Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Council Assembly

The Council Assembly on 6th December truly was a marathon event - finishing after 1 am. It is probably not the best way in which to conduct democratic debate, but we were left with no choice after the Mayor ruled that our emergency motions on the recent changes to housing management should only be considered after the end of the usual business.

There were no great shocks in the outcome of any of the votes: Cllr Humphreys survived our censure motion and the LibDems quickly fell into line behind their Tory bosses. We received really superb deputations from SETAA which provides adult education learning and skills advice in Peckham, and the Southwark Pensioners Forum. I was particularly pleased that we adopted the Southwark Pensioners Manifesto, the result of a great deal of work and commitment by Charlie Cherrill and his colleagues. It is worth noting that 3 of the 5 members of the deputation are South Camberwell residents - our Ward helping to lead the way again!

Perhaps the most emotive debate came after the deputation from the Newington Reference Library Campaign. I have set out the concerns of the campaigners in an earlier entry, but it was truly startling to see again last night the way in which the LibDems have lost touch with the concerns of people who should be their core constituents in Walworth and Newington. For standing up for the residents of the borough who want to see improved access for ALL to the reference library, the Labour Group was condemned for "pandering to local campaigners" by the current Leader of the Council! He went on to describe his many happy hours studying in "The Bod" when he was at University - that's the Bodleian Library for those of us without an Oxford degree! - completely missing the fact that his plans for the Newington Reference library will deny many people in Southwark the opportunity to experience some of the joys of learning by browsing through the shelves of books currently available.This really is a case where the need to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act must be balanced with needs of the current library users. It really does seem that the DDA is being used as an excuse to close a large section of the library to members of the public.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the debate on Newington Library and the other issues which we discussed last night was the complete lack of humility exhibited by the Tories and LibDems. Despite the fact that no party won an outright mandate to run the borough in last May's elections the Tory/LibDem coalition who run the Executive seem to demonstrate no appreciation of this fact and appear to take pride in their confrontational style of politics - turning their anger and posturing against members of the public who are only doing their best to have their voice heard. Perhaps the attitude of the Tory/LibDem coalition was summed up best by my colleague Cllr John Friary - "ill-informed; hypocritical; conceited and condescending"

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