Sunday, 31 October 2010

The truth about UFOs and strange lights in the sky

Tonight residents of Barnet were greeted with the sight of strange lights in the western sky. My kids saw these and were rather perplexed. Were they UFO's they asked? Nope, sadly they are not I told them. It is the lightshow from Wembley stadium, where the American football is being staged. Now if you want to see a great view of these, try the Mill Field park on the Ridgeway. This has a great night view of Wembley and you can get a pint at the Hammers or the Rising sun which are just a quick walk from the park.

Which brings us to the general question of UFO's. Do they exist? Are they from another planet? Are they from another dimension? Given that the papers reported that there are 50 billion Earth like planets, I suppose the odds are that there is intelligent life out there somewhere. If we look at how far technology has developed in the last 200 years, who knows where an intelligent race with a million year head start on us may be? Given that a million years is a blink of an eye in the history of the Earth and we had several "great extinctions". The concept becomes more plausable. The question then comes down to "what would they want from us".

This is where it becomes interesting. They clearly wouldn't want our technology, if they were a million years in advance of us. To get here they've mastered interstella travel, which our physics book currently say is impossible in all but the most theoretical of ways. So lets look at other reasons humans travel. Sexual tourism? Some alien encounters report that aliens force them to make love to them. I have always rather suspected that this is like when Kim Basenger used to force me to make love to her, only for me to wake up rather disappointedly. Lets face its (and I really am no expert on this subject), if they were sexual tourists, would they travel across the galaxy to sleep with people who are so evolutionarily backward. I may be wrong but people don't travel half way around the world to shag baboons (and please don't post any links should I prove to be wrong on this). So lets rule that out as rather unlikely.

As for mining & minerals. It's possible that Earth has resources that an advanced race might want, but given they clearly have the technology to go where they like, do they really need to come somewhere so troublesome? Lets face it they are liable to get a nuke lobbed at them, if they get it wrong and I guess (again pure conjecture) that even with their technology, that might be a bit problematical.

Back in 1981, when I was in Stockholm, I bumped into an old American Expat in a bar called Gamla Stan (The Old Town). After a couple of beers, he explained to me that he was on the run from the US government. I asked why and after a couple more beers he told me a truly bizarre story. He said that he was involved with the security services in the 1940's & 50's. He claimed that the US government had entered into secret talks with extra terrestrial entities. He claimed that these protocols had allowed these entities to use facilities in the USA in return for technology. I asked what sort of facilities they needed and he said "just somewhere to park and occasionally take on provisions". What sort of provisions could these be? "Mostly pure cocoa and oranges". He then pointed out that it is getting harder to get decent oranges and if you look, American chocolate has a very low cocoa content.

I then asked how he knew they were trying to kill him. He told me that all of the people in his security detail had died in a short space of time in rather suspicious "accidents". He decided that it was time to disappear and had done a bunk to Europe, settling in Stockholm. I asked him why, if he was on the run, he was telling me this. "Well you aren't an American and everyone here just thinks I'm crazy". I asked him what the technology the Yanks got in return was an he said "I haven't got a clue, way above my paygrade. We were just shipping oranges and refined cocoa when we saw something we shouldn't". At that he suddenly said "That's it" and left.

So there you have it, the real reason that UFO's visit earth is for Chocolates and Oranges. Heaven forbid they ever discover the Terrys Chocolate Orange. I heard they'd moved production from York. Maybe there's more to it than meets the eye. Of course you should never believe everything strangers tell you in pubs. I asked one of his companions and they said "Bob can be a bit weird at times but he's pretty harmless".

Oh and just in case you are from the US secret services and you are still looking for him, He was about 60 then, 5'9" and bald and called himself Bob and was living in Stockholm in November 1981. That's all I can remember and that's the whole story. Honest. And if you are an Alien looking for Chocolate and Oranges, the Halloween kids have cleaned out all of the chocolate and you just can't get decent oranges these days.

Enjoy the rest of Halloween.

Apocalypse Now

This morning I stood in a field in Wormwood Scrubs and watched 22 11 year old boys kick a ball around for an hour. It rained and I got pretty cold and wet. Did I mind? Not at all. My boys team won, which sort of makes it all worth while. On the way home I gave four of the boys and a couple of parents a lift back to Burnt Oak. I've got a people carrier, so it is no big deal. Watching your kids play football is a simple pleasure. The boys who play in teams train and also make friends. Football is not the cure to all the worlds evil, but keeping boys busy and active is, I believe, a fundamental part of a civilised soceity.

