Thursday, 31 March 2011

Barnet Council Scandals - A grim day for Barnet Council in the Press

There are three major traditional papers in Barnet. They all come out today and they are all full of scandals, cock ups and incompetence this week. There is a theme. In each of these stories, the residents of Barnet have been adversely affected by services provided by Private contractors engaged by Barnet Council.

You may think that this would cause Barnet Council to think about how it runs it's services. Sadly they are doing the opposite and going hell for leather towards even more outsourcing and even more private contracts. They have put together a business case which an independent expert slammed as a work of fiction.

Anyway for your light reading here is what the traditional end of the press have to say (click on the pictures for the online edition of the paper)

Hampstead and Highgate Express

Details how Council Contractors (Metpro Rapid Response)covertly video residents. Local Tory MP Matthew Offord, quite rightly slams this behaviour (did he know when he was deputy leader and the contract was signed). This is on page 1.

Then we have the Edgware press. This details how shoddy work by contractors left the most vulnerable residents of care homes in Barnet at risk of legionella. Again on Page 1.

Then we have the Hendon Times. Barnet are only on page 3 here, but the story details how blunders mean residents haven't got their Council Tax bills and information to pay them. This will have a disasterous effect on Council finances and may lead to huge overdraft fees and temporary borrowing facilities.

So you may wonder who is running the show. The answer appears to be no-one. At the Council Cabinet meeting this week, neither Leader Lynne Hillan or Deputy Leader Andrew Harper was present. Are they both on holiday? This is not the first time that the Council has been engulfed in a crises and they've both been off enjoying themselves.

It's high time the local Tories sacked them and got some proper leadership. They get huge allowances (£35,000 and £27,000 respectively) for the jobs and they can't even be bothered to arrange for one of them to turn up. The press shows a catastrophic failure. Any of these stories on it's own would be highly embarrassing. All three together in one week are a disaster.

NB. The 160 page report which recommended more private contractors was signed off in a Council Cabinet meeting, which Andrew Harper didn't bother to attend. It lasted five minutes. I was going to video it and turned up 10 minutes late, to find it had finished. This is why these contracts are all going wrong.

Local History Update - The Burnt Oak Hamster invasion of 1982

A recent article in the Daily Express, which featured an interview with Rolf Harris, mentioned the famous Hamster invasion of Burnt Oak. The story made national news with ITN covering the story. Sightseers came from far and wide. Some of them with ill intent. One came armed with an airgun and accidentally shot Burnt Oak Labour Councillor Jim Brophy (which made me reflect on the possibility of letting a few Hamsters loose in Totteridge). Enjoy


http://www.itnsource.com/shotlist//ITN/1982/08/26/AS260882001/

If you look rather carefully, you can see Rog T go past in the background.

Mike Freer MP strikes again

Mike is deeply worried about the prospect of Squatters nicking the houses of the rich when they go on holiday .
I have 2 suggestions for millionaire home owners who are worried

1) Engage Metpro Rapid Response who will guard your house night and day for under a hundred punts a month and will even turn up with handcuffs and mock pepper spray if you fancy an impromptue S&M session, within three or four minutes of a call.

2) Sell all your worldly possessions, donate them to charity, then become a member of the Finchley Methodist congregation. They have a whole stock of lovely flats for the financially challenged. They have so many that they can even afford to give Councillor Brian Coleman a subsidised rent, even though he earns over £115,000 per annum.


My special Thanks to Mike and his blog. This is his favourite Youtube video right now.



Surely it's time we had one of him in his Camper Van "doing the rounds".




Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Congratulations to Mr Reasonable

Congratulations to fellow Barnet blogger Mr Reasonable. He has received the highest accolade available to London Bloggers and been selected by Dave Hill at the Guardian as a Top London Blog. It is a well deserved accolade for some really good work. Barnet is hugely over represented in this list, which shows what a great blogging community we have (or what a crap Council, take your peak).

The full list of Dave's Top bloggers is here :-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/davehillblog/blogosphere

And my list of top Barnet Bloggers is in the sidebar (+ a few others I like)

Pinkham Way Sepcial - Barnet Council Cabinet Meeting - Why they don't want it filmed

I thought you may enjoy this video I shot at the Town Hall today, of a resident called Mr Scott asking a few questions about the Pinkham way incenerator. There were a 100 or so residents outside. The Leader of the Council, Lynne Hillan was not present for the Cabinet Meeting (she gets £35,000 a year to attend these), neither was her Deputy, Andrew Harper (He only gets £27,000 as deputy) so Councillor John Dan Thomas chaired the meeting.

I asked a question about the Library project. Because I didn't foam at the mouth or call Councillor Ramsbottom a twat, he congratulated me on my conversion to the One Barnet religion (it is without doubt a religion as you have to believe all of the figures. There are no actual facts to back up any of the theories they postulate or the schemes they propose).  I suggest young Ramsbum visit the ENT centre (if he can find a hospital the Tories aren't shutting) as he clearly didn't hear the bit where I congratulated the Council Officers and pointed out that the report was far better than any produced by Future Shape Consultants. I asked if he planned to keep the Save Barnets Libraries campaign informed of any changes to the strategy. It was a fairly easy question, but beyond Ramsbum's pay grade to actually answer it, so he said "We will consult with residents" Whatever that means.

As you can see and hear from the video, it was a fairly lively event. I was asked to stop filming. As I was off at 7.45 anyway (had a recording session) I couldn't be bothered to argue with Councillor Thomas. One day I will. That will be fun. What was interesting was the blind faith that Barnet Cabinet have in the rather dodgy scientific data about the incinerator.  I wonder if any of them live in the fallout zone?

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Proof that Barnet Council is run by a bunch of C**ts who don't give a S**t about the people who live here

Tow stories dominate the Hendon Times website right now. This one


http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/8938701.Hopes_of_recreating_community_centre_dashed/

This story details how a plan to set up a community centre in one of the most deprived parts of Barnet (Burnt Oak) was rejected last night by Barnet Council and the sale of the site to Property developers was approved instead. The reason for rejecting the proposal
rejected because they wanted a “substantial” council grant in order to transform the building
The other Story :-
http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/8939086.Saracens_granted_99_year_lease_on_Copthall_site/

This details how the site of Copthall Stadium has been sold on a 99 year lease to a bunch of South African businessmen, to bring a Rugby team to Barnet. They are getting a massive site in the heart of Mill Hill for £1 a year. This is in effect a massive subsidy to a commercial venture. This just sums Barnet up. They won't support local groups who have 100% community support, but they'll bend over backwards to accomodate rich businessmen from outside of the Borough who have slick PR operations.

