Full Council is the most senior part of Camden Council and comprises all of Camden’s 54 councillors. It meets seven times a year. Sadly, because Camden has a Labour majority, it means that most of the major decisions are taken away from Full Council.

However, Full Council does give the opportunity to members to raise vital points on behalf of constituents, which constituents ask me to do regularly. With 54 councillors, only a minority of councillors get to speak even once in each meeting, and we often don’t get to motions or questions that I have tabled.

I’ve listed below all the occasions on which I have voted, spoken, or was slated to speak in Full Council in 2015-16. They are denoted (V) for votes, (R) for questions on reports, (D) for questions to deputations, (Q) for questions to Cabinet members, (O) for speeches in open session, (M) for motions on which I spoke, or (A) for amendments to motions I moved. An asterisk (*) denotes that the tabled question or motion wasn’t heard.

24 April 2017

There was a meeting of Camden Council on Monday, 24th April. As part of my accountability to residents, below are the actions I took at the meeting:

  1. I praised a group of people with learning difficulties who bravely made a deputation calling for support to give evidence to the Commons Work & Pensions Select Committee about how to make it easier for them to get into work, and asked them and their social worker what concrete policy changes Camden could adopt. (D)
  2. I asked opponents of Camden adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ whether they believed comparing the actions of Israel to the Nazis was anti-Semitic and whether they believed criticising Israel and not governments that treat their Arab citizens far worse (including almost all Arab countries) was anti-Semitic. I was appalled to hear that they did not, provided no comparison was made directly to the Holocaust. (D)
  3. I gave a speech on the motion to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of ‘anti-Semitism’, citing in particular incidents not just of words being used to hurt Jewish people, but violence in our very borough – including at UCL in October. I noted particular difficulties with anti-Semitism on university campuses, and as the home of many world-class universities and as a borough known for openness and tolerance, we have to prioritise combatting anti-Semitism at universities to ensure our borough remains open and welcoming to all. (M)
  4. I voted for Camden to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of ‘anti-Semitism’. I was delighted to see this carried unanimously, which shows that hatred has no place in Camden, but also demands further vigilance to ensure anti-Semitism is stamped out. (V)
  5. I would have asked the Cabinet Member for Sustainability & the Environment about fly-tipping fines, but we was one of the few councillors not to be called to ask a question! I will be following it up. (R*)
  6. I asked the Cabinet Member for Community Safety about the criteria for success for the bi-borough pathfinder, whereby Camden and Islington police have been merged. I asked about this in January, and follow-ups have not yielded an answer. The Cabinet member promised to send me the full details of the criteria against which success will be judged. (R)
  7. We did not get to the scheduled questions to Cabinet members. However, I was due to ask an oral question about the failures of the dedicated phone line for the waste service. (Q*)
  8. We did not get to the scheduled motions. However, I was due to second a motion calling for the Metropolitan Police to guarantee the futures of all police stations in Camden in the face of the merger between Camden and Islington police. (M*)

27 February 2017

There was a meeting of Camden Council on Monday, 27th February. As part of my accountability to residents, below are the actions I took at the meeting:

  1. Seconded the Conservative alternative budget, proposed by Cllr Don Williams, to freeze core Council Tax, restore services, and invest additional funds in key areas. Sadly, this was rejected. (A)
  2. As the Budget item was rolled together with the scheduled separate item on fees and licences, in the same speech, I raised the issue of Labour introducing a £1,500 fee for a licence to coach tennis on Camden’s courts (on top of fees to hire the court). Absurdly, that’s over twice as much as Camden charges people to run a betting shop. (R)
  3. In response to the Treasury Management report, I asked the Cabinet Member for Finance & Technology to examine the refinancing of Camden’s expensive lender-option, borrower-option (LOBO) debt, in light of Newham saving £1.6m a year by refinancing its LOBO debt. When I’d previously asked this, it was dismissed, but now that other boroughs have beaten us to the punch, people are suddenly keen – but if we’d started the process six months ago, we could have saved hundreds of thousands of pounds! (R)
  4. I asked the Cabinet Member for Sustainability & the Environment what his targets were for fly-tipping: how many incidents this year, how many fixed-penalty notices, etc. This is in light of his refusal to impose the maximum fines on fly-tippers, as most boroughs have. It appears I have become so synonymous with the issue of cleaner streets that Labour councillors referred to this as my ‘big stick’. Well, thanks, guys. Labour clearly realise the importance of the issue, because the Camden member responded to my continued pressure by announcing the hiring of new civil enforcement officers (wardens to you and me) to prevent fly-tipping. Strangely, though, he still refused to raise fines, so taxpayers will pay, not offenders. The fight continues. (Q)
  5. I asked the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Transport, and Planning what he had done to fulfil his statutory duty to assess from time to time whether more or all of West Hampstead and Fortune Green should be protected as Conservation Areas. I love West Hampstead and Fortune Green, but sadly, the Cabinet member insisted that the area ‘lacks special interest’. People that see the beautiful high-density, low-rise serried terraced houses and mansion blocks of West Hampstead dwarfed by new-build skyscrapers might disagree. (Q)
  6. We did not get to the scheduled motions. However, I was due to propose an amendment to Labour’s motion to note Camden Labour’s miserable failure to build homes and note the importance of the Housing White Paper to fix Camden’s broken housing market. (M*)