What really worries me is that childrens services is one area that Barnet Council looks set to chop fairly dramatically in the budget cuts. I must confess, I've no idea what the childrens service really does, but anything which results in less activities for young people can only be a bad thing. Whilst my boys team is not a council run venture, they play in Cressingham Park, Burnt Oak. This is owned and maintained by Barnet Council. Barnet has sold off many playing fields over the last 30 years. I've no idea what percentage of playing fields have been lost, but I could name half a dozen that we've lost off the top of my head.

This week, we saw a young man of  17, Marvin Henry, murdered in Mill Hill. I don't know him, I don't know who he associated with and I don't know what the circumstances in which he died really were. What I do know is that 12 people were arrested and at least one of them had a lethal weapon. This gives some indication that the incident wasn't completely random. My boys football club, Watling FC, used to be one of Londons top boxing clubs as well. Many young kids from the Watling Estate would try their luck at boxing, football and other sports. Young guys who excelled at boxing achieved  a degree of kudos and respect amongst their peers. They also had to train like devils to ensure that they weren't soundly beaten in the ring. If you've ever trained as a boxer, you soon learn that you are too knackered after to do anything, let alone make trouble.

As traditional boxing clubs in working class areas declined, it is no coincidence that boys seek other ways to gaing kudos, earn a reputation and get "respect". Nothing could be clearer to me than the fact that we need to provide ample opportunity for boys and young men to burn off excess energy and find channels for any aggression. Whether this is boxing, football, rugby, music or chess is down to them.

What is patently obvious is that every single one of these activities that is chopped in the budget cuts puts another group of young men onto street corners, where they stand the chance of becoming part of gang culture. Youth services are expensive. Destroying them comes at a far higher cost. I have two things to say

1) If you are a parent, support your local youth activities financially and with help

2) If you are a parent of a group threatened by Barnet Council cuts, campaign like a screaming dervish to retain it.

One death like Marvin Henry is one too many. 

Saturday, 30 October 2010

A Hectic and very musical day

It's 23:45 as I write this and I'm home, I can have a glass of wine and relax. I've been on the go since about 9am. It was the Mill Hill Music Complex Open day in association with Youth Music. We had a day of activities such as youth music workshops, recording sessions, live performances. We have two main youth music projects at the studios, Sound Skool which is run by YMCA for 14-18 year olds not in education or training. This is a ten week course and the options are Live Instruments, DJ'ing, MC'ing, Music Technology and Singing. We run a sampler workshop and showcase as part of it today. We also had Rock United, which is a holiday time paid course open to anyone, running band workshops. For the performance section of the show, we had Barnets esteemed Deputy Mayor, Lisa Rutter and her Consort Mark pay us a visit. She was suitably impressed by the show and was very friendly towards everyone. I suspect I could have sold her consort a guitar if I tried hard enough. It is fair to say she made a few friends today. Perhaps the most amusing moment was when one of the carwash customers came down and saw her car. Noticing the mayors emblem, he asked if it was a royal visit.

She also spoke to the team producing the new Barnet Youth magazine, lead by a young man called Yehia, who is a fine example of a Barnet student. Yehia's family fled from Uganda 15 years ago as refugees. They now live in Burnt Oak. Yehia is a student at the London Academy and hopes to become the first student from the Academy to do the PPE course at Oxford. His teachers recommended him and I hope he succeeds. His youth magazine has 17 people involved and they certainly impressed the deputy Mayor with their energy and enthusiasm.

When I'd finished my stint at the studio, I picked up the children and went down to St John the Evangelist church in Waterloo, where my good lady was performing a concert of music with a Magic and Horror theme. She plays with the BBC Elstree Concert Band . There next Concert is Monday 13th December at the Allum Hall in Borehamwood. The theme will be film music. A great night is guaranteed.

A busy if very rewarding day.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Save Barnet Libraries - Petition update

It seems that more people are signing the online Save Barnet Library Service petition every day. We now have 283 signatures (as of 20:24 Friday 29th). I suggest you have a quick look at it and look at some of the comments. Today so far 22 people have signed it (a single day record I think). Please copy the link, twitter it, facebook it and most of all SIGN IT.

I'd implore Councillor Robert Rams to look at the comments. He's the twat person who wants to close the libraries and turn them into Tescos and Starbucks. He has launched a consultation. I'd suggest he read the comments on the petition. That's all the consultation he needsrrams. We will have stalls out on the High Streets as well tomorrow. Please say hello if you see us. I won't be there, got a music complex open day to run.

