Council Power

Council Power

I wrote to one of Lewisham’s Councillors on the results of the Democracy Review and pointed them at things I have written and published, on Mayor’s and power in the council.

  1. https://davelevy.info/lewishams-democracy-it-could-be-better/ … what i thought was needed
  2. https://davelevy.info/what-is-to-be-done-with-lewisham-council/ … summarising what I said, i.e. my submission
  3. https://davelevy.info/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Lewisham-Democracy-Review-DFL-V1_1.pdf … my evidence, in which 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.
  4. https://davelevy.info/abolishing-executive-mayors/ also hosts the LGIU paper which talks about returning to the Committee System.

And here are my notes about what they said; http://wiki.davelevy.info/lewisham-councils-democracy-review/ which includes comments on power & communication.

For completeness, https://davelevy.info/dictatorship/ my manifesto for abolition of the Mayor. …

On ward boundaries

On ward boundaries

I attended yesterday’s meeting on Lewisham’s Ward Boundaries and discovered the source of much confusion. The meeting had been called by the Boundaries Commission, and the discontent was caused by the Council’s proposed evidence to the LGBCE, which I review on my wiki.

The council propose to split up Ladywell, Whitefoot and Lewisham Central and the howls of rage from Ladywell Labour can be heard in Harrow. I left the meeting early once the very smooth Chair from the LGCE made it clear that the decisions were theirs i.e. the Commission’s and that the Council was only one submission and that he was taking no responsibility for the Council’s proposals. (Although Chris Best, the Deputy Mayor spoke towards the end of the meeting, and if I’d have been there, I’d have learnt first hand how the Labour Group had sought to consult the Labour Party, or not depending on who you believe.)

One thing I learned, was that I had never realised that the view of the Ladywell Kebab shop from the Ladyywell Tavern is a community icon and that it must be within a local government ward called Ladywell.

Another lesson is that the proposal to split Ladywell Ward up is like the partition of Ireland. (I looked for a picture to illustrate this point and did a google for images using Northern Ireland peace line as the argument; images reminiscent of Berlin come up. I am not impressed with this as an argument unless its defenders think the council is going to wall off a part of the ward and have armed entry points; I think not).

I was deeply underwhelmed with the idea, proposed by an ex-Councillor that numbers of voters in Lewisham Central used in the Council proposals should be purged of all EU citizens, how this helps I can’t imagine, and I think we should be expressing support for our EU citizens. When I say I can’t imagine, I understand very well, the best way of minimizing the change is to reduce the projected population growth and it may be that this is over estimated as the new properties in Lewisham Central, Convoy’s Wharf and the other sites in Evelyn may have a large off-roll population due to them being empty, or occupied by non voters.

I am confirmed in my view that Deptford needs more councillors and it was suggested outside the meeting that while the Council propose to keep exclusively 3 seat wards, the Commission will prioritise the equalising of the power of the vote i.e. keeping the voters/councillor ratio even across the borough and will likely introduce smaller wards to do it i.e. some wards will be served by two councillors.  This in my opinion is not good because wards with less councillors will get less investment, and the amount of case work should be a factor in determining the number of councillors.

I am also confirmed in my mind that it is not possible to have three councillor wards throughout the borough, equal voters/councillor and respect the Parliamentary boundaries. The council proposals only meet one of these goals. …

On ward boundaries in Lewisham

‘The borough of Lewisham has changed substantially since the last ward review in 1999 that was published in 2002. In those 20 years, our borough has seen significant housing development and population expansion, particularly in the central and northern wards.

The Council have made proposals and are having an open meeting to discuss this at the town hall.

See also http://wiki.davelevy.info/redistricting-lewisham/ …

The Shires vote, and so does Lewisham

Last night was election night for much of the country, although on the whole not in London and it seems, not in Northhamptonshire. It’s been a confusing set of  results and I’ll need to think about what it means; I don’t plan to be as quick as either the Leader of Sunderland council nor his remainer opposites, when I find out who that is. But in Lewisham London, Labour held the two seats up for election.

Congratulations Lionel & Kim

  …

Gardenscapes

No not the game! Once again I am considering garden landscaping! I went down to Brockley Station and Charlottenberg Park to see what they’ve done there and had a look at my Bury Court collection of pictures. I have posted the collections from flickr as slide shows, which requires flash here, below or overleaf  …

More on Tidemill

The Council (actually the Cabinet says No!), so does the Mayor of London. (Actually what they say is more complex, I was channeling Little Britain.) The Council says go ahead with the Developer’s current plans, so does the Mayor of London.

Len Duvall, the area’s London Assembly member, reports the Mayor of London’s decision in a press release called “Old Tidemill Garden could be lost for ever“. Crosswhatfields reports the lead up to the Council decision in an article called “Save Tidemill & Reginald House update“.

