Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Top 10 London politicians

I thought I'd compile a list of the top 10 most influential politicians in London. This isn't a list of who I like, but who I think actually has a degree of effective power. I've excluded politicians on the national stage

1. Boris Johnson

2. Brian Coleman (head of LFEPA and de facto leader of Barnet Conservatives)

3. Ken Livingstone

4.  Lufter Rahman (Mayor of Tower Hamlets)

5. James Cleverly (Tory GLA Leader, Dustman in chief for London as Head of London Waste & Recycling Board)

6. Stephen Carr (Leader of Bromley Council)

7. Kit Malthouse - (Deputy mayor for policing, GLA Member, Deputy Leader Westminster Council)

8. Jeanette Arnold (Chair of the GLA)

9. Jenny Jones (GLA Member, Green Mayoral Candidate)

10. Cllr Anne John OBE (Leader of Brent Council)

The key word in my choice is "influential". These people mostly have influence far beyond their actual powers. For instance, whilst Jenny Jones has zero real power, she is able to exert a significant amount of influence over decision making and is also responsible for development of the Green movement in London.

People like Ann John in Brent have a long and distinguished record in Local Government, which in her case has been recognised with an OBE.

I also took into account whether people made good positive role models (although in one case I'd say the opposite was true). I also felt that people who were "game changers" deserved a slightly higher ranking. Please feel free to comment or add your own suggestions.

Please be assurred that inclusion on the list is not an endorsement for any of them, it is just a bit of fun really.

Boris Campaign is planning to "Blitz Barnet"

Given the strong Jewish connections in the London Borough of Barnet, am I the only person who thinks that the BackBoris Campaign Director Lynton Crosby could have chosen his words better when putting this tweet out?

Another blitz by Boris today. In Acton,Ealing,Southall,Finchley,Barnet,Enfield Southgate, Enfield Town to sell his 9 Point Plan.
Crosby is building a reputation for being inept and ham fisted in the arena of social media. Adam Bienkov recently exposed this ineptness in a very revealing blog -

I have started to wonder about what is going on with the BackBoris campaign. I spoke to a couple of Tories in Mill Hill, who had read my recent blog about the "what has Boris done for Barnet" leaflet and were horrified that his greatest achievement was "planting 88 trees" -

Given that Boris is generally well liked, he has all the press on his side and he hasn't been as bad a disaster as many people on the left suspected, could it be that employing a buffoon like Crosby could be the masterstroke (for Ken Livingstone) that snatches defeat from the jaws of victory for Boris.

Given the fact that Barnet is the most populous borough, surely any vaguely competent campaign manager would have got Boris to replace the GLA rep, Brian Coleman with someone who may actually be a campaign assett.

Brian Coleman and looking for sex in all the wrong places !

Regular readers of this blog will know that I keep a close eye on my blog stats and what people are searching for when they find the Barnet Eye. This morning, I was rather surprised to know thatthe Barnet Eye has an extremely high ranking on Google for people who type in "Looking For Sex". we are actually on page 2. It points to this blog - - which details how Brian Coleman (see this article - went looking for sexual activity at Scratchwoods (purely in his capacity as Borough Safety officer with a team of Policemen -  I hasten to add). Now what is interesting is that the Google preview about the blog on the search screen says :-
Brian Coleman looking for sex at Scratchwoods. Locals watching QI this week will have been intrigued to find out that HMS Belfast, the
Which means that whoever hit upon the blog was looking for sex and clearly was intrigued by the fact that Brian Coleman was mentioned in regards to Scratchwoods, a local "dogging" hotspot? It begs the question as to whether this secret community are big fans of Brian? I've always wondered who the armies of people who have repeatedly voted him in at the GLA elections are. Is this community being given preferential treatment. Scratchwoods is one of the very few Barnet Council Car parks which is still free of charge. Whilst High Street small businesses and cafe's come under the cosh of outrageous parking charges, the doggers of Barnet seemingly get off scott free. Why is it that this is seemingly the only pleasure you can enjoy in Barnet, where there is not some hidden stealth tax? Now I'm not calling for Brian Coleman to institue a "Dogger Tax" or even to charge to park at Scratchwoods. Far from it. I believe that Parking charges should only be used for the purpose for which they are designed. That is to regulate the flow of traffic. Sadly under Brian Coleman, we have rip off Barnet, where the motorist is fleeced at every turn. Every time parking has been discussed in Council, the issue of revenue is raised. Considering that it is technically illegal to use parking charges as an income stream, this is disgusting.

