At tonight’s cabinet meeting the big agenda item was the budget proposal for next year. Rather than get into the detail of the budget at this meeting, where I know there is not a chance of getting a straight answer I thought I would ask a rather simple question:
Will the Council be using the forthcoming Residents Forums scheduled for November as one of those forums to consult with residents on the budget process.
The answer was, unsurprisingly a masterpiece in flim flam.
“Last year the Council organised a public meeting as a means of consulting residents on its entire budget. It was cancelled because less than five residents registered an interest to attend even though it was advertised for two weeks in the local press. Residents seem to prefer service specific consultation events and web based feedback. We plan to continue using these methods. Given previous lack of interest in a public meeting on the entire council budget, we are not planning to repeat last year's attempt in the form of one meeting or through Residents Forums. We will be making information available at each forum on how residents can get involved in budget consultation. I will ask the chairman to ensure that residents are aware of opportunities to take part.
This month’s Barnet First will include information about the budget and how residents can tell us their views”
So that’s no then!
As for residents preferring, “specific service consultations” well how about offering them a choice. As for last year’s meeting it was not clear that you had to register in advance before coming, difficult if you are elderly and have no internet access. The meeting was cancelled 48 hours before it was due to take place and who knows how many would have turned up if it had gone ahead.
The reality is that they can’t restrict who comes to resident s forums and they might actually hear something they don’t like. The constitution specifically allows for the new format residents forums to be used for consultations so there are no rules preventing it happening. No it is the simple fact that democracy in Barnet is under threat. There are a handful of people who control Barnet . Everyone else is irrelevant.
No open discussion on budget, no discussion whatsoever on One Barnet why bother when all the decisions have already been made. So the entire cabinet agenda tonight, all 246 pages of it was neatly dealt with in 30 minutes. If you bother going to the forthcoming residents forums ask why you can't discuss the budget. Oh sorry you can't ask that question.