Lambeth Council (Supplementary) [1]

Session date: 
February 21, 2006
Question By: 
Mike Tuffrey
Organisation: 
Liberal Democrats
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

I am tempted to ask which part of section 45 (3) of the GLA Act this question refers to. In other words, what this has to do with your strategic responsibilities? Since the question has been allowed, and the answer has been allowed, can I say that everybody from all political parties would condemn fraud, but that is an amazing cheek from the Labour Party to raise the question of fraud, corruption and mismanagement in Lambeth?

Are you aware that in the last year of the Labour administration, there were 89 separate cases of fraud identified, with £1 million pounds worth of spending? Are you aware that when Labour left office in 2002, they left a deficit of £28 million? That has been turned around to a surplus last year of £24 million. Are you aware that the district auditor has qualified Lambeth's accounts for the last 17 years until now, and that this is the first year for 17 years that Lambeth's accounts have not been qualified by the district auditor? Those are years when the Labour Party was in charge. Are you aware that when the Labour Party left office in Lambeth in 2002, the council tax collection rate was 82%? Do you know how much it is today after four years after Liberal and Conservative administration? 95%.

Are you aware, Mr Mayor, that when Labour left office there were over 1,000 cases going to the ombudsman? That total has been halved today. Are you aware that when Labour left office in 2002, the recycling rate in Lambeth, one of your strategic responsibilities, was 8%? Do you know how much that is now today? 24%. Are you aware that when Labour left office in 2002, your own government had put the council in special measures on four issues? Are you aware that today there are no special measures? They have all been lifted. Are you aware that when Labour left office, schools were under special measures? Are you aware today that no Lambeth schools are under special measures? Are you aware that Labour had a plan to close 10 primary schools when they were in charge? Are you aware that today plans are well advanced to open three new secondary schools?

Are you aware that when Labour were last in office they closed two libraries and cut the book fund by £400,000? Are you aware that today, thanks to increased spending by the Liberal Democrat/Conservative administration, visits per thousand have risen from 3,000 to 5,000? I could go on, I have a 23 page briefing note which I will willingly read, and indeed at the next Assembly meeting, we will willingly table questions about every Labour council in London if the Labour Party really wishes to use the time of this assembly to scrutinise councils instead of scrutinising you, which is what our job is.

Supplementary To: 

Answer

Answer for Lambeth Council (Supplementary) [1]

Answer for Lambeth Council (Supplementary) [1]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

If it is the wish of the Assembly that we should interpret your questions right to the narrow definition of the Act, I suspect thousands would have been ruled out in recent times and all of you have asked me to denounce other borough councils of a different political persuasion at some time or other. Do not get overstressed just because there is an election coming. I would like to hope that you could go back to that list and tell me how many children are without a secondary school place in Lambeth because it is 500, and after four years in office what you are planning to do about it?

All the point scoring is very well, but what I talked about here were two areas where this administration has offered millions of pounds of council money drawn from a government grant to concentrate on two good schemes at Herne Hill and at the Tate to actually transform the area. Why not take it up? I hope that on your list you will tell me that you are about to agree the estate modernisation of Clapham Park Estate, because that is the best estate modernisation scheme I have seen in the five and a half years I have been Mayor, and you are still stalling. You are right up against the deadline. It will improve the quality of life. Point score all you like. Have we safely secured the swimming pool down in Streatham? We have not. Frankly, your record is abysmal and unfortunately, it has a racist tinge to it, and I intend to spend a lot of time campaigning in Lambeth and Southwark because those are racist administrations that have positively discriminated against their black residents, and I will do all I can to bring them to an end.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): Are you aware, contrary to what you said half an hour ago, that Lambeth Council has conducted a door-to-door canvass? Are you aware of that fact? From 10 October until mid-November, 65,000 doors of houses were knocked on who had not returned the relevant form. Are you aware of that fact? No.

The Mayor: You might actually say that when you decide to register the black voters as well as the white'

Mike Tuffrey (AM): I have here a table showing the non-registration by ward, and there is no correlation between ethnicity and non-return of forms. The accusation that Lambeth Council is somehow racist in discriminating against voter registration to stop people from different ethnic communities registering is outrageous.

The Mayor: Well in that case, how do you explain the fact that the failure to register people of black African origin is four times higher than whites, if you are doing it properly? Are you suggesting that black people do not answer the door when someone knocks on it?

Mike Tuffrey (AM): What I am suggesting is that, I have the figures here, the reasons for non-return of the forms are many and varied and it is not simply a question of colour of skin. That is what I am suggesting. Could you explain why in the last year of the Labour administration, they cut the budget for electoral registration by £24,000 specifically on doorstep canvassing? Can you explain that? Three years ago the Labour party cut the budget in Lambeth for door-to-door canvassing.

The Mayor: You need to recall what I said. This is the beginning of a policy to ensure that everywhere does a door-to-door canvas, and every voter is registered. I did not say that it was only Liberal Democrat councils, some are good and some are bad. What we have got here is a council that is refusing to spend the £60,000 in its budget when it knows that over 30,000 of its voters have not been registered. If you are prepared to tell me now that they are prepared to spend the £60,000, we will not need to.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): I have a list of everything that they have done to try to increase [voter registration]. I will happily read it out if the Assembly wants me to. This £60,000 is entirely bogus. Are you aware of the fact that this figure was dreamed up in a Labour council motion to propose spending additional sums which were obviously not in the budget, the money was not identified, it was simply a Labour campaign thing that you are falling into the same trap on. I could go on and I will go on unless we can agree that between now and the local election day, we here concentrate on our job and we let our borough counterparts get on with their job. Nevertheless, if you really wish to spend the time in Mayor's Question Time examining the record of Labour councils across London, we will table questions for the next meeting exploring the appalling record of Labour councils. I really would genuinely, point-scoring aside, suggest that we should concentrate on our job. I am really disappointed that the Labour Party have chosen to use our time this morning in this way.

The Mayor: I am afraid, based on the experience of 2002, that I expect we will have more debates about the relative merits of borough councils over the weeks to come. Although it is all very funny, still I would say, come back to those key issues I raised, which are serious ones: the future of the residents of Clapham Park Estate, who wait to see their area transformed, the 500 kids without a secondary school place, the failure to take up the proposals to improve Herne Hill, the failure to take up the money that is on the table to do the layout in the area outside the town hall, which is a real eyesore. That is money that is there for the taking that this council in Lambeth is not taking up.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): There are complex reasons behind all of these.