Hackney's Cllr Jon Burke resigns with ambitions to move north
- Credit: Jon Burke
Hackney's Cllr Jon Burke has stepped down as a councillor, but says he will continue to fight for the environmental future.
The councillor had plans to move out of London last year, explaining that "Covid has encouraged people to think in radically different ways about what their future might look like".
He plans to move north, though has not yet decided where exactly, to focus on his wife and children's happiness.
The councillor said it has been "the honour of a lifetime" to serve Hackney, describing his role as the best job in politics: "It has been a wonderful place to be a councillor and one of the most diverse local authorities in the country.
"I'm happy with my record of delivery, the things I have achieved.
"Not on my own because it's never a one-man or one-woman show, but with officers, the mayor [of Hackney] and other cabinet members."
Despite a "fantastic" six years, Cllr Burke felt it was the "right time" to leave, particularly with by-elections already planned for May.
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He says he will continue to be a "cheerleader" for the council's work and looks forward to seeing his successor take on the role.
Cllr Burke's legacy will be as a champion of green schemes across Hackney, most notably the roll-out of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), School Streets and cycling infrastructure.
The recent measures have had their detractors however, with thousands of members of the residents' campaign group Horrendous Hackney Road Closures (HHRC) welcoming the councillor's departure and demanding the authority overturn all road closures introduced last year.
Member Niall Crowley said: "[Cllr Burke] may be gone but I am afraid the problem is bigger than him, and it has to change."
He added: “The council is interested in virtue signalling about its green credentials and appealing to healthy young, affluent cycling advocates, and those of us who have lived here all our lives or who don’t fit the picture can go to hell."
But Cllr Burke said he is not "naïve enough" to think that a politician can undertake the radical change he believes is necessary and "that climate change demands" without opposition.
Though he added that he has been shocked at times by the "vehemence" of the opposition recently.
"The only thing I have been mildly shocked by is the conclusion that people seem to draw about politicians - that we do the things we do out of spite or ill will.
"That’s not how I’m motivated."
The councillor explained: "You can't be loved by everybody.
"I don’t think that I can come to a single example of progressive political change that wasn’t controversial at the time.
"When Churchill called for rearmament in the 1930s to counter the growing threat of Germany - that was controversial.
"The NHS [for example], the chair of the British Medical Association said the NHS was the first step on the road to Nazism."
However, the councillor says his proudest achievement and the thing he'd like to be remembered for is the creation of Hackney Light and Power, the first publicly-owned energy services company in Hackney in a century.
Since its unveiling in 2019, the company has begun to deliver one megawatt of rooftop solar with plans to implement "probably" the largest electric vehicle charging programme in the country.
The councillor also takes pride in Hackney's commitment to planting over 30,000 trees and the introduction of his brainchild, the 21st Century Streets project.
He said: "I believe we can turn this global warming juggernaut around and the idea that I have been responsible for the planting of street trees that will be providing shade, beauty and cooling to the people of Hackney for 100 years or more gives me a wonderful sense of achievement."
Cllr Burke also mentioned an interest in running for mayor of Liverpool in June as current mayor Joe Anderson will not be seeking re-election and is under investigation for witness intimidation and bribery.
But, the councillor added, it would be a challenge running against "excellent local candidates".
The job would mean a return to his home city of Liverpool.
"I'd potentially go from working in the best borough in the world to the best city in the world - I think that’s something I would seriously consider."