Friday, 30 September 2011

The Friday Joke - 30/9/2011

As I sit contemplating this glorious Indian summer and the shenanigans at Barnet Council this week, I was rather stumped for a suitable Friday joke. Then I remembered may dear old Dad's favourite joke. I've modified it slightly to make it more current. There's an English Councillor - Brian Coleman, Sir Alex Ferguson ( I've been told he's a well known Scotsman), and a Welsh Councillor - Daniel Thomas (the only twat in the Village by all accounts).

They are at a civic reception to celebrate Great Britian at Hendon Town Hall. To show their national allegiance, Brian Coleman has a red English rose, Sir Alex Ferguson has a Thistle and Councillor Daniel Thomas has a bunch of Daffodils. All three get struck down with a sudden urge to go for a poo, they are ushered into the Mayors private lavatory (refurbished recently at a cost of £11,000 - seriously).

Brian enters the toilet first and after many gurgles, farmyard noises and pongs, emerges with a smug grin. He announces "Sorry guys, I've used up the last of the Mayors toilet roll". Undaunted, and using the sharp minded intellect for which he is famed, Fergie grabs the bunch of daffodils off Thomas and enters the cubicle. After more farmyard noises and smells, Fergie emerges with a huge grin, but no daffodils. Thomas enquires "What have you done with my daffodils". Sir Alex laughs "Sorry Sonny, their was no toilet paper and needs must". Thomas is mortified "But daffodils are the national symbol of wales, you've wiped your arse on the national symbol of wales." Sir Alex, chortles and says "I'm sorry sonny, here get your own back when you go" and hands him his Thistle.

Have a nice weekend (and for those of you who don't understand humour, it's a joke. I'm sure that Sir Alex would never do such a thing to Councillor Daniel Thomas. As to whether Brian Coleman would leave Dan Thomas in the lurch with the loo roll situation, I'm pleased to say I have no idea whatsoever).

An open letter to Cllr Richard Cornelius, Barnet Council Leader from David Miller, former chairman of Chipping Barnet Conservative Association

Dear Richard

I was extremely concerned to read in the local media that Cllr Daniel Thomas claimed that it cost the council £40,000 to respond to FOI requests from just one individual - reportedly the blogger known as Mr Mustard. Unless the council is forced to pay staff overtime in processing such requests, it is patently obvious that there is no marginal cost to taxpayers whatsoever and it is completely dishonest to suggest otherwise. Staff responding to FOI requests are merely using the time for which they are already being paid.

You should be aware that with regard to trying to embarrass members of the public exercising their legal rights, Cllr Thomas has form. In November 2008, he asked Mike Freer a clearly planted question which alleged that I had made the most FOI requests in the preceding 6 months. The stated figure of 29 requests was demonstrably incorrect and, as the Information Commissioner subsequently confirmed following my complaint, Barnet Council had no legal right to publish my name in this report.

The council nonetheless refused to redact my details arguing that the publication of my name did not identify me personally, as prohibited by law. Rather, they claimed that the report referred to all David Millers in the Borough. Somebody in the council was actually paid to write this errant nonsense and this should be of greater concern to you than the cost of complying with an Act of Parliament.

You will recall that when the Conservatives won control of the Council in 2002, the then leader made a speech in which he promised “an open and honest” Administration. Sadly, the opposite has proven true. There is a culture of obsessive secrecy which permeates through every fibre of the council’s being. Barnet is seemingly more concerned with spending money on lawyers in an attempt to keep secret that which should be public, than in allowing greater access to information in accordance with official Conservative policy.

The Information Commissioner’s guidelines state that the council’s default position should be to publish all information without the requirement of being asked. If the council adhered to these guidelines, it would obviate the need for most of the FOI requests submitted. Obviously certain categories of information must, by law, remain confidential but far too much is kept secret on spurious grounds. One such reason often cited is commercial sensitivity. It may have escaped your notice, but the council is not a commercial organisation. It is a public body whose sole raison d’être is to serve the public. Everything the council does is in our name and on our behalf. We have an absolute right to know what you are doing at all times.

It clearly grates on senior councillors and officers that members of the public are rather adept at exposing failures in the council’s processes, but an enlightened authority should thank residents for identifying their shortcomings, rather than indulge in petty obfuscation and vilification.

If any councillors are unhappy with the concept of public scrutiny of the decision making process, they are, of course, free to stand down from public office. It is called public for a reason.

Kind regards

David

Barnet Bloggers ask : Is Mr Bean in charge of PR at Barnet Council?

Unbeleiveable. That was the general consensus regarding Barnet Council's comments that "One blogger has cost the Council £40,000 by sending in 175 FoI requests". Who is running their publicity machine? Mr Bean. Well thanks Barnet, another record day on the blog stats, as hundreds of people do google searches on "Barnet Blogs" and arrive here. Welcome to all the new readers. What do they find? A group of people who are trying to make the council do it's job properly, by reporting on scandals and blunders at Barnet Council. They find that a council has claimed to have spent £40,000 answering questions which it could have answered for a fraction of that cost, if it had its systems and procedures set up properly. FoI requests don't say "I demand my million pounds". They say things like "Can the council confirm whether Barnet Council ever checked whether Metpro Security Limited had a license to legally provide security services". A properly run council would have a document management system, to which they'd type in "Metpro SIA license" and up it would pop (or not). It would take 1/2 an hour (being charitable) of a junior FoI clerk's time. How can that cost £228? I've submitted 6 FoI requests in the last year. Three were answered after the legally required 20 day period. 50% late.

As I explained yesterday, the blogs of Barnet have saved the taxpayer hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds by making the council do their job properly. I for one welcome the council starting this debate. It can only be good for residents and taxpayers

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Is former Hendon Conservative Deputy chairman planning to set up a refuge for travellers from Dale Farm in Totteridge Valley

I kid you not. Belmont Childrens Farm, Barnets best zoo, has been told by Barnet Council that it has to close, due to lack of planning permission. It is owned by local celebrity Mr Andrew Reid, racehorse owner and big time lawyer. Mr Reid was previously a deputy chairman of the Hendon Conservative Party, with a special role for membership and fundraising. Following the enforcement notice being upheld this week, Mr Reids Farm have issued this press release on their website.

You will surely note the fourth paragraph and it's reference to the residents of Dale Farm. Is the press release a rather unsubtle attempt to use the Dale Farm situation to get Barnet Council to drop their objections? Surely not?

You can check for planning applications here -
http://planningcases.barnet.gov.uk/planning-cases/acolnetcgi.exe

I put in the Belmont Centre's postcode and could not find the planning permission for residential use referred to below - NW7 1QT - so I'd be very interested to see where this is?

Anyway, we'd welcome a guest blog from Mr Reid or one of his staff explaining the background to the case and why Barnet Council have been so horrible to him, in making him close the zoo, purely because he didn't apply for planning permission.  As ever we'd print this with no editing or alterations (assuming it was legal and decent).

