Lambeth sets the new budget
The council meeting took place last night to debate and vote on the new council budget. The council chamber was occupied by protestors.
The following has been posted on behalf of Peter Bradley, Chair of Friends of Brockwell Park:
Dear Lambeth Council,
This evening, I had one of the most dispiriting and undemocratic experiences of a long life.
Protestors took over the Lambeth Council Chamber tonight as the Council was preparing to set the cuts budget. No, that's not the dispiriting, undemocratic thing. Such protest was predictable and preventable; the fact it wasn't prevented is a matter of wonder - we as the Parks Delegation were led up and down corridors, through at least four card-swipers.
It didn't matter anyway. Seamlessly, the Council's business was carried on, in another room. For half an hour, the two main delegations remained, alone, in the Council Antechamber, while the protestors were all in the Chamber. We waited to be summoned to the Council to present our Delegations. Several times, Martyn Walker, the Lambeth officer in charge of the delegations, visited the Antechamber and could see it was only occupied by the delegations he personally had conducted there; indeed several delegates had already left. Both Delegations declined to address the protestors in the Chamber.
Eventually, Mr Walker came to tell us that the Council was in closed session and had voted not to receive delegations.
That's the dispiriting, undemocratic thing. As a council you smoothly go from one room to another and pick up where you left off. The public is not admitted to the new room. You have the chance to have a semblance of democracy and at least hear delegations, all of whose names and addresses you have, plus, in the case of delegation leaders, their emails and phone number/s.
You vote not to hear the delegations. On what grounds? That we'll cause trouble, although you have all our details? That if you ban the public, it's consistent to ban prepared delegations too? That having been made half an hour late by troublesome protestors, you can't be bothered to take the quarter of an hour more it would require to hear two delegations and councillors' reponses to them?
Wretched non-reasoning. And why did we go through all the hoops of setting up a delegation? Assuredly not for the pleasure of hearing our own voices. But in the hope that by reasoned argument we could, at the last moment, persuade you to take another course that wouldn't involve the loss of real and decent people's real and decent jobs. You may not have been persuaded, but at least you would have heard. Tonight, you chose not to hear. Pitiful democracy.
As it is, we'll probably hear you blame the protestors for how things turned out. But no-one obliged you to bar the delegations, to snuff out all dissent completely.
That's why I call you craven and undemocratic. I signed the members' attendance book: 'NO DELEGATION - DENIAL OF DEMOCRACY.' Under it, someone added: 'Today, democracy died.'
Delegation Leader, Lambeth Parks and Green Spaces Forum Chair, Friends of Brockwell Park
The speech that the delgation was due to give was as follows:
• I speak for Lambeth Parks and Green Spaces Forum to urge the Council to retain the Park Ranger Service. I also submit 3000 petitions.
• Our parks are the lungs of Lambeth – and the rangers are their front-line guardians. Don't get rid of them.
• There are two sides to what rangers do: Negatively, they stop or deter crime, the number one priority for Lambeth residents. Positively, rangers enhance the educational and healthy aspects of parks.
• This is not about the loss of a dozen jobs – this is about the loss of ordered, safe, welcoming parks to their users. Are you seriously saying you don't want security in Parks? Are you seriously saying volunteers can provide it? It is a quasi-police role to deal with rough drinkers, vandals, drug-takers, even BBQ-holders and inconsiderate dog-owners. Full-time, trained rangers can do this. Volunteers cannot.
This is a flawed decision: there was no prior consultation; no costing of downsides, such as vandalism and crime; the cut is arbitrary in that it is not in the context of a transparent management plan for Lambeth parks.
You say you want to be a cooperative council – well, cooperate with us: set up a broad-based working party, to report back in three months. Ask it to do a rigorous analysis of what Park users need.
The Parks Forum urges you to think again; so do 3000 petitioners; so does local MP, Tessa Jowell, who wrote on Monday to Cllrs Steve Reed and Florence Nosegbe, saying, “I do hope you could consider alternative solutions that will allow this valuable service to be maintained”.
There is an overwhelming case for retaining the Park Ranger Service.