Tuesday 15th July, 6.30pm, Wood Green Civic Centre
LBH Cabinet meeting, agenda here.
Among other items of considerable interest to everyone living in Haringey, Including on Hornsey Town Hall and High Rd West, these two caught my eye:
Item 13, selling off land at Tottenham Hale
Item 14, selling Apex House to Grainger, and approving CPOs (Compulsory Purchase Orders) for the Wards Corner site.
Both these items probably to be discussed IN SECRET, see items 23,24,25
Background paper to the Wards/Apex 'discussion' here,
Report Authorised by: Lyn Garner - Director of Regeneration, Planning & Development
Lead Officers: Malcolm Smith – Interim Director, Tottenham Regeneration Programme, Jon McGrath – Assistant Director, Property and Capital Projects
For those wondering how it works, the 'Cabinet' is the inner core of the elected council, hand-picked by the leader. There are nine members, including two people with just two months' experience of being councillors. There are no members of other parties, and all other councillors have no part. You voted for this.
Update: We hear that the (secret) figure being discussed for the sale of the Apex House site is three million pounds. (If this is wrong then please let us know here, one of you with access to the secret sums.) That gifts this to Grainger: Apex House, currently Council offices, which occupies a prominent 0.39 hectare site adjacent to the Seven Sisters Underground Station and close to the mainline station. It is twenty yards from the tube station, the Victoria Line which runs every 90 seconds and is 10 minutes from Kings Cross. THREE MILLION for this, for ever, and they are even wriggling out of the need to match their potential 198 private 'luxury' flats at Wards Corner with an equal social housing build. Expect an unlovely slab with tiny flats above. (From the above doc: approximately 95 residential units above the retail space will be a [unspecified] mix of private and affordable rented homes.) And they get it for £3million. Will it be taller than the tower at Manor House? There's no limit to the height as it's not above the tube line.
Time to buy shares in Grainger. 219.30 as I write, up 3.90 today so far.
WCCC has no objection to Apex House becoming housing, it's always been part of our vision for the wider site in this town centre. Grainger are out-manoevering the Council even more than Spurs has, in getting away with paying peanuts for precious publicly-owned assets.
Jonny, it's even worse. The Dear Leader and her "cabinet" have an earlier pre-meeting to go through the reports; agree "the line"; and make the decisions. The public cabinet meetings are then a formality.
They've also imported the Parliamentary convention of Cabinet Collective Responsibility. In Westminster this makes organisational sense to get Government business through the House of Commons - especially when the Government majority is slim. Although MPs with a Government job have to vote for and defend Government decisions, there are enough backbenchers and opposition MPs to make debate real.
But in a local council it seems to make little organisational, and certainly not any democratic sense. Least of all in Haringey when Labour now has an overwhelming majority of 48 to 9. Naturally, it's very welcome for our controlling Dear Leader who - in my personal view - shows little sign of valuing full, open, properly informed debate among her colleagues; let alone public debate among residents.
Though I doubt whether many Labour councillors even understand the notion of deliberative democracy and how healthy that would be in making the very difficult decisions facing Haringey and other councils.
Sometimes the effects of this diseased system are very odd. Labour Party members I've known for years seem to stop thinking for themselves. They clam-up; a tragicomic version of Omertà. As councillors, people with a track record of community politics and support for radical causes defend the indefensible. Perhaps they feel a misplaced loyalty which puts Party interest (or personal ambition?) above the interests of residents. Or maybe they fear losing the Dear Leader's favour - and their own Special Responsibility Allowance?
Jonny yes it is - who knew???
Pam, "you voted for this". Not directly for the whole shebang in Haringey. The Local Government Act 2000 (i.e. three years into the Blair government ("were you up for Portillo?")) required councils to have either a 'Leader and Cabinet' or a 'Directly elected Mayor and Cabinet', giving no alternative to a small Cabinet excluding 80-90% of councillors from significant decision-making.
Haringey voters voted for a Leader over an elected Mayor so that was a local vote.
However, under the recent Localism Act it is now open to councils to go back to a full committee system, and googling 'council cabinet abolish' gives several examples of councils doing that, or a local referendum requiring them to do it.
Here, I'm not holding my breath though.....
Gordon and Jonny, a few comments about alternatives.
Before I was elected as a Labour councillor, I volunteered with another councillor (who stepped down years ago). I went to many committee meetings and saw that Committees also had serious faults and were manipulated.
We actually need to go beyond the committee system. It too kept councillors chained up in the Party cave watching the shadows. Though it was still miles ahead of the present undemocratic rottenness. Some sunshine and fresh air was then able to get in. Senior staff were much more accountable. And in those days the people in key posts actually worked for Haringey - as far as I know they weren't self-employed "interims" on temporary contracts.
It would help too, if the Haringey LibDems stopped working as a mirror image of Labour with its own Leader Principle.
Thanks Alan. But, what is, or could be, 'beyond the committee system'? Not sniping, just curious.
For example, does Brighton & Hove council, where the Greens are the largest party, have an alternative setup? Just checked and no, it also has a Cabinet and committees.
And thanks for the heads-up, in case I look like I'm nit-picking in the above!