Sunday, 28 August 2016

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet

Here it is again, our most popular regular weekly feature. What's been going on in our neck of the woods through the eyes of the local twits?

1. We all love to start with a happy ending - Get your mog microchipped!

2. Fancy a bit of Tai Chi

3. Fancy a bit of Folk?

4. Now this is a new one on me, but a deffo follow. Automated river level tweets for Deansbrook!

5. Save Barnet Diving is the big story around these parts right now.

6. Do you follow your local radio station? We do!

7. Nice piccie of Totteridge from John Keough
8. Now this tweet from Suze is truly intrigiung

9. One for all our friends in Hampstead village!
10. And of course I must give this a big plug!

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Why Frederick Forsyth is talking rubbish about NHS investment

One of my favourite columnists is Federick Forsyth in the Daily Express every Friday. Unlike the inane babble spouted by most tabloid celebrity columnists, who have dull lives and merely peddle tittle tattle, Fred has lead an interesting life and has plenty to say. I don't agree with most of his politics, but he makes interesting and well argued points and can bring a wealth of experience and anecdotes to support his views. This week however he demonstated that he really doesn't understand government or running a business. In his column, under the title "Doublespeak Politicians just love to 'invest' " he betrays a fundamental failure to appreciate what the govt is supposed to do with our money. He says

HAVE you noticed that politicians and most especially Left-wingers never mention the word “spending” when they unveil their economic plans? Thus Jeremy Corbyn, in a long, recent list of proposals, managed to blow several hundred billion pounds on the “investments” he would like to make if, heaven forbid, he ever actually got into power. 
Let’s be frank. If you really invest, the money remains yours and you can retrieve it when you want unless you have been daft enough to sign away your right to do that. And invested money provides a “yield” or “return on investment” – the ROI – which is the point of wise investment. But when it is spent, it’s gone. 
Thus, you cannot “invest” in the NHS. So billions are spent on it. OK, it’s a good expenditure to provide a nationwide healthcare service free at the point of delivery. But it is not an investment. We are never going to see it back or get an annual dividend dropping on to the doormat. 
Mind you, we live in a world of euphemisms, platitudes and smarmy untruths. 
Perhaps someone should create a parallel dictionary: what big business, advertisers, officialdom and politicians tell you and what it really means in plain English. It would be quite a big lexicon because what is said and what it really means is very rarely the same nowadays.

Mr Forsyth states "You cannot invest in the NHS" on the grounds "invested money provides a yield or return on investment". Sadly Fred really hasn't thought this through. There are three ways in which his statement is factually incorrect. First, there are many opportunities for investment in the NHS which will produce a yield for the taxpayer. Mr Forsyth should know better than anyone that technology is always offering investment opportunities, to increase efficiency in the way we do things. I will give one example. Fifty years ago the process of taking X-Rays was done by large departments. All of the results were stored on film and there was a huge requirement for a library system for the prints. These had to be kept for decades so comparisons etc could be performed. Modern technology means they are now digitised. This frees up land, reduces the number of staff required to run X Ray departments and means they cost far less to run. As the government funds this process, the investment in new equipment has produced a very real and tangible return for the taxpayer as the they have to levy less tax to pay for X rays. This process has been repeated in every part of the NHS. Had the governement not invested in this modernisation and we still used the 1950's way of doing things the NHS would cost many billions more to run.

The second way in which the NHS delivers a return for the government is when investment in new treatments mean that people who were previously unable to work are able to be treated and return to contributing to the economy. The NHS is just one strand of the UK economy, the government is responsible for the whole thing. It is true that the NHS is largely a cost centre, but it is a necessary one as it keeps the population fit and in good shape for work. This lowers the bill for disability benefits. I am a living example of how this works. Since 2011, I've been under the care of the NHS for cancer. In January I had a new treatment for prostate cancer, which has only been available for 4 years. The treatment is non invasive and thus far the results are good. By investing in screening and development of such treatments, people like me don't get ill with cancer and have to live on benefits at huge cost to the taxpayer. I have a friend who recently had stents for a chrnic heart condition. Twenty years ago he'd be living on cardiac drugs or even dead. If he was dead, the taxpayer would be picking up the bill for his family. Lowering the tax bill by having lower levels of chronic illness is a great example. Perhaps the greatest return on investment has been for immunisation programs that have eliminated diseases such as polio, measles and mumps. Improvements in osbstetrics have also massively reduced the number of problems with births. These have contributed massively to reducing the cost of running the nation. If this is not a wise investment, I've no idea what is.

The third way in which investment in the NHS produces a dividend is perhaps the most obvious, even for someone like Fred, who clearly doesn't get business. The NHS is continually developing and pioneering new treatments. Once these have been perfected, they are then licensed and sold around the world. The UK is a centre of excellence and doctors come from all over the world to learn about the innovations we provide. This generates huge amounts of money for the GDP.

