Local groups and opposition councillors have accused Labour-run Southwark Council of ‘stitching up’ a body that’s intended to be a grassroots-up forum and ‘feathering their own nest’ by giving their own pick over £12,000 for chairing a panel that will meet just three times a year.
The ‘Resident Involvement Panel’ purpose is to defend and promote the interests of local residents, which often means standing up to the council. However, five of the fourteen members have been chosen by the council despite, or some say because, they have little previous experience of being involved in such forums. Another four are officers employed by the council and the hand-picked Chair will receive £12,600, as well as travel and hotel expenses. A panel that was intended to act as a strong, independent voice for local residents will now be packed by people selected by the council, work for the council and are lavishly rewarded for the council to the tune of almost £500 a day. Unsurprisingly, at the first meeting, local residents were outnumbered by council officers.
Cllr Anood Al-Samerai, Leader of the Southwark Liberal Democrat group on Southwark Council said:
‘Here is yet another classic Labour gravy-train stitch-up we’ve all come to know and despise in Southwark. This panel is supposed to be the independent grass-roots voice of local residents, mandated with challenging powerful interests, be it arrogant council diktats or over-bearing developers. Yet here we have the Labour council corrupting it and packing it with people of their own choosing or in the council’s pay, all to stop scrutiny, stifle criticism and crush dissent. Handing out almost £500 a day to Chair this fake engagement exercise is the final bitter cherry on top. Local residents are entirely right to be angry and they have our full support in protesting this farce.’