Touching a raw nerve

,Have you ever innocently made a comment only to see someone flip and go totally bonkers. You then review your comments and think "Oh dear, I wonder why that caused such a reaction". Only later in the cold light of day, you realise that maybe you've touched a raw nerve, quite by chance. When you write a blog, you never know who might read it, what psychological state they are in or what nasty skeletons rattle around in their closets. When I was studying psychology, one thing I learned was that when people are on the defensive about an issue, they are most likely to lash out and behave irrationally.

This blog is all about the London Borough of Barnet. We write about all sorts of issues. I make no bones that I have strong views. People are always welcome to leave comments. If I disagree I say so. I don't really mind people leaving comments I fundamentally disagree with. Sometimes you learn something. Sometimes you don't. Despite the fact that I criticise many Tory Councillors in most strident terms, most (with a few notable exceptions) are polite and friendly on a personal level. During the election, whenever I ran into John Hart and Brian Schama, we had a laugh and a joke, despite the political divide between us. It's what normal people do.

So what am I on about. Well eagle eyed readers will have spotted the fact that I turned comments on this blog off for a  period. They are now back on, albiet with moderation. You may ask why? Well I thought I'd give someone, who clearly doesn't know how to behave themselves a chance to cool down and get their head together, before they drove the bus over the cliff as it were. Now I rather hope he'll use this period of reflection to have a cup of tea, calm down and reflect on his behaviour. He knows what needs to be done to be able to start posting comments here again. Something which if he had a shred of decency, he'd have done two weeks ago. Personally I rather hope he doesn't as I don't really want his blatherings here, but I do believe that free speech means free speech  for people you disagree with as well. There are limits and when someone oversteps the mark, they have a duty to make amends. With freedom comes responsibility and where there is no responsibility there can be no freedom.

So cutting to the chase. As ever comments are welcome, but must be vaguely related to the topic and if they slander WWII veterans, then all future comments from the people who post them will sit there forever unpublished. One little thing I must ask. What sort of person would click the "Rubbish" box on a post urging people to donate to the British Legion. I can see, because I have my stats. You may be rather shocked to find out where that little act of spite came from (or maybe you won't).

Anyway, I rather hope that clears up any mystery.

Murder in Mill Hill

The shocking news that a young person of 17 has been murdered is just sinking in. One of my daughters friends lives around the corner from the scene of the crime. Mill Hill is not a violent part of London, which makes it all the more shocking. I just hope it makes our councillors pause for thought as they seek to cut budgets for childrens services. During the election, I spent a couple of days canvassing on the estate where the terrible events happened. I'd like to urge our council leaders to make there way down, chat to a few of the residents and take heed of their views. I met some really desperate people and vowed if I got in, I'd make helping them my priority.

I think the most crushing thing about not getting in is that I can't do anything for them. One of the moments which stuck in my mind was when I was chatting to John Hart at the launch of Classic Mill Hill a couple of weeks before the vote. Although he'd never admit it now, John had the demeanour of a man who thought he was going to lose. He was giving me some good advice. He said "The best thing about being a councillor is that sometimes you can make things better for people who really need help". When he won, I thought about that. I hope John lives up to his words and makes a difference on that estate, by making sure that the problems get addressed.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Brent Cross redevelopment signed off today

28th October 2010. This could be the day when the London Borough of Barnet as we know it changed forever. The huge Brent Cross/ Cricklewood redevelopment was signed off today. This will mean a huge increase in the number of cars on the road, with no discernable improvements to public transport. Bestways are threatening to take the decision to judicial review. If it ever gets built, we'll have a waste incinerator on the doorstep.

As far as I can see the battle to build the project has been between big business on the one hand and local people on the other. Sadly it seems our local Conservative Council came down on the side of big business. A sad day for the London Borough of Barnet

To many a bureacrat or Tory MP this is just a cost saving - to me it's a crime

Got this email, from a friend of mine who is a quadraplegic who lives in a care home. Her life is difficult enough as it is. I really think a society who kicks people like Katy is a sick society not a big society. Here's her email to me. I really can't tell you how upset this makes me. My message to all Conservative and Lib Dem MP's - think again, this is cruel and heartless. Katy is disabled - not stupid or a criminal, she has a right to get out and about. To rob her of this is inhuman.  She ain't stupid and she doesn't deserve to suffer because a bunch of bankers wrecked the economy.
Hi Everyone, the govenment are planning on taking away mine and other people's mobility allowance away from us because they are cutting money back, this is what my Mum wrote,

The Government has announced far-reaching cuts that will affect every disabled person in Britain. There is no doubt this is a real backwards step for equality and risks pushing many disabled people deep into poverty.
I have already written to my local MP about the issue and called on them to do their bit in Parliament on my behalf to defend the rights of disabled people and their families.

