Sunday, 31 March 2013

Time for our local councillors to start acting like adults

I have been forwarded an email exchange between Tirza Waisel (local co-ordinator of the Barnet Alliance for Public Service) and Councillor Sachin Rajput, the holder of the social care portfolio in the Barnet Cabinet. Councillor is one of more ambitious of the Barnet Conservatives and also one of the more sensible ones, having displayed a degree of scepticisim about the One Barnet program way above and beyond that of his colleagues.

Councillor Rajput was asked to attend a meeting to explain his views on how the council should provide social care to parents and carers of people, who have concerns with the current policy. I have to say I'm a little disappointed with the response of Councillor Rajput. Whilst I fully understand that his diary may be full and a prearranged meeting should take precidence, the offer to meet parents one to one to discuss the issues does not seem to me to be an appropriate response. The whole purpose of a group meeting is to inform as many people as possible. Not everyone is confident enough to have an individual discussion, but many people are highly interested. It seems to me crazy to spend the time having the discussion and not inform as many people as possible who may be interested.  Councillor Rajput should recognise this and embrace the chance to get such excellent feedback from people at the coalface of social care.

I'd like to remind Councillor Rajput that the parents and other family carers save Barnet Council millions of pounds. Supporting care at home is a far more cost effective solution to care than institutional care. Councillor Rajput should recognise this and fully support such people as best as he can. Last year Council Leader Richard Cornelius attended such a meeting organised by BAPS and confirmed to me that he was surprised at how well organised the meeting was and how much effort was made for a civil discussion of issues. I am sure that, like councillor Cornelius, Councillor Rajput is a big boy and can look after himself.

I strongly ask him to reconsider his response. I am more than happy to host such a meeting at my business premises at any time which is convenient. I'd also personally guarantee that Councillor Rajput would be treated in a respectful and civil manner. These issues are important and many people have concerns. The council must learn how to properly engage with the people it serves and how to treat them as adults. I'd also urge them to recognise the huge contribution they make to the London Borough of Barnet.

 Subject: RE: Invitation to speak on a panel discussion Thursday 11 April
        Date: Sun, 31 Mar 2013 15:31:52 +0100
        From: Rajput, Cllr Sachin Conservative
        To: Barnet Alliance

Dear Ms. Waisel,
 
Thank you for your email and the kind invitation therein to attend the meeting on 11th April 2013 at 7pm.   Unfortunately I, like every other Councillor in the Borough, will be required to be at Hendon Town Hall for the Group Meetings that take place about a week before each Full-Council meetings and which happen to be on the same date as your meeting.  Please therefore accept my apologies.
 
If you and indeed a handful of parent-carers you refer to would like to speak to me on a one-to-one basis after your meeting has taken place I am happy to arrange a time for that to take place at North London Business Park.  Please let me know if you would like to do so and I will arrange for some dates and times to be considered.
 
Best regards,
 
Sachin
Cllr. Sachin Rajput
Cabinet Member for Adult Services
Councillor for Oakleigh Ward
 

From: Barnet Alliance [mailto:barnetalliance4publicservices@gmail.com]
Sent: 27 March 2013 16:19
To: Rajput, Cllr Sachin Conservative
Subject: Fwd: Invitation to speak on a panel discussion Thursday 11 April
Dear Cllr Rajput,

Following a couple of meetings with parents-carers to adults with learning disabilities I can now testify that the level of anxiety among these voters regarding the proposed changes to Your Choice Barnet is increasing. I know that people will seek reassurance and the opportunity to talk about their concerns with their elected representative in charge of adults social care policy.

We are looking forward to hearing back from you regarding our invitation, below.

Sincerely,
Tirza Waisel,
Barnet Alliance for Public Services


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Invitation to speak on a panel discussion Thursday 11 April
Date: Mon, 25 Mar 2013 06:49:19 +0000
From: Barnet Alliance
To: Rajput, Cllr Sachin Conservative


Dear Cllr Rajput,

We would like to invite you, as the Cabinet member responsible for Adults Social Services, to participate in a panel discussion about the proposed changes to Your Choice Barnet, part of the newly formed LATC.

As you will be aware, the proposed policy changes in services to adults with learning and physical disabilities as a result of the financial difficulties of YCB, is quite alarming for service users, parents-carers and staff alike.

Whilst still awaiting an official consultation with the family carers of those using Your Choice Barnet's services, and while remembering the clause in the LATC Business Case that promised to bring those services back in-house in case of a failure, we are facilitating an open community information and discussion meeting about it.

We would like to offer you the opportunity to address the people affected as well as others in the community and to hear their concerns first hand.

The meeting will take place on Thursday 11th April at 7 pm at the Greek Cypriot Centre, Britannia Road N12 9RU.

Looking forward to your confirmation by reply,

Sincerely,
Tirza Waisel, Coordinator
Barnet Alliance for Public Services

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Some advice from Barnet for people fed up with their local authorities

This morning I had received an email from Gwynn Clague who is setting up a blog to try and pressure Prestatyn's local authorities into delivering a better service for local people. He asked for help and suggestions. Given the huge achievements of the Barnet bloggers in trying to inject some sanity into the administration of Barnet Council and the hundreds of thousands of pounds we've saved the taxpayer with our exposure of bad practice and dodgy contractors (The Metpro Scandal, exposed by Barnet Bloggers alone has saved the Taxpayer half a million pounds), of course I was delighted to share some advice.

Checkout Gwynn's site. There are some good ideas there. I particularly like the listing of councillors contact details and their allowances. Maybe the Barnet bloggers have a thing or two to learn from Prestatyn.

Here is what I told Gwynn
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gwynn,
 
My advice would be to move to Australia and forget about the council ! Having written a blog for  4 1/2 years I have concluded that would have been the best way to preserve my sanity and to enjoy life.
 
However assuming that you don't consider that an option, there are some very clear lessons I've learned from Barnet.
 