There's more about the zoo here - http://www.belmontfarm.co.uk/save.php

and here - http://www.belmontfarm.co.uk/

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Belmont Staff Press Release
 The appeal decision hearing held 21st June 2011 by Diane Lewis an inspector appointed by the secretary of state for communities and local government has finally come back with a decision on 27th September to decline our appeal.
We, the staff of Belmont Farm, feel so let-down by Barnet Council and the planning authority and feel we have been unjustly set upon. How is the council now going to provide 15 jobs for us in the present job desert? Especially when in this current financial depression a business focused toward community adhesion and education, providing apprenticeships and work experience, all fitting towards the BIG SOCIETY OBJECTIVES – sitting within an ever declining child friendly borough – is privately funded and is to be closed within 6 months.
We are a farm and have always have been a farm! It has been stated that in the conclusion Belmont Children’s Farm has become a primary use as opposed to an ancillary to the existing planning for agricultural or equestrian uses. Yes it has become a necessity as a main income generator for the agricultural and equestrian as farm diversification IS a necessity to survival within an ever changing business climate, we are still farming – our animals are mainly breeding stock for resale, we have no toys or gimmicks, just animals and education. And the farm has been loved by over 60’000 visitors.
We feel we should unite with Dale Farm as we understand their plight foe homes as being the same as ours for a job. If they close the farm maybe they could come here, after all we have residential planning
Does the council and neighbours prefer the car park, which has always been there, to go back to a farm storage area with hay and silage and Machinery parking? How is the closing of Belmont Children’s Farm helping the community use of the greenbelt?
We are desperate for Belmont Farm to stay open and, in reading the appeal decision; it is seen in our view that if we apply for new planning then this will be granted now the Inspector has corrected Barnet’s unreasonable conditions. The inspector Diane Lewis has weighted the decision in this way with a large number of the council’s objections getting a slap on the wrist. We the staff plan to ask the council that if an application is put in following the inspectors recommendation that it will be granted in eight weeks so as not to affect the closure of the farm and loss of jobs?
We still have so much to give to the community and London. The NFU is coming to Belmont Farm on 27th and 28th October to emphasize the need for farming and food production education.
 PLEASE HELP is all we can say!
Incidentally our London Mayor forgot in the London Plan to make mention of children’s farms in green belts. What is he going to do?
Shane Harrison
PH: 02073184420 Email: sharrison@belmontfarm.co.uk

Barnet Council misleads over £40,000 for FoI Enquiries and is exposed.

So there I was, enjoying a nice free lunch, courtesy of my good friend Brian (no, not that one!) at Gabriels Wharf in the beautiful sunshine. Just as I was about to take a mouthful of the delicious ceasar salad, my mobile goes. I don't recognise the number. I answer. A voice I don't recognise says "Hi, this is Josh from the Hendon Times, is that Roger Tichborne from the Barnet Eye?". I say "yes, how can I help?". Josh asks "Are you the blogger who has submitted 175 FoI requests since April and cost the Council £40,000? in costs". I was rather taken aback "Erm, no I think I've submitted about 10" (I just got home and counted, actually it's six + a couple of emails to Council officials which have been transformed into FoI requests).

I enquire. It transpires that Barnet Council planted this story on the public services website -
http://www.publicservice.co.uk/news_story.asp?id=17567 - in retaliation for the bloggers of Barnet having the audacity to write to Eric Pickles about the total failure of Barnet Council to respond properly to FoI requests. I have learned that when the Council start behaving like this, it means we've won. 

So off I went and read the article. Here is a quoye :-
Daniel Thomas, the council's deputy leader, said: "Barnet was one of the first councils in the country to publish all spending over £500 and we are committed to open government as well as responding to freedom of information requests in a timely manner."
Any reader of the blogs of Barnet will know just how misleading Councillor Daniel Thomas is being. The only question about Councillor Thomas response is whether he's being stupid, lazy or dishonest. How can I say with such certainty that he's misleading us. Because I have the proof to hand.
 
Labour GLA candidate Andrew Dismore tried to find out just how bad Barnet are at answering FOI requests. Barnet refused to answer on the grounds that it would cost too much to tell him. Now personally I'd have thought the FoI department would have a spreadsheet containing all of this info. I would have thought this would enable them to monitor compliance with the act. When requests come in and when they are responded to seems a sensible thing to log, given that they are supposed to respond within 20 days. Seems not. Here is the response the Council sent to Dismore :-
(Parts 1b to 1e)
Number of requests received between 21 July 2009 and 21 July 2011 that were
answered within the statutory time.
Number that were not answered relying on a statutory defence.
Number that were answered outside the statutory time
The average period for a reply during this period. 
Background information
Under the FOIA public authorities must respond promptly and in any event within 20 working days from receipt of a request. If a public authority has asked the requestor to clarify the request, this period starts on the day when it receives the clarification. If a public authority is withholding the information by applying an exemption for which it needs to consider the ‘public interest test’, it may extend its time for considering release of the information beyond 20 working days. Similarly, under the EIRs a public authority may extend the deadline for responding if a request is ‘complex and voluminous’. 
Refusal notice
From my preliminary assessment I estimate that identifying, locating, retrieving and extracting the information to respond to these parts of your request would exceed the appropriate costs limit under section 12 of the FOIA. This is currently £450. The council’s current request-management system does contain much of the information required to respond to these parts of your request. However to retrieve this information we would need to undertake a manual trawl though the 2283 entries. For many requests we would also need to search records saved by officers held outside of the system. I estimate that it would take approximately 20 minutes of officer time to obtain all the relevant information in relation to each of the 2283 requests, or 761 hours in total. At a cost of £25 per hour the estimated cost would be £19,025. The council recognises the need to be able to quickly and accurately report on aspects of FOIA compliance such as those referred to in these parts of your request. We are in the process of procuring a replacement request-management system that will be able to automatically produce accurate data on FOIA compliance.
Got that. It would cost £19,025 for Barnet to tell Mr Dismore whether Barnet Council complies with the law. This when a simple system of logging requests on an excel spreadsheet would do the trick? Mr Dismore asked some other questions, which give some clue as to how out of hand the situation is. 
(Part 1k)
The longest delay before a reply was sent
During the two-year period of your request the longest such delay was 138 working days.
(Parts 2 and 3)
The number outstanding, beyond the statutory period for reply
The longest period an outstanding request has been awaiting reply
Over recent months the council has received an unprecedented volume of requests for information, and in 2010 the council received over twice the average for English local authorities. Whilst 79% of requests since April 2011 were responded to within the statutory period, there were 44 requests outstanding at the date of your request, the oldest one received on 18 February 2011. We are working on responding to all overdue requests and towards ensuring that, over the course of the current financial year, 90% or requests are responded to within the statutory periods.
The statutory period is 20 days. This clearly has regularly been missed.  Barnet seem to misunderstand the term "statuatory period". This doesn't mean some vague target date, it means a legally required deadline. 

Which brings us to Daniel Thomas claim that "one blogger has submitter 175 requests since April and cost £44,000". I suppose if it costs £19,025 to answer a question which should be available in a basic spreadsheet, then it is possible it cost Barnet Council this much. We have to ask whether it is just another reflection of the chaos in their systems and ways of working. Barnet Council has to legally work within the FoI framework. They should have systems tailored to this. Just suppose the ICO office (who are responsible for monitoring FoI requests asked Barnet the question Dismore) asked for details of compliance. Would it really cost Barnet nearly £20 K to tell them? Surely they have an electronic document repositry, where this information can quickly be accessed. It should be no more complex than a google search on this system, to identify the documents, using relevent key words.
 
