Sunday, 31 July 2011

Barnet Council Datagate Scandal - proof that the Cabinet has lost track of reality

I am endebted to commenter ASKMIKEFREER for drawing my attention to a comment by one of the members of Barnet Council cabinet on his blog. Councillor Robert Rams answered a question on his blogs stating the following :-
But is the council the best organisation to administer banks of servers or manage call centres? Are these really our key areas of expertise? There are private sector organisations that specialise in running back office and customer service activity and they do so better than the council ever could.
The full text is available here :-

Rams as a member of the cabinet should be aware of all of the confidential paperwork and reports discussed in cabinet sessions. He has been a very vocal supporter of the OneBarnet program and clearly thinks that outsourcing is far and away the best answer. He clearly had not bothered to check how the company which have the contract to run the Barnet Council datacentre were doing when he made these comments. In other words, he was talking complete nonsense and not bothering to check the facts.

A Barnet Council internal report, passed to this blog as a response to an FOI response says that this risk has been identified with the management of the Barnet Council Datacentre :-

ISSUE -  The  Data  Centre  and  Comms  Rooms  are  at  significant  risk  as  the  A\C  is  not  working  correctly,  the  sprinkler  system  has  been  turned  off  due  to  a  water  leak  and  cables  are  at  risk  of  being  eaten  into  by  Rats.  

RISK -   2e2 (company with the contract to manage the datacentre)  will  pass  all  risk  back  onto  the  council  and  not  deliver  to their  contractual  arrangements.  

ACTION -  Improve  the  relationship  with  2e2  and  look  into terminating  the  2e2  contract  early  and  bringing  services  and staff,  under  TUPE,  in‐house,  if  necessary.  

In other words, the way to clear up the mess when outsourcing fails is to bring it back into the public sector to sort the problem out. What more proof could leader of the Council, Richard Cornelius need that Councillor Rams is not up to the job? Either Rams was completely clueless about the state of Barnet Council's datacantres and the company running them, indicating a catastrophic failure to do his job (for which he receives a generous allowance) or he deliberately sought to conceal the information from a Barnet resident and present a completely dishonest appraisal of the state of Barnets datacentre infrastructure, to support his ideological belief in outsourcing. Either way, I cannot see any way he can be allowed to continue as a cabinet member. As I have repeatedly stated, the sole function of Councillors is to oversee the council executive and ensure they deliver good services to the people of Barnet. Nobody can pretend any longer that Councillor Robert Rams is capable of doing this. 

Barnet Council Datagate scandal - it gets worse and worse

Yesterday I posted this blog -

It contained this portion of a report

One of my friendly teams of sleuths has uncovered the "redacted" part of the information (ie the blacked out bit)
It says :-
"Risk - 2e2 will pass all risk back onto the council and not deliver
Action -Improve the relationship with 2e2 and look into terminating the 2e2 contract early and bringing services and staff, under TUPE, in‐house, if necessary."
So, as ever, the solution when "outsourcing" fails is to bring it in house and let the public sector clean up the mess, whilst the contractors walk off with a bulging wallet.

Barnet Eye emails all Barnet Councillors re FOI reports on state of Barnet Council

 I today sent the following email. I will post the full reports on my future shape blog today
To: ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Cc: John Burgess ; kim inam ; tjones ; patrick jenkins ; ross lydall ; Derek Dishman ; mrs angry ; vicki morris; John Dix ; Adam Langleben ;
Sent: Sunday, July 31, 2011 9:41 AM
Subject: Urgent - Barnet Council expose massive risks to staff, data protection, councillors and residents

Dear Barnet Councillor,
Yesterday I received the following reports. These are internal Barnet Council reports, sent to me in response to an FoI request. The information contained is truly shocking and shows that councillors, staff and residents are being exposed to huge risks. As councillors, your primary function is to oversee the executive. I believe that in light of these reports, the council should be recalled and an emergency meeting of the full council convened to discuss the implications of this. Please read these reports as a matter of urgency. When I read that council data centres are at risk of fire due to rats eating cables, sprinklers turned off due to leaks, no adequate disaster recovery, confidential data not being secured and can be accessed without any control whatsoever, it beggars the question "how did we get into this mess". I believe that this is a question which requires urgent debate. I believe that timescales of 6-9 months to address urgent health and safety risks is entirely inappropriate. If a fire resulted in loss of life, Barnet would be liable for a corporate manslaughter charge. That is why I believe that you MUST read these reports as a matter of urgency. I would suggest you start with - IS Action Plan Final (redacted).jpg - this is the mosts hocking report I have seen in all the time I've spent blogging about Barnet Council.
Please confirm receipt of these reports and any comments you deem appropriate. These have been circulated to Barnet Unison, Barnet Press, other Barnet bloggers and Eric Pickles, the minister responsible. Please be aware that any response (or lack of response) may appear in the BARNETEYE blog.
Roger Tichborne

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Barnet Council IT scandal - Your personal data is not safe or secure

As I read the recently released FOI requests, it just gets worse and worse. It appears that highly sensetive Council data is not being stored securely. Worse than this, staff can access it at home and email it without anyone being able to trace it. This is a scandal of the highest order. It is possible that all manner of sensitive information may have been leaked to God knows who? The worst aspect of this is that all manner of information could have ended up in the hands of the wrong people and NO ONE CAN TELL. It also appears to me that IT subcontractors, who don't even work for the council may have been able to access commercially sensitive data. In short, Barnet Council's whole system of control, security and audit has effectively been bypassed. Any public organisation should make data security their no 1 issue. The fact that the situation is out of control, is probably the most damning indictment I have ever seen of a local authority.

This is on page 4 of the report - IS Action Plan Final (redacted).pdf - sent to me in response to my FOI request. What alarms me most is that there is no action to try and ascertain whether any potentially criminal access has been made of data. Surely that must be the first action if data is compromised. In light of this latest admission, the senior management team, including Nick Walkley really should consider their positions. If they won't maybe the new leader of the Council, Richard Cornelius should consider it for them.

And as for the fact that there is no plan for disaster recovery. That is surely one of the worst acts of negligence, especially as the data centre is at risk of fire and being eaten by rats. Absolutely unbelievable.

 As ever, click on the image for a more readable version.

Barnet Council datacentre at risk of being eaten by Rats !!!!!

I kid you not. I have just received a shocking set of emails in response to FOI requests. I really could not have predicted that such a shocking response would emerge. Just read the risks. They've redacted some of the responses. There is no comment from me that would adequately do this justice, so I won't make one, other than to point out that this was a result of outsourcing the service, and they want to outsource the whole lot !

