Green Councillor Maya de Souza was, as Richard Osley reported in the Camden New Journal, denied the right to respond to the Labour leader’s speech at last week’s full council meeting. Here she reports on what she would have said…
I would have liked to commend the Labour leader on his choice of themes for the next year: leadership, democracy and community. I was pleased to hear his mention of enduring values such as “dignity for all”.
It is, however, the action rather than the talk that really matters.
I’d have liked to illustrate the importance of these themes by showing their relevance to three aspects of our society so important to all of us – jobs, young people and safety.
In terms of leadership, I’d have liked to see innovative action that sought to create green jobs in our local economy and sought to protect public sector jobs. The Greens have put forward proposals that involve the Council piloting a Green Deal system so that it lends money to refurbish their homes to make them warmer and cheaper to hear.
At last Saturday’s Compass conference there was talk of doing this and raising money through community bonds. Why is the administration not showing real leadership in this field? In terms of protecting public sector jobs, the Greens have asked for consideration to be given to a small reduction in working hours to save jobs and allow redundancy money to be used to invest in our future. Again at the Compass conference, there was discussion about this. There are some pioneering Councils worldwide. Why is Camden not one of these when we have excellent officers, far-sighted councillors and a progressive community?
In terms of democracy, I would like to see greater involvement by young people and the community in ensuring we have good services, incuding youth services, which become more and more important in times of a downturn. However, the Shaping Services ward-based meetings did not involve any community groups let alone young people. The bodies represented there did spot the cumulative impact of cuts across a range of services on young people.
With community involvement, we may well have found good imaginative solutions. The Area Action Groups also are not sufficiently well resourced to allow full participation in these issues.
And we have limited public participation at Full Council – only today, we have seen a resident’s group which seeks discussion to ensure the possibility of a new school for our children rebuffed. And I’d like to add that the mayor’s decision not to allow me as a Green Councillor representing about 12% of voters the chance to speak in the debate as to the Leader’s vision for the future does not suggest a commitment to participation. So where is the evidence of that commitment to democracy the leader talks about?
In terms of community, to me this is about ensuring that all have a stake in society. It is also about strengthening our community organisations. Two particular issues that come to mind are the importance of good jobs for all. And here we have had lots of talk about apprenticeships which can give people a good career. But when I have spoken to people on these schemes they are concerned about the likelihood of getting jobs. Is the administration seeking to make sure these schemes make a difference?
And in terms of community action, one of the most successful initiatives in recent years has been the Safer Neighbourhood Panels and Teams. But I am afraid that the cuts in funding here will undermine the safer neighbourhood panels.
I’d like to ask what the administration is doing to find money to keep these services going? What about the People’s Fund? Will that be used for such services?