At last night's Chipping Barnet Residents Forum there were just three questions on the agenda. Four questions has been excluded on the grounds that they did not meet the criteria for the new censored forums. To her enduring credit Cllr Kate Salinger handled the meeting with a politeness and empathy that is sadly missing elsewhere in the council.
The first question related to a petition for either traffic lights or a zebra crossing on Brunswick Park Road The gentleman who presented the position made a very strong case saying that a child had been knock down on this stretch of road in September and that it had previously been the site of a serious accident. The highways officer acknowledged that there had been speed checks on this stretch of road and a number of speeding fines being issued. It was agreed that the matter should go straight to the Environment sub committee which immediately follows the forum.
Next question came from that "manifestly unreasonable" troublemaker Mr Reasonable and related to the council's latest madcap scheme to let out parks for private hire. I made the point that in Oakhill Park one of the areas designated will be next to the cafe an areas that is very well used by the public. Cllr Salinger mentioned that this was something that she had seen in America and Australia. However the general opinion of the meeting was that this park belongs to the public and using it a revenue generator was unacceptable. Do we believe the council will listen to the public's views - not likely.
Last question related to the automatic barrier on Netherlands Road. Result, the council have repaired it.
The chair of East Barnet Residents Association asked where was his question which related to private hire of the park. Not a valid question pipes up the governance officer. Cllr Salinger, to her credit said she would meet straight after the meeting to discuss the disallowed questions.
Cllr Salinger now said she would move on to the action list from the last forum. Oh no piped up the governance officer again, you are not allowed to do that. An uncomfortable shuffling between Cllrs Salinger and Evangeli. Well, said Cllr Salinger, seeing as we have finished the business of the forum I suggest we discuss the issues list and that is precisely what she did.
The first issue which sparked some debate related to PayPoint. Interestingly Cllr Alison Cornelius made the point that not all PayPoint shops participate in the Barnet parking scheme with none in Totteridge making a mockery of the system. We were graced with the presence of the Barnet Parking Manager who seemed somewhat surprised at this remark and would take up the matter with PayPoint. He said that pay by phone was the main method of parking and that currently 99% of people were paying by phone. Well surprise surprise if you block off all the meters, the scratchcards aren't available yet and Paypoint has just been introduced but nobody can find a local outlet then it is hardly surprising that 99% of payments are made by phone! There remains huge public dissatisfaction with the parking set up in Barnet and Cllr Coleman's steamroller approach shows his contempt for the people he represents.
There was some hanging about till 8.00pm when the Environment Sub Committee starts. First thing was agreeing the minutes of the previous meeting normally something which is simply nodded through. Not this time. At the last meeting and following on from a strong debate at the residents forum the Environment Committee had asked officers to reinstate the light controlled pedestrian crossing at the junction of Oakleigh Road North and Whetstone High Road. However the minutes seemed to have been "adjusted" to say something subtly different. The minutes say that "officers be instructed to investigate the feasibility of re-instating the pedestrian crossing lights" whereas they had instructed officer to simply reinstate the crossing - no feasibility. It was made worse by Cllr Coleman issuing a Delegated Powers Report stating that the lights will continue to remain off. Now given that 5 of the 6 committee members are conservative one might have expected them to just roll over. No. After consulting with the governance officer they agreed, unanimously, to instruct Cllr Evangeli, as Chairman of the Committee to write to Cllr Coleman making it clear that the instruction from the Committee was to turn the lights back on. Now if Cllr Coleman simply ignores this letter it will show that actually the Environment Sub Committees are, like the new format forums, utterly impotent and as such a waste of everyone's time and money.
As ever, it seems that one man runs the council, Brian Coleman. He trumps everyone else and whatever he says goes. I cannot think of a time when Barnet Council has ever been so unpopular, so remote and out of sync with the public it is supposed to represent.