With less than a week to go until Greenwich Council elections on Thursday 3 May, 853 is running a series of articles from the main parties. Eltham North candidate ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN explains why you should give your votes to the Liberal Democrats.
Over a century ago, Liberals instigated the setting up of the modern democratic system of local government. Today’s Liberal Democrats remain the most steadfast champions of councils as vital tools for people to shape the area that they live in. The basic liberal principle that power should be exercised as close to the people as possible is something that Lib Dems take seriously the length and breadth of the country.
In Greenwich we have been putting our principles into action by going out and knocking on thousands of doors in order to listen to the concerns of local residents and begin the process of resolving the issues that they raise.
Our goal is to be the voice of the community on the council rather than the voice of the council in the community. We believe that no party is better suited than the Liberal Democrats to represent the views and aspirations of people in a liberal, cosmopolitan area like Greenwich.
By contrast, Labour have proven themselves willing to ignore the views of residents over matters both large and small.
Whether waving aside locals’ well-founded concerns over air quality in order to approve the Enderby Wharf cruise liner terminal or defying the vast majority of their constituents in order to help the Conservatives push through a hard Brexit, Labour in Greenwich exhibit a complacency born of decades of uninterrupted power.
West Greenwich congestion worries
To illustrate our different approach, in Greenwich West our candidates and activists have been speaking to residents in every part of the ward.
This has led to common themes emerging in different areas. As a result, our views about what needs to change in council policy have been updated as we learn more about how policies affect people’s day to day lives.
In one residential part of the ward people continually brought up issues with traffic making rat runs through their streets to avoid congestion on the A2.
The Council’s existing approach to these complaints has been to consider installing additional control measures on roads where people have been most vocal about the issue.
Where measures have been implemented this has had the effect of pushing the problem from one street to the next.
Our canvassing found that concerns with traffic were common across a wide area. The solution that we propose is to have controls at the junctions with the A2 in order to cut down the amount of traffic without imposing unnecessary measures at points within the area.
Without taking the time to go out and talk to local people it would be impossible to get a full understanding of this and many other issues across the borough.
Canvassing also gives us the chance to pick up small problems with bin collections, cracked pavements and potholes and take immediate action to get them fixed.
During the campaign we have identified and fixed dozens of such problems. If elected, our candidates will continue to go out and listen to residents in order to ensure that they remain the most effective representatives they can possibly be.
Fresh eyes on the council
Historically, there are parts of the borough where the only real opposition to Labour has been provided by the Liberal Democrats and our predecessor parties. From 2015 on, the membership of the Greenwich Lib Dems has quadrupled as people have joined to help build a sensible, pro-European alternative to the ever more extreme platforms of the Labour and Conservative parties.
The explosion in our membership has led to a record number of Council election candidates and a fresh infusion of energy and ideas. Many of our candidates in these elections are people who are new to party politics. They bring a wealth of experience from all walks of life and a genuine motivation to make a positive difference for the areas they seek to represent.
On the council, our candidates would be guided by the need to provide the maximum possible transparency when taking decisions so that residents and the local press can hold them and the other elected members to account.
Lib Dems would supply fresh eyes to scrutinise the proposals put forward by council officers and other parties. We’d take a more serious approach to protecting air quality than the current administration. Above all else, Liberal Democrats will work hard to understand and champion the interests of the communities that we represent.
As Labour and the Conservatives continue to fight their respective internal civil wars we hope that our community-focussed approach offers a refreshing alternative.
If we succeed in electing councillors, then we plan to demonstrate just how effective traditional liberal community-led politics can be in improving an area we love.
Andrew Chamberlain is standing in Eltham North ward for the Liberal Democrats. To find out more, visit www.greenwichlibdems.uk.
853 provides public interest journalism for Greenwich and SE London. If you’ve found this coverage useful, please consider becoming a supporter:
– buy the site author a coffee at ko-fi.com
– or join 101 monthly patrons and get a regular newsletter: www.patreon.com/853