Thursday, June 01, 2006

That Tory/LibDem Coalition!

Well last night saw the first meeting of Council Assembly under the new Tory/LibDem coalition. And yes, the Tory Leader did look as smug as we had all expected! Although we knew about the coalition, there was something surreal in seeing Cllrs Humphreys and Eckersley on the front bench, being warmly welcomed by a 'delighted' Cllr Stanton!
But the evening's surprises did not end there. The first act of the new coalition was to cancel one of the scheduled Council Assembly meetings - due to take place in October. Council Assembly is the one occasion when we as an opposition, and members of the public, have an opportunity to hold the ruling Executive to account. Clearly the new Executive is not keen on this idea!
Virtually the next act was for the Tories and LibDems to vote to change the council constitution to ensure that any decision about the sale or change of use of metropolitan open land ('MOL') should be removed from Council Assembly and should be taken by the 10 members of the Executive instead! At a time when our green space should be valued more than ever, it seems incredible that the Tories and Liberals waved through a measure which ensured that the 53 other councillors in the borough should not have a say in what happens to that green space.
And the final surprise of the evening was Cllr Stanton's revelation that it was time for Southwark to build a new Town Hall! There are lots of priorities in our borough, but a new Town Hall at a cost of at least £50 million is not one of them! I expect that there will be an interesting debate on this issue over the coming months.
I had anticipated that the Tories might not be so keen on this idea - but it seems that office accommodation is one of their top priorities. Hard-working officers from the Council's Scrutinty Department have been thrown out of their offices on the 3rd floor at the Town Hall to make way for Cllr Humphrey's unfeasibly large desk! Oh yes, and there is just about room for the other 5 Tory councillors in their extensive suite!
Back to local South Camberwell issues in my next post with news about the new timetable for works on the East Dulwich Estate.

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