Theatre Peckham

I was sorry to read that Theatre Peckham has decided not to pursue its strategic move to the currently vacant Livesey Museum. They stated that this move would have taken £5M to complete – compared to a new theatre I’d guess that’s a fraction of a new build cost.

My hunch is that the real reason if fear of alienating the new Labour administration by completing a move started under the Lib Dem administration. Theatre Peckham receives some Southwark Council funding. Raising £5M wouldn’t be easy but you’d think that was ideal territory for the National Lottery.

Sad to see Theatre Peckham exciting plans brought low by politics.

Fairer Votes

5 May next year there will be a referendum on whether to adopt the Alternative Vote system. If passed this would be a radical improvement on the current  First Past The Post system.

The First Past The Post system means those that live in marginal constituencies have votes that are more valuable than the vast majority of us who do not. During the next ten months the Liberal Democrats will be fighting , with others, for a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum.

To get past most peoples complacency will take a hard fight. Surviving is more on most people’s minds. There will be many MPs who want to keep the status quo because it protects them from the need to win majority support and will fight hard back.

If you want fairer votes and to get the referendum campaign off to a flying start. First, sign up to the Fairer Votes campaign newsletter here:

And start talking to friends, family and even colleagues.

Audit Commission charges – wrip-off?

At the last Southwark Council Audit & Governance Committee the Audit Commission presented its charges. They’ve increased their charges by 4.3% since last year. Couched in terms intended to make us feel lucky it wasn’t even more.

The Audit Commission decides who we’re allowed to have externally audit Southwark Council. They unilaterally decide the charges we pay and have decided they will be our auditors. The ultimate in monopoly.

This has to be a regulation that needs to be zapped. Councils should have an obligation to have their acounts externally audited. Massive private companies, factors larger than us have this, but we should be able choose the best value auditors.

The current system has no competition – its expensive in price, disruption to councils and represents appalling value for money for tax payers. 

Tulse Hill by election

Well done to Lib Dem candidate Terence Curtis in the Tulse Hill by election in Lambeth that took place yesterday.

He increased the share of the Lib Dem vote from 26% in the May elections to 31% yesterday. Well done. Sadly he didn’t win but even sadder a by election was necessary due to the unavoidable resignation of the Labour councillor just re elected in May.

Labour councillor suspended

I was really sad to hear earlier today that one of the new Labour councillors Keadean Rhoden, representing The Lane ward, has been suspended from the Labour Party. The Lane ward is just to the north east of East Dulwich ward.

Apparently they will be in court facing a charge of benefit fraud. I hope they are found not guilty.

It was bad enough that The Lane ward was left with only two councillors for 6 months from Dec-May with a Labour councillor resigning. But losing another would be really derelict in local leadership.

Sustainable Communities Act

Some time ago this act was passed. Idea is to help local communities, who know what is best for them, become more empowered and take more of the decision making into local hands. It was reconfirmed just before the elections.

One outcome is the presentation of data for all local public bodies to be publicly available. Follow this URL for how this is currently presented

It’s a start.

Cutting councillors allowances

At the first council assembly of the new Labour administration they made a great fuss of saving £70,000. Majority of this saving was cut from scrutiny responsibilities. Not a great start and certainly sending the wrong signals about openness and wanting to be scrutinised. Cynic in me thought of leopards and spots.

It gets worse. It turns out the £70,000 saving is a saving on what will be paid. So lots of talk about reducing allowances but in parallel lots of increases. So Cabinet councillors were proclaimed as taking a cut but actually are getting a rise.

I really feel saddened that the cynic in me has been shown to not have cynical enough.

Downgrading scrutiny

Last night the first council assembly under the new Labour led Southwark Council.

Lots of rhetoric about a ‘new politics’. First major changes changing the word executive to cabinet throughout the constitution. apparently this caused mass confusion amongst Sotuhwark residents. Tinkering with voting rights for Livesey councillors so they get to vote at two different community councils.

Most significantly was the downgrading the scrutiny roles and creating deputy cabinet roles. The former was masked by being a reduction in the allowances for councillors.

It is right that the allowances for councillors are reduced. But this should be across the board. £71,000 will be saved by over hald will be saved from the special responsibility allowances for those select group of councillors who deeply scurtinse every decision of the administration.

It does seems cynical to slash scrutiny at a time of great flux and potentially great mistakes. But keep the cabinet member and leader allowances almost unchanged. Labour suggested scrutinising them is only a part time role – either they arrogantly think they wont make any mistakes or wont make many changes.

The deputy cabinet role will create great opportunities for newer councillors to gain experience. Great idea BUT will they still be available to scrutinise and criticise the administration they’re trying to break into. Probably not. So another reduction in the number of backbenchers holding the cabinet to account.

A better more reasonable response would have been to have broadly across the board reductions. Especially maintain the role of the Chair of Overview and Scrutiny so they can full time examine all decision of the administration.

So we abstained on many decisions last night. We agreed some changes necessary such as cuts but that they have been cynically proposed and not jonied up.

What do you think?

Take Back Parliament

This Satursday at 2pm a Take Back Parliament demo taking place in Parliament Square.

Despite the Lib Dem/Tory coalition agreeing:

  • fixed term parliaments

  • a right to recall corrupt MPs

  • a statutory register of lobbyists

  • deepening devolution in Scotland and Wales

  • a review into how parliament should resolve the ‘West Lothian Question’

  • party funding reform

  • measures to codify British sovereignty

  • House of Lords elected via Proportional Representation

  • Referendum on House of Parliament beign elected via Alternative Vote.

  • Many feel that wont go far enough. I agree with them – but am still delighted at the propect of all these changes happening.

    For further details of the demo or if you’d liek to be a steward


    I was amazed to read at the weekend that some council meetings in other parts of Britain are preceded with prayers. How truely bizarre. 

    For a public meeting to suggest Christainity is the norm for councillors and expected of them in the 21st century is very strange. What if the meeting were to discuss a planning application for a church. How could anyone think councillors unbiased. Or planning permissions for any other faith come to that. We want public bodies to be more inclusive not preceded by exclusive activities of a particular faith.

    I wonder how people would feel if a council become dominated by a non christain faith and preceded meetings with another faiths conventions.

    I respect peoples right to hold beliefs but these should not be thurst upon others of appear to control public organisations.