That’s what I call empowering communities!

I’m on a big fight these days. As usual the counterpart is Lewisham Council or better, a few of those at the top of it.

The issue this time is bigger than the pool, it’s a constitutional matter.

If you have been reading this blog or my campaigning blog you already know that about a month ago I attended my local Area Forum and proposed the residents intervened there to place an item in the Mayor and Cabinet Agenda as the Constitution of the London Borough of Lewisham allows Area Fora to do.

Unfortunately, although we did something that the Constitution allows, we must now fight for this right to be respected because as you’d expect those in charge of the Town Hall are not at all happy with it.
Now, I’m taking this seriously. This is a constitutional right and, it makes a lot of sense. Lewisham is one of the few Directly Elected Executive Mayor authorities in England and the way these Councils work is very simple. There’s the Mayor with all the power and the Council is more or less redundant. To make things even less democratic the Mayor only needs the vote of one third of the Council to approve the budget.

I’ve been to quite a lot of Mayor and Cabinet meetings and they always remind me of King Solomon. Great, we have a system that to call medieval is to pay it a compliment.

So, when you realize that the Constitution includes a small line of only two words (page 121) that makes it possible for the people of Lewisham to write items of the Mayor’s Agenda it all start to make sense.

To write items on the Mayor’s Agenda means in effect telling the Mayor what he should do.

Of course he can disagree, but to do so he must write down very clearly why he doesn’t want to do as you tell him to do. No more riddles, clear explanations. Because if those explanations don’t make sense or they’re untrue then you can challenge him with a Judicial Review and his opposition would take political advantage.

Can you imagine if people really start to use this opportunity.

All you have to do is prepare a document where you ask the Mayor to agree on an action (it’s for executive decisions), head for your Area Forum that meets once every year, propose a vote, make your case. If your neighbours think that you’re making sense the Mayor will find it in front of him/her and will have to think hard if to agree or disagree.

Ever thought of something that the Council should do but doesn’t? Go on, write it down and look for your Area Forum. Are you member of a group that needs support from the Council? Tell the Mayor to give it to you. The sky is the limit. No, it’s the budget but there’s a lot of proposals that could make it.

For what I know this feature of the Constitution has been there since we have this system and that was 2001. Have you ever heard of it? I haven’t.

We’ve been flooded of a constant string of initiatives about empowering communities but nobody ever told us that we can tell the Mayor what to do next. That’s what I call empowering communities!

And when a month ago I managed to place this item on the Mayor’s Agenda I felt empowered indeed.

Only that of course the real world is a bit different because although the item has been placed there, now that the agenda has been published it’s just not there anymore.

It’s been replaced by an oral update by the Council’s solicitor.

I am not surprised that they fight back with the solicitors but as they should have known, I don’t take it sitting still and on Friday I was already campaigning.

I started a petition that’s written on a toilet seat and with it I’m collecting signatures that I plan to deliver to the Mayor together with the toilet seat and the delivery is supposed to happen this coming Wednesday. That’ll teach him. It’s a metaphor for our rights flushed away and people seem to like it, lots of looks on the street and people stopping to listen. In fact I’m tempted to make this a longer campaign, it would also help inform people of this incredible right. Unless the Council’s magazine Lewisham Life decides to publish a feature to inform the residents of their rights.


8 Responses to “That’s what I call empowering communities!”

  1. kate Says:

    Hi Max, how can i sign your petition? And can i demand that the mayor looks into my housing case? or will i be laughed at?

  2. Max Says:

    Hi Kate, you can do better, why don’t you collect a few signatures?
    Just write the text of the petition collect signatures underneath.
    To be done right yo have to have the same text on every sheet and collect name in print, address and signature.

    Sure you can put your proposal for executive action in front of the Mayor.
    You have about 11 months to prepare the proposal for the next Area Forum.
    But you have to work out this proposal in a way that it cannot be turned down. The best way would be to involve more people with the same problem as you.
    I think that the way to do it is to be creative and realistic.
    I have already started contacting people to set up a group to examine proposals like yours and advise on how to prepare them in a way that they have the best chance of being approved.
    I am truly convinced that this is a revolutionary feature of our constitution.

  3. kate Says:

    yey people power! đŸ˜‰

  4. Max Says:

    That’s the idea. Get the widget.

  5. kate Says:

    sorry i know im slow …how do i get the widget?

  6. Max Says:

    Hi Kate,

    I tried that code with blogger and couldn’t make it work.
    I’ve done another code for blogger and posted it on this page:

    copy it and paste it between the “start sidebar” and the “end sidebar”

    (I know that the code disappeared, it must be some strange feature of the comments in wordpress)

  7. kate Says:

    I dont know how to tell you this but theres no code ha ha . think someone is playing tricks on you. how about you email me the code? might be better.

  8. Lewisham Round Up « Someday I Will Treat You Good Says:

    […] That’s what I call empowering communities! […]

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