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Topic: Councillors welcome new mayor, but scrutiny changes provoke dissent

Councillors welcome new mayor, but scrutiny changes provoke dissent
08 Jul 2020 17:55 #5405

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Cllr Sabri Ozaydin in mayoral robesCllr Sabri Ozaydin is this year's Mayor of Enfield

Enfield Council's Annual Meeting - the first ever to be held online - saw a council-wide welcome for the appointment of Cllr Sabri Ozaydin as Mayor of Enfield. However, when debate turned to changes to committee structures and scrutiny arrangements there was dissent - not just from Conservatives and the new Community First group, but also from within the controlling Labour Party ranks. There was also disagreement over an increase in the number of councillors who will receive special responsibility allowances.

New mayors and cabinet members

cllr christine hamiltonCllr Christine Hamilton

kayhan aliKayhan Ali

Enfield Council has elected Cllr Sabri Ozaydin as the Mayor of Enfield and Cllr Christine Hamilton as his deputy.

The Council’s Cabinet was also confirmed with Cllr Nesil Caliskan and Cllr Ian Barnes continuing as the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council respectively.

Cllr Ahmet Hasan, Cllr Katherine Chibah and Cllr Mustafa Cetinkaya were selected as Associate Cabinet Members (ACMs) for Enfield North, Enfield West and Enfield South East respectively, while Cllr Ergin Erbil was selected as a non-geographically based ACM.

Young people have also elected Kayhan Ali as the new Young Mayor and Nevaeh West-Lawson as the new Deputy Young Mayor to help the Council achieve its ambitions to work more closely with young people and help deliver a lifetime of opportunities in the borough.

The two 16 year olds will represent the interests of Enfield’s young people to the Mayor and councillors, local residents and public services.

The Young Mayor and Deputy were drawn from the Enfield Youth Parliament and have been elected for one year to represent the views of young people and encourage them to create opportunities around issues that matter to them and their communities.

The most controversial aspect of the changes to the council's committee structure and scrutiny arrangements was the merger of the conservation advisory group, green belt forum and public transport consultative group into a newly created environment and climate change panel. Southgate District Civic Voice raised the alarm about this change last week, concerned that the new panel would not have the capacity or expertise to adequately represent the community's views about these issues and asking members to contact their councillors and ask them to oppose the changes.

cllr derek levy and cllr dinah barry

Community First: Cllrs Derek Levy and Dinah Barry

Despite the efforts of SDCV, the reforms were agreed after Labour councillors voted in favour, with the exception of Cllr Vicki Pite (Chase), who abstained, and Cllr Daniel Anderson (Southgate Green), who voted against. Members of the Conservative Group and Community First also voted against.

Community First comprises two councillors who resigned from the Labour Party earlier this year - Cllrs Derek Levy (Southgate) and Dinah Barry (Winchmore Hill).

The seven new scrutiny panels are: crime, health and adult social care, children and young people, regeneration and economic development, finance and performance, environment and climate action, and housing.

Following ratification of the new structure, SDCV expressed their disappointment in a Facebook post:

The new Environment Forum will combine the three functions of what were previously the Green Belt Forum, Conservation Advisory Group (CAG), and Public Transport Consultative Group. We have no information on how the new forum will work, as this change was made without consulting the many volunteers who have worked for years to improve Enfield for all its communities.

We are dismayed by the change and ask Enfield Council to think again.

In a press release (embargoed until 30 minutes after the start of the council meeting) the leader of the council's Labour Group wrote that the changes were designed to "bolster and improve scrutiny and extra accountability and transparency". She also noted that "For the tenth year in a row Labour Councillors have refused automatic pay increases to their Councillor allowances. Enfield Council has one of the lowest councillor allowances in London."

However, arguments during the council meeting related to a specific issue - an increase in the number of councillors who will receive special responsibility allowances. Conservative councillor Mike Rye suggested this was about “trying to build up the payroll vote for whoever is leader of the majority party”.

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Councillors welcome new mayor, but scrutiny changes provoke dissent
08 Jul 2020 22:05 #5406

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The particular point about these three panels - the conservation advisory group, green belt forum and public transport consultative group - is that they involve a high degree of participation by non-councillors, who provide some specialist input to the meetings. The new arrangement will involve far fewer of these external experts, some well established groups won't be represented at all, and in many cases the single representative of a group such as the Enfield Society or Southgate District Civic Voice won't be the person in that group best placed to input on a particular subject. The person who knows about conservation and heritage may know little about public transport, and vice versa.

Members of the various civil society groups in the borough have between them hundreds of years of living in the borough - they know its history, they can remember what worked well in the past and what didn't, they use the trains and buses, they volunteer in parks, wetland projects etc etc. It's a slap in the face to exclude these people from the forums, even more so when it's been done without any public consultation whatever.

There's a lot of unfair criticism of the council and of councillors. People have unreasonable expectations of what the council can do and how much it has to spend. Many people think that because they pay council tax they can shift responsibility for everything that happens in the borough onto the council, who'll go round after them clearing up their mess (both figuratively and literally). I've made myself unpopular more than once by defending the council, but I don't think that the council is helping its own reputation by moves like this.

For the council to run the borough successfully in these crisis-ridden days - coronavirus, gross underfunding by the government, homelessness, people on starvation wages etc - it is more than ever essential that they work in collaboration with as many of us as possible and that they let us know in good time what they have in mind, ask our views, discuss them with us, explain why when they can't go along with them, acknowledge the amazing input of groups like Love Your Doorstep, ask us to help - in a word, partner with us. To my mind, these changes are going in the opposite direction.

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"A sad day for democracy in Enfield"
13 Jul 2020 22:55 #5424

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Another civil society group in Enfield has expressed its unhappiness about the new environment forum and the abolition of the separate forums discussing green belt issues, conservation and public transport.

Enfield Road Watch Action Group (a rather misleading name, they don't monitor traffic speeds but campaign to keep the green belt) has published the following comment on its website:


A sad day for democracy in Enfield.

The Council has voted to abolish the Green Belt Forum and two other statutory committees dealing with planning in conservation areas and public transport. The administration sent out the agenda last Friday for a virtual Council meeting on July 1 including a change to the constitution to replace the three committees with one tightly-controlled Environment Forum, which will meet monthly but with restricted participation from outside groups. Only 21 groups and one rep per group. We don’t know yet which the groups are or how badly you have to behave to be excluded. For many groups which rely on specific volunteer expertise in different areas, one representative to cover all these very complex issues is totally inadequate.

It seems to be a blatant move to reduce democracy in the borough and cut out public input. The small Conservative group voted against it but the Labour councillors supported the change and there was no time to get an email-your-councillor campaign going. All very concerning! But it’s never too late to express an opinion. Let your councillors know what you think about this – and anything else. Find Your Councillors

Here is how they justify the constitutional change:

Environment Forum

Separate Boards deal with issues affecting the environment and local areas under the current structure. To avoid an inconsistent approach to these issues, it is considered that an overarching Board with local interest groups feeding into this Board would be an effective way for all interested parties to liaise and consider issues together. This Board would deal with issues that currently are undertaken separately by Green Belt Forum, Conservation Advisory Group, and Public Transport Consultative Group. Membership of the Forum would consist of 7 Members of the Council with up to 21 representatives from local groups with an interest in the natural and built environment.

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