|LibDem Mayoral and Deputy Mayoral candidates|
Caroline Pidgeon is the Deputy Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor in this year’s keenly fought Mayoral contest, and she took five minutes out with me ahead of the People’s Question Time event which took place at Hammersmith Town Hall recently to give her take on some of the issues facing our borough and Shepherd’s Bush.
First was the subject of Shepherd’s Bush Market and our Council’s controversial plans to demolish a row of historic shops which are not actually part of the market – but were offered to developers Orion to boost their profit margins on the project anyway, despite public promises from the Council Leader not to.
Of the plans to demolish the shops Ms Pidgeon said: “this is taking away the heart of a community in order to build some flats” and that the scheme was “not about people, it’s about making money”. Ms Pidgeon, who was a councillor in Southwark for 12 years, argued that during her time in office in that borough it had been possible for the Council to work with communities, through Section106 schemes by which public works are included in planning permission schemes, to improve local High Streets which she said were the lifeblood of local areas. This “is not happening” in Hammersmith & Fulham, she argued.
On crime and policing she said the LibDems had some very firm pledges, as you might expect from a team with a former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police as their candidate. She deplored the decline in police numbers under Boris Johnson and noted that the number of warranted officers was down across London.
I mentioned that our own Safer Neighbourhood Team in Shepherd’s Bush was now an award winning group, and she responded that the Lib Dem pledge on crime was for a minimum of one Sergeant per ward. Having discussed this point with a number of local police people I can tell you that this is very much what the average police officer would like to see as well.
On cycling – or the big BorisBike scandal first unearthed by MayorWatch on a London level and then the answer this blogger received from H&F Council that they were funding the scheme with £2 million of your money. Ms Pidgeon argued that there was a real need for “transparency” over the funding arrangements of the whole scheme. She also criticised Boris for not having consulted with, well, anyone really about when and where the scheme was to be extended to – noting that they were still nowhere near SE London where she lived.
Finally, I broached a sensitive subject – it was quite clear, I suggested, that the LibDems were not going to do very well in Hammersmith & Fulham. They lack even a single councillor at the Town Hall. So how should people vote, given that it doesn’t look like Mr Paddick is heading to City Hall as Mayor either? I was expecting a standard politicians’ answer along the lines of “no no we’re steaming to victory, it’s what I hear on the doorsteps…etc..etc” but what I got was the closest I was probably going to get to a suggestion that LibDem inclined people should choose Ken Livingstone for their second preference vote. And coming from a coalition partner at national level I thought this was all the more remarkable.
Ms Pidgeon told me that people should “vote with their heart, number one, and their brains number two”. It was clear which of the other two main candidates, she said, we could “get more Lib Dem things in London done” with. And I don’t think she was talking about Boris – although a LibDem spokesperson has assured me that she was simply spelling out that people had two votes. You be the judge.