Mayor Boris Johnson at Talk London faces Barnet voters

13:57 18 January 2012

PH Dieter Perry

PH Dieter Perry

Dieter Perry

Talk London saw Mayor Boris Johnson get a grilling from Barnet residents at the Met Police’s Peel Centre, last night (Tuesday).

Convincing voters they will benefit from the upcoming Olympic Games was just one challenge faced by the Mayor during the forum, in association with London24.com.

Declining to get caught up on a debate about parking with a group of slogan T-shirt-wearing activists, was another task performed by Mr Johnson at the event.

But fellow panellists, Council Leader Mr Cornelius, Barnet trade guru Gail Laser and City Hall’s transport deputy, Isabel Dedring, all felt the heat from the floor over a controversial new scratch-card parking voucher scheme.

With the debate passionate from the start, chairman Brian Coleman’s early instruction to focus solely on funding seemed in vain when he said it, and so it proved.

Mayor Johnson defended the Olympics from critics in the hall, claiming $15bn will pour into the capital city by mid-2015 as a result of the event.

The Olympic Route Network also drew ire from the floor, with taxi drivers angry they will be banned from sections of road reserved for the sole use of VIPs.

Calling catering for international grandees a ‘sad duty,’ Mayor Johnson labelled the Olympiocrat army ‘fat-cats.’ This chimed with the tone of many in the Hall, who were vocal compared to supporters of the 2012 Games.

Brian Coleman, a senior figure in Johnson’s administration, rapped his boss on investment. Promised cash had not arrived, said Coleman. No response followed from the Mayor – perhaps Coleman shall get his response within the confines of City Hall.

Another touch paper issue was sports facilities in the borough – one of the biggest in London. Two clubs, Barnet FC and Saracens rugby club face uncertain futures at present.

Cllr Cornelius insisted help was offered by the council to help Barnet FC in a seemingly doomed bid to stay at their Underhill ground.

Noise from the floor illustrated how high feelings on that issue runs among residents.

But with public budgets squeezed and private interests involved, the platform issued only expressions of support, such as by Mr Coleman. He drew applause for a firey salvo against the ‘selling off’ of community sports facilities.

Mr Johnson remained on the platform after the forum finished, talking to residents below. Intentionally or not, the scene was, ‘I, Senator Boris.’

Twitter.com users provided a running commentary of the event, alongside the official Team London feed and London24.com’s own stream, @archantlondon24

The micro blogging site saw contributions from local community activists, tweeting mostly in the critical tone common to Town Hall politics.

@BarnetBugle was one such contributer. To check out what the Tweetosphere made of Talk London in Barnet, Twitter.com #talklondon #barnet.

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