I’d be really grateful if you would do the same – it’s really easy and will only take a few moments if you follow this link:
It would really help if you fill in the form please and send this onto as many people as you can, thanks xxxxxxx

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Cost Cutting - Barnet Council Style

Do you know how old I am. I remember the days of looney Labour Councils, when every day the Sun would lead with a new story of bonkers schemes and wasting of public money.

 How times change :-

Of course if you've been reading this blog it's old news.

Footnote : Looney Labour Brent Council now has lower Council Tax than Totally Tory Barnet

The laymans guide to Barnet Easycouncil

Barnet Council auditors Grant Thornton issued a report which highlighted the following :-

No project plan
No Business Case
No Project Milestones
No effective control of the project

All project details are discussed in secret, there is no openness or transparency whatsoever, which is why we set up our leaks site.

The Conservative Administration keep telling everyone who'll listen it's marvellous

It has just been announced that it has cost more than it has saved.

The projected costs don't reflect true costs, with items such as staff cost & legal costs hidden

The cost of consultants is hidden from the public.

The savings are completely made up and exclude all manner of hidden costs.

Do you get the picture

Maybe Mike Freer's Staff were trying to tell him something

It seems that one of MP for Finchley and Golders Green, Mike Freer's constituents wasn't too impressed with him and left a rather nasty note and a rather badly constructed bomb on his office doorstep. Whilst Mike wasn't too concerned about that, if I was him I'd be rather more worried that his staff appeared to have brought it in and put it on his desk, if I were him. Were they trying to tell him something?

It all sounds rather odd to me. I don't quite get why the package contained a cigar? My advice to anyone in Finchley and Golders Green who is fed up with David Cameron. Please don't try and blow Mike up, he'll do the Tory party and David Cameron far more damage alive than dead.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The False Dots playing live at the Fiddlers Elbow - Camden Town - Weds 27th

By the way, if any of you are at a loose end tomorrow night, come down and see my band, the False Dots, play at the Fiddlers Elbow in Camden Town. We're onstage at 9pm. Here's a video to give you some idea of the noise we make. I'm the fat bloke playing guitar outside the window

Barnet Council Library Closures : They just don't get it, do you?

I despair. I really do despair. Do you know what the life of a blogger in Barnet entails? You go to meetings stuffed full of rather dim people, many of whom can't string two coherent sentences together. They make appalling decisions. We then kick off campaigns and the local and national press pick up on it. Sometimes they give in then (allowances), sometimes we have to wait for the High Court to stop the stupidity (Warden Cuts) and sometimes we just have to lump it (Icelandic Investments) and foot the bill.

So why do we do it? I can only speak for myself. It's because I live here and I'm not going to stand back and let a bunch of cretins destroy the good things in our community without a fight. It's not for the money, I don't get paid to do this (apart from the odd contribution to my internet costs from the adverts in the sidebar - believe me it isn't much). It's not because I enjoy it - who would? I'd much rather be playing the guitar, watching football or out with the family. I don't want a career in politics, what sane individual would want to have to spend time with that lot in the town hall. Sure I stood for Council, but that was only because I thought there was a slim chance we might stop this stupidity.

Anyway, on to the purpose of this blog. Have you signed the petition? Have you asked all of your friends to? Are you happy to let the Council destroy the Library service? I've stood on street corners for the last five weeks imploring people to sign and it ha paid off. We have just under the 2,000 signatures we need to get officer review of the proposals. People hate the idea of losing their libraries. Barnet Council are indulging in a phoney consultation, with no real positive options. Anyone with half a brain would see that with hard times ahead for the economy, libraries will become even more vital as people retrain and reskill.

Sadly dim Twats like Councillor Robert Rams, who is leading the Library review, just doesn't get it. Do you. If you want to save the library, if you can see the benefits for the community and future generations of maintaining the service, put your name on the petition. You're reading this, so you obviously have some interest in the matter. Last month this blog had over 17,000 hits from 11,000 unique visitors, we're on for a similar number this month. We've had just under 250 signatures on the on line petition. I know many people have come down to sign the paper version and say hello, but if you haven't signed and you want your library, then what is stopping you. The petition will be used for no other purpose than to save libraries. Please sign up.

