Name: Dr Turhan Ozen
Party: Liberal Democrats
Area Standing (Constituency): Tottenham
Signed The Positive Youth News Haringey Pledge: Yes
Responded To Online Hustings: Yes – Response below.
Politicians always attack our youth centres when making cuts, what would you do to protect them?
Haringey council budget is around £1.5bn. The cost of youth centres is infinitesimally small in this budget, yet it is a vital service for our young people and our future. We should be investing in youth services not cut them. Ring-fencing education, investing extra £2.5bn to close the attainment gap between rich and poor is proof of Liberal Democrat dedication to our youth. We all had to make sacrifices after the recent devastating economic crisis. Local councils had to make savings too. Unfortunately, the way Haringey Labour carried out these cuts was scandalous. They cynically passed cuts on to the most vulnerable people. Cutting the communications budget, consultants budget, councillors’ allowances, wages of highest paid staff, would have been the responsible thing to do. Haringey Liberal Democrats suggested reasonable amendments to their budget to protect frontline services including the youth centres.
Unfortunately, the Labour group voted against it unanimously. Labour in Haringey take voters and votes for granted and has lost connection with the people. Labour MP in Tottenham does not stand up to his local party either. I will work with the Liberal Democrat team in Haringey to stand up for the young people in Haringey. Up and down the country where councils are led by Liberal Democrats, front-line services, libraries, youth centres, social services are protected despite the cuts. I will always put interest of the public before party interests. Through thick and thin Liberal Democrats have been sticking to what we believe in and take the responsible action instead of a popular one.
When our economy faced bankruptcy, against the divisive politics at home and international isolation abroad we always stuck to our responsible stance instead of cynicism, opportunism and populism, despite being punished for it. If I am selected as your MP for Tottenham, I will be fighting divisive, isolationist politics and the unresponsive establishment to create a stronger economy and a fairer society where everybody has opportunity regardless of their means.
Do you think the Duggan case has made it hard for the community to trust the police?
Nobody could say ‘No’ to this question. Liberal Democrats want to create opportunity for everyone, and make sure no one is held back by discrimination. That’s why we will continue to fight prejudice and discrimination based on race, age, religion or belief, gender, sexuality, and disability.. There is plenty of evidence of racism in the criminal justice system. Ethnic minority individuals are often treated unfairly and given disproportionate sentences.
One in eight people in prison is black, even though just one in 30 people in the general population is. 6 in 100 police officers are from BAME communities which does not reflect the 14 in 100 of the population of ethnic minority background. Black people are 6 times more likely than white people to be stopped by the police. To tackle racism, we need to fully understand its causes. An in-depth review is the best starting point, allowing us to compile and analyse the evidence. In the next parliament we will carry out an independent review of our criminal justice system to tackle this problem.
The Liberal Democrats want to transform community relations and restore the public’s trust in the police. We have strengthened up rules on police ‘stop and search’ and improved recruitment of ethnic minority police officers. The progress we have made is the deed of our ambition for future reform for a Liberal Democrat vision of a free, fair and open society.
Young people are the lowest voters, what can you do to increase voting participation?
There are various reasons for political apathy. One of them is the fact that people don’t feel able to influence politics. Under our current system most elections across the country are often a forgone conclusion, with votes and voters taken for granted. If we had a more representative parliament and political system, the last government could not have been so reckless with the economy, or taken us to war in Iraq, Margaret Thatcher could not have introduced the poll tax. A reformed political system would reflect the will of the people rather than that of vested interests.
We believe trust and interest in politics will not be restored unless we reform the way we do politics. It is important to recognise the significant steps we have taken, such as introducing fixed term parliaments and city deals. We also delivered a referendum to reform the voting systems. Unfortunately, we were not able to change it. However, we know that political and constitutional reform can sometimes take a few attempts to deliver – as Scottish Devolution showed. We believe that the arguments for a fairer voting system remains strong and we will make it as powerfully as we can.
Do you support votes at 16?
I believe every citizen eligible to pay tax should be able to elect and get elected. Liberal democrats will lower the voting age to 16. Liberal Democrats believe our election system and the House of Lords needs reform too. We will move to an elected House of Lords and replace the voting system with as fairer system that will make the parliament more representative.
Do you think it is fair that there is a different minimum wage if you are under 18?
Age, race, religion or belief, gender, sexuality, and disability shall not cause pay difference for the same work. It would be fundamentally unfair. Liberal Democrats in coalition have made progress in tackling the gender pay gap, and we will make companies to publish the pay difference between female and male employees in next government. I believe companies should publish a full record of their employee demographics and corresponding financial rewarding. This will help them remove barriers that they have been blind to. Such data will help us develop new initiatives if companies do not tackle these problems voluntarily.
With fairness as our guiding principle, Liberal Democrats worked hard to ensure that people earning lower wages keep more of their money. We lifted 3m people out of paying tax and saved £825 for 27m people. This was a key LibDem pledge implemented in coalition. If elected, we will lift another million people out of tax and save £400 more for 30m people.
The affordable housing being built in Haringey is not affordable, why is this allowed?
A large portion of our social housing stock was sold off by previous Conservative and Labour governments. They relied completely on private sector to deliver new houses. For a long period, new houses were not built at the demanded rate and cheap loans were available for buying. This resulted in the few available homes to be valued at very high prices. In London, there is the additional pressures of being a world city. International investors pour their money into our housing market pushing prices higher. Currently, millions of people own very expensive houses and struggle to pay back the loans they have borrowed. Millions of homes can be repossessed if interest rates go up. Our economy has also relied on the growth in these loans which would cause devastating results if house prices crashed. We need to responsibly stabilise prices first then normalise them over time. Liberal democrats will solve the housing crisis by shifting financial support from the buying end to the building end of the housing market. We will provide cheap loans to councils and housing associations to build more social and affordable housing and help homeownership via our rent-to-buy scheme which does not need to be financed by a mortgage upfront.