Click on the picture for a more readable format. The bit which especially concerns me is this risk :-

The Data Centre and Comms Rooms are at significant risk as the A\C is not working correctly, the sprinkler system has been turned off due to a water leak and cables are at risk of being eaten into by Rats.

Which seems to have the action plan redacted.

This is what 9 years of Conservative mismanagement has done to Barnet Council. They are currently having a month off. It is truly unebelieveable. What an amazing coincidence that the respose arrived just as the Council went on holiday !!! I do hope Nick Walkley and Councillor Richard Cornelius are enjoying themselves, whatever they are up to and our data centre does not burn down or get eaten by rats until the council come back from there holidays. It seems to me that 6-9 months to fix sprinklers, put down rat poison and mend air conditioning is a bit excessive, but then when I need to do such things in my business, I don't spend £1,500 a day on getting a consultant to tell me what needs doing (The document is entitled IS Action Plan Final (readacted).pdf)

Being a lazy git, I've got the ball rolling with this blog and have now circulated the documents to my fellow Barnet bloggers so they too can be amazed and astounded as well. I will be returning to these documents over the next few days.

I have also circulated this to the Trades Unions as I believe it is truly shocking. If any Barnet Councillors would like a copy (you know, to help you do your job running the Council), please get in touch. I do hate to disturb you as we know that, as Councillor David Longtonguestaff says " I’ll decide what’s urgent in my life" and I'm sure he speaks for many of you. Enjoy your saturday night, I'm off to hang myself

London Mayoral Elections - Boris Vs Ken - Election broadcast from the Apathy Party

Originally published in 2000AD - issue 1743 - The galaxies greatest comic

Barnet Eye weekly round up - Philistines trash Barnet

I've been in France, no internet, no papers for a week, so I've been totally out of touch with the news in Barnet. For me the big news (and sad news) is the story that Barnet Council is selling off Church Farmhouse museum. 

I made this video about Church Farmhouse museum on the sunday before it shut. It features Gerard Rootes, the now Ex curator of the museum, giving his views on the museum. Sadly this video and a few memories are all that is left of the museum, thanks to Councillor Robert Ramsbottom and his Tory chums.

Shame on them. This is an act of philistinism. I had absolutely no doubt that this would happen, from the first moment that the cuts to it's budget were announced. Barnet Council really do make me sick. It's OK to concrete over green spaces, build mini cities in Brent Cross, build incinerators next to them, but when it actually comes to providing things for the people of Barnet to enrich their life what happens?

Museums budgets are cut
Libraries are closed
Football pitches are sold off
Grants to voluntary sector organisations are cut

So I hear you ask, how can we justify supporting the arts in these times of recession and debt?

Well lets look at a few things which haven't been cut

The pay of the CEO of Barnet Council and other senior executives
The allowances for Councillors (committee chairmen got a 50% rise)
The budget for consultants to outsources the council

Do I hear you say that "The consultants are increasing efficiency". This is complete codswallop. The Future Shape/OneBarnet/Barnet Track project has been running for over three years, has sucked millions from the coffers and delivered no net savings whatsoever. In fact if they had just concentrated on realising efficiencies using the Councils own staff and resources, they would have had enough money in the kitty to fund all of the chopped museums, libraries and other voluntary sector grants.

Whilst spending huge amounts on these consultants, they've let purchasing run out of control. This has been demonstrated by the Metpro fiasco, where £1.4 million was spent on a company which didn't even have a contract or the licenses to legally provide the services.

As for the Barnet blogs - my pick of the week. Mr Mustard notices that the One Barnet project has ceased to exist. Imagine my surprise. A week in Lourdes and we have a miracle whilst I'm away !

Sadly Mr Mustard had played a nasty practical joke (we have a good sense of humour, us Barnet bloggers). Nope, OneBarnet hasn't disappeared, they've just stopped telling us how much they spend on it.

Mr Reasonable reports that he's listed a whole plethora of errors in the way Barnet Council pay invoices without proper supporting information.

There is an absolutely fantastic post from VickiM on Colindale. Vicki shares my concerns about the fact that the council is obsessed with shiny new developments, whilst leaving existing Council victims housing tenants to rot in run down, badly maintained, pseudo slums. Top blogging Vicki - no one seems interested in Graham Park, Burnt Oak etc, it is truly shameful.

Mrs Angry reports provides documentary evidence showing that Councillor David Longstaff is without doubt a prize cock. Which stone did they find this failed actor under?

I would also have given a roundup of Robert Rams blog, but old lazybones couldn't be bothered to post anything, despite being responsible for selling off Church Farmhouse museum.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Amy Winehouse RIP

Just back from a week in france (more of that tomorrow), been totally out of the blogosphere, with no Internet at all for 7 DAYS. All the blogs you've read in the last week were forward posted in the weeks before I left, just to keep you entertained (some more than others it seems!). They contained a few themes, I'd been working on etc.

Anyway, I've had no internet, TV or Radio at all for 7 days, so I was shocked to see the headline on the front of the free paper I was given that Amy Winehouse has passed away. I know for you, this is old news, but it is a terrible shock for me. Amy was a customer of my studio and rehearsed with us until she became a megastar and could afford plusher £1000 a day gaffes. I sold her the blue stratocaster guitar she played on Top of  The Pops the first time she appeared.

I've watched her spiral downhill with despair. I've heard all the horrible comments and yet she was always lovely with us. She was truly special. I hope she's at peace now and she'll be leading the chorus of angels.

I still recall the first time I heard her sing. I was walking past studio 8 and heard this awesome voice. When she came out for a drink I was amazed to see this tiny girl. Where did she keep those lungs? I'd hoped and prayed that she'd sort her self out. Sadly it wasn't to be. To the press it's a story. To me it's a tragedy.

Amy, God rest your soul

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Lazyness and guiltyness

If you want to see the worst side of humanity, catch someone out being lazy and then see how they react when they start feeling guilty. Those of us who write blogs in Barnet see plenty of this type of behaviour. When people are too lazy to do the things they should do,  nothing is more galling than when they decide that attack is the best form of defence. Certain figures in Barnet are well known for such behaviour. Luckily, those of us here at the Barnet Eye are here to make sure that we can all have a bit of fun at their expense.