At the weekend I will be taking a photo of all of the paper signatures, it's pretty impressive. Add your name today. Click on the link in the sidebar.

Oh and on a totally different subject, long time Barnet Eye reader Richard Logue is doing a Charity run - he asked me to post this. We support anyone who is doing good things for the community, so it's a pleasure Here's Richards pitch -

I'm running in the New York Marathon in less than a couple of weeks to raise funds for Co-operation Ireland, the leading charity that works on peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. Young people who might otherwise turn to violence can be encouraged to use their energy building, not destroying their communities.  People who distrust their neighbours "from the other side" meet and engage with each other to build mutual trust and remove the walls that exist not only on the streets, but in their minds too.

The link for anyone who would like to sponsor me is

Guess where Robert Rams, Barnet Library assisin has his surgery?

Follow the link from here

It says "No Appointment Necessary". Need I say more

And don't forget to sign the petition

Donating to the Royal British Legion

As regular readers of this blog will no doubt be aware (especially due to some recent posts), this blog is supportive of the people who have served in the Armed Forces, due to our strong family connections with the services. We believe that they are all heroes and deserve all the support they can get. As we approach Remembrance Sunday, it is yet again time to show our support. Whilst each year we dig in our pockets and put a few coins in, to wear our poppy with pride it is worth being reminded that with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Royal British Legion has it's work cut out. More servicemen need it's support than at any time since the 1940's/50's. Can I ask you to consider this before you donate. If you make a donation via the website with Gift aid, the Legion gets an extra 28p for every pound if you are a taxpayer. If every taxpayer in the UK donated £5, that would nearly £50 million pounds to help with it's work. Think what a difference that would make.

Here's the link, the rest is up to you :-

Monday, 25 October 2010

Guest Blog - Be True to Yourself

To be true to yourself means to act in accordance with who you are and what you believe.
If we know and love ourselves we will find it easier to be true to others. Just as we cannot love anyone else until we first love ourselves, we cannot be true to others until we are true to ourselves. Let us have the courage to accept ourselves as we really are, not as someone else thinks we should be. Let us not be behaving or pretending to be someone else for the sake of gaining acceptance. 

Pretence starts early in life with the pressure to keep up appearances. Children are sometimes taught to let on that things are better at home than they really are. Appearances count for more than the truth does. Honesty, especially about one's feelings, may be alright but must be kept in its place, a very private place. Pretence can so easily become a way of life. Most people engage in a little sometimes.
Children are experts at it, but they usually know when they are pretending and hopefully grow out of it as they mature. Pretending adults can grow into their pretences with tragic consequences.

Self-worth comes from being true to who we are and from acting in accordance with our inner convictions. It means accepting and acknowledging our successes and our failures before God and others. 
Extracts from "Sunday Notes" by Fr Kevin O'Shea, Parish Priest at Sacred Heart Church Mill Hill. Guest Blogs are always welcome at the Barnet Eye

News From Barnet Alliance 4 Public Services Calendar

There's plenty going on in Barnet as we try and ensure that Barnet Council don't completely destroy the Borough in their current Slash and Burn frenzy of public services. If you want to help our council see sense, here's a few ways you can help

1. Standing Room only- Full Council 2 November

It’s that time of the year “knock a door run…or knock down ginger, Penny for the Guy…it Bonfire Night!”
Barnet Alliance is inviting Barnet residents, friends and relatives to make plans to come along to the Lobby. It is going to be a blast!
Wrap up well, it is likely to be cold and wet but we will have plenty of things in place to keep you all warm and in good spirits!
Hendon Town Hall from 5.45 pm – 6.45

2. Community Stalls

We are running stalls at the following venues in Barnet
Watch this space for details of next - all help gratefully appreciated

Please could you try and find some time to support one these stalls.

3. Do you belong to a Theatre/Dance Group?

If you belong to a local group who might be interested in some Street Theatre, or you know a local group please get in touch at the  next Planning meeting or email

4. ‘Leafleting our Streets’

We need help getting our leaflets out for our various campaigns, eg Save Our Librarys, Stop the Abolition of Sheltered Housing etc
If you can leaflet your community please contact the Barnet UNISON office 0208 359 2088 or email and we will provide the leaflets.

