Green Party’s Caroline Russell slams Town Hall democracy – and urges voters to elect a strong opposition

Islington councillor Caroline Russell (centre, bottom row) with her fellow Green Party candidates. Photograph: Green Party

Islington’s only opposition councillor has slammed the Town Hall for trying to silence and exclude her – and is calling on residents to elect more of her Green Party colleagues to hold the council to account.

Cllr Caroline Russell, who is standing for re-election in Highbury East on 3 May, spoke out today about her experience as an Islington councillor since being elected in 2014.

“I don’t think our council systems and processes are set up for such a lack of balance with just one opposition councillor”, she said.

“The last four years have seen some awful examples, including where the chief executive has invited all councillors to a meeting to discuss emergency budget cuts, only to uninvite me, saying it was a Labour group invitation.

“I’ve also faced council lawyers wrongly trying to gag me over speaking out on the closure of Fabric nightclub.”

Cllr Russell was speaking as the Green Party launches its local election manifesto for Islington, which contains ten pledges on how Green Party councillors will work with residents to hold the Town Hall to account.

They include calling for council meetings to be broadcast live online, as happens with some other councils, and pushing councillors to hold ward partnership meetings every four months to inform residents about local issues.

“Residents tell me repeatedly they feel un-listened to by the council”, she said.

“If I’m re-elected, I’ll push for webcasting of meetings so residents can help check what the council is doing more easily, and keep pushing the council to allow residents’ voices to be heard early enough in any project to be able to contribute and make a difference.”

She added: “I very much hope I will have Green colleagues to help with all this.”

Council Leader Richard Watts has said the Labour-run council can be effectively scrutinised by Labour councillors.

In an interview with the Islington Citizen this week, Cllr Watts said “the vast amount of scrutiny has always been provided by backbench members of the Labour Group anyway”.