Thursday, 12 March 2015

Barnet Council Special - What sort of Councillor have you got?

As a Barnet resident who takes an active interest in what happens in my community, I've noticed that there is a huge difference in the way our local councillors go about their business. In Mill Hill, I've been quite spoiled, with a succession of ecellent councillors. Until 2010, the ward was a Lib Dem stronghold. Wayne Casey and Jeremy Davies were excellent local councillors and both had strong reputations for doing a good job. Privately councillors from the other two parties acknowledged that they were a huge loss to the council, when Wayne retired and the electorate turfed out Jeremy. Maybe it is because the seat was marginal, but the Tories who replaced Wayne and Jeremy have by and large been amongst the best local councillors. Sury Khatri is widely respected in Mill Hill as a very decent chap. He is exactly what a local councillor should be, ie interested in his community and a hard worker for his residents. His colleagues both do a reasonable job.

Unfortunately not every ward in Barnet Council are blessed with such luck. If we say that Sury Khatri is the model councillor, the type you'd want. Someone who simply works hard and does the job because he likes where he lives and wants to put something back, then you may want to consider what other types we have. They are:

The ambitious ideologs. There are a few of these in Barnet. Typically young men, who's opinion of their own abilities are far in excess of the evidence the rest of us can see. Typically they write heavily political blogs and tweets, refuse to brook any criticism, or even to bother read it. If someone asks them a question, they frame any answer based on their perception of the ideological soundness of the questioner, rather than the content of the question. Typically they have become a councillor to further their political career and are looking for a seat in parliament. Often they will have stood for parliament in seats miles away from the Borough (in some cases even in other countries!). Usually they were not born and bred in the Borough and it is one of a number of stop off points in their rise to the top. Fortunately for us, there are not too many of these, but the ones we have seem to get themselves into senior jobs, inflicting their ill thought out, politically immature ideas on the populace of the Borough.

The lazy gits. Barnet Councillors get paid a minimum of £10,000 a year in allowances. To receive this, they simply have to turn up to two council meetings a year. Now there are very few of us who would sniff at this amount of cash. These individuals do the minimum of work and view the job of being a councillor as nothing more than a cash cow. They slavishly follow the party line and generally keep their noses clean. Sadly for us Barnet residents, this is the largest group on the council.

The clapped out timeservers. There are a group of councillors who have been around for donkeys years. They have a wealth of experience, have special interest groups who they do a good job representing and are always there for the civic do's when there is a decent buffet. Not completely useless, but purely interested in towing the party line, trousering the cash, eating the buffets and making sure whatever vested interest they represent gets its case heard at the top table.

The mavericks. Now these are my favourites (as a blogger, not a resident). These are the ones who you can never quite predict what they will do. The most famous of this group was Brian Coleman, who was a bloggers dream (thankfully for the residents of Barnet, sacked by the public at the last election. They make inflammatory remarks, launch "leadership challenges", plan coup d'etats, have clandestine meetings with all manner of wierd and wonderful groups, promising them the earth (and often dumping them at the first opportunity).

The Weirdos. We've had a few of these over the years. One of this mob (again thankfully departed from the council chamber), simply used to turn up in sunglasses and say nothing at all. There are a few, generally you can tell them because as the council gathers, the seats next to them are the last to fill. When they do speak, they often simply babble incomprehensible nonsense, while all around roll their eyes. I can recall a council meeting a few years ago, when a Tory Councillor collared me after, to ask if I'd caught the moment on film. When I said "No I didn't film that bit", he said "thats a shame" rather sarcastically.

The Slaves to vested interests. There are several powerful vested interest groups in Barnet, who have pet councillors, who's sole role seems to be to ensure that their own little clique of supporters are put at the top table. In some ways, this group are the most  dangerous as they work to the disadvantage of the majority of Barnet residents. Seasoned council watchers know what they are and waht they do. The worst thing is that because they have powerful backers, they have to be listened to.

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