A big night in Brixton as the Labour led @lambeth_council set the all-important budget for the next twelve months. The sense of occasion was so great that at its peak, the public gallery filled to three residents and one local council candidate.
No worries. A glance over into the press gallery revealed zero representation from the ladies and gentlemen of the local media. There’s no need to attend council meetings, what with local political parties very kindly writing your copy word for word for you.
Never mind. At the least the spectacle of well reasoned, passionate and insightful political debate from a packed floor of the council chamber was something to look forward to.
I’m afraid not. A half-empty chamber suggests that even our democratically elected representatives have given up on all debate in the Rotten Borough.
Fine work from those councillors that could be arsed to attend. They do receive an allowance for this, after all. Shame on the empty seats from across the political divide. Never did like Chelsea, anyway.
All of this matters CRUCIALLY, especially so now. Polling day is almost upon us, and the farce of setting a budget for the next twelve months is essentially each political party outlining their election manifesto.
I can’t speak for the missing Lambeth electorate, but Labour Councillor Toren Smith of Tulse Hill called it completely wrong when he claimed:
“The empty seats in the public gallery is evidence that the electorate is happy with the Labour party.”
Complete twaddle. The empty seats in the public gallery is evidence of political apathy from an electorate that has been let down badly by both local politicians and the local media. The smug quote from Councillor Smith should be made available to every resident in his Tulse Hill ward ahead of polling day.
But anyway. About that budget.
This wasn’t so much a Labour party setting a budget, or even a LibDem party opposing a budget. Like most political affairs in La La Lambeth Land, we take a backwards approach to proceedings around these parts.
Labour set up a budget by talking at length about what is wrong with the LibDem alternative budget. Likewise, the Love Me I’m a Liberal lot set out an alternative budget by banging on about why the Labour budget is balderdash.
@jimdickslambeth led the way for Labour. The main calling card for Labour in the election is the freezing of Council Tax for a second year. Fine work, but don’t confuse this fiscal policy as an isolated Lambeth led issue. The proposed policy by Labour is at least in line with what is happening nationally.
The LibDems rejected the Labour budget – you don’t say. Instead they favoured a budget that was “resident led.” Again, a fine ideal, but probably slightly unworkable. Especially so when the political apathy levels have risen so high in Lambeth that only four people can turn out to find out what the chuffers is actually going on.
And then we came to the Tories. Cripes. Our blue rinse friends favoured a 2% cut in Council Tax, plus the vote winner of scrapping Lambeth Life. I’m not sure if I could ever commit to the party of elitism, but getting rid of the council propaganda paper would certainly be a step in the right direction to light my festering blue touch paper.
Ideas and debate were then bounced back and forth. Labour’s @jkazantzis let slip that provision was in the budget for “temporary leisure facilities.” That second Lego Swimming Pool in the Rotten Borough might just be heading your way, my Streatham friends.
All that was left was for the respective party leaders to sum up. LibDem Cllr Lumsden huffed and puffed, and put in a fine performance.
Surprisingly no mention of the much hyped John Lewis style of government. No worries. I’m sure our friends at Lambeth Labour have all the details worked out.
[Point of order – LibDems in my ward have responded to my email about their alternative to the cooperative style of government. My Labour friends have acknowledged receipt of the email, but are
still trying to fathom what the fuss is all about finishing off the finer details.]
Step forward then the ever-resplendent @mayoroflambeth to do his democratic duties. Voting commenced, and then five minutes later, whaddya know – the Labour group have a budget passed.
But for how long?
Blimey – talk about a cliffhanger.
*oh yeah – and for no particular reason other than I forgot to include it in my original commentary, here is the most pertinent tweet from the night*