Cllr Jim Mallory has announced that he will step down from Lewisham Council at the local elections to be held on Thursday, 5th May 2022.
In a tweet, Lewisham Council Labour Group said: “Jim has been a principled, committed community champion of this Council since first elected in 1986. We thank him for all his service & wisdom and wish him well.”
Cllr Jim Mallory spoke of the time when Lewisham Council hit the headlines in the early 1990s when the Inner London Education Authority was abolished and all schools were transferred to local borough councils in inner London. Cllr Mallory was Chair of the Education Committee which had direct responsibility for this vital service in 1991. Local Government operated a committee system and the Leader of the Council was elected by the largest political group on the Council. There was no directly Mayor. Indeed, the committee system dates back to the Municipal Corporations Act 1835.Jim-Mallory-Education-Lewisham-Daily-Mirror-17-May-1991
Cllr Jim Mallory was duly elected Leader of the Council in 1995 and remained until the new Labour Group was elected in the local elections of May 1998. He was replaced by Cllr Dave Sullivan who went on to become the authority’s first ‘executive mayor’ a post that combined Leader of the Council and Civic Mayor ahead of the legislation to create directly elected mayors in the Local Government Act 2000. Cllr Dave Sullivan had close links with Tony Blair’s new Labour Government elected in 1997.
Unusally, the BBC filmed the machinations of Lewisham Council in 1991 – it was a pioneering fly on wall documentary called Town Hall.
Cllr Mallory can be seen trying to placate angry protesters as the education cuts caused by the abolition of the ILEA begin to bite.
Cllr Alan Hall says: “I remember Jim Mallory’s time as Leader of the Council and the changes that were made especially the creation of “Community Affairs”. This consolidated the Council’s outward focus on the voluntary sector and public involvement whilst improving services and the legacy of that decision lives on.”
“Jim has said that setting this budget has been as difficult as before, indeed, harder…he is right. But, I am sure he will acknowledge, it is one thing to set a budget in full council and quite another to deliver it. The new Council will have a massive challenge and they will have some big decisions to make very early on.”
The Labour Party selection process is particularly important in Lewisham as the Council has 100% representation by Labour at the moment. Over one third of the current elected Councillors are due to leave, for one reason or another. Many leaving have years of experience and have expertise in finance, like Cllr Mallory who has recently served on the Public Accounts Select Committee. This is before the voters have their say.
You can read Councillor Jim Mallory’s speech in full:
Thank you, Mr Speaker
First, I want to thank all those many members and staff with whom I have worked over the years. Their service has been exceptional in difficult circumstances!
The last time I spoke in this Council Chamber was over two years ago… before the pandemic, an event that seems more like a lifetime away – given the difference it has made to all us.
In some ways, however, nothing has changed since then… crippling Tory-imposed cuts and the bite of Austerity bringing increased poverty and hardship for our most disadvantaged and making it even harder for the Council to maintain everyday basic services.
Setting this budget has been as difficult as before, indeed, harder because in other ways, COVID changed everything. One way or another, we have all experienced just how difficult it has been. Whether it’s having lost someone dear to us, seen others suffer from infection or caught it ourselves, its effect has been truly devastating.
The effect on people’s mental health, their experience of loneliness and isolation, the digital divide, all thrown into relief by the pandemic. As a Council, we knew of them before, now everyone recognises their importance as issues to overcome in sustaining the fabric of our society.
Now, as an active member of the community sector, you would expect me to say the following:
The response to COVID everywhere among the general public has been great, and from our health and social care services, in particular, magnificent.
Here, Lewisham residents – people in the community volunteering to deliver food parcels, transporting vulnerable people or by gifting money or supplies – helped out without reward in their thousands.
The voluntary and community sectors proved again just how much we depend on them, and we should never forget their contributions.
Our parks, always a source of pride, proved vital in ensuring many of us maintained our health and safety at a time when being largely confined to our homes.
