There was a meeting of Camden Council on Monday, 21st January. As part of my accountability to residents, below are the actions I took at the meeting.
- I strongly criticised a petition brought by anti-Semitic communists that would have withdrawn the Council’s endorsement of the internationally-recognised IHRA definition of anti-Semitism and halted use of Prevent officers to monitor extremism.
- I requested to speak the themed debate on Inclusive Economy and Growth, but was not called to speak. I would have raised the council’s poor record in engaging student entrepreneurs and encouraging students and recent graduates from our several universities to establish businesses in the borough.
- I gave my speech as Leader of the Opposition calling for the council – in a new year and with a new Chief Executive – to be more open to adopting ideas from across the political spectrum.
- In response to the Cabinet member for Finance claiming that the council received less from central government under the current Council Tax Reduction Scheme than it did under pre-2013 Council Tax Benefit, I asked rhetorically for him to confirm that this was solely because unemployment had fallen and incomes had risen, and that per person, funding was the same (as is the case). I also asked for the council’s review of the scheme be wide-ranging and consider local factors, not just focusing on national policy, as Labour wanted. (R)
- In response to Labour using their powers given to them by central government to increase Council Tax for empty properties, I noted that most empty properties across London are empty because they are either caught up in probate proceedings (i.e. the occupant has died) or the occupant is receiving long-term care outside of his or her home, and it would be manifestly unfair if those people were hit by higher taxes. I asked for a formal analysis of this, which had not been conducted. (R)
- In response to the Cabinet member for Finance attacking the government for exempting educational charities from Business Rates (!), I noted that state schools would also be exempt – saving them over £3m in Camden, which could be reinvested in services and hire 60 extra teachers – if Labour didn’t so strongly oppose them becoming academies (which are exempt). (R)
- I noted the procedural unfairness that would be introduced to the Planning Committee by the administration’s changes to planning procedure. First, it would allow three Labour Committee members to feed back on planning applications in a ‘star chamber’. Second, it would give Labour a majority on the Member’s Briefing panel, and thus allow them to wave through any planning applications they wanted and stop them going to the Planning Cmmittee. (V)
- I was due to propose a motion introducing community committee, representing each geographic community in Camden and devolving power to those communities instead of all decisions being made centrally: modelled on those in Barnet, Southwark, and Birmingham. We ran out of time, but both Lib Dems and Labour opposed this motion (trying to amen it) (M*)