Barnet Council have done everything they can under the Tories to drive out Barnet FC. They ran an election campaign in Mill Hill opposing a development of Kentish Town FC on the grounds that a stand for 50 people would "damage the green belt". I have nothing against Rugby clubs or Saracens, but Barnet FC are established in the Borough and offered a far better deal for the residents. Both schemes bring huge traffic issues and disturbance for local residents. The difference is that Barnet are a part of the community already. Saracens are not.

As for the 30 hours community use our South African friends have promised. We've all seen what happens to these sort of deals once the facility is up and running. This whole business makes me feel sick. When even Brian Coleman says he has reservations, you have to wonder. I don't suppose the Fat Controller would be so good as to share these reservations with us, would he.

Guest video - Westminster Traffic Fine CCTV fine scam in Action

Many thanks to ShibariScamster  for this video. It shows how Westminster Council are making a fortune from a confusing road junction with dodgy road signs


Send your videos of Dodgy Council scams to us

Monday, 28 March 2011

Barnet Council - Report & video of meeting of the Cabinet Resources committee

Tonight Barnet Council Cabinet Resources Committee met at 7pm to discuss the business case for the Future Shape / OneBarnet / BarnetTrack project. This is the project that Council Auditors Grant Thornton said was required before the project could proceed. The document is 161 pages long and contains a report submitted by Unison detailing serious flaws in the case presented. Eight detailed questions were posed. You can download and review the document here.

http://committeepapers.barnet.gov.uk/democracy/reports/reportdetail.asp?ReportID=10206

I turned up to the meeting with my video camera to record the meeting for posterity. Due to childcare & traffic, I arrived at 7.20pm, twenty minutes after the meeting began. Guess what? The committee had finished the meeting. The business case was signed off. There was no debate about the Unison questions and no discussion of about the issues raised. The Committee stated that it was not their job to comment on issues raised by the Union.

So there you go. No video and no proper report. I had a nice chat with fellow Blogger Mr Reasonable. Can you get Councillors surcharged if they don't do their job properly and it ends up costing the Taxpayer a lot of money?  I hope so. I was told that Leader of the Council, Lynne Hillan wasn't there. She was in Spain on holiday yet again.

I went to the Claddagh Ring and had a pint of Guinness. That was probably the highlight of the evening.

You can read Mr Reasonables report here :-

http://reasonablenewbarnet.blogspot.com/2011/03/five-minutes-four-men-and-270-million.html

Unlike me, he made it on time. Could you make it up?

TUC Demo and other London Sights - 26th March

I got sent these images by Radfax Trev. As they say, one picture is worth a Thousand words





Requiem for Church Farmhouse Museum - Hendon

Today was the last day of the Harry Beck Exhibition at Church Farmhouse Museum, Hendon. The museum shuts on Thursday and the curator, Gerard Rootes will be one of the many public servants to lose his job. I nipped up today (Sunday 27th March) and made this video, getting some of Gerards reminscences and featuring some of the displays (including the fantastic Harry Beck display). I would love to have spent longer editing this clip (and I will for the Barnet Eye film), but I wanted to mark the event by posting it today. Sorry about the sound in places.


In a sane world, Gerard would have his own TV show, let alone a redundancy cheque. This really is an act of cultural barbarism. If you want to know why I think Councillor Robert Rams is a Twat, it's because he sees no value in this

Barnet is full of people who do care- Please join the friends of Church Farmhouse Museum -
http://www.churchfarmhousemuseum.co.uk/


(P.S - There are times I hate being dyslexic and this is one, having continually referred to the museum as Church Farm. It is of course Church Farmhouse museum).

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Why Barnet People attended the TUC March

Here's a few clips of people from Barnet attending the TUC March in London yesterday





New Jewish School for Mill Hill - Some info if you are interested

There seems to be an unprecedented amount of interest in the new school proposal. There is an opportunity to view the proposals - Wednesday 30th March3.30pm -9.00pm Ex-Civil Defence Building, 80 Daws Lane, NW7.

For those of you who are interested in whst the school are trying to achieve - check their website - http://www.etzchaim-primaryschool.org.uk/our-school/vision-and-ethos.html 

They say :-

Vision and Ethos

Etz Chaim Jewish Primary School is a one form entry primary school set in the heart of Mill Hill, North London, providing a high quality education for children aged 3 – 11 years. Our Nursery, on site, is separate to our Primary School but has close links to the school to ease progress during the change from the nursery year to school.

We are committed to the practice of Orthodox Judaism. Community, charity, religious knowledge and the ethical and moral values described in the Torah will permeate all aspects of our school life. Our pupils will be proud of their Judaism, its religious practices and traditions, support Israel and encouraged to play a full and active role as a British Jew in the wider community.

Established in response to the local Jewish community’s need for an Orthodox Jewish primary school in the area, Etz Chaim is actively supported by the parents in the local Jewish community, whose Jewish values and practices will be developed and encouraged at school.

The school has a very strong link with the local community and Mill Hill United Synagogue, being fully supported by Rabbi Shochet who has been an active partner during its creation.

Our pupils will be successful learners who enjoy learning, make excellent progress and achieve well. We will develop children’s personal skills to help them achieve academically and become lifelong learners and lovers of learning. Our graduates will be confident individuals who are able to lead safe, healthy and fulfilling lives. Furthermore, they will be responsible citizens who will make a positive contribution to British and Jewish society.

Etz Chaim is committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people and all staff share this commitment. The school is inclusive and accessible; one where equality of opportunity goes hand in hand with a broad and balanced curriculum to develop each child's potential. Furthermore, we will promote an atmosphere of encouragement, acceptance and respect for achievements in which all children can thrive; a climate of warmth and support in which confidence and self-esteem can flourish.

There will be a broad and balanced curriculum, tailored to the needs of all our learners. This will promote both subject related skills and knowledge, as well as the development of life skills and independence and safe and healthy lifestyle choices. The curriculum will foster the development of pupils’ personal, social and emotional skills and qualities.
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If you want to know more about the general movement for free schools read this -
http://newschoolsnetwork.org/about-us/our-mission

6,000 Crazy (and half a million pretty sane)

Just watching the news coverage of the TUC protest march. It reminded me of an old Spizz Oil song  - 6,000 Crazy - so called because a commentator claimed that there were only 6,000 crazy people who liked punk rock. I've no idea how many "Crazies" there were smashing up London, but I'd wager that it was far less than 6,000 or even 600. The right wing press have their story and their excuse to keep the 1/2 million sane, well behaved and creditable people who protested with dignity off the front page.

In the shop earlier i was watching the coverage and one of my customers who is a staunch Tory came in for a cup of tea. As ever he made a pretty intelligent point. He said that if people didn't have the perception that the bankers had "got away with it", then people might accept the cuts. As everyone with half a brain knows the bank bale out caused the collapse, people are indignant. He said that no bank should be legally allowed to pay a bonus until the deficit is under control. He then told me of a couple of small businesses locally who have recently been shafted by the banks.