On a completely different subject, here's the latest edition of the Brian Coleman Free dinner register. For those of you who don't know Brian Coleman, he's a Barnet Councillor, a GLA assembly member and a thoroughly wonderful chap. All sorts of people regularly buy him Free dinners, expecting nothing in return and he lists them here :-

and Here

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

How to be a famous Barnet Blogger

Some words of wisdom for any of you wishing to write a blog in Barnet. Don't. It is a real pain in the arse and will take over your life to the detriment of your social life and your family !

Sadly if like me you cannot stand to see this wonderful part of London being run into the ground, read on.

There are several styles. You can go for the factual and informative a la Mr Mustard or Mr Reasonable, You can go for passionate and partisan a la VickiM, you can go for the highly personalised a la Mrs Angry, or you can just make up your own style.

Subjects which seem to get lots of hits are things like :-

Stories about London Assembly member and Barnet Councillor Brian Coleman
Stories about hot local news
Stories about your weekend away at jacuzzi spa's with B list celebrities
Pictures of Boris Johnson looking stupid

There are several places you can find these. Most bloggers start at Council meetings, documenting how the councillors stare at the wall or pick their nose during important meetings. After a while, you may tire of this, when you twig they've done all the business before the meeting and the public bit is just for show. The real information is in the Council papers issued before meetings - here - - Do councillors actually read these. Some do, but most ??? I've found many of my best stories here.

Most bloggers also put links to the other local bloggers and sites they consider worth a view. This promotes interest in shared causes and issues and helps build up other blogs profiles. It is easy to do, just use the design feature on blogger. There are all sorts of reasons people write blogs. I do it because I live here and I want it to be a better place. Some people do it because they want to launch a media career or become famous. I daresay there are people blogging because their PR guru tells them to. Whatever, the secret is to be interesting. If you write a decent blog, people will read it.

Finally, the most important bit of advice. Blog about stuff you care about. If you can prove it and think it deserves a wider audience, you can print it.

And my special tip. Pick a few fights, people love a good bust up

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

My top 10 tips for surviving in Barnet

1. Sell your car - It'll cost you far more than you think (especially if you live in a CPZ zone)
2. Don't have kids - The Council are closing all activities for them as fast as they can
3. Don't get old - My mum relied on the meals on wheels service, trust me you wouldn't want to eat that
4. Don't get run over in Burnt Oak - Nearest hospital with A& E since Edgware General shut?
5. Don't get married to someone who get's run over if you live in Burnt Oak - visiting above hospital? Nightmare
6. Don't get a job if you want to vote in elections - The polling stations are so busy that you may get turned away, when you go to vote after work (or is that just in Non Tory wards?)
7. Don't read this blog - Seriously, it's depressing shit
8. Don't read Robert Rams blog on the train to work - You will fall asleep and miss your station
9. Don't live next to an old lady - When she passes away a property developer will destroy your calm existence
10. Don't try and and organise a community festival - Councillors will insult you and call you an amatuer

Monday, 25 July 2011

I read the News Today, Oh Boy

A line from the famous track by the Beatles. Strange times these, as  I peruse the front pages of the various papers. When we read the papers, we sometimes forget that they are multi million pound organisations, who exist to make the shareholders a profit in most cases. The Editors stick the story on the cover that they think will sell the most copies. I suppose that one of the nice things about writing a blog is being able to write what the hell I like, without worrying about selling anything.

So as you read whatever paper you buy (assuming you are one of the ever decreasing number of people who buy a paper), look at the Front page and say to yourself "The reason this story is on the front cover is because the bloke (or woman) who's job it is to decide what goes there thought that this is the one which would be most likely to make me buy it". When we criticise the press, we criticise ourselves as well.

In the words of the Rolling Stones, "Who buys yesterdays papers?". Interestingly if you go on Ebay, quite a few people.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

24/7 - The blog that never sleeps

Today is the 24th July - 24/7 - a date that has another meaning. We talk about 24 by 7 services, but how many things really are. If I want a meal in Mill Hill, the latest one I can buy is a 3AM Kebab at the Mill Hill Kebab house at the Green Man. If I want to have a drink, the pubs would have long since shut. I can get a Thameslink Train to St Pancras more or less every hour, where you can drink and eat to your hearts content.

The days are gone when the Telly went off at midnight. We all sit up all night tweeting, blogging and all manner of other things granny wouldn't have dreamed of (you have a filthy mind, I mean downloading videos of the Clash !).

Sadly there are other things going on. Last weeks murder at 3am in a brothel in Burnt Oak, showed that Barnet is not quite the sleepy suburb the Council would like you to believe. Anyway on this auspicious date, just consider this.  Most of us live in Barnet because it's not a 24/7 urban jungle.

When I look at the redevelopment plans for Brent Cross, with its huge towers and high density flats (sorry you can't call them that, but there will be Thousands more people per square mile), I wonder exactly what we are sleepwalking towards. Sweet Dreams

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Are the local Council Blind or do they just do ugly?

Am I the only person who thinks the London Borough of Barnet is becoming a Shithole and an Eyesore.

I came across some old pictures of Mill Hill Broadway today in a  family album. A few observations :-

The flowerbeds contained beautiful flowers not advertising boards
The Streets were swept clean
They weren't clogged with rubbish and wheelie bins
Bus stops were bus stops, not mini advertising hoardings

We pay far more tax, the council must earn a fortune for advertising and wheelie bins are meant to be far cheaper than old style dustbings, yet we pay more tax and we've transformed the street scene into something resembling an overspill area from a dump. Does anyone at Barnet Council care?

Friday, 22 July 2011

The Friday Joke 22/7/2011

Q: What do you get if you cross the CEO of Barnet Council and Brian Coleman?

A: 30,000 blog hits a month - Ha Ha Ha !!!!!!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Barnegeddon - The End of Civilisiation in the London Borough of Barnet

 Armageddon photo compliments of
So just how bad are things in The London Borough of Barnet?
... And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
(One Murder and four stabbings in Burnt Oak -  ttp://
What times we live in. Burnt Oak, that bit of Barnet which the Politicians ignore. Not only that but even one of our local papers, the Edgware and Mill Hill Press, doesn't even mention the murder - - which is disgraceful. The journalists at this paper recently went on strike due to the falling quality of news. I can only conclude they were right.

Then we have the childrens service. In Burnt Oak, which has some of the worst deprivation and social problems in London, we see Barnet shutting the youth centre to save cash.

.... And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood.
We have the Brent Cross Gassification plant as part of a development for thousands of people in rabbit hutch flats. We have the Pinkham Way nature reserve threatened  by plans for an incinerator and Council depot for waste trucks. We have wanton destruction of green belt sites and conservation areas, with Barnet Council taking no enforcement action.

