About 5 years ago Council Assembly voted to transfer Potters Field Park to a Trust which would manage the park for 30 years. I was fundamentally unhappy about the proposal - Potters Field is a valued local green space next to Tower Bridge and is one of the jewels in the Council's crown of land ownership. It had also been hard fought for by people such as Lil Patrick who insisted that the LDDC give some green space to local residents in the 1980's.
I still remain unhappy about the Trust. When it was established we were promised that there would be "no more David Blaines" - a reference to the 40 days and 40 nights which David Blaine spent in a glass box suspended over the park and apparently an event which was not suitable for this "local" park. However, since the Trust has been in charge there has been a surge in its' commercial use - barely a week or a day seems to go past without some launch or event taking place in the Park. So much for protecting this green space for local residents!
But I am also unhappy that, save in a couple of cases, the Trustees, how they are appointed and to whom they are accountable remains fairly unclear. The Council appoints an officer and a councillor onto the Trust. At least they have democratic accountability to the people of Southwark. But others have a far less clear line or audit trail of appointment and accountability.
Why is this important? Well in a time of 'Big Society' and legislation apparently empowering communities to take ownership of public assets it is important to recognise that if assets are handed over "to the community" what provisions are there that that community group will be open in its dealings and accountable to the community it claims to represent? We should be very reluctant to give up the democratic accountability and legitimacy that a Council provides in respect of the ownership and management of any public asset in favour of its control by the unelected and the self-appointed.