Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/497/2677
If this is New Labour democracy...
THE BROWN government has produced a green paper on local democracy, entitled the 'Governance of Britain'. Its fine phrases about increased accountability, 'citizens' juries', and new opportunities for 'communities to own and manage local public assets', mask the real erosion of local democracy under New Labour as well as under Thatcher's government.
One council with a pilot scheme to test these proposals is Lewisham. After the announcement Lewisham's Socialist Party councillors, Ian Page and Chris Flood sent the following, slightly abbreviated, letter to the guardian which declined to publish it.
"WHO SAYS New Labour has no sense of humour? On the same day communities secretary Hazel Blears announces plans to increase local 'participatory democracy', with pilot schemes in ten councils including Lewisham, we receive news that a long-awaited new secondary school will be a 'trust' or 'foundation' school, with no local authority control of admissions, staff or school assets.
Lewisham New Labour are also privatising council housing, selling-off some homes to unelected housing associations and transferring the rest to an 'Arms-Length Management' company (ALMO). They opposed our call for a tenants' ballot before the Lewisham ALMO was established.
They also opposed our subsequent proposal for the ALMO board members to be elected, once it was clear the ALMO was going ahead.
We know Hazel says that 'democracy isn't just about voting', but it should come in somewhere!
Lewisham is one of just 12 councils with an 'executive mayor', who has the ultimate say over the decisions of the other 54 councillors.
This enabled New Labour to cling onto power in Lewisham despite last year's elections producing a 'hung council', with no party having an overall majority.
Could this situation be challenged? They've thought of that one too - the new local government bill New Labour is currently pushing through parliament prevents councils with 'executive mayors' like Lewisham from holding a referendum to restore the powers of locally-elected councillors for ten years!
If this is 'participatory democracy', what does 'top-down' government look like?"
In The Socialist 26 July 2007:
Postal workers' strike
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
Tales from the council chambers
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
Socialist Party reviews
Workplace news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis