Labour cloud hovers over democracy in Hackney

Dalston in Hackney, London June 2013 ©

HACKNEY COUNCIL has changed its rules – and opponents of the ruling Labour group are crying foul. The Liberal Democrat group says the changes will result in “a massive concentration of power into the hands not just of a small clique but of one man”. Mayor Jules Pipe should have “little to fear”.

Councillor Ian Sharer, Hackney LibDem leader, says: “The Mayor will… be questioned twice a year by the chairs and vice-chairs of the scrutiny commissions that he has in effect appointed and whose careers lie within his patronage.”

Councillor Ian Sharer, Hackney LibDem leader: supplied publicity pic
LibDem Ian Sharer: protesting

The scrutiny committee was to be abolished and the opposition “effectively shut out of the political process”.

In future, deputations would be taken to the cabinet, where no opposition member could comment. Or, as the proposal approved by the Labour majority puts it, “Urgent deputations relating to council services should be received at cabinet meetings rather than full council”.

This will, however, “be subject to the agreement of the councillor introducing the deputation”.

Full meetings of the council will be held five times a year, with what the council terms “a streamlined agenda giving priority to questions, deputations and motions”. This, said Sharer, is a cut from the present eight full of council meetings a year, in itself a reduction from the previous 12 a year.

He adds: “The Mayor will be able to make his own decisions on the composition of the cabinet and their remuneration [payment].

“A more potent temptation towards corruption and the silencing, not only of the opposition but of any independent-minded councillor, is difficult to imagine.”

The Conservatives also spoke and voted against the changes, which were supported by all Labour members.

Hackney First founder Mustafa Korel said: “Councils should be at the forefront of facilitating trust in politics and promoting democracy at every level. As ever, our Labour-run council is managing the opposite.

“There needs to be more interaction with the electorate by the Mayor in a structured way to get communities involved and to hold a directly elected Mayor accountable – it’s why we chose to have a directly elected Mayor!

Hackney (London) Mayor Jules Pipe ©
Jules Pipe: What opposition?

“Perhaps the Labour Party in Hackney could learn from the improved accountability, democracy and transparency of Mayor Pipe’s counterpart in Leicester.”

As Mayor of Hackney, Pipe is paid £75,846.14 a year, as he has been for more than two years. His chairmanship of  London Councils, a cross-party local-government organisation, earns him £20,997.

Some members of the cabinet, an inner circle of councillors with special responsibilities, are paid £43,000 a year. Some councillors are paid less than £10,000.

David Altheer 220913

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