Mayor Online

With thanks to Andrew Brown for spotting this one.

Cyber-Mayor Steve Bullock has launched his own website (no doubt he wrestled long and hard with Blogger). Here it is. There is a poll about spending priorities, but no option for either trees or digicams.

We have not yet formed a proper opinion about Mayor Steve, but we are aware that others in the blogosphere have and we suspect one or two of you may have too.


Amanda said...

The mayor seems fairly active and he trys new things; young mayor, the Lewisham Life magazine attempts at activating the Lewisham community. On balance I think having a directly elected local mayor is a good thing. Robin Wales (Sir Robin) is an amazing advocate for his borough (Newham) that area is coming on in leaps and bounds, obviously there's money from the Olympics pouring in, but he is galvanising it particularly well.
I sometimes feel we could do with a mayor for Brockley, yes the councillors do a good job within their limitations, but there are many limitations. Sometimes we need someone with executive power, combined with a real local understanding.

max said...

I had so many dealings with the Mayor that I don't have an opinion anymore. As a human being he's ok, as the only one in charge of all the decision of one borough he looks like a human being that needs help.

ElijahBailey said...

I don't understand the point of him. Though I feel that about nearly all politicans so it is nothing personal.

From what I can tell and have read at least he isn't completely crooked like a lot of people in local government.

Amanda said...

"I don't understand the point of him."

I think that comment is telling. I suspect a lot of people in the borough feel that way and that is the irony, because the point of the directly elected Mayor, was to be accountable and visible. He is the person that is ultimately responsible for all council services.

Steve Bullock may be an ok person, but I look at Robin Wales, and there's a distinct lack of dynamism. I think Steve Bullock is struggling, just look at his website, compared to Robin's. It's not about style but content - what is emphasized.

Newham Mayor

If we want the borough of Lewisham and our small part of it Brockley to be a better place, we need someone at the helm who has vision and the dynamism.

I'm sure Steve Bullock's heart is in the right place.

ElijahBailey said...

Now Robin, there's an example of a real crook and bastard.

max said...

I don't actually know anything about the Mayor of Newham but I probably would if I lived there.
I do know quite a bit of Lewisham and my impression is that the Borough is run by the officers and that to some extent works ok because our system of local government is one that is as top down from central government as one can imagine, there's government targets, audits on the targets and funding linked to performance on the targets.
Lewisham has 4 stars for doing exactly what the government tell them to do.
In effect a politician setting some personal agenda would be in the way and Bullock seems to be steering quite clear of the officer's way.
This system doesn't work when decisions that would fit the government's targets go against the resident's interests.
The Ladywell Pool events are exemplary, the Mayor defended the undefenseble for years and that was not his decision, it was an officers' decision that he ratified but did not take. His fault was that he didn't have the strength to break ranks and force a change in policy.
At the end they got a sharp message at elections and I hope that they learnt something from that.
What the Mayor of Newham does different I don't know.
There's a lot of decisions to take and a Mayor is only as good as the group at Council that supports him (if he's clever enough to seek help) and I have my reservations on a few of them.
You're right about the fact that there is a lot of presentation here, in fact I think that the officers are trading back a pr machine for re-election in exchange for agreeing on everything.

ElijahBailey said...

Here's some info on the Mayor:

His borough also is regulary featured in Private Eye.

Andrew Brown said...

I think the handle on Robin Wales website tells us that he's getting officer help where as Steve's is down to him and his political support system.

Makes a difference.

I've had a quite different experience of Steve to Max, and it certainly wasn't my experience that officers were running the borough when I was a councillor.

max said...

Well Andrew, you may have had a view different from mine but look what Mayor Steve Bullock (not yet Sir then) himself wrote.
When asked to clarify his role in the events leading to the New School delay (fiasco wholly independent from the pool issue) he wrote:

"I refer to your request for a written submission. I have reviewed the documentation that has been provided to the sub-committee by officers and it is clear that any additional submission by myself will only repeat information already before the Sub-Committee.

The commitment to building a new school was extant at the time of my election and in the light of the weight given to this issue during the election campaign I did not consider it possible to do anything other than proceed. Throughout this process I have made decisions on the basis of the advice given to me by officers. Unless expressly advised otherwise I have assumed that any decision recommended is deliverable and that the degree of risk is no greater than that attached to any other decision placed before me. It is not my role to substitute my own lay opinion for that of professional officers who advise me."

Andrew Brown said...

What you've said Max rather goes to make my case. You saw Steve through the prism of your campaign, I had a wider relationship with him.

andy pandy pudding &pie said...

I think the mayor is somewhat pointless (the office, not the person) and can only really be good for cermonial instances (such as presenting awards, opening schools and such like within the borough.

I wish we had stronger local councillors who had MORE power in order to represent the people who elected them. I think alot of people feel so disenfranchised that they need more grass roots contact with their elected representatives in order to believe in the system again.

Heres another idea, what do people think about a local income tax, caculated by local council instead of a central one?

max said...

I used to oppose the Mayoral system but I'm not so sure actually, I think that what we need are improvement on the current constitution to give some officers' support to the Overview and Scrutiny and to put those officers outside of the Mayor's power.
True independent scrutiny.

I don't see how the lack of power of Councillors and a local income tax relate?

A central income tax is redistributive, with a local income tax poor areas could not get enough money to run the services because there isn't enough wealth going around to tax in the first place.
In Lewisham we would all be burning our rubbish in the backgardens.

Yes Andrew, I know, there's a lot of debate about policies at Labour Group meetings, only that unless you're a Labour Group member you can't see that.

Anonymous said...

