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Lewisham gets Community Council with ...

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Joined 15-04-2006
Posted on Thursday, 05 July, 2007 - 08:30 am:   

A pretty big story today:

"Voters will be given powers to decide how ten of millions of pounds should be spent in their neighbourhood under radical plans being unveiled today.

In a potentially dramatic extension of direct democracy, councils will have to hold ballots before deciding where money should be targeted. It would mean that, for the first time, people could direct cash to areas that concern them most, such as parks, curbing antisocial behaviour, targeting drug trouble spots or cleaning up litter."

I notice Lewisham will be the only London borough in the pilot scheme phase.

"As a start she will announce 10 national pilot projects, to include Birmingham, Merseyside, Lewisham, Bradford, Salford, Sunderland, Newcastle and Southampton."

At this stage it seems these "community coucils" only have power to decide how to spend a set budget, and I think, from a pre-ordained shopping list. More info is needed... Could they, for example, decide to save their local highstreet and spend money that would undermine supermarkets - that kind of thing, and stuff that probably wouldnt be on paper. Could they buy up property and set up social centres? etc.

Defintiely this is a good idea IMO - at the least it creates and encourages existing sub-council, grass-root community politics and organisation.

A couple of practical questions:
How are these community councils going to be formed - is there an organisational structure?
Who gets to vote and how often?

A couple of wider questions:
What would be the next step towards greater power that community councils like this could fight for?
How do they compare to Latin American models, and in particular the new community councils in Venezuela?

I did come across this, which describes community councils in Walthom Forest, set up in 2003:
Not clear if these are identical to those announced today.

Forest Hill society, HOPRA et al, should act now to position themselves in these community councils... I'm sure they will.
Joined 07-06-2006
Posted on Thursday, 05 July, 2007 - 09:27 am:   

Well spotted! I had heard the story and wondered whether Lewisham might happen to be involved.

It isn't just the Forest Hill Society and HOPRA, but readers who will have influence as this is a great place to bring up issues and gather support.

Not sure whether it will work, but it is certainly worth a try.
Joined 30-03-2005
Posted on Thursday, 05 July, 2007 - 09:28 am:   

I think this refers to the white paper about strong and prosperous communities.


I posted about this under the title parish council in November 2006.
Joined 15-04-2006
Posted on Thursday, 05 July, 2007 - 11:02 am:   

I agree Robwinton, this is a chance for all to get invovled - even if the powers community councils have now is small, that doesnt meant we can't/shouldn't fight to extend them.

I am still unclear as to how the power structure will be implemented - have to keep an eye as more info gets released. Certainly forums like this have a big role to play.
Joined 15-04-2006
Posted on Thursday, 05 July, 2007 - 11:03 am:   

The link in post 1 is dud - please copy and paste this one:,,2118822,00.html
Joined 24-03-2004
Posted on Thursday, 05 July, 2007 - 11:57 am:   

Stand by for all the money getting spent on Deptford... as usual
Joined 04-03-2005
Posted on Thursday, 05 July, 2007 - 12:37 pm:   

If voters in the south of the borough mobilise then it should be possible for us to stop all the money going to the north of the borough. The problem with direct democracy is it relies on participation and if we can get enough people to participate from the south of the borough then we should at least be on a level playing field. But it would seem to force communities to compete for resources.

More likely they will avoid geographic projects and will ask 'do you want to spend money on police or museums?'. A difficult choice, but with an obvious conclusion and therefore no real democracy.

However, I think we should welcome this move as improving the power of local community groups (I am biased of course) and it will be interesting to see how the policy will be implemented.
Joined 09-01-2007
Posted on Thursday, 05 July, 2007 - 01:53 pm:   

Not wishing to pour cold water on this, but my understanding is that this is not new money. Rather a portion of the councils existing budget. There's a severe danger of getting some pretty ill informed and unjoined up decisions made here. I doubt that more than a very small percentage of the boroughs population will get involved and actualy vote on issues. Unless well thought out and managed you could essentially just get another level of government with unelected councillors making decisons that currently are made by our, for good or ill, elected representatives.
Joined 08-05-2007
Posted on Thursday, 05 July, 2007 - 03:00 pm:   

I think a careful balance would need to be struck between all of the things that communities would like to see the money spent on and the traditional necessities that it must continue to support. My concern being that community spending in one part of the borough might result in less than popular cuts in another part of the borough.
Joined 30-03-2005
Posted on Thursday, 05 July, 2007 - 03:07 pm:   

I imagine each area (parish) will be given a set budget to spend as it chooses. There might be enough money to put up a hanging basket!