He told me that in his opinion, if the TUC had organised a march against Bank bonuses and bad banking practices, they'd have got a million people on the March and Camoron and Osborne would have had to listen.

For once, I totally agreed with him.

For those of you wanting some Saturday Night Punk Rock, try this for size ! Spizz Oil - 6,000 crazy

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Matthew Offord MP - Making Hendon a happier place

Matthew Offord, our local MP has this picture on Miss Ballooniverse Twitpic site - http://twitpic.com/4dfvat - If you are going to follow any MP on Twitter follow Matthew - http://twitter.com/search?q=HendonMP - I've put a link in the sidebar. Perhaps the most intriguing post this week is this :-

HendonMP Visited the Wild Love Music recording studio in Hendon with Max

Rumour has it he's re-recording the famous old hit "My Four Legged Friend" with Max adding the Woofs. I personally think there can never be enough records with singing dogs on !!!

Matthew may have his detractors, but I think he makes Hendon a much happier place ! We never had this much fun when boring Old Andrew Dismore was running the show

TUC March 26th March - The Barnet Contingent


As I'm sure you are aware, there is a TUC organised march against the CUTS in London with a rally in Hyde Park. I couldn't make it as my son was taking part in his end of term Concert at the Finchley Music Centre and my daughter is laid up awaiting an operation for a ruptured crucuiate ligament. I promised John Burgess, the UNISON branch secretary that I'd keep the world posted on the Barnet chapter of the march.

John excitedly called just as the concert was finishing to tell me that he was over the moon. 500 +  residents from Barnte had turned up at the various meeting points. He said most of them were readers of the blog. John sent these pictures for us stuck at base, to give us a flavour of the efforts people have put in. I'm there with you in spirit. I have a busy day. Got a really arduous task - review the new album by the Undertones for a music website. It's a collection of their hit singles (and B sides). Seems strangely apt listenening to "Emergency Cases" as I write this.




Friday, 25 March 2011

Barnet Council - The shameful ineptitude of our local Conservative Councillors

Yesterday I spoke to local Unison rep John Burgess.  John sent an email to all of our Councillors containing two reports detailing serious deficiencies within the One Barnet / Future Shape / BarnetTrack program. The union has paid for a team of experts to analyse the program and Highlight the deficiencies. The job of Councillors is to protect our rights and ensure Council officials do their job. These reports highlight problems which will cost ordinary Council Taxpayers a fortune. All that John Burgess asked of our councillors was that they read the reports and if they felt the criticisms were justified, took action to save the Council money. Surely even the most rabid Tory would agree that this is a sensible approach.

When John sent the report, he put a read receipt on the message. This meant that he could see how many Councillors had actually bothered to even open the email. What he told me sickened me regarding the number of local Conservative Councillors who had even bothered to open the email. Anyway, whilst many of these people, who couldn't be bothered to even open the email haven't read what he said - here's the covering letter. Ask yourself - does the approach taken sound reasonable? Would it save us money if all of the Councillors read it? These people are paid chunky allowances to represent us. Surely we should expect something for our money. Yesterday I wrote a blog detailing how the Leaders of Barnet Council ignored reasonable questions from me. Do they actually do anything? Here's the letter
--------------------------------------------------------------

On Monday 28 March 2011 Barnet Council Cabinet Resources Committee are being asked to agree the business case to privatise Development & Regulatory Services (DRS) by handing them over to a large private sector  multinational company. The first group of council services to be given the ‘easyCouncil’ treatment are Cemeteries, planning, Highways, Land charges, Registrars, Environmental health, Building control, trading standards.

The contract could be worth up to £180 million to the successful private sector organisation.

Professor Dexter Whitfield, Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Adelaide, with over 35 years experience of planning, researching and analysing local authority policy documents in Britain and overseas) was commissioned by Barnet UNISON three years ago to provide consultancy support for the Easycouncil/Future Shape/One Barnet programme you can view his reports here.

Dexter Whitfield (European Services Strategy Unit said this about the DRS business case:
·         “The DRS Business Case has a superficial appearance of authenticity but is fundamentally not fit for purpose and elected members have a duty to decide it is non-compliant."
·          “There is clearly a high risk that user charges will be increased in order to achieve the income generation targets.”

Adrian Waite (Independent Consultancy Services) was commissioned by Barnet UNISON to examine the financial aspects of the business case. Adrian is a highly experienced and respected local government finance expert. He has held a number of senior roles in local authorities including Director of Finance and s151 Officer and is a fully qualified member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.


Adrian Waite said this about the DRS business case
“During the thirty years that I have worked in local government finance as a local government officer and management consultant, including some time as Finance Director of a Borough Council, I have seen and written many business cases, business plans and options appraisals. This business case is remarkable for the apparent lack of robust evidence to support its main conclusions that £28million of savings and increased income is achievable and that this can only be delivered through outsourcing.”

Barnet UNISON has submitted the two reports (see attached) to all Barnet councillors including the 6 members of Cabinet Resources Committee.

We are recommending the following:

  1. The Council should recognise that significant additional work is required before the Business case can be approved.
  2. The formal procurement process should not be commenced until Cabinet Resources Committee has approved a revised DRS Business Case.
  3. The Council’s template and methodology for preparing Business Cases should be revised to ensure it is compliant with best practice.
  4. Carry out an equality analysis under the Equality Act 2010 as part of a broader cost benefit analysis of the economic, sustainability and environmental impacts of the DRS proposals.
  5. Gateway Reviews should be implemented in all major procurement processes as a matter of urgency.
  6. The Council should immediately exclude Cemeteries and Crematoria from the scope of the procurement and return to the 2010 options appraisal findings.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Questions for Lynne Hillan regarding Metpro Rapid response

I have sent two emails to the Leader of Barnet Council, Lynne Hillan regarding Metpro Rapid Response and their use of CCTV cameras to record activities & members of the public at the Town Hall. I've received no reply at all. Not only is this extremely bad mannered, it is also a sign of sheer panic at the Town Hall. Fellow Blogger Mrs Angry has had a similar experience. Here is the two emails I've sent. I will be sending a third email in the next few days. I think Barnet may find they will be legally obliged to respond to that one. They could always avert that situation and that cost to the taxpayer of Barnet by answering these quite reasonable requests.

Reproduced for you now is the original email and the chaser.
------------------------

----- Original Message -----
From: Roger Tichborne
Sent: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 11:03 PM
Subject: Re: Filming of Barnet Council Meetings

Dear Councillor Hillan
 
I do not seem to have received a reply regarding this email. I consider it to be the height of bad manners to ignore the genuine concerns of residents to matters of public interest. If you are not in the position to respond to my query, then I ask that one of the other people copied responds on your behalf.
 
