Thursday, 19 April 2012

"A Tale of Two Barnets" in the Houses of Parliament

Jeremy Corbyn MP speaking at showing of "A Tale of Two Barnets" in Parliament
I went last night to the screening of the community film "A Tale of Two Barnets" in the Houses of Parliament. John McDonnell MP had booked the Wilson Room in Portcullis House.

It was interesting to see around this building whose high cost - no expense spared on the fixtures and fittings - was so controversial. It looks good for the money! But whether it was an appropriate amount (final cost of the building £235 million) to be spent on a building that only a few MPs and attendees of select committees ever see... well, it wasn't, was it? But I digress...

The Wilson Room, as other bloggers will probably tell you in more detail, was where Rupert Murdoch gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry.

A suitable backdrop then for a showing of the film about Barnet council's cuts, privatisation and lousy governance culture? I think so!

The film was enjoyed by an audience of local anti-cuts activists and guests. John McDonnell MP and Jeremy Corbyn MP both attended to discuss the wider context of the cuts and privatisation agenda. As you can see from the photo below, all of Barnet's three MPs were invited to attend but did not. As far as I know, none of them has yet seen the film that has nevertheless been seen by more than 1,000 of their constituents.

Council leader Richard Cornelius also had a place reserved for him but he did not come either. I don't think he has seen the film yet, although he has complained about it enough.

Both McDonnell and Corbyn had to nip in and out of the meeting to participate in votes on the Finance Bill, the piece of legislation which includes cutting the top rate of income tax from 50p to 45p, a measure that will benefit, among the rest of the top-earning 1% of the population, Barnet Council's own chief executive, Nick Walkley. (Yes, we pay him that much.)

The discussion after the film was very interesting and focused on the council's lack of honest consultation with residents. When they consult, they simply ignore the majority opinions of those they consult with. The impression is that they have always already made up their minds what they are going to do, and that consultation is a tick-box exercise only.

We also discussed things we can do next around the issues that concern us.

Helen Michael, who represents North Finchley traders, told us about their poster campaign targeting Brian Coleman, "murderer" of Barnet's high streets, with his disastrous parking policy. The poster campaign is reported today in the local press.

Helen told us how the council has asked the traders to participate in building the mood for the Olympic torch relay which is due to pass through North Finchley, handing out flags and so on. The traders have asked what's in it for them, when the council is in the process of ruining their businesses, and our high streets with them.

Friern Barnet library campaigner Joanna Fryer talked about the next Friern Barnet pop-up library event, meeting this coming Saturday, 21 April, from 11am to 1pm in the British Legion building next to Friern Barnet Village Green.

John Sullivan spoke about the Campaign Against the Destruction of Disabled Support Services; the Barnet Alliance for Public Services was represented by Tirza Waisel and Alan Sloam.

Roger Tichborne, "The Barnet Eye" blogger and producer of "A Tale of Two Barnets", presented the film, and the director Charles Honderick also attended.

In summary, an interesting and fruitful night, sharing ideas for campaigning. I detect a growing confidence, cohesion and determination among the different groups campaigning for public services and simply for the overall spirit of Barnet - a determination to stop the place from declining irreparably.

I have posted a few more pictures of the evening here.

A new empty chair crisis?

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