Sunday 15 April 2012

Seven questions for Michael Pavey

A couple of weeks ago, one of Barnhill's Labour councillors stopped me outside the Town Hall to urge me to join the Labour Party.  I told him that I had left the Labour Party 47 years ago  and couldn't rejoin as I still had some socialist principles. He told me that I was wasting my time with the Greens and should join up so I could help change local Labour from within.

I am afraid I guffawed.

There are decent people in Brent Labour Party, and I count some of them as friends, but I don't respect the lack of democracy that is evident in their policy making and decision making. With an all powerful leader, acquiescent Executive, backbenchers limited to ward working and a browbeaten rank and file membership, the party has become separated from ordinary people.

Michael Pavey, Labour's candidate for Barnhill, dropped me a friendly note earlier this week and I am sure that he is a fine fellow: 'I think most people who have dealt with me, think I'm a pretty straight sort of guy and I am..' as Tony Blair said. Having talked to councillors from various parties I recognise that most of them started out as local community activists who wanted to see improvements in their area. Often the choice of party when they decided to stand for the Council was almost incidental, depending on who they bumped into and who asked them, but it is what happens once they are elected that concerns me.

Cllr Ann Hunter remarked recently that she put her ward before party and it is clear that she has had her disagreements with the Lib Dem leadership, and was of course a Labour councillor until she resigned from Labour over Iraq.  She said this openly while some backbench Labour councillors have let it be known privately that they are opposed to library closures and some of the other council  cuts, and there are persistent rumours that in the Executive George Crane has his reservations and Jim Moher is more aware of the contradictions than many.

Despite all this, not one Labour councillor, Executive or backbencher, has come out openly to question any of the policies apart from Cllr Claudia Hector who made her opposition to the demolition of the Old Willesden Library public in a message to the Keep Willesden Green public meeting.  Once enmeshed in the part machine the activist becomes another rubber stamping, silent and privately resentful, automaton.

So given all that I have some basic questions for Michael Pavey:

1. If he is elected, what will he do if there is a clear difference between the interests of people in Barnhill and a particular Council policy?

2. Will he urge his fellow Labour councillors to initiate a London wide Labour Council resistance against the cuts demanded by the Coalition government?

3. If this does not happen and the cuts are clearly damaging local people, at what point will he vote against implementation?

4. Does he support the way Brent Council has ignored the thousands of people opposed to its library closure programme and more recently the regeneration of Willesden Green Library?

5. What will he do to restore the credibility of Brent's consultation system, criticised by many residents, campaigning  groups and our respected local newspaper?

6. Where does he stand on privatisation of council services, council sponsorship of a free school and academy conversions?

7.. What are his policies for Brent Council action (apart from support for the 'back to work scheme'.)  Like the Labour candidate in Wembley Central his literature only refers to GLA and Government issues, and not to what Brent Council have done or will do.


Michael Pavey said...

Hi Martin, I'd be delighted to answer these questions. I'm out campaigning everyday and would like to take the time to give you a proper response, so I'll get back to you by the end of the week. Best wishes, Michael.

The Local Don said...

What are you campaigning for? The current 60+ Local Councillors have done very little for Brent and are costing Council Tax donors over £450,000 a year.

Ask a local councillor a question these days and its "brent council has a tight budget this year, we hope to do it next year"

Ask yourself Council Tax contributors, where has all the money gone?

The Local Don.

Martin Francis said...

Michael Pavey has sent in this response which I publish unedited so readers can judge for themselves whether the questions have been answered:

I’m standing because I want to serve the people of Barnhill. In these difficult times a really hard working Councillor can do a lot to support local families. I’ve been knocking on hundreds of doors in Barnhill and the only promise I’m making is that I will be a full time Councillor, completely committed to the local community.

I believe that the best form of consultation is to get out and listen to local people. As Councillor for Barnhill I would knock on doors every week and would always be visible, accessible and honest. Rather than discuss hypothetical scenarios about disagreements with Council policy, I will give a sincere commitment to always be available to local people and to do my utmost to influence Council policy on behalf of local residents. If elected, I hope the community will hold me to this.

I’d prefer not to comment specifically on Willesden Green Library as I’ve been solely focused on Barnhill for over two months. I would be very happy to discuss any community facilities in Barnhill with local residents.

Education is my greatest passion and my top priority. It’s what drew me to politics and what led me to stand to be a Councillor. As Chair of Wembley Primary School and two local Sure Start centres, I am deeply committed to stretching and challenging every child to fulfil their unique potential. I am also passionately committed to supporting families to enable them to bring out the best in their children.

I believe that education is best delivered through a supportive partnership of schools, parents, the community and local authorities. I fear that Free Schools run contrary to this ethos. However, I cannot defend a status quo in which over 700 children in Brent have no school at all. I would love to build new local authority schools - but the Government will not let us. In the meantime I am absolutely delighted that Brent’s Labour Council has secured £30.9 million for new school places - the largest allocation in England and Wales.

I strongly support collaboration with other local authorities to identify creative and innovative ways to cope with the brutal cuts being forced on us by the Government. I would support campaigns to protest and lobby the Government, providing these are legal and do not jeopardise the Council’s responsibility to protect our most vulnerable residents.

If fortunate enough to be elected as Labour Councillor for Barnhill, I would work hard to ensure that the Council’s new Back to Work programme reaches deep into the community to provide support for those most in need. I would draw upon my ten years’ professional experience as a Project Manger in the public and voluntary sectors to ensure that this programme is a great success. In Barnhill, I would work tirelessly to roll out the new games area next to Asda and the hour of free parking in Preston Road car park.

However my top priority would be to seek out and try to resolve any local issues I can help with. In this campaign alone I have already picked up over seventy pieces of casework. If elected on 3rd May I look forward to doing everything I can to help these people, and the rest of Barnhill.

Michael Pavey, April 2012.

The Local Don. said...

All those campaigning for a vote say pretty much what Michael Pavey has outlined and amounts to moving mountains if needs be.

Local councillors are unable to serve those who vote for them because the elected councillor accepts a salary from Brent Council. To all those currently in work, who pays you? the answer = your employer. Are you as an employee able to accept a salary from your employer while at the same time challenging their decisions? of course you can't, if you did you'd be out of a job that means no salary. What makes you all think this isn't the case with Brent Council and local councillors.

Contact you current local Councillor and ask them to do something for you. I will guarantee all they do is contact the relevant department to which that question relates. When that department contacts the local councillor saying they can't do anything because of the reduced budget etc etc - your local councillor just passes you that response and politely says "nothing more we can do here" and thats it. You might have waited 6 weeks for that response, so why not cut out the local councillor and do it yourself? You might contact the wrong department at first, i'm sure those working at Brent will redirect your issue to the relevant department.

The difference between doing it yourself and going through a local councillor is that local Councillors can't challenge those working in individual departments for Brent Council because Brent Council also pays them a salary.

Paragraph 3 sums it up for me:

I’d prefer not to comment specifically on Willesden Green Library as I’ve been solely focused on Barnhill for over two months. I would be very happy to discuss any community facilities in Barnhill with local residents.

If Michael were to comment specifically on Willesden Green library he might get no votes, which means no salary.

I suggest that all those reading this post to contact your local councillor and ask them what have they done for you since elected. You could even try asking them to do something for your residential road or area and post the reply you get on here., i'm sure it'll be along the lines of "we have no money to improve your area due to budget cuts, maybe next year" then you'll volunteer your next council tax payment in line with your direct debit agreement. Wheres all the money going? i'll give you a clue, it's not being spent in Brent.

The Local Don.