By Swheatie of the KUWGIn a guest blog piece on the Wembley Matters blog Mike Hine reports on
an encouraging little tale for people anywhere who are fighting local government secrecy, opposing council leaders who think they’re above democratic accountability, needing a reminder of what a brief, focussed, media-savvy campaign can achieve with public backing or just happy to see a couple of smug Tory bigwigs get reminded of the limits of their entitlement....And then he concludes that there is little difference between Richmond's Tory Council Leader whose name really is Baron True and LB Brent's Council Leader Muhammed Butt:
What’s the relevance of this to Brent? Simply the fact that certain aspects of local government in Richmond might ring a bell with observers of local government in NW London.Baron True and Councillor Butt, in the way they conduct affairs and the way they affect our lives, have more in common than they have differences. The clandestine nature of the planning of the Gloriana boathouse vanity project has more relevance to the way councils and their leaders operate in both Brent and Richmond than do the Labour or Tory labels attached to the main players in either borough. Vanity and power (and the abuse of ‘procedure’ to lubricate the exercise of both) are seen to be their own justification. The extravagantly rewarded council functionaries who knew but kept schtum about the Barons’ plans in Richmond had no more sense of duty towards the public they served and who paid them than do their expensively ‘outsourced’ and perpetually interim equivalents in Brent. In short, the barons’ mentality, the self-serving arrogance of power, the secretiveness, the sense of entitlement about handing down prearranged decisions to the ‘ordinary’ people, these qualities are not just the preserve of the ‘ennobled’.But the biggest lesson from the Gloriana boathouse victory is surely one to celebrate and to take encouragement from: it is that, no matter how ‘noble’, how well-connected, how apparently secure in power, how self-confident or how devious, the barons can be resisted and the barons can be defeated, in Brent as in Richmond.And that lovely bit of unspoiled Thames riverside with its scruffy old playground and its friendly little cafe will now remain a testament and a monument to that fact.