On Tuesday and Thursday this week I have been at the Royal Courts of Justice listening in to the Judicial Review Hearing. There has been much written about the case and I would urge readers to visit Mrs Angry's blog for one of the most comprehensive and entertaining reads around. (For what it's worth I believe that Mrs Angry is one of the most talented writers in the UK and deserves much greater recognition of her talents).
The quote "Nothing about us without us" came from Maria Nash and it runs to the very heart of the problems in Barnet. The court hearing has revealed that the Council have assumed that they know best and that residents are incapable of understanding the issues involved. The Council have made oblique references to what 'One Barnet Transformation Programme' was about and left it to residents to join up the dots. Barnet seem terrified of consultation in case residents say something the Council don't like. In summary it appears that the Council will do what they want irrespective of what residents think or want and worry about the consequences afterwards.
Over the three days of the hearing not one single Conservative councillor has shown up to see how the case is going or to understand some of the reasons why this dispute has made it all the way to Judicial Review. Perhaps they were worried about the public opprobrium, perhaps they didn't understand the issues, or perhaps they simply didn't give a s**t. Whatever the answer, their absence speaks volumes about their disengagement from residents on such important matters. Maria's words clearly show that Barnet's stance is simply untenable.
Irrespective of what the judge rules, it is clear to me that the Council will struggle to recover from this case. They have demonstrated a contempt and disrespect for residents which at times was breathtaking. They have shown that there is a complete (and justified) lack of trust for the Council and that will continue with the current regime in place. Without a regime change and a complete revolution on openness and true consultation, I suspect that that the Council will face many more Judicial Review requests and that risks bringing the Council into a state of complete paralysis.