As to the dogging activities at Scratchwoods, I have a pretty relaxed view as to what people should and shouldn't get up to in their spare time. Having said that, it is a shame that Scratchwoods is no longer a place I'd feel comfortable taking my children and dog for a walk on a Sunday afternoon, due to the various adult activities taking place in broad daylight.In a free society it is hard to regulate, if adults are not prepared to give consideration to the wider community. What is worse is the debris left by casual sexual encounters. Is it too much to ask for people to clean up their mess and put it in the bins provided. Is it too much to ask people to restrict their activities to times when children are not likely to be in the area? Perhaps the worst thing for me was the fact that Barnet Council engaged in a pseudo paramilitary operation to prevent the Iranian community from having picnics on their Holy days in the park (a policy first started under Brian Colemans time as Cabinet member for Community Safety AKA Borough Safety Officer), but do nothing at all about selfish people who make the park a no go area for families during the middle of the day. What sort of strange double standard is this?

Apologies to anyone who arrived at this blog expecting salacious stories of spicy goings on.

The Big Smoke - Official Launch Party

Last night I made my way to Camden Town Hall for the official launch of The Big Smoke - - what is The Big Smoke, you may ask? Well for those of you who are old hippies, looking to get mashed, sadly it's not a blog for Stoners ! Nope, in there own words it is
An online magazine for London that cares about environmental issues and covers community news. In short, a place that wants to help make London even better.
So who was at the launch? There were a few bloggers, a few environmentalists and a few politicians. It was particularly nice to finally meet Adam Bienkov - AKA The Tory Troll, a fellow big fan of Brian Coleman and Darryl, the Greenwich 853 blogger.I've followed both of these blogs for years. I've spoken on the phone a few times to Adam, so it was nice to put a face to the name.

One of the things that seemed to win a good deal of support was the idea I floated of a London bloggers conference in the Autumn. It is something I have been toying with for a while. Fortunately, now my work commitments put me in a place where I can make this happen.

The Barnet Eye supports all local bloggers, online magazines and anyone else involved in trying to build a better community in London. We operate an open access policy, so we publish guest blogs from anyone who has something to say about life in the London Borough of Barnet. We are on the verge of a big announcement ourselves. I have a very important meeting today and expect to be able to share some very exciting news on Monday (if not sooner!).

The Barnet Eye announces the Cash for Din Dins initiative

Ok, so David Cameron has explained to the Country, via the Sunday Times, how you get policies changed. Everyone in Barnet knows that the only person on the Council with any real power is Brian Coleman and rather fortuitously, he is rather partial to a free dinner. It's only March and he's already bagged ten free dinners on his GLA Free dinner list - - and a whopping £200 free dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel on his LFEPA free dinner list - - No wonder that old chunkychops is looking as well fed as ever.

But why, oh why, should it only be the great and good who get to fete our Brian? Why can't the ordinary man on the street get to enjoy a slap up meal with Our Brian? The Barnet Eye has decided that it's time that everyone should get to share in the fun. We have come up with the idea of a fantastic "Cash for Din Dins" raffle. The rules are simple. We will limit this to the first thousand people in Barnet to enter. For the measly sum of £1 you can get the opportunity to have a night out on the town with Brian Coleman. We will arrange the hire of a taxi for the evening, with the clock left running as you scoff down dinner, in true Brian Coleman style. You can eat dinner with him at any venue he chooses and any cash left, he can stick straight in his pocket ! We expect this offer to be extremely popular, so make sure you register early.

You may never again get the opportunity to have such a fantastic night out.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Guest Blog - London Borough of Barnet (LBB) Adult Social Care and Health – Play The Ostrich At Your Peril! - By Linda Edwards

By Linda Edwards,

Sadly, once again, London Borough of Barnet Adult Social Care and Health have been exposed for their bad practice and pretence.

On Thursday 22nd March 2012 I attended a Conference organised by the National Development Team for inclusion (NDTi) “Is Supported Living Really Working?”

Well respected and knowledgeable guest speakers and participants, including family carers, managers, commissioners and staff from all over UK attended.

After key note speakers, questions were invited.  Four out of the five questions came from family carers.  This is very different to when I first attended learning disability conferences 20 years ago when I was usually the lone family carer amongst paid workers.

My question to the panel was “What can other family carers do if treated in the same way by Adult Social Care and Health as my daughter and I were treated by London Borough of Barnet?” 