1. Work out who the good guys are in the local parties. In every council and every party there are good, bad and indifferent councillors. When I started I tended to tar them all with the same brush on party lines. It is always a good idea to maintain good relations with those who are trying to do a good job. I used to get very frustrated when the good ones voted with the whip, but it is far better to have open channels to them. In Barnet there are three councillors who would not talk to me under any circumstances, a few that are polite but distant and the rest will have a chat and drop the odd snippet of information when it suits them. This gives me much material for the blog. I often get a private email or phonecall, where at the end someone will say "Oh, by the way, have you seen this DPR?". It suits them because if something is not right and has become a matter of public interest, it can lend weight to their argument. Oddly I get far more tip offs from Tories than Labour.
 
2. Work with other groups, bloggers and activists. In Barnet we have five main bloggers and we often work together on campaigns and coordinate with each other. We issue joint blogs and promote each others blogs on our own ones. This helps build up traction. Also use Twitter and facebook.
 
3. Build up relationships with trades unions and faith groups and invite guest blogs. These are great assets and resources.
 
4. Stick to the facts. If you publish something be able to prove it. That will avoid the possibility of libel accusations.
 
5.  Avoid the temptation to rant about national politics. Local blogs are most effective when they are just that. It is far easier to influence local issues than national ones, which means that ranting about the likes of Osborne, Clegg, Cameron and Miliband is a waste of time. People soon tire of rants, wheras they are usually very interested in the local scene.
 
I've copied the other four Barnet bloggers into this reply as they may have something interesting to add/contribute. Keep up the good work.
 
Regards
Rog T
 
 
 
----- Original Message -----
From: gwynnclague
To: roger tichborne 
Sent: Saturday, March 30, 2013 7:45 AM
Subject: help

dear mr tichborne,
 
read the barnet eye for the 1st time last night, brilliant.
 
thick north walians like me are just getting the knack of social reporting.
 
I have been an activist against my local councils, town & county, for years, they would rejoice if I dropped dead.
 
I have just started a site called www.prestatynwhistleblower.com
It is in its very early stage but nevertheless I would appreciate it if you would have a glance when you have time, and let me know if you consider I am heading the right way.
 
all suggestions would be welcome.
 
aincerely
 
 
gwynn clague

Friday, 29 March 2013

A Good Friday reflection - A year is a long time

A year is a long time. Ironically as I started to write this blog, my wife shouted to me that Actor Richard Griffiths has passed away. Last year we saw him in "The Sunshine Boys" with Danny DeVito. Life is a precious thread and we sometimes fail to appreciate the full beauty of the gifts we have. Last night, a group of my friends had a drink to celebrate the retirement of the person who has organised our Thursday night football for the past 14 years. He's reached 60 and feels that he can't physically cope with the aches and pains that inevitably follow a match.

During the course of the evening, I chatted to another friend, who retired a couple of years ago following a heart attack. He had read a recent blog where I discussed the psychological strain of coming to terms with a life threatening condition. He told me of his fears of not sitting in the hammock strung between the two apple trees in his garden, whilst watching his Grandchildren play. We have been friends since school. I was the youngest person in our year, he was the second youngest.

Long time readers of this blog will know that around this time last year I lost one of my best friends to cancer. This year, a friend has just lost her mother after a stroke and another couple of friends have seriously ill parents. Being of the Roman Catholic tradition, I attended the Good Friday service. For those not familiar with the story, it is largely based on the story of how Jesus met his death. The purpose of this blog is not to promote a particular faith, belief or creed, but I do find it interesting to explore some to the themes and see what lessons we can learn. The Good Friday story is one of betrayal, abandonment and death. The events start with a meal among friends, shared bread and wine. Before the sun has risen, one of those friends has committed an act of betrayal and the rest of the friends have largely abandoned the person they revered.

How many of us, when the chips are down would also behave in such a cowardly manner? How many of us would betray our friends for a few pieces of silver? How many of us would deny our friendship when things turn difficult? The services is probably one of the longest the church holds. It allows time for reflection. My mind slipped back to last Saturday and the Barnet Spring March. My intense pride at all of the people who didn't abandon their friends and didn't betray their principles, to opt to march in the snow and the freezing cold. I felt proud to be part of a group of people who were prepared to stand up for our principles.

I find myself increasingly saddened at the ever widening gulf between the people who run the Council and those on who's behalf they run it. Due to the popularity of this blog, I have found myself in a position where I am considered some sort of expert on all things Barnet. I received thousands of emails a week on the subject of various Barnet related issues. It may (or may not) shock readers to know that not every email I receive on the matter of Barnet is from people or organisations who are acting solely out of concern for the well being of the residents of the London Borough of Barnet.

There are some people who have drawn all manner of rather strange conclusions as to the purpose of this blog and the motivations of myself as main author. I find myself being asked what I am after, what is my end game and how much money I make from the blog. Am I on the take from any organisation? Am I in the pay of secret clandestine masters, who pull the strings?

The truth is quite mundane. I simply started blogging because I enjoyed it. The blog generates enough money via the advertising to almost pay for the internet bills. If someone paid me to write something I would most certainly do it, but I would put a disclaimer on the bottom of the page saying that I had been paid. I wouldn't write something I believed to be untrue. I have been asked, on occasion, to give my opinion of the certain issues to people who one may think I shouldn't be talking to. I give my opinion and I listen to what the other side have to say. If they wish to change my mind, they are welcome to try and do it via logic and reason. Sadly pound notes is not an inducement, because I am not someone with any great desire to be wealthy.

Another thing I reflected on during the service (yes I am sorry to admit my mind does wander at such times) is where we'll be next Easter. I anticipate it being a busy time for Barnet bloggers. The Council elections will be weeks away. Whatever has happened with the One Barnet Judicial review will presumably be history. We will know the outcome of the Brian Coleman trial. A year ago I could not have anticipated all of the events of the last year. I won't try to now.

There is one lesson I think we should all learn from the story of Easter, whether we are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or Athiest. The execution of Jesus by the Roman State and the clerical authorities was an attempt to destroy a point of view with which they disagreed. I am fundamentally opposed to the death penalty. When Jesus died, alone and broken, those authorities must have considered that to be the end of the matter. His followers had melted away or betrayed him. Their leader was strung up for all to see.

Whatever you may think of the story of Jesus, of the merits of his ideology or his divinity or lack of it, you could not possibly argue that his execution did those who authorised it any good whatsoever. Whenever I attend the Good Friday service, I always pray for victims of political repression and unjust legal systems. What I am going to finish off with is likely to be a very inflamitory statement. I am sure a lot of my readers will fundamentally diasagree with it, but it was perhaps the most important of all the random thoughts I had during the service.

