Green councillor’s secret Town Hall meeting protest
Islington Council calls private cuts meeting a gathering of the 'star chamber'
24 November, 2017 — By Joe Cooper
Caroline Russell locked outside
ISLINGTON’S sole opposition councillor, Caroline Russell, was not invited to a council meeting about budget cuts – but turned up anyway. All 47 Labour councillors met at the Town Hall on Monday evening to discuss how to balance the books in the face of “severe budget pressures”.
The Green Party’s Councillor Russell was initially invited by Islington Council chief executive Lesley Searey, but was later told she could not come. The chief executive’s office should be politically neutral. In an email from Ms Searey to Labour councillors, the meeting was described as a “star chamber” – a historic term for secretive proceedings.
The Town Hall has since apologised. Cllr Russell said it was evidence that Islington’s “one-party state” was bad for accountability. “It’s a shambles – a dereliction of duty that Islington Labour have got to the point of holding a secret meeting to make cuts,” she said. “They have called their meeting tonight a star chamber, which is by definition arbitrary and unfair. This is the opposite of openness and accountability. This is not the way the Green Party would do it.”
Town Hall leader Richard Watts said Monday’s discussion, attended by the heads of all council departments, was a “routine” Labour group meeting. Cllr Russell added: “At a time of severe budget cuts, I think it is important that the whole council gets together to discuss what can be done.”