Skip to main content

Who runs your council?

John O’Farrell’s 1998 book Things Can Only Get Better describes local government as “Not exactly what the marketing boys call 'sexy'”. He has a point. The labyrinthine world of bureaucracy, committees and local politics doesn’t always make your local authority the most appealing subject for reflection and debate. In fairness to John O’Farrell, he does go on to write about the reasons why council services are so important, and why we should care about who is in charge of them. Nevertheless, the point remains, local government can be impenetrable to the people who pay for and rely on its services.

An unfortunate side-effect of this is that when issues of importance are debated locally (such as the hole in the housing repairs budget or the council’s poor handling of primary school admissions this year) the facts of the matter are sometimes lost. In particular, those in positions of political responsibility often attempt to hide behind the structure of local government to avoid being held to account.

In our ward for example, candidates from certain political parties often claim to be “campaigning locally” against the council policies, when in fact, they are already running the council and have been for the last 7 ½ years. By the same token, they will issue statements claiming personal credit for developments which have nothing to do with the council which they suddenly admit to being in charge of(such as Government or TfL programmes).

Granted, councils don’t operate in a vacuum. Government’s do allocate a large proportion of their funding, and decide on their responsibilities. However, some manage to make a success of their services and others do not. So local control does matter, and it is important to understand who is responsible for what.

In an attempt to de-mystify local political structures a little, I thought I would list some very straight-forward facts about Peckham Rye and Southwark council.

1. Southwark Council has been run by a coalition of Liberal Democrat and Conservative Councillors since 2002. Almost all decisions on council policy over the last 7 ½ years are the responsibility of the Lib Dems and Conservatives.

2. The Liberal Democrats are the dominant administration group. They have 27 councillors to the Conservative’s 6.

3. Southwark is divided into 21 wards and each ward has three councillors.

4. Peckham Rye’s three councillors are currently Labour (Aubyn Graham, Robert Smeath and Evrim Laws). The three of us are hoping to succeed them as Labour councillors in the 2010 elections. Obviously we face a tough fight against Conservative, Lib Dem and other party candidates in that election.

5. Peckham Rye ward is in the south east of Southwark on the border with the borough of Lewisham. If you’re unsure of which ward you live in, check here)

So that is how it stands. In your area, your local Labour councillors have done a great job of representing local people on the council, but ultimately, that council is run by the Lib Dems and Tories.

So next time you hear a candidate complaining about council policy or services in this area, ask them which party they represent? It might just be they're already running the council.


Popular posts from this blog

Know Your Ryes!

A few weeks ago I was in a meeting with some local residents and council officers. During the meeting one person started referring to Rye Lane, when in fact they meant Peckham Rye East. Later on another started talking about Peckham Rye Common and it took us a little while to work out that they really meant Peckham Rye Park.  
You can't really blame people for getting a little confused. There are so many references to "Rye" in our little bit of South London that even the locals can get mixed up. So I thought I'd have a go at writing a little glossary of all the Ryes hereabout.  Clearly I'm making a rod for my own back here, so please point out any errors I've made in the comments box below. 
Anyway, here are my definitions of the ubiquitous Ryes. Some serious, some not so serious, and in no particular order:
Peckham Rye Ward - The council ward area. Peckham Rye Ward was created out of Rye Ward, Waverley Ward and Bellenden Ward following the Local Authority Bo…

Free schools: A project cooked up by Tories who claim to be committed to social mobility has failed our children

(This post from Victoria about the closure of 'Southwark Free School', first appeared on LabourList.)

Last week saw the demise of yet another free school. Southwark Primary, which opened four-and-a-half-years ago in temporary buildings, will hastily close by February half-term never having made it to its permanent site, after being developed at great public expense. As Southwark council steps in to pick up the pieces and find places for children at other local schools it is difficult not to grind the axe about the government’s free school programme. We remain pragmatic that the programme is here to stay. However the government must reconsider the need for free school applicants to have a local and outstanding educational experience. At a time when many areas are experiencing a shortage of school places, and schools’ budgets are being cut, they must also stop wasting money building schools where there is no established demand. The story of free schools in Southwark makes clear …

Salt giveaway details

Southwark Council is giving away salt at the locations below. Click on the image to enlarge it.