“If I wrote a memoir on the pandemic, and I dare say mine would have the same title as the Prime Minister, it would be a year of managing chaos.
A year ago, the thought of the Labor leader of the Haringey Council comparing memoirs with the Tory PM might have seemed a bit far-fetched.
But Covid has turned politics and people’s lives upside down.
“It was a really tough day,” Cllr Joseph Ejiofor told Ham & High.
“You arrive at work and you don’t know exactly which part of the puzzle you are going to have to move.”
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There have been more than 20,000 cases of the coronavirus in Haringey – and 501 people have died (through March 5).
“Each death was a tragedy, not only for the affected family or those who knew them, but for the community as a whole,” said Cllr Ejiofor.
“We can’t say that we can smile and that it’s been a success, but from a number of things I’ve seen, I’m well aware it could have been a lot worse.”
At the height of the infections, “virtually all” of the council’s day-to-day operations were devoted to its Covid response.
But now the town hall is on a “downward slope of a bell curve,” its leader said.
“When we look back at the beginning, it was a health crisis. Then from there it almost exploded. It has become a food crisis.
“Then there were problems with the people who live and it became a housing crisis. Then when we saw kids not going to school it became an education crisis.
“And then the overall impact on our communities and our businesses spilled over into an economic crisis.
“It’s really been a whole bunch of different crises.”
From the onset of the pandemic, the council’s “connected communities” program helped support the most vulnerable residents.
The town hall has set up a food distribution hub with Tottenham Hotspur FC and Alexandra Palace which have delivered more than 20,000 food packages.
To donate laptops to students from the poorest families, £ 200,000 has been pledged.
But as residents have been left poorer by the pandemic, at the same time, they have needed – and will continue to need – more help to recover.
To meet this need, Cllr Ejiofor said that a future theme of his finances would be a combination of “less money coming in and more money going out”.
Although he claimed town hall ‘is in a better position than before’, he warned the council had a £ 7.6million deficit in its Covid finances. In April, the housing tax will increase by 5%.
“There will be a significant economic impact [from Covid]. There is no way around it, ”said Cllr Ejiofor.
“There are big names that have disappeared from the high street and if big names disappear, the reality is that some of the smaller names will disappear and then part of the supply chain will disappear.
“Our economy will contract. Business income will be less and a number of businesses have had “vacations” after paying commercial rent.
“Some companies won’t come back, that’s just the reality.”
In response to the financial toll of the pandemic, Cllr Ejiofor warned that commercial revenues from its public spaces would be a key part of the recovery.
He cites the concerts at Finsbury Park as an example of an important source of income for the future. The shutdown of the park’s festivals resulted in losses of over £ 1million.
“People might not like it, but it’s a critical balance for spending on our open spaces as we have commercial events in the park,” the leader said.
“There are things that people will see day to day that will not be perfect, they will not be what we wanted to do, but they are all in one form or another affected by the coronavirus.
As with the businesses in the arrondissement, the hotel traders went through a torrid period.
Outdoor dining areas – “streateries” – were suggested to energize cafes and restaurants, but Cllr Ejiofor said many roads in Haringey were unsuitable.
“Thinking off the top of my head, would that really work on Muswell Hill Broadway?” If we take a parking line, is the sidewalk wide enough to go all the way down and traffic moving up and down safely?
“Look, I’m ready to have this conversation. I’m certainly not saying no, but it has to be part of how we move forward. We are completely open to it as a concept.
Throughout the pandemic, how people travel and how that will change has become another important discussion.
Haringey recently approved a climate change action plan and established consultation plans for Low Traffic Neighborhood (LTN) projects as part of a 10-year walking and cycling strategy.
“I might be a little weird… but I love to drive and I’m 100% for LTNs,” said Cllr Ejiofor.
“Frankly, as a car driver, there are some places where I shouldn’t have the opportunity to take a shortcut.
“LTNs aim to create better air quality for residents and reduce negative particles in the atmosphere.
“They aim to reduce the impact of climate change and keep us fit, making it harder for people to drive short trips.
“Really and truly, get out of your car and walk. Get out of your car and get on your bike.
“That has to be the message because at the end of the day, it’s all about creating a better and safer planet for all of us in the future, and that can mean a little bit of inconvenience here and now.
“Car drivers, overcome it. This is what must happen for the benefit of the planet. ”
Coming back to one year of Covid, Cllr Ejiofor said he was proud of the response from the council and the community.
He called 2020 “the year we’re going to look back and see how everything has changed”.
“There haven’t been two days like this,” he said.
“Each day ended differently from the way it started. And I imagine Prime Minister Johnson has had a couple of those days himself.