Monday, 27 February 2012

Rabbi Abraham Pinter: Cllr Mulready does not represent the whole community

Rabbi Abraham Pinter has answered a number of questions on Stamford Hill's Charedi community. Here he discusses comments made by Labour Councillor Ned Mulready.

A full list of questions put to Rabbi Pinter and links to his answers can be found here.

Last month Cllr Ned Mulready made a statement that argued that the needs of the Charedi community were not needs – but choices made in accordance with their religious beliefs – and argued that this meant the council was not obliged to grant planning permission on these issues. What is your view on his statement?

Rabbi Pinter: In my view he is not representing a large part of the population of the ward he represents. When I was a councillor I made it my business to represent everyone in the ward, those who voted for me and those who didn’t. Cllr Mulready may agree with the ideology of the community here or he may not and I respect that. But he is not representing the interests of everybody living in his ward. That’s the way I see it.

I must emphasise I have had discussions with other Labour councillors and they appear to see things differently to Cllr Mulready, and see it as their duty to represent all interests.

But we need to look at this. If the Charedi community were to decide to send all their children to state schools I cannot imagine the state sector being able to cope with that demand. All the schools in the area are pretty successful and there is a general shortage of spaces.

Also, his argument that people should be prepared to travel significant distances to their schools, that’s just not the accepted norm in urban areas.

The council is still unwilling to plan for the future. Planning on Stamford Hill may have improved but it has a long way to go.

I believe there is tension between the communities and it is something which I regret, and which upsets me. We should be living as one community and I think that both sides have needs. We have to be more understanding of each other’s needs and that goes two ways. Someone like Ned Mulready in his statement does not appear to share that view.

But there are councillors on both sides who are perceived to be standing up for the needs of one part of the community rather than the whole community. That is a perception all sides need to address.

But do you see religious requirements as a need?

Rabbi Pinter: It is not what I see. British society and all its governments since 1870 have all accepted the principle that religious schools are something that the state needs to provide. (37% of maintained primary schools are religious primarily COE and Catholic)

For instance, they were setting up the Thamesmead development, the inner London Education Authority said that a Church of England school was needed, as was as a Catholic school - because that is what they thought the infrastructure should look like.

But people still don’t accept that denominational schools do have a part to play. In that respect I think that a councillor should be looking at the needs of the whole community. When I was a councillor I took the view that I had to represent the needs of the people in that ward even if they had voted for the BNP.

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