Thursday, 28 March 2013

Barnet would be such a great place if it weren't for the residents



Barnet would be such a great place if it weren't for the residents

When I was a university teacher, the same old joke used to circulate among the academic staff at the beginning of each term when the students returned in droves after a vacation: "This would be such a great place if it weren't for the students".

A similar attitude prevails among the Tory Council members in what Private Eye named "Rotten Borough 2012" aka the London Borough of Barnet. Barnet would be such a great place if it weren't for the residents.

Barnet has become a political Upstairs Downstairs with the 10-person cabinet, or rather Tory council leader Richard Cornelius's even smaller cabal within the cabinet, as the ruling class upstairs. They truly believe they know what is best for everyone, particularly themselves, and the views of their own councillors, opposition councillors or local residents and businesses are of no interest to them. They believe in their inaliable right to rule.  

And somehow it is the residents, who elect the council, pay their wages and pay for Barnet's public services, who have turned out to be the below-stairs servants; inferior yet impertinent enough to think they might be worthy or intelligent enough to ask questions or expect to be consulted, even on the most major matters. 

I am expecting a letter to be attached to my next council tax statement telling me that from now on I will be known as Daisy because La Bloggeuse is not an appropriate name for a resident.

Tonight, at 6pm, a time that ensures most residents will find it difficult to attend, at Barnet Town Hall, there will be a further gagging of local residents in a constitution change to remove the right of residents to submit questions to council meetings. (Broken Barnet's blog is a must-read on this subject and a report of the meeting.)

I'll be there, but I won't be bobbing a curtsey to Councillor Cornelius and his cohorts, which may well become protocol before too long.  I'll be yearning for June 2014 when the people of Barnet will come out in force and use the only democratic right left to them: to vote this dictatorship out of office, because without them, Barnet could be such a great place.

The meeting took place but the little matter of changing the constitution to remove the democratic rights of the public to ask questions could not be dealt with in spite of a public gallery full of opposition (Again, see Broken Barnet's excellent detailed report). This was because the chair of the committee, Tory Cllr Melvin Cohen, who is well paid for his chairship from taxpayers' money, had another engagement and had to leave early. The answer to his question: "Can this  be dealt with in ten minutes" was a resounding "No".  

So another meeting is scheduled for 10 April.  I don't wish to be unfair and jump to conclusions. Perhaps a desperately urgent family matter had to be dealt with, but the fact that the meeting was set to begin at the early hour of 6pm seems to indicate that there was a planned early getaway.  Perhaps Cllr Cohen should have acted responsibly and asked the Vice Chair to substitute for him. If you want to witness democracy being stifled first hand, do come along on the 10th at 7pm at the Town Hall in The Burroughs. See you there.

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