Unlike some of the other candidates contesting the Hackney North & Stoke Newington Parliamentary seat, Alessandra Williams was not a name most people in Hackney were familiar with when she announced she would be contesting the parliamentary seat.
Other than her tweets on Twitter and her face book messages, there has been little coverage about Williams, a Barrister and criminologist who lives in Surrey. When asked I her how she, as an ‘outsider’ could win over the people and effect change our borough desperately needs, she pointed out that “the current MP lives in the borough and yet it is the second most deprived borough in the whole of England and the most deprived in London!” She continued, “I believe the constituents deserve better – where I live should not be as important as what I can and will do for the constituents”. Ms Williams also feels she has the energy, vision and passion about the causes that affect the people in this area. If she is elected she says “I will move into the constituency shortly after, and if I am not elected I will continue to work with the individuals in the Hackney area, (both North and South) to assist them in achieving the right result for their current situation.”
She added: “There is a lot of work to do and I am prepared to roll up my sleeves and get stuck in. One of the first items on the agenda, along with the parking difficulties, Hackney Loyalty Card and gun amnesty proposed, is to ensure that more jobs are given to people with skills from the Hackney North and Stoke Newington area”.
Raised in a council house on a council estate in Surrey, Alessandra Williams turned to law after being made redundant in 1998. She had intended to go into business management but while attending evening classes, one of the modules on the course was law, which she discovered she enjoyed and promptly enrolled at a local university when her business course ended.
A single mother of two, she met renowned Barrister, Michael Mansfield during her second year at university and was able to convince him to allow her to work for him during the Jill Dando trial. She was at the Old Bailey through out the forensic evidence stage of the trial, which she describes as ‘exciting’ and an experience she’s never forgotten.
On the question of Hackney Loyalty cards, I asked her if she was aware of the ‘Lewes Pound‘, a local currency scheme launched in the town of Lewes in Surrey, to encourage the townsfolk to shop locally.
Ms Williams responded: “Before I thought of the idea for the Hackney Loyalty Card, I investigated the feedback on the local currency scheme, which has been operational in Brixton for some time. The drawback with the local currency is that it replaces money and many shoppers did not wish to have their change in local currency. Also some local shop owners were reluctant to use it for the same reason – in addition shoppers from outside the area when offered the local currency were not keen to accept it – a bit like the Scottish Pound Note! The Hackney Loyalty Card is an alternative to the local currency scheme – there is no hard cash involved, but it has benefits for shopkeepers and shoppers alike – when enough points are on the card the card holder will qualify for something free as a reward.
I pointed out the meagre return Tesco’s loyalty card offered consumers, in return for their loyalty and massive data provided to Tesco and wanted to know what Hackney residents would get in return. She explained, “The Hackney Loyalty Card is about supporting the local community by encouraging shoppers to shop locally. Those Hackney residents who wish to join the scheme will benefit from “free” stuff (to be decided – such as a free swim, free coffee, free cinema ticket – depending which businesses join the scheme). It will be a voluntary scheme for local residents and shop keepers to join”.
Last week a cross section of local residents I spoke to outside Morrison’s in Stamford Hill, including a fella that lives a few houses down from me, had questions which Ms Williams was happy to answer.
Joe – Stoke Newington : “There’s a strong possibility of a hung parliament and I am concerned by how this may impact UK governance in the midst of an exceptionally difficult economic climate.
Given the borough’s poor record on cross-party co-operation on important issues how would you push forward issues with other parties?”
AW: Hackney North and Stoke Newington has been a Labour stronghold for a very long time at yet it remains at the bottom of the league table compared to neighbouring boroughs. I hope that fresh faces appear in the Town Hall on Friday/Monday with new ideas and a “can do” attitude. There is no place for egocentrics; there is a lot of work to be done and those who are elected are expected by the constituents to get up and do it. I will remind those who need to be reminded of why they are there and who they are working for – the people of Hackney North and Stoke Newington.