It would seem that the Cabinet want the houses now, are frightened that the developer will walk, or sue the council, and that grant support for the project will be lost through delay if they voted to instruct the developer to consider the alternate plan, which is designed to provide the same number of houses.

Here’s the alternative plan, which the developers have rejected, and the Council has not reviewed. It saves both the current council houses, and the Garden.

One of the increasingly powerful arguments for keeping the Garden is its role as ‘lung’. Given the amount of building work surrounding the area; its 3.3 thousand metres2 protects people from the shit created by the building works at Deptford Church,the Tidemill site itself, and the coming Creekside development.

 

 

I have been told that the Council believe they are replacing this capability, but if so it would be a departure from previous practice.  A friend writes,

There will NOT be an increase in ‘publicly accessible space’, as claimed by Council officers. The new public realm is said to be 3915sqm, but more than 50% of this (1973sqm) is private courtyards. 20% of the remainder is hard landscaping, leaving only 1565sqm of public green space. The current garden and the lawn on the corner are 3364sqm in total. What is offered is 1799sqm less, which represents a net loss (or deficit) of 53%.

, although see the comment below.

Here is a picture of some of the trees that’ll go, although they’d going both plans.

I wonder what the next steps are.

This is a missed opportunity for the new Labour Group.

ooOOOoo

Other articles on this blog are tagged “tidemill gardens” and I wrote up my notes during the initial planning consultation on my wiki, in an article called “Giffin Street Redevelopment“. …

Stand up to Racism

Lewisham has been the focus of some determined anti-fascist demonstrations over the last week provoked by the candidature of Ann Marie Waters of the current incarnation of the UK’s (or is it England’s) organised fascists. Yesterday, Lewisham’s anti-racist organisations led a picket of a so-called Hustings organised by John Hamilton once of Lewisham People before Profit but now organising as “Bring Back Democracy”. The reason for the picket was the proposed attendance of the fascist candidate.

SutR at Lewisham East (early)

The Janet Daby, Labour’s candidate rejected the invite as did the Tory candidate, although the latter claimed a diary conflict. This meant that the likely first two candidates were not attending; it’s not much of a hustings.

The Southern Press & Mercury report the event giving space to the Lib Dem candidate and Woman’s Equality Party complaining about a suppression of democracy, despite the fact that the Labour and the Tory candidates were not present. ( I am trying to find out what happened to the Greens.) The SPM does not report the early confrontation between demonstrators and a group of angry “For Britian” supporters.

They quote, Mandu Reid, the Women’s Equality Party candidate

“I wanted to go to the hustings to challenge the far-right’s hate-filled narrative and to expose their ugly ideology for what it is. Unfortunately, I was denied that opportunity and, more importantly, the residents of Lewisham East were denied the chance to question their future MP.

This is not true as the likely winner did not turn up.

It seemed the Police advised Ann-Marie Waters not to come; she didn’t.

The Hustings was a provocation, arguably designed to be. You can’t debate with Facists.

ooOOOoo

Many people argued with the event organisers to cancel it, and the hosting organisation had to change its branding several times. I believe that the final brand used was Lewisham’s “Bring Back Democracy”, which I have until recently supported as they sought to campaign for an end to the Executive Mayor system in Lewisham. I and  others will need to reconsider this.

In a private conversation, a correspondent of mine made the following comments, reproduced with permission.

[I have] … Spoken to many colleagues today who were lifted by the news of yesterday’s demo after the weekend. I think there are important discussions needed on the strategy and tactics of the labour movement in combatting the far right. The situation has to be weighed up each time…. There will be times where a different approach might have to be taken and decided upon democratically. I think “no platform” was a correct approach last night after what had happened at the weekend, the attempts by ANW to bring people to the borough off the back of it and the very low numbers of unaligned voters compared to a mobilisation of the organised far right.

On the far right’s social media response, had ANW been able to stroll into the hustings unchallenged they would’ve spun it in a different way, suggesting she was a strong, credible candidate with a broad base of support in the area. Obviously, in the heat of a demo like that some things will be said or done that we would do differently if we were able to reflect on it coolly from afar. There does need to be some consideration of what slogans can be used to counter the far right but also raise a positive working class alternative to racism. But the strategic task of the left in Lewisham has to be to pull the rug from underneath the far right by opposing austerity and fighting for better conditions so that disaffected working class people are not drawn to the right in any way. That means Labour councils not making cuts anymore. Damian’s speech on Saturday raised a very positive policy of the council housing 100 refugees. That needs to be coupled with a comprehensive council house building plan. It means the families in Milford Towers in Catford, many of them migrants, being guaranteed social housing in the regeneration scheme rather than being kept on short term contracts and a set % not being assigned for social housing because “it might scare developers away”. In 2011 the TUC demo was approx 750,000 and when UKIP called a demo in favour of cuts a few weeks later they mustered a couple hundred. That’s a sign of the balance of forces when the labour movement takes a lead.