In Haringey, the problem is aggravated by the short-sightedness of the Labour council. The council owns the land that the developers want to build on. In London, land takes up the largest portion of the building costs. Labour council should ask for half of the houses that are built in return for our land and they should demand to pick and choose after the completion to ensure all homes are built to the best quality. 10K new homes are expected to be built in Tottenham alone. If we gain 5K homes out of this investment, even if the other half was sold at international markets, we could resolve our social housing needs. Labour council should negotiate harder not only for a better return for our land but also for the designs that are being put up. Tottenham has a history and character but majority of the new buildings are an eyesore that does not blend in.
Liberal Democrat members in the London Assembly are calling for more transparency on developers’ financial viability assessments so that they have to justify publicly why they can’t incorporate more affordable homes. We will also make sure that small developments don’t become exempt from the affordable home requirements.
Why have you chosen to stand?
Liberal values of our society, decency, fairness, openness is our invaluable treasure. We must guard it jealously. I am standing against the threat of divisive politics that is threatening this treasure. I also want to represent Tottenham to stand up to the unresponsive Labour establishment. Tottenham is a beautiful example of diversity and deserves better representation. Liberal Democrats are the only opposition here. I will work with the LibDem team to protect our services, and make sure regeneration works for Tottenham residents not against them. I will also fight for Tottenham’s fair share from the Liberal Democrat pledges including NHS and education.
When are we going to see real jobs not just supermarkets or sales?
I was brought up with the belief that the sweat of a worker is sacred. My grandfather was a master in construction. He always paid his team daily, before their sweat dried up. My father is a factory worker. His biggest pride in life has been that every crumb he fed his children was earned by his sweat, not mixed with any illegitimate earnings or interest gains on capital. He takes pride in his work and his dedication is respected by his employers and our community. He has received several awards for improving the process he works on. We should respect working people regardless of their task and reward them fairly. Looking down on people who are working in supermarkets and sales would be an insult to a worker’s sweat. I believe in creating opportunity for everybody to be best in what they are doing or help them move on if they grow interest in something else. In sales, I want to provide resources to make you the best salesperson. In a supermarket, I want to support you to excel in your role and climb up the retail career leader. I also want to create opportunities in other fields, so that you can switch when you grow an interest in something else. I want a fairer society where everybody achieves their full potential regardless of where they are now.
The fundamental cause of the last economic crisis was government’s reliance on growth based on personal debt, housing speculation and low skills. It is impossible to continue with such a fictitious economic model. Liberal Democrats are building a sustainable economy that lasts and works for everyone. We have an ambitious vision for Britain, we want to make the UK the largest economy in Europe by 2035. Our five point plan to achieve this is based on long-termism, providing finance for growth, investing in skills, innovation and opening into international markets. We will ensure that this recovery has roots in every part of the UK.
I have the same ambition for Tottenham. I want to make Tottenham a centre of excellence. Not a dormitory for people who work somewhere else and come here to sleep. I will invite businesses who want to be a part of our community instead of those who are only interested in quick gains from our limited assets. I will invite our top universities to establish a campus here. We need establishments which will make us proud, create jobs and opportunity to improve our skills. I do not want just franchise chains to be able to do business here. I will support our small businesses and entrepreneurs to create our future great companies. I will work hard to improve our schools and expand apprenticeship programs to give all our young people opportunity to achieve their full potential regardless of their background, who their parents are or what they can afford.
Chronic problems cannot be fixed overnight but we are on the right track. I am excited about our ambitious plans. In government, we built a stronger economy by halving the budget deficit, helping business create 2m mainly highly skilled jobs including 200K in green energy sector and delivering over 2m new apprenticeships. Employment is at a record high and we have brought back confidence to the UK, both for investing in our future and for opportunities it will create for our people.
Do you support the knocking down of Broadwater Farm estate?
Knocking down Broadwater Farm estate would be waste of money and an unnecessary harm to the environment. Moreover, the current proposed regeneration plans does not compensate for existing social housing stock. This will force some of our residents out of the borough due to the cost of new homes. This would be an unfair engineering of demographics in our borough. There are many good examples of refurbishments that has transformed homes into beautiful energy efficient residences. I would prefer refurbishment to rebuilding. This is my personal opinion. If I am selected as MP for Tottenham, I will speak to as many residents as possible to hear all their concerns. I would not wish to make final decisions without proper consultations with people who will be affected by such decisions.
Do you think prison needs to be tougher?
We need to think of prisons not just as a place where criminals end up but as a part of the solution to reduce crime. Simply locking more people up in prison is expensive and does not cut crime. All the evidence shows that addressing education and skills needs and dealing with drug, alcohol and mental health problems are the best way to enable offenders to get into work on release and therefore break the pernicious cycle of reoffending. We will challenge offenders to improve their chances of employment. Prisons will be places of work, rehabilitation and learning, with offenders receiving an education and skills assessment within one week, starting a relevant course and programme of support within one month and able to complete courses on release.
Crime has fallen to an all-time low since the Liberal Democrats entered government. But our work has only just begun: we are focusing on what works to cut crime and protect victims.
Please click here to find out what other candidates said