Name Withheld: “I was born in Bethnal Green and lived most of my life in Hackney. I have 3 grown up children and 5 grandchildren. We are close family and proud of our roots. I always hoped my kids could live nearby but this is impossible. My daughter has been on the housing list for 5 years and still nobody has told her if she will get a place. People bang on about ethnic minorities having it hard, but they seem to have no trouble getting housing. WE feel like minorities . I would not vote BNP but know people that would if they were running. I am NOT racist, but do feel no one is listening. I know tons of people who feel the same way AND DO HAVE BLACK AND ASIAN FRIENDS. What can you do to help EVERYONE who needs a place to live?”
AW: There are currently 11,461 people on the housing waiting list and Hackney has only achieved 19% of their housing need. There is clearly a problem with demand outstripping supply and progress is very very slow. When I talked with residents on Woodberry Down Estate they told me they were to be demolished in 2001 and re-housed. In 2005 this was altered to 2008 and in 2010 they have just been informed that the demolition and re-housing will take place in 2015. No wonder the housing list is clogged up – Hackney North and Stoke Newington currently has a Labour majority council and they still can’t make up their minds! The building programmes in the borough need to be implemented and the needs of the residents, such as those who live in Woodberry Down, who do not want to move, should be listened too. They like their community spirit and do not want to be split up.
Tanja – Dalston: “2 of my 3 children are currently educated outside the borough as I do not have any confidence the standard of local provision. Had we the means we would opt out of state education entirely, though with heavy heart. Both my husband and I went to comprehensives and through applying ourselves being able to forge careers. However, since starting a family, and seeing the reality of inner city schooling today, we do not feel local schools offer a safe, stimulating and disciplined environment for learning and high attainment.
We are further concerned that as The Learning Trust seeds control to a centralized body (LSC) this may not be in the best interests of Hackney children.
Fortunately, our eldest child has secured a place at a C of E school (we are not religious) and her siblings may follow. To prevent a greater exodus, the borough desperately needs an effective representative to address the concerns of families like ours.” –
AW: There is a problem with schooling in Hackney North and Stoke Newington. I have spoken with many parents who feel the same way and have also opted to send their children to schools outside the borough and to private schools. The educational needs of the children and parental expectation has to be addressed. I have already had meetings with parents to discuss this and am planning more. A child’s education is the foundation upon which the rest of his/her life rests. It cannot be taken lightly.
Aaron – Clapton: My question is not specific to Hackney so I’m not sure where you stand on this. Working as a freelance code writer in the video games industry the topic of piracy is a frequently-raised topic. As you might expect I have an interest in measures that protect intellectual property. However, I do have many serious reservations about aspects of the recently passed Digital Media Act concerning privacy. Where do you stand on both issues – a). The rights of content producers and b). no increase in snooping by government and private companies?
AW: We have such strict piracy laws in this country that I was surprised when I recently went on holiday to another country that piracy of DVD’s and games was open and transparent, with the local equivalent of “Blockbusters” only selling pirate DVD’s! Film producers have the right to be properly paid for their products and how they prevent piracy is an ongoing difficulty for them. The government, on the other hand, has new sweeping powers under tax law which allows them to snoop into practically anything a company does in order to look at their accounts!
These laws are already active I’m afraid.
Amy – Stoke Newington: I’ve recently returned to the UK after living in Scandinavia for 5 years. I’m very disappointed the level of recycling in Hackney. I see posters and mail shots encouraging residents to ‘do their bit’, but zero data on what happens after. For all we know ALL of our carefully sorted waste ends up in a landfill. I see very little accountability on this and want the council taken to task on this issue. How would you address this?
AW: I’m half Scandinavian and the UK are far behind them in civil engineering and green issues in general. The council should have information like this available on their website. Many council’s openly admit to dumping our carefully sorted recycling material into landfill sights because it’s cheaper. However, I have no evidence that this is happening in Hackney but if it is, we need to know about it.
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