Saturday, November 04, 2006

Full Council Meeting, Wednesday 1st November

The agenda for Wednesday's full council meeting looked relatively light and I thought we would get through things quickly, but that was not to be. I proposed the following motion, seconded by Darren Johnson:

“This council agrees with the Mayor of London’s reaction to the conclusions of the Energy Review (set out in “The Energy Challenge” published by the Department of Trade and Industry in July). The Council specifically endorses the Mayor of London’s stance that investment in massively reducing energy demand through improving efficiency and decentralising generation, together with a major increase in renewable energy is the way forward for London rather than a new generation of nuclear power stations.”

Labour councillors, who are normally whipped on most votes, were given a free vote, and they seemed to get quite excited at this taste of freedom and couldn't resist the urge to make speeches. There were a few technological problems and we didn't have the usual clock ticking down to show us how much of our 5 minutes alloted time we had left, so I charged through my speech fearful of getting cut off mid-way, though in the event I think the chair was a little lenient on timings anyway. The Deputy Mayor, Heidi Alexander, supported the motion, while suggesting it wasn't a Lewisham issue, while the Mayor, Steve Bullock voted against and revealed himself as a bit of a James Lovelock groupie. Lib Dem Cathie Priddey made a good speech in favour, Labour Cllr Alan Hall proposed a bizarre amendment to sabotage the motion by removing all references to nuclear, but then when that failed he supported it anyway. In the end, the motion was passed by 35 votes to 15, with Greens, Lib Dems and Socialists voting for, Tories against and Labour split for and against.

I do believe that the issue of nuclear power is of direct relevance to Lewisham residents, because if billions are spent on a new generation of nuclear power stations, there will inevitably be less money in the pot for renewable energy schemes in the borough, including microgeneration, which I think is a key way to reduce dependence on an ultimately inefficient centralised energy supply and to reduce fuel poverty. In addition, the more nuclear power stations we have, the more trains we may have going through Lewisham transporting nuclear waste.

The Mayor of London’s submission to the Energy Review can be read as a pdf file here. In it he argues that a 60% cut in CO2 emissions is possible by 2050 through decentralised energy and without nuclear power.

Other business: Lib Dems proposed a motion calling on the cabinet member for housing to be sacked for incompetence. While we shared their concerns about failings in the housing service, we weren't convinced that the motion was particularly constructive or in the best interests of the borough. When our (probably less than perfect) amendment to the motion fell, we abstained from the final vote and the motion fell. The other Lib Dem motion, proposed by Cllr Sera Kentman called on the council to increase its support to supplementary schools. Greens supported an amended version of this motion, which deferred the decision on the amount of extra money to be discussed in the round with the rest of the budget proposals. By the end of all the speeches and wrangling over these 2 motions, I was heartedly sick of the endless references to how good the yellow/red party was in Islington/Camden/Southwark/Lambeth (delete as applicable) - way too much political point-scoring. You would never get me trumpetting the achievements of Greens on councils in Kirklees/Norwich/Brighton/Oxford (delete as applicable) ;).

Main source of amusement at the meeting was the decision of the two Conservative councillors who previously sat between us and the Lib Dems to move over to the Labour side of the chamber. Apparently it wasn't intended as a snub to the Greens, or a hint for us to use less environmentally-friendly deodorant, but to do with a recent falling out between them and the Lib Dems, who have started delivering Lib Dem Focus leaflets in the Tory stronghold of Grove Park, how very dare they :).


Anonymous said...

Has the Mayor explained why he no longer has a cabinet member specifically for the environment.

Is it because there are now 6 Green Party representatives on the council?

Anonymous said...

I think he's just re-jigged the cabinet members so they are along the same lines as the 5 council directorates, ie community services, children and young people, customer services (which includes housing), resources and regeneration (which includes the environment) and is covered by the deputy mayor. He may also have wanted one less cabinet member so he could have enough remaining councillors to sit on the overview and scrutiny committees, though he created the extra post of champion for older people and there is also the champion for community safety. Greens have no role in the cabinet, but we do our best to scrutinise decisions made by them and to push for greener policies where possible.