I've been to a few meetings at the town hall, in my time as a blogger. Last nights was a first. I've never seen such chaos. The Environment committee meeting was discussing, amongst other things, the proposal to outsource Street scene teams. The committee is chaired by Councillor Dean Cohen, who has been privately lampooned to me by several senior Tory councillors. He can perhaps be best described as the Private Pike of the Barnet Tories. When it comes to chairing committees, Cohen brings all the charisma and authority of a dead haddock. The meeting did not start well. He announced that he'd consulted members and changed the order in which things would be discussed. The Labour members erupted "No you haven't". Cohen announced that he had and that it was to spare members of the public the pain of watching him chair a meeting. In some ways he had a point, as it was painful in extremis, but the net effect is that Labour members motions dont get discussed. As expected, he put the proposal to a vote and his majority of Tory chums happily colluded.
We then had members of the public.
Phillip Davis made some comments about architecture and heritage. Councillor John Hart announced that he was the Borough Environment and Heritage champion (his ward Mill Hill, has the worst air quality measured in Western Europe, in Mill Hill Bus station and our local history museum at Church Farmhouse was long since abolished by his party).
Derek Bluston asked for action on large commercial vehicles parking in residential streets. Apparenetly the budget issues means nothing can be done until 2018 according to Cllr Kaye.
Mary O'Connor spoke about playing fields and the lack of a coherent cycling policy.
Myk Tucker spoke about the scandal of the contact to resurface roads. He explained how the council had lost his papers and demanded a "root and branch" investigation. Cllr Cohen gurbled on aout something, what I am not quite sure. It seemed to be along the lines that everything was terrible on the roads but they were marvellous.
Councillor Grover made a reasonable request that the Council adopt English Heritage guidelines in Conservation areas. Cllr Schneiderman asked if this could be extended to the rest of the Borough and especially Cricklewood. The Tory members felt that it was more important to protect posh areas and voted down his amendment.
Then on to the outsourcing proposal. Here the Tories came into their own. Cllr Salinger announced that there were no council staff. The council staff who packed out the hall erupted in anger. "Yes we are, we are here". Councillor Zinkin announced that the staff consultation was fantastic and supported option B, which came a "close second". Cllr Schneiderman pointed out only 16 out of over 400 staff had responded, so it wasn't representative. It soon became clear that the proposals were not properly thought through. No one really seemed to know what was going on. It seemed that outsourcing had been discarded. The choice was a joint venture or in house. No one seemed to understand what this meant (well no Tory councillor). I suspect most hadn't read The paperwork, because it was clear to me and most of the audience. Barnet has tried both options. They have all the evidence they need.it does however seem strange that councillors who do not even know what happens at the moment are deciding. It beggars belief. No wonder none of the savings from such schemes ever materialised.
Tory councillors did what they always do when it is clear they've been negligent and lazy. They blamed officers and asked for more reports. I was sat between Mrs Angry and Barnet Unison rep John Burgess. Mrs Angry took on the demeanour of a goldfish, no sounds coming out. Speechless, a which is a real first. After eight years of blogging , Mrs Angry thought she'd seen it all but even she struggled to fathom what was going on. John Burgess simply said, in his mild Burnley tone 'ow can they make a decision when they don't even realise they have a work force?'. As for me. I run a business. We are pretty successful. My team have passion and commitment to their job. I thought that if the Tory councillors worked for my company and approached their job like that I would sack them. Then I realised they do work for me. They work for you as well. We elect them and pay their generous allowances. But Barnet tolerates this because people identify with a Conservative viewpoint. But when was being Conservative a byword for being lazy, inept and stupid? There are some very good Tory councillors. Gabriel Rozenberg being one that comes to mind. This committee needs someone like him as it's chair. I may not agree with everything Gabriel says but I would trust him to do the job. This is all too important for a fool to be running the committee and getting paid a hefty allowance. Dead Haddocks running committee s andand goldfish in the public gallery. Was something fishy going on? Is there a conspiracy? If they weren't so hellishly dim, I may wonder.
Barnet is becoming an ineptocracy. As someone who loves the area it is heartbreaking.