Social Division.
... And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: 
In Barnet we have three nations -  the ruling elite. They get paid mega salaries (Nick Walkley CEO on > £200 K), insulated from all financial shocks. Then you have the ordinary working people trying to get by, paying ever higher taxes for ever less services. Lastly you have a burgeoning underclass.   This is the city of nations, where people get stabbed and no one cares or stories like this -

... Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

We have the likes of Councillor Brian Coleman, who earns over £115,000 per year for a string of non jobs, yet lives in a home owned by the Methodist Church, designed for people on limited incomes.

Brian Coleman. One of the four horsemen of the Crapocalypse that has hit Barnet.  The man who ripped out the road humps, so mototorists could get from Barnet to Burnt Oak 30 seconds quicker and seeing Barnet topping the road accident tables in London. The End of Civilisation part 1.

Councillor Robert Ramsbottom, the second horseman. The man responsible for transforming Barnet into a cultural wilderness. We judge great civilisations by their arts, by their crafts, by their legacy. Sheepsjacksie wants to shut libraries, cut funding for the arts depot and get rid of reference sections in the remaining libraries because some of the richer members of society have google on their  Iphone.

Nick Walkley, CEO of Barnet Council (AKA Non Stick Nick) - the Third Horseman. The patron Saint of the cult of One Barnet. Mr Walkley IS THE STORY in Barnet. He's bigger than all the councillors, he's bigger than all the officers, in fact he is a towering presence, ushering in a brave new era. HE's the guy who signs off on all the One Barnet projects and he's the man who stays as Council Leaders pass through. With a click of his fingers, he could have called time on OneBarnet, but despite all the RED ink on all of the reports us bloggers continually report, Saint Nick believes.

Mike Freer MP - The Fourth Horseman. St Michael was converted to the  beauty of Privatisation on a plane to Boston as part of the BT Vital Vision program. The Barnet Eye first exposed this in October 2008 and recently  a few other bloggers finally caught on as to whats been going on recently - - this was where all the trouble started.

Barneggedon -  private armies (Metpro), financial ineptitude, social injustice, plutocratic elites, unfairness.
The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
I suspect that if this lot have their way, the First angel won't bother with Barnet. There won't be any trees or any green grass left.

(Note : For those of you who don't have a background in scriptures, the bits in italics are from the Book of Revelations, which Christians believe describes the Apocalypse).

Etz Chaim School approved last night

To no ones great surprise, Barnet Councils planning committee yesterday approved the use of the site of Mill Hill Garden Centre for conversion to Etz Chaim Free School.

I suppose it is ironic to note that today the Jewish Chronicle reports that there may be too many places at Jewish Primary Schools - As Etz Chaim will be taking up to 50% of non Jewish pupils, I suppose it won't struggle for numbers. I wonder what contingency  plans the school has made should they have to provide an education to a non religious majority, should the Jewish places be undersubscribed?

Hat Tip to Daniel Hope at the Barnet Bugle for drawing my attention to the story.

David Camerons judgement

The issue of whether David Cameron is fit to continue as Prime Minister comes down to one important question. Does he display the quality of judgement to do the job. I ask myself this question. Forget the phone hacking and the dodgy payments to police. Forget all of the other issues. Just consider what his previous job was. He was the editor of the News of The World. Does David Cameron ever read this paper. If I was Prime Minister, what particular feature of the News of The World would I want to bring to the office of Prime Minister? Salacious stories? A reputation for being in the gutter? When I need to put out a press release detailing why we need to build  a railway through Oxfordshire or why we want to change the way students university places are funded, do I want someone who shows sensitivity. It is no surprise to me that the country is up in arms, given the tone of coverage.

Add to the the fact the bloke lost his job in circumstances which weren't exactly appealing, it doesn't exactly spell "great decision" does it. Presumably there are plenty of people in the field with unblemished CV's, who have  a track record of doing a good job. This is the job of the person who presents my face to the public.

A simple look a the NOTW during Coulsons reign would have told Cameron all he needed to know.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Recycled blogs : Metpro response from district auditor

I got this email. I wasn't going to say anything about it, until I read this blog. Seems like our hard working district audit can't be bothered actually writing a proper reply to anyone. Andrew Dismore also received a very similar reply. I will be very interested to note just how much all of these cut and paste jobs have cost the taxpayer. I wonder how many other recycled blogs will be appearing with this email in. I feel rather special. I was treated to a whole nine words more than Mrs Angry (in red below).

Whilst the Barnet Bloggers have been issuing joint letters, we didn't realise that we were getting joint replies from highly paid contractors in public authorities, for completely unrelated questions. Do they really think we are that stupid?

Dear Mr Tichborne

Thank-you for for your email of 10 July.

Over the next 2-3 weeks we are carrying out a programme of work to review the Council's response to the issues raised by the internal audit report, discussed in the Audit Committee meeting and reiterated in subsequent communications. This will pick upon the specific questions you raise.

We will report our findings in our Annual Report to Those Charged with Governance, which will be presented to the 6 September Audit Committee meeting. Until we have completed our work and presented this report we will not be issuing any further comment on this matter.

As noted in our previous responses we will not rule out the possibility of further reporting, including under our statutory reporting powers, should it be required after this time.

Kind regards


Paul Hughes | Director | Public Sector
For Grant Thornton UK LLP
Grant Thornton House | Melton Street | Euston Square | London | NW1 2EP
T (direct) +44 (0)20 7728 2256 | T (internal) 82256 | F +44 (0)20 7728 2256 | M +44 (0)7860 282763

From:        "Roger Tichborne"
Date:        11/07/2011 00:56
Subject:        Barnet Council and the Metpro Scandal

Dear Mr Hughes,
I have read with interest the correspondence between yourself and Andrew Dismore regarding the Barnet Council Metpro Scandal. I am the author of the Barnet Eye blog, which along with other local blogs, brought the scandal to public attention. I have three questions for you regarding the scandal.
1) At the meeting of the Barnet Council Audit committee, where the report was debated, the chair of the Barnet Council Audit committee publicly stated that the Audit department in Barnet is understaffed. He stated that for an authority with a turnover of approx £1 billion, there were three full time staff + 1.5 contract resources and this was insufficient. It seems incongruous that as District Auditor, you can ignore this comment?
2) Of 9,700 vendors supplying Barnet Council, the audit committee stated that only 183 are regularly monitored. Previously only 10 were. In yur professional opinion as an auditor, is this appropriate?
3) The remit of the Barnet Council Audit report into the Metpro scandal, only addressed issues relating to Metpro. In your professional opinion, is it likely that having exposed such a catalog of failure for this one company, is it likely that there are other, possibly worse cases lurking undetected?
I would be most appreciative of a prompt response. As the government minister responsible, Eric Pickles, this week publicly declared that Barnet had serious problems, only exposed by the efforts of bloggers, I'd suggest that the best way to restore public confidence is a thorough investigation of Barnet Council by your office.
Roger Tichborne -

Live From the Town Hall - Mill Hill Councillor John Hart in action at the Etz Chaim planning meeting

Burnt Oak Murder - Metropolitan Police respond to Barnet Eye Concerns

Earlier this week, I emailed Barnet Police, detailing some serious concerns regarding  the background issues to the recent murder in Burnt Oak. The text below are my questions and the responses from the Police. 

