Friday, April 04, 2008

Who needs democratic debate?

The Tory/LibDem administration pressed ahead with plans at Wednesday's Council Assembly to combine the Mayor-Making Ceremony with the annual Constitutional Council, and in doing so severely restricted the opportunity which opposition councillors will have to challenge proposed changes to the borough's Constitution. Until this year these two meetings of the Council have been separate, and for good reason. The Mayor-Making meeting; although controversial last year; is usually a meeting to celebrate the borough's first citizen and an opportunity for the new Mayor and their family and friends to enjoy the prestigious appointment.

In contrast, Constitutional Council concerns itself with the election of the Leader and the Executive, the appointment of numerous committees, elections for Community Council Chairs, and any proposed changes to the Council's constitution. I have never known a Constitutional Council take less than three hours - and often it has taken far longer. In recent years we have had to try and resist the Tory/LibDem plans to remove the rights of the public to bring deputations to meetings; the limiting of our oppotunity to ask the Executive questions, and a restriction on the length of council meetings. All of these changes have eroded the opportunity which we have had to hold the Executive to account.

It is now proposed that Mayor-Making and Constitutional Council combined should take no longer than three hours. This will have a damaging effect on both meetings. A Labour amendment to provide that Constitutional Council should have a clear three hour 'slot' was defeated by an Administration which appears increasingly frightened of facing its growing number of critics. More and more they are beginning to resemble a Soviet Politburo from the 1980's - waxen faced; fawning to the leadership and increasingly desperate to hold onto their positions whilst their Empire crumbles around them!

So another blow to democracy in Southwark, from unreconstructed Thatcherites and a party which laughably calls itself 'democratic'!

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