This week, we saw a high profile case, where Abu Qatada was told he could not be extradited to Jordon, because of the state use of torture during interrogations. I loath and despise everything which Qatada's ideology stands for, but I realised just how grateful I was that our legal system defended his human rights. Whilst I would love to see him get deported, the fact that the law upholds the rights of someone so completely at odds with our system of government, shows our strength as a society. Qatada may smugly smile, but whilst he is able to sit there and ignorantly laugh at our system, we can take heart from the fact that our system is civilised enough to mean that no one will get unjustly executed. No one will get locked up because they have had a confession beaten out of them and no one is treated differently because they are at odds with the norms of society. However much you may be repulsed by Qatada, whilst he is being treated according to the law of the land, there is no chance at all that you won't be. Have a pleasant and peaceful evening

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Another Barnet Council Car Crash happens in slow motion

Barnet Council leader Richard Cornelius is in the Barnet Times claiming that Labour Councillor Barry Rawlings is wrong to challenge a change to the Council constitution which would prevent the public from asking questions at the Budget Overview and Scrutiny committee (BOSC), where discussions were being held to discuss whether decisions were being called in by the committee.

http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/10316533.Council_leader_hits_back_at_accusations_the_council_is_limiting_public_consultation/

Of all the ridiculous changes proposed under the this administration, this is the most ridiculous and Councillor Rawlings is quite right to make his challenge. What better time to have public questions than prior to a decision to refer bad decisions back to the cabinet? Surely this is the most appopriate time for members of the public to have their say. Surely the BOSC would be keen to know if members of the public have concerns and whether these add weight to a decision for a call in.

Just to put things in perspective, public questions are limited to 30 minutes and the committee is under no obligation to take any action in response to the questions. If the councillors cannot be bothered to spend 30 minutes listening to members of the public, then clearly something is wrong. Mr Cornelius says that it is wrong that the chairman has to listen to questions he can't answer. What Mr Cornelius refers to is the fact that the BOSC can only refer decisions back to cabinet. It can't change or amend decisions. Often the public ask questions of the committee because they are unfamiliar with the rules.

Mr Cornelius is quite wrong headed to respond to this issue by banning questions. An effective committee chair would simply explain to the questioner the limit of the committee's role. In my experience the chair has been more than capable of doing that. This move is simply an overreaction to a problem which does not exist.

What we are seeing is yet another Barnet Council car crash in slow motion. 

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Deansbrook School Conversion to Academy status - Done as a DPR!

There is a DPR on the Council website which truly astounded me today.

http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/ieDecisionDetails.aspx?ID=4588


It says :-
--------------------------------------

1964 - Deansbrook Junior School Conversion to Academy status – Commercial Transfer Agreement and Lea

Decision maker: Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Resources and Performance, Cabinet Member for Education, Children and Families
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No

Purpose:

Deansbrook Junior School, a Community School, has been approved by the Secretary of State to convert to an Academy.  As part of the conversion process, the Council, the Governing Body of the School and the Academy Trust are required to execute a Commercial Transfer Agreement.
 
The Council is also required to grant a lease of the land and buildings used by the Deansbrook Junior School to the Academy Trust and this report sets out the terms of the lease. 
Publication date: 21/03/2013
Date of decision: 14/03/2013
Accompanying Documents:
1964 - Deansbrook Junior School Conversion to Academy status – Commercial Transfer Agreement and Lea




----------------------

I understood that DPR's (decisions taken outside of democratic control) were supposed to be used only for minor decisions which didn't affect many people. The conversion of a school to an academy will affect thousands of Barnet residents for years to come. It also involves the transfer of millions of pounds of real estate. How on earth can the council say "This is not a key decision".  I am even more shocked that the opposition have not called this in.

What is happening to democracy in Barnet? How can decisions affecting millions of pounds worth of assets, which affect hundreds or thousands of people not have democratic scrutiny. From where I am standing, this is just the sort of decision that there should be a debate about. I can quite understand that the Barnet Conservatives see Academies as a flagship policy. I have no doubt that they would have approved this sale. What sticks in my throat is the fact that no one had any opportunity to discuss the issue and ask the council to prove that it is in the best interests of the people of Barnet.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Barnet Council - Where it's OK to cost the taxpayer £250K a year if you are a consultant but not to stick up for your rights

As predicted by this blog, Barnet Council have responded to the judicial review brought by Maria Nash by blaming everyone but themselves and using the argument that because it costs a lot of money to bring a judicial review, people should let the council get away with whatever it likes.

I read with complete disgust these two reports in our local papers.

Barnet Press.
http://www.edgware-today.co.uk/News.cfm?id=9888&headline=Council%20braced%20for%20%C2%A3250,000%20legal%20bill%20over%20One%20Barnet%20judicial%20review

Barnet Times
http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/10312454.Judicial_review_into_One_Barnet_costing_taxpayer___500_000/

These stories have clearly been written at the behest of the Barnet Council PR machine to besmirch the reputation of Maria Nash and her right to be consulted.

When the Barnet PR machine put the boot into Maria claiming she's cost the taxpayer £500,000 they neglect to mention that this is less than they've been paying the One Barnet Consultancy team EVERY MONTH. These are largely a bunch of external consultants on TAX EFFICIENT CONTRACTS. By my calculations, in allowing such practices within Barnet Council, the council may have been costing the taxpayer in excess of £250,000 a year in avoided taxation (of course this is merely a guess because all of these contracts are "commercially confidential"). Has the council briefed the press on how much these consultants have avoided paying in tax? Can they tell us how much these individuals have avoided? If my sums are correct then over the four years of One Barnet, the total cost could to the taxpayer could be £2 million.

Lets be 100% clear about what Maria has taken the council to court about. She is disabled and she relies on the services provided by the council to maintain her quality of life. Because the council carried out no meaningful consultation with Maria and people in her situation, she has absolutely no way of knowing what  the changes, which the council itself have been selling as a massive change, will affect her. The council has a statutory responsibility to consult with people such as Maria. The express purpose of this is so that they can assess whether there will be problems brought about by the new arrangements and to feed back to the council vital information which teams of consultants, who have never had to deal with real issues of vulnerability, may have missed. The council, in their legal defence, claimed that they didn't need to consult people such as Maria, but any fair minded person would surely agree that if the whole mechanism for provision of council services is being changed, then surely the new process should be rigorously examined by the people at the coalface.

