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‘UNDEMOCRATIC’: Man says Northwood Residents’ Association is ‘not really democratic’

 Published on: 22nd May 2024   |   By: Bryn Holmes   |   Category: Uncategorized

A resident has accused Northwood Residents’ Association (NRA) of being undemocratic after he was told to leave a meeting following a row.

Jonathan Hutchins, a local artist and chair of Harrow Arts Society, attended the Annual General Meeting (AGM) at Northwood Methodist Church on Thursday, April 18. Also in attendance were several borough councillors and David Simmonds CBE, MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner.

Explaining his reason for attending, Jonathan said: “My wife having died, I felt it happened largely because of the highly compromised renal facilities in the area, poor management of the COVID-19 emergency, and many other issues with the NHS.

“I wanted to raise these very important issues to the meeting, especially as so many must also have faced similar anguish over the last few years.”

However, Jonathan alleged that the meeting consisted of an hour-long speech regarding the work of the council’s refuse department, with little time for questions. He claims the questions were quickly closed once a critical one was asked.

When Jonathan expressed his upset with the NRA, he was allegedly told to shut up and leave under the threat of physical removal. He eventually decided to leave under protest.

Jonathan said: “My feeling is that the local residents’ association is not really democratic. It is allowed to set its own agenda and is much too pally with the council administration and the local MP.

“This has the effect to stop any real, meaningful engagement with the public in a public meeting.”

A spokesperson for the NRA said: “The meeting was recorded with members’ consent. The answers to your report are based on the recording. The meeting is not a public meeting as such, in the sense that all members of the public are invited to attend. Rather it is for members of the NRA and residents of, and business owners in, Northwood. Thus the NRA is entitled to set the agenda.

“As required by the constitution, the agenda was issued four weeks in advance of the AGM and posted on public noticeboards, the NRA website and in the spring issue of the NRA newsletter.

“As is usual, the chairman stated at the start of the meeting that questions would be taken and stipulated that questioners should raise their hands, wait for the chairman to indicate the next questioner who would be given a microphone, and clearly ask a succinct question. The chairman also stated that questions of a personal nature would not be taken.

“After councillor Eddie Lavery, our speaker, finished his presentation, he took questions. The chairman closed the question session but used his prerogative as chairman to ask one last question. As he commenced his question, a member of the audience stood up and started shouting. As he, the person interrupting, did not have a microphone, it was not possible to hear his exact words but it was obvious that his comments were not related to the subject in question. The chairman asked the person to sit down and stop speaking, which he refused to do. The chairman said if he (later identified as Mr Hutchins) carried on speaking, he would be asked to leave. Mr Hutchins replied that he would leave if asked but carried on shouting. He then asked the audience if they wanted him to leave, stating that this was not a democratic meeting. The audience gave a fairly unanimous reply – leave. Mr Hutchins then left, still shouting. There was no row as suggested by Mr Hutchins, as the chairman had reacted calmly and did not, at any time, raise his voice. No threat of physical removal was made.

“Mr Hutchins makes the accusation that there was little time for questions. In fact, the meeting continued for another hour after he left, during which time members of the audience put many questions to the panel.

“Regarding Mr Hutchins’ comments about his personal experience with the NHS, the AGM was not the suitable forum for his complaint. Had he actually raised a question regarding the NHS, it would have been ruled out as a personal question and he would have been told to speak to David Simmonds MP after the meeting.

“The recording of the AGM confirms that members were given time to ask questions and that the NRA acts in a democratic manner. For the record, the NRA rejects the allegation that it is too pally with the councillors and MP. As the chairman stated during the meeting, the NRA is apolitical, but it needs to liaise with Hillingdon Council, councillors and the MP in order to achieve its objectives.”

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