The ‘Barnet Spring’ prompts Brian Coleman’s political fall from grace

17:00 21 May 2012

Cllr Brian Coleman

Cllr Brian Coleman

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Campaigners have hailed the dawn of the “Barnet Spring” after controversial parking boss Brian Coleman was ousted from his cabinet role a week after losing his seat on the London Assembly.

Former environment chief Cllr Coleman was one of the highest profile scalps claimed in the City Hall elections on May 3.

His defeat was largely blamed on the controversial parking reforms he steered through on Barnet Council, which saw parking fees rise and all pay and display metres scrapped and replaced by a new pay-by-phone system.

In a move that suggests Barnet may be considering a change in parking policy, the post was handed to Golders Green Cllr Dean Cohen - a critic of the reforms - on Tuesday (May 15).

Theresa Musgrove, who blogs as Mrs Angry, said Cllr Coleman’s “arrogance” and unpopular policies had spurred an eclectic mix of residents to campaign for his demise.

She and other Barnet bloggers have held Cllr Coleman to account on Twitter and other social media sites, which it is believed helped mobilise the vote against him on May 3 when he lost the Barnet & Camden London Assembly seat after 12 years.

The movement has been dubbed the Barnet Spring - a play on the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East which saw a groundswell of revolution driven by social media.

Ms Musgrove said: “It has been the Barnet Spring. It’s not just Brian Coleman, the whole Conservative council has created the Big Society they all claim they want to see.

“By default they have united sections of the community in a resistance to the local council in a way they hadn’t anticipated.

“It has created network of activists and bloggers spanning all party stripes. They are concerned about the way Barnet is going.”

In a gesture epitomising this eclectic opposition, trade unionists, bloggers, teachers and small shopkeepers all shared a toast at Alexandra Palace bar after Cllr Coleman lost his London Assembly seat on May 3.

Signalling a change on the controversial council parking reforms, Cllr Cohen, said: “Parking is the main issue and it is one that needs to be dealt with.

“We are here to respond to residents in the borough and if that is an issue amongst residents then we have to address that problem.”

But he warned policy changes would have to be kept within a tight budget and that nothing had yet been decided.

Cllr Coleman, who also lost his role as chairman of the London Fire Authority when he failed to hold his London Assembly seat, is the second political heavyweight to be forced from his post after a row over parking charges.

Westminster Council leader Colin Barrow resigned in January after a high profile campaign against West End parking charges.

Many traditional Tory voters supported Labour’s new Barnet & Camden London Assembly member Andrew Dismore, who polled higher than Cllr Coleman in Golders Green - where all three ward councillors are Conservative.

The stripping of his posts means Cllr Coleman’s pay packet has been slashed from £120,000 a year to a £14,000 expenses budget.

Cllr Coleman declined to comment.

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