During the court case, I wanted to stand up and intervene. When the council stated that because the services were remaining the same, it was only the provider that was changing, I wanted to explain my own personal experience with my mother to demonstrate the fallacy of this argument. My mother used to receive meals on wheels. These were provided by an in house team. In 2007 this was outsourced to a multi national company called Sodexho. My mother was told that she'd see no difference in the service and that she'd get "more choice". She became extremely anxious about this. She was given pages of menu forms to fill in, which completely confused her. She'd had a stroke and found even the simplest paperwork incredibly difficult. Filling in a months worth of menu choices was like having to read war and peace and write a dissitation on it for her. She was also upset because the "nice lady" who had been delivering her dinner was being given the boot. At the time, I bought the line that this was "all necessary for efficiency" and didn't share her concerns. My mother however became so anxious that she insisted my sister flew over from Florida to be with her for the change. As it turned out, she was right and I was wrong. The new firm was a shambles. During the first week some days lunch didn't arrive at all. Other days it arrived at 5pm and was cold. The quality was abysmal, with the lunches being sent straight over for our dog to have for dinner. It turned out that Sodexho had scheduled each driver to deliver 40 meals in a two hour period. That is three minutes between drops. Anyone who has ever had to knock on the door of an elderly relative will know that it can take three minutes for them to open the door. The stress of what happened completely freaked my mother out. She had been used to receiving her meal at noon on the dot. The fact that the delivery time seemed completely random caused her to become ill. She relied on this meal and given her medical condition and her requirement to take medication with food, it was devastating. This was a change that we were assured would "be an improvement". We were assured that the only thing that was changing was the company delivering the food. We were also assured that the "quality of service would improve". All of these things were complete lies.

That was the moment when I got involved in the struggle to prevent anyone ever having to suffer such indignity again. If you are fit, well and able bodied and have never had an anxious, frail elderly relative who is at the mercy of an uncaring bureaucracy, you will probably not really understand why this matters. The point is that it is not your concerns or views which matter. It is the concerns and views of the people who are on the receiving end of the service. The council are not in court because Maria Nash is a trouble maker or wants to waste taxpayers money. They are in court because there seems to be a case that they have not undertaken their statuatory obligations.

Let me draw a parallel. When the 9/11 atrocity happened and aircraft crashed into the Twin towers, the buildings collapsed after the impact, killing thousands of people. The buildings were designed to withstand heat & fire and not collapse in such a manner so quickly. Engineers calculated how long the buildings should stand up after such a shock. Forensic engineering reports concluded that during construction corners had been cut which may have compromised the cladding and fire resistance of the steel structure of the buildings. The contractors who had put the building up had cut a cut down on fire cladding of steel columns, thinking that it was highly unlikely that a situation would ever occur where there would be any repercussions. For years the buildings worked perfectly well. Had a bunch of terrorists never crashed the planes into the buildings we'd still be none the wiser and that little bit of cost cutting would never have been recognised. The New York fire department allowed their men into the building because they had been given engineering reports that said the buildings integrity would remain intact for a given length of time. Sadly that little bit of cost cutting on the cladding meant all of the figures were wrong and dozens of brave firemen died in the collapse.

The lesson I draw from what happened in 9/11 is that private contractors will always seek ways to cut costs. Such companies exist purely to generate profits for their shareholders. Now I don't believe any of the contractors in the 9/11 towers construction teams or in One Barnet would ever knowingly endanger lives, but if you get your processes and controls wrong, because you want to cut costs, you are opening the door to all manner of unforeseen consequences. That is why it should be necessary to consult with the likes of Maria Nash. That is why nobody should criticise Maria for exercising her legal rights. If the council wants to save the taxpayer £500K, then there are two things they could do.

1) Treat local residents properly and consult them about changes, avoiding such challenges.
2) Abolish the practice of employing consultants on tax avoiding contracts on long term assignments.

At times it seems to me that Barnet Council is not being run for the benefit of the people of Barnet, rather it is simply seen as a cash cow for a cabal of senior managers, many of whom are contractors, supported by a bunch of tame councillors who pocket large allowances, whilst doing nothing for the people in Barnet who most need their care and support.

I must finish off by saying I am a little disappointed that the local papers have taken such an uncritical view of the council PR spin, whilst ignoring the issue of the tax avoidance by many senior staff employed as contractors. This surely is far more of a burden on the taxpayer.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Guest Blog - Barnet Spring March Saturday 23/03/2013 - By John Sullivan



By John Sullivan,

I've just read  the Barnet Eye and the blog of Mrs Angry regarding our Barnet Spring/ Winter March on Saturday in weather that at times reached near blizzard proportions, it was bloody cold and will probably prove to have been in the top five worst days of the year where weather is concerned.
But we had as you rightly say a very good turnout, sadly had the weather been more kind there would have been greater numbers and the march would have been led by a battalion of disabled people in wheelchairs, to highlight the ongoing and current attacks on the disabled and those with a disability in Barnet by Cornelius and his crew of uncaring  ideologues.
The march was attended by people representing a specific problem such as anti NHS privatisation , or anti bedroom tax, and  many other issues but all fully supportive of the challenge to the One Barnet Programme ( OBP) and demanding the return of democracy in Barnet. Many people I spoke with  support my contention that Barnet under Cornelius and co has affectively become a Democracy Free Zone, and I would wish to concentrate my comments on the lack of democracy in Barnet and the adverse affects it threatens my daughter Susan  and her peers with. Their  future  is now at serious risk thanks to OBP phase one the formation of the LATC that incorporates Your Choice Barnet , coupled with the complete lack of democratic process in Barnet ,and the absolute refusal of any Barnet councillor or Officer to engage in meaningful consultation.

Lets us not forget the Barrister at the Royal Courts of Justice last week acting for LBB was not speaking for herself  she was speaking for Cornelius and co, she was repeating what she had been advised was the factual and truthful situation. Which very basically and in layman language was CONSULTATION ! what possible reason would we have to consult with Barnet residents, they are just a bunch of PLEBS, we are under no obligation to consult with this bunch of morons, and anyway why should we what the hell has it got to do with them anyway?.

