Memorandum by Residents from various non-political
groups in the London Borough of Enfield
Last year, Enfield Council carried out what
they have described as a "major public consultation exercise"
with the residents of Enfield. Only 3,000 consultation documents
were printedsome were distributed to organisations and
if a resident collected one from the Civic Centre they were asked
for their name. The impenetrable 12 page document was completed
by 85 groups or individuals, not all of whom were in favour of
the proposals. At least 95 per cent of the borough did not even
realise that the process was taking place.
We now realise that Enfield Council, under the
Leadership of Councillor Jeff Rodin, acted with indecent haste
in this process in order to gain Beacon Status. Councillor, Rodin
admitted in Full Council that the manner of consultation was flawed
and he agreed that the public should be re-consulted. Someone
in higher authority (and this has been asked of the Local Government
Minister, Hillary Armstrong) should ensure that all the borough
(not merely the original small number) will know of this re-consultation,
that it will not involve a similar lengthy and complicated document,
and also that it will take place before Enfield Council has been
able to set its preferred Cabinet model in stone.
It is quite obvious that Enfield has been selected
as a guinea-pig borough to test run all manner of new ideas. While
this may in some respects be considered laudable, it has to be
deemed unacceptable when such an action, in effect, dis-enfranchises
the residents. At not time were we made aware of the other options
of choice for Local Government Reform, nor even the fact the existing
system, with some adjustments, could be retained. The whole process
was put in train immediately after the local elections and before
the White Paper was even available.
Presentations are now being made to various
groups in the borough and, if pressed, those presenting are admitting
to the flawed process of the consultation, the fact that it will
need more layers of staff to implement and will cost more, even
though Enfield has already declared a £12 million deficit
for 1999-2000. We are being told that now that the new Cabinet
model has been put in place, and that we are not to be "backward
looking" but to protest loudly if it all goes wrong! To whom
and how, one might ask, and by what criteria?
We are unable to find any one of our Councillors
or MPs who studied the document and made an effort to complete
one. The residents of Enfield were cheated of a democratic consultation
by 66 Councillors, three MPs and a Chief Executive Officer who
chose to hide the truth from us.
It has been made clear by many Councillors,
they did not have to "consult" and could have "imposed"
the Cabinet model as it was the only option available prior to
legislation. In this case a simple press release would have been
a more honest approach, negating a costly process that wasted
long hours of Councillors' and committees' time, used a mountain
of paper and involved the public at evasive meetings.
Blame is being laid at the government's feet
for its fudge of the White Paper (of July '98), with claims that
it is unclear and open to interpretation. In the event of a referendum,
who would contact the 5 per cent required, pay for its organisation,
and adjudicate? As most Councils, including Enfield, are not in
favour of other models, would they then promote a weak case and
encourage a "No" vote thereby ensuring a fait accompli?
Enfield Council has a well documented record of abysmal public
consultations resulting in only the answer "they" require.
We would ask in this submission that the following
points be considered essential when consulting the electorate
on such a vastly important issue as a change in the way Local
Government is run.
1. All new Councillors should have an induction
period, perhaps shadowed by a former Councillor, where they are
made conversant with relevant legislation such as the National
Code of Local Government Conduct, Local Government Acts and Standards
in Public Life (now under Lord Nolan's successor Lord Neill) and
they should not be given positions of power for which they have
no prior training or qualifications.
2. Remove the retrograde step of excluding
opposition councillors, public and the press from Cabinet meetings
and ensure that any Independent Councillors would not be excluded
from Cabinet or other meetings due to single party control. All
pre-group meetings to decide votes on any aspect of running the
borough should be made illegal and the whips be removed as is
now legally required.
3. Councillors elected should know that
they run the borough on behalf of and for the benefit of the residents,
not their political parties and they should not score political
points to the detriment of the job they should be doing. Local
government should be returned to the system whereby it was a privilege
to be elected to serve the community and, while the remuneration
should cover all expenses incurred, councillors' financial gain
should not amount to vast sums of taxpayers money.
4. Remove the present Cabinet model which
is proving to be the opposite to our Council's stated aims of
"More openness, transparency and accountability and greater
opportunity for Councillor representational role", to name
but a few.
28 June 1999