There is much that can be done to improve Local Government. It is beset by incompetence and inefficiency. The system is also vulnerable to corruption because we do not pay our local politicians so they tend to be drawn from a class of people who have some flexibilty in their employment. In London we have many coucillors who are council officers in an adjacent borough. This leads to jobs being passed around people who go back a long way, some of them are related. A lot of council issues are decided at party meetings rather than in the formal committee meetings. The whole business has many flaws and the result is clear to see. In London we have some of the most poorly performing councils in the country. The people deserve better. Lewisham may be better than other inner city boroughs, but it is still an unwritten rule that planning decisions can be influenced by party donations. It could be a whole lot more democratic and the system should attract the best people and encourage integrity.

Anonymous said...

The Mayor's new website looks like modified Council press releases, replacing the words 'The Mayor' with 'I'.

By the way is the current Mayor standing for re-election?

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

a local income tax 'may' give more powers to councillors who would vote for changes in the local income tax base rate. They have a similar scheme in parts of the USA, a reduced central tax and a local variable income tax. Like in Scotland.

max said...

Even in the Mayoral system it's the Council that votes the budget.
The Mayor has executive powers but does not approve his own budget and that includes the Council tax.

Our last budget was voted by the Labour and Greens so actually your local Councillors had a part in it.

I don't really know enough about mixed tax regimes to be able to say anything, by instinct I think that shifting income tax on the Council would make rich people move where they set a lower rate for high incomes.
That's different than having an income tax calculated on the ability to pay rather than the size of your house.

Anonymous said...

Local income tax? Would that be a Poll Tax? As I seem to recollect this caused quite a kerfuffle last time it was mooted. The experience of Council Tax collection does little to recommend a local tax.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

what it would also do Max is to encourage councils to be more cost efficient as people would factor in the local tax rate when choose to move to a different borough or area. Councils would be directly responsible to their constituents for local concerns without passing the buck 'often they argue central government has reduced funding therefore they reduce services' - e.g. to reduce begging on the street (which no one likes) a councillor could argue a 1p increase to pay for increases in social hostels etc.. to help get people off the street and safe!

Central government have other concerns, not neccessarily linked to local issues in and around lewisham.

It does not also mean that there has to be generally lower taxation and therefore lower public services, as what normally happens there would be a central 'pot' of money that would be distributed to areas based on need.

For instance, the EU gives regional money to areas (such as parts of the UK) which are relatively poor compared to other areas in the EU.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...


I dont really know much about the poll tax, it was abit before my time. However, I heard there was riots and people thought it was unfair? I've been told it was based on the number of occupants living in a house rather than per household. I think a local income tax would be different to this as it normally is 'graduated' in line with income - the higher the income, the more you pay.

Anonymous said...

I see that the mayor has taken a leaf out of another politicians books. Justify a decision by claiming that it was taken based on the best advice available, supplied by officials. The secret is to ensure that the official advice given and its record is contrived to confirm a political decision that has already been taken. So that the politician in blameless and cannot be held responsible, their integrity remains intact. This technique worked for our previous Prime Minister and took us to war. Why not for swimming pools in Lewisham?

Anonymous said...

Anon, could you please be more specific about your concerns about swimming pools?

max said...

It would also burden Town Halls with the added job of having to devise a very complex system of taxation and I'm not sure that they would be up to that job without a lot of money on additional sets of accountants/consultants to work that out.
Not to mention the negotiating of how much of the income tax would be responsibility of the local government and how much of the central government.

When in the first comment of this thread I said that the local government system is vry centralized I didn't give it a necessarily negative value.
I believe that on some things a deegree of centralization saves a lot of money and centrally set targets guarantee that local authorities work to a minimum standard.
A few years ago Hackney Council nearly bankrupted and didn't have the money to collect rubbish anymore. And this with all the centralized system. Would you give them the power to decide income tax?

Anonymous said...

The closure of swimming pools in Lewisham has been one of the political issues about which the mayor faced some opposition. Basically Lewisham spent a couple of million Ladywell baths, then announced that they were going to pull it down to build a school. This row has been rumbling on for the last couple of years and the mayor employed the 'Blair' defence.

Not sure if this blog could stand the weight of comment if it had to support a debate about this. There is a website out there somewhere.

What a load of... said...

I doubt very much if the mayor actually writes his blog. Frm my dealings with his he has been slow, but its' mostly the people who work with him who have been a wast of space. I'm off to move to Sydenham which borders Bromley. There is a huge difference between the two boroughs that I'd love the boundary to move so I will be in Bromley rather than Lewisham. If you want to get the mayor to do something, email him a lot and go to the papers, He hates bad publicity and will do anything to get some good pr. The main problem with Lewisham council is the red tape. It is so difficult to get them to actually do anything. THey have lots of meetings which get people no where then ultimately make a poor 'committee' decision. For example: Lewisham 2000..remember that? Never happened. Brockely Cross, nope, those plans never happened either. Everytime the people involved got frustrated at the council for it's dithering. That's Bullocks main failing.

Anonymous said...

Wonder when they'll get around to moving the pile of christmas trees at the bottom of Hilly Fields? Perhaps they're having a consultation exercise with the local blades of grass to see how they feel about it.

Tamsin said...

If you hit the right button at the right time minor stuff can be done very quickly. On Thursday I "submitted" a "complaint" via their website about the fact then when removing the Christmas trees from the corner of Telegraph Hill Park a huge overflow pile on the pavement just over the way had been ignored. The next day I had a message on my answerphone from Rachel Shaw in customer services - a follow up call checking that the instructions to remove them had been carried out and I was happily able to report to that not only had they been removed but the pavement swept clear of dropped needles, etc. Excellent job, quickly done.

If only the major issues of schools and planned regeneration could be dealt with so satisfactorily!

Anonymous said...

Usually things get tidied up pretty quickly around Hilly Fields. I have heard that several local politicians live close by, which may have something to do with it.

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