Who’s who: Islington’s newest councillor on tackling toxic air, knife crime and crowded housing

Cllr Gulcin Ozdemir with Islington leader Cllr Richard Watts. Picture: Islington Labour

Cllr Gulcin Ozdemir with Islington leader Cllr Richard Watts. Picture: Islington Labour - Credit: Archant

Islington’s newest councillor says she’ll campaign for clean air, tenant empowerment and safer streets over the coming months.

Cllr Gulcin Ozdemir was 18 and studying politics at City and Islington College when she first got involved with the Labour movement.

"The maternity and A&E services at the Whittington were at risk of being closed," she said. "When I saw the impact I could have locally [after activists halted the plans] it made me interested in politics."

She was elected as Labour councillor for St George's ward in a by-election on December 12, narrowly beating her closest challenger, Natasha Cox of the Green Party, with 2,918 votes to 2,501.

Since being elected, Cllr Ozdemir, who lives in Stroud Green Road, has jumped straight into the campaign to stop Ocado opening a delivery hub serving diesel vehicles near Yerbury Primary School.

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Cllr Ozdemir, who has an eight-year-old daughter, says she feels "disappointed" by Ocado's alleged disregards for the effects of "toxic air" on children's health.

She said: "What I'm looking to do is spend as much time within my ward to get a real feel for what the issues are. I want to represent those without a platform who don't always get their voices heard. The main priority for me is social housing and tenant empowerment. I worked in social housing for a few year prior to getting elected, and one of the issues affecting tenants is living in overcrowded homes, another is housing associations increasing service charges. Also the language barrier that [some] tenants have doesn't allow them to even raise issues." She added: "Community safety is something that, as an activist, I have been really passionate about. There has been a lot of cuts to our youth services and the crimes we are seeing, with ethnic minorities and black boys being killed, and how that impacts the life choices they make." On Friday night, Cllr Ozdemir was one of the first on the scene after 30-year-old delivery driver Takieddine Boudhane was stabbed to death. She later said: "The lack of protection delivery drivers have where many of them have been physically abused, mugged at knifepoint and feel like easy targets. They shouldn't be going to work in a constant state of fear."

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She wants to see more educational programmes addressing the scourge of knife crime, starting in primary schools

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