Regards
Roger Tichborne
----- Original Message -----
From: Roger Tichborne
Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 1:00 AM
Subject: Filming of Barnet Council Meetings

Dear Councillor Hillan,
 
One of my regular blog readers was informed by the owner of the security company which Barnet Council employed to manage the last council meeting (metpro), that all his staff were wearing hidden CCTV cameras and had filmed the entire proceedings both inside and outside of the hall.
 
Given that you had previously announced that no filming was permitted in the council chamber, please can you explain why you clearly had allowed your own rules to be breached.
 
Please can you clarify how long security staff have been allowed to film at the council and how this is monitiored by Barnet Council in relation to the Data Protection act. Please can you forward me your privacy policy regarding this and also let me know when signs stating that the council chamber was under CCTV surveillance were fitted.
 
I also would like to review all footage of the council meeting, as there have been allegations of inappropropriate behaviour made privately to me and I would like to see if these can be supported by the CCTV footage.

Regards

Roger Tichborne
I trust that Barnet Council are aware that they are governed by the same laws as the rest of us

Guest Video : the money go round.

A guest video from GibbonLez regarding the campaign against unjust bike taxes. Great soundtrack from Paul Weller. Enjoy

Mill Hill Jewish School - Interview with Chair of Governors

Adam Dawson is chair of the board of Governors at Etz Chaim, the New Jewish Free School which plans to open in Mill Hill in September. The Barnet Eye met Mr Dawson to discuss issues raised regarding the school.


There were a few points I wanted to clarify and there were a few points Adam wanted to make to me. We decided that neutral ground would be a good place. We agreed Frattellis Coffee bar at 6pm. The meeting got off to a very bad start. Our chosen venue closes at 6pm, so we had to make a hasty adjournment to Costa Coffee.
 
I asked Adam how it was going. He said "I am starting to feel like the most hated man in Mill Hill". Welcome to the club. What is his motivation for getting involved? This was an easy question "There are not enough places at the existing Jewish Schools for the parents that want to give their children a Jewish Education". This is a statement of fact. Is the school associated with Shul in Mill Hill? "No, they are not financially backing the school, although we don't rule out asking them in future". Now I see nothing wrong with it if they were. I just asked the question to understand the nature of the proposal. Is the school only open to Orthodox Jewish Children. "No, 50% have to have a CRP form (confirmation of Religious Practise form) and 50% do not require any formal association with the faith, other than a desire to attend the school". Why do you want to take over the Nursery "It is the most financially viable site". What about the traffic "We expect the vast majority of Children to walk to school, many live in Poets Corner. We also plan to stagger opening times and offer early drop off for parents who need to get to work early, this will smooth out the traffic flow". Adam acknoweldged that once children are in, siblings may pose an issue if the family move. What about the loss of amenity "We are looking at ways to address this". Have you made mistakes in how you've engaged with the people of Mill Hill "Yes, I've never done anything like this before. I genuinely didn't realise the proposal would generate hostility". Why do you think that it has "People don't understand what we are trying to do". You do recognise that people like the nursery? "They are not being forced out by us. They have made a commercial decision to assign the lease" Adam didn't want me to discuss this any further as there are ongoing commercial decisions.
 
So what do I think, having met the man with the plan? I don't really think it has changed my main concerns, regarding traffic. These won't really hit until the school has been open a few years and parents have moved, sibling attended and the first flush of zealous  walking has subsided. I fully expect the heady late summer days of the opening term to see 100% walk to school rates, but five or ten years down the line? Often the nature of schools change. Who knows what attitude the guy who replaces Adam when he's had enough may decide. Once the school is established, the rules change. I do acknowledge that he is trying to do a difficult job. There really isn't a perfect site in Mill Hill and I can see the attractions and the advantages. He has some great ideas and has clearly put in a lot of work. I think he's been badly let down by a whole raft of local politicians.
 
Perhaps the most bizarre answer he gave me was when I asked why he hadn't fully engaged with the Mill Hill Preservation Society. He told me that he'd approached them and they'd asked him to come back when the plans were drawn up. To my mind this is far too late in the day. Had they engaged and helped him seek out sites and elicit peoples views then I suspect the school would have been viewed in a completely different light. He advised me that they plan to put the plans on public display when they have been prepared (see below). This is a sensible next step. My advice was to be as open as possible, not to align with any local politicians and to try and ensure that the wider community got something from the school. We discussed a few ideas. I wait with interest to see if these make it into the plans.
 
This is a very important local issue. I am pleased that the School is now engaging with its critics face to face. As I said before, there isn't a perfect site in Mill Hill for a new School. Is this the best of the bunch? I really don't know. If I were one of the supporters of the school, I'd lay my cards out as to why, when commercial considerations allow. I said to Adam that if I'd been the one planning the school, I'd have gone about the whole thing in a different manner. His response "With hindsight, so would I". Fair comment
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
An exhibition of the plans for Etz Chaim - will be held on Wednesday 30th March3.30pm -9.00pm Ex-Civil Defence Building, 80 Daws Lane, NW7
 

Brian Coleman - Latest Standards Complaint letter


Sorry for the quality. Click on letter for more readable image.


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Barnet Council - Strategic Library review - The Barnet Eye verdict

I've had all sorts of media ringing me up and emailing me today for my views on the Barnet Council Strategic Library review. I thought that as I started the petition and you, the public of Barnet have given it magnificent support, I'd share my thoughts with you. I passionately believe that a decent Library service is the sign of a civilised society. I believe that it is no coincidence that the areas in Barnet with worst access to Libraries are the areas with most deprivation. I thought that the campaign would force the local Conservative rulers to look again at the issue. I made a point of targetting wards with Conservative Councillors and popular libraries for stalls. This was a deliberate tactic. I believed that ordinary Conservative voters would desert the party in droves if their library was shut. I didn't start the campaign and stand on street corners week after week to lose the argument or the battle. Whilst collecting signatures was important, even more important was talking to people.

It became clear after the first week, that we'd win the argument. I doubted that we'd win the fight. When we got our first thousand signatures, I knew we had a chance. As they piled up, I realised that the Conservatives would be insane to ignore us. The tone of comments from Robert Rams changed. We started to hear that the changes wouldn't "be the doomsday campaigners were predicting". At this point, I scented victory, but I was nervous. When I read the report on Monday, I was stunned. This was for two reasons. Firstly, the report was excellent. It was well written, balanced and informative. Why should this shock me? I've read hundreds of One Barnet and Future Shape papers. They are all full of crap. This was different. They had actually done the job properly. The only reason can be because they knew it would be in the public eye. The second reason was because it stated clearly that the review recommended retaining the number of libraries. This was far more than I hoped for. There are changes and closures, which clearly are not desirable, but if we take the report at face value, these are mitigated by new, modern libraries being built. Clearly the loss of 9 staff is a huge issue. This has issues for elderly and disabled people who need help. Hardly inclusive. Having said that, in the current climate, every aspect of public service is being chopped. I don't support the cuts, but at least we still have a service to build on.

