What is to be done, with Lewisham Council?

Finally I have submitted my thoughts on Lewishams’ Democracy Review. Lewisham Democracy Review by Dave Levy V1_1. My initial thoughts were published in this article on this blog. Three things,

  1. I am shocked at the true legal position, we elect a dictator, with no recall, & no term limits. Executive Mayor’s are not just a first-amongst-equals “Leaders” with a different mandate, it’s an alien form of government, lifted from the US & France and designed to reduce the accountability of the decisions from voters and their political parties. I am equally shocked at the extent to which the Mayor’s power’s are delegated to full time staff.
  2. I have recommended that they abolish the Mayoral system, and in the expectation that this will be rejected,
  3. I recommend a series of reforms to improve the accountability and transparency of the Mayor, Council and senior officials including a recall mechanism, term limits and much improved monitoring of personnel, decisions and programmes.

The deadline is Sunday.

A URL for the document is http://bit.ly/2DA5aho, a SURL for this article is https://wp.me/p9J8FV-1IN …

Risk, bias and planning

Risk, bias and planning

A couple of years ago, I wrote a precis of the McKinsey Quarterly article, “Distortions and deceptions in strategic decisions”. They started with a review of the way human bias can adversely impact strategic investment decisions illustrating it with a story about a mega-merger which failed. They conclude the article with,

Companies can’t afford to ignore the human factor in the making of strategic decisions. They can greatly improve their chances of making good ones by becoming more aware of the way cognitive biases can mislead them, by reviewing their decision-making processes, and by establishing a culture of constructive debate.

The first half of the article examines the propensity to optimism vs. perceptions of loss aversion and argue that portfolio management is a better way to evaluate the risk as lossess can be compensated by other success. I believe though that British management and particularly public sector management is very risk adverse; there is a higher fear of getting things wrong than getting things right although how we end up with Universal Credit, the Boris “vanity lard bus”, his water cannons and his other “erections”, I don’t know.

What made me remember the article was it’s listing of what they call tools to isolate any human bias to me most importantly

Another technique is to request that managers show more of their cards: some companies, for instance, demand that investment recommendations include alternatives, or “next-best” ideas.

I wonder how many of these lessons need to be applied to local authority planning decisions.  Check below/overleaf for more …

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Lewisham’s Democracy, it could be better

Lewisham’s Democracy, it could be better

Writing up what I think for Lewisham’s Democracy Review is proving harder than I thought, the source material i.e. Lewisham’s Constitution [www] is very long(483 pages), it’s .pdf, can’t easily be indexed or highlighted, so item No. 1. is to increase the transparency of the rules so citizens can understand how decisions are made.

This is a very Un-British way of doing things and all our instincts are wrong. Every decision is reserved for the Mayor who must present a number of plans to full council. the decisions are then taken in the context of the agreed plans which only require ⅓ voting in favour. The Mayor delegates all their executive functions to the Cabinet as a collective but also to the council’s principal paid officers. The backbench Councillor’s Scrutiny Committees can only delay these decisions. There, apart from criminal sanction, is no way to recall the Mayor. The Mayor does not hold office due to their ability to command a majority, they do not need to get many decisions agreed by Council. This is not just a first-amongst-equals “Leader” with a different mandate, it’s an alien form of government, lifted from the US & France and designed to reduce the accountability of the decisions from people and their political parties.

My first proposal would be that the Council agree to ask the people of Lewisham to abolish the Mayor and return to a collective committee led Council. It might seem to be less democratic but a committee led council has to maintain its mandate throughout it’s term of office, a Mayor led council supported by a just ⅓ of the Councillors can ignore civic society and wait for the next election.

The other ideas I need to develop,  and we’ll see how much detail I can research, would cover Recall, maybe requiring a more than 50% vote of the Council, Term Limits, something about an Ombudsman & Compliance Committee and independence, having the Cabinet appointed by the Council, the move to a Green Paper/White Paper process for decision making, improved citizen communication, the web site is shite, smaller wards and some thing on the need to use the powers in the Localism Act to get the changes in law that some of these things would require. …

One Man Rule

While talking to a friend, about Lewisham Council’s Democracy Review, I came to the conclusion that while I have opposed Executive Mayors because I feel the Labour Party is incapable of holding them i.e. Labour Mayors to account to their manifesto promises, actually the Council can’t do that either; it doesn’t have the tools; Scrutiny can only delay a decision and every decision except planning and licensing is taken by the Mayor. 💩

I need to look into the law and see if this can be changed/improved within the context of a Mayoral system, but as you may know my preference is a return to committee led councils. …

Dictatorship?

In reply to a Momentum tweet, which points at  Paul Bell’s Labour Mayoral facebook page, and highlights his commitment to be the last Mayor of Lewisham. [ See also  here…], Councillor Joe Dromey, a Lewisham Council cabinet member posts on twitter, supporting Executive Mayors

I say,

  1. As a matter of record, Labour members seem to only get to choose a mayoral candidate once every 20 years or so.
  2. A Mayor’s exclusive and entrenched powers of initiative and patronage are anti-democratic, weaken collective decision making and are sink for corruption. (In Lewisham we’ve been lucky).
  3. A Mayor cannot be recalled, a Leader of a Group can be.
  4. A Mayor’s decision requires a ⅔ majority to overrule them
  5. A Mayor’s powers of initiative and patronage juvenilises the majority backbench councillors, opposition councillors and ultimately even cabinet members.
  6. Labour Councillors are accountable to the Party every four years, Mayors are not, perhaps the Councillors should have more say.
  7. Labour Group’s internal processes are not good enough to hold a rogue executive mayor to account.
  8. The greater accountability of councillors to their Party and electorate, together with collective decision making should deliver better government. For instance, if the Lewisham Cabinet had asked the Labour Group about whether to issue the Millwall CPO, it wouldn’t have happened.
  9. Executive Mayors have always been established in the interests of incumbent leaderships. They are about party power, not citizenship empowerment.
  10. I’d add that support for the current system would come better from people other than candidates, cabinet members and councillors.

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