What may be more worrying for Barnet CEO Nick Walkley, Leader Richard Cornelius and dunce of the year Dan Thomas is the fact that Tory minister Eric Pickles agrees with the bloggers of Barnet. Today he issued this communication for councils
 

To quote Mr Pickles :-
Releasing this information to the public could provide a wealth of local knowledge and spark more improvements in the way services are delivered. Faster publication and easier access for the public and companies could open new possibilities for real-time analysis and response and opportunities for small businesses to enter new markets.
The best local authorities have already adopted the code of practice into their normal publishing routines. Councils like Northamptonshire County Council, Hammersmith and Fulham and Windsor and Maidenhead for example have long ago thrown their books wide open for public scrutiny and publish much of the data specified in the code already.
Sooner or later, the Tories of Barnet are going to have to face up to the fact that they are out of step with the national mood. If they just followed Pickles advice and had an openness and transparancy policy, they would have saved the taxpayer £40,000 answering FoI requests that would be, in the main, completely unnecessary. 
 
One thing Councillor Dan Thomas didn't mention is the money which the Barnet bloggers have saved, by our diligent trawling through council papers & our non stop action on behalf of the people of Barnet. Last year this blog lead a successful campaign to get the self awarded payrise for the Barnet Council Cabinet reversed. The united bloggers of Barnet exposed the fiasco with Metpro as a result Barnet found a far cheaper supplier of security services. We also got an overhaul of procurement into the bargain, potentially saving tens of millions of pounds (not that Barnet will admit it). We have campaigned for value for money in the Toxic One Barnet program and I've been reliably informed that this has already lead to some of the more bonkers excesses being abandoned. Perhaps the greatest compliment is that I've been informed that my old sparring buddy Brian Coleman (yup, praise where it's due) has on several occasions got his more deluded colleagues to drop bonkers schemes by pointing out "The bloggers will have a field day with this". Whilst Brian Coleman couldn't give a damn what bloggers say about us, he knows most of his chums in the party are scared to death by this threat. Whilst I don't agree with much the old duffer says, I do acknowledge that he has finely tuned political instincts and has scuppered a few bonkers schemes, which he knows would come back to haunt the Tories, merely by mentioning "blogger bogeymen".

But back to the issue of FoI responses. Perhaps the most interesting and telling this is this FoI response,  which I received today.
Ref: 90210110

Dear Mr Tichborne,

I am writing in respect of your recent request for information received on 21st September 2011. Your request has been processed under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Please see our response to your request below.

Please could you provide any information held by Barnet council relating to potential sites for permanent traveller sites. There is a legal requirement to provide these, so please provide all documentation which identifies where Barnet may have either a) planned to site them or b) reviewed and discarded as an option.

Please also provide any emails from councillors to council officials relating to these decisions.

Our approach to identifying new sites for Gypsies and Travellers is set out in the Core Strategy planning document, available on our website (link: http://www.barnet.gov.uk/core-strategy-proposed-submission-document-may-2011.pdf) and this is in line with existing Government guidance - Circular 01/2006 - Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Caravan Sites.

Circular 01/2006 requires the local planning authority to set out criteria in their Core Strategy for the location of gypsy and traveller sites in order to guide the allocation of sites and to meet unexpected demand. Barnet’s criteria are:

ÿ       Potential of the site for good management
ÿ       Impact on local environment, character and amenity
ÿ       Access to essential services including water and waste disposal

Within the Site Allocations document which identifies future sites for development we will seek to identify land to meet the long term needs of Gypsies and Travellers. Other than setting out our criteria based policy the Council has yet to identify or review sites for Gypsies and Travellers. The Site Allocations document is the correct planning document for such a process. The Site Allocations document will be subject to at least two rounds of public consultation and we would expect to commence engagement on it in 2012.

As the review for such sites has not started yet there has been no correspondence on the matter of Gypsy and Traveller sites.


Your rights of review and appeal

We believe we have correctly applied the provisions of the FOIA in this response. However 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 6060 or 01625 54 5745; website: www.ico.gov.uk). There is no charge for making an appeal.

Kind regards,

K******** S***
FOI & EIR Link Officer
Environment, Planning and Regeneration
London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP
Tel: 020 8359 24**
Barnet Online: www.barnet.gov.uk


From: B*****, M****
Sent: 21 September 2011 14:33
To: S****, H****
Cc: S* C*******, T****; S****, K******
Subject: FW: FoI request - Traveller pitches


From: Roger Tichborne
Sent: 19 September 2011 21:01
To: Freedom of Information Act
Subject: FoI request - Traveller pitches

Dear Freedom of Information,

Please could you provide any information held by barnet council relating to potential sites for permanent traveller sites. There is a legal requirement to provide these, so please provide all documentation which identifies where Barnet may have either a) planned to site them or b) reviewed and discarded as an option.

Please also provide any emails from councillors to council officials relating to these decisions.

Regards
Roger Tichborne
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Temporary Housing in Barnet - Am I the only person who finds this DPR disgusting & despicable

I've just come across this Barnet Council Delegated powers report, signed off by Councillor Tom Davey. It's not often I'm truly shocked but this is scandalous. They should have the BBC and ITV outside Barnet Town Hall.

First look at section 4.1 - it says
Analysis undertaken in the London Borough of Barnet, shows that almost 70% of
households in temporary accommodation are from non-white households,
compared to 20% of the Borough’s population as a whole. This suggests that the
black and ethnic minority households are at greater risk of the potential negative
effects of living in TA
There is a myth that immigrants are given all of the council houses. Not in Barnet, rather clearly. Having stated that this is an issue, what do the council say they will do to introduce some fairness? Absolutely nothing.

Having declared that housing allocation in Barnet is in effect discriminatory and racist, they then spend the whole of section 8 discussing ways to line the pockets of private Landlords. Anyone who has seen Councillor Tom Davey, who signed this off, in action will know that he is not exactly filled to the brim with compassion.

So there is another group of people who we can add to the list of Council Cabinet Members, Council senior executives and high earning consultants, who all do well out of the council. We can add private landlords who let properties to the council for people in dire straits.

Temporary Housing

And on the subject of private Landords in Barnet, I wondered if any Barnet Councillors have significant property assets and interests in properties. What do you think?
rayner

Barnet Council can afford to splash out on propoganda but not cemetey repairs

Barnet Council just get worse and worse. A day before the council was meant to debate a report which made the shocking statement about Hendon Cemetery
The dilapidations, disrepair and lack of modern, fit for purpose facilities act as a deterrent to using Hendon as a venue of choice.
They posted this video on Youtube, featuring Councillor Daniel Thomas. Now I've no idea how much this cost, but it is clearly professionally filmed, lit and edited. So yet again we see a council which has enough cash for propoganda videos but can't afford to even maintain the final resting place of our loved ones.
In the video, Councillor Thomas says that we are at risk of losing "Libraries, rubbish collection and street cleaning". No mention of highly paid bosses or contractors going. Thomas goes on to say that the overdevelopment in the west of the Borough (a key council policy) has now given them "challenges". Surely only an idiot doesn't realise more flats = more people = more reception places. Thomas misses two obvious points. Firstly, if there are more people, there will be more income from taxes and secondly, you can put tax up if you are not collecting enough cash to meet your obligations. Thomas asks "what are your priorities for Barnet Council". My answer "stop wasting money on gimmicks like this and spend the cash on core services"

A message to the Leadership of Barnet Council - Don't mess with the dead !

