Friday, 27 February 2009

Barnet council's budget consultation - catch it while you can

I'm not sure that it's actually better than nothing, but Barnet council is seeking people's comments on its budget proposals for 2009-2010 online. The catch is you only have a day left to do it (they did actually put it up there a few days ago, but only the eagle-eyed have spotted it at all).

In the olden days (as far back as the 1980s) quite a large number of people in a borough would have a rough idea of what the council's budget was to be - at this stage of the cycle there would have been a few marches to the town hall, several rowdy public meetings, activists in all the main parties and many fringe parties would have discussed the budget headlines, e.g., any proposed cuts, and would have taken a position on them which they would by now have defended in full public glare.

The causes for the decline of local democracy are many, but it's clear that there is a problem and that the rot must stop! I find it staggering, but I'm afraid it's true, that Mike Freer et al believe that the residents of Barnet are not interested in questions like this, and that that is the reason they do not, for example, take part in token 'online consultations' like this budget consultation, or submit questions for 'public question time' at council meetings.

Is Mike Freer so arrogant as to believe that the poverty of residents' engagement with council policies is due to their complete satisfaction with his regime? Or so cynical as to believe that residents do not give a fig what the council does? Me, I suspect he doesn't think too hard about these questions at all, but is just happy enough to be getting away with things: what residents don't know about can't hurt them, and, anyway, they seem happy enough.

It's time to use the democratic channels that do exist - please take part in the online consultation, if you've time in the next 24 hours. But also take the time to find out more about how you can hold the council to account. There is information about it here, and it is certainly a theme that I will return to again and again (for my hordes of avid readers).

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