Open Letter to Barnet Labour party group

p.s. Very nice of Ross, Labour's housing spokes person, to turn up and stand with us briefly at the protest before his important AGM. I rudely asked him if he'd sign the petition. However that's the only position I'd have him photographed with us, accepting the petition or signing it! - Ben Dear Councillors, On Wednesday evening, outside Hendon Town Hall, we embarrassed and enraged some of you Labour councillors. Ironically, we attacked the ones more dedicated to their constituents. Two of us, BAPS members, Janet Leifer and myself, gave you a piece of our mind in our anger and frustration, and we could see how uncomfortable we made you feel. It was unpleasant for us too. This was after residents of West Hendon and Sweets Way estates and many of their supporters - activists for council housing in Barnet - were denied entry to the annual council meeting, where they had meant to hand in petitions of more than 200,000 signatures in support of genuine regeneration and against the gentrification and social cleansing that's going on in Barnet right now. One of the young girls evicted with her family from Sweets Way was hoping to read the wording of the petitions inside the council chamber. Instead, the only two residents allowed into the Town Hall with the boxes of signatures were talked into handing them to Cllr Richard Cornelius, who as usual lied to them and did not present the petitions to the full council. He was able to trick those innocent residents who trusted the petitions to his unworthy hands because he was not watched by the voters. That is the role of a full public gallery. None of the decisions that you, our councillors, take have legitimacy if your residents are forbidden from watching you making them, watching you working for them. WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON? We can understand why we scare the conservatives. We threaten their position. With our demand for a transparent local democracy we threaten their ability to make bad policies that damage this borough and our lives away from public view. We were angry about being denied entry to OUR town hall, but not surprised that the Tories called police and security guards to keep us out, to prevent us from watching them, and them from hearing us. But why are you so frightened of us that you did not come out to listen to the grievances of your constituents who are being made homeless by this council? We asked you and you said you had to be inside the council's meeting in order to vote. Really?! Was that more important than making a clear stand about the housing scandal and standing up for and WITH the people who sent you to the council and are now losing their homes?! We know that you are blocked from having influence on council policies. We see you in council meetings and realise how challenging these are for you, how frustrating. We know that you are working hard on individual case work, some of you advocate directly for the residents of West Hendon and Sweets Way – who turned to you as their ward councillors Richard Cornelius, Alison Cornelius and Caroline Stock were dismissive and useless – and we know you wish you could affect the policies that doom these individuals to the dire circumstances in which they appeal for your help. But we also see how ineffective you unfortunately are. And yet you chose to dance to the Tory tune and play the broken game of Barnet council, chose to be inside while your constituents were kept outside. You chose sides. That night you chose the wrong side. We want our opposition on the council to have the courage, the integrity and the honesty to say to the Tories in the council chamber: 'if our constituents are not allowed in then we are going out!', and walk out of the meeting to stand with the people who were chucked out of their homes due to this council's inhumane policies, with those who are fighting to preserve their communities in Barnet. Some of us expected clear stands and integrity from Labour, at least from those of you who care and work hard for your constituents. Our message to you, for the sake of your future and ours: If you ever want to be in power, in which you have a positive influence on the policies that determine your constituents' lives, if you want to get elected to rule this council in order to bring about change, you need to appeal to your voters and to stand side by side with your constituents wherever they are so that you can rebuild their trust, and BE SEEN doing so. You have no power inside the council chamber with the Tories' rule of the council – it's time you see it as it is and start acting like a principled opposition (and that, may I say, applies to national politics as well as to the local one)! Instead of playing their game create new rules to the game - rules of integrity, with your residents, your constituents, your potential voters. Tirza Waisel & Janet Leifer, members of Barnet Alliance for Public Services

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