***** Warning - this blog contains even more deranged rantings than usual *****
I sincerely hope all of the cabinet of Barnet Council are committed athiests, for their own sake. Let me explain why. Last night, the Leaders of Barnet Council met to discuss selling off Hendon Cemetary. I chose not to attend. My mother, my father, my Grandma, my Grandpa, my Godmother and a whole stack of uncles and aunties and friends are buried there.  One day, I hope I am (if they ever find the body). I find it very hard to be rational and reasonable given this fact, when I read council reports that say things like
The dilapidations, disrepair and lack of modern, fit for purpose facilities act as a deterrent to using Hendon as a venue of choice.
In plain English (with **** for those of you of a delicate disposition), it means "The bunch of C**** (ie The Leadership of Barnet Council) running the cemetry, have let the final resting place of my nearest and dearest fall into rack and ruin". Last night they were discussing "outsourcing" it (ie flogging it off). I was planning to go and film the whole sorry shooting match, where it was discussed, but I bottled it. I was genuinely worried I may do or say something I'd regret. I doubt that many things would provoke such a response, but my parents final resting place is one such thing. My parents are buried next to the grave of an eight month old baby, which for years has been lovingly tended. When my wife was pregnant with Matt, we visited my parents grave and the sight of the baby's mum laying flowers was too much for her. We had to leave immediately, with her in a flood of tears.

I also happen to believe that this Conservative administration contributed in a big way to my mothers final demise. In 2001 she had a stroke and found many things difficult. She was determined to live independently in her flat, but to ensure she ate properly, meals on wheels were arranged. In April 2007, Barnet Council outsourced the service. Here is an extract of a letter I sent to the leaders of the council and my local councillors at the time :-

As you may be aware the meals on wheels service provided by Barnet Council today changed operators. My mother, who is 81 years old and disbled following a stroke, generally relies on this service for a hot meal at lunchtimes. Under the previous provider, the meals would come without fail before 12 Noon. My mother was rather upset when the previous lady who delivered her dinner informed her that her company had lost the contract and a new supplier would be taking over. If you are familiar with the elderly, routine becomes a matter of paramount importance. Having already become unsettled by this change, my mother became extremely distressed when the meal did not arrive.
Eventually the meal was delivered at 5.10pm, over 5 hours later than usual. My sister who is visiting from America, was with my mother and was informed by the driver that the meal had been on the van since 13.00. It was completely dried up and inedible(to say nothing of the health risk of having a meal on a van that long). The delivery company informed my sister that there were at least 10 outstanding deliveries.
This pattern continued for several weeks. I believe the stress of this added to the realisation for my mother that her independence was reliant on a less than reliable council made her lose the will to live. She struggled on, but this was a major turning point for her. When she passed away in August 2008, I vowed that as a mark of respect, I'd fight for all the people like her,  who don't have a stroppy son. That's one of the reasons I write this blog. To read the report on cemetaries in such cold terms, made my blood boil. I ducked out, choosing instead to watch Manchester City get humiliated by Bayern Munich. As I watched the match unfold, I thought "maybe this is my punishment for ducking the meeting to decide the fate of my parents grave" (us Irish Catholics are a mighty superstitious lot). Then I read Mrs Angry's blog on the meeting. Unlike me, she hadn't bottled out of it -
http://wwwbrokenbarnet.blogspot.com/2011/09/these-people-residents-not-wanted-dead.html -

And what did the debate consist of? Absolutely F*** all. They simply all said agreed. That was it. Now I feel like a C*** for not recording the whole debacle. In actual fact I'd I had a tip off about what happened before I went to bed. It clearly troubled me. Before my mum passed away, I'd visit her every evening after work and share a guinness with her. We'd discuss all manner of things. It's a routine I really miss. When I finally fell asleep, I found myself dreaming that I was back in her front room. We were having a guinness and a lovely chat.  All of a sudden she turned to me and said "Why didn't you go up and film those bastards, people have a right to see that". I was completely taken aback. I suddenly remembered she was dead. She then said "Mark my words, they will regret this, they should respect the dead. They will be cursed for this". It was extremely vivid. Wheras I usually forget dreams within five minutes of waking up, this has troubled me all day. My mother had occasionally used the phrase "They will be cursed for this", but only at the most trying of time. She once told me she'd personally put a curse on Adolph Hitler when one of his bombers had destroyed the shop she was working at in New Bond Street. She used to say "The next day the papers told how we'd beaten Hitler in the battle of El Alamein and the Germans never won another battle". As I said, the Irish are a very superstitious lot.

As I said, hope the Cabinet of Barnet Council are a bunch of athiests, because I have a sneaking suspicion that if they are not, they may very well not be sleeping too well in future. I think only a very brave or a very unsuperstitious soul shits on the dead relatives of the people they are meant to serve. And mark my words (make of them what you will) they will live to regret this, maybe not today, or even tomorrow, but I truly believe they will regret this. I'd like to take the opportunity to remind them what happened to the last bunch of Tories to disrespect the dead of Mill Hill - http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2001/dec/14/conservatives.politics1

You may draw your own conclusions about the fate of Dame Shirley Porter and her cronies, but I believe that the saying "Show some respect for the dead" is as much a warning as a request.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Someone doesn't understand the concept of an open and transparent administration, do they?

Email 1

Belmont Childrens Farm - Planning appeal decision - the appeal by the farm owner has been rejected

Many people in Mill Hill, the London Borough of Barnet and elsewhere will be interested to read the results of the appeal by Mr Andew Reid (former deputy chairman of the Hendon Conservative Party), owner of Belmont Childrens Farm against the London Borough of Barnet, who issued enforcement notices against the farm. This blog has closely followed this issue, given the issues at stake for the conservation area and Mill Hill.

I look forward to comments from various local Conservatives, who were very keen to give their views on the situation at Dale Farm, where a travellers camp has been erected without planning permission. They rather lamely claimed "they didn't have the details to comment". Well they do now, as the whole decision is published here.

Please read the judgement in full and form your own opinions. I have.

Belmont Childrens Farm

Monday, 26 September 2011

A stark example of what's wrong with our attitude to road safety in Barnet

I saw this article in the Barnet Times today -

http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/9272241.Two_car_crashes_in_Finchley_Road_this_morning/

What struck me is how greater emphasis was put on the "severe tailbacks for motorists" than the fact that people were hurt, ambulances called and people taken to hospital. The article begins -

TWO car crashes caused severe tailbacks for motorists in Finchley this morning.
Having been hospitalised by a speeding car, it outrages me that these reports never really tell us what caused the accidents (speed? Alcohol? Bad driving) and what level of injuries were caused. Until we start caring about road safety, nothing will improve. A good place to start would be to follow up these stories, say why the accidents happen, how badly people were hurt and what sanctions were taken against the drivers.

