KEN LIVINGSTONE: Labour gets it right
For many people local government is the boring end of politics, where boring decisions about boring things are taken that have no real impact on how we lead our lives. Nothing could be further from the trut
KEN LIVINGSTONE: Labour gets it right in CamdenFor many people local government is the boring end of politics, where boring decisions about boring things are taken that have no real impact on how we lead our lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your local council makes a difference.One thing that unites the poorest Londoner with the most affluent is the need for a decent public realm. You can have the nicest house in London but if the street outside is dirty beyond belief, or if there is a rash of anti-social behaviour or if public transport is not properly integrated, then your quality of life suffers too. Local councils make a decisive difference on these kinds of issues. Matters of real importance - such as recycling, bin collection, the street environment, licensing, planning and anti-social behaviour - are all made or influenced by London's boroughs.As mayor for the whole city I have to look beyond borough boundaries to make sure that we resolve London-wide problems such as policing or transport. The best boroughs work with me to get the most for their local residents out of London-wide services and policies, and work with my office to help me deliver on my objectives.Local councils went through hell in the 1980s and 1990s as the Tories cut the funding for London boroughs. Anyone who recalls that period will know how important it is that those of us committed to better public services actually go out and vote for them.The experience of Lambeth's Lib Dem-Tory coalition, which has been a disaster for the borough, is a good example of what can go wrong. That's why I hope that Camden residents will consider the issues carefully.Camden has an excellent record on schools. It has the highest level of funding for community groups in London. Unlike many Tory boroughs, it has joined the Capital Standard scheme with my office to set up a London-wide 'enforcement academy' to train officers to clean up our streets.Camden has shown its willingness to use the array of powers available to it, such as anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) that help local communities and the police make neighbourhoods safer and more pleasant.Camden's record can be put to the test by comparing it to what's happening across the border in Islington.Islington council has taken its axe to voluntary sector funding. In all nearly 120 voluntary and community groups have been cut and others shut down since the Lib Dems took control.At the same time, Islington has refused to use the full range of powers that the government has made available to it to deal with the quality of life issues that matter to local residents.According to the latest figures, Islington has issued just 27 anti-social behaviour orders, compared to 203 in Camden. Islington has tried to duck the issue by claiming that it is using other contracts and agreements instead, but in fact the figures for these are similar in the two boroughs. The Lib Dems take a similar approach in Camden, criticising the council for using ASBOs against convicted drug dealers. Camden rightly has taken the view that without such measures, anti-social behaviour will thrive.The most visible example of all this is fly posting, which has dropped by 95 per cent in Camden since the council's groundbreaking use of anti-social behaviour powers, whereas Islington has decided not to use the powers available to deal with the problem.Islington has dragged its feet in bringing in new CCTV to make neighbourhoods safer, having just 45 CCTV cameras in operation compared to 150 in Camden.Whereas Islington takes the view that 'there is no evidence' that CCTV works, Camden now proposes to take the policy forward with a planned digital concierge scheme for housing estates.People all over London grumble about local councils, which is all part of having a say over our local services. But when push comes to shove it's essential that we vote to protect and improve local services. The borough will be better off if we don't wake up on May 5 to find the Conservatives and their allies running Camden's services.