I gave an outline of my experience as follows:
1.      In February 2007 LBB Adult Social Care and Health placed my daughter who has a learning disability and is on the autistic spectrum in Supported Living with their in-house service. 
2.      She became depressed and unable to function daily because they continually ignored the National Autistic Society Assessment Recommendations.
3.      They disregarded any advice I offered about my daughter; treating me with disdain and contempt.
4.      In October 2007, through a ‘pantomime’ recruitment process, LBB Adult Social Care and Health commissioned another service provider.
5.      The recruitment process had been a ‘pantomime’, because very little had been done to publicise the contract and so the only ‘choice’ was either the same LBB’s in house service that had made my daughter emotionally unwell or another organisation they telephoned that “have not previously delivered supported living but are keen to begin in Barnet.”  In spite of some excellent services in Barnet, none attended the interview.
6.      Immediately they were given the contract they demonstrated that they had no intention of working with me as the family carer. 
7.      It soon became clear that they had little understanding or experience of delivering a supported living service and very little of what they had promised at the interview was delivered.
8.      In March 2008 I made a formal complaint to the Director of LBB Adult Social Care and Health about their incompetence, lack of monitoring and evaluation, condoning the fact that the service provider had no goals or outcomes for my daughter and allowing the service provider to exclude me as the family carer.
9.      I requested that they remove the contract from this service provider.
10. Quoting LBB Adult Social Care and Health senior manager’s lies about my character, with both managers accusing me of being the problem, the director's response was to refuse to remove this inappropriate and bullying service provider. 
11. Then, demonstrating contempt for family carers, she suspended the complaint! 
12. I met with my daughter's MP, Andrew Dismore who advised me to instruct the services of a specialist solicitor and who wrote to the LBB Director of Adult Social Care and Health.
13. I then instructed the services of a specialist solicitor who after many months of Adult Social Care and Health unlawful prevarication, eventually ensured the complaint was reinstated.
14. When I asked LBB CEO to intervene in order to bring the complaint to a swift end, he replied while turning his head away from me - “I don’t do complaints!”
15. Even though she knew the service provider had put my daughter at risk, the Director of Adult Social Services & Health continued to resist my complaint, which by then had cost the council thousands of pounds in fees to independent inspectors, solicitors and reports even prior to the ombudsman's stage.

16. What did LBB Adult Social Care and Health learn?
a.     Only to shorten their complaints procedure so as to allow only one stage of it, and
b.     To exclude me from the Learning Disability Partnership Board as a punishment for my persistence in protecting my daughter.

[At this point in my question the audience burst out in a laugh!] I continued:

13. What did I learn? 
I learnt the word ‘obfuscation’.  Again, a laugh from the audience!

“What can other family carers do if treated in the same way by Adult Social Care and Health as my daughter and I were treated by London Borough of Barnet?”, I asked again

The panels’ response:
·         All behaviours you have described are the opposite of what should be happening in good practice.
·         Sometimes Supported Living can be more institutionalised than Residential Care and very lonely.
·         Some local authorities are so quick to report the changes required of them, they forget the people for whom they are making the changes!
·         Local Authorities must engage with ALL stakeholders and not hand-pick and choose who they want to engage with.
·         What you were being sold as 'Supported Living' was not Supported Living.
·         It is important to establish carers-led organisations to gather other family carers, so that together carers can be completely independent of the local authority.
·         Bombard your politicians.  Let them know what is happening.

A family carer in a different local authority spoke about her daughter’s excellent service and attributed this excellence to “local good practice in partnership between ALL stakeholders; service user; local authority; service provider; care staff and family.” 

Throughout the day, people approached me, wanting to know specific examples of the obfuscation, contempt, incompetence, lies, intimidation and risk that I had referred to when I had asked the panel what other family carers should do in my position.
Many were shocked that given the evidence, the LBB director refused to remove this service provider that had deskilled and demotivated my daughter.  She and senior managers knew that I was continually trying to minimise the damage the service provider was causing to my daughter and then having to put in writing yet another complaint, which over four years, made me unwell and often unable to work.

My complaints made no difference to the quality of service for my daughter but they created a lot of administration and meetings, thus spending valuable financial resources paid for by council-tax payers!

Many expressed their surprise that the complaints process had been shortened to only one stage before the ombudsman stage, but all were in disbelief that I had been excluded from the Learning Disability Partnership Board.  This was described by one person as “shades of a dictatorship regime”.

I told them about the Campaign Against the Destruction of Disability Support Services (CADDSS) that was created by two family carers in Barnet because of how LBB Adult Social Care and Health had behaved so dismissively towards their family member and themselves, and it had become evident to them that this bad practice and disregard to carers and service users was widespread in Adult Social Care and Health in Barnet. 

I mentioned that LBB Adult Social Care and Health Carers Strategy Partnership Board had established an ‘Independent’ Carers Group and at the first public meeting I was told in front of the two guest councillors present that my question was not appropriate and did not qualify a response.  One of the participants at the conference responded “It cannot be independent if it is set up by the local authority and funded by the local authority, as was evident by the fact that a family carer was not allowed to express their concerns because two councillors were present.  This is a cute way of controlling carers, getting them to believe they are valued and paying lip service to what should be good practice!”

