Friday, 13 September 2013

£120,000 to find out Barnet residents' views - Just try talking to them!

Today Barnet have published a decision made back in July regarding the Residents' Perception Survey. This survey used to be undertaken once every two years but the Council have now decided to undertake this survey twice a year for the next two years. This will cost £120,000, a not insignificant sum. Now I'm not against the residents' perception survey, in fact I'm a great believer in research. However, I find it quite ironic that a council which seems so antipathetic towards residents should want to spend £120k finding out our views. Perhaps if the council made residents more welcome at meetings and some Councillors weren't so contemptuous they might find out some useful information. Perhaps if the council hadn't run residents forums into the ground by barring most subjects from discussion they might have learned more about which issues are important to residents - they have changed the rules again to allow residents to ask any question at residents forums but only if they submit them on line by 10am, 2 days in advance.

At the June residents forum I asked if the Barnet Council have a resident engagement strategy, something which many other council have implemented. The answer is, no they don't. The council are consulting on changes to the way the council is run but they won't be holding a public meeting until after councillors have made the decisions.

Perhaps the council would be more effective if they kept the residents perception survey to once every two years (£30k) and spent the other £90,000 on setting up resident engagement events where they actually listen to what residents have to say. There is a strong network of residents associations, try tapping in to them. Get our well paid Councillors to hold ward meetings on a range of themes that are important to people in that ward. £90,000 would facilitate a heck of a lot of dialogue. In fact they could spend £40,000 on hosting meetings in every ward keep the £50,000 they intend to plunder from reserves in the reserves. For a council that talks a lot about saving money they certainly know how to waste money.


  1. I think we should be fair to Barnet. We complain when they don't consult, so we shouldn't complain when they do. Given the cost of stamps and envelopes and the 300,000 odd residents in Barnet, I don't think £90,000 is that excessive.

    My issue isn't that they are spending the money. It is the fact that they will ignore any results they don't like.

    1. Sorry Rog but I have to disagree with you on this one. This is most definitely not consultation. There is absolutely no rational justification to carry out two surveys a year. Last time the results were used to support the current regime in what they are doing without addressing some of the real issues buried in the results. You also need to understand that of the 1,600 who were called last time (it is a telephone survey) 500 were excluded form many of the more contentious questions. I analysed the smaller sample size by ward and found that 7 of the conservative wards were over-represented in the smaller sample with 5 labour wards under-represented. When I questioned this with the council they stated that "The survey is NOT MEANT TO BE REPRESENTATIVE AT A WARD LEVEL".

      This exercise is about PR and spin not about genuine consultation and taking £50,000 out of reserves to pay for it is just plain wrong.