Sunday, 24 September 2017

The Tweets of The Week in the London Borough of Barnet - 24/9/2017

What a lovely Sunday morning. I am sure you awoke wondering what lovely chesnuts we'd pick from the autumnal chestnut tree of Barnet tweets for your delictation! So without further ado, we'll crack on with our selection of the porkiest prime cuts from the Tweeters of Barnet. Don't forget to follow any who tickle your fancy!

1. Oh the lot of a Policeman/Policewoman isn not a happy one. Not exactly Moriarty, this chap.

2. John Keough enjoyed a rather tasty gig in Finchley on Friday night!

3. Can you help police solve an unsolved murder from 1972?

4. We know a lot of readers are interested in local history. This looks unmissable!

5. Sadly more fly tipping in Golders Green

6. The good, the bad and the ugly in Mill Hill. No, they are not remaking the film.

7. Great autumnal colours in Finchley

8. Barnet Rebel rather enjoyed his bat walk

9.I loved this tweet from one of our regulars!

10. The incredible Wilde Roses were in Mill Hill rehearsing for their forthcoming, sell out US Tour!

Thats all from the tweeters for this week!

Saturday, 23 September 2017

The Satuday List #147 - Give me a break! 147 is a magical number

Image result for The Saturday List
I've been looking forward to this list for quite a long time! As a reformed Snooker-a-holic, 147 is a mythical and magical number. The highest possible break without refereeing errors or free shots. But are there nine other facts about the number 147 interesting enough to make a Saturday list? Well actually there are lots and lots IMHO! Of all the articles I write in the week, the list is my favourite to put together. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I have enjoyed putting it together.

1. 147 is the maximum possible break you can achieve in snooker.

Image result for Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius
 2. 147AD was a momentous year in the Roman Empire. Marcus Aurelius receives imperial powers from the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius and Festivals were hel to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the founding of Rome. Aurelius later became Emperor and was known as "The Last of the Five Good Emperors". He was a man of wisdom and is to me the most interesting of the roman Emperors, who back in 147AD were the rulers of our nation. Aurelius is a fascinating character.

His writings, known as "The Meditations" are profound and enlightening this is one of my favourite

"When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can't tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own—not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine."

 147AD was a good year all round for Marcus Aurelius, as his eldest daughter Annia Aurelia Galeria Faustina was born.

3. On the biblical front,   Psalm 147 is perhaps my favorite Psalm. It contains the lines:

The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
He gathers the outcasts of Israel.
 He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds.


The Lord supports the afflicted;
He brings down the wicked to the ground. 

Maybe it's rather a shame that certain politicians and leaders seem to be rather unfamilair with this text.

4. In 147 BC, the Corlea Trackway in Ireland was completed. There is a rather British misunderstanding that Ireland was primitive and unsophisticated before we started to poke our noses into Irish affairs. Archaelogical evidence such as the Corlea Trackway rather contradicts this.

The Long Walk
5. In 2000AD issue 147, "The Long Walk" is shown for the first time. This is the walk Judges take when they retire.

The distopian world of Judge Dredd seems to roll ever closer. In Dredds world, the last President of the USA was Robert L. Booth.   His rhetoric bears a striking similarity to a certain well known incumbent. The City is ringed by a Mile High Wall. Spy in the sky drone technology was predicted in the 1970's as were rigged voting machines. Interestingly, the two most successful Mayor's in Mega City one were Dave the Orang utang, Dave had the one quality which is totally lacking in most politicians in that he was completely honest. The other  PJ Maybe, a psychopathic killer who's partner was a sexbot (long before such things were available), who simply murdered everyone in his way to the top. Strangely having killed everyone in his way, Maybe turned out to be a rather good Mayor, as whilst he had no care for peoples personal wellbeing, he wanted to be loved by the people, therefore he did the job well and was uncorruptable.

6. Sergio Aguero, the Manchester City striker, scored his first 100 premiership goals in 147 games. Only Alan Shearer reached the figure in less games (perhaps my favourite 147 as a City fan!).

7. In May this year, the worlds oldest man, aged 147 died in Indonesia! Sadly his age could not be verified, therefore the Guinness book of records refused to recognise the record.

8. The parish Church of Friern Barnet, St John The Evangelist Church is no 147, Friern Barnet Road. Friern Barnet is a rather important site in the modern history of the London Borough of Barnet. When certain local politicians tell you that no libraaries have been closed in the Borough of Barnet, ask them about Friern Barnet Library. That was closed and only reopened after an occupation, national press coverage, a court case and the prospect of electoral losses for the ruling party. St Johns is a integral part of this rather amazing community.

