Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The Important questions for the Barnet Council elections in May - Number 5

Today is question no 5 in our series dedicated to looking at the important questions which face voters in Barnet as we approach the Council elections on May 6th.

Question No 5.
Standards of behaviour in public office
Is it important to you whether the people who run for public office maintain high standards of behaviour whilst in office. I am not talking about their sexual preferences or what they do behind closed doors. I am talking about how they conduct their business. This shows whether they are honest, decent and trustworthy. The two highest posts within Barnet Council are the Leader of the Council and the Mayor. Both of these positions were appointed by the Conservatives using their larger block vote. How have these people conducted themselves and their business in the time they've been councillors.

Council Leader Lynne Hillan. In 2006 the company Lynne Hillan ran, Ashurst Direct Marketing Ltd was liquidated, leaving debts of over £100,000. As a result, the creditors were significantly out of pocket. The largest creditor was you and me, the taxpayer. Whilst not illegal, if Ms Hillan cannot run a small company successfully and thinks knocking the taxman for tens of thousands pounds, whilst serving as a councillor is a good grounding for taking over as leader I'm flabbergasted. What is even more amazing is that a majority of her Conservative Councillors don't seem to mind either. It is worth pointing out that Ashurst Direct Marketing went bust before the credit crunch bit and the economy was in good shape and growing. It is also worth pointing out that Lynne Hillan has displayed the same grasp of economics when setting the Council budget. She has raided the council cash reserves to institute a Council Tax freeze in an election year. This means that the Council, like Ashurst Direct marketing is running at a loss under her tenure. If she'd raided the reserves for a genuine purpose to deal with an emergency, such as an emergency road resurfacing program, to deal with the pothole crisis in Barnet, I would have agreed that this is sensible. To raid them purely for an election bribe is scandalous.

Mayor of Barnet Brian Coleman. Brian Coleman is the only Mayor of Barnet to be found guilty of a breach of the Barnet Council code of conduct whilst in office. How did he react to the verdict? He went out celebrating with other Conservative Councillors. Mr Coleman also stated that the Standards Committee was a waste of time, rather hypocritically, given that he had reported an opposition Councillor to it (a complaint that was slung out). Mr Coleman has publicly supported disgraced Brent Councillor Bertha Joseph, who was suspended for using charity donations to buy ball gowns. He was banned from driving for speeding offences. He described Middlesex University as "crap", insulting thousands of hard working tutors and students. He insulted the successful British Olympic team for taking part in the Olympics in China, stating they had "blood on their hands" whilst not saying a dickybird about Mayor Boris Johnsons embassy in Beijing. Everyone in Barnet knows exactly what sort of a person Brian Coleman is. The Conservative group thought he was the best man to be Mayor.

I was talking to a local Councillor last night. He told me that an ex Barnet Councillor now holds office in St Albans. He is an opposition Councillor there. He said that in St Albans, party politics plays very little role in Council politics. People just want to do a good job. He said that after Barnets toxic mix, it was a very pleasant change. Mayors are selected from all parties as recognition of their long service and civic mindedness. Sadly this isn't what happens in Barnet.

Question No 5.
Do you believe that Councillors should have a track record of good judgement and good behaviour, especially in senior positions within Barnet Council?

Barnet Conservatives: The appointment of Lynne Hillan and Brian Coleman to their jobs says it all.

Barnet Lib Dems: The Barnet Lib Dems will support all measures to improve and strengthen the quality of Barnet Councillors, the sanctions for serious breaches of the standards code and the improvement of the public image of Barnet Council. Note : No London Lib Dem MP was found to have claimed second home allowances or flipped property allowances in the recent expenses scandal.

Barnet Labour Party: Sadly the two local Labour MPs in Barnet featured promenently in the criticism of MPs behaviour in the expenses scandal.

Other parties and independent candidates are welcome to leave comments outlining their position on this issue. Comments will only be deleted if off subject, racist, sexist or abusive. This is a debate we must have

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