The responses from the Police are in Blue italics.

Following the two stabbing incidents in Burnt Oak, I am seeking some clarification on a few issues and concerns which have been raised. I understand that as these are active inquiries you may not be in a position to answer these questions at this time. I am intending to write a blog on the subject. If you reply but do not wish the information to be included, please state specifically what is for public consumption.
a) It has been suggested to me that brothels in Barnet are run by organised gangs
b) It has been suggested that there are links between gangs involved in brothels and gangs involved with sale of drugs
c) It has been suggested that the gangs involved in brothels are involved in people trafficing and procurement of underage girls
...we keep active and open minds in relation to all the points you raise...but to answer them specifically
a), b) and c) obviously this can't be ruled out, however, the last intelligence assessment we had indicated that these were not drivers in Barnet. In other boroughs they are. This is why we keep alert to the issue and our Safer Neighbourhood teams gather information and intelligence.  Where intelligence does support organised crime the Borough will work in partnership with the MPS's dedicated team who deal with Trafficking and Prostitution. We do need the help of the public in this and other crime related matters as it is the public who hold the information. Safer neighbourhood teams can be contacted by the public with information, but if they wished to remain anonymous, they can use CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111 or the MPS Trafficking Freephone number 0800 783 2589. We are determined to curb creation and growth of gangs in Barnet as we do see the impact in other parts of London.
d) There are over 50 brothels known to the police in Barnet
e) Safer neighbourhood teams are not enforcing the law with regards to laws on prostitution
d) and e) The number can be subject to change depending on all sorts of factors including police activity. We look to work with partners and use a problem solving approach, such as management of premisies through licensing procedures and issuing closure notices on landlords who allow properties to be used for prostitution. We do undertake quite a bit of activity with regard to such premises having taken into account the impact on the people who live and work in their locale.
I think it's important to note that we have to prioritise activity and target those that are most problematic from a crime and disorder perspective and the links to more serious crime. The big challenge in all this is that we simply displace activity to another location. Without being flippant, prostitution is often referred to as the oldest profession ( I think farmers argue that they are!) and the issue of enforcing the laws relating to it have been problematic since the inception of formal policing....enforcement alone simply moves the problem or drives it from the street into premises. Clearly, another challenge is around the supply and demand. There is a huge demand for sexual services and since time immemorial there has been a supply of women offering sexual services otherwise these places wouldn't be viable.
There is a much wider debate about how to tackle this in a way which safeguards women in the sex industry as well as preserving quality of life issues for residents and enforcement activity from the police is only one strand of activity.
I hope that the response offers some degree of reassurance that organised crime is not perceived as major problem in Barnet.

More comment from the Police on this story  in the Times - 

As with many things, the view of the Police is that whilst Barnet has problems, they are nowhere as serious as those in some other London Boroughs. I believe we need to see visible Policing in Burnt Oak as a priority to reassure local people of this. I find the Police helpful and approachable when discussing such issues. I really think that these messages should be being communicated by the people elected to do it, but they seem to have outsourced responsibility for keeping the people informed to the Bloggers of Barnet as part of the OneBarnet cost savings program.

Etz Chaim School - Mill Hill - Official response to the Action Group statement - Guest Blog

Last week, The Barnet Eye published a blog detailing the issues related to the proposed Etz Chaim Free School on the site of Wyevale nursery, Daws Lane Mill Hill. We invited both sided of the argument to state their case in guest blogs. Earlier this week the Action Group opposing the site detailed their case. Today the supporters of the school issued their response. We do not comment on guest blogs, but felt that it is necessary to set the context for this particular post.
Guest blog by  Mark Frazer (on behalf of Etz Chaim School),

We’re grateful for this rare opportunity to respond directly to some of the points raised by the ‘action group’ and we’d like to say how disappointed we are at much of the content of their guest blog which ranges from skewed information which is likely to mislead readers to plain untruths.

I’d like to begin by addressing perhaps the most upsetting accusation, which may also be the most misleading part of the blog entry. Ms Samuelson says, “To take away a resource is selfish”. We must be very clear on this point. The school is not taking anything away from the community. It is now widely known that the Garden Centre’s parent company is being sold off by Lloyds Banking Group and though we will all be very sorry to see it close, it is entirely wrong to suggest that the school is at fault for the financial position of the Garden Centre Group. Frankly, the ‘action group’s’ constant assertions that we have offered some extortionate amount of money for the site or that Sir Tom Hunter has somehow personally intervened to sell off a successful business because of his interest in educational causes, are insulting. These suggestions, which are supported by no evidence at all, do the ‘action group’ no credit. Ms Samuelson should hope that Sir Tom’s lawyers are not among the readers of ‘Barnet Eye’.

The ‘action group’ suggest that they have ‘offered’ a number of locations to us, this despite our explanation that each of their suggestions had already been considered and ruled out for various reasons. I do hope that Ms Samuelson and her colleagues will understand that given the choice between taking advice from them or from Partnerships for Schools and the Department for Education, we have felt compelled to take the latter option.

Ms Samuelson says that the projected uptake for the school ‘will fall in the next 2 years’ and further suggests that she has heard this prediction directly from us. I can only say that this is entirely false. We have been given no reason to believe that uptake will fall in the next two years and have never suggested any such thing.

We have also apparently ‘refused’ to speak with the elderly and disabled members of our community. Once again, this is simply untrue, we have spoken to many hundreds of residents and continue to do so. Ms Samuelson would have us believe that the Garden Centre is some sort of publicly funded clinical therapy home and not simply the private retail establishment that it is. Supporters of the school are also local residents and will certainly miss what has been a popular venue in Mill Hill but, at the risk of being repetitive, we are not responsible for its closure; we can only be responsible for what replaces it.