Last week a well known 81 year old man helping out a charity was run over on the pavement in Mill Hill. For a man of this age, at the very least this could be a life changing injury. Barnet Council has an atrocious record on road safety, removing many measures designed to slow down motorists. Ignorant Tories claim speed has no influence on any accident, clearly being too thick to understand that every time a car hits something it's because it was going too fast to stop.

As a father of three children, it scares the hell out of me, but all our road supremo, Councillor Brian Coleman seems to care about is the rights of motorists to go as fast as they like.  Many traffic calming measures on roads on popular walking routes to local schools (Uphill Road, Watling Avenue, Millway) have been  removed. Barnet has seen it's road safety figures become steadily worse than equivalent London Boroughs. When will these idiots ever learn?

Barnet Council accused of trying to close down Barnet Football club.

Barnet Council has been accused by Barnet FC of trying to force the club out of Underhill and out of the Borough. The full report is here on the Barnet FC website -

http://www.barnetfc.com/page/LatestNews/0,,10431~2459648,00.html

I am disgusted. The club accuse Barnet Council of trying to prevent vehicle access to the ground (access which has been fine for years). They are trying to reduce the footprint of the club and cut the numbers allowed into the ground. In short they are trying to kill the club (or at least force it out of Barnet).

It is truly disgusting that the Council is acting in this way. Most councils see a league club as a tremendous asset and do everything they can to help them. Barnet could be a force driving fitness and educational quality in Barnet. Instead we have a completely blinkered Tory administration, which seems to be conducting a love affair with a Rugby club from outside the Borough, knifing our local club in the back.

The idiots clearly do not see the benefit and the huge prestige of having a league club. How many other London Boroughs get their profile raised every time the football scores are read out? Barnet FC are not my first club, but they are most definately my second. It is time for everyone who cares about football to get behind the club. I will be writing to both Andrew  Dismore and Brian Coleman, who are battling it out for a GLA seat to see what their position is on Barnet FC and what they intend to do. I will reproduce any response I receive in this blog. Here is the email :-


From: Roger Tichborne
Sent: Monday, September 26, 2011 11:05 PM
Subject: Barnet Football Club being forced out of Barnet

Dear Councillor Coleman and Mr Dismore,
 
I am writing to you as prospective GLA candidates (and in the case of Councillor Coleman GLA representative and Barnet Council cabinet member) to ask your position with regard to the licensing dispute between Barnet Council and Barnet Football club .
 
 
Please could you answer the following questions regarding the club.
 
a) Do you agree that having a Football league club in the Borough is a huge assett to Barnet?
b) Do you want to see Barnet FC relocate to another London Borough?
c) Will you be making representations to Barnet Council and the Mayor of London to sort the situation out and allow Barnet Fc to continue to provide great enjoyment to many people in the London Borough of Barnet?
d) Have you been, or will you be speaking to Mr Kleanthous (Chairman of Barnet FC) to seek to assist the club and resolve this ridiculous dispute.
 
I will be publishing any response to this email on the Barnet Eye for the 1,000 + a day readers of the blog. Please feel free to add any comments you may have regarding the situation.
 
Regards
Roger Tichborne
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I await their answers. I sincerely hope every football loving voter bears this in mind when the time comes to vote at the next Council & GLA elections.

Barnet Bloggers write to Eric Pickles about lack of transparency at Barnet Council

A letter to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government


Dear Mr Pickles,
In June last year, as part of your policy of commitment to the principle of ‘localism’ and greater accountability by local authorities to the communities they represent, you issued the following statement:
New era of transparency will bring about a revolution in town hall openness and accountability
“Getting council business out in the open will revolutionise local government.  Local people should be able to hold politicians and public bodies to account over how their hard earned cash is being spent and decisions made on their behalf. They can only do that effectively if they have the information they need at their fingertips.
“The public should be able to see where their money goes and what it delivers. The swift and simple changes we are calling for today will unleash an army of armchair auditors and quite rightly make those charged with doling out the pennies stop and think twice about whether they are getting value for money.”
As part of your programme of action to make local authorities more accountable you have created an obligation for them to disclose details of expenditure and have expressed the intention to compel councils to allow citizen journalists to film, photograph and tweet reports of council meetings.
In conjunction with these new directives, you have expressed the wish that residents use existing legislation in order to scrutinise the processes of local government, including, most importantly, the rights given in the Freedom of Information Act of 2000.
All of these suggestions are commendable, and should indeed further extend the powers of scrutiny to local communities.

It is deeply regrettable, therefore, that here in the London Borough of Barnet, rather than embrace a policy of greater transparency, the Conservative administration is making every effort to resist any obligation to be more accountable to its electorate, and is, in direct opposition to your wishes, obstructing the efforts of the armchair auditors that you so applaud.
In a speech at the CIPFA conference in July this year you made the following remark:

“I was shocked by a recent case in Barnet. The council had hired a private security firm, MetPro, which included “keeping an eye” on local bloggers - at a cost of over a million pounds. The contract had been awarded without a tendering exercise, without a written contract, and no proper invoicing. An internal audit showed there “serious deficiencies in current procurement arrangements”, and there were no guarantees that against a repeat of such practices.

Irony of ironies - this misuse of public money was uncovered thanks to the determination of local bloggers and activists, including Barnet Eye, Mr Mustard, and Mrs Angry (as she had every right to be.) Exactly the same people MetPro snooped upon.

I've got news for Barnet. Live blogging from council meetings. Microjournalism. Call it what you like. It's here to stay. In fact this citizen samizdat - local people reporting on their local council's triumphs and shortcomings - is the perfect counterblast to town hall Pravdas.”

As you know, Mr Pickles, here in Barnet bloggers have had to fight for the right to film council meetings, and we have made huge efforts to uncover the ‘deficiencies’ which lay at the heart of the MetPro affair, as well as bringing to the attention of the community a number of other serious issues of concern to all residents.

Earlier this year, in defiance of the move to greater transparency and accountability, and to a more meaningful engagement with citizens, we have seen Barnet’s Conservative administration attack the local constitution, restricting the right of elected councillors to speak at meetings, and worst of all, censoring the local Residents Forums so that absolutely no discussion of any council ‘policy’ may now be raised, nor any issue alluded to within a six month period be submitted for inclusion. These and other draconian and undemocratic regulations are read out in detail at every Forum, and their imposition has caused enormous anger and resentment amongst residents.

Even more worrying, perhaps, is that the culture of secrecy and fear of transparency which is so endemic in this local authority has now extended to the council’s flagrant abuse of the Freedom of Information Act.

Barnet bloggers and armchair auditors – and other residents – who have submitted FOI requests to Barnet Council are increasingly having their enquiries obstructed or needlessly delayed, particularly enquiries on issues of political or financial sensitivity.

