Monday 14 February 2011

Barnet Council Budget meeting : Bunfight at the KO Coral

Where to start. Three years ago when I first attended a meeting of the Barnet Council Cabinet, there was a semblence of decorum and normality. Tonight we had the budget meeting. It was, to be quite frank, the most bizarre spectacle I've ever seen in my life. It had moments of unintentional humour, such as when Councillor Andrew Harper announced "I will be going with model X". At the time I had Vicki M and Mrs Angry sitting behind me and for two naughty schoolgirls, the schoolboy humour was top notch.

We had the usual Lynn Hillan own goal when she announced to a hostile crowd "There are places for discussion and the cabinet is not one of them". I wish I'd been videoing it. I could have sworn Brian Coleman looked at me, smiled and winked as she said it. He knew that the bloggers had their quote.

We had the usual greasy toady Tories in the audience. Perhaps the strangest encounter was that with Councillor Mark Shooter, AKA the young pretender. Now I've never actually talked to him before, but when I went out to have a chat with Jack Cohen, Councillor Shooter was standing next to him. "Oh how nice to meet you at last!" he flounced. Now as it's Valentines night and I'm the handsomest geezer in Barnet, I thought for a second he was going to offer to take me down to The Claddagh Ring for a sly drink. Sadly though, he just wanted to find out the source of a certain leak, which I printed recently. "I did not have a secret meeting with John Marshall" he whispered in my ear. Oh yeah and the cheque is in the post as well. I think Marshall and Shooter are rather like the Delboy and Rodney of Barnet Politics. Both are completely useless nomarks, but poor Rodney (Shooter) is too dim to realise Delboy (Marshall) is a washed up chancer. I saw Delboy looking over in a concerned fashion as I spoke to Shooter. Yes John, if you are reading this, I've turned the young Prince, he's now a paid up Trotskyite. Ha Ha Ha. It's quite funny really, they don't trust each other at all. None of them.

Then there was the Cabinet Question time. That's what it's called, what purpose it serves, I know not. It was heartening to see that many of the questioners had printed off leaks published on my Future Shape Leaks website. They ambushed Brian Coleman and he was caught telling bare faced porkies. It was pretty clear that the way to deal with a porkmeister such as Coleman is to have several people ask similar questions and then work him over with the supplimentaries. A whole bunch of residents left the meeting in no doubt about what sort of a man Coleman is.

I asked a question. When it came time to ask the supplimentary, I seized my chance. "So in your answer you stated that the fact that you lost £55 million though mismanagement in no way affected the fact that you need to find £54 million in savings. My question is who do you think is stupid, the Cabinet or the people of Barnet". In a classic "Hillan" moment she shot back "Well the people around this table are not stupid"  - which I guess answers the question. Yes my friend, it is us who she thinks are stupid. Just to make matters worse for her, Councillor Daniel Thomas piped in "Well I can tell the difference between capital and revenue". Sure you can Danny boy, Capital is what you squander and Revenue is what you waste.

However the Coup d' Grace as ever came from my old friend, Councillor Brian Coleman. He announced as he got heckled for the n'th time "The people of Barnet are the rudest people it's ever been my misfortune to come across" or words to that effect. Yep, thats right. Us lot who elect him and pay his wages.

There were also some other moments of unintentional comedy. Nick Walkley refused to let myself and Yvonne Hossacks, the lawyer representing the people in Sheltered Acoomodation see a copy of the Barnet Council constitution. Why? Because they were the "officers copies". Only in Barnet could a public official refuse to let a lawyer see a copy of a public domain document.

As I left the meeting to cook my loved one a rather late Valentine meal, the on duty Copper said "Good night sir, enjoy the rest of the evening" with a big smile. I responded "I hope they behave themselves". He grinned and shot back "Yes Sir, so do I".

And as to the detail.

They voted to ignore the consulatation and shaft Sheltered Housing Wardens.
They chose to ignore the public and hike parking fees.
They chose to shaft allotment holders, possibly in contravention of the law.
They refused to let two residents ask questions, despite hold ups due to equipment problems.
They refused to say why residents permit holders should pick up all the bill for carriageway repairs in Barnet.
They refused to explain to a lady from Save Barnet Museum why she was wrong.

And perhaps the oddest moment of the lot. The Cabinet of Barnet Council went on strike for 20 minutes. Yes the loony right showed just how bonkers they were by staging a walk out and a work to rule. You see it didn't occur to this bunch of dullards that if you have a bunch residents in the meeting and you are shafting them, they will not sit there in silence. So they threw their toys out of the pram when heckled and left the room. I asked Jack Cohen (Lib Dem leader) if this sort of behaviour was unusual (from residents) "Oh no, it happens all the time on planning committees. People get quite emotional. You just have to get on with it and learn to deal with it". But you see, Barnet Council Tories don't like backchat. They can't deal with it. Later in the meeting Brian Coleman acknowledged the audience in a very Brian Coleman sort of way. He announced "Tonight is a fine example of big society". I took my chance and yelled "Yes you talk nonsense and ignore the general public". He smiled and nodded in agreement.

When I got in, my beloved asked if it was a good meeting. Depends on how you look at it. If I was Lynne Hillan I'd think it was a great meeting as she passed her budget. If I was any other Barnet Tory I'd think it was a train wreck. As a punter in the audience, it was great theatre, but the sad truth is, we've all been shafted for no reason other than Hillan and her cronies are too useless to actually put a budget together which addresses the budget crisis in Barnet and shafts the poorest people in the Borough.


baarnett said...

Thanks for the non-trivial effort of getting out the news of the meeting so quickly, Roger.

Mrs Angry usually likes to be The Thunderer (the Blogger of Record), but you have beaten her to it! (No offence Mrs A!)

The Loop said...

Didn't expect feedback first thing. Well done.

Mrs Angry said...

oy; watch it, baarnett, or I'll have to adjourn my blog, and have you thrown out of the Broken Barnet committee rooms ...

Mrs Angry said...

ps : baarnett: it was all on twitter while the meeting was still going on, and then when we got home!

baarnett said...

Presumably it will be feasible (soon?) to easily run live video feeds out of the Town Hall, at least until the Mubarek regime puts a stop to it.

Audio recording on phones is certainly possible, if anyone wants to, and that would not be noticed. People have done that with the Planning and Environment Committee.

Then DCMD could create a video, using selected sound clips and stock photos.

'Barnet - The Musical'.