9. Arkley is the fourth highest point in London, being 147 Metres above sea level!

10. If you think we are a bit OCD about lists and numbers check this out! have you heard of  "The Chain" -This site lists the records chosen for The Chain, a feature of BBC 6 Music’s fabulous Radcliffe & Maconie Show. The first record on The Chain was The Chain by Fleetwood Mac. And choice number 147 was a very fine choice indeed. Spanish Bombs by The Clash!

Have a great weekend! Here's a rather cool tune to get you in the groove!

Friday, 22 September 2017

The Friday Joke - The big wedding

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Jennifer's wedding day was fast approaching. Nothing could dampen her excitement - not even her parent's nasty divorce. Her mother had found the PERFECT dress to wear, and would be the best-dressed mother-of-the-bride ever!

A week later, Jennifer was horrified to learn that her father's new, young wife had bought the exact same dress as her mother! Jennifer asked her father's new young wife to exchange it, but she refused. "Absolutely not! I look like a million bucks in this dress, and I'm wearing it," she replied.
Jennifer told her mother who graciously said, "Never mind sweetheart.I'll get another dress. After all, it's your special day."
A few days later, they went shopping, and did find another gorgeous dress for her mother.
When they stopped for lunch, Jennifer asked her mother, "Aren't you going to return the other dress? You really don't have another occasion where you could wear it."
Her mother just smiled and replied, "Of course I do, dear... I'm wearing it to the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding."

Have a great weekend. We hope to see a few of our readers later tonight at The Bohemia for our gig!  Please help us support live music!

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Capita computer cock-up blamed for Barnet Council's delayed accounts (Barnet Labour Press Release)

Barnet Council's accounts for 2016/17 have been delayed for months due to a change in computer systems which meant the Capita data systems did not match up with the audit format, councillors learned at an extraordinary meeting of the Audit Committee this week (19 Sep).

In the meeting, specially convened in order to scrutinise the final accounts for 2016/17, the problem was compared to the two systems speaking different languages. The accounts should have been finalised and signed-off before the summer.

The meeting also discussed a litany of errors and issues in the accounts highlighted by the auditors, including:

- material misstatements resulting in a reduction in Council net assets and reserves by £82.348 million, and of the Barnet Group by £89.295 million
- failure to collect £925,711 for energy costs from Comer Homes, who own the North London Business Park site that the Council is currently based at. The auditors' report says that "We have seen correspondence in 2015 suggesting this will be repaid at £50,000 per month but we have not seen any recovery to date. The case has been passed to HB Public Law".
- failure to invoice Re Ltd (Joint Venture company with Capita) for contract performance penalties totalling £4.6 million.

Capita run both finance and IT services for Barnet Council.

East Finchley Councillor and Audit Committee member, Arjun Mittra said:

"When we scrutinised the appointment of Capita we were told they were the best in the world in offering these types of IT systems, that they have clients all over the world and are experts. It turns out that's complete baloney and really they are quite rubbish."

On the failure to recoup money from Comer and Re Ltd, Woodhouse Councillor, Alan Schneiderman said:

"It is astonishing that this has gone on for two years. That is a lot of money that could be put to good use. I don't know why it seems so difficult to recoup the money. If the Council were as tough with Comer Homes and Capita as they are with residents when collecting Council Tax we would have the money back in no time. Why are they always weak to the strong but strong to the weak?"

Join us on Friday at The Bohemia for an evening of music with The False Dots

The False Dots
The Save London Music Campaign is delighted to launch the first of a series of gigs bringing high quality live music back to the High Street in North Finchley. We kick off with Mill Hill Legends, The False Dots + Support. The False Dots have been playing their blend of psychedelic rock, tinged with dark humour and a punk ethos since 1979. In the 1980's the band toured the UK and Europe and had a strong cult following in London. They are soon to release their long awaited new album "Songs of Love and War".

They launch our very special series of gigs at The Bohemia as part of our "Down the Road from The Torrington" series of gigs. Admission is free, to help lead guitar Rog T celebrate his birthday, so please come along for a truly awesome night in one of Londons finest Brewpubs!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Chaos at The Council Part 3 - The Audit committee

Tonight I spent two and a half hours at the Barnet Council Audit Committee. Let's start at the end. All of the motions were passed. The accounts were signed off by the committee.  In fact some Tory Councillors were proud of them.

