On Tuesday night the area forum for the Ladywell, Brockley and Crofton Park wards was held. Around 40 people attended and it had all the councillors from the 3 wards on the platform all Labour except for Darren Johnson from the Greens.
The meeting began with a 20 minute glossy presentation on all the things the council is doing to do with litter, graffiti and flytipping. On and on it went and then lots of people spoke about their gripes.
According to the agenda the 8.30 -9pm would have been a general question and answer session so I was hopeful that finally we could talk about issues other then those of New Labour’s choice.
Finally, at 8.38 the chair of the meeting said ” I’m sorry I forgot if anyone would like to speak about any other issues please put their hand up.”
I put my hand up and as soon as I did that I couldn’t but notice that Pauline Morrison ( Ladywell councillor) whispered something to the chair- Jackie Addison (councillor from Crofton Park).
I had a feeling I was going to be censored from speaking. I kept putting my hand up all along the rest of the meeting, but while about 10 other people were given the chance to speak I was never called.
Unfortunately my feeling had been right.
At the end of the meeting as we gave out invites for the Ladywell Pool campaign social event on Friday, quite a few people said ” we noticed you didn’t get called why was that?”.
We challenged the chair of the meeting and she said ” There were other people who did not get called and you can’t notice everyone!” She looked uncomfortable as she slipped passed us.
We asked Pauline Morrison why I was never called and she said ” I wasn’t chairing the meeting ask the chair.”
I have been to a number of these meetings and have always been able to speak. It now seems that New Labour now do not even want to listen to their constituents if we want to criticise them.
The New Labour councillors were clearly expecting the Ladywell leisure Centre to be an issue as we all were given a 2 paragraph statement (read it below) that in a style more akin to Bulgarian state tv than to western democracy tries to feed the people of Lewisham with the official truth.
But we surely will learn some lessons from this rather sour episode. The next time we will not be so naïve to assume that the New Labour Councillors encourage any free speech or debate.
The following is the text of the briefing provided at the meeting by either Lewisham Council or the New Labour Party. It was not given to know who produced it as it was missing a signature.
Ladywell Pool- Briefing
In June 2004 the Council decided to close Ladywell Pool so that work could start in summer 2007 on the development of a new secondary school but would open in September 2009. The Council had intended to acquire the Ladywell Police station site and redevelop this and the adjacent Playtower site as the preferred location for the secondary school. However, the Metropolitan Police decided to dispose of the site on the open market and the acquisition cost made the site unaffordable to the Council.
In September 2004 the Mayor agreed to review the decision to close the pool and invited responses from all interested parties. 20 suggestions were received and evaluated from the Mayor to consider in October. The work concluded that the case for a new school remained strong and the Ladywell Leisure Centre was in the right area of the borough and provided greater certainty of delivery than any other site.