Can politicians actually make a difference to people’s lives? By Judith Garfield.


Can politicians actually make a difference to people’s lives, or does the mantra that ‘nothing ever changes’ ring true? The truth is it comes down to the detail; the very trait upon which campaigns depend if they are to ever become policy. Local activism and smart campaigning can make a real difference, which is why I want to tell you the story of the 497 bus.

Crossing a nasty section of the A12, some of you might know that the 497 meanders from Chippenham Road to Harold Wood Station via Gallows Corner Tesco. It serves pupils at Ravensbourne School and Broadford Primary, students at the Havering campus of London South Bank University, commuters at the new Kings Park development, and staff and patients at Harold Wood Polyclinic. Truly a route for the whole community, this brand-new bus wouldn’t have been possible without local activists and Havering’s Labour councillors.

It is obviously unfair that residents without access to a car are expected to make do with public transport deserts in the outer corners of London. We know that our city’s sustainability cannot advance without investment in boroughs like Havering. Funding is available for bus routes in outer London, but we have to make the case for it locally. City Hall needs an Assembly Member that can demonstrate why the 497 bus, used by students and pensioners alike, is vital to boost connectivity between Harold Wood and Harold Hill. A two-month consultation on the plans in 2017 found that residents with mobility issues suffered the most from the limited connectivity, so their councillors took action on their behalf. 

This January, the 497 began running, providing a physical example of what happens when politicians work with local people to effect change. Transport for London invested £300,000 in that bus route, and they can invest more if we work with them. Working with TfL and the Mayor of London to get a better deal for Havering is exactly what I want to do. 

I won’t make you 497 promises, but I can promise to bring the spirit of the 497 bus to my campaign to represent you, and fight for what you need.

We know that there will be less money floating around after this pandemic is over, but after what we’ve been through, we must be better aware of what matters in our society. I’ve said since February that saving lives and protecting vulnerable people needs to trump political point scoring and party politics, this is exactly the kind of attitude we need to continue with.

I plan to focus my first efforts on building the 497 legacy by erecting a better Harold Wood Station bus shelter, one that actually protects us from the elements – be they thunderstorms or heatwaves (we could very well get both in the same day!)

We are fiercely independent in Havering, and I’ve always been a fiercely independent voice – so, if you want a better vision for our future in this borough, get in touch with me. Let’s make a difference, together.

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