The Gazette had a funny piece on Friday. It was our three local Labour MPs sounding off about the new ward forums. It might have been useful to hear their opinions once they had attended one or two of these new meetings themselves. As it was they pretty much spouted the local Labour party line.
The first ward forum ever in the borough happened in Virendra Sharma’s constituency, Northfield being one of the wards that make up the Ealing Southall constituency. It would have been nice to see him there but Sharma only likes to turn up to council meeting once every six months to qualify for his allowance. I reported his last appearance here. Sharma has until 3rd October to attend another council meeting otherwise he will cease to be a councillor.
Ealing North MP, Steve Pound, was quick to find fault:
I’m also a bit suspicious about the expensive glossy leaflets that are being produced with ratepayers’ money and distributed throughout the borough.
In Northfield our “glossy leaflet” was a pretty dry exposition of what the meeting was about, ward boundaries, etc. It is a bit pointless to have a meeting if you don’t invite anyone. The glossy leaflet succeeded in pulling in over a 100 residents to a productive meeting. The Northfield councillors are very grateful to those that came.
No doubt we will shortly be able to see how much of their new communications allowance our three local Labour MPs have spent over the last year. In March 2007 all three local Labour MPs voted in favour of giving themselves a £10,000 per annum communications allowance, see here. Maybe Pound was being ironic?
The points they all make about decisions being made centrally by the cabinet are kind of right but just wrong too. The old area committees effectively just made recommendations to cabinet, that were rarely overturned. I suspect that it will be even harder for cabinet to overturn any spending proposals made by ward forums unless they are technically infeasible.