They then went on to highlight areas of consultation on OBP that they had undertaken such as Leader Listening panels and Citizens panels  among others, most of which after basic scrutiny were proven to be without any foundation in fact. From my perspective it was proven beyond any reasonable doubt that LBB led by Cornelius and co have never at any time engaged in the democratic process of meaningful consultation with Barnet residents on OBP. A message that came across loud and clear at out Spring/ Winter  March on Saturday, people were and are demanding the return of the democratic process to Barnet, the end of 10 ideologues making decision after decision on our behalf without due democratic process, Decisions such as Fremantle and others than have to date cost Barnet residents millions, LBB have yet to get an outsourcing of any note right that has not cost Barnet resident s money. As  repeatedly stated by people on the march, councillors have cost us millions on small privatisation to date because they got it wrong, what in hell is going to happen to our public services if they have got the One Billion Pound OBP wrong.

The most recent privatisations of our public services is yet again  failing completely  and hanging on for survival by being in a hole and still digging, it is the Your Choice Barnet a sub section of Barnet Homes Local Authority Trading Company ( LATC )  to accommodate Housing and Your Choice Barnet  ( YCB )which undertakes the support services for my daughter and her peers, people with a mixture of disabilities including a mental handicap . People that need help and support , people that we as a civilized society have a responsibility as human beings to protect and defend. A Trading Company that is now trading after just one year on borrowed money and borrowed time, and time is of the essence to rescue my daughter Susan and her peers from the incompetence of and virtual insolvency of YCB.
I will not go into the disaster that parking has become because anyone interested in this pathetic attempt at privatisation only needs to Google Mr Mustard for a detailed explanation as to why it is yet another potentially costly mistake pushed through without consultation by those that think they know it all, and believe us residents are simpletons unable to have a constructive input.
There is a more immediate issue that requires attention and the focus of Barnet residents that have any level of humanity and that is the protection of my daughter Susan and her peers, from what has proven to be the disastrous privatisation of their services into the hands of an LATC named Your Choice Barnet. YCB was launched with a fanfare just last year making all sorts of claims it would offer clients More Choice , More activity out in the community, no service changes apart from the logo, and for the money grabbing profit hungry ideological Tory councillors  " loads of money " . Lots of lovely money will be earned from these unfortunate souls they said,  a policy of profit before people which has become the standard bearer for Cornelius and co. That has spectacularly crash landed in one year and is in effect up to its neck in debt, and once again being bailed out by Barnet residents to the tune of One Million Pounds. Yes One Million Pounds of Barnet taxpayers money, Barnet taxpayers  who Cornelius and co claim have no right to be consulted. Is being taken from Barnet Homes by way of a loan to underpin Your Choice Barnet, even though Barnet is desperately short of social housing ,and should be investing that money where it was intended, not  propping up yet another failed  privatisation disaster forced through by Barnet councillors without consultation.

The worst aspect of this financial car crash that is YCB is the fact these arrogant self opinionated councillors and officers were warned that the business model that they were launching YCB on was not sustainable and fatally flawed ,by parents such as myself and  by experts in the field commissioned by Unison but we were ignored. YCB has been a disaster waiting to happen that has crashed financially in the most dramatic way in just one year, it has not offered the More Choice or the More Activity in the Community , the services have changed and not just the logo and things are about to get worse.
An undertaking was given by LBB that in the event of commercial failure of YCB the services would have to be brought back in-house, and now there has been a total collapse of the company they are ignoring that undertaking and have launched a plan B business model that has about as much chance of success as the initial plan for privatisation ( Plan A). They have launched a consultation period from 1st March 2013 on the Plan B, that  gambles with the lives of this vulnerable group of people that is already giving the lie to two of the major promise of Plan A, which I repeat offered More Choices and More activity in the Community.

However the reality is to repay the debts of the car crash of Plan A many of this group who have always enjoyed five day per week support activities are having those days cut back, and they are being dumped at home for at least one of those five days per week. Which will no doubt as the hole gets deeper become two or three days per week, which blows a hole in the whole premise and the promises in Plan A of "More In Community  Activity " when in essence what is on offer is " More Dumped At Home Captivity "at the home isolated from their peers. Not only that they are demoting staff cutting their wages removing allowances for working adverse hours such as evenings and weekends. They are driving away the more expensive skilled care workers and replacing them with cheap labour. My question is how do you scrutinise something in order to prepare for consultation , when the vitally important financial information is omitted from the consolation document.  I could go on and on but I hope these bothering to read this guest blog get a basic idea of the inhumanity being or about to be forced upon Susan and her peers.  By people who should know better,  people blinded by greed and profit in the Cornelius and co world of profits before people, and read my short summary below, sign our petition just click on the link, join our campaign and attend out public meeting. Start the fight back for democratic rights in Barnet by supporting right away and urgently  these innocent  folk, that it would appear in the eyes of Cornelius and co accompanied by their lap dog officers have no rights, at all.
THERE IS A REAL POTENTIAL FOR A WINTEBOURNE VIEW TYPE HORROR STORY IN BARNET IF WE FAIL TO FORCE YOUR CHOICE SERVICES BACK IN HOUSE
A Message from Susan and her peers
We appeal on our own behalf and on behalf of some of the clients parents carers and staff of Your Choice Barnet phase one  of the One Barnet Programme, a company launched on a business model  that  Mickey Mouse would have seen holes in. A company launched on dishonesty so deceitfully  given the name Your Choice, when those affected were offered no Choice, where consultation with clients and staff is claimed yet none took place.
Your Choice after just one year is a financial car crash,  it has had to borrow one million pounds to stay afloat.  The only way that money can be paid back, is by demanding the maximum per client from central government whilst providing minimum services for us clients. Furthermore by destroying the working conditions and cutting  the pay of staff,  special people who have given love and support to this vulnerable group in Barnet for many years, are to be demotivated and trampled under foot and eventually replaced by cheap labour to the detriment of service quality and quality of life for clients. But the problem is it will not work things will get worse, Your Choice is in a hole and they just keep digging.
When this financial disaster was launched Barnet council undertook that in the unlikely event of  financial collapse they would return the services back in-house, they are breaking that undertaking by arrogantly  launching  a plan B business model that is as weak as the plan A model that has resulted in all of this debt.


