I received an email from leader of Barnet Council, Lynne Hillan yesterday. I had emailed her congratulating her on her new job as Leader of Barnet Council and enquiring what her intentions were for Leader Listens. I'd been used to rather curt responses (when I got them at all) from the previous regime at Barnet Council.
It seems our new leader is at least good mannered in her style of email. She tells me she's currently reviewing the whole Leader Listens scheme, both meetings and blog. She tells me that she'll be publishing her expenses when she incurs some. I'm sure Councillor Hillan is no more kindly disposed towards this blog than the previous regime, but it's only fair to say that the tone of the email made a pleasant change.
I've had my doubts about the value of certain aspects of Leader Listens from the start, most notably the blog. I will say that I attended one of the Leader Listens business breakfasts and found this to be very interesting and informative, especially the talk given by the MD of Brent Cross. I also attended a residents meeting in Mill Hill with a former deputy Leader. Sadly this was rather less effective. Many residents raised concerns about the danger of traffic in Mill Hill Broadway. I had previously asked for action about illegal turns from Goodwyn Avenue on to the Broadway. The Council confirmed that over 300 cars per day were breaking the law, but they planned no action as it was "not a priority". They also completely ignored all comments about the dangerous changes to pelican crossings in the Broadway and the lack of a safe crossing for children on Lawrence Street. I also noted that they did some rather silly sessions such as the one in Golders Green on a Saturday morning.
My advice to Lynne Hillan is this regarding Leader Listens. If you are going to keep the blog, update it regularly. If you are going to continue with the meetings, actually listen to what the people who come along tell you. I suspect that listening rather than lecturing may be a far more productive way to go. If the meetings are to continue, I'd suggest that Hillan does a special Leader Listens with the residents of Sheltered Housing about the warden cuts. Nothing would make me happier than if Lynne Hillan listened to them.