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Potholes trump hate in Brent

Jewish voters in Brent are more concerned with local issues than Labour's antisemitism controversy

    Neil Nerva
    Neil Nerva

    Morning news bulletins dissecting the latest developments in the Labour Party antisemitism scandal have faced strong competition from another pressing issue for Jewish residents in the North-West London borough of Brent.

    After a winter of regular snow and ice, Brent has been left with a serious pothole problem which makes roads in the borough almost unusable for motorists on some occasions.

    Neil Nerva, a Labour councillor, acknowledges the issue has cropped up on the doorstep during campaigning for the May 3 local election — but he claims the council has been quick to repair the holes. He has noticed Jewish voters also have concerns about the high cost of housing.

    Mr Nerva represents the Queens Park ward, which has seen a 61 per cent rise in its Jewish population, and says he is confident Jewish voters will keep faith with the Labour-run council to tackle antisemitism.

    “I am proud Brent Council adopted the IHRA definition on antisemitism and is bringing communities together to fight hate crime,” he says. “Labour councillors stood side by side with the Jewish community after swastikas were daubed at a bus stop in Dollis Hill. Despite losing millions in government grants we remain committed to making Brent a fairer place for everyone.”

    Labour currently enjoys a majority of 49 seats in the chamber. It is a far cry from 2006 to 2010, when the Liberal Democrats were the largest party.

    Muhammed Butt, leader of the council, is bidding to win a second term in charge.

    The Conservative Party only holds six seats. There are also two independent members.

    But for John Warren, Tory councillor in the Brondesbury Park ward, the problem of potholes and Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to tackle antisemitism has left him confident his party can make gains.

    “This Labour council can spend a lot of money on a new building for council meetings and a local theatre — but when it comes to fixing potholes they don’t seem to have the cash,” he says. “And you only have to look at the antisemitism that has surfaced in the Kilburn branch of Labour — where there is open hatred of Israel — to see there is still a massive problem in attitudes to the Jewish population in Labour.”

    Brent Conservatives say they would launch an urgent review of the Invest4Brent scheme which owns houses as far away as Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire if they win control of the local authority.

    The council currently uses the properties to house families in temporary accommodation.

    Mr Warren’s party’s pledge is in stark contrast to Labour, which has promised more cash for the company.

    Elsewhere in their manifesto, the Conservatives have promised to freeze council tax and “reduce the cost of local politics”.

    “Labour has raised council tax by 13 per cent since 2014, despite the council’s record income in the same period,” says Mr Warren.

    Transport also features prominently in the plans for after 3rd May 3.

    The Tories would continue to work to secure changes to a freight railway line which it is hoped could be used for passenger travel, and the party has pledged to fix 300 miles of roads as well as introduce a new bicycle hire scheme.

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