Dec 07 2012

Democracy In Action: Harrow Council’s Call-In Sub-Committee

We went along to Harrow Council’s Call-In Sub-Committee meeting last night, December 6, 2012, to see more democracy in action. High on the agenda was the decision by the Council at a previous meeting to go ahead with the Whitchurch Fields development, which was up for more discussion over the claims that the decision was badly made.

In a packed meeting room, Councillors Asante, Gate, Hall, Ferrari, and Miles – in his role as Chair – took the time to hear a 20 minute objection from Cllr Macleod-Cullinane about the way that the decision to virtually give away Whitchurch Field to developers was made. On the defence side of the table, looking somewhat fed up with the entire process, was Leader Idaikkadar, ably supported by the Director of Place Shaping, Andrew Trehern.

Much of those 20 minutes was taken up by allegations that the consultation was (and we’re paraphrasing here) biased, in that it was carried out by the very people who hoped to benefit from it: The Whitchurch Consortium. When you have, as someone put it, the fox guarding the chicken coop, you’re perhaps not convinced that the consultation is a true representation of opinion – especially when you consider that the 800 or so people at the consortium-sponsored ‘fun day’ were apparently made up of a number of bodies ‘shipped in’ for it.

In a valiant, yet failed, effort to get Leader Idaikkadar to answer a couple of simple questions (for example, why the aforementioned Director Trehern took so long to reply to a resident’s concerns), those present were treated to a display of arrogance, or arguments, and much cheek-puffing by the chair. Of particular note was the rudeness exhibited by Cllr Asante – Deputy Mayor, no less – to one of the other residents present, who, when they attempted clarify something, got treated in the mos discourteous of fashions. It’s almost as if some Councillors – and we’re looking at you, Cllr Asante – believe that residents are best seen and not heard.

The Chair, by now looking somewhat fed-up with the entire charade, had moved onto straightening his piles of paperwork, but managed to retain control, mostly, of the meeting, whilst Director Trehern resorted to – and this is no word of a lie – pointing at others across the table with his pen clipped in a most-odd fashion to his finger whilst looking over his glasses with the demeanor  of a 1950’s Schoolmaster: a mortar board, gown and cane would simply finish off the appearance.

Sitting next to me was Cllr Margaret Davine – dressed nattily in a pair of white trainers – who was simply there to observe aforementioned democracy. I can report that she spent more time playing with her mobile phone, than paying rapt attention to the proceedings, although she may have done particularly well at Angry Birds.

By this point, my ability to pay much more attention to the result of the meeting was evaporating, and the sub-committee members disappeared to discuss the conclusion towards to end, and may have been milling around the remains of a buffer lunch left on the landing, seeking out a prawn sandwich or two before returning to the room to deliver the verdict.

In conclusion, this was an insightful way into how the Council operates: the decision, perhaps, is less important than the process, but if there’s not much else on the telly, Harrow residents should get along to one of these, to see what their elected Councillor gets up to.



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