Friday, 18 March 2011

When is a pledge "not a pledge"?

Up to today, only five pledges have appeared on Barnet council's social media site Barnet Pledgebank. The first, asking for volunteers to provide some IT training if the council "provides" some training space at Hendon library, was planted - seeded, if you like - by the council to get things going.

To date, that is the only pledge to be fulfilled, in the sense that it has received the target number of signatories.

For only three of the 18 proposed sites for Royal Wedding street parties, has the target number of people come forward. Is this how a borough shows its loyalty? Poor councillor Rams has been pressed into writing "his own" blog so as to compete with the independent Barnet bloggers. At this rate, I can see councillors Coleman, etc, being goaded into the streets to put up the bunting and dish up the jelly themselves on 29 April.

OK, so what are the hard facts on Barnet Pledgebank? I can now reveal to you what my team of dedicated volunteer researchers has found out:

Up to 16 March (I can't remember when it started: around Christmas?) this public engagement tool had elicited the staggeringly small number of 37 suggestions from residents.

4 of these have gone up on the website; they could be joined soon by StreamLaneLitter. The time has passed for GrangeAvenueSnowClearing.

Of the rest of the suggestions a few are simply requests for information.

All the suggestions have been sorted using the following criterion: "Is it a pledge?"

The big majority, 24, are deemed to be "not a pledge" - even though some of them are. For example, these most definitely are pledges or are in the spirit of pledges (the authors might recognise their work):
"As long as my fellow bloggers do the same, I will continue faithfully to monitor the activities of Barnet Council, and report them as fully and as accurately as possible to the residents of this borough, hopefully in a manner that is both entertaining and informative. I will not expect any allowance or payment for this civic service."

"The Valley Centre is a Church Run, non profit community Centre on the Dollis Valley Estate. We plan to run a Community Fun Day to celebrate our 20th anniversary on Saturday 25th June 2011 on the Dollis Valley Estate. We would appreciate the support of local people to make this a huge success. Help could include: delivering leaflets, providing prizes for a tombola, erecting gazebos etc on the day. Any other ideas welcome."

"I pledge to help make Barnet allotments part of a thriving community for healthy eating and activity by encouraging all Barnet Councillors to join in my vision."

"I will receive a polite letter from Brian Coleman if it kills me. If everyone else writes a letter to him to maybe just one of us will succeed."
Most of the suggestions deemed to be "not a pledge" are, to be fair, not pledges but angry expostulations about the plans of Barnet council to cut services or introduce easyCouncil ideas. (In fact, I think I wrote a few of them - it was so long ago now, I forget.) For example, "I will fight tooth and nail to stop the council raising allotment rents by 200% even if no one else writes to their councillor" and "Please keep our North Finchley sure start children's centre open".


Would it have killed the council to publish the critical comments and all the "non pledges" on their website? No, it wouldn't if, and it is a big and unfulfilled if, they could be diluted by the masses of genuine pledge ideas submitted by residents.

The fact is, those ideas have not come flooding in. Like me, I suspect that most residents find the whole idea of Pledgebank bewildering if not insulting.

Finally, can I remind people once more that we are paying for this crap. Pledgebank is a fraud.

P.S. Blogger Mr Reasonable's suggestion is still "under consideration":
“I will pledge to give up 4 hours of my time every month to scrutinise and challenge all invoices over £10,000 to help the Council reduce unnecessary spending so long as five other people will make a similar time commitment to sit on the panel and that Barnet Council will genuinely participate in the process and listen to the advice and opinions given.”
This suggestion - I forget whose - is not only "not a pledge" but it is deemed "against council policy" - for the time being:
"If the Council will follow Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Communities instruction and welcome journalists and citizen journalists to film and record meetings of the Council, I will form a rota of people to ensure that every meeting is filmed and broadcast online at no cost to the public purse."

1 comment:

Mr Mustard said...

And the Pledgebank isn't even in the A-Z index, Parking Tickets are of course.
PPP for something poor planning, I'd say.