Can we plead with you all to sign our petition and get your friends to do the same, and demand that Your Choice services be brought back in-house where they belong ,so vulnerable people  human beings  like us with feelings can be protected and not bartered as  commodities in the market place of greed . We are being offered " More Captivity" at home rather than the More Out in the Community Activity we were assured privatisation would bring.

Please sign our petition attend our meeting and join our  " Bring Your Choice Services Back - In House Campaign" = Http://petitions.barnet.gov.uk/YourChoiceBack/

Thank you
PP Susan Sullivan and her peers

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- John Sullivan is a parent carer for his daughter Susan. Guest blogs are always welcome at the Barnet Eye.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Where was the Barnet Times at the Barnet Spring rally

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I would have thought that the fact that nearly 1,000 people and an open top double decker bus travelled from Finchley Central to Friern Barnet library in a blizzard may have warranted a mention on the Barnet Times website yesterday. Presumably hundreds, if not thousands of people along the route would have seen the unprecedented procession and wondered what it was all about. We hear that the local press is in decline. I had thousands of hits on the blog as people looked for info about the demo. People are genuinely interested.

So what were the staff at the Barnet Times up to? The Times posted a story today promoting a job fair organised by Finchley MP Mike Freer. I have no problem with this and I applaud Mike for doing something useful. It does however seem that at the moment the Barnet Times is far more inclined to post stories which are supportive of the local Conservatives than they are of the opposition to the regime.

One of the Times reporters even took time out to publish, almost word for word, an edited down press release from Barnet Council about changes to benefit arrangements when they could have been out in the cold with us at the March. If nothing else it shows that someone was in the office with time on their hands.

Compare the meerkats -

The original
http://www.barnet.gov.uk/news/article/260/dont_ignore_your_post_council_urges

 The Barnet Times story
http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/10308921.Council_tax_benefits_change_will_affect_14_000_people_in_Barnet/

I do understand that yesterday was a bit cold ( I should know I got frozen), but the Times should get out of their comfy office and do the job. Is it too much to ask? If people see things going on in the locality and find that the papers are not covering it, they will stop looking. I think local press is important. That is why I urge their staff to get out of their comfy, warm offices, get their notepads out and start covering local news properly.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Why did nearly 1,000 people walk miles through the snow in Barnet today?

Today close on 1,000 people walked from Finchley Central tube station to Friern Barnet library, to celebrate the Barnet Spring. I awoke at 6am. It was not in anticipation or excitement. It was because our great big stoopid dog was barking at the snow in the garden and wanted to go out and play. As my assumption on hearing the woofing was that it was either a burglar or a plea to go to the toilet, I was obliged to get up. Seeing a couple of inches of snow on the garden filled me with despair at the thought of the march. It didn't bother me, but I was worried that people may be put off, or be physically unable to get there. I was also concerned for the many old and frail people, who unlike me, may find the cold difficult to deal with  (I personally rather like freezing cold weather. I lived in Stockholm in the winter of 1981 and always associate extremes of cold with having a great time).

So I made my way to Finchley Central at about 10.30. I'd promised to help coordinate fundraising on the day. The Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS) has a major challenge to fund the activities necessary to bring some sanity into public life in Barnet. This can only be done if we have the money to pay for the leaflets & other incidental things necessary to organise events, to say nothing of funding legal challenges to the insanity.

BAPS have produced a leaflet explaining the need for funds and asking people to pledge a regular amount via a standing order to the campaign. I undertook to distribute as many as possible and handed out over 100 to various people. I also spoke to everyone I gave a leaflet to, explaining how this was the most important thing we could do to fight One Barnet and outsourcing. Of the hundred people I asked, maybe 75% were positively minded and gave me every encouragement that they would complete the form and make a commitment. I asked people if they would seriously consider it and if they seemed uninterested, didn't trouble them further. Two people were hostile. One said to me "Are you so stupid that you don't know why the country is having to make cuts?" I responded "We are not raising funds to fight the cuts, we are raising funds to fight Barnet Councils outsourcing program, which will remove jobs from Barnet and runs a real risk of failure, causing major financial risk to the taxpayer". The man responded "You are just a c*nt". Now in many ways I'd have to agree with him so I responded. "Yes I am a complete c*nt, but setting that aside, have you considered the risks to the Boroughs finances which One Barnet poses". He suggested I had sex and travelled in a kindly manner. An old lady who heard the exchange asked for a form and said "I promise I'll fill it in, you shouldn't have to put up with abuse like that". I replied "It's a free country, I've been called worse".

Another person, who I asked if they would contribute said "No, there is no point, it's a foregone conclusion, this is all pointless". I responded by saying "Barnet have to listen to the judges at the Royal Courts. This can change things". He replied "If you believe that, you are an idiot". The lady standing next to him said "Ignore him, he'd only here because I made him come along".

Perhaps the strangest response of all was from Mr Julian Silverman, who is a BAPS stallwart. When I offered him a form, he enquired in a rather confused manner "Are we in Norfolk?". Julian is a highly intellectual chap, with a very well refined sense of humour, often unfathomable to us mere mortals. I wasn't really sure what he was on about (maybe the cold had just frozen his brain). I said "Isn't that a bit insulting to Norfolk?" He beamed with a maniac grin and gesticulated wildly towards a brick wall. I made a mental note to ask him what he was on about (assuming it wasn't just the cold), next time I saw him.