Later, the National Development Team for inclusion (NDTi) shared with the conference participants that they had learnt from the morning session that in future they should have a family carer on the panel……..  Take note LBB Adult Social Care and Health - you too need the family carers who are not afraid to speak up and speak out, those who do not give in to your attempts of intimidation and victimisation and who are willing to take a risk for the benefit of the many.

If LBB councillors continue to collude with and allow such unprofessional and nasty practice, I hope that as they continue to climb their professional ladder, when these senior managers apply for future employment with their well-constructed application forms, future employers will learn about the damage they have caused. They may have many skills, but unless they have integrity, humanity, civility and honesty, they are not who we should want to manage our Social Care and Health Service for vulnerable people. 

What else did I learn? 
I learned that when vulnerable people come up against such a vindictive, oppressive and vile regime, they have no choice but to challenge it.  As these senior managers have all had some kind of promotion since my complaint was made and they appear not to be accountable for their behaviour, sadly, it must now be exposed to a wider audience than the London Borough of Barnet.

I will continue to campaign with other family carers, with people with learning disabilities and autism, with good practising managers and other people who want a fairer society for all.   London Borough of Barnet Adult Social Care and Health have to include all family carers, not just the family carers who may be satisfied with a service, or those who become compliant and pretend they are satisfied out of fear of victimisation of their loved ones or themselves.

Two people attending the conference, who work for my daughter’s new service provider, agreed that there will always be challenges to face but so long as we are prepared to tackle them together in partnership, and so long as their staff are as caring as they are today and they don’t act as if I am the problem, there is every hope that I can die in peace knowing that my daughter will continue to be encouraged to fulfil her dreams and aspirations and have a full and worthwhile life.

“You cannot look at cost effectiveness without looking at effectiveness” Martin Knapp

Linda Edwards (family carer)
Linda Edwards is a parent carer in the London Borough of Barnet. Guest blogs are always welcome at the Barnet Eye

Why the fuel panic is a victory for David Cameron

I am amazed at the critical coverage that David Cameron is getting in the Tory press for starting a fuel crisis, when tanker drivers are not even on strike. Sure it is inconvenient, but anyone with half a brain should see exactly what Camerons game is. At the moment, tanker drivers are working normally. Forecourts are running out of petrol, so there is plenty of overtime to be had by the drivers. Very useful considering they may lose a few days pay when they strike. By getting everyone to have a full tank, Cameron has ensured that it will take a couple of weeks of striking before there is any real effect at all. The panic is all about breaking the strike and ensuring it is ineffective.

There is another side to it as well. One which will give David Cameron another victory. Great Britain is teetering towards recession. This is defined as successive quarters where the economy shrinks. All economic activity is fed into computers at the treasury and that determines how much the economy has grown or shrunk. One of the biggest figures in the math is the amount of fuel sales. Given that the panic has moved a couple of weeks worth of economic activity from April to March (ie from Q2 to Q1), this means that the first quarter will get an unexpected boost. If the economy was marginally in negative growth for Q1, this could well push it back out of recession, albiet on a technicality. It may well be that  Q2 is worse as a result, but as the technical criteria for recession is successive quarters, has David Cameron managed to avert the bad headlines with a "cunning plan".

You may say "why bother". Well, it's down to politics. If Boris loses the Mayoral election in May, then that will be a huge black mark over Cameron. It is clear that if the economy is in recession, after two years of George Osborne's policies, this will not help Boris. If the economy "unexpectedly" grows, then Boris can claim "green shoots" and pretend that Osborne's policies are working.

Would Cameron be so Machiavellian to spark a crisis to help the election chances of Boris? Well I can't remember a Government ever encouraging panic buying before. So as you sit in your car, queuing for petrol, reading your BackBoris leaflet, just make sure you remember who to thank, when the economy figures are released.

Does Brian Coleman dream of Electric Sheep?

One of my favourite films is "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?". Never heard of it? Well you probably know it by the title it was released under "Blade Runner". The Hollywood moguls who made it thought that the correct title from the Phillip K. Dick book would "put people off". The central premise of the film is that in the future, androids will be developed that are so human like, that they are virtually indistinguishable. The only way that they can be separated from the rest of the population is because they "lack empathy". Suspected escaped androids are made to take the "Voight-Kampff" test, where their responses to a whole range of questions are monitored and if they don't respond empathically when situations are detailed where people suffer, they can be exposed. The Voight-Kampff machine (or device) is a fictional interrogation tool, originating in the book where it is spelled Voigt-Kampff. The Voight-Kampff is a polygraph-like machine used by Blade Runners to assist in the testing of an individual to determine if he or she is a replicant. It measures bodily functions such as respiration, "blush response", heart rate, and eye movement in response to emotionally provocative questions.