Two FOI requests submitted by residents in regard to the MetPro affair, for example, were only answered a few days ago, on 16th September, after an inexplicable delay of several months.

One request had been made in early April, the other in early May. As you will know, the statutory period within which responses must be made is 20 days.

Another request made in relation to potential declarations of interest between senior officers of the council and a major private company was ignored for months and then obstructed on a pretext, despite a current outsourcing tender process for a package of services worth a staggering £750 million in total, in which this influential company is now one of those shortlisted.

In Barnet there is no open declaration of interests, gifts, or hospitality given to senior officers, and one response given to an FOI request by a blogger in regard to such declarations was sent with the identities of donors withheld, invalidating the information and again obstructing the purpose of the enquiry.

The FOI request in regard to the tendering company was reported to the external auditors at a meeting in July: despite an assurance that the issue would be investigated by them under the terms of their remit, we are not aware of any progress in their enquiry.

After struggling to hold the authority to account for FOI responses which were withheld, delayed, or misleading, one Barnet blogger has recently been sent, in reply to a perfectly valid question regarding a hugely over budget IT system, a response refusing to address his request for information, on the grounds that it is ‘vexatious’ and because of the alleged number of previous enquiries.

In Barnet, bloggers, armchair auditors and residents are obliged to resort to making an increasingly large number of FOI requests in response to an obstinate refusal by the authority to comply with the intentions of your stated commitment to greater openness, accountability and transparency, and in order to place the necessary information in the public domain, in a medium easily accessible to all.

Despite the demonstrably inadequate state of preparation revealed by the MetPro audit report, and despite the concerns of so many backbench Conservative councillors, a highly controversial programme of massive outsourcing is being promoted by Barnet’s senior management team and council leadership as the keystone policy of the ‘easycouncil’, One Barnet agenda. There could hardly be a time in which a need for openness and accountability could be more pressing. Public confidence in the governance of this borough is, however, at an all time low, and we, as residents and citizen journalists therefore ask that you, in defence of your policy of localism, investigate the obstructive and anti-democratic practices employed by this authority in a sustained attempt to prevent proper scrutiny of its actions and decisions.

Yours sincerely,

Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne

Sunday, 25 September 2011

One Barnet bidders Serco's MD takes Brian Coleman to lunch

You'll never guess what. I just happened to be researching the very latest installment of the Brian Coleman Free Dinner register, which is officially the most popular series of blogs ever to grace the Barnet blogging scene when, guess what? My old friend Mrs Angry had the audacity to pop up a nice shiny new blog all about outsourcing in Barnet. Well I'm always keen to see what the competition are up to, so I pootled off for a mosey.

( http://wwwbrokenbarnet.blogspot.com/2011/09/one-barnet-up-for-sale-welcome-to-house.html )

Now sadly for once, dear old Mrs Angry is not quite as up to speed as she could be on the subject of Brian Colemans views on OneBarnet. She is labouring under the misapprension that our beloved Councillor Brian Coleman who is also a £53 Grand a year GLA member and the £25 grand a year chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning authority wants to stick a spanner in the works of the One Barnet program. Now maybe beloved Brian may find it useful to give the impression that he's agnositic on One Barnet, but a quick look at the LFEPA gifts and hospitality register (The Brian Coleman Free dinner register as it's known in these parts), show that the last entry is this :-


31/08/2011 Lunch at Livebait, 43 The Cut, London SE1 8LF. Estimated value: £30.00.Jeroen Weimar - MD, Serco Group plc

(You can see the whole register here - http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/gh_brian_coleman.asp )

Now I've no idea what they discussed. For all I know, they spent the whole of their lunchtime discussing whether Torres is a good signing for Chelsea, but the fact of the matter is that Serco are bidding for hundreds of millions of pounds worth of business in Barnet and their boss is taking a senior Barnet Cabinet member out for a cosy lunch. Now if I was Jeroen Weimar and my company was bidding for such a massive contract and I've got one of Barnets most senior politicians eating lunch, I'd say "Well Brian, is this OneBarnet project a go'er or not". Given that he clearly thought our Brian was worth having lunch with, and Serco Ltd havent pulled out, it seems fair to conclude that any negativity attributed towards OneBarnet from Brian is purely for public consumption.

One has to conclude that if Coleman seriously wanted to scupper One Barnet (at least with Serco) he had the ideal opportunity. As Serco are still participating in an exercise which clearly will cost them a fair bit of money, we have to conclude that Brian didn't advise Mr Weimar to grab a bargepole and run.

It seems to me that a reassessment of the role of Brian Coleman and Council Leader Richard Cornelius in the One Barnet fiasco is highly called for by the assorted blogs of Barnet. Have we been spun a line? Well if we have, I suspect that some people may regret it sooner rather than later

The One Barnet pledge

As you know, Barnet Council is planning to outsource huge swathes of Council functions. There are two massive contracts. One is worth £750 Million and the other is worth £250 Million. These contracts are likely to be copper bottomed, guaranteed profits +. Anyone familiar with the situation in previous Barnet Council contracts - Catalyst got another £9 Million because they weren't making enough money. Aerodrome Road Bridge contractors got another £11 million, will know how this will go. When I back a horse, I check it's form. Barnet has form with contracts and contractors.

Now this blog most certainly doesn't give financial advice. It does however occur to us that in the event these contracts are placed, it would be a rather good thing to have as many shareholders in Barnet as possible, who could attend. Maybe we should set up a pledge on pledgebank to get 500 small investers from Barnet, who are prepared to attend the shareholders AGM and hold the companys to account.

I believe that in a capitalist democracy, small shareholders should get organised and make sure companies behave honestly and responsibly. I think it would be a great thing if the companies bidding knew we'd be joining them at their next AGM, should they win.

This blog has referrred to the OneBarnet project as the "Toxic One Barnet project". I suspect that the private companies bidding may find that they too may suffer from the Toxic Shock Syndrome associated with it.

It's a beautiful day today !!!!

Today may well be the last beautiful Sunday this year so get out and enjoy it. I'm off to take the doggy over Arrandene after lunch. Here is probably the best song ever written for such days. This is Moby Grape from 1968.

Cannabis farming in Barnet

The story on the Barnet Times website receiving the most hits and getting the most comments right now is concerning a police raid on a "massive cannabis factory in Hendon" -

http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/topstories/9267025.Police_uncover__colossal__cannabis_crop_in_Hendon/?ref=mc

Now I'm not going to discuss the rights and wrongs of the "war on drugs" here. The thing I am interested in is how safe is the skunk weed grown in these establishments? Most of the users, when asked, would say "It's safe, innit, it's just a natural herb". Is the correct? Well lets look at how these factories grow the product. They use hydroponic systems (this means the plants are grown in water, with nutrients and insecticides derectly fed in. This encourages rapid growth. The biggest problem for such intensive setups is an insect known as the red spider mite. Many a hippy has had their day ruined, when their "vegetable patch" has been invaded by these nasty critters.

