‘It’s easy to focus on what’s wrong’, warns Sarah

CamdenAGMSarahSallyIS it an advantage to go first or second? On alphabetical order, Sally Gimson will go into bat first at the Camden Labour AGM tonight as she tries to wrest the council leadership from Sarah Hayward. Each candidate will take the same three unseen questions from members, while the other other is out of the room.

The running order mirrors the course of the pre-meeting email pitches. As reported here over the weekend, Sally offered her ‘manifesto for change’ to all councillors last Friday, and this was followed by a message-to-all yesterday from Sarah in which she asked them to let her continue with the ‘honour’ of being their leader. Regardless of whether Sarah always planned an eve of vote group message, you don’t need me to tell you that the view in the Sally camp is that ‘she saw Sally write a long list of good ideas and thought I better write something too’. Sarah’s supporters say that view is an attempt to make her look like she is on the backfoot, and insist she’s anything but.

Anyhow, Sarah told the group: “It’s always easy to focus on what’s wrong rather that’s what right,” before listing achievements which she says is down to all their good work, another bite at the idea that Sally is belittling the performance of all her colleagues by standing against the leader. There’s a line in there which might as well say frankly she doesn’t understand how bloody good we are, and then some trademark ‘first council to do something’, which actually sort of plays into both pitches: Sarah’s as a council of outstanding achievement, Sally’s as a council that needs to work with other local authorities rather than trying to always outdo them like a needy older sibling.

Most of all, however, Sarah’s message reads like a letter which looks to out-big tent the big tent challenge, celebrating partnerships which Sally is claiming still need to be formed and cultivated, and concluding with some promises to change group processes and policy discussions. The key to it now may be how many of the 37 other Labour councillors read her email and view it as an accurate reflection of these last four years, and how big the floating backbenchers feel the tent has been over that time.

Here’s Sarah’s call for support:

Dear comrades,

I hope you’ve all had a successful weekend of campaigning for Sadiq, Andrew and our list candidates.

Before tomorrow’s AGM I wanted to further set out where I think we are and where we are headed. It’s always too easy to focus on what’s wrong, rather than what’s right. We should celebrate our successes.

Your policy is our policy
Everyone in group plays a huge role in developing our policy. The list of policy changes as a direct result of your work on scrutiny committees, on statutory committees and of our champions is huge. At the risk of offending those I leave out I want to highlight a few achievements here:

Housing allocations – making them fairer for families with children
Busking licenses – improving the quality of life for residents, particularly in Camden Town
Bangladeshi health – identifying key challenges within the Bangladeshi community and helping focus on tackling them
Air quality – challenging TFL and HS2 to do more to tackle poor air quality in Camden
Pedi cabs restrictions – becoming one of the first boroughs to tackle the scourge of rogue riders
Leaseholder service – making key recommendations to improve our services for our leaseholders
Women and girls in sport – key work with Sport England, schools and community groups to drive up participation rates for women and girls
Private rented sector – identifying roles for new licensing, lettings agency and trialling voluntary rent stabilisation
Cycling – becoming one of the best boroughs in London for cycling provision
Secondary school achievement – identifying ways to make our secondary schools even more successful

We all have different roles to play in delivering these changes for Camden, but a large part of what all of us do is about fostering and leveraging genuine partnerships outside the council chamber. These partnerships require nurturing to bring results and we all work hard at them. It troubles me when people say that we we’re not working in partnership – frankly, anyone who says that doesn’t really understand the depth and breadth of the work we are all doing. There is much to be proud of:

We have worked with tenants, schools and community groups to deliver successful CIP schemes that are building council housing and refurbishing schools and community centres.

We have established and nurtured the business board that has delivered better pay, more apprenticeships and increased maternal employment for Camden’s residents.

We have worked with the voluntary sector to establish one of the most comprehensive and best funded welfare advice partnerships in the country.

We have worked with trade unions on the living wage, the schools campaign, our workforce standards for contractors, and much much more.