Finally, Ms Samuelson assures us that she has read ‘all the documents’ and goes on to make a number of quite silly points:

1.       “Primary school place shortages list does not include Mill Hill” – It’s not clear which ‘list’ she is referring to but demonstrating a shortage of places was an essential prerequisite to our funding application. If there were no demand there would certainly be no school. It is disappointing that the ‘action group’ still pursue this argument despite their assurances that they are not opposed to the school, only the location.  
2.       “There is not one child of school age marked on the school catchment map in the immediate area down to go to the school and only 2 children of nursery age.” With respect, this again, is simply not true. While our policy is not to release specific numbers, I can assure readers that Etz Chaim will serve the local community and suggestions to the contrary are very troubling.
3.       “According to the catchment shown it is likely that 150 – 190 cars (including staff) will drive to this location.  This is matched by comparisons with other schools in the immediate area.” When the school opens we will have less than 50 pupils and eight members of staff. Ms Samuelson appears to be suggesting that each pupil will bring with them an entourage of 3 to 4 cars. We have repeatedly stressed that Etz Chaim, as a one form entry school cannot be compared to other larger schools. The truth of course is that our travel plan will mean that there is very little impact on traffic in the early years of the school. Even when the school reaches its capacity we have measures in place to ensure that the traffic impact is kept to a minimum. These plans have been submitted with our publicly available planning application.
4.       “Athletics and dance are hardly suitable opportunities for the elderly and disabled.” Athletics and dance are just two of the suggestions that we have received for community activities. Others have included ‘Sunday Clubs’ and an allotment which may well be suitable for the elderly and disabled. We are not trying to replace the Garden Centre or replicate exactly what it offered to the community - we expect that some positive uses will be lost and that new and different positive uses will emerge in their place.  
5.       “We have heard that it could be a Tesco. Yet Barnet Council acknowledge that they have received no other enquiries for the site, despite the rumours and misinformation put out by the School’s proponents.” Firstly, we have never suggested that anyone else is purchasing the site save for making the point that another party could do so if we were not on the scene. It should be of no surprise that Barnet Council has received no other offers for the site at this stage since the school has an agreement in place with the Garden Centre, subject of course to planning permission.

To be clear, the ‘action group’ have never offered ‘to work with’ the proponents of the school. Ms Samuelson may though be referring to their offer to ‘help us to find an alternate location’. In fact no constructive advice or support has ever been offered. This is clearly demonstrated by Ms Samuelson’s ‘solution’. She suggests a second temporary location and then, “From there, find and develop a permanent site which will not remove the heart of the community from the community.”  This could not be more revealing, the action group’s proposed solution is to find a different site. If they have properly read any of this response I hope they will recognise that not only is there no other appropriate site but that given the circumstances, Etz Chaim will prove to be a huge asset that Mill Hill can be proud of. We welcome all constructive suggestions for ways in which we can serve the community at our specially dedicated website and we look forward to hearing from you all.  

Mark Frazer

The Barnet Eye always welcomes guest blogs on subjects of local interest. Please email me via the email in the side bar. The views represented in this blog are the views of the author and do not reflect the views of the Barnet Eye. Guest blogs are printed without comment or editing.

Message for the day

"If something is annoying you and you can do something to change it, do it now"

OneBarnet and the destruction of Youth Service in Burnt Oak

Readers of this blog will be aware of the terrible news affecting Burnt Oak this week. One horrific murder and another stabbing are the top stories on the Edgware Times website. As if Burnt Oak hasn't suffered enough, Barnet Council are finishing the job. They really don't care about this area, one of the most deprived in Barnet.

This report - -  details how Barnet Council are withdrawing Youth Services from Burnt Oak, as well as Hendon Youth base and Dollis Valley Rainbow Youth Centre. How on earth can anyone think this is a sensible policy, in light of the social problems exposed this week. The purpose? To save £1.65 million. To quote the report :-
Phase one of the Youth Offer project involved restructuring the service and
implementing a new service model bringing together funding streams, resources and
expertise of six youth support services; making the required savings and ensuring
that greater joined up working would reduce the risk of the most vulnerable young
people being adversely affected by the cuts.
The Youth Offer project has enabled savings of £1.65m in 2011/12 in accordance
with the medium term financial strategy.
The aim of the project is as follows:-
The new service: Youth Support Service aims to target provision and support across all services for young people and families, to those who are most vulnerable and at greatest risk of disengagement (e.g. involvement in crime, poor school attendance, unemployment, lack of qualifications or aspirations) and poor outcomes.
So hands up then . Who thinks shutting a youth centre in Burnt Oak in times of great financial hardship will achieve these aims? Well if you want to know, it says on the front page :-
Contact for further information:
Andrew Charlwood, Overview & Scrutiny Manager, Corporate Governance Directorate
020 8359 2014,
And who issued the report :-

Nandu Valji, Project Manager
Claire Johnston, One Barnet Programme Manager

If you wonder what all the fuss is about in Barnet when we talk about OneBarnet - read this bit of bolloxspeak - it's the conclusion of a report saying "Lets shut down a major part of the Borough's Youth service provision"
6. Conclusion
The project has performed against the objectives set out and agreed in the PID.Relevant project management documents (Business Case, Project Initiation Document (PID) and Project Plans) were in place, kept up to date and utilised throughout the project lifecycle. Any outstanding  items have been identified and agreed between the project team and service lead and subsequently handed across to the service to deliver as business as usual.
It really is a shameful document. Just to remind you where the priorities in Barnet lie, when it comes to saving money. They shut Childrens centres, but the pay CEO Nick Walkley over £200,000 per annum and the contractor Andrew Travers, who is his deputy £14,000 a month. Can you guess how many senior officers are on over £100,000 a year?  Let me tell you - enough to sack half of them all and save all these front line services. Guess how many senior officers have had a pay cut in these "difficult times" when we are  "all in it together". This is why some of us write blogs in Barnet.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Were reports of third Burnt Oak stabbing a sick hoax?

Last night, as I was exchanging twitter messages with a member of the Hendon Times editorial team, a friend posted a string of messages indicating that a third stabbing had occurred in Burnt Oak. A telephone call was made to the London Ambulance Service and the police were notified. Many twitter messages sprung up.

In the circumstances, I stopped tweeting. I felt that it wasn't appropriate, if a third stabbing had occurred. I just felt that it was not the right thing to do.

