3 September 2013

Consultation on Governance

The council have decided, in outline, to move away from the Cabinet model of governance, where there is a small body of councillors, about 1 in 6 of those elected to office,who hold all of the power to a more traditional committee system. The background papers are on the council website, here and you can answer the entire questionnaire there if you can be fagged to go through surveymonkey which Mr Mustard refuses to use. The reason is that he doesn't want his data held by surveymonkey when there is no good reason for them to have it. The council could have purchased the survey module for their £700,000 website, or had a free Drupal one if they had gone the open source route, but they didn't.

Mr Mustard usually sends for a pdf or paper copy of the survey so that he can see all of the questions before he starts his answers. He does not like being led by the nose when he doesn't know where he is being taken. If any of his readers want the full survey they could ask the council or ask Mr Mustard (mrmustard@zoho.com) who is likely to reply sooner.

It turned out there were 33 questions in the survey.

Q1-11 ask you about your attendance record at meetings. We don't get that for councillors in a tabular form so be blowed if Mr Mustard will fill it in. He is a regular attender of certain meetings. There will probably be a link drawn between regular attendance and the weight then given to your answer. That would be to make a false assumption. Mr Mustard no longer attends Residents Forums as they are not of any great use.

Q12-15 are about current arrangements and how good or bad they are. Skip that section as well. We want to focus on the future.

Q21-33 are all about you & your diversity. Mr Mustard never answers those questions. If the council made greater efforts to get out into the community and get many replies they would automatically capture the responses of all sorts of people.

That leaves us with Q16-20 being the only ones about the future of governance. They are above and you can download them from there if you wish and post the answers to Mr A Nathan, Barnet Council, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Rd South, London, N11 1NP.

Mr Mustard's answer will be

Q16 - very important to all of the sub-questions although Mr Mustard disputes the use of the word "continuing" when it comes to transparency - given the lightning decision making at Cabinet Resources Committee it looks like there is either no thought or else a pre-meeting at which all has been decided.

Q17 - Mr Mustard avoids this type of impossible question. All four principles are very important and could all exist at the same time.

Q18 - Yes

Q19 - Some councillors are a waste. Some sit through meetings and only ask a question very rarely and other can't ask questions because they are in a minority party and even if they do will be ignored simply because they are not part of the ruling party. We are wasting councillor resource. Now we don't need 63 it is true but if Party A happens to be in the majority and yet a ward has 3 councillors from Party B they will get very little of substance to do. This is a waste and is to ignore the democratic voice of the voters of the ward in question. We need to move away from petty party politics to a system which makes best use of whatever talents councillors come with.

Q20 - Mr Mustard can't find the practical issues referred to in Section 2 of the consultation document which is headed "Principles" and not "Practical issues".

One change that is needed is the removal of the automatic 30 minute guillotine on public questions. The public right to comment for up to 5 minutes should also not be at the discretion of the chair as one in particular always says no.

The questionnaire seems rather feeble to Mr Mustard and he doesn't think it will help the council much at all. That will leave them free to do as they please.

Mr Mustard will now leave you to answer as many questions as you care to.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


  1. A new cabinte system"?

    Or maybe it should be "Cabinté? (Pronounced Kar-bin-tay ?)

    Google Translate doesn't help. But I like the look and sound of the second version . It's got a lilt and a swagger. A councillor flashmob with different colour party T-shirts and synchonised moves?

    I'm so envious that you have continuing transparency and accountability in Barnet. We have the mighty Cllr Kobz breathing smoke and flame. (Pay no attention to the munchkins behind the curtain.)

  2. Thank you Alan of Haringé

    I have corrected the spelling of the label which is used to find similar items.

  3. No point moving to a new system if you still have the same dissemblers running the show.

  4. Indeed Mr Reasonable I did notice that committee membership would still be based upon party proportions which means that Richard Cornelius can always get his way provided that the non-whipped, not whipped, self whipped councillors ( lemmings might be a more apposite term ) contimnue to support policies which supposedly aren't policy. People need to pop over to your blog to follow this comment.


    1. I'm sure you know this, but in case some of your readers may not, the "proportionately" rule is not Cllr Cornelius' choice. It's a requirement of section 15 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. http://bit.ly/18B7ivb

      And is partly intended to protect the interests of minority parties.

    2. I didn't know that rule Alan and I, and my readers, will be grateful.

  5. To be serious, Mr Reasonable, your point is entirely reasonable. Structural solutions by themselves don't work to solve an organisation's cultural problems.

    In Haringey the party + cabinet system plays into the hands of untalented small-minded people with large egos, who love secrecy, control and patronage. Especially those whose idea of power is limited to "over" or "under". And, with our present leadership, those lacking the confidence or ability to share power "among".

    In the same way, it suits those who use information as a tool of control. They fail to understand how pooled knowledge and joint learning build better collective judgements. Crucially, this must include opening up to our residents, sharing information and learning from and with them.

    I don't know your Barnet Tory councillors, so I've idea whether or not they are "dissemblers". Perhaps they genuinely and sincerely believe the weird markets-markets-markets-markets-outsourcing-and-did-I-mention-markets? stuff.

    On the other hand, for part of my 15½ years on Haringey Council - and before that as a Labour Group party observer - we had the committee system. It was far from ideal. In fact the system of awarding posts according to "Buggins Turn" meant that many of the committee chairs were clueless.

    Several years ago Ian Willmore, a former Haringey councillor and at one time the Deputy Leader, introduced me to a humorous piece by C.Northcote Parkinson, called the disease of "Injelititis or Palsied Paralysis". It's a most accurate analysis of the current Haringey leadership and how they run the Council. You can read it online. http://bit.ly/139HVSE

    Ironically, Nick Walkley your former Chief Executive - whose appointment I opposed - may turn out to be the best hope we have of turning this around and bringing our council back to health


I now moderate comments in the light of the Delfi case. Due to the current high incidence of spam I have had to turn word verification on.