Monday, 28 February 2011

Lynne Hillan digs in her kitten heels

Barnet bloggers have been wondering how Barnet council's Tory group would respond to their own government's advice to let residents film and tweet about council meetings.

It was predictable that they would not embrace the new era of transparency, and would only grudgingly bend to the winds of change. The Tory group, I've heard, had a stormy meeting about the issue. I can imagine how opinion might have divided, roughly along the lines of the close vote during the challenge to Lynne Hillan's leadership.

I understand Lynne Hillan was not at this meeting and therefore could not vote for herself on this occasion. But she has given an interview to the Times series clearly giving the line: there will be no filming, blogging or tweeting on my watch! Read the article here.

I am one of those who has pledged to test Barnet's stand on this. Apparently it does not say anywhere in the council's constitution that residents cannot film, blog or tweet from the public gallery. When the rules on the questions of public and media access to council meetings were written, such ideas as YouTube, Twitter and Blogger were but a twinkle in a geek's eye.

I think blogger David Hencke this morning adequately sums up Hillan's position:
This dinosaur attitude from a Queen Canute is breathtaking. Her ignorance about how the modern world works is absurd. Presumably her next step as Barnet leader will be to table a motion condemning Lady Thatcher for allowing the public by law to attend council meetings.
We will go ahead and attempt to assert our right to film, tweet and blog at the council meeting at Hendon Town Hall tomorrow night, Tuesday 1 March (6pm for the anti-cuts lobby, 7pm for the council meeting). I will have copies of the DCLG guidance for residents to brandish.

Finally, remember that Hillan has dug in her heels on previous occasions, only to be forced to climb down in the teeth of fierce opposition.

The public occasions I know about are Allowancegate, when she partially backed off raising senior cabinet members' allowances (committee chairs still went on to get a huge rise), and the case of Edward Meakins, where Barnet Homes relented in their threat to move him out of his home of 74 years. (Barnet Homes is separate - at arm's length - from Barnet council, but I cannot believe that the Tory administration did not put pressure on Barnet Homes to change their decision.)

We know, then, that Hillan can be budged, but we also know, from these examples, that it takes an almighty force of opposition to budge her - and that she doesn't give in graciously!

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