June 22, 2015
20.59: We’re all done here. Go and watch England in the Women’s World Cup.
20.52: RTB debate: Old adversaries Julian Fulbrook and Andrew Mennear trade a disagreement about political history. New councillor Oliver Cooper gives a Commonsy speech which makes him look like Chris Philp the Second. Roger Robinson reminds us he used to live in a slum. Richard Cotton says RTB was the most disastrous policy for society.
20.38: Last 20 minutes, former housing chief Julian Fulbrook opens second motion about the need for resistance to expanding right-to-buy of social housing.
20.36: T-Money just adding to debate about what bars really want, that all the people who shout and protest when a pub is at risk of closure… is to ‘be a punter’ and actually spend some money in them. The use-them-or-lose-them argument.
20.25: Interesting debate now on councillors’ favourite subject: saving pubs from closure. Every councillor can be a hero to voters if they save a pub from developers and there are ample battlefields for this in Camden. The Tories argue that the council needs to do more to defend popular pubs from developers with ‘asset of community value’ listings. Labour say you have to be a more choosy about which pubs get that status rather than blanket protection.
20.14: Andrew Mennear give us an insight in what other councillors might be thinking about Awale’s FIFA game boycott idea. He welcomes the unheard answer from Camden’s ‘customers chief’ Abdul Hai which delicately rejects the proposal. Mennear says Cllr O was taking the world football scandal ‘out on young people by stopping them playing a video game in Camden’s libraries’ and that it was the silliest proposal he had heard. The story flew around the nationals last week.
@RichardOsley the world’s press will be disappointed.
— Cllr Awale Olad (@awaleolad) June 22, 2015
20.08: A hit little line there from Conservative Siobhan Baillie as she says it’s rich to be called of scaremongering tonight when Labour’s Sally Gimson warned of a ‘tsunami’ risk when arguing in favour of those controversial new dams on Hampstead Heath. Could Siobhan be one day delivering lines like this at the London Assembly?
20.04: We’ve arrived at ‘open session’ with Cllr Olad not getting his big chance to strike further fear into FIFA. His question on boycotting the FIFA computer game goes unanswered as the meeting moves on.#
19.39: Tee-up question next as Labour councillor Adam Harrison invites new housing chief Cllr Callaghan to explain opposition to the idea of selling off expensive council homes to help pay for extended right to buy options. She says when government says every home would be replaced, it means somewhere within a 30 mile radius.
19.29: Questions to the cabinet now. Conservative Don Williams is raising ‘recent research’ which apparently shows vermin is on the increase due to reduced bin collections in some areaa. ‘Rats are getting bigger and more aggressive by the year,’ Cllr W says, as he demands Camden steps away from any possibility of fortnightly refuse pick-ups. Labour’s Meric Apak, the new enviro chief, says a ‘quick Google search’ reveals that Cllr W’s ‘comes from a PR company called Mischief carried out on behalf of insurance clients and reported in Daily Mail and Express in 2008′. 2008!, screams T-Money in mock-surprise. Cllr Apak says the Tory stats have already been demolished by Ben Goldacre in the Guardian’s Bad Science column. He argues that increased recycling will mean less need for weekly refuse collections. ‘Camden spends a lot of money on painting poo pink’, Cllr W replies, meaning dog excrement which is zapped with pink spray by the council as a curious awareness tactic. He added: “Isn’t the real reason why Camden is cutting the ability dirty nappies and other stuff which vermin goes after is that money is being spent in the wrong areas – like painting poo pink?’. The to-and-fro continues before Cllr Apak accuses his opponent of ‘political scaremongering’.
This issue isn’t going to go away… Key issue for the Tories at the council at the moment.
19.24: Halfway through. I am beginning to worry that we may not have time to get to Awale Olad’s question about boycotting FIFA computer games. We’ll see. If you want to watch this, by the way, it’s available on the CNJ website here.
19.20: Pokey exchange between Cllr Callaghan and new leader Claire-Louise Leyland. First proper skirmishes since the general election. They arguing who about who is more ‘self-righteous’. Cllr Callaghan suggests austerity measures from central government were linked to the number of people who throw themselves under trains.
Cllr C didn’t mention the pressure applied on the council and the contractors to get that done. Never mind. The kitchen staff have got a proper deal at last.