It is vital that we continue to monitor the situation and hold them to their promises. It is vital that as a community, we work to make sure that the libraries are successful. I don't mean that we should adopt a Cameronite big society attitude and sack staff and replace them with unpaid volunteers. I mean that we should use the service, help our elderly neighbours to use the service and take our young children to instill a love of books. I was asked what my feelings are. If a maniac enters your house and wants to chop your head off, do you feel victorious if you avoid it. Nope, you just feel relieved. If he tries to chop your next door neighbours head off and you grab a few neighbours, and persuade him to stop, how would you feel? You'd feel relieved, but you'd rather the lunatic had never been let loose in the first place.

This is a victory for the wider community in Barnet. Everyone who signed the petition played a part, all of the people who collected signatures. The Barnet Alliance for Public Services, who did most of the work and everyone else who helped. Thank you. It was all of our victory. If I win the lottery tonight, I'll hire the Arts Depot and buy you all a beer, cup of tea or bottle of water. Let's make saving that, the Childrens centres, the support for vulnerable adults and the Sheltered Housing wardens our next campaigns. I am off out to celebrate tonight. We'll have many setbacks, but having spent six months stressing over the campaign, writing endless blogs, sending & answering emails, etc, I really feel like a beer and a nice evening out. Tomorrow the next campaign starts.

Oh yes, I will be asking a question at the Cabinet meeting on the 29th.

Top Ten Things To Do In The London Borough of Barnet

I got asked by the Londonist Listings website to list my top ten things in Barnet.

http://londonist.com/2011/03/top-ten-things-to-do-in-the-borough-of-barnet.php

They say a holiday is as good as a rest. It's great to write a blog occasionally about the good things in Barnet. Feel free to add your picks for the benefit of our fellow Londoners. And in answer to the question you will doubtless ask, if you know me, when you read it. Yes I am !

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Barnet Council : Hillan, Coleman and Future shape are rated as catastrophic risks

I kid you not. On Thursday 24th March, the Barnet Council audit committee meet to discuss the Corporate Risk management policy.  I was intrigued to know what constituted a Corporate risk. Item 8 on the agenda -
http://committeepapers.barnet.gov.uk/democracy/reports/reportdetail.asp?ReportID=10175 - explains how this works. Have a look at the numbers at the bottom of the page. On page 66 it explains what constitutes a political and a reputational risk. These are contained in this illustration (i've stuck the definition of catastrophic on the bottom of it).

So what have we had under the Hillan and Coleman regime. We had a leadership challenge caused by her poor judgement. I doubt that as a political risk anything could be greater than this. As the vote was split by a single vote, it is clear that "internal issues" prevented the Torys from working collaboratively. There have been a whole host of other political issues within the Tories which have shown them to be in catastrophic disarray. The Allowancegate scandal destroyed forever the notion that they were a political group interested in anything but lining there own pockets. The action to discipline Councillor Kate Salinger was highly divisive and the whole fiasco lead to Brian Coleman getting the sack as Tory chief whip.

Then there is the reputational damage. Hillan has become a national media laughing stock with her involvement in the OneBarnet/Future Shape/BarnetTrack scheme. When asked to explain the Easycouncil concept, she announced that developers could pay for their own planning officers, only to be informed this was illegal. Even more disasterous has been her refusal to take up Tory cabinet minister, Eric Pickles suggestion to allow open access to council meetings. Just today, Tory Councillor Danny "Imber" Seal made a none to veiled attack on Lynne Hillan in the Hendon Times. Following Hillans inept attempt to ban social media, he told the Times "We have some older members of the group who don’t understand social media and I want to educate them it’s a great way forward". The only elderly member who has come out against social media is Hillan.  It is clear that Imber and his colleagues questions have moved well away from corporate priorities.It is clear that when Tory councillors speak to the press, portraying their leader as "elderly" and out of touch it is catastrophic for the reputation of the Council. There can be no question that public confidence has been eroded. No one thinks Hillan is a credible leader of the Council, outside of the cabal of Tory cabinet members who owe their allowances to her.

Then there is Brian Coleman. He has been a catastrophy for years. He regularly makes the National Press, be it for his Taxi expenses, his visits to the Standards Committee or his outburst against the British Olympic team. He even went so far as to "out" former Tory Leader Edward Heath, waiting till he'd died and couldn't put his side of the story.

Now according to the Risk management strategy, "immediate action" must be taken to deal with such catastrophies. A number of corrective measures may be required. If I was a Barnet Tory Councillor, I'd be looking to replace Hillan as leader and send Coleman to the back benches (assuming he wouldn't willingly go to the Outer Hebrides).

Monday, 21 March 2011

Barnet Council : Library review - They don't know whatthey're doing

You couldn't make it up. I just got a call from someone who attended the business overview committee tonight. Apparently Councillor Alison Moore asked Councillor Robert Rams why they hadn't been given the paperwork to review for the Library review. Rams replied "because it's not been finished". Councillor Moore then pointed out that it had been published and was on the website. Poor little Robbie Ramsbottom hadn't been told. Just how incompetent can one person be?

Maybe he should check this website a bit more regularly - Here's the link (if they haven't pulled it)
http://committeepapers.barnet.gov.uk/democracy/reports/reportdetail.asp?ReportID=10225

I wish I'd been there with my video camera !



Barnet Council - Part 2 : Library Review - The stark demographics of exploding poverty and population

There are many things I expected to see in the Library review. The one thing which I didn't was this. To me this is truly shocking. This tells me that in areas like Mill Hill and Hendon, the infrastructure will not cope. Schools are already chronically oversubscribed, roads are jammed at busy times and the nearest hospitals to the most populous wards are miles away.

What you then notice is how much better served for libraries the richer, less populous parts of the Borough are :-
Ok, so you get the picture. Then we get the truly shocking map. How deprivation in Barnet maps onto the distribution of the Libraries.

There are six dark red bits (where deprivation is at it's worst). Only one of these has a library - Grahame Park. This library is designated for closure, with the possibilty of a new library mooted. Surely we need to get libraries and educational services to these areas if we are ever to have any hope of breaking the cycle of poverty. Does this shock you? It certainly shocks me.

Barnet Council Library review is released - Part 1

Barnet Council have released the strategic library review ahead of next weeks Council meeting. Given that Councillor Robert Rams originally suggested wholesale closure, this represents something of a victory in that the vast majority are being maintained. This shows the power of well organised local campaigns. I said all along that it was vital to ensure that the strength of public feeling in support of the Libraries was known. The public responded in a fantastic manner. The Barnet Tories will doubtless claim otherwise, but why have a review to largely continue doing everything the same? So long as the service is there, we have a platform for the future. That is the victory we have won.
 
 
I am highly worried that Grahame Park and Childs Hill libraries are seemingly for the chop. Strange that these happen to be in opposition wards, when libraries in Tory wards have largely been spared.  I am also "interested" in the proposal to combine Finchley and Church End libraries on a single site.