Last night, I dug out my battered old video, got my takeaway from the Mill Hill Tandoori and watched it. Having quaffed a couple of beers, I fell asleep in the chair halfway through and had a terrible nightmare. I had been engaged by none other than Brian Coleman, to try and expose replicants in Barnet via the Barnet Eye. However as the dream went on, I became more worried that it was a bizarre scheme by Councillor Coleman to expose the Barnet Eye as the work of a lunatic.

I awoke suddenly, when the dog jumped on me, halfway through the dream. I was quite disturbed by the whole thing, until I rationalised that it was the product of too much blogging, too much beer, too much curry and watching too many sci fi films. Then I got to thinking. How would Brian Coleman fair if  he had to take the Voight-Kampff test. How much empathy does he have for his fellow citizens.

In the film, it took Dekker over 100 questions to establish that Rachel "lacked empathy". I think we could establish this for Brian Coleman with three.

Brian, you live in a flat with a subsidised rent, owned by the Methodist Church and supposedly retained for families with financial hardship. You earn £120,000 a year. What would you say to a single mother on benefits, having difficulties paying her rent? (His answer -

Brian, you get a free parking permit, which enables you to park anywhere for free in the London Borough of Barnet. What would you say to traders who are losing their livelyhood  because of the car parking charges you have hiked in the High Streets of Barnet?

Brian, you have used your allowances from the GLA and LFEPA to ferry yourself around the country, racking up charges of thousands of pounds a year, when you get a free travelcard as part of the GLA entitlement. What would you say to disabled people who you wanted to remove travel assistance from?

Now I don't actually think Brian Coleman is an android. Let's face it, if you were going to build a robot, I doubt you'd produce poor old Bwian. It is clear from his many comments that he lacks empathy, so I really wonder what Blade Runner Rick decker would make of him. The twist in the plot of Blade Runner is that Rick Decker is himself and android and doesn't realise it. Perhaps the twist in the Brian Coleman story is that he's a human being and doesn't realise it. I sincerely hope that after the GLA elections in May Brian Coleman has time to reconnect with his innate humanity. If he needs a new job, we will be looking for a Bog cleaner in May for our new venture.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Transforming Barnet - An Announcement

If we look at the extraordinary story of the Barnet Eye since its inception in October 2008, it is truly amazing to think that the whole thing started by accident. If Barnet Council had not relentlessly applied pressure on the Hendon Times to remove my community blog from their website, the whole thing may never have happened. Since then, the blog has become a focal point for local people to rally around.

As the months have progressed we've built up a fantastic team of guest bloggers, guest contributors, leakers in the council and most importantly readers of the blog. Whilst the traditional media has struggled to adapt to the internet and local papers have trimmed their editorial staff and editorial content, the online blogosphere in Barnet has thrived.

It is truly amazing that a local blog, deailing with local issues gets over 1,000 hits a day. We guesstimate that sometime towards the end of May we will get our 500,000th hit (as recorded by Blogger stats, which started in June 2009, when we were getting a mere 500 hits a day).

This has not gone unnoticed. Since it's inception, the Barnet Eye has had approaches from all manner of people making all manner of offers to the Barnet Eye for our services. These have always been refused, up until now, due to the fact that we already have a business we are passionately committed to and we don't do this for the cash.

We have recently been approached by a group of social entrepreneurs, who have serious financial clout and are interested in the difference we've made. Regular readers will know how many issues that would never have seen the light of day have been unearthed by the Barnet Eye and our fellow Barnet bloggers. They have, quite correctly, identified the fact that with proper resources and a proper editorial staff, the Barnet Eye could actually transform the whole social and media scene in Barnet.

Although we do our best, just suppose for a second that the Barnet Eye could cover everything, from under 9's youth football to church choirs, to local gigs to local gardening tips? All of these things would be possible with a small amount of investment. Just imagine if we were able to offer commissions to local people to write investigative stories? As so many local people already check this blog, with zero budget, imagine what we could do with a proper team behind us?

We have a plan. We have the backing and sometime in the next week, we will be making an announcement which will show our commitment to raising the bar in Barnet and showing exactly what the blogosphere can do if it is properly resourced. We believe we can transform Barnet and we have people working with us who are prepared to back up words with hard cash. Watch this space.

Oh Dear Boris, this is a bit embarrassing, isn't it?

As I returned from my morning shift at the Passage, a day centre for the homeless this morning, I was greeted with the sight of hundreds of discarded Back Boris leaflets at Mill Hill Broadway Station. The local Conservatives had clearly been out leafletting. Out of curiosity I picked one up. Those of us who remember the last mayoral election in 2008, recall Boris promisiing to be a Mayor for all London and not neglect the outer Boroughs such as London. So how did this work out? What has Boris done for Barnet? I expected a leaflet packed to the hilt with details of goodies that good old Boris has showered on us. So what great things has Boris done for Barnet? How has he been a Mayor for the outer boroughs?

