General election 2019: Islington candidates clash at clean air hustings

Islington Clean Air Parents' hustings at Islington Town Hall. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

Islington Clean Air Parents' hustings at Islington Town Hall. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey - Credit: Archant

Air pollution is a silent killer and should be at the forefront of electoral issues, a bereaved mother told Islington Town Hall on Monday night.

Rosamund Kissi-Debrah - whose nine-year-old daughter Ella died from an asthma attack linked to pollution in 2013 - asked why party leaders "don't talk about air pollution" on the campaign trail.

She spoke ahead of Islington Clean Air Parents' election hustings, where parliamentary candidates from the Greens, Lib Dems and Monster Raving Looney Party debated. Labour sent Islington Council leader Richard Watts in Jeremy Corbyn's absence, while the Tories didn't attend.

The audience asked candidates how they'd reduce private car ownership and parking spaces, and whether they'd scrap the polarising "roamer" parking policy, which critics say encourages short car journeys.

Green Party transport spokesperson Cllr Russell was applauded when she said: "How do you stop idling? You stop driving. We need to reduce the number of trips that are made in cars in the first place." She also said "the injustice of bad air is absolutely shocking" and pressed the council to start collecting data on how many people use the roamer scheme, which she has always campaigned against.

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The Greens will "introduce carbon taxes on petrol and diesel sales" and pump £2.5billion a year into new cycleways and footpaths. The roamer scheme allows those with parking permits to use any bay between 11am and 3pm.

Cllr Watts said "there is no doubt" the number of private cars and parking spaces in Islington needs to "go down". He said Islington needs a Labour government to invest in green initiatives, adding: "The biggest damage to Islington Council's capacity to have change has been an austerity agenda imposed on the council by a Lib Dems and Conservative government [2010-2016] who hate this area."

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He said there's no plans to scrap the roamer scheme, which he doesn't think many people use as it's not advertised, but "we can come back to that in the future".

Cllr Watts also signalled support for low-traffic neighbourhoods, which clean air campaigners have long campaigned for.

The Lib Dems Islington North hopeful Nick Wakeling said: "For me the main thing is to electrify our transport. We will ban diesel cars by 2025 and petrol cars by 2030." He said his party would work with the other EU member states to tackle air pollution because it "knows no borders".

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