Connecting Crouch End and Hornsey with news, views and information
I see that Momentum's Jon Lansman is discussing recent Haringey goings-on in the New Statesman https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2018/02/labour-s-intervent....
I'm dimly aware of how the 'Leader and Cabinet' model in Haringey was the result of the Local Government Act - but it's only recently I've come to realise that there are no checks and balances worthy of the name at all.
Apparently a vote in Full Council (unless one of confidence, which ain't gonna happen) counts for zilch, Scrutiny is toothless and simply ignored, the cllrs in the Labour Group never debate anything, and the Cabinet just agrees with everything or they're sacked. The Opposition are completely irrelevant. Anything the Dear Leader decides goes. No checks and balances whatsoever. Why are we bothering to elect councillors at all? They could just turn up on day one of a new administration, elect the leader, and go home for four years.
And if someone can tell me how the secretive Cabinet Advisory Board is allowed to report to no one and is beyond any oversight or FOI requests, please do.
According to Lansman the lack of checks on council leaders' power is all Tony Blair's fault, and he views the motivation for the 2000 Act as a method of keeping local labour activists in check. He may well be right...
"The answer lies in the settlement Blair made with council leaders, not unlike that between a feudal king and his nobility. He created strong council chiefs who, with the co-operation of the party’s regional offices, were able to ensure troublesome critics could be barred from selection, leaving leaders free to run their towns and cities as they chose. In return, they would provide their overlord with a loyal ground force, who could be relied upon to operate the local party machine and deliver the outcomes No 10 desired.
Councillors sign contracts, enforced by the leader’s whip, covering campaign activity, community and party engagement, surgeries, meeting attendance and specific responsibilities. If they behave themselves, they will be readmitted to the panel of candidates before the next election and perhaps promoted. If not, the whip will give them an unsatisfactory report."
Time to return to the committee system of local government? I'm not sure London Boroughs are allowed to do that, but the new candidates could stick it in the coming manifestos if they like...
My recollection of the change from committees to Leader and Cabinet in Haringey is sketchy, but I recall that there was some opportunity given to us, the public, to make a choice. Luckily we have HarringayOnline to jog our memories. We were offered the choice between the system we now have, or a directly elected Mayor. Hugh from HoL has fairly recently raised the topic of changing the system, again, by means of a referendum. That would give us the choice between the current system, in which the Leader is clearly too powerful, or having a Mayor, whom people fear would be too powerful, or might possibly be populist, in the way that Donald Trump is.
Apparently I had a view at the time . I was just as gloomy then about the possible outcomes as Mark is now, about what has actually transpired. And we are faced with a probable switch from a too-powerful Leader who believes that privatising public assets is the only answer, to a Momentum backed leader who may well believe that (re)nationalising private companies is the only way to go. And,no , they won't put the committee system in the manifesto, that way they'd actually have to win the arguments.