Sadly, last night, after a passionate speech by Cllr Jack Cohen, Conservative Councillors nodded through yet another erosion of democracy in Barnet. I have to yet again thank the Barnet Bugle for their excellent coverage of the decision which you can see here. I got the distinct impression that some Conservative Councillors were uncomfortable with the proposal especially Cllr Maureen Braun who seemed to agree with just about everything Cllr Cohen had said. We were promised that this is a trial and that it can be reversed in six months time. However as Cllr Rawlings pointed out, reducing the number of meetings from three to two was supposed to be a trial and not attempt has been made to reverse that decision. I would also point out that in 6 months time the planning service will be privatised to either EC Harris (not likely) or Capita (very likely) and getting them to change the procedure will be virtually impossible because it will mean an increase in contract cost.
Planning has many similarities to the parking fiasco we have experienced over the last 12 months. This will affect all residents alike including many Conservative voters. I suspect there will be some very difficult Councillor surgeries coming up when residents are told they no longer have a right to speak at meetings by the very same Conservative Councillors who voted in favour of this change.
Watching the video of last night's meeting it became quite clear to me that the person running the meeting was the Senior Officer and that Councillors had to do as they were told. The Senior Officer had the cheek to say that because some other authorities are less democratic than Barnet (but he wasn't allowed to say which ones because the benchmarking was 'confidential') that was a good reason for Barnet to be less democratic. That is the logic of the madhouse!
The officer also said that reducing democracy was necessary to make the service "fit for purpose". Frankly I think that Barnet Councillors who voted for this decision are not fit for purpose and I sincerely hope they get voted out at the next election.