23 January 2018
On the 18th January me and Barry Cooper went to the first Redbridge Council Meeting of the year.
After the admin and announcements came the questions from the public. On top of questions about Pay and Display Car Parking in Wanstead and a Rat problem in the borough, came a question from myself about the problem of litter in the South Woodford which many residents have raised with us.
The Council responded to say there is daily cleaning of the shop front areas & side roads by street operatives with barrows, supplemented by mechanical sweeping on main roads & by request on side roads. I responded by saying whilst this is welcome, this clearly isn’t enough as residents in over a dozen side roads have bought this issue up. Councillor Howard, who is responsible for this issue said that if Lee emailed him with details, he would have the council investigate. I will individually write to the residents concerned and update them on this.
After the public questions came questions from councillors to the Cabinet. Startlingly, none of the Conservative councillors asked any questions and pretty much all of them came from Lib Dem councillors. This covered issues such as Fly-tipping in Roding Valley Park and the amount of Council Housing that has been developed. You’d think as the official opposition party on the council, the Tories would bring up concerns from residents?
The first motion of the evening was about how the council should work to fight the rise in Anti-Semitism with Holocaust Memorial Day coming up. This was a rare display of unity across the different party lines and this was passed unanimously.
After this, as at meetings before, the Council chamber turned into the braying and shouting that you see in the House of Commons. There was a motion on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme and how the Government should give the Council more money to help poor residents. The Tories blamed Labour for misspending council money, Labour blamed the Tory government for reducing the funding for this scheme. The motion passed as Labour has a majority on the council but of course the Tories stubbornly refused to acknowledge cuts to council funding have affected this Scheme.
After the break there was a motion put forward by a Labour councillor on urging the Council to work with the Mayor of London and the Home Office to get more funding to reverse the proposed Police Station closures in Redbridge and use derelict council buildings as bases for police. In the motion, there was an acknlowdgement that Boris Johnson closed quite a few Police Stations in Redbridge, Sadiq Khan was planning to and that the central government had removed £600m from the Met Police budget and planned to remove £400m more.
Even the Conservatives with their amendment to this motion acknowledged the cuts from central Government but in their amendment took out the criticism of Boris Johnson and the Tory Government adding that it was necessary because of “Labour overspending”. Their amendment removed any references to Police Stations and just vaguely said about getting more funding for Policing in Redbridge. Very telling. In the end, after much rhetoric from both sides about “tax cuts for millionaires and the famous £1bn “bribe” to the DUP, and “Labour overspending”, the Conservative amendment fell and the Labour original motion passed with the whole council (including opposition) voting for it.
This motion went on for the good part of an hour and didn’t get voted on until 10.40pm! The meeting had started at 7 15pm which meant other motions afterwards had to be rushed through. My question is, if the Conservatives voted for the original motion anyway, why put that amendment forward? It smacks of pathetic political point scoring. They knew Labour were not going to vote for that, yet they just wanted a spectacle it seems. If both parties had just acknowledged the cut in funding from central government and stopped with the constant rhetoric which only plays to their own supporters and doesn’t impress the public, then we could have had that motion done and dusted and we could have more time on other motions. As it turned out, the other motions were rushed through. Unfortunately me and Barry didn’t stay for these as we’d lost the will to live at this point! However the motions that passed after we had left were as follows:
The provision of Free Sanitary Products for women and girls in need. The motion passed without the Conservative amendment of cutting funding for Redbridge Life magazine and cutting council staff to pay for it. Labour Council will write to the government on providing funding for this.
Government Austerity. An acknowledgement that government cuts have had a detrimental affect on Council funding and that the government should provide more money for the Council and that the leaders of the three parties on the Council should write to the Government on this. The Tories of course provided an amendment, welcoming the initial austerity on local government but saying more would be detrimental. Judging by Redbridge Council's twitter feed, this debate got cut short because of time limits. This did get passed without the Tory amendment I believe and the other motions on supporting the anniversary of women's suffrage and pushing for a more regular W14 bus service did get passed without debate.
Whilst of course there were important things discussed, like at previous council meetings, too much time is taken up with pointless rhetoric and political point scoring rather than having serious debates about how to improve the local area for residents. This is why I will continue to go to these meetings and keep letting the public know how much time is actually wasted.
We need more Green councillors to try and cut through this tribalism. Hopefully in May we will get that.