Cllr Kevin Bonavia Cllr Kevin Bonavia introduced the Local Democracy Review. In May 2018 - as part of his election campaign, the new Mayor Damien Egan promised to launch a review that will make Lewisham ‘even more democratic, open and transparent’.
This is being carried out because the same system has been in place for 16 years and during this time there have been significant changes. The Council has reduced in size and function due to Government cuts over the past eight years and in addition there has been new legislation introduced and new responsibilities during this time. There is also an increasing demand for services and a growing population increasing from 250,000 in 2001 to 301,000 today.
Cllr Bonavia then took the assembly through a presentation explaining what the council does. The presentation is available on the Lewisham Council website http://www.lewishamdemocracy.com/ or from the Local Assembly Manager Paul Gale email@example.com
After the presentation people were given the opportunity to ask questions.
Q Do you have any data regarding people moving in and out of the borough?
A I do not have migration figures, but we do know that more people are coming in than leaving. There is a real issue regarding affordability which is why we need to deal with the housing crisis and provide more homes. The other issue is with our schools. The Primary Schools have been rated excellent, but this is not so with the Secondary Schools, albeit they are improving.
Q When will the results of this consultation be included and implemented and how will you engage with people who are difficult to reach?
A We have to report to full Council with our recommendations in April 2019. Some of the implementation will not happen overnight and can take up to a year.
We are trying to get out of our comfort zone and away from the Council offices, by attending assembly meetings and other community events. We have put notices around the borough and on social media. Part of this exercise is about education, before people can give their ideas they need to know about what we do. As part of this we are visiting schools with a much more interactive presentation as we are very keen to engage our young people.
Q Do you have the capacity to manage expectations as there is so little money available to implement changes and recommendations?
A We have to get the balance right, but the question is what can we do, what works elsewhere and how can we resource it.
Q How much real effect do you have on the budget as most of the money is committed before it comes in, so what real impact can you make?
A There is some discretion, but not much. Lots of the money comes through the council, but we cannot touch it such as money for schools.
Q How many people want to interact with the Council, as I suspect that most people don’t.
A We need to engage with people earlier on, at the last Council elections Blackheath had the highest turnout, but the least issues with the Council. Areas with the lowest turnout such as Bellingham recorded the most complaints / issues with the Council. We really do need to get the community more involved during the early stages.
Cllr De Ryk – We do publish impact assessments for most of the major work we do, particularly when we need to make cuts. It is important to remember that the Council needs to be able to ensure that it can be effectively engaged with, irrespective of whether people want to engage us.