Thursday, 3 February 2011


I attended a very interesting joint meeting of Southwark and Lambeth Green parties last night. On the agenda was a debate on public sector cuts and how they are being implemented by Southwark and Lambeth councils.

In fact there was not so much debate as everyone agreed that the cuts being forced on local councils by the Conservative / Liberal Democrat national Government were damaging and illogical. However I found the discussion very useful and informative.

There was broad recognition that local councils' hands are somewhat tied when it comes to setting their budget (indeed a common theme from members was the need for proper local democracy in the UK with local council's given more power to make decisions that we expect them to be accountable for). However everyone agreed that, even given the constraints their local councils were working within, there were many decisions that the local Green parties would strongly oppose.

An important issue raised by some contributors was the opaqueness of the budget documentation released by the councils. Southwark's apparently had to be re-written in plain English because its first attempt was so poor. This is very serious because it makes it difficult to hold the Council to account properly. If we can’t tell what money is actually being spent on or what policy announcements will mean in practice how can we assess them against alternatives?

There were plenty of interesting and useful insights into hidden cuts (increases to fees for weddings, sleight of hand cuts to payments to carers) and areas that Greens would consider wasteful (cctv operations, energy inefficient buildings, top executive pay, elements of expenses).

You won’t be surprised to learn that we did not solve the cuts crisis in south London last night. The meeting did give me confidence that Southwark and Lambeth Green parties are well placed to argue coherently and forcefully against the upcoming cuts though.

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