Lynne Featherstone MP calls on Haringey Council to help local community

 Lynne Featherstone MP outside a closed down shop (formerly Bones furniture) in Muswell HillLiberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone has today called on Labour-run Haringey Council to make use of the Sustainable Communities Act.

The Act, which was passed in 2007 with cross party support, gives communities and councils the right to come up with proposals and to then submit these to central government. These proposals can be for any government action or assistance that would reverse community decline and protect community assets.

In 2009, a Liberal Democrat motion calling for Haringey Council to ‘opt in’ and use the powers given in the Sustainable Communities Act was passed unanimously. Since then, however, the Labour-run Council have not submitted any proposals

Councils that have used the Act have achieved positive results. In Sheffield, for instance, the then Lib Dem-led Council made a proposal to Central Government, suggesting that the Council be given power to run and plan the post office network on a trial basis. The proposal was adopted. As a result, a post office was saved from closure and a 5% growth in local Post Office revenue and significant savings to the council’s budget was achieved.

In June of this year, the Government made new regulations, which improved the Act’s process and re-established the rights of citizens and councils that use it. Localworks, the organisation promoting the Act, are calling on councils to pass a new motion resolving to use the strengthened Act.

Steve Shaw, National Co-ordinator for Localworks, said:

“The Act could make a huge difference to boroughs such as Haringey. It provides a mechanism through which local residents can have their ideas – about their local communities – passed to central Government. Government then has a duty not merely to consult but to negotiate and try to reach agreement on those ideas, so this process has real teeth.

“If local councils want more power to improve their communities and save money, then this is their chance.

“I thank Lynne Featherstone for calling on Haringey Council to make use of the Act.”

Lynne Featherstone commented:

“It is just typical of Labour-run Haringey to opt in to the Act and then do nothing. They have so far failed to take the opportunity to use the Act and make proposals to central Government.

“I have now written to the Interim Chief Executive to the Council to alert him to this and ask what steps will be taken from now on in this regard.

“I want Haringey residents to be able to have their say and express their ideas about our community. I am, therefore, very happy to call on the Council to use this Act. I hope, for the sake of our community, that they listen!”

Haringey spurns opportunties offered by Sustainable Communities Act

Typing still difficult, so here’s the text of the press release:

As the recession deepens Haringey Council has rejected an opportunity for millions of pounds of funding for local residents it emerged this week.

Local campaigners and Liberal Democrats expressed astonishment when they learned that Haringey’s Labour-run Council failed to organise applications for extra government money under the Sustainable Communities Act – instead opting for a “wait and see” approach.

Following enquiries from Councillor Nigel Scott, Alexandra ward, who proposed a unanimously supported motion to Council on the subject in January 2009, calling for an opt-in, Cllr Matt Cooke (Labour Cabinet Member for Community Cohesion and Involvement) sent an email indicating that Haringey Council will do nothing this year.

Councillor Nigel Scott comments:

“This new act gives real power to local communities yet Haringey Council admits they do not want to do anything to give this power and money to people in Haringey.

“Ninety five other councils are already doing this now, but Haringey has said, ‘no thanks, we’ll wait for next year’. This is unbelievable.

“The Labour councillors supported our motion in January but their warm words have failed to be followed up by any real action. Local residents will be very disappointed.”

Daniel Flanagan, a spokesman for Unlock Democracy, the organisation that campaigned for the Act said in a response to an e-mail from Cllr Scott,

“This is totally unacceptable and was not what was agreed at Council. There is no excuse for not opting in this year. There is no guarantee that there will be another round. The only way to be sure of getting something is to act now. The Council are letting down the residents of Haringey. If you do not opt-in, you are guaranteed to get nothing.”

Lynne Featherstone MP adds:

“As the effects of the credit crunch start to hit our community, local initiatives certainly could do with this extra cash boost now – not in a few years time. The Sustainable Communities Act says, in effect, ‘Give us some good community based ideas and we will pay for them’, yet Haringey can’t be bothered even to ask”.

Good news, good news, good news

Lynne Featherstone with residents of Westpoint, Clarendon Road, celebrating their parking permit successOne – during the week my Liberal Democrat colleagues on Haringey Council got a motion through for Haringey Council to opt-in to the Sustainable Communities Act. The act in itself is really only a tool to open up future possibilities – but now we’re well on the way to being able to do that.

Two – parking permit problems for residents in Clarendon Road sorted out.

Three – Transport for London (TfL) have now promised that we will be able to use Oyster Pay As You Go on trains by September. Easier train travel, here we come!

Many thanks to everyone who backed the campaign on this – I’ve no doubt the public pressure make a big, big difference.

The Sustainable Communities Bill: what's it about?

That’s the topic of my latest article, just uploaded to my website:

Have you ever felt like screaming ‘it isn’t fair’ when – regardless of the whole neighbourhood being up in arms – the Government runs roughshod over local peoples’ wishes and carry out its own wishes regardless?

Well, although it doesn’t have a sexy title, the Sustainable Communities Bill could help bring about a major change in the way we are governed so that in future local people can more often say, “hang on, you don’t have the power to do that.”

You can read the article in full here and also watch my colleague Julia Goldsworthy talking about the subject.

Sustainable Communities Bill

Sustainable Communities Bill in Parliament today. Not a sexy name – but it may go some way to meet that dreadful sense of powerlessness we all get sometimes when the Government runs roughshod over local wishes. It’s about giving local communities much more power over their issues in their own patch. It is a Private Members’ Bill with all party support – and though it is usually quite difficult to get MPs to Parliament on a Friday (those with constituencies outside London are normally travelling back to a long weekend packed full of local meetings and events) – today there were enough to see it through to the next stage. Julia Goldsworthy has been doing much of the running for the Liberal Democrats on the issue – and you can watch her talk about it on her website.

Debate was followed by a very harrowing surgery – and then followed by a weekend off(ish)!