10 June 2012

Another nail being driven into the democracy coffin at Barnet Council

Proposed Revisions to Planning Delegated Powers at Barnet Council - 14 June 2012

Here is a press release issued by the hard working Liberal Democrat Councillor Jack Cohen, the councillor who strongly believes in the ethos of public service (words which you hear less often than excessively high executive pay at Barnet Council)

Barnet Council: Another attack on Public Participation

Councillor Jack Cohen Leader of Barnet Liberal Democrats is attacking proposed changes to the rules on public participation at planning committees. Under the existing rules if three or more residents object to a planning application it has to be determined by the Planning Committee. This is why Planning Committees are so well attended and why so many residents turn up to exercise their right to speak. As a result Committees are not able to conclude their business and meetings are being adjourned. The Council are so concerned about this that they are putting forward a recommendation to the Planning and Environment Committee that the minimum number of objectors that will trigger a referral to Committee is increased to five.

Cllr Jack Cohen a member of the Planning Committee since 1986 is incensed. Cllr Cohen who is credited with introducing the right for the public to speak at planning committee when the Liberal Democrats were in Joint Administration says the Conservatives never supported this. "gradually they have eroded the rights of residents and this is another example. The problem is all of their own making. Last year they reduced the number of planning sub committees from three to two. We predicted that this would cause difficulties. But instead of accepting responsibility they blame the public for having the effrontery to want to participate in the democratic process."

Cllr Cohen is calling on the Planning Committee to throw the proposals out. "I will be voting against it and warns Conservatives Councillors that the Public will never forgive them if they force this through"

Mr Mustard finds he often agrees with Jack Cohen (you will have to ask Jack himself if the inverse is true).

Barnet Council don't like the spotlight being on them because it shows up the appalling mess that they often make of things. In this case the change isn't for that reason (planning cockups have not recently been in the news as far as Mr Mustard recalls although the Carmelite monastery fiasco did cost a packet in 2010). The main driver seems to be cost saving, which is laudable when done in the right place, and the by-product is that democracy will be reduced except that Mr Mustard predicts that it won't.

Mr Mustard is not a fan of delegated powers. He can see that in routine circumstances they have a place but any changes made to the built environment are likely to last for 100 years. We don't even have a permanent Assistant Director in planning, the report comes from an acting AD i.e covering the post above the one he normally does. So in a year's time the AD could be gone and we are stuck with his delegated decisions for the next 100 years. Or has Mr Mustard missed the point. Will delegated powers be delegated to an outsourced provider like Capita and this change is to make the contract easier to manage?

Mr Mustard has been collecting screensavers on his secret visits to NLBP and so he can't describe Joe Henry as faceless unaccountable bureaucrat because we can see what he looks like. Just unaccountable to the electorate then.

Mr Mustard thinks that the little speech bubbles that the ADs make are just hollow words. Look at what Joe has said "improving customer journeys through the planning process" and then reconcile that to not leaving home because you were one of only 4 people to object to a planning application. 

Your journey will not be improved, it will be non-existent.

The number 4 bus will not be late after 16 June (but the route has been scrapped!).

Mr Mustard predicts that there will not be a reduction in the number of applications in front of the committee. Why? Well for a start all of the publicity which is about to be generated by Jack's press release in the local papers and on the blogs ( Mrs Angry is on the case as soon as she has finished with motherly domestic goddess duties; from lemon posset to a lemon of an idea? ) will mean that more people start to look at planning applications.

Secondly, because if you object to a planning application and send it to mrmustard@zoho.com, he will, provided he agrees with you, write a blog about it and submit an objection and invite others to do the same. 

Thirdly, because this might bring another blogger into being. One who specialises in planning matters. (There is still a vacancy for a blogger about Barnet Homes as well. Able to read boring reports, string a sentence together, add 2+2 and be half as funny as Mrs Angry)

Mr Mustard has to stop now and send an email to Uncle Eric, the fan of Barnet Bloggers (The Right Hon Eric Pickles MP) to let him know that localism isn't going very well in Barnet.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

1 comment:

  1. hmm. Taking a moment away from my rhubarb & almond tart, Mr Mustard, to read this. My advice is not to mess with Joe Henry, because his mum will sort you out, and then you will be very sorry.


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