LAMBETHWATCH: ANOTHER NAIL IN LAMBETH’S DEMOCRACY COFFIN

If the protesters from Shirley Oaks had stayed quiet in the gallery then other members of the public attending last night’s meeting would have been able to stay and learn of the latest Lambeth Labour ruse to limit criticism by opposition councillors – rather than having to read it here or on other news sites or social media.

For up until now just one councillor could ‘call in’ an item for ‘consideration’ by the council’s much-criticised overview and scrutiny committee.

NOT ANY MORE.

Lambeth Labour’s Draconian* new rules dictate that it will now need FIVE councillors to ‘call in’ a committee or cabinet decision.

Cllr Tim Briggs (Con) told councillors: “I don’t think that makes any sense at all. “If you have an opposition group of four they can’t call something in.

“With four opposition councillors the only outlet for residents affected by some of these really appalling policies you lot have brought in over the last few years their arguments would not have been able to be heard.”

If you bottle up people’s frustrations and people’s inability to express themselves it expresses itself through violence, he warned.

“I really, really recommend you not to approve this point. “Think of the call-ins that wouldn’t have happened – key guarantees, Central Hill, Cressingham Gardens, the libraries (Culure 2020 call-in – Ed.).

“None of that would have happened that would have enabled people in those communities to have their say. “New members and old will be ‘whipped’. “To many it’s a poor reimbursement – the reimbursement of giving up your integrity – and that’s what the people out in the community think.”

Cllr Jonathan Bartley (Green) said some of these changes had come forward with 24 hours notice – a clear reference to the fact agendas had only appeared on the council’s website during that period rather than one week before the meeting as is usual.

“They could be deliberated upon. “They don’t have to be railroaded through. “I ask you not to make that decision now.” 24-hour secrecy was not good for democracy, not good for Lambeth he said.

Note: Cllr Briggs told councilors this was on page 35 of their pack – not something the press were given.

Cllr Ed Davie, overview and scrutiny committee chairman until this week’s cabinet reshuffle, said in one year he’d seen seven different call ins…

“Why is this?” asked Tim Briggs.

“It’s a very considerable drain on a finite source…..”

“For Labour councillors….” said Cllr Briggs

Cllr Davie “categorically denied” that Labour councillors were ‘whipped’ on overview and scrutiny committee decisions.

“I called in a decision myself.” he said. (Vehicle Maintenance Contract Managed Service Provision June 2015 – Ed.):    And so did Cllrs Parr, Kind and Craig. And one other whose name we didn’t catch but probably Cllr Mosley. And why does News From Crystal Palace think that? Here’s why:

“Councillors Kevin Craig, Jennifer Mosley and Ben Kind have “called in” a decision on the Garden bridge by Lambeth council and their objections will be heard at a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee on 21 April. They represent Bishop’s ward where the southern end of the bridge would be.” – Brixton Blog April 14 2016

And Cllr Parr? Experimental Road Closures in the Loughborough Junction and Myatt’s Field Neighbourhoods. Called in by Cllr Matt Parr – back in July 2015.

Cllr Davie also claimed: “We nearly always had split decisions with Labour councillors voting on different decisions” he declared.

This reporter attended the call-in on the demolition of Central Hill estate – and there was not one Labour rebel voting with the opposition at that meeting. Perhaps they dissented over the demolition of Cressingham Gardens estate call-in – or at the Homes for Lambeth special purpose vehicle call-ins? Or at the Culture 2020 call-in?. As David Essex once sang: “I don’t think so”.

Cllr Bartley requested a name vote on both the constitutional changes and on members allowances. On the constitutional changes two Labour councillors abstained. Step forward Cllr Joanna Reynolds (Clapham Common) and Cllr Kevin Craig (Bishops).

*Draconian Meaning in the Cambridge English dictionary: Draconian laws, government actions, etc. are extremely severe, or go further than what is right or necessary.

BACK TO A COMMITTEE SYSTEM?

New Green party leader on Lambeth council Cllr Jonathan Bartley called for a return to the committee system in Lambeth. Lambeth Momentum supported the idea, he said. He looked forward to see if it was a move the council would be willing to make.

