There was a meeting of Camden Council on Monday, 7th September. As it was a virtual meeting due to coronavirus and also had to double as the council’s annual meeting (“Mayor-making”), the agenda was brief. Nonetheless, at my insistence, motions were still heard and questions taken.
As part of my accountability to residents, below are the actions I took at the meeting.
- I was reappointed as Leader of the Opposition, having been re-elected unopposed as Leader of the Conservative Group (the largest opposition group). I abstained on the election of the Leader. Opposition parties always do this when there is majority council, as it is up to the Labour Party to decide their own group leader. (V)
- Residents from Highgate brought a deputation objecting to the changes to traffic on Swain’s Lane (“No Right Turn”). I wanted to speak to commit my support to them and ask what metrics they wanted Camden to track to be objective in assessing schemes’ success, but I was not called. (D*)
- I gave my speech as Leader of the Opposition on the subject of consultation on traffic schemes. I pointed out that the council was shrouding itself in secrecy and deliberately ignoring the law. I raised the fact the Government had written to me last week clarifying that consultation is still required, and so Camden is breaking the law. The Leader ignored this illegality and said Camden had to move fast regardless. I think this is legally, democratically, and financially unacceptable. (S)
- I asked a written question about the six tube stations in Camden that remain closed or only partially operating: more than half of all the stations in the whole of London still not back to normal. I asked what communication Camden had had with TfL or the Mayor of London asking them to reopen those stations. The answer is that the first contact they had was after I’d asked the Minister for London to intervene. Camden has several dozen full-time staff members working on transport matters, yet waited months until I personally had got the Minister of London personally to raise it with Andy Byford (TfL Commissioner) personally. That is farcical inaction from Camden. (Q)
- I seconded an amendment to a Lib Dem motion about Transport for London. Their motion was factually incorrect, as it said said the government had done several things that Sadiq Khan was actually responsible for, and thus committed the council to waste time and taxpayers’ money lobbying the wrong person. So we offered to amend it to make it factually accurate, although we said we would abstain if the amendment were passed, as it remains something outside the control of the council (in line with our long-standing policy). However, the amendment was voted down. As a result, we voted against the motion.
- I voted for a Labour motion reconfirming the council’s existing policy in supporting the FairTrade mark. As an international trade lawyer, I can attest that the literature on the impact of FairTrade marks is complex and far too long to discuss here or in a council meeting. But on balance, the motion was the right thing to do, and I wasn’t about to filibuster a motion that would benefit residents, which was the motion that followed… (M).
- I proposed a motion committing to consult on all traffic changes in the borough, in line with the guidance given by the Department for Transport and letter to me from the Minister for Roads. This is the number one issue in my inbox, alongside rubbish collections, and I am committed to ensuring Camden’s procedures are amended so they don’t just as you your views, but listen to them as well and reverse schemes that you don’t support. Sadly, the motion was amended by Labour to refuse to consult. I suspect this will end up in court… (M).