Fred Forsyth says that because we won't get a dividend check through the door, it is wrong to define it as an investment. I couldn't disagree more. The dividend check is paid in the way the NHS is continually using technology to develop new treatments, to make more people well again and that citizens of the UK pay less money than any other developed nation for first class medical care. 

There are all manner of reasons someone will invest. Some people invest to recieve a big dividend check. Some people invest in companies, because they know that there won't be dividends for years (even decades) but the company is developing producst that will make the share value rocket (early google investors are an example of this). Then there are people who invest in shares to get a shareholder benefit. For years I held shares in The Restaurant Group. They gave every shareholder 12 vouchers a year that gave them 30% off the full price of a meal for up to 12 people. As the restarants like Frankie and Bennys, Chiquito and Blubeckers were favourites of my family and kids, my £1000 investment was recovered in 2 years of savings on family nights out. For me the best "shareholder benefit" of the NHS is that I am still alive and you really can't get a better benefit than that!

Friday, 26 August 2016

The Friday Joke - 26/08/2016

Have a great weekend!

Arthur is 90 years old.

He's played golf every day since his retirement 25 years ago.

One day he arrives home looking downcast.

That's it,"  he tells his wife. "I'm giving up golf. My eyesight has got so bad. Once I've hit the ball, I can't see where it went."

His wife sympathises. As they sit down, she has a suggestion: "Why don't you take my brother with you, and give it one more try."

"That's no good," sighs Arthur. "Your brother is 103. He can't help."

"He may be 103," says the wife, "but his eyesight is perfect."

So the next day, Arthur heads off to the golf course with his brother-in-law. 

He tees up, takes an almighty swing, and squints down the fairway.

He turns to the brother-in-law. "Did you see the ball?"

"Of course I did!", says the brother-in-law. "I have perfect eyesight."

"Where did it go?" asks Arthur.

"Can't remember."

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Has One Barnet changed Barnet Council for residents?

I spent years fighting the One Barnet outsourcing project. Despite a huge battle and a court case, the Barnet Conservatives got there way. Now Capita and a host of other private companies have taken over the majority of council fiunctions, have you, as a local, noticed.

Over the past month, I've seen and spoken to a whole host of people who have had dealings with the councils private contractors for issues such as parking disputes, planning applications, freedom pass issues and business rates issues. What has their experience been?

Planning. I know of two cases where the council have taken well over twice the stated 8-13 weeks to grant straightforward planning permissions. Both are for businesses and both will generate jobs. In one case, the application, submitted in December has just had a request for basic information, which was supplied on the original form in December, after a period of 13 weeks with no contact at all. If this is what happens for simple matters such as moving loading bays and rebuilding derelict industrial property, it will massively damage the local economy.

Freedom passes. It is now clear that Capita made a monumental mistake in withdrawing them for hundreds of vulnerable and disabled people. Sadly the council has not had a public inquiry into how such an awful policy could be implemented by a private contractor without public debate or oversight. This was a primary objection raised by opponents and sadly we've been proven right.

Parking. My sister in law was bullied into paying a parking fine, which she should never have been issued, by the councils private contractor. A review of the audio tape of the conversation proves the contractor mislead her.

Local businesses report that Capita are using there own bailiffs as a standard tactic to harass businesses in rates disputes. Previously bailiffs were only called in when amicable solutions were untenable. This has lead to major costs and stress for small businesses trading on a difficult environment.

I hear stories like these all the time. When will our local politicians admit One Barnet is failing local people?

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Map of Middlesex inc Mill Hill, Colindale, Edgware from 1695

Ever wondered what our neighbourhood looked like in 1695? I spotted and snapped this map. Some of the spellings are interesting. As you can see the main road in Edgware was the Edgware Road, originally built by the Romans. In Mill Hill it was The Ridgeway. Hope you enjoy it. Click on map for more readable version.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Time to reform the honours system

As our Olympic squad return victorious from Rio, there is talk of an avalanche of honours for the team. I fully back this proposal. The likes of Mo Farrar show us just what hard work and dedication can achieve. The team have brought us much joy and merriment and that deserves recognition.

I do however believe the system requires a shake up. Firstly many honours have ridiculous names. There is no British Empire. When there was, for hundreds of millions of people it stood for a highly undemocratic and elitist system. If I was an immigrant from a commonwealth country, I'd feel very conflicted to be given a gong celebrating this awful historic legacy. Why not simply change the E in gongs to the word Excellence. 

A gong should celebrate supreme achievement or dedication. This would reflect its prestige far better than a gong celebrating a defunct and failed form of imperialism.