So you may conclude everything was tickety boo. But oh, if life were so simple, which it isn't. As regular readers will know, this particluar "special" meeting was a result of the previous meeting being concluded in chaos. At that meeting, the external auditors highlighted the "problems" completing the report, due to Capita not providing the information in a timely and concise fashion,. They had also not been informed about the awful OFSTED report in an appropriate fashion.

So today was part 2. Prior to the meeting, I had a conflab with fellow Barnet bloggers, Mr Reasonable and Mrs Angry. We had asked questions and asked to address the committee. We'd received written answers to the questions we'd posted and discussed the various deficencies with the answers

Committee chair, Hugh Rayner opened proceedings with a rundown on meeting protocol. Then he did something none of us bloggerrs expected. He gave a short speech in which he laid into the way Capita had approached the audit. He commended the auditors for the way they had dealt with the issues.He stated that they had been too focussed on the journey and not the outcome. The report was not thorough in the outcomes department. A review was being undertaken, which would hoghlight what was needed to put humpty dumpty back together again.

Reading over my notes, there is quite a scary scenario being spelled out by the auditors.

The key highlights.

* Austerity is breaking the council (and every other council). Reserves are being dipped into, but come 2020 we face armageddon unless Central Govt changes the funding formula.

* Capita would pay the council around £55,000 towards extra costs incurred as a result of their failure to support the audit.

* Re/Capita were in dispute of a £4.6 million payment to the council. This was deemed "non material" to the audit outcome. Councillor Rayner asked Capita to acknowledge the amount. Mr "Dally" from Capita refused and simply "acknowledged the dispute"

* The Auditor felt that the council was one of the worse clients for "preparation of accounts" but not the worst.

* Councillor Finn was clearly not listening when the auditor from BDO stated that the accounts were qualified for "use of resources" due to the OFSTED audit. He specifically said in his speech at the end that the acounts were fine and "not qualified".

* The Auditor stated on several occasions that Barnets method of outsourcing was "unusual". Councillor Mittra suggested that we'd been promised Capita would be marvellous at reporting, the man from BDO looked at his shoe and refused to be drawn "There is one council that are on our books that are much worse". I was reminded of a friend who bought a Ford Anglia with a blown head gasket and my Dad advised "Well if you can find one with a good lump in a scrapyard and you know how to fit it, you'll probably have got a bargain".

The question I asked re what was being done to ensure this didn't happen again had received a non answer. I pointed this out. It turned out that the answer from the Section 151 officer was slightly misleading. It stated a plan would resolve all of the issues. When I asked why they hadn't seen the plan, they revealed that this wouldn't be ready till November, so it is clearly too early to claim it would resolve anything.

Any sane person, who hadn't fallen asleep for the duration of the meeting would be rather alarmed. After the meeting, I had an informal, off the record chat with Comittee Chair Hugh Rayner. I quite like Hugh, unlike certain other Barnet Committee chairs, he is respectful to the public. Hethanked myself and Mr Reasonable for our questions and said that it was helpful (Mrs Angry had departed earlier). It was a pleasant change and I suspect that some of the younger whippersnappers could learn something from this approach. Cllr Rayner is one of the better committee chairs. He seems to be keen to do the job properly and expressed some candid and very sensible view privately afterwards. The purpose of  the audit committee is to provide scrutiny. The job of the chair is important and Cllr Rayner discharged it seriously and with an appropriate level of humour and gravitas. I would commend Councillor Hutton and Mitra for some excellent questions. I do hope that cllr Rayner has a quiet word with Councillor Zinkin. He has not covered himself in glory throughout this process. For some reason he seems determined to cast himself as the "Capita Champion" and clearly does not understand his job.

As for Councillor Finn. I like Tony. He's a decent chap in many ways, however his summing up was bizzare. One attendee, who shall remain nameless, suggested that he simply uses the same speech every year. Maybe as an accountant, he simply wanted to say some nice things. Sadly it was inappropriate given the car crash. It was a very different car crash to usual. The chair is not in denial. Once you get past the BDO auditors soothing tone, you really should be rather worried.

The one thing we all need to be aware of is that come 2020, unless central government eases its austerity program, nothing that bloggers, councillors, auditors or Council Officers can do will save us from the mother of all budget crises. Given that the government is barley functioning and riven with splits, I can only see huge tax rises and savage service cuts. This is regarldless of the party in charge.