Barnet Council: It's a whole new ball game
It's an exciting new dawn for Barnet Council. Nothing will ever be the same. Well, for one thing I am thrilled to be able to announce that I was elected Labour Councillor for West Hendon on 22 May, so I will no longer be sitting in the public gallery. Thank you so much to everyone who made this possible. I'm very proud and intend to do my best to serve wherever I am needed, the job of every Councillor. So for the very first time I'm going to be in the Council Chamber able to speak and take part. I should explain by adding that I am able to speak and take part officially. I never could keep quiet in the public gallery. And the prospect of the next four years inspires and excites me because for all Councillors, from the newly elected to the veterans, it is going to be very different.
Until now the Tories have run the Council with an unshakeable majority. Impassioned protests from the Labour opposition on issues such as housing , caring, schools, crime, hospitals, disability, parking, refuse, etc have been met with chatting and laughing throughout Labour speeches amongst the Tory ranks followed by the inevitable Tory win when the vote took place.
Labour just failed to win the Council on the 22nd May in spite of substantial gains, but it is so close that the Tories are no longer going to have it all their way. For those old enough to remember, Harold Wilson's first administration comes to mind when it was so close that an MP might be brought to vote into the House of Commons on a hospital bed still attached to a saline drip. The Tories are going to have to have every one of their Councillors present every time.
Then the Council will be run in a different way moving from the Cabinet System where just ten Councillors from the ruling party made all the decisions. That was true of the last Tory Council's decision to privatize Barnet services, signing us all up for 10 years. The Council is changing to a Committee System that is new to everyone and works in a more inclusive way.
There is new technology, papers distributed electronically, a whole new system created by Capita, though not yet completed! But don't get me started on the IT provision for Councillors by Capita. It is, shall we say, disappointing.
And there is the new balance of power. The election in the safe Labour seat, Colindale, which will take place on 26 June, delayed due to the sad death of the Green candidate, is likely to result in a Council with only two seats between the two major parties. It will be very different.
Tonight I will attend my first Council event since the election - the Annual meeting at which all the newly-elected Councillors gather and the Mayor is appointed for the year. The Conservative Councillors choose to wear ceremonial robes. Labour Councillors choose to sport a single red rose. And so we run out of the tunnel in our own distinctive kits to begin a whole new ball game, from captain to rookie. Let the people of Barnet referee.