IT’S not just in Labour dominated Camden where a spot of internal unrest has bubbled to the surface. In Labour dominated Haringey, they may not be on the brink of a leadership contest, but the group has suspended one of its councillors. Gideon Bull, with 15 years service as a councillor, lost the whip after speaking out at a cabinet meeting against the council’s closure of dementia care and day centres.
“I’m deeply saddened and I don’t think this punishment reflects the democratic society we live in,” he says. “There’s no point being in politics if you can’t stand up for the people who can’t stand up for themselves.”
Those who supported his suspension say if he wants to take that line, he must also explain why he voted for the Labour budget, which included the proposed closures, alongside the rest of the group. They claim Cllr Bull changed direction when he felt the heat from ward constituents on the issue, but as all councillors are getting it in the neck over spending cuts pretty much all of the time, he should stand with them rather than against them.
Which version is correct? I don’t know, but in a way it doesn’t really matter because if you pop into public meetings in Haringey, talk to people who live there or catch the odd debate, the thing you will find that so often now clouds rational discussion on how the council uses its money is an underlying obsession with last year’s £80,000 spend on a new logo
Seriously, you hear that call-back time and again over there: They are shutting down day centres but they can afford a new logo. They can’t do this but they can afford a new logo. They’re cutting that but they can afford a new logo.
It doesn’t matter that in the grand scheme of multi-million pound council budgets, £80,000 may not be such a huge sum, and wouldn’t have been enough to save the day centres. But in spending money on something easily branded as frivolous, Haringey Council has unwittingly invited its own residents to robotically refer to it every time it makes a cut. Sensible, rational people seem to think, or at least act like, the black hole in local authority finances could all have been fixed if only Haringey Council hadn’t bought that bloody new logo.
In Camden, Labour councillors may explain their local cuts by shifting the blame onto government orders. In Haringey, they’ve surrendered this simple get-out line, because every time they blame the government, some bod will stand up at the back of the community centre and say to cheers and yelps… yeah, but you had enough money for a new logo.
The intentions behind the rebrand may have been worthy – even if to many it looks like a young child could have done better – but what a time to do it. On a local level, you could say it’s bit like Liam Byrne’s ‘no money left’ note, which the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition were able to reach for whenever they felt like they were losing the argument. But at least Byrne didn’t have to see his note plastered up on every passing bin lorry.