Saturday, April 09, 2011

On the mobile library piece, and lest there be misunderstanding I have my flat cap on; this is my view NOT SE5 Forum's (for those who don't know; I am co founder, and now vice chair, and my habit of saying things on public fora appears to create confusion in some places about what I am representing when, really, I would NEVER say anything on the part of SE5 Forum without stating so very clearly). ): (:-) This is me.

It's a shame but the way the library consultation is presented puts the administration at Southwark in a very poor light. Following Southwark's silence (along with other political bods such as Harriet and Tessa) over Gala Bingo (where there was a very loud and car park full busy service this evening by the way); the planning department's numerous odd behaviours over Camberwell for years; the very messy scenarios over Burgess Park consultation; the vacating of the Town Hall and taking Council business to the already rich north without so much a nod or a tip of the hat hasn't helped either.

People KNOW a lot of this is to do with previous administration but to locals the traditional arms-length behaviour feels to have carried on seamlessly since Labour were elected when really, they had a good head start for getting some great PR in, and a LOT of people behind them, if they had played their cards right from the day they got in, what with that dreadful coalition in place at Westminster, to gain a LOT of feel good support among Camberwellarians - by tapping into a widespread wave of sympathy, even empathy, among The People toward any new local administration who got into power at such a calamitous time anywhere.

Instead of any attempt at a PR boost there has largely been silence from this administration since they got in and now this consultation doesn't come across as a consultation at all. In the context in which it appeared this is more like an advert for a plan already hatched behind closed doors: 'we're doing this because we know it's what you want, and we think you're worth it, thank us and we might even try and put a few of the things you suggest in there when it happens. If you don't like it? Well, you won't get anything and see how you like that' is how it feels.

It seems familiar. Things get done to Camberwell and few people locally appear ever to have an input into how it should be done before it's too late. This has been going on forever as far as people who live and work here are concerned, with the exception of what happened to the Baths - and even that's run into shortfalls and shortcomings recently which directly impact on people's thoughts and views about the proposal to spend a LOT of money moving a building to a piazza in the hope of solving a problem there's not any proof it will address adequately.

Camberwell needs a closer dialogue with its local authorities more urgently now than ever. The feeling held across a wide range of groups, individuals and even some of the local statutory bodies and third sector organisations is that Southwark is remote and closed off when it comes to anything to do with Camberwell. 'Local democracy that's top down and Stalinist' is how several people have described the state of affairs for the Camberwell community in the past. To my own surprise even Labour insiders have said the same... off the record of course. And so it goes on.

Camberwell needs to be looked at holistically. This has never been done in spite of it having been asked for innumerable times. I know this was being suggested by local people from a wide range of backgrounds and opinions well before I set up business here in 1995 and to my knowledge nothing substantially has changed in all that time.

A Town Centre Manager has been on the cards for over a decade. The most recent development on that front is a 'virtual town centre management team' - of officers from both sides of the borough divide. How many of you know about that? A 'Virtual Town Centre Management' team of people who don't live here, don't directly work here but who clearly know all the nuances of what needs to happen to our town better than we do, I mean the people who live and work here who will be living with the outcomes of their decisions made remotely in meetings we know nothing about for decades coming.

That's not Big Society, it's not Civil Society, it's not Localism. It's not getting the best bang for our bucks. It's not making anyone feel better about anything to do with their local lives.

It does not need to be so. It could change. It's never too late.

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