The gangs who run commercial operations have a simple solution to this. They use "systemic insecticides" to kill the buggers. Systemic insecticides are fed in with the nutrients in the watering system and make the plants poisonous to the mite. That way crop yeilds are assured. There is one downside. They are also bad for humans and persistent. You can't legally use them to grow vegetables for this reason. Illegal cannabis farms work under no such constraints and the people who run them have no interest in the long term health of their customers. When you smoke weed grown by such organisations, you've no idea what it contains.

What is my greatest concern is that the police and the authorities have no interest in raising public awareness of this issue. I've raised it on a few occasions only to be told a) Information is not collated on the techniques used to grow illegal crops and b)  It is not the job of the police to raise peoples awareness of health issues. I've also discussed it with doctors who tell me it's not the job of the medical profession to make drugs policy.

So while all of these departments bury their heads in the sand, millions of people, many of them young, are exposing themselves to chemicals that are carcinogenic, can potentially cause liver, kidney and pulmonary failure and are banned for use with products consumed by humans. You may ask what my solution would be. Well firstly I'd make the police log all chemicals associated with industrial production of cannabis. Anyone supplying cannabis containing dangerous levels of chemicals should be charged for offences which reflect the risk they contain. If Marks and Spencers were caught knowingly supplying tomatoes which had a massive health risk from system chemicals, those responsible would face all manner of serious charges.

Perhaps the most upsetting thing is that when I've raised this issue with people who are smokers, they invariably say "Oh no, I get the gear from my mate and it's proper gear, all grown organically" when it clearly isn't. It takes a while for the effects of ingesting such drugs to take effect. Many users will give up long before their lungs start to show the effects. Many don't tell their doctors that they are using or have used such drugs. Many doctors are not even aware of the risks. At some point, the penny will drop and it will be far too late for todays crop of habitual users.

I'd like to see a health awareness campaign, detailing the risks to be rolled out. I'd like to see the police photographing the chemicals and doctors explaining the effects. I'd like to destroy the myth that industrially cultivated cannabis is "organic", it isn't. It's grown by people with no reason to care about anything other than making a quick profit. They have absolutely no reason to care about their customers, because being in an illegal industry, they could get closed down at any time. I do care about the people who don't realise what they are doing to themselves. If you like to smoke weed, or you think your children do, please make sure they are aware of this risk. Many young people boldly say "Dying doesn't bother me". What they don't realise is that living with lung diseases is often what happens first. Sometimes people spend years carting around bottles of oxygen, due to issues with their lungs. I worry that this will become a lot more common in the years to come.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Fighting Cancer - why it is important

There are many reasons I write a blog. Strange as it may seem, probably the most important one is to try and make the world a little bit better. I'm an advocate of the "Think global, act local" school of thought, which is why I generally concentrate my efforts on Barnet. I realised that it would be extremely hard for a blogger to have much impact on national issues, but it would be relatively easy to have a big impact on local issues. This blog is not about the issues we normally cover. It is about something, in many ways far more important. As I write this, there are families all over Barnet struggling to cope with the effects of cancer. One of these families is that of Councillor Lynne Hillan, until recently the leader of Barnet Council. She is one of many victims of cancer in Barnet. Whilst we may have views on peoples politics, I'd sincerely hope that everyone in Barnet thinks it's a tragedy when anyone has to retire due to illness.

Let me share with you the horrible role cancer has played in my life and why I am trying my hardest to promote the Shine London Nighttime Marathon being staged for Cancer Research UK

I first became aware of cancer when I was eight years old. At the time I was a successful child model. I'd been the star of several very well known TV adverts, including Heinz Beans, Cadburys chocolate, Galaxy Chocolate, Lucozade and Dream Topping. I think I'm the only Barnet blogger who has been photogrpahed by David Bailey. My career came to an abrupt halt when my mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 1970. When it was diagnosed, she was told that her chances of living more than 3 years were 5%. Fortunately, she did survive and made a complete recovery from a total gastrectomy.  In 1984, her consultant, Phillip King, told her that she was the only person he was aware of who survived for more than 5 years after the procedure she underwent. It was a huge cloud over our lives in my formative years. When my father broke the news to us, it was the only time in my life I ever saw him cry. Sadly my mothers resilience in the face of the disease gave me a completely false belief that the disease could easily be triumphed.

Shortly after my mother recovered, a friend of my parents developed a similar condition. We were invited around to see him. He gave me a fantastic fishing rod and explained "I won't be needing this now, so you can have it". Six months later he was dead.  My godmother succumbed to lung cancer shortly after. The lady who used to clean our house (who I always thought of as my de facto grandma), Mrs O'Keefe passed away, riddled with the disease. All of these before I left school. In my twenties, both of my mums brothers died of Cancer, within six months of each other. My best friend and the bass player in my band's dad developed lung cancer. He was lucky, he only lost his lung. His wife died of Lung cancer several years later. In 2001 my business partner at the studio, who was married with three children under 7 contracted pancreatic cancer. When he was first diagnosed he was 6'6" and 22 stone. Eight months later, he was 12 stone. He was still 6'6" if he stood on his left leg, but if he stood on his right leg, he was only 5'6" as it had been amputated below the knee. His eldest son has never really got over losing his dad. Three years ago my mother in law contracted lung cancer. She was told in January 2008 and died in March. In her final days, I went to see her. She was crying. She told me she'd had a dream that she was well and she was having a lovely time. She'd then woken up and realised she was not well at all, she was dying. It was a truly heartbreaking moment.

And here we are today. Please do something for me. Click on the play button, for this clip. Shut your eyes and listen to the tune and think (pray if that's your thing) of all your friends and family who you may have lost to Cancer. Then read on.


This piece of music was written by my great friend and former bassplayer in my band Paul Hircombe. Paul is a truly talented musician. He was planning to get married & sort himself out, having had a torrid time in the last few years. In April, he had just been offered a job and was about to start, when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer (as mentioned above his parents both had brushes with the disease). Paul is 46 and is currently undergoing his last bout of chemo. God willing, he will have the tumour removed, if it has shrunk sufficiently, in October. Paul has over the years helped me organise dozens of gigs for Cancer charities. We usually do an annual gig for MacMillan Cancer relief. We've even had Kate Nash on the bill (her mum Marie, who is a good friend of mine had a brush herself a few years back, fortunately she's OK).

So what do you do when something attacks your friends, family and loved ones? Well I believe in fighting back. That is why my good lady wife, Clare, has decided to do the Shine nightime walking marathon in aid of Cancer Research UK. I'd love to be the person who invented a cure for cancer, but I'm too thick. I'm not too thick to help raise cash for those that can. If you can spare anything at all, be it  £1, £2, £5, £10, £20, £30 or £50 please donate something by clicking this link.

http://www.sponsormetoshine.org/claretichborne

We are extremely lucky to live in an age where we have scientists who can develop vaccines and cures for diseases such as cancer. Whether they do it today, tomorrow or in a hundred years time, will largely be dictated by how much people such as you and I can raise. If we all give generously and do our best to raise funds, then the day a cure is found moves closer. This means less people will lose their mums, dads, sons, daughters and friends. You may or may not like me, you may or may not like my blog. What I am sure of is that you don't like the effects of Cancer. I urge you to sponsor this appeal as generously as you can.