30 January 2017

There was a meeting of Camden Council on Monday, 30th January. As part of my accountability to residents, below are the actions I took at the meeting:

  1. Spoke in favour of an emergency motion condemning Donald Trump’s Executive Order prohibiting people from seven Muslim-majority countries coming to the UK. (M)
  2. Voted for the emergency motion condemning Donald Trump’s Executive Order. It was approved unanimously. (V)
  3. Asked the Chairman of the Culture & Environment Committee what had been done to examine parking strategy in the previous year and urged the Committee to look into parking strategy as soon as possible, especially in light of the rejected deputation on parking that had been presented by MILAM Residents Association, which had been advised to present to the Culture & Environment Committee instead. (R)
  4. Asked the Cabinet Member for Sustainability & the Environment what Camden Council had done – other than cutting residents’ services – to improve the recycling rate, given that the proportion of waste that was recycled had fallen from 32% to 25% since Labour took over the council in 2010, while the national rate had increased. The Cabinet Member noted that the Council had introduced Green Points (funded by the Conservative Government) and that recycling could be falling due to the improving economy (finally, some honesty about the economy’s strength under the Conservatives!). In my supplementary question, I urged the Cabinet Member to rule out rifling through residents’ bins to penalise people that did not recycle enough, as he mooted at a public meeting in West Hampstead, which he did not, and suggested that the Council put more money into improving education about how to recycle more effectievly instead. (Q)
  5. We did not get to the scheduled motions. However, I was due to propose a motion granting 25% Business Rates relief to Assets of Community Value. (M*)

21 November 2016

  1. Asked the deputees speaking about waste on our high streets, especially West End Lane, whether they thought that collection times for time-banded business waste could be changed to ensure that the streets were clean when they were at their busiest. I was pleased that, in response to this deputation, the Cabinet member adopted my proposal – as I made in a speech in September’s Council meeting – for on-the-spot fines for fly-tipping. (D)
  2. Asked the Cabinet Member for Schools about the unacceptably high level of schoolchildren in Camden that are eligible to receive school meals but don’t actually receive them. Among secondary school pupils, the rate is by far the highest in London: meaning Camden children miss out on millions of pounds of free meals a year. This low take-up has a consequent impact on our worst-off pupils’ nutrition and their ability to concentrate – harming their education and school discipline. The Cabinet member did not answer, but I will engage in email correspondence to ascertain what has driven this and what can be done to fix it. (R)
  3. Asked the Chairman of the Resources & Corporate Performance Committee about Camden’s progress towards its £5m target for new revenue generation, especially through advertising and about Camden’s £17m a year cost of borrowing huge amounts of money while sitting on large cash and short-term borrowing reserves (as I raised with the relevant Cabinet member the September Council meeting). The Chairman committed to the Committee exploring progress towards the target in the coming months and noted that it may be that the Council holds either too much cash or takes on too much risk (necessitating holding more cash), leading to this unnecessary cost to the taxpayer. I will continue to invite investigation into whether this risk can be reduced. (R)
  4. Asked the Cabinet Member for Sustainability & the Environment to ensure that the times that businesses are permitted to leave rubbish outside their properties for collection in the borough’s time-banded collection zones (eg Hampstead High Street, West End Lane, Camden High Street) were publicly viewable on Camden’s website. The Cabinet member said that they were now – there had been an error, but this was rectified as a result of my question. As a supplementary, I praised the Cabinet member for introducing on-the-spot fines for fly-tipping, as I proposed at the September council meeting, but insisted that it be set at £400 and not a penny less. The Cabinet member disagreed, but said that the level of the fine would be reviewed in a year. I am thankful to the Cabinet member for adopting my proposal, but will continue to press for it to be raised to the level of surrounding boroughs. (Q)
  5. We did not get to the motions. However, I was due to propose an amendment to the Lib Dem and Green motion on the private rented sector. Their motion called for the council to introduce huge amounts of regulation of the private rented sector that would have reduced the supply of housing and competition in the sector: thus increasing rents and raising costs borne by Camden taxpayers. I sat the Housing Scrutiny Committee’s private rented sector panel on exactly this issue earlier this year, and the Lib Dem/Green motion completely ignored the evidence heard by that panel, the conclusions it reached, and the responses of officers. In short, he motion was a complete waste of time that flew in the face of facts that diligent councillors that do committee work had already established, and my amendment to their motion pointed out these facts. (A*)