And what of the Council’s unsung heroes? Front-line services – staff out every week, even when losing colleagues to illness, or the hundreds redeployed to support vital services in need of extra help.
The importance of all of these people and services never more in the spotlight, yet as you have heard and as we agree the 2022/23 budget tonight, we face challenges that make it difficult to sustain them.
As someone who has been through this more than most, with your indulgence, let me reflect. Indeed, only Chris Best and I are left of that new and relatively youthful intake in 1986. Chris, of course has outdone us all… no self-imposed sabbatical for her, unlike me. She is the mother of this house.
So, to some lessons. Some of these are basic common sense, but we can often lose sight of things, wrapped up in our town hall bubble… or, for that matter, our Teams exchanges.
“Stick to the knitting”: by this, I mean concentrate on the familiar, what we do well, what’s important… what’s important to all residents – take refuse collection – some of our reputation is built on collecting the rubbish.
I remember joining the crews of the lorries piloting the wheelie bin rounds in 1988 in overseeing Lewisham become the first in England to transform it into a more hygienic and efficient service.
“Keep your nerve”: Whether it’s inheriting in 1990 the Education service, demoralised with its transfer from the old ILEA, or introducing the more localised Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme, you have to hold the line… or at least until you have worked on a compromise that retains your original position but concedes the legitimate concerns of parents, students and teachers – or even, in the case of the latter, some car-drivers – that you may not have got it all right.
And apologise for any mistakes… it helps to defuse the situation.
“Don’t take ‘No’ for an answer”: From officers, especially from lawyers, if it’s about why we cannot implement our policies, or say something in public because it’s too “political”. Ask for a second opinion.
“Avoid splits but not at all costs”: Some of you will remember the splits in Lewisham’s Labour Group in the 1990s, others will have heard of them.
They largely developed around personality, but had for some of us their origins in ideological differences, the most fundamental one – in-house or privatisation of Council services. That difference was what made the split irreconcilable.
To avoid them, you need to work on the common ground and we have been lucky since in avoiding them, latterly I suspect, in part, because the common enemy – Tory Austerity (initially, aided and abetted, let us not forget by the Liberal Democrats) – has been ever-present.
“Never lose an opportunity to explain what we do and why”:
I enjoy public meetings, especially those where you begin by facing an unhappy audience. Angry of Lee Green has to be faced down, as we have done in our Assembly on several occasions.
What seems to work is taking the time to be honest about why we’re bringing in some change – avoid simple mantras or blaming someone else other than the Government and, even then, only by clearly detailing the effect of the cuts. They still may not agree with you, but for the most part, you will have earned their respect.
“Try and bow out gracefully”:
I came in on Thatcher, now I am going out on Johnson. Funny (or not so funny) half a lifetime of living with the Tories bent on destroying the Labour Movement. There was a moment a few weeks ago when I thought I might outlast Johnson, so precarious was the position of that most appalling of all politicians, who most recently in trumpeting so-called “Freedom Day” called on us all to exercise personal responsibility in learning to live with COVID. This, from a man who has spent his life running away from responsibility.
Now, the awful events in Ukraine appear to have saved him, at least for the time being. And his Levelling Up agenda, which was never going to benefit those it ostensibly aimed to help, will fall further by the wayside – paid for by the urban, densely-populated disadvantaged areas… places like Lewisham.
Let me finish with a question, WAS IT ALL WORTH IT? I like to think so – I may not have made much difference, but I hope I made some.
We keep on working because we know there is something better and, as I have said on previous occasions: “Until the return of a Labour government, no matter how long that takes, Labour councils remain the only option to guarantee local people have of retaining some semblance of a civilised and humane society.”
So, COMRADES, as I go quietly into the night:
To all of you – those leaving like myself and those carrying on the fight, the best of luck. Some of us will still be there to help you, even if in a less obvious way.
Cllr Jim Mallory, 2 March 2022