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Community Council Mergers good or bad idea??

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Friday 16 March 2012 8.05am
Tabularasa - sorry you think national spending cuts have no relevance to what happens in Southwark. I would like to live in an insulated world where that is true, but sadly that is not the case.

Of course I accept that Labour did not win in all the wards in Southwark - not sure of the point you're making there. But we have a clear majority on the council, and given the way that local government is currently organised in Southwark that determines which party has overall responsibility for the borough.

Decisions on Community Councils are not about strengthening anyone's grip. In fact, this year we will be giving Community Councils the opportunity to make revenue spending decisions for the first time, and I hope that this is something which we can extend in future years.

Zoe - £344,000 is not a huge sum, but it is part of the savings we need to make. It is a similar sum to the savings we have made in our library service. All of these savings add up to the £60 million we have had to save over the past 2 years. There are no good or right choices when you are making savings, we can only do our best to ensure that every area of the Council's work shares some of the burden.

As I have said before any decision on Community Councils is not about removing the public's right to be involved in decision-making. I made it clear at the outset of this process that provided that the savings of £344,000 were found I would be happy to consider any proposals for Community Councils. Unfortunately, the Lib Dems did not make any proposals which achieved this level of saving. It is not too late for them to make proposals, but they have to be genuine and achievable. They appear to have taken the view that they would rather campaign against the current proposals than put their own ideas forward. I would note that the 3 Conservative councillors in Southwark managed to come up with some alternative proposals - although this involved the loss of our community engagement team - which would have been disastrous for the work which the council does with many groups across the borough.

Graham - there are no proposals to change Camberwell CC. Again, I'm more than happy to consider alternatives which make sense.
Friday 16 March 2012 11.36am
Dear Cllr John,

Thank you for posting on a subject which you dismissed a few weeks ago as being of a lesser importance for Southwark residents than a stray dog. I am glad that you have changed your opinion.

To finish on that subject, regardless of who is in power, cuts were coming anyway. They were inescapable given the debt-binge the UK had been on in the previous decade. I do not believe Ed Miliband himself would disagree with me on this topic or it is at least what he said during the last election.

Cuts were coming but as to how they will affect Southwark remains a choice that you have taken. As you yourself said, you have for instance preferred to keep the engagement team rather than let local resident hold their elected officials to account. Why is that? Could you please explain me why you think the engagement teams are more important than local involvement?

Also, in the spirit of saving and efficiency, why is the Camberwell CC not impacted by the merger? Wouldn’t merging it with another CC save even more money (which for instance could be redeployed toward the all important engagement teams)? What makes Camberwell so special except it is a very nice place to live and who happens to have you as a Cllr?

Finally, I believe you completely side-step once again the main issue: Don’t you see anything wrong with having Cllrs take planning decisions for which they will not have to answer for in the next elections? Should voters trust instead a planning process that leaves less room for their views in the final report than the assessment of the building proposal on the Bourough’s human right record (can a building really be against human rights?) or race relations (can a building be racist?)?

I personally do not and would rather retain the right to attempt to throw out of office a Cllr whose decisions appear to me as wrong.

You are Council Leader. Saying "this is not my fault because the evil central government forced me to do it" is a very weak argument. You have made the decision. You could at the very least own it unless, of course, if you are using the cuts as a ploy to push your agenda.

Best regards
Friday 16 March 2012 1.42pm
The Lib Dem proposals were put to the Democracy Commission and to council officers. They were very very simple. Split the total community councils budget (minus whatever cuts you insist on making) between the 8 community councils and let each one manage their own budget.

This would have meant that local people could decide how the money was spent and where the savings would be - the number of meetings, the venues, the publicity, finding sponsorship etc. However, Labour councillors just couldn't bear the thought of letting go of power and money to local communities! And when in doubt, they always blame someone else.

Best wishes,
Cllr Anood Al-Samerai
Leader, Lib Dem Council Group
Friday 16 March 2012 9.38pm
Well it is good for the people at the council who are not losing their jobs!? The people working on CCs are never busy enough and not all areas have the same attendance.
Friday 16 March 2012 9.44pm
I hear that no one in the community council team is losing their job, how did they manage that when they are trying to save £344K?
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