The Barbican estate and its services are managed by the Barbican Estate Office (BEO). The BEO is a division of the Community & Children’s Services Department of the City Corporation, but some of its technical expertise is provided by other departments – the Technical Services Division and the Department of Open Spaces being the main contributors. BEO has offices at Lauderdale Place with a ground floor reception.
The Barbican Estate Office currently has a system where each block has a specific House Officer allocated to it, and this is the person you should contact for specific issues and day-to-day problems.
The City’s website www.cityoflondon.gov.uk contains a lot of very useful information for Barbican residents.
Many of the services provided by the BEO are the subject of ‘service level agreements’ . These are agreements between the City and us, through our representatives, about what services should be provided as part of our service charges, and how much we should pay for them. Our representatives for this purpose are our house groups.
The landlord of the estate is the Corporation of London. It delegates management responsibility for the Barbican estate – the residential and ancillary premises – to a committee called the Barbican Residential Committee – ‘BRC’ for short.
Some members of the Committee happen to be Barbican residents. But, ironically, any member who also happens to live in the Barbican can speak, but is not allowed to vote, on any issue concerning the estate, because of local government anti-corruption rules against councillors voting on issues in which they have a personal interest.
The BRC is mainly involved at the level of policy, budgets and strategy. Day to day issues are the province of the Barbican Estate Office. But the BRC has the final word on any issue.
The committee began life on 6 January 1975 as the Barbican Management Committee and was renamed the Barbican Residential Committee on 19 May 1978. The committee’s constitution was altered in 1988. The members were no longer appointed solely by the Court of Common Council. Instead it became a committee of 15 Members, of whom 12 were still appointed from its council members by the Court of Common Council, and the remaining three were one Alderman or Common Councilman from each of the three City wards for the Barbican area: the wards of Aldersgate, Cripplegate Within, and Cripplegate Without.
In 1994 there was a further change. Until then a rule of the City Corporation – called Standing Order 66 – prevented Barbican residents from being members of the committee. This rule was abolished and membership of the Barbican Residential Committee was reorganised somewhat. The membership was increased to 19 members, all of whom still had to be members of the City Corporation (Councilmen or Aldermen). The number of members appointed directly by the Court of Common Council was reduced from 12 to 10 members. They had full speaking and voting rights, but they could still not be Barbican residents. The appointees from the wards in the Barbican were increased from three in total to nine in total – three from each ward. They could be residents of the Barbican estate but they only had limited speaking and voting rights.
The membership was changed again as a result of the Residents Consultation Committee being created. Nowadays the committee consists of 11 Members who are non-residents of the Barbican estate, who are elected by the Court of Common Council, plus three members nominated by each of the Barbican wards as had been the case before the earlier change. The Chairman or Deputy Chairman of the Community & Children’s Services Committee is also appointed as a member. The Chairman and Deputy Chairman must be non-residents.
The Residents Consultation Committee is an organisation purely of Barbican flat owners and residents. It is an advisory group – a way for the residents to be heard in management strategy and day-to-day administration. This committee was set up in 2003.
Although all power in the strict sense still lies with the BRC, the Residents Consultation Committee – ‘RCC’ for short – has an influential role. Although only the BRC has the authority to take decisions, almost all decisions taken by the BRC reflect the guidance or recommendations provided by the RCC.
The Estate Director (the head of the Barbican Estate Office) must report to the RCC on a regular basis. So residents’ legitimate concerns are taken into account in the planning stages. The RCC can also take the initiative and request reports on issues from the Estate Director.
When anything is to be considered by the BRC, the RCC will receive papers in advance so that they can comment and make recommendations. Since the BRC doesn’t have the time to go into everything in huge detail, the RCC’s recommendations can be decisive.The RCC has a major role in determining the services we receive and in ensuring they are value for money.
The Barbican Association (BA) is the estate-wide residents’ association. It has a council (BAGC), which is made up of elected members plus representatives from each house group.
The BA is mainly a pressure group for Barbican residents and an organiser of social activities. It may draw issues to the attention of the RCC or the BRC. But it has really ceased to have any management purpose now that the RCC – a faster, more efficient vehicle for protecting residents’ interests – exists; and the House Groups are more appropriate representatives at grassroots level. (It is open to owners and occupiers.)
It retains a useful function as organiser of social events and the Barbican Life magazine. It has always been a Jekyll and Hyde organisation. Sometimes the monster stalks the high walks, objecting to everything. In recent years, the friendlier Jekyll side of its nature has been more noticeable.
Each house or block has a House Group. If it contains a sufficient proportion of the block’s residents, then it also qualifies as a ‘representative body’ for the block which the Corporation of London must consult on some important issues relating to building works and services. So it is beneficial to be a member, even if you don’t attend meetings. That way you help ensure that the house group has enough members to be a representative body. (It is open to owners and occupiers.)