Friday, 13 January 2012

Residents Forums-Reinforcing a Rotten System.

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.


  1. Spot on Mr Reasonable and temporarily with only one good arm as well. Your brain is unaffected though.

    The other point about the forums is that all 3, one for each parliamentary constituency, are all on the same day at 3pm. So if every group wants to talk about, say, how poor the recycling is ( which it is ) the top officer to answer the questions cannot be in 3 places at once so two groups will get someone who knows less about the subject.

    In addition the lcoal papers cannot report on all 3 forums without assigning 3 reporters to the task which is an undue drain on their resources.

    At Brent they have a soap box period where you can spout for 5 minutes on whatever you like without interruption. If people are allowed to have their say they always leave a meeting much happier.

    The Barnet way leads to frustration and more blogging.

  2. There are many issues which residents might want to discuss at these forums, like education, leisure, libraries or social care. It makes no sense to have a forum which does not allow people to raise the things which are important to them.