19 September 2016

  1. Asked the Cabinet Member for Finance about Camden Council’s levels of cash reserves. Currently Camden holds over £300m in cash and short-term financial instruments, and has approximately the same debt: paying £17m more in interest payments than it receives. I queried the rationale for having larger cash reserves than would be advisable in the private sector. (R)
  2. Asked the Cabinet Member for Culture & the Environment the proportion of properties with gardens that were forecast would pay the new Garden Tax. The Cabinet member refused to answer, citing commercial confidentiality. I noted in my supplementary question my disappointment, and noted that the Garden Tax had risen from approximately £40 to £75 since Conservative councillors were briefed about it a few months ago: suggesting a halving of the expected take-up rate. (Q)
  3. Asked the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Transport, & Planning how many enforcement notices had been issued against unlawful short-term leasing without planning permission (an issue related to AirBnB and similar services, which I support). Despite a small spike in 2015, the level in 2016 is lower than it was before 2015: demolishing Labour’s claims that government deregulation of AirBnB has led to a rise in unlawful lets. (Q)
  4. Gave a speech urging Camden to take advantage of powers conferred by the Conservative Government to introduce on-the-spot fines for fly-tipping, as introduced by a number of other boroughs: a measure that would help combat the spike in fly-tipping in our community. (O)
  5. Gave a speech in favour of the cross-party motion on refugees. I noted my own family’s background in the Middle East, my pride in former Willow Road resident Sir Nicholas Winton (who saved 667 Jewish children from the advancing Nazis), and my disgust in the hostility to immigrants shown by Donald Trump. We are a great country because we are an open country, and I wish that to continue. (M)
  6. Voted for the cross-party motion on refugees. It was approved unanimously. (V)
  7. Voted for the Conservative motion (as amended) on saving the number 13 bus, re-routing the number 139 bus, and other changes to bus routes that would benefit Camden residents. It was approved unanimously. (V)
  8. Voted for the cross-party motion opposing hate crimes in Camden and backing EU citizens’ right to remain in the UK after the EU referendum. It was approved unanimously. (V)

20 June 2016

  1. Asked the Leader of the Council about Camden Council’s response to the Government’s consultation on the Housing & Planning Regulations, which, by rejecting the rationale for the Act (which had already passed) altogether, undermined its effectiveness merely to score party-political points. (R)
  2. Asked the Chairman of the Audit of Corporate Governance Committee to ensure that the Planning Committee chair would retain discretion to extend councillors’ speaking time on planning applications when it was felt appropriate to the case. (R)
  3. Asked the Cabinet Member for Housing about the high proportion of Camden-owned properties that are void at any time, which exceeds both the private and Housing Association sectors in Camden and council landlords elsewhere (she refused to answer, as she rejected these figures, but they can seen in black and white on the ONS website here). (Q)
  4. Proposed a motion congratulating Sadiq Khan on his election as Mayor of London and calling on Camden Council to put as much effort into holding the Mayor to account (having abandoned several manifesto promises within the first month in office) as they do into holding to account the Government. Sadly, instead of highlighting ways that they would lobby the Mayor, they decided to attack the Conservative candidate for the mayoralty (which, given he lost and therefore can’t be held to account, doesn’t actually benefit residents). (M)

11 May 2016

  1. This meeting was the annual statutory meeting, at which the Mayor is elected. Ordinary business is not conducted at these meetings, so there was no opportunity to speak. Nadia Shah was elected Mayor of Camden for 2016/17.