5. Barnet Alliance 4 Public Services meetings

If you want to learn about the campaign or get involved, attend one of these meetings -  Tuesdays from 6-8pm.
·         26 October
·         9 November
·         23 November
·         7 December
Venue: Greek Cypriot Community Centre, 2 Britannia Rd, London N12 9RU.

6. Public March & Demonstration: Sunday 30 January 2011

We are planning a march and demonstration on 30th January - watch this space for further details

7. Do you belong to a music group or choir?

We want to hear from you now. Please come along to the next Planning meeting or email

8. Make your voice heard at these meetings

Council Ward Area Forums up until 30.01.2011
M 27/10/2010 - Chipping Barnet Residents Forum - East Barnet School, Chestnut Grove, East Barnet EN4 8PU @ 6.30
M 23/11/2010 - Finchley & Golders Green Residents Forum - St Michael's Church Hall, The Riding, Off Golders Green Road, Golders Green @ 6.30
M 29/11/2010 - Chipping Barnet Residents Forum - Coppetts Wood Primary School, Coppetts Road, Friern Barnet N10 @ 6.30
M 30/11/2010 - Hendon Residents Forum - St Joseph's Pastoral Centre, St Joseph's Grove, The Burroughs, Hendon NW4  @ 6.30
M 05/01/2011 - Finchley & Golders Green Residents Forum - Avenue House, 17 East End Road, Finchley N3 @ 6.30
M 17/01/2011 - Chipping Barnet Residents Forum - East Barnet School, Chestnut Grove, East Barnet EN4 8PU @ 6.30
M 18/01/2011 - Hendon Residents Forum -  Sangam Centre, Burnt Oak Broadway @ 6.30
Please email if you can do any of these and we will arrange to provide the leaflets.

9. Petitions

We will be collecting petitions throughout this campaign both hard copy and online.
Please take 2 minutes to sign this petition Save Our Library
Circulate it to your friends and family. 

10. Email your local paper / Councillor

It is vital that everyone who cares about their local community makes their voice heard. That is how democracy is meant to work. If you don't tell you MP and Councillors when they get things wrong, they think they are doing a marvellous job and we can't have that can we

A message to Barnet Tory Councillors from Conservative Home - When Outsourcing proceed with caution

As there seems to be no voices of sanity within Barnet that our Tory Councillors will listen to, maybe they'll listen to some advice from the Conservative Home blog. This gave a reasonably intelligent discussion of the subject by a couple of guys who know what they are talking about. Whilst I don't sign up to what they say lock, stock and barrell, I do think that the summary makes a point our local Councillors would well advised to heed, as they rush in with no business plan, no milestones and no business case (according to Grant Thornton, their own auditors)

This is the summary :-

There are many factors to consider when considering outsourcing. Its always a good idea to bring in some experienced outside assistance if you lack experience internally, it can save a lot of time, hassle, and money in the longer term.
Above all don't rush in without a clear understanding of how to manage and measure the arrangement. Articulate all expectations, assume nothing even if it seems obvious, and remember that the devil is often in the detail.

The full article is here

For any council proceeding with outsourcing, I'd say the advice detailed in this piece is the bare minimum you need to consider to ensure you've not been negligent in your duties. I would especially urge them to pay due regard to this sentence :-

The capacity for conflicted interest is enormous and some individuals have found themselves in very difficult positions when a particular arrangement has begun to turn sour
The sooner Barnet Council moves to an open, honest and transparent model, like Windsor and Maidenhead, the sooner I can get back to blogging about football and music.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A graphic illustration at just how crap Barnet Council are at Town Planning

Guess what? Did you know that The London Borough of Barnet has one of the worlds finest museums located within it's boundaries. People travel from all around the world to visit it? I am of course talking about the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon. And guess what happens when Tourists try and visit? They find it rather difficult, because there is no direct train service from London to the Museum. Now you may say "Well you can't just put a Train line in because there's a museum there". Nope, quite agree, but if there is one running along the back of it, how hard is it to add a Station. Are yes you say, but isn't that a bit OTT just for one of the worlds finest museums (well actually you probably wouldn't, but you know what I mean). Well if you've just built a new Town centre next to at and you have a large school and a college next door to it as well, becomes a bit of a compelling case. Here's a map to illustrate the point :-

Just in case you think there's not enough room in the cutting, here's Mill Hill Broadway, a mile and a bit up the road.