On the issue of organising an independent hustings, my correspondent says,

On John ‘doyen of community cohesion’ Hamilton: he had it explained to him very clearly how he could’ve avoided having ANW on the platform by gaining agreement for parties to declare it as part of electoral expenses.  … To put on an event consciously requiring the police to facilitate and then calling 999 on the demonstration without reflecting about what others steps could be taken is reprehensible. To come out today and denounce ‘mob rule’ goes even lower. This is a man who used to lambast Bullock for the use of the ‘rent-a-mob’ line when there was a community demo or when the Council called in the riot police in 2010 or to get him off the roof of Lewisham Bridge.

 …

Lewisham Momentum

I have not written up my view as to what happened at the Lewisham Momentum AGM, but Rebecca & Jon have written to the officers elected by those who left and went down the pub.

 

Dear comrades,

Following your departure from the Lewisham Momentum AGM and the holding of a meeting to set up a new group at the Amersham Arms on 23 April, we are continuing to advocate a rescheduled, democratic AGM and for it to elect a broad, pluralist, united committee.

The split into two rival groups is weakening the left, in terms of wasted energy, duplication of efforts and most of all the bad blood it has caused on the Lewisham left. We should try to get unity. There is no good reason the two sides cannot be part of a united Labour left/Momentum in Lewisham.

We want to ensure that a united Momentum continues to provide an open, democratic, regularly meeting forum in which members can put forward and where necessary vote on proposals and policy, and decide the direction of the organisation.

We also want to deal with the slanders against us and our activists that have been made on social media and elsewhere in the course of all this, and re-establish normal, comradely labour movement standards of debate.

Some of you may disagree with some of these points. You may have your own issues you want to raise. That is all the more reason to open a dialogue, sit down and discuss.

Moreover this split, while it lasts, should not prevent us from finding ways to work together in the movement and in struggles.

There are lots of things on which can and should cooperate, even as separate groups: the Lewisham East by election; support for the Lewisham Southwark College pay strike and other struggles; opposing Trump’s visit; building stronger left caucuses in the three CLPs…

We therefore invite you to send representatives to sit down with ours (three officers from each side, say) to discuss things. If we can find ways to discuss moving towards unification, that’s good; but we should start by discussing cooperation in the struggle and how we can work together to build the movement. We owe it to the left and labour movement in Lewisham and beyond.

In addition to the immediate need to strengthen struggles and campaigning, no doubt both sides have things to learn from each other. Discussion can also help to dissipate some of the hostility and factionalism generated on the Lewisham left over recent months.

Get in touch and let us know what you think. We are, naturally, happy to discuss the specifics of how to move forward on this.

* Rebecca Lawrence and Jon Johnson, for Lewisham for Corbyn (Momentum) *

 …

Stitched

Today, my campaigning comrade, Rebecca Lawrence published her views as to what happened at the Lewisham Momentum AGM held at New Cross Learning & then allegedly at the Amersham Arms public bar. Important & accurate things to note from the account are that the 2nd half of the meeting was held in a pubic bar, which would not have held all those who wanted to attend, and no checks as to eligibility were performed. Some claim the majority in attendance at the Library went to the Pub, but no-one knows since they weren’t counted and no-one knows how many stayed in the Library.

The only beneficiary for this piece of sectarianism will be Labour’s right and a small number of self declared left careerists.

Momentum’s gift to the right in Lewisham

The incumbent committee, of which I was a member, have published a statement, together with two witness statements and the text of our complaint to the Momentum National Co-ordinating Group. I mirror them here.

The witness statements make no mention of the fact that the Amersham Arms would not have allowed under age members in the pub. …

On Mayors, again

The March meeting of Lewisham Deptford’s General Committee passed the following motion about the Mayoralty.

This CLP Notes:

1. That Lewisham is one of a small number of Local Authorities to have a directly
elected Mayor.
2. From conception the directly elected mayor model has never been endorsed by a
majority of the Lewisham electorate. Indeed, at the original referendum to move to
the model only 6% of the actual electorate voted positively for the change to a
directly elected mayor. Yet the system was imposed.
3. Dissatisfaction with the mayor and cabinet model has continued to grow with popular
unrest against the model being magnified by the perceived lack of local councilor
influence over recent Mayor and Cabinet decisions especially in relation to Forest Hill
School and The Millwall fiasco.
4. The forth coming local elections will again be found under this filing model

This CLP resolves:

1. To campaign for a labour victory in the forthcoming local elections.
2. To adopt as this CLP’s position; opposition to Lewisham local government elections
being run under the current model post 2018.
3. To lobby for the inclusion in the 2018 Lewisham local government election manifesto a
commitment to return to the traditional model for local government for future elections.

It’s supporters on the whole want to see a more collective leadership, it’s opponents argue that democracy is better served by allowing the electorate (and the Party) to choose the council’s leader. My problem with this argument is that short of imprisonment a Mayor cannot be removed, …