Sadly it seems that Boris has actually done B*gger all for Barnet. If the examples on the leaflet are anything to go by, he's completely forgotten us. Here are a list of the the things he says he's delivered "for Barnet"

Scrapped £25 tax on large vehicles - This is a London wide policy
Extended Freedom pass to 24 Hours - This is a London wide policy
Cut Mayors Share of the Council Tax -  - This is a London wide policy
Scrapped the Western Congestion Zone - This affects central London and is nowhere near Barnet
Scrapped Bendy Buses - None ran in Barnet
Delivered a 14.8% cut in Bus Crime - No mention of the 10% rise in street robbery and mobile phone theft (a direct result of Brian Colemans parking policies and a far greater figure than the tiny number of bus crimes)
Taken 11,000 knives off the streets of London - - This is a London wide policy
Added 1 new bus route - Well that is something, I suppose
Planted 88 new trees -  Less than 1 a year per Council ward not very impressive
Frozen the Mayors Council tax -  - This is a London wide policy

It is interesting to see that Brian Coleman was boasting about cutting crime when an FOI request by this blog revealed that he'd not even had one meeting with the local Police to discuss reducing crime. 

Those are the only things Boris and Brian Coleman can find to boast about. Is he a Mayor for the Outer Boroughs? Has he delivered anything there that has significantly changed your life for the better?

If that is the sum of his efforts and the sum of how effective Brian Coleman has been as GLA rep, it is all a bit embarrassing, isn't it?

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

A Tale of Two Barnets - Local Screenings & Nick Walkley interview

Last night we kicked off our series of local screenings at St Johns Church in Barnet. Following on from the hugely successful screening at the Phoenix last week, I was looking forward to seeing how the film went down in a "more intimate setting".  Whilst we didn't have three hundred people, we did have a good turnout and a lively debate afterwards. With the press coverage of the film, people were aware of the comments by the Leader of the Council. I explained the terms under which the interview was conducted. Richard received the questions a couple of weeks before the screening, had a press officer with him and then we offered to show him the film and hear his comments. I also stated that we'd put the whole interview up on the film website.

Strangely, we've had no comment at all from Richard. I think that maybe he is embarrassed and realised he'd jumped the gun with his comments. It would be nice to hear him acknowledge this

The debate went on for an hour. People genuinely seem to respond positively to the film, one guy bought three copies of the DVD ! Why not come down to todays screenings. Here are the locations

Wednesday 28th March 1-2 PM
New Barnet Community Centre,
48/50 Victoria road,
New Barnet, EN4 9PF

Wednesday 28 March - 7 pm
Greek Cypriot Community Centre
2 Britannia Road,
North Finchley,
N12 9RU  ‎

The full interview with Nick Walkley, Barnet Council CEO has now been released.

There are details of further screenings at the film website

See you later hopefully!

Support your local business

Sometimes I truly despair. What sort of a country are we becoming? We are seemingly overrun with groups stuffed full of busybodies, running around the country, stating the bleeding obvious and whipping up hysteria, seemingly with the sole purpose of trying to shaft people who are struggling to make a living in the recession. The latest "shocking" revelation? Pepperoni pizzas at a local Mill Hill Pub are a bit salty. Well what next, maybe they'll reveal that Scotch is more alcoholic than tap water

 There is an article in the Edgware Times today highlighting the fact that the Adam & Eve pub in Mill Hill has a pizza on the menu with a high salt content - - following an investigation byThe Consensus Action of Salt and Health (CASH) - a health pressure group. In my opinion, stories such as this are complete nonsense. No one goes to the pub for a pizza to improve their health or because they are on a diet. Anyone who is concerned will know that processed meats have a high salt content and anyone who has salt related health issues will know that they should avoid such dishes. I love salami's and pepperoni pizzas, but due to health issues I've chosen not to eat them, but it is a choice. A healthy person will not suffer any dire consequences from eating the offending pizza even if they wash it down with six pints of Guinness.

What we are seeing here is a group of people who seem to have nothing at all better to do than go around and criticise perfectly well run establishments. These stories then get picked up by the press and local people get the impression that the establishment is in some way producing poor quality food. The Adam and Eve is my local pub. It is a pleasant establishment and the food is high quality. The kitchens are clean and the beer is good. Since it's refurbishment it has become well established as a good place for  a beer, a meal and somewhere to meet friends. I had my daughters confirmation party at the pub and we recently had a family get together there. Two of my nephews and my brother had one of the offending pepperoni pizzas. It may surprise you to find out that no one died, in fact we all rather enjoyed it.

