Local democracy sham

by Anood Al-Samerai on 28 February, 2012

There has been a lot of talk recently about ‘democracy’ in Southwark. As the Leader of the Opposition on the council, it is my duty to scrutinise the decisions of the Labour administration and hold them to account. Labour say they are more democratic but sadly the evidence simply doesn’t back up their spin.

Firstly they are destroying community councils even though this is a great way for local people to make decisions and spend council money in local areas in tough times. The Lib Dems proposed alternative ways of making savings in this budget, but Labour had already made their decision to centralise power. We also proposed giving more powers and funds to local communities to manage their own services like youth club budgets or libraries but they voted against these ideas.

Labour are also trashing the democratic traditions of this borough by selling off our town halls in Camberwell and Bermondsey. They’ve sold off the council chamber and they’ve changed the way council meetings are run so that they can hide away from answering the tough questions on their failings. In the last 12 months during full council assemblies Labour has refused to answer 50 questions from Liberal Democrat members and have prevented the debate of 7 policy motions. These issues are vital for the people of Southwark and included: family housing, youth club opening hours, Southwark Park and the athletics track, a new secondary school for SE16, local police sergeants, cycling, post offices, community councils, anti social behaviour, parking on the Brandon Estate, events in Dulwich, the Noise Team’s reduced hours, Greenland Dock, Police Station closures and stray dogs.

And Labour Southwark is so scared of our criticism that they’re now trying to concentrate more power in less people and cut the council’s scrutiny committees. These committees exist to check the work that the Cabinet do and hold the leadership to account on behalf of Southwark’s residents. Without them, the power-hording Labour leadership will just do what it likes. This isn’t democracy, it’s a pretence. And it’s time they worried less about their spin and more about empowering local residents.

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