‘Other councils come to learn from us’, Sarah responds to Sally challenge

imageAFTER Sally Gimson confirmed her decision to challenge for the Town Hall leadership in an email to Labour councillors this week, Sarah Hayward has now responded with her own call to arms, a message to the group in which she assesses her four years in charge. Here’s the text of her comeback…

Dear comrades,

As you will now be aware there will be a leadership contest this year. I am writing to ask you to vote for me to continue as Leader of Camden Council. Challenge is a healthy and essential part of democracy but now is not the time to change course. We need strong and effective leadership of a strong and effective Labour group to continue fighting the Tories and delivering our Labour values.

While we face very significant attacks from the Tories, let’s not lose sight of the fact that Camden Labour has achieved a huge amount since group first elected me leader. We should all take immense pride at our innovative Labour agenda, delivered in the worst circumstances possible. We should not let others undermine this and we should not give them ammunition to do so.

Here are just a few of our achievements:

We’re building more council housing than almost every other borough

We have delivered the living wage and are implementing Unison’s Ethical Care Charter. We have won national praise from the trade union for this work

We have the best primary schools and some of the best secondary schools in the country

We’re one of the only local authorities in the country to have maintained all our funding for domestic violence services & are running award winning campaigns to tackle the issue

We’re innovating in youth services, in school improvement and in housing provision

We’re tackling rogue landlords in the private rented sector

We’re bolder and going further than any other employer on equalities – publishing our pay gap data, having a minimum earnings guarantee and keeping our pay ratio below 1 in 10.

Our achievements are driven by all of us. Many of our greatest achievements have come from your work as scrutiny chairs, members and champions; there are countless examples where you have made a real difference.

Taking an idea from inception to implementation isn’t easy and requires strong leadership. I’ve worked hard over the last four years to ensure that Labour councillors and our officers are all pulling in the same direction to deliver our shared Labour values.

Camden is currently viewed as one of the most innovative and forward thinking Labour boroughs. Other councils come to learn from us. We’re respected across the Labour Party, and the local government family. We’re respected by our partners in the public and private sectors. This respect is hard won and could be too easily lost. It pays dividends for us and our residents.

But none of this is easy. The Tories have decimated our budgets and are trying to tear us apart. By trying to end social housing, trying to end our role in schools, ending the welfare benefits system they are attacking Labour’s values and Camden’s values. But we’re fighting the Tories – and we’re winning. We have done this together on issues like HS2 and Housing, we have done it with our MPs, peers and GLA members on issues like policing, the fire service, schools and HS2, we have done it with other councils on the finances and housing, and we have stood proud as Camden when we have needed to.

This fight must continue. The Tories want to end the welfare state as we know it. Rip up what remains of the post-1945 settlement. It is in our very core to fight to keep it.

We are in the midst of a number of these battles, on schools, on housing on HS2 and on finance. Last year we worked hard to update our policy agenda – the Camden Plan – and that is now in place to help us maintain strong political and campaigning momentum through to 2018. We must redouble our efforts to deliver our 2014 manifesto and work towards developing a new offer for 2018.

Over the next two years we need to redouble our efforts:

·         Implementing our manifesto commitments by seeing through delivery of the Camden Plan and using these achievements to develop a bold new agenda for 2018

·         Finding ways to preserve and protect our vital social housing so Camden remains a mixed community where everyone succeeds and no one is left behind

·         Building on the strength of our partnership with schools to preserve high quality state education for future generations of Camden children

·         Tackling rough sleeping by supporting people to find homes and jobs

·         Continue to fight the worst effects of HS2

·         Challenge ourselves to always go further and do more than we already are

·         Get to grips with a completely new model of local government finance that could fundamentally change the way we work

·         Explore how we can build on the innovations of the last four years, like maternal employment, TimeWise, the schools partnership and more.

Our achievements aren’t ours alone. Our communities, neighbours and party members, with businesses, tenants, trade unions and the rest of the public sector are all valued partners. These are tough times but we have strong friendships that will help us deliver for Camden.

We have an agenda that is widely understood and supported within our communities. We must stay on course to secure Camden’s future.

I intend to spend the next few weeks working as hard as I can to deliver a Labour Mayor and Labour Assembly Members on 5th May.  But I would be really grateful if you can spare some time to give me your ideas on how we can build on our successes, continue to innovate and continue to take the fight to the Tories and I would love to answer any questions you have.

We’re a brilliant council and a formidable team. We should keep it that way.

My warmest wishes,

Sarah.

Leader of Camden Labour Group and Camden council.

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4 Comments on ‘Other councils come to learn from us’, Sarah responds to Sally challenge

  1. Keith Sedgwick // April 9, 2016 at 1:29 pm // Reply

    Sarah’s invitation to her group’s back-benchers, to come forward with ideas, speaks volumes about the space that has opened up between her and them, and how she has become captive to the machinery of the Council. After four years as their leader, she should know the views of each and everyone of the Labour Councillors and the fact that she does not, spells trouble.

    Many in her group reading this, will I am sure, feel patronized and demeaned by her exhortations to fight the Tories. Talk about stating the bleeding obvious! They will be asking, “Is this all you want to do; administer opposition?” They are asking, “So, where is the vision?”

    The trouble with a position based on opposing things, is that in a safe constituency, it is never enough. Those who have got into politics to change the world, are not interested in creating a world predicated on the opposition to the beliefs of others; they want to build one on their own terms. This is what Sarah has failed to understand. She her back-benchers want a leader not an administrator. They want a politician, not a superannuated civil servant.

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  2. Camden Council’s decision to spend tens of thousands of pounds of public money criminalising busking whilst cutting millions of pounds from their budget in November 2013 despite an offer of collaboration from the Musician’s Union and the Keep Streets Live Campaign demonstrated a contempt for grassroots culture and a heavy-handedess that was both wasteful and an example of gesture politics aimed at appeasing the prejudices of a small minority of influential people. Camden is known as an example of top-down, bullying and authoritarian governance where arrogance and hubris can be seen in the decision to impose a three-line whip on a vote to make singing songs in the street a criminal offence.

    I’m certain that the bulk of Camden councillors are decent and well-intentioned people, but the corporate spirit embodied by the ruling Labour group all too often rides roughshod over the genuine concerns of people who worry that the fundamental character of Camden as a place which nurtures and values the arts and culture makers is being lost.

    I sincerely hope that whoever leads Labour in Camden will, in time, see that the busking clampdown was misconceived and that it is possible to work with the busking community to draw up busking guidance which doesn’t require the maintenance of a licensing bureaucracy and the intrusion of the criminal law on a cultural activity which actually brings life and enjoyment to the public spaces of the borough.

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    • Camdener and Camdenerer // April 10, 2016 at 7:45 pm // Reply

      Far from it. The rules were developed with Camden Town residents and buskers (apart from those in a sulk, see above) and debated publicly and voted on. I think it was even an issue at the local elections, and the community had their say there too. Approach seems to work quite well now. What don’t you like about democracy?

      The recent case smelt of a PR exercise but a band looking for publicity, not a civil liberties violation, perhaps why it didnt get much coverage.

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  3. I think someone should ask her about how she treats her own staff. What’s the turnover like at Camden Council for people who work directly for Sarah?

    If she treats her colleagues with the same arrogance and disregard I can quite believe there’s a leadership challenge, and not before time!

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