As a Councillor in a split ward, I have been working with Labour Councillors closely for the last four years and I often make the point that they have to put the Council’s interests above Eltham’s. It is often tricky to explain what this means, but there are some obvious examples, like opposing reduced Business Rates for shops on Eltham High Street during the regeneration works or supporting Controlled Parking Zones (which bring in revenue) where residents don’t want them, however, I was struck by the defensiveness of the Council on display by a Labour Councillor in a recent twitter exchange with the excellent Eltham Arts organisation which does so much good work in our community on a voluntary basis.
Eltham Arts learned about rumours that the Council had cancelled the “much loved FREE 10th Greenwich World Cultural Festival planned for July @ElthamPalace”. Now this seemed to me to be an opportunity to find out what was going on and stand up for Eltham with the Council, however, the Labour Councillor for Eltham North responded with comments attacking Eltham Arts including ‘please learn to tweet facts only’ and ‘I suggest you check your facts carefully’. Personally I would have thought an offer to find out more may have been more appropriate.
Unfortunately for the Labour Councillor, it was confirmed quite quickly that the event had been cancelled and the Council was looking for (but had not found) a new provider. Eltham Arts (which is completely independent from the Conservative Party I might add) subsequent pleas for the Labour Councillor to get on board to find a replacement have gone unanswered and I think this makes clear the problem for any Eltham Labour Councillor trying to stand up to the natural Woolwich bias of the Council – they have to tow the party line.
For my part I will happily campaign for the return of the festival to Eltham Palace if re-elected, but this episode makes it clear how hard it is for Labour Councillors not to object to criticism of the Council and then fall into line if decision which damage Eltham are made for Woolwich’s benefit.