“IF ALL LAMBETH COUNCIL CAN DO IS INSULT EVERYONE WHO DISAGREES WITH IT, IT NEEDS TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY – NOT PRETEND IT’S EVERYONE ELSE’S FAULT” – Defend the Ten
Defend the Ten – set up to save Lambeth’s 10 libraries – have issued the following statement* in response to Lambeth council’s press release:
How can any council exclude people from public meetings? And should Lambeth waste police time trying to damp down public opposition that is directly caused by the council’s intransigence?
If Lambeth council succeeds in all this, its public shame will be complete.
The problem is not the public. It’s the council’s refusal to consider residents’ interests.
The ‘hardcore mob’ at Tuesday’s planning meeting (on Brixton Arches – Ed.) represented the 30,000+ people who signed the petition against wrecking the Arches and the near-thousand who formally objected in the planning ‘consultation (just 15 expressed support).
The meeting was packed with concerned people. They were quiet as mice all through a weary two-and-a-half hours. Only at the end, when it was clear councillors had ignored all the reasoned arguments presented, failed to answer key questions and done nothing to protect the traders, did they become upset.
Who can blame them? The traders are losing their livelihoods to Network Rail’s greed and Lambeth’s rush to give away public assets against residents’ interests.
This Labour council are the ‘small, hardcore mob’ that is guilty of ‘disruptive, aggressive behaviour’. The one councillor who has spoken up for residents’ interests – Rachel Heywood – has been suspended from the party.
She pointed out, very politely, that in Lambeth: “Any challenge or difference of opinion is interpreted as an attack, and debate experienced as a direct assault. “The elite, inside their castle, or town hall, can lose sight of what real life is like outside the walls whilst the people on the outside can no longer see or understand why certain things are being done to them.”
She’s right. And that’s why the sham democracy of the council’s proceedings is being contested – by many, many people.
Library supporters, for instance, are not a ‘small hardcore mob – we represent 10,000+ people who signed our petition (which was ignored),the facts we have presented about the stupidity of the
libraries-into-gyms plan (ignored), the endless representations we have made through the council’s official ‘democratic’ processes (ie being allowed to speak for just 3 minutes) – all ignored.
We have been insulted as ‘Trots’, ‘misogynists’, ‘racists’, heartless wine-scoffers (!) etc – not to mention Cllr Alex Bigham’s infamous tweet of a yawning cat in answer to a legitimate query from a constituent.
At the May council meeting library supporters were trying to tell them they are wasting tens of thousands keeping libraries closed, when keeping them open would cost nothing. We thought that was pretty urgent. They wouldn’t accept a formal deputation. So we tried to tell them anyway. Rather than listen for three minutes, the council chose to shut down the whole meeting.
So just who was being disruptive?
All the people who live in Cressingham Gardens are not a ‘small’ mob. They did disrupt the Cabinet meeting on March 21. They had just seen the Cabinet ignore all their detailed arguments and dismiss their own worked-out alternative plan, which had barely been glanced at.
They are losing their homes. Of course they were angry.
All the people who live at Central Hill, also due to be wrecked, are not a ‘small mob’. Thousands of votes reduced to almost nothing Labour’s cosy majority in Gipsy Hill.
Why won’t the council get the messages coming from thousands all over the borough?
In all these cases, people have been willing to meet the council more than half-way, and have worked on alternative plans that achieve the same savings without wrecking lives. The council, as always, ignored these.
How can Lambeth keep calling itself ‘a co-operative council’?
If disrupted meetings are getting to be the norm. Lambeth council should ask itself why.
I have myself suggested to the head of legal services, and also to Labour party apparatchiks, that Lambeth council urgently needs to ‘review’ its own dealings with residents – including dodgy consultations, ignoring all criticism, and giving misleading information about its plans. This suggestion got nowhere.
If all the council can do is insult anyone who disagrees with it, it needs to take responsibility – not pretend it’s everyone else’s fault.
“Save the date: next local government elections: Thursday, 3rd May 2018” – Defend the Ten
*slightly shortened for editorial reasons – Ed.