Having not bothered to wear a hat, gloves or a vest after a while I started to feel rather cold. My ears felt like cardboard and my brain started to tell me I wasn't really being very sensible. I pondered whether I too was in Norfolk. The cold can do that to you. Luckily sometime Barnet Eye guest blogger John Sullivan sprang to the rescue and said "You look cold, can I buy you a tea". We adjourned to Greggs and I took great delight in munching through a sausage roll, courtesy of Johns generosity. I've met many people in the struggle to see sense, but I have met none who I hold in as high esteem as John Sullivan. If there were twenty John Sullivans in Barnet with his honesty, fight and drive, the insanity of One Barnet would have been defeated years ago. Sadly we only have the one and he sometimes seems to me as if he carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. John is not only generous but wise and funny. He is a pleasure to be with. We walked some of the route together chatting about the struggle. John is the carer for his adult daughter Susan. His greatest fear is what will happen to Susan if and when he and his wife Ida pass away. He believes that the current regime in Barnet are the epitomy of evil as he believes that they have no compassion or care for people with disability. Try as I might to find it, I see little evidence to contradict Johns appraisal of Susans prospects in the current climate in Barnet. I wish John could sit back and enjoy his twilight years with Ida and not have to worry. I have three children and as a parent I know that anything which threatens my children would be resisted to my dying breath with all my might and will. John feels that the current regime in Barnet are throwing his daughter to the lions and only he and Ida really have any prospect of delaying the day when her quality of life is completely destroyed in the name of budget cuts. If someone said to me they were going to take one of my children, remove all quality from their life and put their happiness and wellbeing in the hands of contractors who's sole motivation is to make a quick buck from getting the contract, I would react exactly as John has. I get it, but unlike John, I don't live with that fear and I am not reminded of the stomach retching awfulness of the situation every single day.  All I can do is write this blog and hope that sooner or later, people who have exhibited little empathy for their fellow, less fortunate, human beings see sense.

For the latter part of the march, I walked with GLA rep Andrew Dismore. The more I see of Andrew and the more I talk to him, the more I like him.  He shared some of the gossip about the GLA with me. He spilled the beans on what really gets Boris's goat. He also gave me a few interesting pointers about Tory Fire supremo James Cleverly. I had formed an impression of James from his tweets and writings. It is interesting to see how good an insight into someones personality this can give. Andrew also cast a little light on the dilemma of the GLA Lib Dems and their "nuffink to do with me guv'nor" attitude to the coalition". Sadly I don't think any Lib Dem should try that one. You are either in a coalition or you are not. 

We arrived at Friern Library to be greeted by warmth, tea and cakes. It was the 79th birthday of the Library. It was packed. I feel I played a role in saving it and that is a matter of some pride to me. If all of the people who helped wage the campaign hadn't bothered, then maybe right now a block of flats would be going up on the site. One BBC London there was a report stating "only 20% of Londoners use libraries". Scant word that this 20% is the most needy 20%. Students, children and old people make up the majority of the client base. That is why such figures are so misleading. Someone asked me about that figure and I said "Listen 0.0% of the country go to Eton, but the cabinet is stuffed full of people that went there. Every one of that 0.0% in the cabinet never has used a library out of necessity. Are we so foolish that we'd restict the ability of people to develop and grow their intellects purely because they can't afford books".

My eldest daughter is 17. During the week I attended a session at her college, where lecturers from Oxford and Cambridge spoke about the benefits of going to their respective universities. The lady from Oxford said "Oxford and Cambridge Universities have the finest libraries in the country. This means that our students have the greatest opportunities to learn. I would urge every one of you to read as many books as you can. This is the best way to develop your intellect". Sadly it seems that some people in our society believe that such opportunities should only be open to the elite.

The right always talk about "the politics of envy" when institutions such as Eton are discussed. I have no issue with anyone going to Eton or wishing to send their child to Eton. I do however have a massive issue with the concept that if a child has the potential to be the next Einstein, they are statistically 200 times more likely to get to Oxford to study if they are born to a family that will send them to Eton as if they are born to a single mum on benefits and sent to the local state comprehensive. To me that is not envy, that is unfairness.

That is why so many people turned out in the snow.

Whoever called this protest Barnet Spring should be shot




Friday, 22 March 2013

Residents march for public services and a ‘Barnet Spring’

Barnet residents will demonstrate this Saturday 23rd March in defence of public services and against cuts and the One Barnet outsourcing programme. The ‘Barnet Spring’ march, organised by Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS), will assemble between 11am and noon at Finchley Central tube station to hear speakers, then proceed to Friern Barnet Community Library for a final rally and celebration of Friern Barnet Library’s 79th birthday. There will be a bus available for those who prefer not to walk.

BAPS coordinator Tirza Waisel said:
“BAPS was at the High Court this week supporting Barnet resident Maria Nash’s application for Judicial Review of the One Barnet outsourcing programme. We heard the Council say they did not need to consult residents about whether the bulk of our services are run by a private company or in-house as at present; they said our input on such questions was not useful. It is attitudes such as this that we want to challenge with our march.”
“Residents are right to be worried about what will happen if One Barnet fails to deliver the expected savings and means further cuts in services. This is already happening with Your Choice Barnet, set up under the auspices of One Barnet to make a surplus. Now it is making a loss the management want to cut service levels and are asking Barnet Council for a bailout. “Part of the evidence in court was how Barnet Council banned us from discussing policy matters at our own residents’ forums. Barnet residents have a right to be consulted about the services we rely on and pay for. We need more democracy in Barnet; we call for a Barnet Spring!”
*******************************************************************************
This message is a press release from the Barnet Alliance for Public Services

The Friday Joke 21/3/2013

From our friends in America













And closer to home

































And even closer to home (see highlighted bit in red)  (This was the weekly broadcast from Pam Wharfe, Director of Barnet Council). I guess you had to be in court for the JR to know just how funny this statement really is.


Dear colleagues

You may have seen in the news over the past few days that the Judicial Review has been heard at the High Court this week.  As we expected, we aren’t yet able to tell you the outcome of the Hearing and it is quite usual for the Judge to take several weeks to announce the court’s final decision.

While we can’t predict the final decision we do remain confident that the Council has followed a robust process throughout the DRS project and we are hopeful that we will be able to proceed with the democratic decision-making once the Judicial Review has been resolved.  I will of course let you know as soon as I have any more news.

In the meantime, as we move to being a commissioning council, the new structure of the organisation will be in place from 2 April.  As part of this restructure DRS services will all move into one business unit and, I am delighted to say, Bill Murphy will take up the role of DRS Director from 2 April.  Bill has been leading customer services and revenues and benefits through their outsourcing process as well as leading the Library Strategy.   So he is used to dealing with a range of difficult issues and customer facing services!

In order to further facilitate this change, and to enable Declan Hoare to take up his role as a Lead Commissioner, I have asked Martin Cowie to take on line management of Highway Design and Transport and Regeneration and for Rick Mason to take on Traffic Management.  The senior managers involved are aware of their line management changes.  Although this creates two reporting lines within highways I would not expect this to damage working relationships across the highways service.

