Tyneside has one of the few councils in the country that has opted for a mayoral system. In London, it has been shown to work, but that is more down to one man, Ken Livingstone, than the system, but as Tyneside has demonstrated, it can go horribly, horribly wrong. Too much power is placed in the hands of one person and it is open to abuse. As the saying goes: all power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Tyneside is already on its second mayor. The first was forced to resign following a child pornography scandal. The council is a majority Labour council, but the cabinet is entirely Tory, appointed by the Tory mayor, at a stroke, the majority of people in Tyneside have been effectively disenfranchised, especially those in the poorer run down working class areas.
As an aside, far from moving to a mayoral system, where power is concentrated in the hands of one person, which Tyneside has demonstrated is an abysmal failure and open to abuse, we should be moving in the opposite direction, where power is moved out of the hands of councillors and their officials and into the hands of the local community.
Tyneside has decided to embark on privatisation of its council housing. To soften upon the tenants, repairs are being withheld. This has a beneficial side effect, beneficial that is to the Tory mayor, of building up a multi-million pound war chest to drop council tax for the next election, a crude bribe to support the status quo.
Consultation is taking place with the tenants, or what laughingly is called 'consultation', to those affected, it is a sick joke. Apart from a pro-privatization leaflet drop, something around four hundred tenants have been asked to comment, 400 out of a total of 18,000 council houses, of which around 200 responded. Various forums have held discussions with the tenants, many of which have been chaired by Tory householders!
Like all consultation, it is of the form, we have decided what is best for you, and we are telling you what it is, you are welcome to comment, but we reserve the right to ignore your comments if contrary to what we have already decided.
A motion critical of the whole process, with recommendations for the way forward, was put before the council, or at least an attempt was made to put the motion before the council. The law officer ruled it unlawful. When queried, the law officer did not know on what grounds it was unlawful, but as there was no guarantee that it was lawful, it was decided to play safe and rule it unlawful! On this basis, every single motion put before every council across the country could be ruled unlawful!
'This Council notes that Council House Tenants have no confidence in the Housing Options Appraisal exercise and calls upon
- the chief executive to take over the running of the consultation exercise
- a small committee, made up of tenants and councillors with a large
number of council house tenants in their wards, be established to
oversee this exercise
- the council recommends that council tenants support the Stock Retention
The motion is causing a great deal of concern and embarrassment for the council officers and the Tory cabinet member for housing. They are wanting the motion to be withdrawn, and have been forced to admit that the 2.5% stock survey was too low and they require at least 10%, and in their own words must "learn from their mistakes and build on the process already started", or in other words, they are being forced to start again. They are asking the proponents to withdraw the motion, but this is only likely to happen, unless they admit they were wrong and and agree to start again.
Interesting times on Tyneside!