19.13: The deputations are over. Steady now, full council, that was an hour of interaction with the public there…
19.07: New housing chief (and deputy leader of the council) Pat Callaghan should be open to all but ‘at the moment we have 30,000 households on the list, we can’t carry on like that’. This in reply to Sian Berry (Green councillor) and Grace Livingstone (housing campaigner), who say the changes here mean that only people who are homeless or in severely overcrowded homes can join the waiting list. The debate here is that council housing was never meant to be only for those in absolute dire straits.
18.57: Final public deputation is Esther Windsor from ‘Not Just One Mum’ with housing campaigners who are unhappy about new allocations scheme. Camden is being asked here, among other things, to implement a ‘community rule’ for council housing applicants, prioritising those who need an area for schools and support. Biggest cheers and applause of the night so far from the public gallery. Labour councillor Richard Cotton questioning why group wants priority for mothers and children ahead of downsizers, when downsizers can free up larger properties. His colleague Thomas Gardiner says the consultation has been one of the biggest he’s known and he is ‘concerned to hear that deputation has found deficiencies in process’. Ms Windsor says downsizers are important but she is worried they are taking the homes in saturated part of the system.
18.51: Sally Gimson is the responder for Labour on all that. Shaw needs to come to the table, she says: ‘We agree with you (the deputation)… The way they have behaved up to now on the issue on pay is no way to work in partnership with a council.’ Gets in again that Labour inherited deal from the Lib Dem and Conservative coalition council.
18.40: The third is George Binette and Phoebe Watkins from Unison on London Living Wage for outsourced residential care staff. He says recent victory for school dinner ladies was good, but now it’s time to get a deal for staff at residential care homes. Mr Binette says care staff are earning £7.57 an hour from contractors Shaw Healthcare. He calls that ‘real poverty pay in London in 2015’. He says low pay has led to high turnover of staff, a warning sign as users need continuity of care. Labour councillor Sue Vincent: ‘£7.57 is quite disgraceful’, asks if there is any way of buying Shaw out of the contract or at least renegotiating the deal. Conservative leader Claire-Louise Leyland asks whether the council should have done more to scrutinise Shaw before the contract was let. Yes, burps T-Money in a mini-heckle. His beef here will be along the lines that the deal was first negotiated under Lib Dem and Tory coalition. George B makes this point, but then adds that it was Labour who later ‘rubber stamped’ the terms. He says the council would probably need £1 million to buy out the contractors. ‘Our position is clear, services should not have been outsourced in the first place,’ he adds.
18.25: Deputation No. 2 Rupert McNeil and the Redington and Frognal Association are appealing for care on the King’s College North site development. Residents are concerned that developers could rinse the site for upmarket homes, suggesting it could actually be used to help St Luke’s School expands and some more affordable homes. Councillors are querying whether there is demand for the school to be bigger. Penny Roberts from St Luke’s says children ARE being accommodated in Camden’s schools BUT some are being asked to go as far away as Kingsgate School in West Hampstead. Phil Jones up again in response, says comments have to be limited because planning decision will rest with committee. He warns, however, that if the push is for community facilities, developers are likely to reduce the share of affordable housing they are willing to provide.
18.09: The Camden Cycling Campaign is beginning the public deputations section. Angela Hobsbaum says half of Camden’s 18 wards – namechecks Fortune Green, West Hampstead, Belsize, Cantelowes, Haverstock and more – have made ‘little progress’ in making their areas better, and safer, for cyclists. She says the group wants Camden to ‘remove the impediments to everyday cycling’ and to prioritise improvements. Yet to see a councillor stand up and say ‘noooo, we don’t want improvements for cyclists’. In reply, cabinet councillor Phil Jones says the campaign may have ‘underestimated’ the council’s work on cycle safety, adds: ‘By the end of 2016, we will have 10km of new and segregated cycle lanes in borough… No other borough in London has delivery on this level but that is no reason to rest on our laurels.’ He says Camden’s ambition is not matched by the funds available to the council.
18.00: It’s an early start at the Town Hall tonight so that Camden’s Muslim councillors can break their fast for Ramadan. Pretty busy council chamber with four public deputations due. It’s Mayor Larraine Revah’s first session in the hot seat since collecting the mayoral chain. Cllr T-Money kicks off business by announcing the council has won an award from the Municipal Journal for being best at being techy. He holds up the trophy. There is applause. T-Money: ‘Camden doesn’t go in for prizes very often.’