Today the Hendon Times reports that "No victim had been found".

Were the reports part of a sick hoax? Sadly it seems such things are all too common. I'm just thankful that it appears the reports were unfounded. I suppose it is inevitable in a society where the ruling class give the impression of not caring, that people will respond in such a stupid fashion. There is a saying "Nature Abhors a vacuum". There is a complete vacuum when it comes to leadership from the local Conservative politicians who are paid a fortune to try and make our community a better place, both in the Council and in Parliament.

Two stabbings and not a peep from Barnet Council-
as for our MP, Matthew Offord - could he have made a less impressive contribution? -

Mill Hill Sports club to shut in September - Open letter to Hale Ward Councillors

I sent the following Email to Conservative Hale Ward Councillors this morning. I have yet to receive a reply

----- Original Message -----
From: Roger Tichborne
Sent: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 7:46 AM
Subject: Urgent - Mill Hill Sports Club to close

Dear Hale Ward Councillors,
As I am sure you are aware, Mill Hill Sports Club has announced it is closing. My 11 year old son is a member of the boxing club sited at MHSC. He has been informed the club is closing. It appears that Barnet Council have forced the sale by renaging on an agreement to extend the lease to facilitate a redevelopment of sports facilities. It goes without saying that the loss of cricket, boxing, squash, football and music on the site will be a devastating loss. I will be seeking further clarification via FOI requests later today. I cannot believe that this can be seen as a positive development for the residents of Hale Ward or Mill Hill Ward
I will be launching a campaign to oppose the loss of sports facilities. I am seeking you views on the closure of the club and the role of the council in this. I am copying the leader and the CEO as I believe these are issues which they should be aware of.
Please be aware that I intend to publish responses to this email (and non responses) on the Barnet Eye. If you have any comments which you wish to convey to me privately and do not wish to be published, please email me a suitable contact number.
Roger Tichborne
The Barnet Eye

MilL Hill News - Etz Chaim School - Response from action group

Guest Blog by Zoe Samuelson,

Thank you for the invitation.  

We have met and corresponded with the proponents on a number of occasions.
We have been clear all along as our objection letter shows that we support the school just not in that location and thousands of objection letters submitted to the council confirm this. We also made it clear that we support the school in any close location.

At a meeting we offered a number of locations including another site which was only refused on the grounds of being only financially suitable for a 3 form entry school. This was strange as only the week before it was quoted in the press that for every place there were 3 applications. In reality the projected uptake will fall in the next 2 years. Their words, not mine. 

Had consultation taken place all the way along they would have realised what the centre means to so many people. However, despite numerous requests for the Councillors, planning team or school to go and speak directly to the elderly and disabled in the community, they have refused, each and every time.
The individuals who use the site for rehabilitation and treatment as part of their services to the Borough residents include many service providers from Barnet funded centres and social services. Adults with learning disabilities in particular are the hardest group to be able to make sure that every day counts. To take away a resource is selfish. I cannot think of one reason why a school cannot deliver just as good an education on an alternative site. 

I have read all the documents and would like to share my observations. 

1) Primary school place shortages list does not include Mill Hill 

2) There is not one child of school age marked on the school catchment map in the immediate area down to go to the school and only 2 children of nursery age.

3) According to the catchment shown it is likely that 150 – 190 cars (including staff) will drive to this location.  This is matched by comparisons with other schools in the immediate area.

4)The community use offered is acknowledged as being no different to what is already available, is costly, discretionary and you’re right, can only be used if you are Kosher (and can afford to provide kosher food for your guests). Athletics and dance are hardly suitable opportunities for the elderly and disabled. In any event the school will exclude all day centres and colleges as community use is offered out of school hours. What of the service providers? How do you replace this resource for them? Horticulture, independent living, out and about for the mentally ill, stimulation from the aquatics centre, exemplary access which includes mobility scooters. Space to breath and interact. 

5) We have heard that it could be a Tesco. Yet Barnet Council acknowledge that they have received no other enquiries for the site, despite the rumours and misinformation put out by the School’s proponents. Ask the Council. We did in an FOI. In any event, Mill Hill is one of their top performing centres and if they weren’t being offered an inflated price and have a chairman on the Free School Government think tank, they have no reason to sell. However, it is the site for the community we support. This site has always existed for the good of the entire community and not just a small section.

We have asked to work with Adam and his team but they have steadfastly refused.
The solution. Open the school in the Sea Cadets building in September. Move to the JMI School in Barnet which will be vacated by the current tenants when their new school, currently being built in Hale lane is ready next spring. From there, find and develop a permanent site which will not remove the heart of the community from the community. 

The school did not have to open this year as every child has also had an offer from Barnet. I cannot think of a worse start for a community school. This is not how it should be.

Zoe Samuelson
Zoe Samuelson is a member of the Action Group opposing the closure of Mill Hill Garden Centre to facilitate Etz Chaim Free School. This blog was published in response to a blog posted by the Barnet Eye, where we asked for statements from opponents and supporters of the School. This does not represent the views of the Barnet Eye.  Guest blogs are always welcome on any subject relevant to life in the London Borough of  Barnet.

Burnt Oak Murder : Matthew Offord finally speaks

Matthew Offord MP has finally (three days after the event) responded to public pressure and given an interview to the Hendon Times.
I am taken aback by the crassness of his comments. Truly taken aback.

Matthew Offord, Tory MP for Hendon, said:
“These places do attract undesirable people. While it’s obviously very shocking, it’s not a new phenomenon in Barnet and across London.”
What places? Burnt Oak? Brothels? I'm not aware of any murders at brothels in Burnt Oak. This response brings complacency to a new level. In effect Offord says "It doesn't matter, it's not new and I don't care". What about the neighbours, the neighbourhood? This is Offords patch. He has no answers and no input. He adds :-
“It comes down to the prevalence of people carrying and using weapons and that’s the shocking thing. We really must get sentences to act as a deterrent."
This is nonsense. It comes down to effective community policing and good police intelligence. It comes down to MP's making sure their patch is safe. It comes down to making sure the laws we have are properly enforced.  Murder is a mandatory life sentence. Does Offord know nothing? The answer has to be prevention.  I cannot believe these comments.

One or two readers of this blog have queried why I was so upset by the comments of Tim Jones (not Tom , he's a talented singer) in the Hendon Times, regarding the Burnt Oak murder on Sunday. Let me explain why.

