Last year Barnet Council sought to emasculate the residents forums by restricting the topics that could be discussed. Proposals were forward at the Special Committee (Constitution) which flew in the face of the council's own research and which ignored the views of speakers at the meeting. The new format Residents Forums have created a great deal of discontent with many of the attendees by restricting what they can say and refusing to discuss topics which are deemed “policy”.
I have challenged the Council to show me where in the Constitution it defines what can be discussed, because of course it doesn't. At the Special Committee meeting coming up next week, they are going insert a definition of what can be discussed into the constitution, merely reinforcing the chronically undemocratic structure that is now in place. There are also reinforcing the unhelpful start time set at six o'clock which precludes many people who work in central London from attending.
Given that the Residents Forums have become so unpopular, one would have thought that now would be a good time to review whether they are actually working effectively before reinforcing the old and discredited structure. There are a number of options they might consider. They could use them to test opinions on specific policies, they could use them to engage with the community and listen to what we have to say. Varying the start times with some in the day and some at weekends might give more sections of the community a chance to attend. But not in Barnet.
I remain convinced that the Council's underlying objective is to make the Residents Forums so impotent and unpopular they simply fizzle out due to frustration or lack of interest. That way the Council can quite happily ignore the view of the ratepayers and carry on regardless, just as they are use to doing.