The Barbican Association and Residential Consultation Committee’s response to the City of London on Lord Lisvane’s Recommendations on Committees and the RCC

We are responding in particular to:

Para 353. This Committee’s task, according to its terms of reference, is entirely one of management. If that is the case, I cannot see why it should exist as a Corporation Committee. So far as the interests of the Corporation are concerned, that function can be dealt with by Officers. So far as the internal arrangements are concerned, those can surely be made by the residents themselves.

The current arrangements for the RCC were set up in 2003. Attached is the original agreement, and result, from the ‘2003 referendum’ among Barbican residents that we mentioned to you. This document came to light recently and we trust it is a valuable contribution to your meetings with Elected Members and Officers about Lord Lisvane’s recommendations re the Barbican residential estate. 

To highlight a few key phrases:

  • The Resident consultation committee will immediately have a significant influence in the management of the Estate and in future could develop to be the basis of a delegation of service responsibility. (Page 7)
  • The Resident consultation committee will be highly influential in the strategic and operational management of the Estate. In short, the Committee will have teeth.(Page 7).
  • The Resident consultation committee proposal is designed to move beyond resident consultation to a level of significant resident influence over operational and strategic management of the Estate. (Page 8)

We welcome the City of London as freeholder and service provider. Further, we believe that the RCC, which has elected representatives from house groups and officers of the City of London, is competent to carry out the role agreed in 2003 with the BEO acting on behalf of the City as its Managing Agent. We have discussed this with the Assistant Director Barbican and Property services and the Head of the Barbican Estates and are in agreement the 2003 agreement represents a collaborative and effective approach to managing the Barbican residential estate. We will be having further discussions as to how this would be implemented

In the event that the City adopts Lisvane’s recommendation to abolish the BRC we recognise that the RCC will still need to feed into the City’s committee structure and would expect to be consulted on any new arrangements. 

Can we also take this opportunity to request that in your deliberations on Committees, you consider our request for an umbrella group to look after the Grade II listed Barbican Estate. It is not getting the attention it deserves as responsibility for the Estate falls among the 21 different committees.

Adam Hogg Chair Barbican Association

Christopher Makin Chair RCC

Standards Committee Abolished

Councillor Graeme Harrower has made the following announcement about the end of the standards campaign in the City Corporation:

City’s Standard’s Committee abolished

In January 2018, a resident councillor of unimpeachable integrity successfully challenged the City of London Corporation on behalf of her constituents. Two weeks later, the Corporation referred her for prosecution which proved to be entirely groundless, and for two prejudiced hearings by its Standards Committee. The whole process cost tens of thousands of pounds of public money, and resulted in no sanction.

In December 2018, two motions were proposed in the City’s Court of Common Council in response to this scandal. Supported by only 14 out of elected 125 members, the motions aimed to reform:

(1) the Corporation’s “dispensations” policy, by removing undue restrictions on resident members speaking and voting on matters affecting their constituents, and

(2) the Corporation’s standards proceedings, by replacing members on the assessment, hearing and appeal bodies with independent persons.  

The Policy Chair ambushed the first motion with an amendment to preserve the restrictive policy on “dispensations” to vote. A debate on the second motion was prevented by a member moving “that the question now be put”, after which the motion was overwhelmingly voted down.

In April 2019, 1,200 City residents signed a petition in which they declared that they had no confidence in the Corporation’s standards regime, and called for it to be reformed in line with the motions.

The campaign for standards reform continued, waged by only a handful of members, but with strong resident support and external publicity. It was aided by the propensity of the Standards Committee to make the wrong decision practically every time it acted. 

In March 2020, a further case exposed in open Court the folly of members judging each other. Further motions for reform were proposed in June and October 2020, but were both neutered by amendments. 

Even the Corporation-friendly Lisvane report, published in September 2020, recognised that the City’s standards regime was not fit for purpose. The report recommended its radical overhaul, together with the abolition of the Standards Committee.

Eventually, in January 2021, the Court of Common Council adopted those recommendations.The aims of the two motions proposed more than two years earlier were finally achieved. The Standards Committee has since disappeared into oblivion. 

The success of the standards reform campaign – in the face of determined resistance by the Corporation’s leadership – proves that the Corporation, with all its financial, legal and PR resources, can be defeated.

This should encourage City residents to take further action against the lack of democratic accountability in the Corporation. They can do so by signing this petition, which calls for the reform of its planning process, another area in which residents are disenfranchised.

The City’s standards regime and disenfranchisement of City residents gives more background to this story.