The full document is here -
http://committeepapers.barnet.gov.uk/democracy/reports/reportdetail.asp?ReportID=10225

I will post a full report on this when I understand the implications of the small print. There are clear references to staffing etc, which require a more detailed analysis, but I must thank everyone who has helped with the campaign. It is abundantly clear that this shook the local Council and forced a massive rethink in their policy. If I never do anything useful again, I am pleased to have helped maintain this vital service in a semi recognisable form.

Let that be the lesson of this whole sorry chapter. Finally a word for Councillor Robert Rams. Unlike many of your colleagues, you do seem to have listened following some ridiculous statements to kick this process off. I think that given the fact that you've shown a modicum of common sense. Let's hope that when I've read the whole thing properly we can strip you of your title as Barnet's biggest twat and award it to one of your colleagues instead. watch this space.......

Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Mill Hill Jewish School - Pros and Cons

There was a public meeting tonight to discuss the New Jewish School in Mill Hill. I decided to sit this out, because as far as I'm concerned the issues are clear cut and to do with environment and planning rather than the actual issue of the school.

Lets look at the issues which have caused the proposal for the New Jewish School to arise.

1) There is a general under provision of school places in Barnet. The school will help address this.
2) There is underprovision of places for parents who want a Jewish education. The School will also help address this.

Now Lets look at why people might oppose the new school.

1) They are anti semitic. The vast majority of people in Barnet would have no time for this argument.
2) They don't agree with faith schools. This is a more divisive issue. Lets put aside the rights and wrongs of the argument. There are currently faith schools in Barnet. To deny Jewish parents the right to select it is discriminatory. By all means campaign against the principle, but not a particular institution.
3) People are worried about the traffic, given the location of the school. This is a major issue. The location could probably not be worse. If the school causes traffic jams on the A41 or A1 it could gridlock Barnet. I personally can't see how this can be avoided. An extra hundred or so cars turning up at the same time will soon back up to Mill Hill Circus. This issue must be considered and discussed.
4) They object to the loss of amenity which the closure of the Garden Centre and Cafe will cause. This is a popular local landmark. Many local people were less than happy at the loss of the former Mill Hill Swimming pool and this latest plan represents more encroachment into the park.

I personally have much sympathy with the last two arguments. There are more suitable sites available in Mill Hill, which would cause far less problems and not result in the loss of facilities for local people. I noted that the website lists a whole swathe of people who are involved in the setting up of the school. None of these people seem to have strong Mill Hill connections. I would urge the school to engage with the Mill Hill Preservation Society and find some local people to join their committee, who understand the background to the site and who could advise in ways to make the site less contentious.

It is in all of our interest to see the school find a suitable home and be successful. I have children at faith schools so I do understand the desire for such facilities, but any institution has to be a "good neighbour". I am sure that the people promoting the school are good people with good intentions. As such I'd urge them to try and ensure that they take the community with them. There are already several well established Jewish Schools in Mill Hill, including Matilda Marks and Hasmonean. These are an integral part of the community and there are no issues with local people and how they operate. That gives me great hope that any early misconceptions can be ironed out.

Oh and my biggest criticism is that there has been an apparent air of secrecy about the plans. I spoke to several members of the parks committee who claimed that the first they knew of the proposal for the siting of the school was when this blog reported it. I suspect that the problems were due more to Barnet Council and it's desire to operate in a Stalinist manner than the schools own team. I spoke, off the record, to a major supporter of the school who admitted that the cock ups caused by Barnet had soured the atmosphere. He also suggested that Matthew Offord MP trying to paint all objectors as "anti semites being whipped up by Andrew Dismore" was less than helpful. I explained that as the school will be a permanent fixture in Mill Hill, they really should get it right. We have some work to do, to agree what getting it right constitutes, but at least we are all talking now.

Lets work together to get the best school proposal we can.  We are not there yet.

Bungling Brian Coleman - The King of the Barnet Future Shape ballsup

Councillor Brian Coleman, who also happens to be our GLA rep is a man of unique talent. Let me share with you some of the things he's best at :-

Sending residents rude emails and getting into trouble with the Standards Committee
Running up expenses - Unrivalled at the GLA and LFEPA (sadly he won't allow Barnet to publish his)
Eating free dinners at the expense of those seeking acces to people of power and influence and those who can give him a holiday

Yet again he's got his ugly mug on the Times website.  As the man who boasted he never knowingly undercharges, you'd think he'd make sure his underlings did the paperwork properly. As a result, the increases in Parking charges, of which he's so proud have been deemed illegal and the council has had to go back to square one. Read all about it in the Barnet CPZ blog, which is listed in the sidebar. Congratulations to David Attfield, leading the campaign, for this victory.

Brian Coleman is the man who ushered in the Future Shape/One Barnet/EasyCouncil/BarnetTrack era, when he organised the coup which deposed the last sensible Tory to lead the Council, Brian J. D. Salinger. For all his many faults, Salinger was a competent administrator, who was running a tight ship. Coleman decided that Salinger wasn't bonkers enough, organised a coup and put Mike Freer (now Finchley MP) in charge. Freer then launched the Future Shape / BarnetTrack program. If you read Mr Reasonables blog in the sidebar, you'll see how this project is falling apart at huge expense. We (the sane and sensible) of Barnet have now engaged the services of a forensic accountant, who will shortly get to work on the Business Case / Made up figures (delete as appropriate) which Barnet are trying to use to justify this.

I have often wondered what Barnet Council would be like today had Brian Coleman never arrived on the scene. I have no doubt it would be true blue Tory. I suspect that it might have been reasonably well run and I have no doubt at all that our Council Tax would be far lower, as sensible administrators would have kept and eye on the detail. Many local Tories now privately dispair. Barnet has achieved national acclaim as the face of the Looney right. Promenant local Tories send me links to articles detailing how much better certain Labour Councils are doing with issues such as transparancy, with an air of resigned despair. The few sensible Tory councillors privately tell me they are embarrassed to walk down the street. As someone on the left, it gives me no pleasure to be able to say with confidence that we have the worst Tory Council in the UK. We certainly have the stupidest.

I wonder whether Brian Coleman is proud of the monster he's created. My guess is he couldn't give a damn so long as the free dinners, free holidays and free taxi's keep turning up.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Mayor of London in Barnet - Boris or Ken - Interactive blog

I have a little request for all of my legion of readers. When Boris Johnson took over, he said he'd be a "Mayor for all of London". I've been racking my brains trying to think of anything either Boris or Ken did directly for The London Borough of Barnet (Londonwide initiatives don't count). Personally I'm rather pissed off with Boris for not doing more to make sure Brent Cross redevelopment wasn't a monstrosity, but I also blame Ken for this.