Times are hard for anyone running a business right now. The last thing we need is groups of busybodies running around, terrorising local businesses. What next? Are they going to visit Tesco's and announce that the tubs of table salt contain more salt than seawater? The truth is that one pizza in a pub won't have any affect at all. It is the salt we add on a daily basis to food at home which is the problem. Lay off the local businesses. Am I the only person who wonders whether there is a more cynical agenda here? Like the parking charges in High Streets, such scare stories as these create an impression that the large chains, where bland tasteless food is churned out, somehow are providing a "quality" service, whilst local businesses are portrayed as slapdash? Some people like salty pizzas and there is nothing against the law with that. My guess is if you visited the Adam & Eve you'd see people adding salt to whatever was brought out, salty or not. Next thing, these busybodies will be proposing we ban salt cellars from the land.

I propose we have "support your local business day", where everyone should visit their local cafe, pub or family run restaurant, and have the dish you like most and say "stuff the health consequences" - just for one day.

And I may well make a special effort to visit the Adam & Eve tonight for a pint, just to show a bit of solidarity.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012 website backs Brian Coleman to lose

The first cracks are starting to appear. the influential website - - has said it expects Brian Coleman to lose his seat in the GLA elections. They state :-

"In my view, Barnet and Camden is very likely to fall, as it requires a swing of only 5.5% to Labour, and incumbent Brian Coleman is unpopular among London Conservatives."
Whilst this is not exactly a surprise for anyone in Barnet, it is certainly the first concrete sign that the cracks are appearing in the Brian Coleman campaign strategy. The pundits I trust above all others are those who are involved in gambling. If and when Coleman loses his seat, it will be interesting to see how the Barnet Tories react to what was such an obvious cliff edge to drive off.

It's not as if any of them really think he's popular. They all seem to have adopted the Ostritch position to his impending demise, burying their heads in the sand and saying "Of course Brian will win". Even the quite sensible ones seem to have caught the bug. What they forget is that listening to the views of Lynton Crosby is far less likely to give you the real picture than listening to ordinary instinctive Conservatives in Barnet saying how heartily sick of the man they are. 

Monday, 26 March 2012

Barnet Council Outsourcing - They're SH*T and they know they are

Barnet Council are currently in the process of outsourcing a Billion pounds worth of business to private contractors. A sane and reasonable person placing a wager on the likely success of this (that sane reasonable person is you, the Barnet taxpayer and it is very real money - yours), would probably ask what their form was like in this respect. There is a delegated powers report on the council website that gives the answer

On this report is the history of the outsourcing of adult care homes to Catalyst. Here is the sorry story, from their own report - - and here is what it says

1.1 Council, 23 October 2000 (Decision item 62) – approved the selection of Ealing Family Housing Association (now part of the Catalyst Group) to take a transfer of the majority of the Council’s elderly persons residential care homes and day centres on the basis that these would be replaced with modern purpose built facilities and achieve an ongoing revenue saving for the Council from the commencement of the contract.
1.2 Cabinet, 5 November 2002 (Decision item 10) – approved the swap of sites in Claremont Road, Brent Cross NW2 and East Road, Burnt Oak HA8 with Ealing Family Housing Association upon which to develop replacements for the Perryfields and Merrivale elderly persons care homes and day centre.
1.3 Cabinet Resources Committee, 8 August 2004 (Decision item 14) – subject to conditions, agreed:
i. the freehold interest in an appropriate area of land at Claremont Road, NW2 be transferred to Ealing Family Housing Association for the building of a replacement for the Perryfields elderly persons care home and day centre in exchange for the transfer back to the Council of the current Perryfields site at Tyrrel Way; and
ii. the freehold interest in an appropriate area of land at East Road, Burnt Oak HA8 be transferred to Ealing Family Housing Association for the building of a replacement for the Merrivale elderly persons care home and day centre in exchange for the transfer back to the Council of the current Merrivale site at East Road, Burnt Oak.
1.4 Cabinet Resources Committee, 3 September 2007 (Decision item 7) – noted the disagreement with Catalyst in respect of its Deficit Claim and also agreed that the dispute with Catalyst in respect of the Perryfields/Claremont Road and Merrivale/Child Guidance Centre sites swaps agreements, and the Project and Abortive Costs claims arising there from, be referred to arbitration and/or independent expert as appropriate.
1.5 Cabinet Resources Committee, 2 September 2008 (Decision item 16) – noted the action taken by Catalyst to initiate the arbitration procedure and instructed the appropriate Chief Officers to appoint Counsel and other appropriate consultants and that the costs relating to this would be met from reserves.
1.6 Cabinet Resources Committee, 23 April 2009 (Decision item 14) – noted the stage proceedings were at and the amount of money spent in relation to the arbitration.
1.7 Cabinet Resources Committee, 8 December 2009 (Decision item 18 and X4) – noted the stage proceedings were at; the amount of money spent in relation to the arbitration and formally agreed not to offer Catalyst a “drop hands” settlement.
1.8 Cabinet Resources Committee, 17 June 2010 (Decision item X7 ) – noted the stage proceedings were at; the amount of money spent in relation to the
3arbitration and the likely need to renegotiate the Care Home Contract, as well as the retention of Eversheds as legal advisors.
1.9 Cabinet Resources Committee, 19 October 2010 (Decision item 11 and X3) – noted the stage proceedings had reached; that a further hearing was to be held; the estimated cost of the preliminary arbitration award; that a renegotiation strategy was being developed.
1.10 Cabinet Member Delegated Powers Report No 1264, 18 February 2011 – approved the Council’s contribution to Catalyst’s legal costs in respect of the Arbitration.
1.11 Cabinet Resources Committee, 2 March 2011 (Decision item 6) – set out the results and consequences of the arbitration proceedings and initial objectives for a renegotiation of the contract.
1.12 Cabinet Resources Committee, 7 November 2011 – approved the headline agreement reached with Catalyst during contract negotiations.
1.13 Cabinet Resources Committee, 28 February 2012 – approved pricing strategy for older adults registered care.

