An issues paper prepared by the Opposition Group is attached for the consideration of the Council.
The Council rules relating to Opposition Business are attached for information.
Councillor Laban introduced the issues paper, prepared by the Opposition Group.
1. Issues highlighted by Councillor Laban were as follows:
· She highlighted three key areas of concern, housing, customer services and scrutiny.
· Housing was one of the biggest issues in London and this administration’s record in this area was, in her opinion, less than impressive. Meridian Water was in limbo after 18 months of failed negotiations. She felt that if they had used the GLA framework, houses would have been built by now. She also had concerns about the impact on the proposed development of the Labour Mayor of London’s industrial strategy.
· After eight years the small housing site developments were still not complete. It had been a scandal that the nearly completed buildings at Jasper Close had had to be knocked down because they had not been protected against bad weather. There were also significant delays in other housing schemes.
· Concern that customer service standards had dropped significantly and this was not in her opinion due to cuts. Management of the transformation to new ways of working had been poor. The website was not fit for purpose: it could not cope with the large number of users pushed on to it. Members Enquiries and Freedom of Information requests were taking far longer than they should. Good customer service was important to residents, particularly the vulnerable.
· Cuts to scrutiny reduced accountability.
· Many people had yet to see the reality of the Council’s vision.
2. Councillor Achilleas Georgiou, Deputy Leader, responded on behalf of the Majority Group highlighting:
· That he could rebut every point made by the Opposition.
· That the Conservative Opposition lacked belief in themselves, shown in the wording of the recommendations, and in that several members were defecting to safer seats.
· Acknowledgement that the Labour Administration aimed high but could not always achieve what they hoped to due to shortage of money from Government. That the Conservative Government had attacked local government: Enfield’s funding had been reduced by £161m since 2010 with a further £35m proposed for 2019-20.
· Recognition, that despite the cuts, the administration had been able to, among other things, find a further £4.2m for education, fund 16 new police officers, install more CCTV cameras, 93% of schools had been judged good or outstanding, create two new parks including an artificial grass pitch on Enfield playing fields, plant 623 new trees, reducing the carbon footprint, build new homes and attract new businesses including the Camden Brewery.
· He looked forward to welcoming many more hard working Labour councillors on 3 May 2018.
3. Other issues highlighted during the debate were as follows:
a. The need highlighted by the members of the Opposition Group:
· To acknowledge concern about the huge reductions in spending areas including in the capital programme, including for Meridian Water, in social care, children’s services and in environment. Most of the capital expenditure being for Cycle Enfield. More money should be being allocated to repairing the infrastructure, repairing schools, and maintaining council properties.
· Also concern about the money being used to bail out, the failed, in the opinion of the opposition, Enfield 2017 programme and the planned increase in expenditure for Housing Gateway and commercial investment which for a Labour authority seemed bizarre.
· To acknowledge that the Conservative administration in 2002 had had to sort out the Council’s finances, reducing the debt and building up the reserves. After 2010, the Labour administration had failed to plan for the severe cuts to local authority spending, that they had been warned were coming, spending recklessly on the Enfield Residents Priority Fund and the market gardening scheme. Overall the Labour administration had increased debts and raised taxes. The Council now owed £2,400 for every person in Enfield. Procurement mistakes had been made and risks had not been properly assessed. The Conservative Government had had to repair the economy, after the damage caused by the previous Labour Government.
· To recognise that the 2017 reforms had been a disaster, that the hubs did not work, the phones were not being answered and the budget deficit was increasing, as was interest on the Council’s debts.
· Concern about the increasing democratic deficit, through the bonfire of scrutiny, the cuts to the length of speeches at Council, reducing the time available to expose the ineffectiveness of the administration.
· Concern about the shortage of secondary school places and the ideological opposition to the academy and free school programme, which could have bought extra resources to the Council at an earlier stage. The view that the credit for the educational improvements were down to headteachers and staff, not the authority.
· Concern about the decline of the local shopping centres and the problems contacting planning officers, for which residents were paying.
· Whilst crediting the administration for preserving some of the libraries, there were concerns about the closure of the Southgate library and its move to Barnet and Southgate College. As well as the premature closure of Enfield Highway Library, due to a lack of forward planning, and its replacement in an office building, opposite.
