Camberwell votes 2: the local elections

And so following my previous post we turn to the elections that will arguably have a greater impact on day to day life in Camberwell over the next four years: the elections to Southwark and Lambeth borough councils. Although life in Britain is much more centralised than many places across Europe the local borough council still does have considerable power over things like development, licensing, regeneration and lots of other things that can have an impact on our community.

The current situation

Let us just remind ourselves of the position at the last elections in 2006: in Southwark Labour won 28 seats, the Liberal Democrats 28, the Conservatives 6 and the Greens 1. The Lib Dems, not having an overall majority formed a coalition administration with the Conservatives to rule Southwark continuing the arrangement first established in 2002. Looking at the map on the Southwark website Camberwell falls in four Southwark wards — Camberwell Green, South Camberwell, Brunswick Park and Faraday. All of these wards returned three Labour Councillors apart from South Camberwell which returned two Labour Councillors and one Green Councillor.

The fact that none of these Councillors were in the ruling Lib Dem/ Con group has I believe (and it is my personal opinion) not been to Camberwell’s advantage over the past eight years as it seems other parts of the borough have received greater council investment/ attention.

The elections in Lambeth in 2006 resulted in a Labour administration taking over from a Lib Dem/Con coalition — Labour won 39 seats, the Liberal Democrats 17, the Conservatives 6 and the Greens 1. Since then Labour have lost one seat to the Lib Dems in a byelection. The map of Lambeth shows that three wards — Coldharbour, Herne Hill and Vassall contains parts of Camberwell and at the last election all elected three Labour Councillors  apart from Herne Hill where one Green Councillor was elected, the Lib Dems won a seat at a byelection in 2008 in Vassall Ward.

The administration in Lambeth does not really  recognise that parts of Camberwell fall in the borough even though Camberwell’s biggest employer (Kings College Hospital) is in Lambeth. This has not wholly been to Camberwell’s disadvantage as we are considered to be ‘North Brixton’ or ‘East Brixton’ and have therefore received spending on investment and regeneration aimed at that part of the borough.  I think the area around Coldharbour Lane,  Loughborough Junction, Myatts Fields and Ruskin Park is now looking better than it did four years ago and has obviously received investment.

7 thoughts on “Camberwell votes 2: the local elections”

  1. Mumu, well reasoned and thank you. Sorry, I do believe the republic group discussed is highly political, just glancing at their website, and would prefer a community group of sorts host some kind of hustings. Nothing personal, as to each thier own here in Camberwell. Is the SE5 Forum not hosting a candidate hustings or debate or something? Seems a golden opportunity.

    Also, will The Camberwell Party join a coalition, if elected? Will they not dilute any chance of a Labour majority? I note Mark Dodds has not endorsed The Camberwell Party. Mark, is this because you believe it will hurt Labour? I am torn on this one.

  2. Excellent article. I agree that the Lib Dems/Conservative coalition has probably been to the detriment of Camberwell. My fear about voting for The Camberwell Party is that by taking votes (and in theory seats) away from Labour this would increase the probability of the Lib Dems keeping Southwark. Thus voting for The Camberwell Party could “harm” Camberwell.

  3. Let’s just have a Camberwell party, especially if Labour win Southwark, because our current Labour councillors are excellent — one thinks of Ian Whigfield, Barrie Hargrove.

    Let’s go with Labour and we’ll get things done.

  4. Graham was asking if voting for the Camberwell Party could harm Camberwell. I don’t think so. Below I give a description of the effects of four possible outcomes of the elections.

    1) Camberwell Party wins no seats

    The Labour Party realises that it has been neglecting its heartland and will make sure it is more vocal and active in supporting Camberwell in future. Labour does control the Community Council, which is responsible for an increasing amount of local funding. Previously, the Labour Party has tended to produce policy papers on Camberwell, then file them away blaming the Council Executive for lack of progress. All local councillors are able to work with local businesses and the third sector to further understanding of the challenges facing Camberwell and encourage investment and jobs in this area.