The key bit of information missing is the bit where Barnet gave Catalyst £8 Million, because Barnet were unable to draw up a contract that protected the taxpayer sufficiently. The grounds for the claim. Catalyst weren't making as much money as they'd hoped.

Last year Legionella bacteria was found in local care homes run by Catalyst. Sadly the contract has no provision for dumping companies which expose our old folk to such risks.

There is a bit in this report which is supposed to say what the risks are. Here is what it says

3.1 The risks associated with the renegotiation and its consequences have been formally logged in the Adult Social Care Risk Register.
3.2 Whilst agreement has been reached with Catalyst further negotiations are required with The Fremantle Trust in terms of future service provision. These negotiations will be based on the residential care pricing strategy agreed by CRC on 28 February 2012. There is a risk that The Fremantle Trust will be unable to deliver the care services at an acceptable price in which case the contract will need to be terminated and a new care provider procured.

In other words, they won't tell us unless we serve an FOI request on them and ask to see the adult social care risk register. This nonsense has gone on for ten years and yet we still continue with the farce. IS there no Barnet Councillor who can see the risks the local taxpayer is being exposed to? The Council are asking us to believe that they will get it right this time. Do you believe them?

A Tale of Two Barnets - A Statement about Press comments by the Leader of Barnet Council

Following comments made to the Barnet Press Newspaper concerning “A Tale of Two Barnets” (Please see ), film Director Charles Honderick and Producer Roger Tichborne issued the following statement.

“We are disappointed to see that Councillor Richard Cornelius has implied that there was a breach of trust involved in the way the film portrayed him.  As per the agreement to appear, the filmmakers provided a list of questions prior to the film. During the interviews, Charles Honderick stopped the camera several times to clarify matters, which were not covered.  As with all other interviews, the director condensed an 8 minute interview into approx 1 minute.

This is a perfectly normal part of filmmaking. The Council leader and the chief executive were offered the opportunity to see the film prior to the release, which would have allowed for concerns to be aired in private. This offer was not taken up.  The interviews were conducted in the presence of a Barnet Council press officer. The film makers also offered the Council the opportunity to have the entire footage to use as they see fit. Again this offer was not taken up.
The filmmakers wish to thank the Leader of the Council and the CEO Nick Walkley for their participation. To ensure that there can be no further suggestions from the Council about the interviews, we have uploaded the full interviews with the Leader of the Council Richard Cornelius and the CEO Nick Walkley onto the film website. We urge everyone who is interested to watch these interviews and then form their own opinions. The URL for this is
We sincerely hope that this is the end of the matter.”

Further screenings have been arranged, with more to follow (please check website) -
Tuesday 27th March - 7-9 pm,
St. John's Church, Somerset / Mowbray Roads,
New Barnet,
EN5 1R

Wednesday 28th March 1-2 PM
New Barnet Community Centre,
48/50 Victoria road,
New Barnet, EN4 9PF

Wednesday 28 March - 7 pm
Greek Cypriot Community Centre
2 Britannia Road,
North Finchley,
N12 9RU 

Tuesday 3rd April - 7:30 pm
Larches House,
1 Rectory Lane,

Wednesday 18th April from 7pm
The Wilson Room
The House of Commons

Weds 4th April, 7pm
Cafe Buzz,
High Road,
North Finchley,

Sat 28th April 7pm
The Church of the Sacred Heart and Mary Immaculate,
Mill Hill Broadway

A Tale of Two Barnets features local people in Barnet talking about their lives.