The local elections in London are likely see Labour make large gains all across the capital. However, in Kensington, there is a race that has been marked as impossible to predict.
The borough suffered after the Grenfell fire tragedy, and mismanagement of the crisis by the Tory council could allow Labour and other parties to make gains. One of these parties is Advance Together, an independent local party that claims to be ‘For people, not politicians’.
I spoke to candidate councillor Theo Goodliffe about the party. A former Liberal Democrat who has defected to Advance, he feels the national parties have not done enough to protect residents in the area. He told me “It seems logical that local people should run local government”.
Advance believe a local view on borough issues is needed. Theo stated “nationwide parties put their national agenda over our local interests”.
Theo said the borough, that has been controlled by the Tories since it’s formation in 1964 “needed a new vision, and needed new voices on the council”. He also stated that they were neither a left nor right wing party, and would instead take every issue individually
When asked about Labour’s presence in the borough, and whether Advance could really claim Labour had failed the area, Theo said “Labour obviously has a good heart, but reading their manifesto and reading their policies they have produced nothing for my ward. They’ve really failed to put in enough effort in my ward. And they have failed because they haven’t provided an effective opposition.” He also argued their Labour MP had not done enough to help the area.
Key sections of their policy included a 3% rise in council tax in line with inflation. This is to fund various services including 5,000 new homes on brownfield sites, and investment for the Police and social care.
Advance also agree with Labour on a tax on empty homes. Theo stated “We want to put a tax on houses that aren’t occupied, second homes, and homes that have been bought just as investments. 20% of my ward is second homes. If you are not going to contribute to the community in one way, through living here, you should be doing so another way, by tax.”
Another major thing Theo discussed was improving the poor management of the council.
“Money has been mismanaged. 2010-16, the council spent £1 million on Pre-Raphaelite artwork, which is insane now they are cutting services. Shows they are wasting resources. I’m all for supporting the arts, but I’m not in favour of cutting vital services.”
Advance Together is also an anti-Brexit party. Theo stated “Local businesses are struggling because of Brexit. They can’t get the staff, they’re struggling to stay open”.
I asked if it was an advantage being an anti-Brexit party in a predominantly remain area, running against two leave parties.
“It depends. The amount we can do to affect Brexit is limited. What we want to do is protect EU citizens. For a lot of EU citizens, 15% of my ward, English is not a first language for them, so if we can set up services that make it easier for them to apply for citizenship, we’ll make it easier for them to get permanent residency. That would be a great thing we could do. I think it will be a big part of why people vote for us because we are an anti-Brexit party, but we are a lot more than that.”
Whilst Advance is only running 14 candidates in the local elections, they might become the kingmakers in the council if Labour make the gains they are expected to, and may also be a principle cause in the Tories losing control of Kensington.