THE decision to cancel this month’s residents’ forums has been defended by council bosses.

The monthly meetings, which are held at locations across the constituencies of Hendon, Chipping Barnet and Finchley and Golders Green, were dropped from Barnet Council’s agenda just a week before they were scheduled to be held.

A council spokesman said they were cancelled as they coincided with the purdah period, a time when councils cannot show political bias or promote political activity, within five weeks of any election.

But the meetings were only cancelled on May 5, despite the council knowing for months the date of the up-coming elections.

The spokesman said: “As there are both European and local by-elections in June, it was considered necessary to cancel the meetings planned for May.

“One of the planned Forum meetings was scheduled to be held in a Ward where a by-election is taking place.

“As these meetings are chaired by councillors and held directly for residents, they will not go ahead this month and will return in June.

“Residents can continue to raise their concerns about the area in which they live through the council's customer care helpline or by writing to their ward councillor.”

But Andrew Dismore, Labour MP for Hendon, said he was “amazed” the decision was made to cancel the forums, set for May 11, 12 and 13.

Mr Dismore said: “The resident forum meetings are a vital opportunity for people to express their views direct to the council, in public, and to hold the council to account in an open way.

“Such forums have not been cancelled before, even when there has been a general election, so the excuse of the European Parliament and local by-elections does not really wash, particularly as they are over three weeks away from the date scheduled for the forums.”