We have worked in partnership with the police on the Camden Safety Net – a hugely successful service for domestic abuse victims.

We have worked with the Camden Cycling Campaign to be at the forefront of London’s effort to get people out of their cars.

We have brought together the public, voluntary organisations and the private sector as part of the Equalities Taskforce – whose recommendations are still bearing fruit for our most disadvantaged citizens.

We have joined with two other boroughs to share award winning IT services and save money, meaning more resources for our priorities.

We are developing the Camden Schools Led Partnership and the Young People’s Foundation – to protect public services.

We have a very strong faith partnership that helps maintain community cohesion and helps ensure people from different backgrounds get along in our diverse borough.

We have worked with our MPs, GLA members, shadow ministers and other councils on a huge range of issues, from policing to schools, from HS2 to fighting fire service cuts and more.

We have known since the early days of the campaign to retake the council in 2010 that we couldn’t do everything on our own. So when Claire Louise Leyland and others say we’re not working collaboratively – show them this list and be proud of what we have achieved together.

We’ve done all this and we’ve not done a single new privatisation to cope with the cuts and by this time next year every employer on every Camden contract will be earning a real living wage.

Be proud too, of the work you have all done in your wards – too much for me to do justice to here, but it makes a huge difference to the people who need our help the most.

The Camden Plan
The Camden Plan is delivering Labour values for our borough. It was refreshed just six months ago – agreed at October’s cabinet. It redoubled focus on key issues like low pay and maternal employment.

Updating the plan was a process involving all of cabinet and all of our partners across the borough. It was agreed by group at every stage and was discussed with both CLPs.

The refreshed plan was extended to 2018 to fit the election cycle. The development of a successor plan will coincide with our manifesto development – a key element of our political strategy. The Camden Plan is well understood by those that are delivering it for us – council officers and our partners from the public sector, the business community and the voluntary sector. We need to stay on course to ensure it continues to deliver Labour values and our partners have certainty to plan for the touch times ahead.

The challenge ahead
I know you are all painfully aware of the challenge ahead. The finances will be stretched further, we will have significant new responsibilities, we will face the impact of housing and planning bill, reduced funding for schools and forced academisation, HS2 and who knows what else the Tories will throw at us.

As we start to look ahead to the elections in 2018, this is a good time to think about the way we work together. So if I win on tomorrow, I will ask the chair and backbench rep to work with all non-cabinet members to review our group processes and make recommendations should they need updating. I want to ensure there is time given over to celebrating our successes much more fully than we do already. I also want to make sure you have the time you need for policy discussions – I am open minded as to how this happens, we all should be. I will also suggest that our standing orders are changed to require a regular review of group process to ensure we remain fit for purpose in very challenging times. Ultimately group processes shouldn’t be handed down by the cabinet and leadership, they should be designed by you, so they work for you.

Finally, we should all hold our heads high, because we are Labour councillors, delivering Labour values and whatever the Tories throw at us, we always will be.

I’m honoured to lead you, and I hope you’ll do me the honour of voting for me to remain as your leader Tomorrow. Together we can deliver, we can win and we will beat the Tories.

1 Comment on ‘It’s easy to focus on what’s wrong’, warns Sarah

  1. Keith Sedgwick // May 3, 2016 at 11:58 am //

    There’s something quite desperate about this missive. It’s kind of reminiscent of Raj Chada’s (god bless him!) CNJ front page splash on the eve of Labour’s historic defeat; “Give us a chance!”. The funny thing is, he lost, not because of anything he did or didn’t do, but rather because the national mood at the time, something over which he had no control. Dame Roberts read the runes and left with her dignity intact. It’s a shame Sarah couldn’t do the same.

    If Camden’s Labour back benchers have any sense, they will note the mood of the times and ditch Sarah before she provokes party loyalists, as they did in 2006, to sit on their hands. The membership is grumbling and somebody those the Town Hall ought to take heed. To put it bluntly, many Councillors won’t be reselected, saying they backed Sarah.

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