By 5.30pm the front doors of Lambeth town hall (aka the Lambeth asylum) had been firmly locked.

Visitors were being directed towards the Fridge nightclub premises (It transpired entrance for the public would be via the town hall back doors close to the register office).

With both a question involving the Lambeth children’s redress scheme (which involves Shirley Oaks Survivors Association) and a motion on ballots on estate demolition on the agenda of the full council no chances were being taken.

Members of the public, as they went in, were handed a card which told them the front row of the public gallery was out of bounds for elf ‘n’ safety reasons. It wouldn’t stop some members of the public taking a front row seat anyway.

“If you stand up you may be asked to leave” the card declared.

So when, as tradition dictates, members of the council stood up as the Mayor entered the council chamber, everyone in the public gallery remained seated.

There was a moment of black comedy later in the meeting when the Mayor asked councillors and the public to stand in silent tribute for one minute to Dame Tessa Jowell.

“We’ve been told we can’t stand up” one lady in the public gallery told the Mayor.

“You can for this” replied the Mayor, Cllr Christopher Wellbelove.

So most people did. The one minute silence was observed impeccably.

But it’s yet another example of Lambeth council not thinking things through.

(Waiting for the back doors to be opened this reporter noticed a lot of people being turned away. But they hadn’t come for the council meeting. It appears many people use the back door of Lambeth town hall as a short cut through to the main front doors!).

Following the fulsome tributes to Dame Tessa Jowell there was a speech on corporate parenting by Cllr Jennifer Brathwaite. Unforttunately, no-one in the public gallery had a clue what she was going on about because all they had been given was a doubled-sided page with the agenda on.

There were no reports about the subject of corporate parenting available in the public gallery. It’s costcutting, but it’s also shortsighted. Reports could be available to members of the public with a ‘Not to be taken away’ stamp on them.

There was a presentation from Lambeth Youth Council and a prize giving for a youth debating competition, both worthy subjects.

Then came petitions – one from Cllr Pete Elliott (Green, Gipsy Hill) on ballots for estate demolitions and two from Cllr Tim Briggs, (Con, Clapham Common) on matters involving removing parking facilities on Norwood High Street and reducing the width of Norwood Road.

Which begged the question: Why hadn’t the organisers of these petitions approached one of the councilors for West Norwood?

News From Crystal Palace asked Cllr Briggs who told us: “Because the Labour councillors ignored the concerns of residents and business owners, so I was asked to hand them in, and I said yes.”

Supreme leader Cllr Lib Peck made a statement. Waffle. Then Cllr Jonathan Bartley, leader of the Green party opposition made a statement.

There was laughter as he invited councillors to go to the village green area of Lambeth Country Show  “where my band are playing on Sunday.”

He hoped “we could find more areas of agreement.” Some hope.

“We support the People’s Plan produced by people on the Cressingham Gardens estate and Action for Social Housing’s plan for Central Hill estate to provide more truly affordable homes than the council are proposing” he declared.

He hoped they could agree that residents living on estates threatened with demolition could be balloted.

On the Lambeth children’s redress scheme it was clear from the previous council meeting (which ended up being held behind closed doors) that there was a lack of trust between SOSA (Shirley Oaks Survivors Association).

“You’re still not hearing their concerns” said Cllr Bartley.

Cllr Peck began with one of her usual mantras about the Lambeth redress scheme being the first in the country.

Avoiding most of what Cllr Bartley had said (a favourite Lambeth Labour tactic when it comes to opposition councillors questions) she admitted: “There’s certain groups of people not coming forward.”

Cllr Tim Briggs, now the only blue on the council, intervened asking for a factual correction. “I haven’t called any people extremists. “I want to warn Cllr Peck that if she keeps misquoting me…”
He was stopped by the Mayor. “This section is councillor’s questions. “If you want to have a conversation with Cllr Peck you can do it another time.”

Cllr Briggs then raised a point of order involving Cllr Rezina Chowdhury and a section of the council’s constitution.

The Mayor, after speaking to an unidentified woman sitting on his left, said: “The advice I’ve been given is that this is not frivolous.”

(Cllr Chowdhury Tweeted later: “Interesting to hear Green supporters in the gallery during full council cheering on a Tory councillor. “Wonder what @Lambethgp think about that?”)

Probably nothing, Cllr Chowdhury. It’s called supporting democracy.

Then it was on to the Green party motion on estate ballots.

Newly-elected Cllr Pete Elliott (Green), in a good opening speech, said: “Jeremy Corbyn, Sadiq Khan and local Labour groups have all declared support for ballots so this really should not be controversial.

“I hope this will guarantee cross-party support from the co-operative council.”

It wouldn’t.

(You can read Cllr Ellliott’s speech elsewhere on this website.)*

In response, Cllr Matthew Bennett (Lab Gipsy Hill), and former cabinet member for housing, treated everyone to a load of unmitigated tosh:

“The Green party are not interested in fighting the housing crisis. “They’re only interested in fighting the Labour party.”

Then it was on to one of Labour’s favourite topics, Lambeth council’s housing waiting lists. 2,000 families in temporary accommodation; 5,000 children….(unclear); 28,000 on the housing waiting list.

“Political leadership requires honesty about what is possible.”

Honesty. The new Lambeth Labour buzzword?

“We’ve worked closely with residents.” (Laughter. “Jesus” said one person in the public gallery).

“We are out there as councillors consistently listening to what our residents are saying.”

(He obviously honestly believes this nonsense. Amid shouts from the gallery one person quoted Eric Morecambe: “Rubbish!”.Some Labour councillors were not applauding this tripe.)

Then it was Cllr Mary Atkins (Lab. Tulse Hill) who looks like everyone’s favourite auntie.

“Understand the sentiment…the then previous Tory leader’s challenges were often incoherent much like the current Government…there’s a selective use of facts…”

Ah, Facts. Not fiction.

Cllr Atkins continued:”Balloting is complicated…drainage problems keep happening and are predicted to get worse…some people look at the disruption caused by the regeneration projects…to go back now would delay the process longer….people living in sub-standard accommodation….”

From the gallery: “Who’s the landlord?”. Answer: Lambeth council, but this is something Lambeth Labour always choose to ignore.

Cllr Atkins concluded: “In principle, I agree with the ballot, subject to the Mayor’s principles.”

(Insert photo of seals clapping their fins – Ed.)

And then: Step forward Cllr Tim Windle (Larkhall).

Newly-elected Cllr Windle is one to watch. For all the wrong reasons.

“The motions don’t offer any solutions” he declared.

The newly-elected councillor then came out with the traditional drivel about guaranteed rights for residents etc.

“We all know the turmoil which can be caused by a yes-no vote.

“We can’t afford to repair our refurbish so it’s a choice between regeneration or nothing.”

That’s easy – just get the council to sue the landlord for non-repairs. But then this would mean the council suing itself.

He then used the phrase ‘ghettoisation.” (In the gallery, disbelief. What this related to was not clear.).

“There’s a fantastic story we can tell about regeneration in this borough.”

Once upon a time….

He ended – to very loud booing from the gallery – by going on about “pandering to the few over many others. “That’s what this Green party offers….”

For Cllr Windle, a place in next year’s Labour cabinet surely awaits.

(News From Crystal Palace left the asylum at the end of the debate on estate ballots. There’s only so much a bloke can take.)


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