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Labour accuse Tories of 'running a scam' as Barnet Council meeting erupts into chaos
Updated 9:24am Thursday 5th June 2014 in News
Chaos erupted at the first council meeting since the local election as opposition councillors accused the Tories of “running a dictatorship”.
The Labour group feel the Conservatives are displaying “arrogant” behaviour by making a string of changes which they claim go against Barnet Borough Council conventions.
During Monday's meeting, Cllr Hugh Rayner was sworn in as Mayor and Cllr Richard Cornelius was re-elected leader of the council.
In the first of a series of changes, a full council meeting was moved from September 16 to September 23 – in the middle of the Labour Party Conference.
When Cllr Rayner asked if the councillors agreed with the new date, a resounding ‘no’ echoed from the gallery.
One councillor interjected, saying: “They’re running a scam, it’s outrageous.”
As Cllr Rayner attempted to quell the shouting, councillors began chanting “shame on you”, “disgraceful”, and Barnet blogger Mrs Angry said: “We’re trying to act like a democracy, not a dictatorship”.
The Conservatives also caused anger by appointing the roles of chairmen and vice-chairmen of the Chipping Barnet neighbourhood forum to their own – even though Labour holds the majority in the area.
And even though Labour has a majority on the east area planning and Chipping Barnet area sub committees, the Tories appointed chairmen and vice-chairmen from their own group.
According to Labour leader Cllr Alison Moore, Conservatives also “ignored” a rule to offer the role of chairman of the audit committee to an opposition councillor by giving the role to Tory Brian Sallinger.
Cllr Hugh Rayner told the meeting: “I am the Mayor of Barnet and I would hope you respect the office of the Mayor of Barnet.
“I would ask that when you are frustrated with decisions from the other side, you do not show disrespect to the Mayor of Barnet.
“Please do not bring the Mayor into disrespect.”
During last month’s local elections, the Tories retained power in Barnet – but it was a close fight as Labour missed taking control by just two seats.
The deferred election in Colindale is due to take place at the end of the month after Green Party candidate Jessica Yorke died days before it was due to take place.
Cllr Moore told the Times Series: “We’ve seen what the Tories are made of, it’s shameful. It’s arrogant behaviour, it’s distasteful.
“I genuinely don’t think they get it – that isn’t democratic. It’s shameful. So they had their majorities slashed and the first thing they do is to ride rough shod across democratic accountability.”
When the Times Series asked Councillor Richard Cornelius whether he felt the changes were undemocratic given all the opposition, he said: “Well we did win the election, we were 10,000 votes ahead of Labour. It’s customary for the ruling group to make the decisions.”
He said September 23 was the “only convenient date” the full council meeting could be held and that there weren’t any other “obvious” candidates to chair the committees.
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