How thick do you have to be to not realise that all of the new flats in the developments on the site of the old RAF camp would be worth far more if there was a station with a link to the City right on the doorstep? I think that a visit to the RAF museum, to learn about the brave heroes who saved the country from a bunch of slobbering Nazis should be a compulsory trip for all Londoners, given that London took the worst of the Blitz. I also think that if they visited by train it would be cleaner, greener and healthier.

Sadly with a numpty like Brian Coleman in charge of Transport in Barnet, there is as much chance of that as there is of me becoming the next Pope.

Wayne Rooney and the day Fergie blinked

On Thursday night, I was having a beer with my five a side football friends and the Man United mob amongst them were telling me Wayne Rooney was past it and that Manchester City would be wasting a kings ransom on his signing. They pointed out that he's played rubbish since March, his minds not on football and he's not scoring any goals, the main function of a striker. By Friday lunchtime, they'd all emailed me gloating that Manchester United had signed a new £60 million deal with him.

At the moment Rooney is crocked, so United fans will have to wait a few weeks to see if their new signing can turn the team around. Football fans are a fickle bunch. If Rooney's comeback on double bubble money is heralded by a few rather mediocre performances, will they welcome the prodigal son. We all know from his reaction to the England boos exactly how much Mr Rooney likes getting stick. His reasons for wanting out were that Man United lacked ambition. Now Rooney has ensured that United, technically bankrupt, have even less cash in the pot for new signings. In the past fans would greet players who left for richer pastures with cries of "There's only one greedy B****d". What happens when someone pulls a Rooney. The other question is how all of his team mates (and more importantly their agents) will react.

Which brings us back to Sir Alex Ferguson (or old rednose as he's known here). He was caught between a rock and  a hard place. Let Rooney go and prove United lack ambition and have thrown in the towel, trying to keep up with City and Chelsea or break the bank to keep Rooney and hope something comes up. His problem is that the rest of the team now know that old Rednose can be "played". Just keeping the existing team will cost him. Rooney was his crown jewel and had he cashed it in, there would have been funds to buy three other players. Old Rednose probably correctly realised that had Rooney gone, the Glaziers would have pocketed the cash, so he'd be even worse off. United have not suddenly become a bad team. I expect them to finish in the top three, but who knows how the Rooney situation may affect the players. If it all goes horribly wrong and they are hit by a string of demands as other players try and cash in, it could spell disaster. Should United miss out on the Champions League, then it would be nearly impossible for the Glaziers to pay their bank overdraft. I'm sure that there will always be someone who would ultimately bale Manchester United out and any new owner would have to be seriously rich. Having said that it might take a few years and a new manager or two to get the wheels back on the wagon.

As time goes on, I realise that my love for the game is balanced by my disgust at the way the game is run. Much as I hate Manchester United as a team, it cannot be right that at the end of the day all of this is bankrolled by parents of young boys who look up to these greedy mercenaries. This morning I'll go to Cressingham Park to watch my son play football for the Watling FC under elevens. That is how football is at it's best. Sadly I think that Premiership has completely lost all connection with the people who pay the bills and that can only be bad.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

What Brian Coleman had to say about Trades Unions

Bumped into an old friend last night who happens to be making a name for himself in a South London Conservative Party branch. After exchanging pleasantries, he told me that he'd bumped into none other than Brian Coleman and had a chat with him (knowing how Brian Coleman and myself like each other so much).

I often wonder how the Tory world outside Barnet views Brian Coleman. I think my question was answered last night. The two had briefly discussed Trades Unions. Coleman rather strangely announced "You are far better off dealing an old dinosaur who is out for twubble as the public will back you than one who is weasonable and might get a bit of sympathy".  Sadly as ever in Colemans world, the fact that the public suffer is totally irrelevent, if a good dispute allows you to indulge in a bit of union bashing. My old mate described Coleman as a "comedy turn". As he's just provoked a firemans strike, it's not really that funny anymore

BNP Activist Stephen Curry advises activists to behave like cowards

Regular readers of this blog will know that the East Barnet BNP candidate, Stephen Curry accused my father, who was a WWII bomber pilot who flew 38 missions, was shot down, taken prisoner of war and escaped, a coward. You may recall that Stephen Curry has not apologised or removed the post. You may recall that the BNP have happily left up the post by Stephen Curry - so they clearly think it's OK to abuse RAF pilots.

