Last week, after Lewisham Council announced a £16M programme of cuts, ELL went to central Lewisham to ask residents` opinions. But we couldn’t find anybody, not a single person, who was on top of what was going on. Nobody. And the few people who took a minute to listen to our explanations of the cuts didn´t seem to really care.
A mother of a two-year-old boy just smiled with blissful ignorance when we asked if she was concerned about the closure of the Amersham Early Childhood Centre, one of just four in the borough. An unemployed man didn´t have an opinion about the closure of the free employment service Opening Doors.
Whose fault is people’s unawareness regarding Council decisions which will affect them directly?
On the one hand, it is Lewisham Council´s responsibility to keep their residents up to date with its policies, even if they are as unpopular as these cuts, and even if the Labour cabinet feels that the mayor is being forced into “carrying out the government’s dirty work”.
But until now, there hasn´t been any visible push to make these changes transparent; if you go into the council´s website looking for this information you are not going to find it. There is just “a summary of some of the key decisions made by the Mayor”, which only says that he “agreed to all the proposals presented”, and highlights the exceptions. But which proposals?
On the other hand, there is personal responsibility to stay informed about changes with an impact all around us. ELL has been reporting about local cuts, as well as other local media.
The council gave the residents the possibility to give their opinion in the research ‘Our Lewisham, Our Say’, but only 2,700 people responded. And according to the last census, the borough has a population of 248,922. The group of people opposing the library closures and protesting during the last council meeting are obviously a conscious minority.
The lack of communication between Lewisham council and its residents is worrying. These cuts are undesirable, but they are already underway and people need to be prepared to confront them.