Morning update 23.09.15: Turkeys voting for Christmas?

morningupdate5THE MARSHALL PLAN

FORMER deputy council leader Andrew Marshall has raised the idea before that there might just be too many councillors at the Town Hall, as he looks for ways in which Camden could cut the expense of governance. At last week’s council meeting, he pressed Labour leader Sarah Hayward again on what could be done to ‘shrink’ the costs, and the idea that each ward, or some wards, could have two councillors rather than three has been suggested. There are some shy sympathisers with what Andrew is gearing at, but there does not seem to be a great thirst among councillors to publicly declare that they should cut their numbers by a third. Turkeys voting for Christmas doesn’t apply here if you take the leader’s view. Sarah’s response warned how she thought the look of Camden’s collection of councillors could change if such savings were made, and that the pay they all get wasn’t enough to cover the workload. “I’m not sure two member wards are the right way to go,” she said. “We’ve seen huge growth in the amount of casework and demand for evening meetings. The allowances don’t enable people to do this anything like full time, so if you reduce the number of councillors I think you will see a further skewing to only retirees and independently wealthy people being able to do it – and actually one of the great things about this chamber, on a cross party basis, is the diversity of age and background, and what have you, that we have represented in here.”


THE rumble in Haringey continues over the council’s new £80k logo, with its red tape, theme park design. For fans of local politicians rutting up against radio journalists live on air, BBC London 94.9 was the place to have your dial tuned on Monday evening as Joe Goldberg, the Labour councillor fronting up the revamp, took on presenter Chris Rogers, sitting in for Eddie Nestor. Joe – if you’re unfamiliar with his style and work, think the Theo Blackwell of Haringey Council – seemed determined that Chris was going to interrupt him from the moment he came on air, and was ready to repeat at the slightest trigger: You’ve asked me the question, let me answer it. In the end, Chris suggested he had asked the same question seven times, a figure which Joe doubted, and then they got onto whose revamp was better, or worse, value for money: a £2 million spend by the BBC or £80k by Haringey. Listeners may have been wondering whether two wrongs made a right, but Joe seemed pretty happy with his snarky counterpunching at the Beeb’s expenditure.


IT’S been four months since Labour’s Tulip Sidiq became Hampstead and Kilburn’s new MP, winning the hearts of fans of flower-based-pubs with her campaign strapline: Pick Tulip. Someone might want to tell her husband, Chris Percy, that she is now a long time picked. For as he kicked off for another one of his iron man challenges at the weekend, a triathalon across road and water from London to Paris, he was still sporting the May 2015 merchandise. It makes you wonder whether there are boxes full of unsold campaign t-shirts under the stairs back at Chez Tulip in Finchley Road.



THERE’S no need for these pages to get into the David Cameron and the pig stuff, the internet is already full up of with views, photoshopped pictures and bacon wisecracks about the new biography of the prime minister being serialised in the Daily Mail. As much as Cameron’s rivals may have enjoyed the coverage this week, it was good, in my humble opinion, that Channel 4, Newsnight and others have questioned whether the anecdote everybody has been talking about would have passed the editorial gates at writer Isabel Oakeshott’s former employer, the Sunday Times. When asked she has been non-committal about whether she  even thinks the tale is true, which is a little bit troubling if you are going to condemn someone to a lifetime of embarrassing lewd jokes.

That all said, the trending of political leaders and pigs on the world wide web throws up a ‘John Gulliver’ tale from the recent Labour leadership campaign. The New Journal’s diarist came across Corbyn rallying support in the Welsh hillsides over the summer. Amazed by his energy, he asked how a man of 66 had found the energy to be at meetings every day and night, to be everywhere at all times. Corbyn answered by attributing his get-up-and-go to his vegetarianism, which in turn he put down to his ‘attachment’ to pigs as a young man.



IS Labour’s Rishi Madlani not enjoying his new life as a Camden Councillor? At a British Museum function, he says the evening is a ‘rare upside’ to the role. 

BACK in Bournemouth, former Lib Dem councillor James King is waiting for his turn to speak at conference…

…but gives the raucous sing-a-long conference party, Glee club, a miss:



5 Comments on Morning update 23.09.15: Turkeys voting for Christmas?

  1. Keith Sedgwick // September 23, 2015 at 10:34 am //

    Andrew Marshall has a very good point. Three Councillors per ward is excessive. I bet you wouldn’t have to look too far, to find a Camden Councillor, quietly resentful of their ward colleague’s inability/unwillingness to put in as much effort as themselves. The trouble with being a diligent Councillor, is that once one’s constituents cotton-on that one is the one most like to get things sorted, one then becomes inundated with case-work and one ends up carrying the ward.

    As much as it galls me to say, there is only one Councillor in Gospel Oak to whom I would go, if I wanted anything done. The other two are as useless a fart in a colander. The trouble is, everybody else in Gospel Oak knows this, hence why that particular Councillor then finds it hard to deal with their casework, in a timely fashion.

    I think we should publish a performance league of Councillors, detailing how much ward casework has been raised/handled by each Councillor, in each month. Too many of them seem to think playing a big shot in the Town Hall is why they were elected and it would be good to have exposed, how active each one is on ward matters. That would then sort out the shirkers from the workers and give impetus to Marshall’s cause.

  2. Richard – I actually didn’t raise the question of number of councillors when I asked Sarah Hayward – via email not formal council question – some months ago. Re-read your earlier piece which includes the question. What I specified suggested was:
    reducing the Cabinet to 6 or 7, which is allowed in the legislation, and which has quite a big saving in terms of officer time dealing with the cabinet members. (One council director currently has four or five cabinet members for whom they are the lead officer..)
    Also making sure that officer time involved in scrutiny is appropriate and not too open-ended, for example in terms of senior officer time (this has in practice partly happened)
    Reducing the scale of DMCs, which I am not sure we would invent today in the same way.

    I didn’t explicitly raise the number of councillors. It probably is worth thinking about. I’d also change the voting system btw. Two points on this:
    If councils merge services on a really big scale (the trip-borough for example), it begs the question of how many cllrs you need to monitor this. In the case of the trip-borough there are something like 130 Conservative cllrs across the borough.
    The really big question is whether London boroughs are now big enough given the fact there is devolution to GLA, and wide merging or sharing of services. 32 boroughs with populations of only 200-300K are arguably too small to be very strategic in a London context, to really think about place or transport etc. Ken Livingstone said there should be five or seven mega boroughs. It’s not gone anywhere, but the issue won’t go away.

    • Richard Osley // September 23, 2015 at 2:46 pm //

      That’s true, which is why I included a link to the earlier piece… but the bit that Sarah did answer in full council was on two-member wards.

      I’d be interested, as an aside, whether the cross-party review of governance which Sarah referred to had any drive to change full council meetings. Given the interest in the Syrian refugee crisis when it was on national front pages in Camden a couple of weeks ago, it seemed a shame last week that once again we did not get to the motions, which had been set up to push that issue on some more.

      Instead, we got a lot of the usual point-scoring and talking out.

  3. It would be very useful to know how much Sarah thinks she is worth and the we could cost up the whole local authority from there.

  4. Well I can tell you for free Fiona that Sarah Hayward certainly isn’t in it for the money, any more than most council leaders I can this of.

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