Here are the minutes of the first “Our Barnet” residents forum held on Tuesday 4 October. The meeting was attended by 50-60 people.

The next “Our Barnet” residents forum - open to all and no subject off limits - will be on Tuesday 29 November at 7.00pm at Larches House, 1 Rectory Lane, Edgware, HA8 7LF.

Here is a brief report of the first meeting:

On 4th October the Barnet Alliance for Public Services held its first OUR BARNET Residents’ Forum. Covering the whole of the borough, and with no limitations as to the questions put or solutions offered, this ‘experiment in community democracy’ attracted a larger and happier crowd than the fraught and aimless confrontations mounted by the council, which go under the false name of ‘Residents’ Forums’.

Our meeting gave a voice to workers at the shortly-to-be-privatised council, forced to take industrial action again to defend their jobs and our services; striking workers from Middlesex University faced with the prospect of 300 job cuts; carers whose care packages have been suddenly cut to nothing; disabled people, deprived of vital support - who have had to form themselves into a new ‘Campaign against the Destruction of Disabled Support Services’; representatives of campaigns to save the libraries and many more.

There were questions about how there could be any community involvement in planning if the department is to be outsourced; there were questions about the impact on the community of losing 1000 jobs as planned - did the council not have an obligation to stimulate the local economy?; there were suggestions about ways of gaining a greater measure of democratic control over the council e.g. particular interest groups selecting a representative to claim a [co-opted] place on the ONE BARNET Board; a sketch of an idea was
put forward for new or reclaimed council services controlled three ways by council, workers and users to compete with or replace private commercial ventures.

The 60 or so people present were asked if they wanted more such forums - there was cheering, applause and a unanimous vote in favour.

These forums are not, of course, themselves examples of community democracy. This is something that has to be worked for. Democratic rights have to be fought for. Sketchy suggestions have got to be turned into viable outline schemes. The place where we are working out ways to achieve this is our regular weekly meetings, which take place on a Wednesday at 6pm at the Greek Cypriot Centre, Britannia Road N12. Issues to be covered during the next weeks include: the economic background to the cuts [19th Oct], students & youth issues [26th Oct]…