The Mayor of Lewisham

"With no power comes no responsibility."
- Kick-Ass

The News Shopper has an interview with Telegraph Hill mayoral candidate John Hamilton, who wants to scrap the Mayoral system if he’s elected. Based at the Tea Leaf Art Gallery in Brockley Cross, he argues:

“This system just concentrates too much power in the hands of one person. The mayor is not bound by decisions made in council. I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to think I know best in all these things.”

We quite like the smack of firm government ourselves, or at least, we worry that collective decision making can lead to death by committee. A Mayor with power should be required to spell out their vision for the borough and held to account for its delivery. Given how little interest many people have in their local Council, a Mayor gives local politics form and a face, even if the form and face of Mayor Bullock is not what everyone would wish for.

If Brockley Central was going to re-write the constitution, we’d rather devolve more power to local ward assemblies. Borough Councils sometimes seem like exactly the wrong size to deal with most of the issues that matter.

Transport, health and education provision aren’t really helped by arbitrary Council boundaries, housing and spatial strategies are set at a Greater London level and might be better implemented at this level too. Meanwhile things like community policing and maintenance of the public realm are hyper-local issues and you’re arguably more likely to get better decisions made by people directly affected by the issues.

On the other hand, we’re happy to believe that the system isn’t really the issue, it’s the quality of the people inside it that matters, which brings us back to the forthcoming mayoral election...

If you were going to shuffle Lewisham's constitutional deckchairs, what would you do?

10 comments:

Adobe said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jim Jepps said...

Personally I would scrap the Mayoral system because it's so difficult to hold it to account.

If you're head of council does some dodgy stuff, or goes against the majority you can replace them - with a directly elected Mayor you're all lumbered with him until the end of his term.

I think there is a power in collective decision making which you lose with one figure head who comes with all his/her strengths and weaknesses.

However, I would say that your suggestion of more direct decision making by the community would be very welcome - representative democracy only takes you so far.

Anonymous said...

Local referendums on all sorts of issues and some kind of constitutional weight to petitions with over a certain percentage of the Borough signing.
James

John said...

There are pros and cons of all forms of government; european, central, local and ward. I don't see how ward politics would be of any benefit except for those issues which are already covered by, for example, the Mayor's Fund. Nick, to take your example of the public realm...could a council justifiably put aside substantial amounts of money for each ward for local politicians to decide how it is spent? These pots of money are chosen on a borough-wide basis because there are insufficient funds to go to all wards. For 'general maintenance', surely sections of streets that are most deserving of maintenance should be considered across the Borough to ensure cost-benefit is considered; especially with the nature of insurance claims.

I do think you have a good point about Policing but is this not the way that the Met. are progressing?

patrick1971 said...

I would get rid of the council's responsibility for health and education; these issues are far too big for a local council and should really be the responsibility of the GLA. Similarly housing; the council is an appalling landlord. The housing should all be either given to housing associations, or each block/area run by its own tenants, including the running of maintenance budgets and the selection of new tenants.

This would leave the council to concentrate on the major quality of life issues such as planning, roadworks, refuse, etc.

patrick1971 said...

I would get rid of the council's responsibility for health and education; these issues are far too big for a local council and should really be the responsibility of the GLA. Similarly housing; the council is an appalling landlord. The housing should all be either given to housing associations, or each block/area run by its own tenants, including the running of maintenance budgets and the selection of new tenants.

This would leave the council to concentrate on the major quality of life issues such as planning, roadworks, refuse, etc.

patrick1971 said...

I would get rid of the council's responsibility for health and education; these issues are far too big for a local council and should really be the responsibility of the GLA. Similarly housing; the council is an appalling landlord. The housing should all be either given to housing associations, or each block/area run by its own tenants, including the running of maintenance budgets and the selection of new tenants.

This would leave the council to concentrate on the major quality of life issues such as planning, roadworks, refuse, etc.

patrick1971 said...

Sorry for triple post...damned computer.

Andrew Brown said...

"with a directly elected Mayor you're all lumbered with him until the end of his term."

Well no not if the dodginess is really dodgy. As for the majority getting rid of the leader of a council, it happens but (in my experience) usually for ideological reasons rather than anything else. With a mayor we - ie the public - choose who leads the council rather than the majority within the majority party.

I would get rid of the council's responsibility for health and education

The council doesn't have responsibility for health, except through scrutiny of what the PCT and hospital trusts are up to.

Education responsibilities are pretty limited too, it's more the ability to persuade than breathing down headteachers necks and second guessing their decisions. Council's can take responsibility for a school's budget if the school is doing something suicidal (or dodgy) but that doesn't happen all that often.

Brockley Nick said...

re: education. What about provision of schools? eg: Lewisham Bridge saga

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