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. …

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. …

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, …

At the GC again

Reporting on the Lewisham Deptford General Committee is still not happening so here is a report from me, about what happened yesterday.

The Executive Committee had agreed to hear a guest speaker, Natasha Kennedy who came to speak about Trans-rights. If you’ve missed it, this is a debate centred on self-id occurring within the country as the Tory Government had proposed to change the law to permit a form of self-id, allowing trans-sexuals to choose their own gender identity as opposed to the current law which requires the agreement of a Doctor. The Tories, I believe, have changed their mind, but the Labour Party has agreed, as we do with membership of our BAME forums, to allow self-identifying trans-women to benefit from the positive discrimination measures that exist within the party. This is not without some controversy. Anyway, Natasha presented one side of the argument and shared her experiences.

Another thing you might have heard about is Labour’s Democracy Review. This is being conducted in three phases and the current phase is about local parties. Ammar, our Chair, summarised the problems as follows,

  1. How can the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) better reflect the local community?
  2. What changes (if any) are needed to the way we work at Constituency level?
  3. How do we get our increased membership more involved in the Party?
  4. How do we get more people into the Party?

He then asked people to call our their answers, with between a 15 sec and 30 sec comment? While not “in the traditions of the movement”, this worked very well. Many more people were able to speak and to comment on what they wanted. In retrospect, it worked well. Because of Ammar’s framing questions, we did not speak about the Socialist Societies, but I have documented on this blog, what I think and submitted my ideas to the Democracy Review.

Here is my complete matrix

Question solution 1 solution 2 solution 3
How can the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) better reflect the local community? Reduce the membership fees Listen to the membership & engage with community organisations.
What changes (if any) are needed to the way we work at Constituency level? Adopt the Nolan Principles[1] Increase the share of membership fees remitted to CLPs Develop forums for Disability and LGBT
How do we get our increased membership more involved in the Party? Listen to them & share power i.e. show how their ideas can change Labour Do more Politics Stop shaming people about doorstep work
How do we get more people into the Party? Make our public officials accountable, i.e. make member’s voices count inside the Labour Party Stop Expelling them and refusing membership to people with campaigning history

I managed to get the Nolan Principles into the CLP submission, and when someone else raised a criticism of the Stakhanovite doorstep warriors, they were politely cheered. The CLP also agreed to ask for much more money from the subs and to reduce the membership fees.

We then turned to the motions, many of which are still left from last year.

We passed emergency motions supporting the UCU strike, and calling on the London Region rule changes to be implemented for this year’s conference.

[1] Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty & Leadership

ooOOOoo

These are personal notes taken from the meeting and not to be taken as a formal record. i.e. all opinions are my own etc …

Trade Unionists speak

The local Trades Council asked those seeking to be  Labour’s Candidate for Mayor to answer a short set of questions; they present the replies in this document, “Judge for yourselves who will be the Mayor we need!”. They asked questions on Cuts, Education, the Living Wage (in the Town Hall and procurement portfolio), employment rights, housing, training and council/union relations.

Richard Abendorff, a member of the Trades Council and the Labour Party, writes,

There are clear dividing lines, Paul Bell opposes cuts, opposes privatisation, promises to in-source services, opposes privatisation via academies, supports Union rights, will prohibit zero contracts, he will re-establish the town hall trade union negotiating structures and put the Chair of the Trade Union side on the Cabinet.

He also plans to abolish the Mayoralty. His plans are based on concrete promises, not based on aspiration. If not a first choice for Trade Unionists, he must be a second choice.

 …

BackBell

The Labour Party’s Lewisham Mayor selections ballots have been issued, by post and email. Ballot papers for eligible Labour Party members in Lewisham to vote for who our candidate for Mayor will be will reach you over the next few days.

It’s crucial that to get out the strongest possible vote to help the Corbyn-supporting candidate, Paul Bell, win.

Paul is the only candidate

  • Who voted for Jeremy Corbyn either time and consistently supported his leadership
  • Who is committed to fighting to abolish the undemocratic mayoral system which has caused so many problems in Lewisham
  • Who has plans to rebuild the council’s relationship with workers and trade unions, stop academisation, stop privatisation and ‘insource’ services, build many hundreds of council homes and launch a fight against cuts and austerity.

Unsurprisingly, all five candidates are talking left – but it’s necessary to look beyond warm words to politics and policies.

Paul’s full manifesto is published here, on his web site and visible via this http://bit.ly/PB4M-Manifesto SURL. …

Paul Bell & Schools

Paul Bell, one of the people seeking to be Labour’s candidate for Lewisham Mayor has announced his education policy and promises.

He promises,

  • I will as Mayor oppose new academies and free schools, maintaining Council control of schools wherever possible
  • I will as Mayor protect teachers’ jobs and maintain smaller class sizes
  • I will as Mayor secure affordable childcare for working families
  • I will as Mayor ensure every local child has the chance to go to a school a reasonable distance from home
  • I will as Mayor bring Lewisham ‘young people’ service back in-house for the benefit of the community
  • I will as Mayor introduce a Lewisham Fair Workload Charter, to improve conditions for teachers.

  …

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.

  …

What should Lewisham Labour do next?

What should Lewisham Labour do next?

Some thoughts from New Cross Labour,

Lewisham’s Labour Group have launched an internet consultation, at Lewisham Together , a wordpress site, http://lewishamtogether.wordpress.com/, anyone can contribute ideas to Labour’s Manifesto for Lewisham’s Mayor and Labour Group.  The Labour Party has been choosing candidates over the last six months and campaigning on the doorstep since they won back control of the council in 2010. As part of the consultation, Mayor Steve Bullock came to New Cross Labour Party to talk about the next administration. Members of neighbouring Brockley Ward were also invited, which is how I got there. …

And so it begins

Four hours after Ed Miliband announces that Labour’s London Mayor Candidate will be the subject of a “Primary”, the Evening Standard reports  that Lord Andrew Adonis is considering running for Mayor. Adonis is an ex-Government Minister, who has never fought an election, and is Labour’s leading evangelist for executive directly elected Mayors and the leading evangelist for academy schools. He was made by Tony Blair, and is a leading thinker  on the right of the Labour Party and currently Chair of Progress, the Sainsbury funded think tank and caucus . …