Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Who needs MetPro? More bullying at the Town Hall

Two council meetings last night: Cabinet Resources, followed by General Functions.

If you want a sensible account of what was said, visit Mr Mustard, who took lots of notes. Mrs Angry could hardly be bothered, as the two meetings were rolled out in the dishonourable tradition of Broken Barnet: hurried formal endorsement of One Barnet bullshit, avoiding any challenge, or debate, and the really interesting thing about them was not what was said, but what was not said, and how it was not said. The medium definitely more interesting than the message, and telling you all you need to know about our secretive, grubby and shameless Tory council.

At the Cabinet Resources committee we were graced with the presence of chair Daniel 'John' Thomas, 'leader' Richard Cornelius, yes, himself, Brian Coleman, Sachin Rajput, Robert Rams and Andrew Harper.

Unusually, Coleman kept his mouth shut throughout, but then as the issues being agreed were social care and housing matters, he probably had no interest other than getting the whole business finished as soon as possible. The only time Mrs Angry has heard him comment on such matters in a meeting, in fact, was some time ago, to dismiss the social housing in Grahame Park as a 'slum', and then more recently to express his opinon that Barnet should not have to provide transport for 'these people', ie children with special needs, and adults with disabilities.

The alleged leader of Barnet Council, Richard Cornelius, remained silent throughout too, spending the evening sucking the end of his spectacles and gazing dreamily into the mid distance.

The meeting began with the usual furtive whispering by Coleman into Cornelius' ear. Cornelius did his usual nodding. Coleman nudged Cornelius and sniggered when he spotted the veteran old lefty activist who always attends these meetings with his copy of the Morning Star and hurls a sustained chorus of anti capitalist slurs in the direction of our doltish councillors. Last night the old boy had decided to sit through the meeting wearing a David Cameron mask. Coleman found this amusing, but Mrs Angry imagined it was probably the closest our toxic Tory Brian will ever get to Dave, or any senior government minister.

There were a surprising number of members of the public present at this meeting, and a large number of public questions too. This was clearly tiresome and an inconvenience to the Chair, and a source of some puzzlement to the Tory councillors, who simply cannot understand why anyone would want to challenge their right to force their dangerous policies into practice on the residents of our borough.

Mrs Angry must confess to rather disliking Councillor Thomas, and being naturally inclined to want to give him a kick up the jaxxi whenever he opens his mouth.

Thomas is a very young thirty year old, employed by a building society, with clearly very little life experience, but rather too much confidence in the unassailable correctness of his retro hardline right wing Tory views. He speaks in a curiously unemotional, robotic voice, his face betraying no expression, and appears to be completely without any real understanding of the real difficulties faced by families and vulnerable residents of this borough. This lack of empathy is a quality shared by most of the most influential Tory councillors in Barnet, in fact, and perfectly explains the course to disaster on which we are all set, in hte wake of the obsession they have with the cult like charms of the One Barnet agenda.

The first question was from Barnet Alliance campaigner Julian Silverman. Mr Silverman, you may recall, is a local activist and member of Barnet Alliance,which campaigns against the cuts, and he is also the man who was treated outrageously at a local summer fair by the Tory turbulent priest Reverend Adrian Benjamin, close friend of, guess who - Brian Coleman. At the fair Father Benjamin wrenched the Barnet Alliance banner from the possession of the seventy four year old resident, confiscating it on the grounds that he objected to his political views being displayed at the show, and then claimed to have lost it.

Mr Silverman is an admirable character, who refuses to bow to the dictatorial behaviour of our Tory councillors, and attends council meetings and forums with every intention of speaking out against their tyranny and odious policies. This deeply annoys our Tory councillors, as you can imagine.

Julian has a very interesting political background, as it happens. His father was Sydney Silverman, a well known socialist MP who represented the constituency of Nelson and Colne from the 1930s to his death in 1968. One biographer described him as 'a thorn in the flesh of every government' and his obituary in the Guardian labelled him the 'champion of the underdog'. He took a prominent part in in opposing Mosley's fascists in the East End, and he was responsible for the private bill which introduced the abolishment of the death penalty. One might speculate whether our Tory councillors are capable of seeing any irony inherent in the fact that the son of a man so prominent in fighting fascism and social injustice is being treated with such contempt here now, in Broken Barnet, but then Mrs Angry has little confidence that our Tory councillors have any sense of irony, or self knowledge.

