IT was a bustling late afternoon at the Town Hall, with the new Camden cabinet meeting for the first time since the local elections and the Labour group AGM. They sat down with chief officers in a committee room and were probably briefed once more on just how little money there is to go around in each department. In went the Mayor, Jonathan Simpson, a former police special who used to nick late night troublemakers in the West End, seen by the leadership as a perfect fit to take on the community safety portfolio. The other new faces, Sally Gimson and Georgia Gould, headed in too. None of these ten most senior councillors seemed to be giving any yards to the latest whispered claims that despite being gender balanced, the cabinet is too Oxbridgey and too white.
The New Journal letters page has already received letters on that subject for consideration in Thursday’s edition. Leader Sarah Hayward, who picks the portfolios only after a group vote of all 40 councillors to decide who goes into the cabinet, will no doubt remind people she went to Hull University, not Oxford or Cambridge.
Maybe the more interesting meeting this evening, however, was the private gathering of the Labour and Conservative whips as memberships of committees and scrutiny panels were negotiated. Here’s the thing, now the Lib Dems only have Flick Rea and the Greens are also going solo with Sian Berry, neither is legally entitled to demand a place on, say, the planning or the culture and environment scrutiny committees. Instead, they are ‘relying on goodwill’. They are treated the same as independents.
The pair of them could have joined together to form ‘a group’, which would have qualified for support services and a greater say, but the idea of a Lib Dem and Green mini-alliance was never going to get off the ground. As it happened, it is understood Labour, with their gigantic majority, has agreed to offer a few places from their allocation to both of them, although we wait to see what the actual offer is. They would surely have looked too mean if they had slammed the door on them both.
Flick, with her vast experience and interest in development control, no doubt pines for a place on the planning committee. Sian probably wants scrutiny. But they must wait and see what comes their way. The Tories, for their part, were left disappointed after leaving the negotiating table with three, rather than four, seats on that same planning committee.