Please can you add your comments if you can think of anything. I will also break one of my own rules. Any comments which do not specifically list something they've done for Barnet will be summiraly deleted. I just want a list of stuff they've done and not a list of boring comments that Kens bum smells and Boris is the reincarnation of Ghengis Khan. As both these chaps are icons, I'm sure that we'll get a rather impressive list.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Barnet Council - Future Shape Business case (or not)

Barnet Council have released the first stab at a Future Shape business case. To be brutally honest, it's quite laughable. They admit that they don't have "robust" data to base calculations on (albeit 48 pages into the analysis). It is clear from the figures and the wordings, that all savings are finger in the air guesses. Here are a few potted highlights.
You can read the whole sorry saga here :-
http://committeepapers.barnet.gov.uk/democracy/documents/getdoc_ext.asp?DocID=90846

Just a word to the wise. An accountant friend advises that where a document contains savings that are all multiples of 5% :-

a) They have been rounded up or down by up to 2.5%. On these type of projections, with no firm benchmarking data, most business models would allow a + or - 75% error of margin, which means in many cases there could be no real savings at all.

b) Without firm benchmarking data and with no relevant case studies to justify the claims, they are pure guesswork.

This document is meant to be a business case. I'd call the whole project a Basket case. I can't believe that there are no Tory Councillors who can't see this.

Bizarre attempt to deselect Mike Freer MP for being Gay falls at first hurdle

Perhaps the most truly bizarre story to come out of Finchley and Golders Green Conservatives recently is the attempt to have Mike Freer MP deselected because he is gay. A rather strange and rambling email was sent to members of the Finchley and Golders Green Conservative Association, demanding Freer's deselection on grounds of his personal sexuality.

Now I personally could give you half a dozen good reasons why Mike Freer should be deselected, but his private life isn't one of them. I am pleased to say that the attempt failed, as the Conservative member who circulated the email quickly realised he was in a very small minority (by all accounts of about 1). Sadly I suspect that the person who organised the campaign has "issues". Let me reproduce the first line of his email

Dear All,                                                                      14/03/2011

At the Annual General Meeting I shall propose that Mike Freer should resign his position as Member of Parliament. I know that that I am making a futile gesture but it has to be made. I accept that Mike was a very good leader of the council and is a competent constituency MP.

I don't want to reproduce the rest of the email as it was clearly homophobic and inciteful. The person leading this campaign claimed that he was mislead about Freer's sexuality. I found this rather strange as Mike Freer has been open and honest about the fact that he is gay and in a civil partnership. If anyone had been interested enough to find out, they easily could have. When I was canvassing in the last Council elections, no one asked me what my sexuality was and I see no reason why it matters. That Freer had been open about it, surely was the end of the issue.

I am not going to name the person who sent it either, as I believe they need help, not public humiliation.


The initial email was followed yesterday by this :-


Dear All,                                                   17/03/2011
  For the good of the party I will resign membership at once. I regret the e-mail which was produced with the best of intentions but clearly has upset many people. It was a major failure of judgement and my departure is completely necessary. I remain a staunch supporter of the party and express my goodwill and best wishes to all members in the future.

Some principles are more important than party politics. It can only be for the greater good that this rather bizarre attempt to oust Freer was so convincingly stomped on and that the person leading the campaign was made to understand that such behaviour is not compatible with belonging to a serious political party. For once I applaud the Conservatives for giving the person responsible such short shrift.

Brian Coleman guilty again - now he must go

I have just received an email from a regular reader who received an abusive email from Councillor Brian Coleman. Mr Cohen, an Israeli citizen,  reported Brian Coleman to the standards committee  for making a disparaging remark about his Israeli citizenship. Mr Cohen tells me
hi
received a letter from the standards committee yesterday regarding the complaint.they uphold section 3.1 - you must respect etc, but rejected  section 5  - bringing your office to
 disrepute.  IMHO, it seems  like a white wash, since section 3.1 is a minor one, but  5 is the more serious. considering that he used his office equipment and did it on his official role.

ron
As this is the second time Coleman has breached this section of the code, it is time for the Council to take firm action and stop him bringing the council into disrepute. Coleman should be suspended for a period to reflect on his actions. The man is a disgrace and it is time he was brought to book.

St Patricks Night - A little story for you

I wasn't going to do "St Paddy's" as a blog. As a Londoner of Irish and Australian upbringing, with staunch Roman Catholic roots, there are many things about the current concept of the celebration I'm not overly keen on, but following on from a rather ignorant comment on another blog, I felt compelled to share a little story with you.

My Grandad, James Fanning was a Dubliner. His cousin was an Irish nationalist Martyr Kevin Barry. My grandfather came to England to look for work in the early part of the last century, like many young Irish. He ended up in the British Army, fighting in the battlefields of World War 1. He was gassed and died aged 65 as a result of this in 1948. I never knew him.

On March 17th 1945, he went out for a St Patricks night drink with my Father, who was a Bomber pilot in the RAAF stationed in England. My Grandfather, a frail old man, was at the bar queueing to buy a beer, when a young and arrogant British Army officer pushed in front of him. My Grandfather was affronted. He said "Mind your manners young man" to the Officer,.  The Officer replied "Who do you think you are Mick, are you the IRA" (or words to that effect), pushed my Grandfather out of the way and laughed. My Father, who was not the most mild of men was just about to intervene, when my Grandfather pushed the Officer back and said loudly "Listen son, I was in the British Army. I was in the Somme, where the finest Englishmen I ever met were killed by the thousands. I can guarantee you this. If the IRA fight a war for a thousands years, they will never kill as many British Soldiers as the officer class of the British Army, no wait your turn in the queue". At that, the officer slunk off.

Therein lies one of the paradoxes of this great nation of ours. We have a whole hidden story and a whole hidden history. London is a meting pot, where we have all come together and we all get on. Two hundred years ago it was illegal to be a Roman Catholic - we were despised by the ruling classes. Over the course of history all sorts of races, colours and creeds have suffered prejudice, repression and in some cases violent and bloody murder. The fact that London celebrates St  Patricks night is a sign that we can put this behind us and we can live together in harmony. I hope that in as we all celebrate Paddies day, in coming years, all of London will celebrate Eid, Diwali, Christmas, Easter, Paddies Day and whatever other festivals part of our community feel is special - together and in harmony. I don't believe there is any place for racisim, intolerance or prejudice in todays society.

Blog Update : Another great blogger about Barnet

If you enjoy reading well written blogs, relevant to Barnet, check these out

http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/kate-belgrave/bloggers-are-best-at-covering-local-cuts-across-uk-so-were-being-banned

http://www.hangbitching.com/author/hangbitch/

I am starting to feel that Barnet is in the eye of a perfect storm. Those of you who study meteorology and have experience of sailing know that you need a combination of factors for a perfect storm. In Barnet we have a stupid and arrogant council which is reaching meltdown, fuelled by a Tsunami of highly paid (and highly greedy) consultants, further fuel is added by some extremely vain councillors who really believe that they are in some way, shape or form slightly better than the rest of us. In Fukoshima power stations, water is being pumped onto melting nuclear rods to stop them catching fire. Sadly our council think the best cure for a fire of stupidity is pour more petrol (and taxpayers cash) on it.

