Meet your councillors: Sally Prentice

Written by on July 31, 2012 in Community, Council, Features, News, Uncategorized - 5 Comments

Sally Prentice, Labour councillor, Ferndale ward

By Kaye Wiggins

It is one of July’s many cold, rainy evenings as councillor Sally Prentice and I nurse a pot of coffee at Brixton Village’s Cornercopia café.

Like Paul McGlone, profiled in the previous edition of the Bugle, Cllr Prentice represents the Ferndale ward, which runs from Brixton’s town hall, down Acre Lane as far as Clapham High Street, and northwards to encompass the Stockwell Park Estate.

She is also a senior figure within Lambeth Council, as its cabinet member for culture, leisure and the Olympics. Like all of the 15 councillors that represent Brixton’s five main wards, she is from the Labour Party.

However, Cllr Prentice does not live in Brixton – her home is in Kennington, close to the Oval cricket ground. “I love where I live,” she says. “It’s within walking distance of the South Bank. Strolling by the river is one of my favourite things to do.”

I ask how long it takes to get to the ward she represents. “It’s about a 45 minute walk,” she says. “But you can do a lot by email too. That’s increasingly the way people want to deal with their councillors.”

Cllr Prentice is in her tenth continuous year as a Lambeth councillor, and also did a shorter stint in the role during the 1990s.

I ask why she joined the Labour Party, and why she wanted to be elected. “I went to a comprehensive school, and to Oxford University,” she says. “I want that sort of thing to be an option for more young people. I want to help to improve people’s chances in life.”

She also says she is more willing than her fellow councillors to admit she is partly motivated by power. “I enjoy power, I enjoy having the responsibility for decision-making and I enjoy the cut-and-thrust of political arguments,” she says.

“I like being able to walk around an area and say, things are the way they are because of a decision I made or a piece of work I did. Not all councillors would necessarily admit to that,” she says.

Lambeth Country Show fiasco

Cllr Prentice’s cabinet role means she is responsible for overseeing the Lambeth Country Show – although she was not in charge when, earlier this year, the council made an embarrassing u-turn on its decision to cancel this year’s event.

After a powerful public campaign, including a Brixton Blog petition, the council agreed to reinstate a “remodelled” version of the popular Brockwell Park festival, to be held in September.

I ask Cllr Prentice whether, with hindsight, she thinks the council should have handled the decision differently – in particular, whether it should have consulted residents first.

“The approach I’m taking on the country show is this: nobody remembers that the Millennuim Bridge wobbled,” she says.

That is exactly what everybody remembers about it, I reply. It still gets called the ‘wobbly bridge’ now.

“Well, nobody remembers that the London Eye came down for three weeks,” she says.

Okay, I respond (I really don’t remember this), but has the council learned lessons about the way it takes decisions? “Well, I think this year it was just a particular set of circumstances with the Olympics, which I don’t envisage will happen again,” she says.

But should there have been more consultation? “I have a view that councillors are elected to make decisions,” she says. “The country show is a great success and I’m sure this year it will be a great success again.”

But it wouldn’t be happening at all if it weren’t for a local petition, I say. “Look, I’m not going to be drawn down that route,” she replies. “And actually most people are too busy getting on with their lives to think about the issues that politicians and journalists think are very important. Those are often not the issues that local residents are concerned about.”

I can’t help but respond that local residents were very concerned about the country show being cancelled: that is why 2,000 of them signed the petition. Cllr Prentice is (understandably) growing weary of this conversation. “Yes, I know they were,” she says. “But we’ve responded to that and I don’t envisage that set of circumstances would happen again.”

At that point – with coffee and stamina running out – I decide it is best to let the issue lie.

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5 Comments on "Meet your councillors: Sally Prentice"

  1. Tim August 22, 2012 at 4:02 pm ·

    I always remember Ms Prentice talking at the West Norwood Business Club when she had her local regeneration hat on. She left early recommending that everyone try her local Kennington Tandoori, e.g. an expensive restaurant the other side of the borough.
    As Culture cabinet member she is just as bad as Florence Nosegbe her predecessor; we invited her to the Urban Art event and she didn’t event bother replying, or turn up. Similarly we have not been invited to the Lambeth Country Fair event.
    Like much of Steve Reed’s cabinet cronies, she seems be there for the politics and not for the people. The new ‘cooperative council’… dream on.

  2. Sophie August 9, 2012 at 10:28 pm ·

    Prentice is about as bad as they come – she represented Bishops for the Lib Dems in the 1990s but realising that they were unlikely to gain/keep power jumped ship and signed up as a Balirite New Labour automaton – as your interview shows she has no real personality, a seemingly inability to address and issue in a straightforward manner and speaking to her you come away deeply deeply unimpressed.

    How could someone this bad be in a position of power? In my opinion the Labour Party really was scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for a woman candidate when it first off selected her to run for the council and then when the Labour Group/Steve Reed selected her as a Cabinet Member.

  3. Geoff August 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm ·

    This is why I hate so many politicians of both left and right – the complete inability to ever say ‘sorry – we got it wrong, we listened and we’ve put it right’. For me it’s one of the main issues that has eroded my trust in politicians. Especially sad in this case as I’m a committed Labour suppporter

  4. Maxi August 1, 2012 at 11:39 am ·

    “I enjoy the cut-and-thrust of political arguments,” she says… “I’m just not very good at it.”

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