That’s Life!

And so what do you do if your Guardian front page local government initiative fails to live up to all the pre-election hype about “fairness, accountability and responsibility?

Look around for a deadline looming piece of statutory local government legislation, and then try and pass this off as part of the democratic farce of appearing to open up democracy to the Little People.

This is exactly what our friends from @LambethLabour have done with the Local Democracy, Economic Construction and Development Act 2009. The legislation, which compels councils to take online petitions seriously, has been bundled in as part of the #lambethcoop plan.

@cllrstevereed teased me with a series of tweets last week, hinting that Lambeth Life was about to blow the fanfare for a genuine enfranchisement of the closed shop that has come to characterise #lambethcoop.

Steve Reed

What could this be, I pondered? More information on the failed Citizen’s Commission that is currently made up of three @LambethLabour cabinet members? Maybe some meat on the bones to the sweeping statement of “outcomes are fairer because services meet local needs better.” Or even a definition of what a co-op council actually means, seeing as though the more people I talk to, the more confused we all appear to be.

But nope – instead Lambeth Life rolls off the printing press with a rallying Power to the People front page headline.

Power to the People actually means power to the people to submit an online petition that is a legal requirement in providing an online system of accountability within local government.

The deadline for the Local Democracy, Economic Construction and Development Act is June 15th. You can almost visualise the Blue Sky thinking [aha!] as the Citizen’s Commission met and pondered how to open up a process, that so far has consisted of the Corporate Policy Team putting out a call for “interested partners.”

“Mmm – that sexy Local Democracy, Economic Construction and Development Act is looming. Can’t we cobble it together to become part of the #lambethcoop?”

Job’s a good ‘un.

The headline in Lambeth Life may as well have been Rubbish Bins to be Emptied, such is the statutory nature of the great triumph of this chest-beating headline. More detail is found within the explanation from David Burm, Lambeth’s Head of Democratic Services and Scrutiny:

“The petition scheme is about giving residents confidence that their petitions will be dealt with effectively by the council.”

Great. But what of the previous petitions on the @lambeth_council website that have been submitted prior to the passing of the Act? Was there no confidence in these being dealt with effectively?

I suggest a petition calling for an independent investigation into the setting up of the #lambethcoop Citizen’s Commission. The remit would be to find out why such a misleading title was given to a closed body that has yet to show any signs of “fairness, accountability and responsibility.”

The fact remains that the Citizen’s Commission is still made up of only @cllrstevereed, Councillor Meldrum and Councillor McGlone. All three are high-ranking members of @LambethLabour, all three hold a seat at cabinet.

Until transparent details are published as to exactly who has been invited to become part of the Citizen’s Commission, how they were selected, and what role they will have in making key #lambethcoop decisions, then the whole John Lewis project is nothing but another dead Dodo for local democracy.

Elsewhere in Lambeth Life and there is no mention whatsoever of the Citizen’s Commission. That’s probably because the publication is printed for citizens, and not cabinet members to read.

Ice Rink Research tells of how:

“A number of sites are being considered by Lambeth Council as it searches for a suitable home for a temporary ice rink in Streatham.”

This is a significant change from the cabinet decision to rubber stamp Streatham Common before the local elections (and before the local community became mobilised in anger against the scheme.)

As reported around these parts last week, Pope’s Road car park in Brixton is emerging as a front-runner. The timing is still crucial here:

“The move to carry out the work in one go should mean the development is open by 2012 – a year earlier than under previous plans.”

Um, yeah. This is because Tesco threatened to walk away from the whole Hub project unless it was rolled out under the timeline demanded by the multi-national. This in turn led to the scramble (and controversy) to find a temporary location for the ice pad.

Moving on…

Page 5 of Lambeth Life reports on Lambeth Living Service Study:

“Lambeth Living [pimped out council stock] is set to spend almost £40,000 on a survey of tenants to find out the best ways to improve the service.

I’d suggest cutting off the £10,000 trousered by Sir Keith Hill, the ex-Labour MP for Streatham, and the current Chair of Lambeth Living; the £700 per day fees paid to private consultants would probably be a popular choice as well. You’d also save £40,000 in survey money, as most tenants would be in agreement.

With the Tulse Hill Situation meaning that Lambeth Life is technically still in purdah, the Leader’s Column is written in all but name for @cllrstevereed by Claire Rennie, a trustee of the Weir Link, a Nu Labour love in project in Lambeth.

Meanwhile, the Star Letter is simply an arse licking embarrassment for Lambeth Life.

Lambeth Life

There’s handy cut out keep double page spread of Your Councillors and How to Contact Them:

“They have a range of responsibilities which include overseeing Lambeth Council and the services that it provides.”

Good – that’s what we elect the buggers for. Walking away and putting the blame for the borough’s problems on the citizens, is not the model for local democracy that we operate under.

A quick flick through the pen pics of some of the squeaky clean new faces now sitting in the council chamber, and oh Lordy – what do we have here?

Vassall Ward, Councillor Kingsley Abrams, Labour.

Hang on – hasn’t the good Councillor Abrams just been booted out of his party as part of a botched left wing purge?

Um, That’s Life, suckers.

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