View from the chamber: Opposition committed to make difference

Highgate Ward Lib Dem candidate Liz Morris. Picture: Polly Hancock

Highgate Ward Lib Dem candidate Liz Morris. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

In May 2018 we grew our Lib Dem Opposition group on Haringey Council from eight to 15 councillors.

I was one of the eight Lib Dem councillors up against a large Labour group of 49 councillors.

However, we punched well above our weight in the council – believing in the fundamental Lib Dem principle that residents must be put at the heart of everything a council does.

Now we have almost doubled the size of our opposition group, we can achieve more for residents in our borough. But what does opposition mean and what can it actually achieve?

Clearly, part of being in opposition is to “oppose”. This may sound like a negative or undermining role but in reality it is crucial and constructive. We are like the council’s rear parking sensor – we make a noise when it is about to make a mistake. For example, my predecessor as Liberal Democrat leader warned back in 2016 that the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) had an “unacceptably high risk and should not be entered into by the council”. Had this warning been heeded, taxpayers would have been saved the £3m in costs.

A strong opposition will offer an alternative. In February we launched our housing policy, which would see Haringey Council set up its own housing company, fully costed and approved by the council’s chief financial officer.

We are very pleased that the new Labour administration has adopted the Lib Dems’ recommended policy and now our role is to ensure the council moves decisively to build the homes that are desperately needed.

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Looking forward, there are many complaints from residents about rubbish and refuse not being collected, pavements not being swept, the state of the borough’s road surfaces, dirty swimming pools and desperate adult social care cases.

While we appreciate that council services are under pressure, the council must manage and monitor the work of contractors and partners to ensure that they are delivering the services.

Haringey residents pay one of the highest council tax rates in London and with a 6 per cent rise in council tax from April 2019 the Lib Dems will be pressing the council to deliver.

Finally, I cannot end this piece without mentioning Brexit and the groundswell of support for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal. Last week the founder of the clothing brand Superdry donated £1million towards the campaign.

And it was reported in the weekend press that two of Labour’s biggest “beasts”, Lord Mandelson and Tom Watson, have united to get Jeremy Corbyn to support a people’s vote.

As many of you know, Haringey had the fifth highest remain vote in the country and Haringey’s two Labour MPs support a vote on the final deal.

I now ask that the leader of Haringey Council, Cllr Joe Ejiofor, and his Labour group, join the Haringey Liberal Democrats in representing our borough by publicly calling for Jeremy Corbyn to support the People’s vote.

I will be writing to Cllr Ejiofor this week to reinforce this message, and I look forward to sharing his response with you.