Thursday, 19 November 2009

No place for rubbish in Future Shape?

The Hendon Times has a long report of the Cabinet scrutiny committee held on Monday. This is a chance for councillors to grill the Barnet Council Cabinet closely on decisions they have made. What happens in fact is that the Labour and Lib Dem members of the committee ask some searching questions and the Conservative members of the committee sit tight-lipped - but that's a minor point.

This Monday they were asking questions about council leader Mike Freer's Future Shape plan for changing the way council services are delivered... and which services are delivered. A lot of the worry people have had about the plans is what constitutes 'core services' - what can we be sure the council will deliver in return for our council tax, and what will be 'extras' that we might be required to pay extra for (the easyCouncil model)?

Well, Monday's replies are not at all reassuring - or very enlightening. We might not even get our rubbish collected as a matter of course in Freer's Future Shape. Read the report here.
Dear readers, sorry, if you click on the link above now you will just go to the general news page. The story was posted yesterday but has apparently been pulled from the Hendon Times website. It has been replaced by this.

Clearly Mike Freer's Barnet council want to manage the way Future Shape is perceived very tightly, and they have had a word in the editor's ear. If they are this jumpy this early in the process, they are in for an anxious ride. We all are.


Mr Reasonable said...

I think I was the only member of the public who was actually at the committee meeting. A number of the questions asked were simply ruled out of order and as such, not answered. Both Alison Moore and Jack Cohen made the point that having asked questions three weeks in advance they received responses only 90 minutes before the meeting. Nick Wakely made a classic quote that he hoped refuse collection would, in the future, no longer be a core service to which Mike Freer VERY QUICKLY jumped in and said before that is quoted he would rather see refuse collection replaced by waste minimisation. I think Mr Freer can deny most elements of Future Shape simply because he has failed to spell out the detail - a very clever tactic. The only way to challenge Future Shape is to get Mr Freer to spell out the detail.Cllr Dean Cohen turned up an hour late and added absolutely nothing to the challenge process. To be honest, as a member of the public sitting in on this committee meeting, I was shocked at the inadequacy of the scrutiny process. Given that even more power is to be vested in the control of the leader, I am extremely worried that a few individuals will be determining the future for more than 300,000 residents of Barnet. If you do nothing else get yourselves along to some of these meetings.

vickim57 said...

Thanks, Mr R. You're quite right about the public going along, as we have a right to do. I went once and found it very enlightening, depressing, but enlightening!

There is a great case for televising all these meetings, at the very least we should brush up our shorthand and put the transcripts in the public arena.

I think the easyCouncil label originated with Nick Walkley as well! I see there's a new article on the Hendon Times website about this after they pulled the first one. I'm heading over there to have a look now.

vickim57 said...

This is getting silly. I got this message in my email inbox today

Google News Alert for: barnet council

Residents reassured rubbish 'will remain a core service'
The comments were made during a meeting where the council's radical restructuring plans were scrutinised. But speaking directly to The Barnet Times, ...

I've just clicked on the link and it's telling me that article doesn't exist. Another pulled story?