Thursday, 19 March 2009

Council tells residents about Future Shape at long last

I like to think that it is a sort of reward for hard work, hassling Barnet council to provide some readily understandable information about the Future Shape programme. I've raised this at two residents' forums and other people have chipped away in various ways. At last there is something on Barnet council's website that isn't all consultant speak, and more is promised. Read it here.

I found out about this in a reply to a petition I sent to the last Hendon residents' forum.
The Council’s Future Shape programme is likely to have profound effects on the way council services are delivered in future. So far, however, the information available to residents about the programme has been too little and what has been available has been difficult to understand.

The Plain English Campaign described the Future Shape report passed at the Cabinet meeting on 3 December 2008 thus: “From a plain English point of view, it is an awful document”. We are petitioning the Council to make a clear, plain English version of the Future Shape programme available to the public so that residents can judge for themselves what they think of it.
A plain English outline of the future shape programme is available on Barnet Online at As well as this article, which we will update periodically, articles have been included on the future shape programme in recent editions of Barnet First, delivered to all residents. There will be further Barnet First coverage of the programme as it progresses.

Officers will report back to the Council on the current feasibility work in the summer, detailing proposals about where savings and improvements can be made and their long-term implications for the borough. This report will be available to the public. Should the Council decide after that to change how services are provided or who supplies them, more detailed work will be carried out on a business case by business case basis, taking full account of the likely impact on residents and staff, and the risks involved. This is in line with the way that previous decisions of this type have been made.
I'll reserve comment for now on the political content of the response... It would be churlish not to celebrate, for a moment, the appearance of any information at all.

I'm not impressed, however, by the coverage in Barnet First, the colour mag with news (propaganda) about Barnet council that is delivered to every home... er, is meant to be delivered to every home. Checking past issues on the website I discovered that Barnet First is published bimonthly. I don't think I've had one delivered for months, years possibly! Checking online, I'm not impressed by its coverage of Future Shape. Any mention at all is very oblique and doesn't amount to the comprehensive discussion that Barnet residents need. Must try harder.

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