We need to put this fire out, before we all get burned. In the absence of the water of common sense, all I can suggest is cutting off the oxygen of support by campaigning and hard work (and no free for pot noodle for the first person to comment on the traditional way of putting out a fire when someone you don't like is in trouble).

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Barnet Council - legionella outbreak in Catalyst run care homes

There has been an outbreak of Legionalla in Barnet Council care homes run by Catalyst. This dangerous disease threatens the health of some of Barnets most vulnerable people. Reports reach the Barnet Eye that Barnet Council has issued an "Improvement notice" to Catalyst. This blog believes that the elderly and the infirm should be cared for with dignity and compassion. They should not be left to rot in homes where their are clear and present risks to their health. I have these questions for Barnet Council

1. Has the Nick Walkley, CEO of Barnet who gets paid £250,000 of taxpayers money to stop this sort of cock up occurring visited the homes to see for himself what is going on?

2. Has Leader of the Council, Lynne Hillan Visited the homes to see what is going on?

3. Has the Deputy CEO of the Council, who is a Contractor (on £17,000 a month) , Mr A Travers visited the homes to see what is going on?

4. Have any of the £1,500 a day consultants, who are recommending privatisation for the rest of the council, visited the homes to see what happens when their plans are implemented in the real world?

5. Does Barnet Council include issues like Health & Safety in the contract monitoring process? If not why not? If yes when were these last reviewed?

6. Are risk assessments on health & safety carried out in all of the settings?

7. As part of the contract monitoring by Barnet Council are these risk assessments reviewed? If not why not? If yes when were they last reviewed?

8. As part of good safeguarding practice have other residential care homes provided by Catalyst and Fremantle been informed about the outbreak and if so have the checks been carried out in those settings?

9. What was the cause of this outbreak and what controls have been put in place to secure the safety of the residents, staff and visitors?

10. Was a risk assessment carried out after the Legionella bacteria was discovered? If yes, what did it say and what control measures were put in place? If not why not?

And lastly, one final question. Does the fact that the most vulnerable people in Barnet are being put at risk, whilst the pockets of shareholders of private companies are being lined make me feel utterly sick (CAtalyst have just settled for an extra £10 million in fees from Barnet in a case brought because their profits were too low)? I can answer this question - Yes

The organisational abilities of Robert Rams

Regular readers of this blog will remember that we reported that Councillor Robert Rams had organised a gig at a Barnet library by "Fallen Millie" a local band. Sharp eyed readers will remember a rant from Musoman blaming this blog for it's cancellation.  Musoman left his comment from a Barnet Council computer and was clearly "close to" Councillor Ramsbottom
 
As we said at the time, this blog wasn't against the concept of the gig at the library, but thought it was hypocritical of Rams to promote this whilst trying to shut Barnets premier venue, the Arts Depot. This email shows why so many things cock up at Barnet. Lack of attention to detail


This blog was unaware of why the gig was cancelled. One of our readers, Derek sent me this email yesterday which may throw some light on the issue. Given that the good councillor clearly didn't do the paperwork Blaming is is a bit rich of Mr Bottom

-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: Fahey, Mike [mailto:Mike.Fahey@Barnet.gov.uk]
Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 3:26 PM
To: Derek 
Subject: FOI inquiry - Ref: Press Release - Fallen Millie to get Live and Loud in library
Dear **********,

I write regarding your FOI request of 23/2/11.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the Council is required to provide you with copies of information covering the subject of your FOI request. In this case, the answer could either be a simple “no information is held” or a refusal to comply notice based upon section 12 of the FOIA.

I’ve chosen, instead, to treat your inquiry as correspondence. This is allowed for by the FOIA where the inquiry made is a question rather than a search for records. Your request clearly falls into this category, being a question regarding a particular situation rather than a request for records. I can advise you that:

1)      The Council is not exempt from licensing requirements
2)      The Council maintains PRS and other performing rights licenses but that the space in the Library did not have a performance license in place for the event you quote
3)      A temporary event license was not applied for 10 days in advance

Your Rights

If you are unhappy with the way your request for information has been handled, you can request a review by writing to the FOI Officer at: The London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London, N11 1NP (email foi@barnet.gov.uk).

If you remain dissatisfied with the handling of your request or complaint, you have a right to appeal to the Information Commissioner at: The Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF (telephone: 08456 30 60 60 or 01625 54 57 45; website: www.ico.gov.uk).

There is no charge for making an appeal.

Yours sincerely,


Mike Fahey
Divisional Manager, Adult Library Services
London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP
Tel: 020 8359 3164

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Ed Milliband

Just got back from Portcullis House & a meeting with Ed Milliband and Business minister Gordon Banks.
The meeting was organised by the Federation of Small Business (FSB). Ed Milliband was keen to hear the views of people running such businesses (which in itself is a welcome change). Gordon Banks is one of only seven MP's who responded to a survey in 2007 stating they had experience of running a small business. I must say Gordon impressed me.

The discussions were private, although Ed is happy for us to mention the fact the meeting took place. All I can say is that  it is encouraging to hear that he is keen to hear our views. He will be addressing the FSB conference. I passionately believe that Small business is an area of teh economy which has been neglected and should be encouraged. I have asked several times for the opportunity to arrange a meeting with senior Barnet Tories and been rebuffed, hoping to discuss various issues affecting local firms. Let's hope that the fact that the Leader of the Labour Party has bothered may inspire them to take a more sensible approach. For all his faults, at least Mike Freer engaged with local business when he was leader of the Council. This has completely stopped since the election last year. Lets hope Ed's good example will inspire Hillan to be a bit more business friendly.

GLA Tories Roger Evans and James Cleverly have big fashion fallout

Yesterday Tory GLA leader Roger Evans posted this blog
http://city-hall.blogspot.com/2011/03/redbridge-roundabout.html

In it he featured this picture -

One of his stroppy and rather amibitious underlings - James Cleverly - (clearly out for Rogers job) immediately posted this blog containing the advice :-

There is an old saying which states "one should never wear brown in town" meaning brown shoes are inappropriate business wear in the Square Mile.
http://jamescleverly.blogspot.com/2011/03/congestion-charging-and-brown-shoes.html

It is believed that as Roger entered City Hall yesterday, he turned to Cleverly and muttered "Et Tu Brutus".

(Ok, I'll confess, James posted his blog first, but you have to admit it's rather funny). I would suggest the pair of themselves get off down to see Gok as they could both do with a makeover (only joking boys).