Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Our Barnet residents forum - 4/10/11 - Greek Cypriot Community Centre - Finchley

As a response to the ever more draconian rules being imposed on the Barnet Council run residents forums, the Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS) held their own forum tonight. All Barnets Councillors were invited. Sadly none of the ruling Tories could be bothered to show up. Some did send polite apologies, most didn't.

In truth this was really rather disappointing. I'd like to see a Barnet Tory have the balls to actually stand up and explain some of their policies. Sadly all of the forums I ever go to, with Tories present, the concept of debate is pretty alien. I think they are the biggest losers for not going. The Barnet residents who attended were a friendly mob, who would have asked some difficult questions, but nothing worse. I suspect that is what the Barnet Conservative cabinet fear most. One ever present at such meetings is Julian Silverman. Julian is 74 and if the word "idefatiguable" (excuse the spelling, I'm dyslexic and it's late). I suspect that every Barnet Tory's worst nightmare is being grilled by Julian. He's intelligent, perceptive and can instantly see through bullshit. I have a theory that what they all fear most is difficult questions which reveal that they actually haven't got a clue.

A whole host of other residents attended. Some out of curiosity, some to represent various groups (Friern Library, Various disabled groups, etc) and there was a smattering of left of centre politicians, including GLA candidate Andrew Dismore and Barnet Labour Leader Alison Moore. If we divide the groups into those who are politically motivated and those who are issue motivated, it is clear that taking the political gripes out of the equation, there are some serious and deep routed problems in Barnet. It seems many people who are carers end up totally alienated from Barnet Council. These people just wanted to tell their side of the story to anyone who would listen. What we learned was that we have a particularly heartless bureaucracy. Whilst I  think no one will be surprised to learn people who care for disabled adults have a hard time, what is incredible is the way that they are treated by Barnet Council. Mrs Linda Evans told of how she could only get the care her daughter was entitled to by engaging a solicitor. Once the big guns came out to play, Barnet backed down and sorted out the issue. Can this be right? Surely Barnet's own legal team would have identified the fact that the council were wrong. When you reach that point, you should immediately sort the problem out. Not in Barnet.

I'm not going to go into too much detail about the other speakers here, you'll soon have a video for all that. What I did learn is that there is an apetite to discuss these issues. The hall was pretty full and people hung around at the end chatting. I caught up with a couple of friends I haven't seen for a while, who just happened to turn up. That is the sign of a successful meeting, when people don't want to go home.

I wonder when the last official Barnet Residents forum ended in that manner?

No comments: