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The mid-week Afternoon when Sandwell Council ‘murdered’ Democracy
On the 20th July, after two days of nationwide sweltering heat, the air was slightly cooler outside Sandwell Council House...
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The atmosphere was filled with anger and frustration with strange scenes on a mid-week afternoon – more than 50 protesters turned up from all ages and hues, with a local resident even providing sandwiches and refreshments for local residents who had come, even taking breaks from their day job.
As one of the residents held a placard saying ‘Ikea has a better cabinet than Sandwell‘, The Sandwell council’s decision makers came through the side entrance one by one. It wasn’t just any old cabinet meeting - first on the long list of agenda items was to make a decision on one of the most contentious issue facing Sandwell Borough – Brandhall Green Space.
While the previous featured article on Counter Cut (‘David vs Goliath - a Community’s Fight Against Sandwell Council’) gave an in-depth background to readers on the issue, last week’s events further crystalizes how Brandhall remains as a microcosm of everything that is seen as rotten in Sandwell Council.
If the atmosphere outside the council chambers was an anomaly, even stranger things were happening inside. The usual mundane business of scripted cabinet approvals without any proper discussion was replaced by a local councillor Jay Anandou (Con, Old Warley) questioning the very democratic values of Sandwell cabinet in a rousing speech reminding the Leader of the Council and her colleagues that they hold the beacon of democracy in Sandwell and that they are now shredding the very fabric of our political representative system by completely ignoring residents’ wishes.
It is not an understatement to say that last week was a watershed moment at Sandwell Council, although Council decision makers have shown little regard for over 40 years for the residents of Sandwell, what has changed last week is their level of arrogance in completely disregarding the very taxpayers who not only pay the cabinet’s monthly allowance with most of them getting more than 25k a year for a part time job as councillors and cabinet members, but also their very council tax is used to destroy the green space which the residents of Sandwell officially asked the council to not destroy.
If things aren’t weren’t bad enough, Cllr Peter Hughes (Lab, Wednesbury North) did his bit from a pre-written script from one of his officers, recommending a large school building and 190 houses to be built on the green space destroying much of the valuable part of Brandhall leading to boos and jeering from the residents who filled the public gallery.
Churchill’s bête noire, who he even named ‘the half-naked fakir’ was still someone who fought for democracy all his life - the saintly Mahatma Gandhi - he once said, ’’the notion of democracy is that under it the weakest shall have the same opportunities as the strongest”. Labour Sandwell council shows all but patronizing regard for the weak, the democracy that is practiced today by Sandwell Council is nothing but a diluted fascism, true democracy cannot be worked by eight out of touch cabinet members sitting at the helm. It has to be worked from below, by the people of every ward.
There is a reason behind dividing the country into parishes, county, unity authorities and boroughs – primarily to facilitate the act of democracy and the participation of citizens to happen with adequate representations, I am not sure any of the labour cabinet in Sandwell will be reading this article because what they have done is oxymoronic - the very democracy which has made them councillors and cabinet members has been discarded to suit their convenience.
And indeed It was such an irony on that Wednesday afternoon, that Labour cabinet who are supposed to champion social justice and equality by virtue of their socialist ideals were lectured by the founder of Brandhall green space action group, a tory councillor - Jay Anandou - on how Sandwell cabinet is going about their slow and torturous murder of democracy and social justice with deafening silence in the chamber. The cabinet also saw a rare scene where Labour Cllr Ellen Fenton, a member of the Scrutiny Committee, called in the cabinet and requested a review of the decision on Brandhall.
It can be said with certain caution that this could be the potential beginning of the end of Sandwell labour , and if this colossal fiasco doesn’t trigger the freefall , I don’t know what will… Unless it happens soon, this ‘ totalitarian regime’ will keep making decisions in complete disregard to the citizens of Sandwell.
Written by The Voice of Sandwell
‘The Voice of Sandwell’ writes in-depth stories from across the Borough, exclusively for Counter Cut.
The Brandhall Green Space Action Group can be found on facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/brandhallgreenspace. They can be contacted by email at email@example.com
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