Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Barnet Residents Forum and the Temple of Doom

A report from the pen of Mr Mustard ...
"Mr Mustard had not been to the Friern Barnet 'All Saints Arts Centre' before, and was looking forward to it. He had visions of it being like the Old Bull Theatre, but more modern somehow.

"... [Eventually Council Officers] did appear, and found some chairs, and set up some tiny uncomfortable chairs in a filthy, dark (no-one knew where the light switch was) junk-filled room. ...

"... Finally the meeting was over.  Hurrah. Then Julian Silverman told everyone that the next meeting was at the Greek-Cyprio Centre in Britannia Rd N12, on 4 October at 7pm, and you can ask what you like and have an unrestricted discussion. Cllr Salinger looked really confused at this point, and turned for guidance to the Democratic Services Officer on her left for guidance, but none was forthcoming. That's because it's the Alternative Residents Forum, Councillor - you really should keep your ear closer to the ground. It has been organised by the 'Barnet Alliance for Public Services', as they want to debate 'One Barnet' and other matters. You are welcome to go along, and see what it is about. Mr Mustard hopes to. It is nothing to do with Mr Mustard, who is completely independent of any organisation, and has his own agenda."

A report from the quill of Mr Reasonable ...
"After last night, it is apparent that Barnet Council have stepped up their campaign to destroy democracy in Barnet. Well guys, we are made of sterner stuff. Your tactics will not work.

"... The Chipping Barnet residents forum was held at the All Saints Centre on Oakleigh Road North. ... 'Perhaps it’s been cancelled,' another lost resident said. With not a single sign, and a hall full of young children practising judo, that was a very natural conclusion to come to. ... The elderly gentleman and I hobbled our way down the alley, crutches at the ready through a well-hidden door. Now I know the Council is hard up, but frankly I was shocked that they felt this venue was suitable. Dingy, dirty and difficult to negotiate, it was completely unsuitable as an accessible venue.

"... A run through the follow-up from last time, and we were finished. A thoroughly unsatisfactory meeting. No, we couldn’t ask about many of the things that really bother people in Barnet. The cut to services for the elderly, the problems with personal care budgets, the huge risks associated with One Barnet outsourcing, the profligate waste on consultants. No, they are dangerous questions and must never be talked about."

A report from the keyboard of Mrs Angry ...
"The irresistible attraction of this event, of course, was that it was being held at the All Saints Arts Centre, the lair of naughty banner-snatching vicar, and chum of Brian Coleman, the Reverend Adrian Benjamin.

"Most of the residents who arrived for the Forum never found the place, and would not have been able to fit in anyway. Hats off: confuse the enemy - a brilliant strategy for further discouragement of engagement of the electorate with the democratic process. Mr Pickles would be so proud.

"The next Forum, we understand, is being held in a phone box in an undisclosed location, in the middle of the night: residents will just have to guess where. Frankly, it makes no difference if any residents attend or not: no real issues are allowed to be discussed, after all, and any important decision has already been made.

"Mrs Angry's attention, always easily distracted when statistics are trotted out, noted that out of the gloom now emerged a familiar white-bearded figure in a long gown. No, it wasn't Father Christmas: it was Father Adrian Benjamin. The desperate tapping from the banner cupboard immediately ceased. Rather fittingly, as we were debating the merits or otherwise of low levels of lighting, the Rev. decided to turn a few switches on, and dispell some of the gloom in the room. 'And the Lord said, let there be light, and there was light' said Mrs Angry, rather more loudly than she intended. Father Benjamin chortled, and waved jazz hands about like an old trouper."

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