More than 500 signatures hope to change the way Lambeth Council runs

More than 500 signatures have been gathered by a Lambeth resident asking the council to change the way it is governed.

Ben Rymer of Stockwell, who heads the activist group OneLambeth, is campaigning for a referendum on how the councillors organise, propose and vote on new policies.

The shift would mean going from a cabinet system, where 11 out of 63 councillors hold most of the power, to a “committee” system, which they argue would be more democratic.

Rymer said: “We think the system is broken and it needs to be fixed.

“If we are successful, the residents in Lambeth will be asked how they want the council to continue to run. Either as it does now, with the current strong leader model, or through what we think is a better, more open, more modern and representative model, which is the committee system.”

Like most councils in the UK since the Local Government Act of 2000, Lambeth Council is run by a cabinet, a reduced group of councillors that makes all decisions regarding local government.

The rest of the council advise on policy matters.

Under the proposed model, elections would be held normally every four years, but all councillors would sit in at least one committee, therefore having an input in to policy decisions.

The current system is similar to the one used in Parliament, where the leader of the party with the highest number of MPs elects his or her cabinet.

Rymer said: “It’s barely working in Westminster, it’s not a system fitted for the modern world, in my opinion.

“At the local level, we often get caught up in the single issues, and rightly so.

“But when you step back and pull on the thread for a little while, you get back to the point of noticing there is a problem at the system’s level.”

Having worked on local issues for the past five years, including anti-LTN activism, Rymer has raised his awareness over problems in the way decisions are made in the council.

He said: “I was struggling before LTNs came around to understand the root cause of issues I cared about, such as libraries or financial transparency.

“It’s the way LTNs have been introduced, and the sweeping powers of the cabinet, rather than them as a concrete tool to control traffic.”

The group needs 11,568 verified signatures to trigger a local referendum, which they hope could take place at next year’s council elections.

To achieve this, the activists are organising online campaigns as well in person events.

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