1 July 2013

Keep it to yourself

Barnet Council usually carry out their consultations using surveymonkey which Mr Mustard refuses to use (giving his data to some corporation in the USA which might get hacked or abused or sold on is not something that Mr Mustard will sign up to) and he always asks for a paper copy of the consultation, a not at all radical idea that the council struggle to deal with (his copy of the Saracens CPZ survey has not arrived yet; in the time it took to send him an email saying it would be sent it could have been sent; why do people do 2 tasks when 1 would be much better?) and means that their consultations don't reach the hard to reach groups who don't use computers and who should still have a voice.

The above consultation was going to be carried out merely at the now sparsely attended forums (compared to before they were neutered) and so the people who do not attend, as satisfactory answers rarely arrive and they have largely given up, had no chance to have their say as the consultation was not on the council's website last week as reported on twitter by Mr Reasonable (@ReasonableNB if you want to follow him on twitter) but now it is and whereas before it was going to be fully considered at the Constitution Committee on 8 July, now it can't be, as the consultation runs until 15 July - a whole 2 weeks. That will give time for 350,000 residents to be properly consulted, will it not? No, it won't, nothing like it. Some officer must seriously have thought that asking a couple of dozen people at 3 forums would bring in sufficient responses on which to base a logical decision. Even putting it on the consultation hub of the website won't do much good. The advertising of it on blogs will reach more readers. Who gets up on a Monday morning and thinks, "I know, I'll go and have a look at the consultation hub on the council website" (apart from very interested parties like bloggers)? Answer, nobody does.

The questionnaire needs widely distributing. It should be in libraries, every child should get a copy from school to take home for a parent or guardian to answer and perhaps discuss local democracy with them, a pdf could be added to every email the council issues (each survey for a particular week) copies should be handed out outside supermarkets and railway stations etc etc until the response rate climbs into the thousands i.e at least 1% of residents.

What is Mr Mustard going to put on his form? Being the new boy (still only 2 years old) Mr Mustard doesn't know about how forums used to be but they were well attended apparently and that is a good place to start; return them to how they used to be and then change them slowly by trial and error.

Changes Mr Mustard might otherwise make would be to have morning, afternoon and evening sessions of one forum, in a venue like a cinema or theatre (with access for the disabled), have the whole borough together rather than an artificial split across the parliamentary constituencies and have a main theme for each month (yes, monthly forums) and then in addition allow any questions whatsoever and sufficient councillors and officers there such that proper answers can be given on the day. Broadcast the whole thing on the web.

You can download your form from above and then post it in to the council or scan it and send it by email.

It is, in theory, your council. Please tell them what you want.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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