Features Walthamstow

Q&A with Labour Higham Hill by-election candidate Shumon Ali-Rahman

Shumon Ali-Rahman, Labour’s candidate for the Higham Hill by-election, sits down with the Echo to discuss why voters should pick him to represent the Walthamstow ward on Thursday

Interview by Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

Shumon Ali-Rahman, Credit: Jonathan O’Dea

Labour’s candidate in this week’s Higham Hill by-election says he is a “very hard-working” campaigner who will ensure he listens to residents’ views.

Shumon Ali-Rahman is one of five candidates hoping to be elected in Higham Hill ward in the 26th October by-election.

Shumon, a life-long Labour supporter, has twice campaigned to be a councillor in the Tory-voting north of the borough and has also supported Barack Obama during his elections in the USA.

He said Chingford’s Valley ward was considered “unwinnable” in the 2014 local elections but has had one Labour councillor ever since, while Larkswood ward remained Conservative in 2018 as it was “even more unwinnable”.

In a Q&A interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Shumon said he has a track record of working hard, getting involved in communities and listening to residents.

He said that if elected he would take stock of feedback residents gave him while door-knocking in Higham Hill and push for more visible police patrols.

Shumon is head of media relations at ACAS, the independent government body that advises on workplace relationships and disputes.

He has lived in Waltham Forest for fifteen years, after a childhood following his father, a doctor, across the country and to Saudi Arabia.

Shumon Ali-Rahman on the campaign trail. Credit: Waltham Forest Labour Party

Why do you want to represent the people of Higham Hill?

I want to represent them because I’ve always been very very hard working for any ward I’ve gone for. I first stood in Valley ward, north of Highams Park, in 2014. At that time it was a very unwinnable ward, it was held by three Tories but I did a strong campaign there. I passionately believe that residents should have a choice about their representatives and that things can change. We saw what happened with the SNP in Scotland.

I did a campaign for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and learned lessons from those experiences, people looked at me in a quizzical way.

I would want to do regular door-knocking sessions within Higham Hill to listen to residents’ concerns. There have already been things coming up – people are worried about crime – and I would like to do neighbourhood ward visits with council officers, particularly in the northern part of the ward. We got more feedback there from residents who feel like the area hasn’t had as much attention.

And on green spaces, I’m really passionate about that, like the project for the reservoir park that I want to get involved in. Cost-of-living is another one of the big things we are doing at the council that I want to make people aware of. I have noticed other [parties] not talking about a great deal but we’re doing something about it.

Why are you the best person to do that job?

I’m probably the best person because I’ve got a track record of working hard. I’ve stood in two wards, I’ve always listened to residents’ concerns and acted on them and got involved in local communities as well. I would definitely do that in Higham Hill as well. I would quite like to represent Higham Hill as I’ve stood in wards in the north of the borough, it’s got that right balance for me.

What can Labour do that is different to other political parties?

I’ve always supported the Labour Party, back to when I was seven watching Spitting Image in the 1980s, I’ve supported them since that time. I believe it’s the only party that stands for equality. I recently read about the life of Clement Atlee, I’m a massive fan of everything he achieved. I believe we are the only party that has the answers.

What is the very first thing you would do as a councillor?

I think I would probably sit down with fellow councillors and look into the feedback I’ve had from residents. Like on policing, I probably want to make sure we have a regular set of rounds where we are speaking to people in the ward to ensure we’re continually talking to them and raising things.

What are the issues that people have been telling you about on the doorstep?

People graffiting on parking signs for how long residential restrictions apply, and the cost-of-living has been talked about a lot, and green spaces and crime, also fly-tipping.

What would you do on housing locally?

The thing about housing is we do have the highest proportion of affordable housing in London from 2011 to 2022, I think 35% of all new homes borough-wide.

Housing is an interesting one. If there are any new housing developments we just need to ensure we consult properly with residents; that’s something we will always do. 

My mum was living in Glasgow for a time, she was homeless and found a home in Manchester through a special scheme that made a massive difference. I would agree with what Keir Starmer said recently, we generally do need more housing. 

On crime?

The only thing we can do is to have closer links with the police, like in the community safety forums, to raise things as they come along, to have walks and a visible presence, people would appreciate more of that.


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