Tuesday, October 09, 2012

"The Future of London Government" Newham Compass & Fabians

Tonight in West Ham FC Supporters club, Green Street (which is actually in East Ham) there was a debate led by London Assembly member, Val Shawcross with Emma Sweeney and Ted Flanagan from the new Queen's Park Parish Council in the London Borough Westminster.
The topic was "The Future of London Government" Chaired by Unmesh Desai, organised jointly by Newham Compass and Fabians. Follow my twitter feed at lbncompass
Val spoke first about how do we sustain and revitalise democracy in London? The Liberal Democrats have been discredited by dropping their core social beliefs in the unsuccessful pursuit of changes that would have benefited them politically (PR and reform of Lords), While the Tories pursue a culture of secrecy especially in the Metropolitan Police and the London Fire Brigade.
We need to start a dialogue in the Labour Party about democratising and self government, look at the voluntary sector, social enterprises, mutuals and real local control of the NHS. Tories are about privatisation while we should be driving our democratic tentacles into private sector and promoting "responsible capitalism". This change should not be at the expense of workers terms and conditions.
Ted and Emma spoke about their experiences in Queens Park setting up a Parish Council in a mixed income ward in Westminster with houses worth a £million + and a 1960s Council estate with the worse child poverty rate in Europe. They got the idea from a journalist when their local forum had its funding cut in 2010. 68% of the ward voted to set up the Parish, which will receive around £45 per year from each household in the ward (collected by Westminster on top of Council tax). This will raise £180k per year which will be spent on extra community services and events as decided by the local elected parish councillors. Not replace existing borough services.
Like I think nearly everyone present I think this is a really interesting idea and needs following. I'm a little sceptical to be honest since I have seen all sorts of centralised then decentralised then recentralised community governance models in my time, come and go. Yet Ted and Emma seem very confident that this time it should be different.
In the Q&A I warned Val that while the Voluntary sector does many good things there are also appalling governance in many such organisations which needs addressing. I pointed out the Metropolitan Housing Robbery.  She accepted that far more needs to be done to improve the way that these organisations conduct themselves and we need to start a debate in the Labour Party on how to do this.


Anonymous said...

What the fabian society? It sounds a corrupt secret society....

Why don't you talk getting rid of elected Mayoral system in councils, which has one-party majority.

Newham Labour not working.

John Gray said...

Hi anon

Sorry but you are being rather silly. The Fabians are one of the oldest, open and most well known political societies ever. Hardly corrupt or secret.

Our Newham Labour Council, Mayor and MPs have a spectacular democratic legitimacy and support.

Of course we don't get everything right but Newham Labour is working pretty well I think and the fact we have the most completely useless and incompetent opposition in Britain is hardly our fault.

macuser_e7 said...


Interesting that you had someone from Queens Park there.

I'd be curious to know what you think about the idea of hyper-local government within the Newham context.

There is a discussion thread on the Woodgrange website ("A parish council for Forest Gate?") which I started and which has had, at best, a mixed response.

If local communities within Newham wanted to set up their own community councils, would the Labour party be supportive? My guess is not, but I'd be delighted to be proved wrong.

John Gray said...

Hi Martin

Parish Councils haven't come up yet to my knowledge in the local Party or the Council so there isn't a view yet.

I think it is fair to say that pretty much any possible developments in local democracy is worthy of consideration. We are all interested in ideas.

I personally have some concerns about such models but I wish Queens Park well and let’s see how they got on.

It could be a good thing but I would be worried if there was a very low turnout in such parish elections and for example Alan Craig racist and homophobic bigots were "elected" with tiny unrepresentative votes?

Anonymous said...

Alan Craig is not a racist, such comments are slanderous.

Where do you stand on the issue of the mega-mosque?

I am not keen, as I really don't want to see gridlock on our roads.

The regular mosques have mini-traffic jams during prayer times, with cars and people dispersing...

I can't imagine 50,000 using the tube, many will come by cars etc...

Everyone knows what it like when West Ham play at home...

John Gray said...

Hi anon

I'm afraid you are talking nonsense. Craig is an intolerant, self publicising fundamentalist bigot. We have enough problems in Newham without such extremists and cultists.

While I can't comment about ongoing Council planning issues - don't believe the lies and scare mongering being put out by those who what to sow hatred and division in our community.