Lucy Salek, spokeswoman for Liberal Democrats Lewisham, on democracy review
Lewisham Liberal Democrats were pleased to see the council commit to carry out a democracy review, particularly as Lewisham is a one-party state with no opposition councillors.
However, as the review has progressed it is anything but democratic in its approach.
The review is chaired by a Labour councillor, with a working group entirely made up of Labour councillors who make all the decisions.
And, even before the council has reviewed its own consultation, the review’s chairman has said he’s against changing the Mayoral model where most decisions are concentrated in the hands of Damien Egan and a handful of cabinet members.
More than 79,000 votes were cast for other parties at the last council election. The 40 per cent of Lewisham voters who voted for other parties are not being represented in this review.
It should be a basic rule that decisions about how a democracy operates should be cross-party not one-party.
Without wider involvement, there is a real chance the Democracy Review will just end up with recommendations that suit Lewisham’s Labour Mayor and councillors.
That’s not good for democracy – and it’s also not good for Lewisham.
The evidence shows that lack of scrutiny makes for worse decisions and is linked to councils paying more for worse services.
We’ll all end up paying for Labour’s mistakes.
That’s why we think the Democracy Review needs its own challenge panel made up of other political parties and wider community groups to provide a wider perspective.
We also think it’s time to review the Mayoral system and to give the people a vote on whether to keep or scrap it at the same time as next year’s London-wide elections.
And Lewisham Lib Dems will do all in our power to hold the Mayor and cabinet to account.
If Labour really want to improve democracy in Lewisham, then it needs to learn some humility.
Democracy is too important to be left to just one party.