Lambeth Tories accuse Labour group of ‘blurring’ responsibilities for Housing at Council meeting

Lambeth Council has been accused of allowing Cabinet members to escape political accountability. This comes following the changes that were agreed at Full Council on Wednesday evening.

Conservative Leader Cllr Tim Briggs drew attention to the formation of two new Cabinet roles: Planning, Regenerations and Job (Cllr Matthew Bennett) and Regeneration and Housing Management (Cllr Paul McGlone.)

Cllr Briggs told the meeting:

“Housing officers now have two masters. There is the opportunity for Cabinet members to not become politically accountable. It is a typical Lambeth Labour thing to do. You blur who is accountable by making a structural change.”

The claims were made at the Annual Meeting [pdf] that also saw the election of the new Mayor, Cllr Marcia Cameron.

It was the agenda item Cabinet portfolios, other administration and Opposition appointments that angered Cllr Briggs. He also questioned the allowances awarded to the Labour administration:

“I’m still unclear what the special projects lead did. I raised this a year ago. It’s typical of this administration. There is no explanation given for dollops of money handed out to Cllr’s.

I’d also point out that one Cllr is a Deputy Cabinet member, but it doesn’t say for what. There is still a lead member for Community Relations who gets £4,000. I’ve no idea what that Cabinet member does.

Lastly we’ve got five Neighbourhood Leads. They are paid £2,500 on top of their allowance. What are they doing on top of being a Cllr that they will be paid for? Absolutely nothing. We have issues with many of these payments.”

The Labour group has appointed various Deputy Cabinet roles – each able to pick up an allowance of £10,905. The five ‘Neighbourhood Leads’ will each receive £2,500 on top of their existing Cllr allowance.

The new Mayor invited Cllr Paul Gadsby, the Chief Labour whip to respond:

“If you actually read the job description it’s all in there. There’s no issue with accountability. That’s absolute nonsense. You’ve just made it up. You want to have a cheap shot.

In terms of community relations, I know that the Tories don’t care about Brixton. But we do care about it. That’s why Donatus [Anyanwu] is taking on that role. I can’t think of anyone better qualified.”

Criticism at the meeting also came from Conservative Cllr Bernard Gentry:

“The Constitution of the Council is clearly enshrined. It is important that the Opposition has access to information. Time and again we have not been informed of decisions about our wards. These are investigated, we are then told that these are errors from the Officers.

As we move towards the local elections there are going to be things going on. It is important that we as a group are provided with information in a timely manner. One issue this year was the budget. It took several days for meetings with Officers to be arranged.”

Cllr Gentry then attacked the Lambeth Labour way of carrying out consultations:

“It is an arrogance. You’ve got got an idea, you are going to consult but you will implement it anyway. There is a disregard for the views of the communities and local people. I suspect it is too much to expect the administration to change. In 50 days the reckoning is coming. You may wish to change things, if as the polls suggest, you go down to a heavy defeat in the General Election.”

Cllr Gadsby once again responded. He kept his reply brief:

“I’m quite happy with information to be taken up with Officers. The consultation is a well heard line that we have heard from the Tories. They have shaped the actions we have taken. Once again this was another cheap political point.”