There is more info here about the event - http://shine.cancerresearchuk.org/events/london

Thanks to everyone who has helped out so far. With the gift aid top up, it stands at £347.99 as of now (Sat 24th Spetember at 7.30) - Our target is to get this up to £500 by next Saturday when Clare does the marathon. Please help.

Name that Tory !!! Win a pot noodle !!!! - The Barnet Eye weekly competition

A friend said something last night, which caused me to pause and think. They casually mentioned that my blog is rather scathing of "all the Barnet Tory Councillors". I can understand why that may be the impression, but it's far from the truth. Firstly there are plenty of Conservative Councillors we've never insulted. Some of these, for the very good reason that they are actually invisible. I had a quick browse through the list of Conservative Councillors and sure enough, there are a few I've never heard of at all. I have a quick test for you. Can you name this Barnet politician?


Can you name this Barnet Councillor?
 Nope, it's not a young Ed Balls. It is a Barnet Conservative Councillor. A free Pot noodle for the first commenter to correctly identify the man. He's never been insulted by this  blog and I doubt he ever will be. I must say that given the antics of some of his more high profile colleagues, his low profile and lack of silly proclamations is a refreshing change.

Anyway if you can name that Tory, you will win a free Pot Noodle at North West London's finest music studios.

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Friday Joke - 23/9/2011 - Today is Councillor Robert Rams day in Barnet


Q: What is the difference between Councillor Robert Ramsbottom and International Rescue?

A: International Rescue have "Brains"
 

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Barnet Council - Toxic OneBarnet legal advice from Trowers and Hamlins

Follow up on this blog - 
http://barneteye.blogspot.com/2011/09/barnet-council-exclusive-expert-legal.html

This document is an extract from specialist legal advice produced for Barnet Council by legal firm Trowers an Hamlin. It was not intended for public distribution. The Toxic One Barnet project is the right wing Tories mad scheme to outsource all of it's functions to large corporations. This document highlights the risks. I am amazed that Barnet Council have persisted with this scheme in light of this. I wonder if CEO Nick Walkley read this. If he has, I do wonder if he understood it.

As you can see they can hand over vast sums to private companies, but they retain all the risk, as any other entity is not legally recognised. For matters pertaining to Environmental Health, the authority is ultimately responsible. A whole new layer of bureaucracy will be needed, just to ensure the company does their job. the Local Authority will have to pick up the tab for this bureaucracy. It is also clear that the lawyers are rubbing their hands.

I had intended to do far more on this document, but life has got in the way. Expect more at the weekend and next week.

Barnet Council - Job advert for a freedom of information officer

If ever Barnet Council needed someone urgently to do a job, it's now. That is why the Barnet Eye is reproducing this advert from this weeks Edgware and Mill Hill Press, page 46, completely free of charge. Click on the advert for a more readable version. It's the one in the middle. We'd also be more than happy to carry adverts for a new CEO and Deputy CEO when we move into the post One Barnet era.

And why may you ask, is his blog so keen to see Barnet Council sort out it's freedom of information requests and what evidence do we have that the system isn't working and is in a complete mess. Well read this response from Barnet Council to Labour GLA candidate Andrew Dismore on the subject. It is a total disgrace.







Etz Chaim Latest - Open letter from the governors to the Mill Hill Action Group

Etz Chaim Jewish Primary School,
 
Dear Mr Coleman and the Mill Hill Action Group,
On the 5th September 2011, we received a copy of your letter indicating your intention to start judicial review proceedings against the London Borough of Barnet. The decision you wish to review is their consideration of our planning application in light of the Equalities Act 2010 and in particular your concerns regarding the elderly and disabled in the community. We confirm that the School is an interested party but not formerly a party to litigation.
The timeframe and the manner in which the London Borough of Barnet respond to your letter is a matter for them.
As a direct result of your letter the Trustees have been reluctantly forced to retain legal representation and this letter should not be considered as a formal response to the contents of your letter.
This open letter in sent in good faith to be a constructive bridge building exercise. Throughout all of your literature and discussions with us you have repeated that you recognise the need for extra school places in the Mill Hill and support the School just not the location as set out in your slogan ‘Yes to Education, No to Location.’
The Garden Centre and the Aquatic Centre have now closed. Wyevale Garden Centre took the commercial decision to sell the site to us. We have been aware as to how unpopular, Wyevale’s decision to close and sell the site has been for many local residents.
As from 3rd October 2011 the School Trust will be moving onto the site in preparation for developing it in readiness for September 2012. The School will not (and cannot under the terms of the contract it has signed with the Secretary of State sell the lease.
Any legal action that you bring against Barnet will directly threaten 80 local children’s education next year, something you have previously declared you do not seek to do.
As direct result of your actions you have already forced the local authority to use public money on litigation as opposed to public services.
At present it appears that your remaining motivation is simply to delay the opening of the main site.
You are aware as are the wider community that our planning application included opening up the site for some community use beyond the education of children.
We hope that you will now take a moment to consider withdrawing the threat of litigation and communicate this without delay to the London Borough of Barnet and to us. If you wish to explore what Barnet, the community and the School can deliver together then we would welcome a dialogue with you.
Whatever you decide to do, as we approach the Jewish New Year next week, we wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year.

The Trustees and Governors of Etz Chaim Jewish Primary School
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This letter has been reproduced in full and without editing. The Barnet Eye will be happy to publish any response from the Action Group. The Barnet Eye is happy to publish any such communications from any groups in Barnet which are relevant to local issues, as long as they are legal, decent and address a genuine local issue.

Space Invaders Vs Doom (part II)

So as I was saying yesterday, before I inadvertently pressed the "publish" rather than "save" button, before dashing out for a train ( http://barneteye.blogspot.com/2011/09/space-invaders-vs-doom.html ). I long ago gave up playing computer games.

When they first came out, no one had computers at home, we played them in arcades and pubs. I remember how in a few short years, pinball machines were displaced and the various electronic games took over. In Spain recently I had a go on one in arcade, first time for years.

So what has this got to do with Barnet & the price of fish? Well, as  I blogged here earlier, Barnet Council is forcing Mill Hill Sports Club to close so that it can build a new school on the site. Football pitches, Hocley, Cricket & a whole host of other activities will cease on the site. This is the nearest such facility for hundreds of young people in Grahame Park and Burnt Oak. So what is there for kids to do on these estates? Hang round on Street Corners looking bored? Sit at home on the Games console? I was discussing the issue of adolescent obesity with friends last week. When I was growing up, this was rare and generally associated with other medical issues. Now it brings on other medical issues.

Once we tear up football pitches and close down sports clubs, they are gone forever. Healthy exercise ceases to be a practical option for young people, with nowhere to go and no one to mentor them. Why on earth can't our politicians wake up to the fact that closure of these facilities is a crime. When youngsters become obese and develop heart disease, diabetes and other weight related issues, this is a direct result of such policies. Young people need activities and exercise. They need clubs with people to bring out the best in them.

Sadly we have a generation of politicians in Barnet who just don't care. We have a council who spend a fortune on their own private army, to keep us plebs out of the way, but won't lift a finger to actually give bored young people something constructive to do