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The real issues are in the community

September 15, 2016 3:39 PM
By Councillor Jack Cohen in Barnet Press

Cllr Jack Cohen, the Leader of Barnet Council's Liberal Democrat groupI have to put my hands up. I set up an out of office automatic response on my council email account for part of August. I was not away but decided I needed a rest.

August is usually a quiet month but not this year. A couple of residents thought I was unwell or something because my out of office had no return date. There is no full council meeting in August, September and October. The last one in July convinces me, if I ever needed convincing, that council meetings are becoming more and more irrelevant.

The real issues are out there in the community. I think it is finally dawning on residents that the outsourcing of council services is not working. That is why so many residents were contacting me during what is normally the quiet holiday period. One of the many downsides of outsourcing is so many experienced staff have left the council.

I have just completed 30 years on the council. My advice cases are as numerous as they have ever been. I know email makes it easier for residents to get in touch. Councillors now have a dedicated contact at the council. It is named Members Enquiries. Any complaints, issues or queries we raise on behalf of residents are copied to Members Enquiries. The system actually works.

They ensure the relevant officers respond within five days or it is escalated to a senior officer. So normally there is a swift turnaround and action taken. But what is not working is the council's ability to deal satisfactorily with residents' problems in the first place.