To the Mayor and Councillors of the London Borough of Lambeth:
YOU ARE SUMMONED TO ATTEND A MEETING of the COUNCIL to be held in the Council Chamber, Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton Hill, SW2 1RW on Wednesday, 28 July 2010 at 7.00 pm.
This was the message on the agenda front sheet from Lambeth Chief Executive Derrick Anderson to his fine democratically elected and (just about) accountable local politicians.
Strange then that the self-styled “third hardest working Councillor” was absent, as was @ClaphamCommoner, the newly elected ward councillor for, um, Tulse Hill.
[Happy to correct on the record any reasons for non-attendance / delays on the 88 Clap'ham omnibus etc.]
But anyway – about that second Full Council meeting of the new @LambethLabour
led @lambeth_council – warning: the word “cuts” is likely to feature heavily, but not half as heavily as “blame.”
Petitions were presented first to the new Mr Mayor, proudly sporting a rather civic dandy goatee beard. In particular, a petition against a new Tesco (the rotters!) in West Norwood received the highest number of signatures.
A total of 800 is impressive, although it would take a further 2,200 names to trigger any council debate under this new Power to the People era of local democracy.
Deputations were then heard from invited
citizens residents. A powerful speech followed from a concerned local about the possible closure of a Children’s Centre in Kennington. The guest spoke of how:
“The #lambethcoop White Paper speaks of co-operation between council and citizens. This is clearly not forthcoming in Kennington
In response, @cllr-robbins, the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People set out the response from the Labour party:
“We hope the Conservative Government continue to fund the centre. Moving the centre away from Kennington may be part of the process.”
Definitely one to scrutinise over the coming weeks and months. Speaking of which – it’s only the Annual Report of the Scrutiny Committee up next.
Scrutinising the scrutinisers is a strenuous process. @LambethLibDems Councillor Clyne certainly made is sound as such:
“Scrutiny doesn’t work in Lambeth. Ever since the ALMO was introduced, Lambeth Labour has said that 30% of council property is not up to the legal standard. A recent report quoted 40%, a figure that has been denied by Labour. Now we find that the figure is nearer 49%. Meanwhile, tenants have been hit with a rent rise.”
All of this navel gazing led to further, um, scrutiny, as Mr Mayor moved on to Councillor Questions. In the absence of the holidaying @LambethLibDems Leader, Councillor Lumsden (wish you were here!) Tory Leader Councillor Whelan took up the cause celebre of the Love Me I’m a Liberal Lot: Lambeth Life.
Once again, the disappointingly unworkable trilogy of @LambethLabour, the opposition parties and *shhh* @SthLondonPress – the three organisations that between them *should* be able to improve, promote and celebrate the borough – proved to be completely incompatible. Driving a wedge through all three, and subsequently through the heart of Lambeth politics is of course Lambeth Life.
Councillor Whelan asked @cllrstevereed:
“What cost saving plans do you have for Lambeth Life? What plans are in place to make it clearer that the publication is published by the Labour led Lambeth Council? And are you aware of the impact that Lambeth Life has on other local media?”
@cllrstevereed is of course all too aware of the impact that Lambeth Life has on *other* local media – that’s all part of the plan, stooopid.
As for more accountability and transparency, @cllrstevereed’s current flavour of the month, the @LambethLabour Leader replied:
“Our aim is for Lambeth Life to make a net profit. This will then be used to help reduce Council Tax.”
It’s a viscous circle spinning out of control here. Read about how good your local authority is in the local authority self-published propaganda sheet, the paper then makes a profit, Council Tax is reduced and… read about how good your local authority is in…
Strangely absent from the response was the call to incorporate Lambeth Life into the one size fits all fix of #lambethcoop. The former is about making money, the latter is about cutting. Never the twain shall meet.
Gamekeeper then became poacher, as @cllrstevereed turned the tables on the @LambethLibDems and put forward his question to the Leader of the opposition. It was a wasted moment, with the holidaying Councillor Lumsden clearly (and not for the first, or last time) the target of the @LambethLabour Leader.
It was left to Councillor Braithwaite to brush away the tit for tat question of:
“Do you agree that a 20% increase on VAT will hit the poor the hardest?”
“This question comes straight from the pages of
Lambeth Life The Daily Mail,” replied the @LambethLibDems Deputy, in an almost disappointed manner. Keeping up the theme of local irrelevance, Councillor Braithwaite added:
“The health inequality gap is greater now than it has been at any stage in the post-war years. The old Labour government is to blame for this”
Ask a silly question, etc.
A Nu Labour plant then completed Councillor Questions. @labourstockwell‘s Councillor Bigham asked @QueenFlo, the Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and the 2012 Games, what legacy will be left in Lambeth after 2012.
Councillor Bigham also spoke about “my great friend Kate Hoey.” Cripes. If Nu Labour great friends behave by trying to unsettle the sitting MP and campaigning to replace her agent, then you can see why the Nu Labour project is still greeted with some cynicism within Lambeth.
@QueenFlo ticked all the right 2012 boxes, although strangely the sport (and legacy) of swimming didn’t feature in her reply.
