later, the Cabinet Member made the decision to go out to consultation anyway. The consultation gave residents eight collection options to choose from. The Administration decided to implement the collection cycle least supported by residents. It did not even try to provide a compromise. Residents felt their views had been ignored.

During COVID, the Labour administration decided to impose two Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes. The Administration failed to ask residents if they backed the schemes before installation. You can imagine the LTNs went down badly. The schemes caused traffic chaos with main roads even more congested than they were before the LTNs. The schemes divided communities in a way never seen before. There were protests on the streets against the schemes. However, these were ridiculed. The arguments over the LTNs spilled out on to social media with people tweeting in the night about them. If you posted any criticism of the schemes, you were rounded upon.

After the trial period came to an end, a decision was made on whether to make the Bowes and Fox Lane LTNs permanent. The decisions were taken by the Leader of the Council; not the Deputy Leader whose portfolio it came under. Labour typically followed the “we know best approach” with the Leader choosing to make both schemes permanent despite the consultations showing majority public disapproval. The arrogance of the Labour administration shone through with LTNS and its behaviour badly damaged the relationship between the council and the community. These schemes turned long-time Labour voters to vote Conservative or at least another party.

Green Belt

The Leader of the Council published a new Draft Local Plan in 2021. The document proposes substantial development on the Green Belt which does not comply with even Sadiq Khan’s London Plan. Officers and the Labour administration knew that residents did not support development on the Green Belt because just before the pandemic a consultation on a very early stage Local Plan document was heavily criticised by residents and the Mayor. However, the Labour Group all voted for the Draft Local Plan to go out to consultation. On the night of the vote as to whether to consult on the detailed Draft Local Plan, there were protests. The consultation received seven thousand responses with many of them being against the proposals to develop the Green Belt. Enfield Council also received a damning letter from the Mayor. I continued to call on the Leader of the Council to axe plans to de-classify parts of the Green Belt for development, but the requests were ignored. Building of the Green Belt became a key issue in the election for all voters, not just residents who normally vote Conservative.  Labour’s proposals to allow parts of the Green Belt to be concreted over definitely led us to win more seats.

By-election win

Last year, a by-election was held in the former Chase Ward on the same day as the Mayoral election. The issues campaigned on were fly-tipping, the closure of a local golf course located in a park without consultation, and stopping the Green Belt being built on. The Conservatives won the by-election taking a seat off Labour.

Conclusion

The election was a hard-fought campaign with commitments to stop plans to build on the Green Belt, removal of the LTNs, and cleaning up the borough. We pounded the streets to find the pledges to hold our existing wards and make gains. Winning control was always going to be a bridge too far given the number of seats we won at the 2018 election even with a by-election win last year. Enfield Conservative Group is very proud that despite everything on the news it left the count with more councillors than it went in with – on a night that was not fantastic overall for our party.