(Unlikely. As News From Crystal Palace reported on  the election hustings meeting at Vauxhall: Responding to the question: “What would each candidate do to turn Lambeth into a genuinely democratic council?” Cllr Peck said: “I don’t believe in the committee system.” Local politics needs to be about getting things done, she declared. (Planet Lambeth, this website, April 23rd)

There’s a quote for you: “Local politics needs to be about getting things done……..”

There was political jousting. Cllr Bartley said he was pleasantly surprised to see so many Labour party voters voting Green in this month’s council elections and “getting a message from a very prominent Labour politician congratulating us.” (“Name them” said a voice from among the Labour councillors to laughter.)

“We’ve won on the libraries in Herne Hill, on the estates in Central Hill and on the weekly bin collections in Streatham.”

On a more serious note he added: “I’m too aware there are Labour councillors in this chamber who don’t support estate demolitions that are being forced on local people

There was the usual “Everything in the Lambeth garden’s absolutely wonderful in our lovely Fantasy World” twaddle from supreme leader Cllr Lib Peck and from new chief whip Cllr Jane Edbrooke. (We’ve heard it all before. Yawn).

BEFORE THE COUNCIL WENT BEHIND CLOSED DOORS…….

LAMBETH’S NEW MAYOR

Lambeth’s new Mayor Cllr Christopher Wellbelove was Mayor of Lambeth in 2009-10.

Having been freed from the chains of councillor and taking on the chains of office it is clear Cllr Wellbelove is in his element – a real character.

“It’s good to be back” he said to laughter.

Cllr Wellbelove has picked a mental health charity for his year as Mayor. Both councillors and the public gallery heard in silence a moving speech from Paul Davis who spoke of his experience of living with mental health conditions and how the Mosaic Club – Cllr Wellbelove’s chosen charity – had helped him. His speech got a standing ovation from councilors – and from some in the public gallery.

Cllr Wellbelove then gave a moving speech of his own problems. News From Crystal Palace was unable to hear all of it because of the interruptions from the public gallery. We have asked for the full transcript…….

(Mosaic Clubhouse’s website says: Mosaic Clubhouse supports people who are living with a mental health condition in the London borough of Lambeth. Mosaic’s approach is built on the internationally-recognised Clubhouse model , which embeds coproduction between staff and members throughout all activities.

The Clubhouse offers its members and visitors a wide range of volunteering opportunities, access to education & employment , crisis support , information and signposting to other local organisations.)

WELCOME PACK

News From Crystal Palace arrived at the town hall before Defend the Ten campaigners who handed out a cleverly-disguised ‘Councillor’s Welcome Pack’ modelled on the style of packs which had been given to the newly-elected councillors at the election count at Kennington Oval.

This welcome pack just outlined Defend the Ten’s latest view of Lambeth libraries – and not the fiction that Lambeth council have been writing on their website.

Have a look at Lambeth’s fictional version of what’s happened in Upper Norwood joint library: “The library has a very similar book stock as now, operating in much of the same space…..”

Fact: Roughly half the book stock has gone. The back room on the first floor which used to be crammed with books now has none.

“WE NEED TO WORK WITH PARTNERS ACROSS THE BOROUGH….”

Having written the above item, News From Crystal Palace looked at our latest emails. Top of the pile is this:

Dear resident,

Lambeth is at the heart of a global city that celebrates a diverse community. This brings immense benefits, but also challenges that we, as your council, have to respond to so that we can make Lambeth a stronger, fairer and more prosperous borough.

To make sure you don’t miss out on what is happening in our borough please take two minutes to sign up for email updates on the issues that matter to you. All you need to do is press the button below:

Yes, I don’t want to miss out

To make Lambeth a stronger, fairer and more prosperous borough we need to work with partners, large and small, across the borough. As a part of this we need to make sure that you are involved. We are also always trying to find better and cheaper ways for letting you know about what is happening in Lambeth. That’s why I need you to sign up for email update on the issues that matter to you.  It will only take you two minutes and you can do it on your phone.

Yes, I don’t want to miss out

In just a few weeks’ time a new law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into effect. This will change how we can use the data we currently hold and it means that we may not be able to continue talking to you via email about what is happening in our borough. The only way to make sure that you don’t miss out is to sign up for email updates right now.

Yes, I don’t want to miss out

In the future you can always update your preferences and change what you get updates about.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Travers, Interim Chief Executive of Lambeth Council

(I have visions of at least one female libraries campaigner screaming so loud at this that worried neighbours have called the police…….)

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