The Cabinet Report from the meeting on Monday night followed. I say Cabinet Report, but really it was a debate focussing entirely on the Emergency Budget that has been bludgeoned through. This is a crucial matter, but equally important is Streatham Hub, another heavyweight agenda item on Monday night. Not a word was uttered all evening about the relocation of Streatham Ice Rink down the A23 to Brixton.
Councillor McGlone, the Cabinet Member for Finance, opened for @LambethLabour, stating:
“The ConDem government has delivered a war on local government services. Thanks to my colleague Councillor Dickson, we are now on a sound footing in Lambeth. The future however is out of control.”
With a bit of finger pointing across the party benches, Councillor McGlone added:
“You have no political mandate in Lambeth to attack public services.”
Which is just as well, seeing as though it is a Labour council ( a LABOUR council!) that is proposing four hundred public sector redundancies, and not a ConDem local authority.
Speaking for the opposition, @LambethLibDems’ Councillor Dodsworth delivered a macro economic speech, which although was well founded, it did little to address the cuts that are coming locally to Lambeth:
“There is not point blaming the government that has been in power for only eight weeks, when your party was in power at Westminster for thirteen years.”
Leave it to the lovely Lambeth Tories (seriously) to keep it #hyperlocal. Councillor Memery reminded the Nu Labour sheep that her party called for a 5% drop in Councillor allowances only last month, a move that was blocked by the @LambethLabour whip. Councillor Memery also spoke of the £5.8m debt in uncollected Council Tax.
With a nod towards *shhh* co-operation, Councillor Memery concluded by asking @cllrstevereed if he is willing to work with a neighbouring borough that has a proven track record in efficiency, and not a partner that is purely aligned because of political affiliation.
I wonder whom exactly Councillor Memery has in mind?
The slumbering big political beast that is @AnnaJCowen was soon awoken by the booming voice of Councillor Bradley, the @LambethLibDems’ lone voice in the Vassall ward. The straight talking local politician may like the sound of his own voice, but it is not to the liking of the Nu Labour sheep. Which is perhaps good reason to increase the decibels further still.
“I have been hearing fairytales in the chamber tonight. Here are three facts: (i) the national crisis is the fault of the old Labour government. (ii) Cuts didn’t start with the coalition government. They first appeared in Lambeth in 2006 with the local housing officers, in tandem with a 17% rent hike, and (iii) your pain is self-inflicted. The £10m overspend, the temporary housing scandal and the situation of only one swimming pool that is open in the borough.”
Following the reverberations echoing around the chamber after Councillor Bradley’s roar of a rallying call, a nervous hush fell over the Nu Labour benches as Mr Mayor called upon
Labour Independent Councillor Abrams to speak.
Having been suspended from @LambethLabour for no apparent public reason, behind the scenes and the Nu Labour whip has been doing his best to whip the popular local figure back into voting with the right wing of the party. A reply of “bugger off” would be considered polite, given the underhand circumstances.
Councillor Abrams chose instead to vent his disgust at his Vassall ward fellow representative, @LambethLibDem’s Councillor Bradley:
“With £85m of cuts, the ConDems have gone out of their way to attack the working class. It is a disgrace that Councillor Bradley supports a party that is withholding all money from Charles Edward Brooke School in our shared Vassall ward.”
It was a fighting speech from Councillor Abrams, and perfectly balanced to show his continued support of the Labour party, as well as his dignified stance in keeping to his left of centre principles. It even led to an endorsement from @cllrstevereed, and it may have just given Councillor Abrams a return ticket back into the Labour fold.
Back on the ropes after the heavyweight Councillor Abrams floored them, and @LambethLibDems reverted back to form, heckling inexperienced local politicians, rather than old brusiers like Red Jimbo Dickson. @LambethLabour’s Councillor Smith was lined up as the punch bag, with his maiden speech being the target to be shouted down and ridiculed from across the floor.
Defiantly he carried on, and it is to the credit of Councillor Smith that not only did he silence the LibDems, but also that the substance was relevant to his Knight’s Hill ward, Lambeth as a borough as well as the overall national picture.
More of the same, please.
But it’s a funny business this Nu politics. One minute you are selling out your principles and doing a deal with the Tory bogeyman, and then the next you’re bending over backwards and allowing Nu Labour to shaft you from behind.
A joint motion submitted by @LambethLabour and @LambethLibDems (Lordy) then followed, attacking the severe cutting in Lambeth of the BSF cash by the national coalition government. Politicians that were finger pointing only minutes earlier, were now lining up to arse lick one another.
All except the Lambeth Tories though. Bed hopping is not a Conservative pastime in the borough. Councillor Whelan complained of how his group was not invited to support the motion. The implication was that someone has to be to blame (someone always has to be to blame in the Rotten Borough) and the Tory bogeyman was the easy target.
But be careful where you are putting your tongue in this austere new age of Nu politics. It didn’t take long for @LambethLibDems to declare that the taste wasn’t to their liking, with Councillor Best stating:
“It is a shame that Labour didn’t act sooner in Lambeth over BSF. The funding withdrawal wouldn’t have applied if action had been taken earlier.”
Now go and wash your hands, dear.
Fifteen minutes was all it took for the Nu politics to last in Lambeth. The buggers are probably lining up their kiss and tell stories already. If you can’t be sensible, be safe.