Further more I'd ban gongs for political cronies, donors and lackeys. The system would be well shot of these. I have no problem with senior ex politicians being given gongs, but I resent political failure being rewarded with a seat in the upper house. This chamber should be elected..

It is time for the UK to become a modern, fully democratic country that recognises excellence, rewards success and moves away from its dark, imperial legacy.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Happy Birthday to Me!!!!

Today is my 54th birthday, so todays blog is just a little bit of a personal reflection. I tend to go big on birthdays, I have a birthday week! It started on Thursday with a few beers with friends up at the Chandos Arms. I will probably conclude it in similar manner next Thursday. But I guess you'll be pleased to hear that this isn't going to be about my celebration plans. I guess that regular readers will have noticed I can be a little OCD at times, I like making lists (I try and do one here every Saturday). I found that making lists is a very good way of dealing with things. It all started when I was a small child. My eldest brother Laurie, who is sixteen years older than me used to delight in teasing me, winding me up and stealing my pocket money. Nothing delighted him more than if he could set me up so I performed a terrible act and got a good hiding from my Dad. At one stage when I was about six or seven years old, I was so pissed off at him, that I was quite depressed about it all.

My parents had a very good friend who was an elderly Priest, who used to visit regularly for a glass of scotch. I considered him the font of all knowledge. So I asked him the question "Fr Traynor, what should you do if your brother upsets you all the time?". He replied that one of the Lords Disciples said that his brother had wronged him 7 times, how many times should he forgive him. Jesus replied, if he has wronged you 7 times, then you should forgive him 77 times. So I started the list "number of times Laurie has upset me"

1. Locked me in the toilet when Thunderbirds was on telly, whilst giving a running commentary
2. Hung me upside down and stolen my pocket money
3. Hung a large rock on a washing line and told me to pull a chord, so it demolished the new wall my Dad had built (whilst telling my Dad to come and see what I was doing)
4. Stolen the money I'd been saving to buy a Scalextrix set for fags.
5. Locked me in the outside toilet
6. Gave me a salted plum and told me it was a sweet

And so it went on. The good news is that there are only ten more infractions to go before the Lord says I can take my revenge. The bad news is that I'm supposed to be an adult now, so if I was to lock Laurie in the bog and steal his wages, I'd doubt that I'd be able to cite my list as mitigation. I suppose that for those of you who aren't familair with the dynamics of large families (I'm the youngest of six), there are generally a whole set of disputes, wind ups, antagonisms running throughout childhood. It is also fair to say that Laurie also did many really nice things, such as buying me a fish tank with a catfish in, introduced me to 1960's psychedelic rock music, taught me a few really cool chord progressions on the guitar, etc. Strangely I never made a list of those though.

When I look at the list now, it is actually quite amusing (I am sure Laurie would find it bleeding hilarious). Perhaps the funniest thing is watching my handwriting develop. Being dyslexic it was absolutely atrocious at the start. These days it is just bloody awful. I find that making lists has been really beneficial for my blogging career. I have all sorts of lists of things to refer to. By ordering things and keeping them listed, if people say things to me like "all bloggers do is complain and they don't achieve anything", I can pull out a list of our achievements. It is a point of fact that without bloggers, the Metpro scandal would never have been exposed. This has saved the Barnet Taxpayer millionsof £££'s. Likewise the Freedom pass scandal would never have come to light. Although there are many campaigns which bloggers have had a major role in, these two are unarguably completely down to the efforts of bloggers to expose and they are the two that I am proudest to have had a role in exposing. I suppose it is ironic that something that started with being locked in the toilet when Thunderbirds was on, ended up saving disabled people from having their freedom passes illegally withdrawn. I'm immensely proud of what I've acheived through the blog. I'm also immesely grateful that so many people have read and continue to read the blog. This has been demonstrated by the recent campaign to Preserve the Railway in Edgware. Within two days of this blog highlighting the story, we had over 500 signatures on the petition.

My mum was a notorious hoarder. She kept all of our old school books. I was amused to read in one old "news" book, I'd listed my ambitions for adulthood to be to have a pond and a dog. I have spectacularly overachieved as I have two dogs and two ponds. I must say that there are few pleasures greater than sitting by the pond, with the doggies running around, whilst playing my guitar. I'm lucky to be blessed with a great wife, great children and lovely doggies. I also enjoy my work life. I was never someone who was massively ambitious financially, but I am extraordinarily passionate about music. This was a gift from my brother Laurie. My eldest brothers are twins. They were a musical inspiration. When they were teenagers, both wanted electric guitars. My Dad's response was that they could make their own, which they both did. Both are talented guitarists and it is always a pleasure listening to them jamming. They were both big on skiffle, the British forerunner of rock and roll. I always thought playing guitar was a tremendously cool thing to do. I was however constrained in my early teens by a complete lack of aptitude and confidence. However the avent of Punk rock and Mark Perry's invocation to learn three chords and form a band chimed. That was exactly what I did. I also completely got the politics of Punk Rock. My school experiences had made me rather anti establishment, and this meant that I had a natural affinity for punk in all of its forms.

