Monday, 24 November 2008

Future Shape of Barnet council: If you had just one question, what would you ask?

In the build-up to the Council Cabinet public meeting which will discuss 'Future Shape' (7pm, Tuesday 9 December, preceded from 6pm by a rally organised by trade unions and Barnet residents), I will examine different aspects of our campaign to bring the matter to public attention.

A Barnet resident attended Leader Listens in north Finchley. She was rather dismayed by the reaction she got from Leader of Barnet council Mike Freer when she asked why Barnet council weren't informing the public about their 'Future Shape' deliberations.
He said (I'm paraphrasing): the residents of Barnet voted for councillors to act on their behalf, to make decisions, without any necessity to get the opinions of local residents. If residents don't like councillors' decisions, we can vote them out after four years.

By this account, Mike Freer's definition of democracy is the very crude one that democracy = putting a cross on a ballot paper every x years.

In the trades council we think otherwise; we know that democracy involves a whole lot more than that. For example, we believe that it means an active citizenry! And there are plenty of Barnet residents out there who know how to use the avenues that exist to HOLD OUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES TO ACCOUNT, not just at election time, ie, for councils, on one day every four years, but in between times as well.

I am trying to turn myself into an active citizen (well, an active resident - I've always been active in the trade union movement). With some other residents I contacted Barnet council's Democratic Services, to find out how to put questions to the Leader (hate that term! Wouldn't you hate to be called 'the Leader'?) and Cabinet at their meeting on 3 December. We spent part of the weekend looking over Future Shape material that is in the public sphere, and devising the questions that we would most like to have answered. From what I have seen, Future Shape raises enough questions to fill several Cabinet meetings, but on Tuesday 3 December the public will be able to put only 20 questions, or half an hour's worth, whichever is the longest. Please be there to hear what we have come up with!

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