Labour may be the dominant party in Waltham Forest but Conservative group leader Tim James wants voters to know the Tories “are not going to be pushed out”.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service over a video call, he said: “Absolutely we are an important part of local politics, and I think we punch above our weight and get good outcomes.”.

Since the Lib Dems lost all their council seats in 2014, the Conservatives have been the only opposition, currently holding 14 of the borough’s 60 seats. While they lot two seats in each of the last two elections, Cllr James is determined to claw some back this May. 

He added: “We didn’t lose as many places as [Conservatives] did in other parts of London. It’s because we’re not complacent, we do speak up.”

He said the party is keen to “put people’s views across”, adding: “We do push back [against Labour]… and find different arguments and perspectives. We support the residents, that’s what we are here for: to speak up for them.”

While watching Labour’s last two terms at the helm, the 52-year-old senior recruitment advisor said the “breakneck” speed of change in the borough has sometimes been frustrating. The fast pace in areas like housing and transport particularly rankles, he said, when moves to protect the future of heritage buildings like Highams Park’s Regal Cinema or Walthamstow’s EMD cinema have been “very slow”.

He said: “I have found it interesting that whenever anything is praised it’s to their credit and then when it’s negative it’s our fault. The reality is they’ve been in power a long time, they’ve got [two] local Labour MPs and a Labour London Mayor, maybe it’s time to look a little closer to home.”

So what is the Conservative vision for the borough, given that they traditionally have held seats in the more suburban north?

On planning, he said: “I think styles need to be adopted for various parts of the borough. In Walthamstow it’s much easier to put things with more density than Chingford or Highams Park”

The 52-year-old councillor emphasised the party is not “opposing for opposition’s sake” but representing residents’ wishes. As an example, he praised the resident-approved plan for Highams Park that guides the shape of larger planning applications and contributed to the planning committee’s decision to reject plans for a seven-storey development next to the station in March.

What about the borough’s contentious low-traffic neighbourhoods? Laughing, he said: “[Waltham Forest’s] traffic policy is gridlock, we just want to clog everything up as much as possible to pollute even more and stop people from getting from A to B. It just seems not to be not working really; Mini-Holland is not bringing us to Holland.”

On another key council issue, housing, he said the Conservatives are “very aware” of London’s housing problem. However, he added: “We just don’t agree in terms of the breakneck speed of change. I think that every area ought to be considered in different local plans which ought to be reconsidered at face value.”

Cllr James was raised “up north” in Anglesey, north Wales, where his parents moved before he was born. He left education aged 16 and worked in hotels in Guernsey before starting at the bottom in the island’s infamous banking industry.

The Conservative group leader said he has worked in the city for 30 years, currently for Resource Solutions, and has been a councillor for Hatch End ward since 2014. He became leader of the borough’s Conservative group almost a year ago, when former Conservative leader Alan Siggers stood down.

Explaining his politics, he said: “I’ve always been Conservative, for me it wasn’t necessarily about policies, it was about outlook and a way of living, about the work ethic from my parents who had their own business, about patriotism and fairness and belief in law and order. So without knowing it I was groomed and brought up as one.”

He felt excited and optimistic under the changes Thatcher brought in during the 1980s, after the “English disease” of strikes and nationalised industry during the 1970s. He added: “When I think of Canary Wharf, the Eurostar, Channel Four, I think ‘these things are here because of this woman’ – by and large I thought she was phenomenal.”