There will be plenty of information about how the new structure will work on the intranet over the coming weeks but if you have any questions about how these changes will affect you or your team please speak to your manager or raise it through the staff group.

Change and Me workshops are available for staff over the coming weeks.  The next workshop will take place on 28 March 9.30 – 10.30 in Cedar. We are currently arranging more dates for April and May. These sessions are run by Maria Goldsmith, the council’s staff counsellor, tohelp staff explore their feelings about change.  If you would like to book onto a session please email employee.support@barnet.gov.uk.

Kind regards

Pam Wharfe
Director for Place
London Borough of Barnet
2nd Floor Building 4, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP
0208 3** 7***

Thursday, 21 March 2013

One Barnet Judicial Review - Day 3

Mr Mustard, Mr Reasonable, Citizen Barnet, Mrs Angry and Rog T outside the Royal Courts
Today was day 3 of the One Barnet judicial review. Due to a hectic work schedule, I've been unable to attend the first two days, but I wanted to hear the defence from Barnet (I know the details of the challenge pretty well) and I wanted to see how Barnet Council could possibly defend their actions. I probably know more about the history of the project and the sorry tale of non consultations than just about anyone in Barnet, having blogged it since 2008. I have received brown paper envelopes with all manner of documents I'd get sued if I published. I have had strange phonecalls in the night tipping me off about all manner of things and asking me if I'd thought of FoI'ing all manner of questions. I am acutely aware of the complete lack of consultation on the issue and have been as supportive as I could be of the efforts of Maria Nash to bring the judicial review.

I see the role of the Barnet bloggers as primarily one of putting things on the public record that would otherwise be lost. As a result, Maria's legal team have a huge resource to draw on. I am also extremely lucky  that since I started writing this blog, four other bloggers have joined the fray, doing a far better job than me in  recording and analysing what has been going on. We are especially lucky to have John Dix AKA Mr Reasonable, who brings forensic analysis skills to our team. I suppose if you wanted to categorise the style of each of us, I'd be The Sun, Mr Reasonable would be The Financial Times, Mr Mustard would be accountancy weekly, Citizen Barnet would be The Guardian and Mrs Angry would be Mills & Boon !!! (Not really, I just put that in to wind her up, I'd have Mrs A down as Private Eye really). 

Between us, we cover all of the bases pretty well. We have issued many joint blogs and I feel honoured to be part of a very hard working team known as the Barnet bloggers. Now I merely mention all of this to give some background to my feelings listening to the Barnet Council defence. I've published over 3,000 seperate blogs on this site and a huge number of these have in some way, shape or form been related to One Barnet. I have received legal threats over some of the blogs I've published. I've had abusive messages left and I've had  comments about me and my business put on the Hendon Times website. 

So today I actually heard a proper defence of the One Barnet program from a QC paid for with my tax. I did not hear what I expected to hear. I heard that Barnet consider the fact that they mentioned outsourcing on the 900th page of an obscure report to be proof of consultation. I heard that they believed the decision to commit to the outsourcing process was made in March 2011, even though that decision did not rule out an in house bid. They claimed a negative options appraisal amounted to a decision, even though they could not justify this with any document that specifically said this. They claimed that under "section 3" The council only needed to consult to help them make a better decision, missing the fact that

a) The Council are merely there to represent us the taxpayer (ie we are the major stakeholder)
b) Listening to people could only make the decision better
c) Plenty of other legislation imposes the need to consult on them and a sensible council would.

They claimed that they had consulted because they had "residents forums" even though they banned One Barnet as a topic at these meetings.

They claimed they had consulted because groups that were set up to lead the community had been informed of the process.

They claimed that they didn't need to do an equalities Impact Assessment until they "had something to assess" missing the point that they should have built an equalities policy into the whole process. 

They claimed that One Barnet was simply a run of the mill contract tender, like the 9,300 other tenders for things such as who sells the council toilet paper.

During this session the judge repeatedly asked questions which indicated that he was none to impressed with any of these arguments.

At the end of the morning session, I had to leave. I have a new studio opening tomorrow and I'm not rich enough to neglect my business, but I'd heard enough. Whatever happens, it is clear to me that the Council has no consideration for the people who elect it or pay taxes to run it. They think we are an inconvenience and can be ignored. 

As I left I said to Mr Reasonable "I found it hard not to interrupt as she made her case". Mr Reasonable agreed. The judge has said he'll give us his verdict after Easter. I may be wrong, but this must be a positive sign. The strongest defence for the Council was that the argument was out of time (ie the decision was made in March 2011 and the challenge wasn't launched within three months - Maria stated that the substantive decision was made in December 2012). I cannot help but think that if the judge accepted this argument, he wouldn't need more than five minutes to give his verdict and that would be that. Maybe I am deluded. 

If Maria wins her case (as I believe she should in a sane world), I sincerely hope Barnet Council take heed. Should the judge not find in her favour, then I suspect that Capita will find Barnet anything but a benign environment. There was a bloke from Capita sitting next to Mrs Angry during the hearing. At lunch, he told us that if Capita do get the green light, they will regularly invite the bloggers in to discuss progress. This intrigued me. I have continually warned them of the need to take account of local people and suggested that Barnet could be a very hot potato. I may be wrong, but it seems rather interesting that Capita have at least realised that they need to have a strategy to address Barnet bloggers. The penny never dropped for Barnet Council, which is why they have ended up in the High Court. 

One other interesting thing I noted was the body language of the Barnet team (especially the legal team). When I don't understand the detail of a discussion I always immediately start watching for what is called in Poker a "Tell". I can categorically say that the Barnets team were playing a weak hand. Every time the Judge asked a question, if the Barnet Barrister gave a good, confident response which the judge accepted she neglected to do a certain physical action that she did when she took a hit. Having worked out her show, I started counting how many times he did it over the three and a half hours. To spare her blushes, I won't publish this non scientific total, but for me it was rather enlightening. The law is a funny old thing and nothing would surprise me with the verdict. I will say this. What I saw today convinced me that I did the morally correct thing in dedicating the last 4 1/2 years to cataloging this nonsense.