Barnet's Labour councillors have launched their package of election pledges around consultation and resident engagement at a hustings meeting hosted by Barnet Alliance for Public Services this week.
The 'Better Barnet' pledges have been designed to boost openess, transparency and accountability in Barnet council, and respond to residents' concerns that the current Conservative council is not listening.
Residents have protested over Conservative decisions to hike up parking charges, scrap wardens in sheltered housing, close Libraries and children's centres, and over 'One Barnet' mass-privatisation of council services. The Conservatives disregarded petitions and consultation responses in each case, and on 'One Barnet' refused to hold a referendum despite over 7,000 people calling for it in a petition.
The Leader of Barnet's Conservative councillors refused to attend the Barnet Alliance hustings meeting sparking criticism that the Conservatives did not want to listen to local residents.
The 'Better Barnet' pledges that Labour will implement if elected in May are:
- We are listening. Here's one example. Our parking pledges include 30 minutes free parking in town centres, saving you money and boosting local business.
- We will consult on all major decisions. We will also ensure your voice is heard in all Council meetings by displaying your comments live in the Chamber at #mybarnet.
- We will give you a say. We will set up neighbourhood budgets and you will decide how this money gets spent in your community.
- We will be accountable. We will open up Council meetings to a half hour of Public Question Time and webcast all council meetings so decision making is open, transparent and we are fully accountable.
- We will put residents first. Our FIRST step will be to revoke the Tories' outrageous councillors' free parking permits and reduce the councillors' allowances bill.
At this week's Full Council meeting Labour councillors proposed scrapping the Conservatives' free councillor parking permits, reducing the councillors allowances bill, and opening up Full Council meetings to Public Question Time, but the Conservatives voted against this.
The 'Better Barnet' pledges reflect residents' views from surveys conducted by Labour councillors. On a sample of 1,651 surveys returned, over 64.6% of people said Barnet Council was not democratic, 72% wanted to be more involved in decision-making and 72.76% thought introducing neighbourhood budgets where residents had a say in how they were spent was a good idea.
Barnet's Labour councillors have designed their 'Better Barnet' pledges around what residents tell them they want to see, because Labour believe that above all elected representatives should listen to and consult the people who elect them.
Speaking at the hustings meeting on Thursday night Leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Alison Moore said:
"Contrary to what they say the Conservative council is not “putting the community first”, so the first thing we need to do is change that. We want residents to be at the heart of everything we do.
"Listening and acting on residents concerns, and consulting them on major decisions that affect them is the first step to cleaning up the rotten culture that we currently have in the town hall.
"And it is even more important to listen and consult when we are facing the challenge of this government’s failed economic policies and the huge funding cuts to local government and public services. Councillors are elected to represent and lead their community - and it's vital that we talk to local people about their priorities and make sure we get it right."