· Concern about where the additional £60m identified by the Section 151 officer was being spent.
b. The need highlighted by members of the Majority Group:
· To recognise that the Labour administration had been responsible for the development of new homes on the Ladderswood Estate, the small housing sites, Ordinance Road, Ponders End Electric Quarter, the Alma and New Avenue estates.
· To understand on Meridian Water that works had begun: 35 hectares had been purchased, the Network Rail station moved and 135 homes had received planning permission and it would be an attractive development. Appointing Barratts, as the development partner, would have meant approving a bad deal for the people of Enfield.
· To acknowledge the praise received by the Council for their housing delivery and the national awards they had received. This had been despite Government policies including right to buy which had meant the loss of thousands of council homes, the failure to fund safety measures following the Grenfell Tower disaster and which had resulted in a huge increase in homelessness.
· To acknowledge that the Conservatives did not have a positive vision for the future. When in power they had wasted their opportunities to develop the Council’s industrial base. Despite sky rocketing price rises, the Labour administration had created thousands of jobs including as part of the Montague 406 redevelopment, the Lee Valley Heat Network, nurturing green technology companies and other small and medium sized businesses, improving vocational education, bringing in food and beverage companies, encouraging small manufacturing with Building Bloqs and successfully facilitating the move of Metaswitch, creating and co-ordinating a mixed local economy to combat the effects of BREXIT.
· To recognise the heroic efforts of health and social care workers in providing safe, good quality services, despite the attacks from Government. The Labour administration had provided a new state of the art care home which had been recognised as a need by the Conservatives in 2006 but which they had failed to do anything about. Conservative led governments had reduced the number of beds at Chase Farm from 500 to 50, bought in a top down re-organisation resulting in GP’s being paid not to refer patients to hospital, causing one local hospital to be in melt down, patients queuing in ambulances and 1.2m elderly not receiving the care they needed.
· That there was acknowledged to be a £2b funding gap nationally in children’s services and that Adult Social Care was nationally at tipping point.
· The Conservative Government had cut both the police budget and the public health budget and the Labour administration had had to step in to protect residents.
· The Labour administration had managed to keep open the libraries using varied option including innovative partnerships with other organisations. The hub libraries were now major destinations. They had maintained provision and improved access with £1.5m visits this year.
· The Building Schools for the Future budget had been cut risking much needed school repairs, but the Labour administration had managed to find money to create new kitchens and dining halls and provided 4,000 primary school places so that no child was without the offer of a place, despite the Government cuts. The discussion on the secondary academy had begun in 2014 but the Government had failed to deliver in time.
· Concern that the Opposition was proposing to rip up the cycle route along Green Lanes at a cost of £2m and further liabilities to TfL, a scheme that they had originally supported.
During the debate Councillor Stewart moved and Councillor Anderson seconded two proposals under 2.2 of the Council procedure rules to extend the time available for this issue firstly by 15 minutes and secondly by a further 20 minutes.
3. At the end of the debate Councillor Laban summed up on behalf of the Opposition Group as follows:
That there had been failings by the Labour administration and there were many examples of failure to provide real services for real people. Meridian Water was in trouble. She felt that the borough would be a better place to live, work and do business under a Conservative Administration.
4. Councillor Taylor then summed up on behalf of the majority group responding to the recommendations in the Opposition Priority Business Paper:
He expressed disappointment that not a single Conservative backbencher had turned up for a recent parliamentary debate on Local Government. That despite Therese May’s promises on fairness and equality. It was a local Labour administration that was delivering. They had had to live with the consequences of the cuts made by their Conservative Government.
Cycle Enfield, creating segregated cycle routes had originally been supported by the Opposition and in a previous Opposition business the Conservatives had promised the investment and the segregation. He did not believe that a future Conservative administration would dig them up and return the money to Transport for London. This was a fairy tale.
The Labour party had good values, the Conservatives none.
After the debate, the Leader’s response to the Conservative Opposition Business paper, was agreed following a vote with this result:
The recommendation in the Opposition Business paper was therefore not agreed.