Friday, 15 May 2009

Spoiling the council's party? Where's our invitation?!


For some weeks I have had delicate negotiations with the police and Barnet council as I help to organise protests against the proposed sheltered housing cuts.

All of the parties involved acknowledge that, in theory, sheltered housing residents and their supporters have a right to demonstrate their anger and to seek to change the council's mind. Some people, though, would rather they didn't exercise that right - the protests are inconvenient, in an administrative sense and, increasingly, in a political sense.

The police have been the least obstructive, which is impressive, considering that it's them that have to police the protests. Council staff have all been polite but you can sometimes hear the politicians breathing down their neck in the background.

Personally, I am not pushy and have to keep reminding myself of some basic principles so that I stick to my guns.

Yes, Barnet council organised a consultation over the warden cuts. But they would rather ignore the results which, I suspect, show overwhelming opposition. In that case, then, we have to organise political actions that will show the depth of opposition, and make politicians change their minds. Politicians? They are politiicans still, aren't they, Barnet's Conservative councillors, who finally will have the say on whether these cuts go ahead?

When we have our protest outside the annual council meeting next Tuesday 19 May, 6pm, Hendon Town Hall, where invited guests will witness Brian Coleman being sworn in as Barnet's next mayor (!), let's consider how that will look, politically.

The vast majority of the sheltered housing residents, their relatives and friends, are angry and upset; probably the majority of Barnet residents think that cutting the wardens is a lousy idea. The motivation behind the cuts is to save money, not improve the service or increase equality, and most Barnet residents could think of better ways to do that if we have to.

Yet the residents are forced onto the streets to protest, while Barnet's Tory politicians throw what amounts to a party to celebrate the swearing in as mayor of a councillor who is widely despised, even by members of his own party. Remind yourself what the mayor does: it is not just a ceremonial role, but important for the safeguarding of local democracy. Do you believe that Brian Coleman is capable of doing this job?

On Tuesday, after wrangling, we have won the concession that a small contingent of residents will be allowed into their own town hall to present a petition against the cuts to the outgoing mayor. A few lucky souls, sworn to behave themselves, will be allowed into the meeting itself (masochists only need apply). I don't swear very often - in print - but you have to ask yourself whose bloody council this is! And I have to say to Tories, politically, it doesn't look good.

2 comments:

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Given the disgrace MPs have brought on the country with their shameful troughing, and given that we are in the midst of a terrible recession with thousands of families in Barnet struggling to make ends meet, you would think the councillors would show a little sensitivity and cancel the jamboree.

Can Coleman not go a single day without stuffing canap├ęs down his gob, paid for by someone else?

Brian Coleman (aka Mr Toad) has GOT to go! said...

Let them eat cake eh Brian?

Vicki - I've tried to give this some publicity though I'm sorry its so late in the day.

Very best of luck to you tonight.