3 May 2012
Would you pay an extra £45 a year in order to have local council meetings you could attend? Possibly, or even probably not.
Yet that’s what Southwark Lib Dems are proposing, as they look to establish parish councils in the north of the borough, in Borough and Bankside, and Bermondsey.
On the face of it, it doesn’t exactly look like much of a vote winner in these straightened times, imposing yet another layer of taxation. After all, if over half the population can’t be bothered to engage with the democratic process by voting, (which doesn’t cost you), then what chance that you’d opt to pay for council meetings? And why try to establish these parish councils in the north of the borough, if they’re so important, without putting the argument for the rest of the borough?
This aside, the reason behind this proposal merits consideration. The ruling Labour administration, struggling to accommodate tens of millions of pounds worth of cuts from central government, is likely to slash the number of community councils across the borough down from eight to five at the end of this month, at the constitutional council assembly. The cutback would save the borough £344,000 a year – a considerable saving.
Yet the cutback to five makes the whole system almost worthless. If your local community council suddenly becomes a forum covering a much larger part of the borough, how likely is it that you’ll bother to go along and listen to hours of discussions about areas that don’t really impact on you at all?
Do people in Walworth really care about hyper-local issues in Borough, or vice versa? Even in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, two areas more closely aligned, do the concerns of a resident on a high rise council estate chime with those of someone living in the suburban communities on the Rotherhithe peninsula?
The original move to devolved community councils was intended to allow communities to take decisions about their own local areas, and see the results of those decisions. Watering down this system, even if the savings are necessary, effectively destroys that underlying principle.
There is a proper debate to be had here about the role of community, or indeed parish councils, and how best to make the necessary cutbacks. It’s pointless of the Lib Dems to hit out at cutbacks – after all, their party is part of a national coalition government imposing them. And it’s equally pointless for Labour to react to ideas aimed at preserving devolved community powers as if they’re just stealth taxes.
The best way to find a solution would be for the opposing political sides to work together, and try to agree upon a solution, rather than just accusing each other of imposing draconian cuts, destroying democracy, inflicting further taxes. Will we see that come the end of May?
Agree or disagree?
Let us know what you think!
No comments have been posted.
RAILTON ROAD SE24,
Leasehold, For Sale
TEA TRADE WHARF SE1, £1,295,000 , For Sale
TOWER BRIDGE WHARF E1W, £550 , per week, For Sale
PROVIDENCE SQUARE SE1, £1,600,000 , For Sale