9 December 2016
We know the UK’s voting system is not fit for purpose and ensures that the same old, same old parties keep getting into power. So there are relatively few Green Councillors across the UK and where they do exist they are generally in a minority on a Council. In our neighbouring boroughs of Camden and Islington, there is just one Green Councillor in each, for example.
But the really great thing is this: they do make a difference. In some cases, they can shift the agenda, putting energy, climate change, pollution, social justice and real consultation with residents about key proposals on the agenda. Once they are elected, they have a platform and they can’t be easily dismissed. The collection of stories of what Green Councillors have achieved up and down the country makes really optimistic, hopeful reading: this can happen here, in Haringey, too.
So there are good reasons to help Greens to get elected even with our flawed system.
Well, business as usual. A Council that has been Labour controlled for as long as anyone can remember. A Council that sells of key assets to the highest bidder (e.g. Hornsey Town Hall). A Council that does not consult effectively with residents. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it consults. It has consultations on the website; it has meetings. But do they take any notice of what residents say – well, not a lot is the answer.
You get a Council where elected members are censured by their whip if they dare to speak up publicly; you get a Council where senior members are wined and dined by property developers who then get lucrative contracts. If you don’t believe me, have a read of a letter from the Labour whip on Haringey Council to the members who called in the decision about Hornsey Town Hall. (Insert image of letter here).
The Labour members who do speak out against the complacent ‘Tories with pink rosettes’ that are a sorry excuse of a Labour council, are to be applauded. They have their head, their heart and their politics in the right place. The only problem: they will be silenced by the majority who basically want to sell off all our public assets to the highest bidder, who want (as the Chief Executive has publicly said) to turn Haringey into a borough in the highest income bracket in the capital. What does that mean for ordinary people? For people who can’t afford to buy or rent? For people who don’t get their care needs met? For people whose daily lives are blighted by large scale developments that remove their homes and their livelihoods, sacrificed on the altar of money.
We all do know that Councils have had swinging cuts and that this presents a problem. But there are ways of dealing with these that brings residents along with the debate. Ways of engaging local people in generating ideas for solutions that work for people and challenge the austerity driven politics of a national government even more out of touch than our local Council. And one thing that Green councillors can and will do is to make that debate with local people happen.