I had intended to mark the 12th December with a special post to commemorate the end of the first six months of Richard Cornelius being leader of Barnet Council. Sadly I was so tied up blogging about other issues, that I completely missed the (non) event. When Richard took over the helm, I said I'd give him six months to prove his mettle, before I passed judgement.
For those of you who don't know Richard, let me tell you a little bit about him. Unlike many other Barnet Councillors, he has a real job running a jewellers. He is polite to a t and is a very nice person. When I saw him at a recent council meeting, even though I'd written a none to complimentary blog about him the day before, he took the time to enquire about my health. Whilst I'm quite comfortable having a go at the likes of Brian Coleman, who is arrogant and rude to excess, I have to confess that I don't really enjoy writing bad things about people if they are not horrible.
So lets start off and look at some of the good things Richard Cornelius has done. He has reintroduced the business breakfasts, where local business people get to meet the leader of the council and exchange ideas. This was one of the few initiatives that Mike Freer introduced that I thought was a good idea. He has attended various forums and listened to the people have their say about the parking changes. I doubt that it was a comfortable experience for him, but at least he bothered to go. His regime also seems to be improving the way it handles FOI requests recently. Under Lynne Hillans regime, this became a bit of a joke. Many of the worst things we've seen date back to her regime.
Then lets have a look at the negative column. OneBarnet rumbles on, gobbling up ever more cash and still delivering nothing except fear for the staff and work for the lawyers. The outsourcing of the parking contract will take jobs away from Barnet and to Croydon. Many local people (mostly women) will be out of a job and on the dole. This is scandalous. Bloggers continue to dig up scandals related to Metpro and RM Countryside. Brian Coleman is no less rude to people, despite countless standards complaints. He even upset his own colleagues, who asked Richard to "take action" (something avid readers of this blog will have seen a video clip of). Then we have Colemans masterpiece. The Pay and Display parking cock up. This has alienated business and residents all over Barnet. Bringing it in just before Xmas was a cruel trick in a recession. Local shops trade has nosedived. Even worse, Brent Cross, who's CEO Tom Nathan is also a Non Executive Director in Barnet, have taken advantage by plastering billboards with a huge poster saying "Free parking at Brent Cross". As Richard owns a small business, I really thought he'd have had a little more sense than to do this. We also had the reaction of the Council to a one day strike by workers. This was mean spirited and the huge billboards put up at NLBP were tantamount to bullying. For the life of me, I don't know why they bothered. A simple email outlining their case (assuming they had one) would surely have been easier, cheaper and more effective.
I have one little piece of advice for Richard. leadership involves leading. It involves being seen to be the person to make tough decisions. A good leader inspires the people who look to him for direction. I suspect that Richard is just a little to polite and easy going for some of his colleagues to take him 100% seriously (more of that next year). I would suggest that there are a few changes he could make which would establish his authority. The first would be to give Brian Coleman more time to concentrate on his GLA campaign, by removing him from the cabinet. This would be universally popular in Barnet (well nearly universally, Brians dear old mum would probably be upset). The next thing would be to stop chucking money at the disasterous "OneBarnet" scheme.
In Richards first six months, he can quite honestly claim that he was cleaning up the mess left by Lynne Hillan. From here on in, its down to him and the excuses won't wash anymore.