“There is a bed for everybody”, “the government is on its last legs”, and the “Conservatives have dragged their feet”, are just some of the claims made to me by the Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor. Who did not hold back as we explored the intricacies of the town's most pressing issues, from homelessness, to special educational needs to anti-social behaviour. As well as his outspoken opinions on national politics ranging from shooting shots and dealing direct blows at the Conservatives to defending the Liberal Democrat Party leader Sir Ed Davy.

Local Homelessness
I wasted no time delving straight into the complex issue of local homelessness. Although this is one of Watford's most significant problems in the eyes of the general public, the mayor was rather direct in his remarks, highlighting the enormous effort he has made into reducing homelessness by saying, "There is a bed for everybody" and that there is even "always space for more". He does, however, concede that there are some rough sleepers, adding that some people choose not to participate. To further demonstrate his unwavering devotion, he supports his claim by stating "you don't ever have to pay to stay in a hostel in Watford".

Local Transport
Moving onto another local important issue of anti-social behaviour, when told that out of 95 postcodes Watford has in fact the 13th highest crime rate according to Plumplot. The mayor, eager to respond tells me “I’ve been campaigning for more police officers” and that the police station has been moved to the centre of the town. Although he does concede that "there are problems right across the country" he responds by highlighting his “frequent meetings with the police”.

Local Transport
The mayor calls for a structural revamp of the local public transport system in order to address another problem that most members of the public frequently face, which ranges from buses being late to them not operating at all. He says, "We need a different structure." He suggests a franchised bus market, stressing "local control over frequency, pricing, and quality", using cites such as Manchester and London as models. Putting the onus on bus networks' privatisation.

Local SEN provision 
When it came to handling local special educational needs provision, Hertfordshire County Council was found to be among the worst in the UK in a recent Ofsted area report. In a previous article, I interviewed Jennie Witter, the head of a local special school, and she confirmed this, hinting at the leadership of Hertfordshire County Council being the source of the issue. Elaborating on how important it is and expressing his desire that it serves as a “wake-up call” for the county council to make drastic changes and “step up their game”, the mayor jumped on this issue quickly and firmly placed the blame on them. Demonstrating the mayor’s willingness to voice dissent when he wants, something I found to be evident much later in the interview. He did, however, support this with pledges to "build a new special school over in Croxley (Croxley Green)".

The mayor was quick to highlight the many manifesto pledges he has worked on and is still working on, such as; "delivering Oxhey Activity Park," "making Watford a more dementia friendly town," and "planting 20,000 trees." Adding that of his 45 commitments, he has "delivered on all of them bar one," as he jokes about the difficulties of fixing roundabouts. When pressed about campaign pledges, the mayor said that "understandably people are quite sceptical about politicians, promises and pledges." He does, however, temper this with a remark about his actual control over Watford. “Formally, I don't have any power over Hertfordshire County Council. My skills are being able to mould and influence”.

Liberal Democrat party leader Sir Ed Davy and the postmaster scandal
Turning our attention to the national political scene, I delved straight into the postmaster scandal, in which the mayor’s own party leader Sir Ed Davy was in fact the person in charge of the Post Office at the time, when asked about the more pressing question of “What does that say about the Liberal Democrats”? Despite acknowledging the tragedy, stating that it was “heart breaking to see the impact that the scandal had on so many people”. The mayor was very quick to point the finger, stating that other parties had “20 post office ministers since that period”. Even going as far as saying that the “Conservatives have dragged their feet”, that they “have acted very slowly” and that it is them “in particular” that are to blame. Simultaneously staunchly defending Ed Davy saying that “certain people are trying to make it into a big thing in saying oh it’s all Ed Davy’s fault”.

Only after I pointed out that Ed Davy did in fact have a role to play and was partly to blame I was abruptly interrupted, with the Mayor jumping straight to his defence, saying that "Ed Davy regrets deeply what happened and that ultimately he was being lied to”, emphasising and concluding that "Ed Davy has been a strong advocate for our community, consistently pushing for positive change".

The future of Watford and the nation as a whole
As the conversation shifted to the future, the mayor offered his predictions for the next round of elections. He emphasises, "they are crucial for determining the path of our town". Yet again, he is quick to criticise the current government, claiming that it is "limping along with no real support or enthusiasm", telling me that the government is on its “last legs”, arguing that the Tories "aren't currently delivering on their 2019 manifesto" and that it is "obvious they will be down”. Backing this up by stating that the council has received a "50% real terms cut in funding over the last 10 years from the Conservatives." The mayor even went as far as to share the results of his most recent canvassing session, in which he told me that “I honestly did not find a single person saying they were going to vote Conservative”.

To conclude, as Watford reveals its complex nature on the national stage, the mayor becomes a key figure in determining the direction the town will take. In addition to advocating for positive change and taking obstacles head-on, the mayor navigates the complexities of Watford with tenacity and extreme dedication. Most importantly, he doesn't back down or sugar-coat his opinions and he typically has “14 engagements a week”, so his schedule is anything but quiet!

I want to thank the Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor and his office for taking the time to be interviewed, and wish them all the best for upcoming elections.