Public questions are given a written answer at these meetings, and then the questioner is graciously allowed to ask a supplementary question at the table. In the tradition of the avoidance of accountability in Broken Barnet, such questions are usually answered with every intention of obscuring the facts, and it is usually necessary to clarify the written response, rather than allow the questioner to ask a new supplementary question. This causes conflict, and much bad feeling, as the Tory chair always seeks to shut the member of the public up and inform them they are not entitled to ask any further question. Mr Silverman was given this treatment, as usual, and objected. As usual he was ignored.

The next set of questions was from Ruth Kutner, and she objected too to the lack of proper response. Mr Silverman agreed verbally, and at this point the Chair, quite outrageously, announced that he would have to leave, because he was interrupting. Julian had made just one comment.

Mr Silverman now dared to ask loudly why the councillors refused to have a proper dialogue, and then, before we knew it, two officers and a security man were standing right in front of him, presumably to try to get him to leave, in a move which was both intimidating, and completely unneccessary. Completely unneccessary, except from the point of view of politics in Broken Barnet, where we like to use security to stifle debate, and trample on the right to freedom of expression, as we saw in the blackshirted MetPro council meetings at the very same Town Hall until last year.

When we protested at the surrounding of Mr Silverman, they backed off, and left him. But Councillor Coleman was not happy. He was observing that Julian had some small recording device. He left the room, and shortly afterwards, the security man came in and started to do something with his equipment. Everyone protested. In broken English, the man said he was doing so because 'it was plugged in', and this was not allowed. Coleman looked on smugly.

You may be asking what on earth such an action achieves.

It has been established that we are entitled to film and record council meetings: if a resident needs to plug in a small device to use a minimal amount of electricity in order to do so, why the hell should he not do so?

Who is paying for the electricity in the Town Hall?

We are.

Who pays for councillors phone bills and taxi expenses, and buffets, and generous allowances?

We do.

Who should have the right to scrutinise the actions of these councillors in their shabby little meetings?

We should.

The issue which Julian Silverman and Ruth Kutner were asking about was in regard to the huge impact that Barnet's new commercial approach to adult social care will have on our most vulnerable residents. What could be of more concern, and of more need for debate and proper consultation by the people of this borough?

But there you go: the urge to shut down any discussion, and the antagonism behind the way in which dissent is handled is yet another example of the bullying culture of Tory Barnet, where scrutiny is resisted at every point, and transparency is a joke.

What are they so afraid of?

Why do they so resent the duty they have to be accountable to us?

Is it because they have so much to hide, or is it simply, as it seems with Coleman, a question of a need to exert control, and to feel important?

How pathetic.

Cont'd later.


Mr Mustard said...

Sorry to disappoint Mrs Angry but I am not going to write a report of the meeting as it would be short and dull. Something like this:

Residents asked questions.
Councillors and officers answered different uestions in the most roundabout way possible.
Residents tried to get the real question answered.
Sorry, that is your supplementary question gone.
Oh good, look, 30 minutes has gone and we can now forget about the tiresome public.

Now let us get on to the business of the meeting. Agreed, agreed, agreed.

Now let's rush off to the other meeting ( General Functions Committee ) and talk about really important matters: which end of the Tesco car park should we put a mobile voting poll in? and let's not talk at all about a detailed report by Unison into staff terms and conditions when we dump them with another employer.

One really interesting point. The boss of Barnet Homes said her targets were challenging. Looks like she is being set up to fail at an early stage.

Mr Mustard said...

Blue 9 not looking so nice now either Mrs Angry. Attempting to eject someone from a public meeting has echoes of Wales and arresting the lady blogger there. Blue 9 are well outnumbered by bloggers and the public.

Mrs Angry said...

In a nutshell, Mr M. Very good. Not sure if I can be bothered to finish mine now. Especially when we have Boris to write about tonight.

Mrs Angry said...

Ah, you mean Mrs Evans. Not sure she is a lady, as ladies know their place in a public gallery, and listen with deep respect to their elected representatives, and do not heckle, or feel the urge to kick the Chair up the jaxxi.