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A noble aim to reach out and feel the will of the people

21 September, 2017

Georgia Gould, the leader of Camden Council

COUNCIL leader Georgia Gould may have set herself a “mission impossible” when she calls for an end to boring meetings at the Town Hall.

For many years, public attendance has been dropping away. Gone are the days when public-spirited activists, like Ellen Luby for example, would turn-up each week simply to hold elected representatives to account.

Councillors have themselves been seen drifting softly into sleep from the slow-tone-drone of their colleagues, often in the cabinet. Either that, or they are staring blankly into their dimly-lit phone screen, desperately seeking stimulation.

The corporate language that has infected council reports often feels like it has come from a parallel universe. Mind-numbing jargon and business catchphrases serve only to repel interest and stifle debate. As does the rigid reliance on meeting procedure with the endless traffic light rules and small windows in which the public are allowed to speak. Is it any wonder the few people who do attend leave feeling frazzled, with a bad taste in the mouth, scarred from the experience, vowing never to return again?

What can be done?

Motions and votes could be moved to the start of the meeting – rather than waiting for hours until the end. Scrutiny panels chaired by opposition councillors, and interested residents, could create an atmosphere more akin to a select committee in the House of Commons.

Ultimately the council must, to borrow a phrase it may understand, “reach out” to the public in a new and exciting way. As it did to some extent during the Chalcots evacuation. Our elected representatives in the Town Hall need to feel the will of the people if they are to properly understand them. This is the challenge Cllr Gould has set herself, and time will show whether she is successful in her endeavour.

Police cuts

THE frustration about phone snatch moped crime is going to grow before it goes away.

The meeting, organised by the Conservatives with the police last Thursday threw up some interesting statistics but produced more questions than answers.

With teenagers able to earn a quick £100 for each stolen phone, “moped crime” may have become more lucrative than drug-dealing. A major bone of contention is that police officers, when called, either do not attend or express frustration they will not be able to make any meaningful headway.

Camden Conservatives called the meeting to discover what lies behind this recent phenomenon. But here they must look in the mirror.

Years of cuts and austerity have stripped the police force to a shadow of its former self. Stations have closed. Building have been sold. Morale is low. Only a properly funded public service can put this problem right.

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