    More than a year ago, the Labour Party identified in a policy document the potential for the redevelopment of the Bingo Hall site. If at that time, they had gone a step further and contacted Gala Bingo and raised the issue of the future of this site or at least asked to be kept informed of any possibility of Gala wanting to sell the site, there might have been the opportunity for community groups or private sector bidders to come forward and make a bid. None of our existing Labour councillors appear to have taken any steps to do this.

    Having seen the state of disillusionment with the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats decide it is worth campaigning more vigorously in Camberwell at the next election, raising the level of democratic debate and choice in the area. The Lib Dems got about a quarter of the votes of Labour in the 2006 elections in Camberwell Green. There is almost no chance of them winning, but if they did, Camberwell Green could become a highly prized three-way marginal attracting increased attention from all parties.

    2) The Camberwell Party wins seats — no overall control

    In a situation of no overall control, the Camberwell Party like other small parties or independents would be in a strong position to negotiate for policies advantageous to Camberwell. This could either be funding specifically directed at this area or policies which would benefit those parts of the population which are more prevalent in this area: those on a low income, young families, people in social housing, people working in the artistic and creative industries etc.

    Both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats have focused their attention on marginal wards. There may be some improvement in the situation if Labour take control of the council (though the Clegg-effect perhaps makes this less likely than Mumu suggests), but in reality, Labour will start worrying about the 2014 election as soon as this one is over. Marginal wards will remain marginal wards and this will continue to be the focus of attention. If the Camberwell Party can make Camberwell Green a marginal ward then we might start to attract funding anyway. If the Camberwell Party actually took the seats and there was no overall control in the council then the position for Camberwell would be even stronger.

    3) The Camberwell Party wins seats — Labour in control

    The Camberwell Party would work constructively with Labour and seek to ensure that the needs of the Camberwell area were not forgotten. A constructive voice bringing in ideas from outside the Labour Party would result in better policy, not worse. Camberwell barely featured in Labour’s Southwark manifesto. Perhaps this is understandable given the lack of space and the fact that half of it was taken up with criticisms of the Lib Dems, which shouldn’t really be in a manifesto. Peter John may be a South Camberwell councillor but I believe he lives in Riverside in the heart of Lib Dem territory. The Camberwell Party would be able to push Camberwell up the Labour Party’s agenda, making sure that huge and expensive projects like the Elephant and Castle don’t result in regeneration in other parts of the borough being forgotten or put indefinitely on hold.

    4) The Camberwell Party wins seats — Liberal Democrats in control

    Again the Camberwell Party would work constructively with Labour and seek to ensure that the needs of the Camberwell area were not forgotten. The Liberal Democrats have tended to focus on the wealthier parts of the borough by the river or in areas such as East Dulwich. This would be an opportunity to educate the Liberal Democrats on the needs of areas they have previously avoided. The Lib Dems election agent told me they are not planning to do any serious campaigning in Camberwell. I don’t believe that Camberwell benefits from being written off as Labour territory by the other political parties. Provoking debate on Camberwell was the reason I helped set up the Camberwell Party. If the Liberal Democrats gain an understanding of how disillusioned people on the estates are feeling, they may actually consider how they can in future appeal to these voters.

    I don’t see any of these outcomes as being detrimental to Camberwell. If elected, we would get a council more focused on the needs of Camberwell. If not elected, at least Labour will realise that something has gone wrong for them in Camberwell in recent years and they will work hard to rebuild their support in this area.

  5. Labour is not boring, though. BLT, shouldn’t we have Andy Stranack on our team, proper job he is.

  6. @myattvote: we are a community group. our members may or may not have weak/strong views on any of the current issues. how weak/strong they are is in the eyes of the beholder. our aims & objectives are not political, unless you consider sharing information & encouraging people to share/take part in communal activities highly political? that, again, would be a personal interpretation?
    our political-ness or lack of is of no relevance to our right to organise and host a hustings event.
    the event is going ahead as scheduled and all of you are more than welcome to come along.

  7. Yep, I’m with Dagmar.

    Labour for Southwark. Ian and John are about the only two local politicians I have met who genuinely seem to work hard and care.

    And — if it means I end up with Dave if I vote for Nick — its also Harriet for Parliament.

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