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. 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, or (A) for amendments to motions. An asterisk (*) denotes that the tabled question or motion wasn’t heard.
20 November 2017
- I asked the Cabinet member for Best Start in Life (Labour’s nonsense name for schools) about Camden students’ continued poor take-up of free school meals, which has declined further since I raised it last year and didn’t get a response. Given the failure of Camden schools to get children to eat free school meals loses low-income households as much as £600,000 and causes poor educational attainment, this must be addressed immediately. (R)
- I supported the Cabinet member for Improving Camden’s Environment proposal to introduce fines for refusing to stop idling a car engine after being requested to do so. However, I also noted that he was incorrect to say that £20 was the maximum fine that could be imposed for engine idling, and proposed that Camden follows Westminster’s lead and imposes £80 fines instead. The Cabinet member refused to do so. (R)
- I asked the Chair of the Resources & Corporate Performance Scrutiny Committee whether Camden Council was well-equipped to deal with large procurement contracts in light of the £2.5m it lost due to bungling a procurement contract in the summer. The committee chair stated that officers had not yet reported to the committee but that one of his priorities would be to ensure that it would not be repeated. (R)
- I asked the Cabinet member for Improving Camden’s Environment to increase the on-the-spot fine for littering to the maximum of £150 as will be permitted by the government and apply those fines to littering from vehicles (as has not been previously allowed). The Cabinet member committed to doing so. I raised the supplementary question of whether he would increase the fine for fly-tipping to £400, as I have repeatedly asked for, which he did not give an affirmative answer to, but committed to returning to “at some point”. (Q)
- I asked the Cabinet member for Young People & Cohesion about the proceeds from the Apprenticeship Levy, which Camden does not expect to be able to spend on qualifying apprenticeship schemes: necessitating the return of the money to central government and the loss to. I proposed sharing the funds with academies, free schools, and voluntary-aided schools in the borough on the same terms as maintained schools such that it could benefit teacher and teaching assistant training in Camden. The Cabinet member committed to examining sharing the proceeds with academies, free schools, and voluntary-aided schools that might benefit. (Q)
- We did not get to the scheduled motions. However, I was due to propose a motion that would commit the Council to hiring 18 new police officers under the Metropolitan Police’s match-funding scheme. Although we didn’t get to the motions, Labour councillors proposed an amendment that would have removed this proposal, indicating their opposition to hiring new police officers. (M*)
11 September 2017
- I thanked the Globe Lawn Tennis Club for making a deputation to Camden Council and asked them if there is any form of break clause in the lease renewal offered by Camden that would allow them to continue to receive funding from the Lawn Tennis Association. The answer was no – meaning Camden must remove the break clause or the club will go out of business. (D)
- I was not called to ask a question of the Cabinet member for Regeneration, Transport, & Planning, but I raised my hand to ask a question about the disastrous proposed changes to the South End Gyratory and about electric vehicle charging, which Camden has criminally overlooked. (R*)
- I asked the Cabinet member for Finance & Technology about refinancing Camden’s debt, on which it pays an average of 4.8% interest: despite new debt (from the government’s Public Works Loan Board) costing just 2.1%. Specifically, I asked that the Cabinet member release more information from Capita’s report on this subject. (R)
- I criticised the Chair of the Housing Scrutiny Committee for failing to update his annual report in the five months since it was originally tabled, despite Grenfell and the Chalcots evacuation taking place in that time (actually, he did edit it – to introduce a number of spelling errors, presumably from an old version). I also criticised the chair erroneously claiming in his report that the Private Rental Sector Panel on which I sat recommended extending landlord licensing. It did no such thing – instead, it noted a lack of evidence in favour of widespread licensing and recommending collecting evidence (this licensing costs Newham £3m a year to administer – £3m that we don’t have and shouldn’t force tenants to pay through higher rents). (R)
- I asked a written question about Camden’s school performance, and why it lags behind other London boroughs, especially Westminster, at both main measures (Attainment 8 and Progress 8) any almost every demographic group. Sadly, instead of showing the level of self-criticism and high standards that we’d want of our children, the Cabinet member’s response cherry-picked data to present a view through rose-tinted glasses. (R)
- We did not get to the scheduled motions. However, I was due to propose an amendment to Labour’s motion in which I would have called for Camden to install more electric vehicle charge points. Sadly, the administration has an unambitious target of installing just 33 new charge points in the next year: nowhere near enough for a borough with a quarter of a million people and few private driveways, and a missed opportunity given the 75% funding offered by the government. (M*)
3 July 2017
The events surrounding the Chalcots evacuation meant that the meeting was curtailed significantly. I believe this to be a major mistake. We were due to hear a report from the chairman of the Housing Scrutiny Committee – what what better time to hear it and make him commit to holding the administration to account on housing?
I could understand if we dedicated all three hours of the meeting to the Chalcots, but the meeting was instead cut to 90 minutes: instead of increasing the time dedicated to housing, it actually just cut the time allowed for anything else.
- I would have asked the Leader of the Council about the decisions taken that led to the Chalcots evacuation and the key questions that any independent inquiry needs to answer, but we was one of the few councillors not to be called to ask a question. (R*)
- I asked the Cabinet member for Finance & Technology (standing in for the Cabinet member for Regeneration, Transport, & Planning in presenting the Local Plan) to ensure that the deputees that had been due to speak about Gondar Gardens Reservoir would be met separately before any decisions were made about the area of green space being protected. They had been cut from the agenda as part of the decision I described above. I also used this to call for more involvement of and consultation with residents in the planning process. (R)
- I voted for the adoption of the Local Plan, which, despite some qualms that I have about specific pieces of content, will protect local character and improve sustainability. (V)
- I was due to ask the Cabinet member for Regeneration, Transport & Planning about the electric vehicle charging capacity deployed across Camden and what’s being done to increase it. Compared to other inner London boroughs, Camden has a very small network of charging points, which -combined with the limited number of garages – makes it very difficult for residents to purchase electric cars. This means that air pollution is higher than it would be otherwise. The government provides 75% funding for the installation of new electric vehicle charging points, and Camden should take advantage of this. This question was postponed because of the change in schedule and will be answered in September. (Q*)
- I asked the Cabinet Member for Housing how many housing units had been started since May 2014, how many were subject of pending planning applications, and what proportion of either were affordable. Camden Labour promised to build 6,000 new homes between 2014 and 2018, but based on past progress, this target will be missed by a large margin: with Labour on track to deliver just half as many as they promised when I last asked. This question was postponed because of the change in schedule and will be answered in September. (Q*)