Have Your Say: Grass Roots Action in Barnet

With the local elections coming up next week on Thursday 3rd May, it’s a good time to consider the ways you can have a say and voice your concerns locally.

For various reasons (hence this website), many people move to Barnet and stay put, becoming committed to the area and a healthy number seem to want to get involved and make a difference. As a consequence, Barnet boasts several longstanding residents’ associations, a growing number of pressure groups, blogs and social media campaigns and even people standing for office for the first time. In Barnet we aren’t afraid of a bit grass roots action.

Non-political groups

The most prominent is The Barnet Society, originally established in 1945 and the current chair is architect, Robin Bishop with Nick Jones, retired BBC political correspondent, editor in chief.

“The Barnet Society is a non-political organisation that campaigns for the preservation and improvement of the environment of Chipping Barnet and surrounding areas and for protection of the Green Belt. As well as lobbying, holding meetings and taking our elected representatives and their officers to task, we are active in a number of local organisations, including the Chipping Barnet Town Team, Friends of Barnet Market, High Barnet Project, Barnet Museum and the Monken Hadley and Wood Street Conservation Area Advisory Committees.”

They always welcome new members, run an extremely informative website and have a strong presence on social media, highlighting key local issues. The Society also organised the excellent recent hustings event with local election candidates. Do check this link for their useful account of the event.

If you live in Chipping Barnet, it’s also worth joining the 600-strong Barnet Residents’ Association that also has a hands-on role and, according to the website, activities include the “scrutiny of planning applications, protection of the environment – especially conservation areas, highways, public transport, parking, policing, healthcare provision and the economic well-being of the town centre.” They keep members updated with three newsletters a year and occasional emails. The association was formed in 1934, originally as the Barnet Ratepayers Association and now serves residents of the High Barnet and Underhill wards of Barnet, chaired by Gordon Massey. It’s fascinating looking at their website to see what planning applications have been rejected, imagining how different Barnet would be without this valuable input.

Launched about five years ago, Love Barnet is dynamically run by Gail Laser, Vice Chair of The Barnet Society and member of the Chipping Barnet Town Team (responsible for the successful Teenage Markets crowdfunding campaign). Love Barnet has been responsible for pop-up shops (see Room 89), craft fairs and a community café by drawing together local talent and expertise. Through the Facebook page Love Barnet also highlights and champions local businesses and services with a sizeable following on social media.

Other important local groups are the East Barnet Residents’ Association and Save New Barnet! which has a lively local following online and is closely monitoring the redevelopment of the gas works, Victoria Quarter.

The local social media website, Next Door (previously Streetlife) also has a strong and rapidly growing following. It’s another good source of information and personal recommendations with animated discussions about local issues.

Council engagement with residents

Chipping Barnet Residents Forum is organised by Barnet Council and has public meetings several times a year. Residents can propose items on the website for discussion at upcoming meetings. At the very least, issues are minuted and publically acknowledged.

Local elections

At the very least you can get out and vote. Full details of all the Barnet candidates can be found here and include local activist Ken Rowland who so successfully ran the Fibre4Barnet campaign to improve broadband speeds in Chipping Barnet and who is standing as an independent candidate in High Barnet ward.

Things are not as clear-cut in Barnet as they used to be. In the 2017 general election Theresa Villiers only managed to secure a majority of 353 votes – a contrast to the 12,000 lead she had in 2010. Capita and outsourcing are big issues for the Conservatives who have recently lost their overall lead in the council (which they held by one seat in 2014), and anti-Semitism will be a major concern for many local residents regarding Labour. It’ll be fascinating to see what happens next Thursday.

Political websites, blogs and Twitter feeds

Barnet Council website and @BarnetCouncil ‏(Twitter)
Member of Parliament for Chipping Barnet Theresa Villiers (Conservative): Facebook page
High Barnet ward councillor and former mayor (Conservative): David Longstaff @David_Longstaff
Underhill ward councillors (Labour): Jessica Brayne @JessicaBrayne and ‏Paul Edwards @pjed440
High Barnet candidates (Labour): Amy Trevethan @AmyTrevethan and Paul Lemon @paullemon4HB ‏
‏High Barnet candidates (Lib Dem): Duncan MacDonald @dc_macdonald
Chipping Barnet Labour: website and @ChippingLabour ‏
Totteridge ward councillor and current council leader (Conservative): Richard Cornelius @CllrCornelius ‏
Chipping Barnet Conservatives: @ChippingTories ‏
Barnet Lib Dems: website and @BarnetLibDems
Mill Hill Lib Dems: Richard Logue, Donna Pickup and Roger Tichborne @ABetterMillHill
High Barnet Greens: @HighBarnetGreen ‏
London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden (Labour): website and @Andrew_Dismore ‏
Broken Barnet (Theresa Musgrove): blog and @brokenbarnet
Barnet Eye (Roger Titchborne): blog and @Barneteye (also Lib Dem candidate for Mill Hill)
Mr Reasonable: blog and @ReasonableNB
Mr Mustard: blog and @_MrMustard
Helen Michael (politically vocal owner of North Finchley’s Café Buzz): @BuzzingHelen
Barnet Alliance For Public Services (long-standing campaign defending public services in Barnet led by Barbara Jacobson ): @BarnetAlliance
Save Barnet Libraries: website and @SaveBarnetLibs

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