I started writing songs, intitally all were about politics and were rather crude. After about a year, myself and my song writing partner, Pete Conway realised that the songs were rubbish. We checked them all away and started again. We tried to write proper, interesting songs, with stories and tunes. But we also wanted to get the message over as well. The requirement for rehearsal space, lead to me starting Mill Hill Music Complex. This eventually lead to me contacting the local press and building a relationship with them, to try and promote local bands and music. This lead to my blog at The Barnet Times. For reasons I can't fathom, this didn't develop into a music blog as I'd intended, but into a highly controversial blog about local politics. Interestingly initially my antagonist was the now disgraced, but then powerful local politician Brian Coleman.  It is interesting to note that we are roughly the same age, but unlike me he didn't have a big brother to wind him up or help him develop a love of music. Maybe that is where he went wrong?

Anyway, in my reflective mood, I realise just how important the influence of my big bruv has been in becoming Barnets most popular blogger! So maybe I'll buy him a Guinness later!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 21/08/2016

What has been inspiring the twits of Barnet? This is our pick of the week. People have asked me what criteria I use for this selection. The answer is simple, if a tweet makes me laugh, cry or I think there are a few people who might find it interesting, it gets considered. Then I try my best to put them into some sort of order.

1. This was the tweet that stated a campaign, that has generated over 600 signatures in four days and received widespread coverage in the local press and blogs. Well done to Mark Amies, a good friend of this blog

2.And we'd also like to pay tribute to some of the volunteers for one of our finest local charities!

3. And at TheBarnet Eye we are rather keen on doggies!

4.A reminder from the Assistant Director at The RAF museum of our local heritage

5. A classic view of Edgware tube station when it opened. I love these tweets
6. One of the finer spots in Finchley. The late great Spike Milligans bench!

7. Calling all local businesswomen, got some time free tomorrow night?

8. Lets celebrate our local Olympic heritage. A fine blue plaque in Golders Green
9. The big story in Mill Hill was the occupation of Mill Hill Park by a group of travellers

10. And watch out for Londons finest studios on Barnet TV!!!

Friday, 19 August 2016

"She was asking for it" - A guide for idiotic males on sexual protocol

A couple of days ago, I overheard a rather disturbing conversation on the train home from a nights drinking. As the father of a teenage girl, I thought I'd impart some helpfl advice for confused men, who clearly don't really understand sexual protocol.

There were several sweaty, middle aged men, who'd clearly been even more liberal in drink than I had been, who were somewhat worse for wear. They boarded with me at Farringdon. At St Pancras, a group of teenager girls alighted. Amongst this group, most were taking advantage of a warm summer night to wear a rather minimal amount of clothing. They too were raucously inebriated and clearly having a rather good time.

As the train progressed the group of males made several loud comments and the girls moved away. One of them then stated "They are asking for it, going out dressed like that". I am not quite sure what they were asking for, but I am pretty sure that what they weren't asking for was sexual attention from a group of rather fat and ugly sweaty males.

So I thought I'd set out a little list of what is asking for it and what isn't.

Examples of asking for it.

1. If a woman comes up to you and invites you to have consensual sex, she is asking for it.

Examples of not asking for it.

1. Wearing clothes that make her look atractive.
2. Being out with friends and displaying a happy demeanour.
3. Being on her own and vulnerable.
4. Any other activity that does involve her inviting consensual sex.

Of course there are times when men genuinely misread the signals. A big clue is when a woman says "Please stop doing this" or similar words. If a lewd comment results in a woman moving away, you have been an arse. Personally I want my daughters to be able to enjoy life without hassle. I think that is the least any human being should expect.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Save The Railway Campaign - Huge response to petition

MOn Tuesday we posted a blog about Mark Amies petition to Save The Railway pub in Edgware. This magnificent mock Tudor Inn has been left to rot and recently had a small fire which caused some damage to the fabric of the building. It is a grade II listed building and a much loved cornerstone of Edgware High Street. The petition has received a huge response, picking up over 550 signatures in two days. The Edgware Times has also picked up the story and given us a namecheck.

If you haven't signed the petition, please do ASAP. We are going to be presenting it to English heritage and the more support we can show for the pub, the better. Lets get it up to 1,000 so please post on facebook and tell your friends.