Saturday, 21 April 2012

Friern Barnet Pop Up Library – Barnet’s Pro Democracy Movement In Action

I spent a very pleasant morning down at the Friern Barnet Pop Up Library. With people coming and going, music playing, some enjoying the delicious homemade cakes on offer, it could have been an idyllic scene from a rural country fair.
Several people turned up to return books borrowed from the now closed library and were forced to post them through the letterbox. Sadly the inside of the library shows the shelves are empty except for the pile of books on the other side of the letterbox.
But what really interested me were the discussions that took place. A charming lady, who is one of the pop up library organisers, told me that what was taking place in Barnet reminded her of the pro-democracy movement she experienced in Poland back in the late 1980’s before the Eastern Block collapsed. Fighting in a passive and positive way against an autocratic regime. Yes, this is what we are facing in Barnet in the twenty first century, a struggle to retain a semblance of democracy in the way our Borough is run. This wasn’t an isolated comment. Numerous people wanted to talk about the undemocratic power wielded by the Council. Ignoring petitions, ignoring speeches, ignoring representations from local community groups. Worse still, ignoring expensive but ultimately impotent public consultations funded by the rate payers. “We had thousands of names on the petition to keep the library open but they just ignored us exclaimed one person”. A number of people also remarked about the lack of common sense shown by the Council. These people were not crackpots; they were ordinary, reasonable and intelligent people who see things going horribly wrong in Barnet. The issue of One Barnet also came up in discussion and especially the fact that there is so little in the public domain about this subject. Someone said to me “how can they be pressing ahead with such radical changes without making it clear they were going to do this in their manifesto”. I relayed to this person an experience of mine at a Special (Constitution) Committee meeting where a rather young and arrogant Councillor said “people voted us in so that is our mandate to do what we want”. Barnet Councillors need to realise that this is increasingly how many of the residents view the way Council is being run; as an autocratic, arrogant and increasingly out of touch cabal of ten people who mistakenly think they know what the 350,000 residents want.
Expect to see more about the Barnet Pro Democracy movement over the coming weeks and months as people start to express their dissatisfaction with the Council in an increasing direct manner.

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