They don't like bullies. They don't like rip off merchants. They don't like people who play fast and loose with the rules. We especially don't like people who we perceive to be in positions of authority who take advantage of it.
Why do I mention this? Because I think anyone associated with the Tory Party in Barnet would be well advised to give these principles some serious thought in light of the train crash unfolding around the new Mayor of Barnet, Mr Hugh Rayner. The story began last week with some rather unsavoury business practices emplyed by Mr Rayner being exposed by Andrew Dismore. He brought the subject up with the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who was none too impressed. Just to recap, the issues Mr Dismore revealed were.
• He drafted 12-month contracts which permit rent increases by any amount during any time of year – and in one case, a mother was slapped with a three per cent hike without warning
• Turning up to a tenant’s house unannounced at 10pm at night, “pressuring” her to sign a new lease without reading it
• Using tenant’s children as translators
• Fellow Conservative Councillor John Hart was asked to pre-sign a lease without the tenant being present – something which is illegal
• Overcharging residents on housing benefit “to the detriment of the public purse”
(full story on the Hendon Times here - http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/11274996.POLL__Should_Barnet_Mayor_Hugh_Rayner_resign_/?ref=mc )
I've often wondered who, if anyone, advises the Barnet Tories on their PR. Whoever it is should be sacked. To my amazement, the Leader of the Barnet Tories, Richard Cornelius came out in favour of Mr Rayners business practices today. He told the Hendon Times.
“If it’s something that’s illegal it’s something that shouldn’t be done. It depends on what you mean by illegal” Mr Cornelius continued “Leases should be in line with a statute. If it wasn’t, it would be a civil matter. Market rent is what you can get something for. If that’s the amount of money he can get for the houses, it’s market rent. I don’t see that as overcharging to the detriment of the public purse. No of course he shouldn’t resign over this.”(full details here http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/11280338.Council_leader_defends_Barnet_Mayor_s__illegal__behaviour/ ) In short, Mr Cornelius thinks it's OK to overcharge vulnerable people, when taxpayers are picking up the tab. I find this to be an obscene position for a Council Leader to take. By rushing out an ill thought through statement, he is now a hostage to fortune. Mr Cornelius may feel that the market rent is charging what you like to vulnerable people, but I doubt this is a widely held view. His prevaracation about what may or may not be illegal is perhaps the most disturbing comment of all. Clearly Mr Cornelius has learned nothing from the sad demise of Brian Coleman. Given that Mr Rayner has admitted all of the charges made by Mr Dismore (see his reponse to the Hendon Times here http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/11274996.POLL__Should_Barnet_Mayor_Hugh_Rayner_resign_/?ref=mr ), you would think that Mr Cornelius would have a bit more sense.
Sadly for Mr Rayner and Mr Cornelius, it appears that the matter has got much worse today. New revealations about Mr Rayner have come out. It now seems that Mr Rayner has failed to declare business interests when taking part in crucial votes in the Town Hall.
(details here in the Hendon Times http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/11281023.Mayor_Hugh_Rayner_failed_to_declare_interests_when_voting_on_housing_policies/ ). Mr Rayner, as a major private Landlord took part in discussions which devised the Councils housing allocation policy. He failed to declare an interest, when the Councils new policy delares
“We now house more housing applicants in the private rented sector than in social housing. The draft allocations policy will set out an approach that complements this shift by recognising that an offer of private rented sector housing provides a positive solution to housing need.”If that is not a conflict of interest for a professional Landlord, what is? It seems that his support is ebbing away. Highly respected (ex)Barnet Tory blogger and ex senior member of the chipping Barnet Tories David "Don't Call Me Dave" Miller commented on the local paper website
"This latest revelation appears to remove the benefit of any doubt to which Hugh Rayner was entitled. It is still not clear whether he has acted unlawfully, but he has certainly conducted himself in a manner unbecoming of an elected representative and First Citizen of the Borough."
"There is no legal requirement for Landlords to join the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme so this is irrelevant. Assured Shorthold Tenancies do not need to be witnessed so, whilst it was stupid (if true) for Cllr Hart to have witnessed a document in advance of it being signed, it is not clear that any offence has actually been committed. As for multiple rent rises during the year, if the lease clearly allows the landlord to put the rent up multiple times, then no offence has been committed – even if most people would consider such a term to be unfair. And Boris isn’t a Judge, so for him to suggest that something is “prima facie illegal” without knowing the facts is also irrelevant ."So it is clear that even former supporters of Mr Rayner have lost faith in the man. By sticking his neck out for Mr Rayner, Mr Cornelius has completely undermined his own authority and yet again shown extremely poor judgement. I tend to think Mr Miller is a fair judge of the prevailing winds in the local Tory viewpoint. He is the voice of the grassroot activist and is someone that on many occasions the elite who run the show should listen to. He started out from the position that Andrew Dismore was simply using the issue to cause trouble for the Tories, but as the story has emerged he's realised that the story is more serious. There was a time when the Barnet Tories had lots of sensible men such as Mr Miller offering sensible advice behind the scenes. Sadly for the Tories the Party has long since dispensed with their services. Mr Rayner himself organised one such purge after the last general election, which resulted in one of their most effective organisers, Mr Adrian Murray-Leonard leaving. Whilst this secured Mr Rayners position in the Hendon Labour Party, it spectacularly backfired as Mr Murray-Leonard joined UKIP and has spent the last three years organising against the local Tories. This is likely to cost the Tories the Hendon Constituency in the 2015 general election.
The incident with Mr Murray-Leonard cost Mr Rayner many friends in the Hendon Tories. Whilst the more stupid local Tories seem to think this tale has been dug up by Mr Dismore, in actual fact the details have been touted around the Barnet bloggers for several years by certain disaffected Tories, only too keen to see Mr Rayner get his comeuppance. None of these revealations are new to the Barnet Eye. We simply haven't had the resources to verify them, in the way that the Hendon Times has. Following a Tip off back in 2010, we posted this blog and asked some of the questions that are being asked now. Sadly no one took much notice then - http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/can-maureen-braun-shed-some-light-on.html - but as you can see, this train crash has been a long time in coming.