In the early 1990's a family friend was murdered by her husband in Edgware.  The husband then went and murdered a man he suspected of having an affair with her. I am not going to rehash the wrongs and rights of the case, but I will detail the effect on the family. Our friends mother, who at the time was in her 60's with a heart condition, was left with two grandchildren to look after aged 4 and 7. She was hounded by local and national press. All manner of stories were reported. The press made up quotes form her and other family friends. Pure speculation was presented as facts. The press reported that the two murdered people were having an affair, although this seemed unlikely to all who knew them. Sadly the only two people who could have confirmed or denied it were dead. Top QC, Michael Mansfield represented the killer and did a fine job of defending his clients behaviour.

What appalled me was the effect on the Mother of the victim and her children. They had no rights. The children returned to school to hear all manner of comments. The mother was asked all manner of questions by the press, which she couldn't answer. She was driven to the edge as friends and neighbours saw articles. Some were sympathetic, some confrontational, some just ignored her. The daughters diary, which provided a huge insight into the case was dismissed by the court as "hearsay".

What I soon realised is that people believe what they read in the press. Even when it is total fabrication. Press often say "The police told us". The police deny it. Victim support offer tea and sympathy, but the criminal justice system is really a business. Once the case was done and dusted, the press move on. Celebrity lawyers move to their next case, having chalked up "a good result". The children in my friends case were lucky enough to move abroad. The mother never truly recovered, but threw the Mill Hill and Edgware Times in the bin when it was delivered, religously for the rest of her life. She never recovered from the bitterness of how her daughter was portrayed.

This was in the days before the internet, twitter and instant news. The press then had the time and opportunity to check the facts, but they got most of them wrong. When I read the stories about the Burnt Oak murder, it all came back. I thought "what is the victims mum thinking. What will their children think. Is this the whole story. What is the other side of the story? We haven't hear that yet.

Mill Hill Sports club to shut in September

My son has been doing a boxing class at Mill Hill Sports club in Grahame Park Way. The site also hosts cricket, Hockey, Football and Squash as well as the Mill Hill Music Festival. The management have informed members that the club will close in September. It looks as though more sports facilities for young people are being lost. The letter sent to members implies that Barnet Council may have put the club owners in an untenable position and forced the sale. I spoke to my sons boxing teacher last night who confirmed that the boxing class at the centre has no finished as a result of the sale.

The Barnet Eye will be sending FOI requests to Barnet Council later today try and ascertain the role of the Council. We will also be emailing local ward councillors for information. We will report back when we have more information. What is 100% clear is that young people are yet again being failed.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Another day, another Burnt Oak Stabbing, still no comment from Matthew Offord MP

I arrive home this afternoon to find the news in the Hendon Times that there has been another stabbing in Burnt Oak :-

Coming only two days after a murder near Burnt Oak station, I cannot tell you how alarming I find the news. This story sounds awful, a mother attacked, daughter threatened, man stabbed. Our local MP, Matthew Offord has still not even mentioned it on his twitter feed, this is his second message since the first stabbing :-

Matthew Offord

Constituent and I meeting with FCO minister
 What on earth does Offord think he is paid to do? He should have visited the site at the first possible opportunity, spoken to local residents and the police and tried to reassure the people of Burnt Oak that he is doing everything in his power to ensure that their safety is his top concern. He has unique access to senior police and should be updating us on their progress and urging witnesses to come forward. 

Does it not occur to Mr Offord that local people are actually rather worried. Whilst no one expects him to personally investigate, he can reassure people that the Police are on top of the situation. I am sure the police are doing a fine job, but they need the support of the community to solve these crimes and protect us. An MP who shows that he's concerned by meeting people and letting us know that he's taking an interest is surely a central part of the picture. Yesterday Matthew Offord posted a tweet (reported here) that he'd been out canvassing.  I cannot imagine a situation where the former MP, Andrew Dismore would have totally ignored a murder in this way in the constituency. 

On another related matter, the Hendon Times has reported the identity of the man killed on Sunday morning as Carlos Roberto Oliveria, a 27 year old Brazilian man, living in Clapham.

The report states that it is not thought that Mr Oliveria was a cleint of the brothel, where the stabbing took place. Yesterday I took strong issue with the Hendon Times and it's assistant editor, Tim Jones, regarding the tone of the story and how the victims family may feel at what had been printed. Mr Jones responded on his twitter feed in forthright terms, stating that I should stick to facts (even though his own article only mentioned a police "theory"). I feel vindicated in my comments that they should have waited until the "facts" were established, before they printed  a story which could have caused grave upset to the family. I must say that I think the todays story by Jack Royston is a far better and more balanced piece, with which I have no issue. They have also removed the comments I left criticising them for comments in the story - apparently to prevent "racist" comments being left by other people.

Of course it is their website and they can do what they like with it. I personally believe the Times should be a responsible community newspaper and exercise a degree of discretion when printing stories about local people. I think that waiting until facts have been established, if someone has died in a way which may cause his family hurt, is not too much to ask. I have had a few emails about the harsh tone and extreme language I used. Yes, I agree that this went way beyond what I would normally ever write in this blog, but I wished to make sure TIm Jomes at the Times read them and gave them some thought. As he clearly did, I feel vindicated in my approach. I don't seek to pick fights or abuse people, but sometimes we all need a wake up call. I know I do and I think TIm Jones did. 

What troubles me about this whole issue. Would our MP have said nothing to the Press or to Twitter if it was in the richest part of Hendon, rather than the poorest. It may surprise (then again it might not) readers to know that it isn't only part of Hendon to house brothels. I had an amusing experience knocking on the door of one when I was canvassing for the Lib Dems, above a shop in Mill Hill Broadway during the last Council elections. What concerns me is the issue of brothels acting as a magnet and focus for organised criminals. If this is the case, then we need police action. If gangs are moving in, then we may see more such disturbing scenes. That is why it is essential that Offord gets in and gets a grip. There is a well known and well documented link between the sex industry, the drugs industry and organised crime.  I happen to believe that it is the duty of the council and our MP's to ensure that these issue are not allowed to take a hold in our neighbourhood, be it Burnt Oak, Brunswick Park, Brent Cross or anywhere in between. As it stands, we just have a disinterested silence.

*** Note : Edited 07:40 - The story I objected to has not been removed from site. The DE of the Times stated the comments had been deleted to prevent other people leaving "racist comments". Tim Jones also wished for me to correct his name, which I had listed as Tom Jones. Apologies to Tom Jones for any embarrassment caused, as well as to Tim Jones