So what sort of man is Mr Stephen Curry, who questions the bravery of dead WWII veterans? How brave is he? Well I found this piece of advise from him on a BNP website, to fellow activists who wanted to go out and campaign against Halal Meat.

Stephen Curry · 3 days ago

I have a really very bad feeling about campaigning with stalls regarding Halal, this video is a reminder of what the reaction may be.
The whole point of us being on the streets is Public Relations (ed). If we have a neutral subject we can spend more time on the streets unchallenged, as a person that rings round asking people if they would like to help out with stalls I would feel very uncomfortable I would feel as though I am putting them in a risky situation. We have our anti-ritual slaughter policy deep in our manifesto and the public know this already, There are so many subjects that can be covered which all of the public will warm to we can build massive teams of relible activists in every town centre every week on neutral subjects similar to bring the troops home. As soon as we put our activists some very old and frail in a confrontational sitation we won't see them again, and at worse they might get harmed by muslim fanatics even if the halal stalls are done in all white areas they could still take it out on the stall that are neutral in London the whole thing would do more harm than good for the party .
So there you go. Stephen Curry is only happy to campaign on neutral subjects. He wants to hide policies which might be challenged "deep in the manifesto". He's to frightened to stand on the streets, in case a Muslim tells him off, but he was happy to call my Father, who flew 38 bombing missions in the second world war a coward. I'm rather pleased that when Hitler needed to be stopped we had real heros such as my Father, who volunteered to fight and put their lives on the line on a daily basis, rather than the likes of Stephen Curry, who is too scared even to ask for signatures on street corners, in case someone is nasty to him.

Curry lets the cat out of the bag with the Troops out petition. It's not about supporting the troops, it's about "building teams of reliable activists". Interestingly enough, there is another story on the website where Stephen Curry advises BNP activists to bottle it called "What did you do in the war daddy" - here is a small extract.

I’m proud to say I played a part and say that I fought well, that’s why I lost my livelihood and wound up in a cell.
The reason that we lost, my son was not that we weren’t brave, but that the ones we battled for were not worth our while to save
It seems to me as if BNP Candidate Stephen Curry would be a bit of a let down to the "Anon" bloke who "wrote this from his cell". Whilst I'm rather pleased that Stephen Curry has a bit more sensible an attitude than Mr Anon's to stirring up trouble on the streets, I cannot help but point out the hypocracy of this site, on the one hand urging people to go out and start a race war and on the other telling them to hide all of their policies for fear of upsetting Muslims.

Save Barnets Librarys roadshow rolls into Edgware

When I woke up this morning, the rain was coming down by the bucketload. I'd arranged to collect signatures outside the Edgware Broadwalk shopping centre, so I thought I might get a morning off. As I poured the tea and the toast popped up, the sky cleared and off we went. What is noticable is how every High St in Barnet has a different feel. What was really noticable to me was just how much Edgware has changed in the last 30 years. When I was at school at Orange Hill in Burnt Oak, we always said you could tell the snobs, because they always said that they attended "Orange Hill in Edgware". Sadly these days, I'd say that Burnt Oak has a better selection of High Street shops (although the Broadwalk is a decent shopping centre). The Edgware fishmongers - Nat Jacobs - have long since gone, wheras Burnt Oak has two.

Anyway, myself, Maggi and Harri pitched up a stall. Business was reasonably brisk. As ever, we got asked the same questions. "Are they really planning to close libraries", "What will the old folks do", "what about our kids", "How can it be a good idea to stop people reading". Sadly none of  these questions are ones I can answer.  When I got home, I noticed a letter in the local  paper from the architect of the closure progam, Robert Rams, trying to justify his crackpot ideas.

Robert Ramsbottom just doesn't get it. Whilst all of the innovations are great, he just doesn't understand the fact that for the core library service users, borrowing  books is what it's all about and private quiet study.

One guy came up and told me how he'd arrived as a penniless immigrant and studied at the library to get a job. He said that the libraries had helped him to become a taxpayer and he couldn't believe the short sightedness oif the proposal. Another lady described how she ran a theatre group for young people, specialising in the works of William Shakespeare. She said that for many students, libraries are vital as they require books and quiet places to study. One old lady said that she visits the Library every week and will select a large print book, read it for ten minutes, and if it seems good she'll borrow it.

Robert Ramsbottom asks people to participate in his on-line consultation. I've reviewed it and is as bent as a nine bob note. As with all Barnet consultations, it is rigged to make it impossible to say "We'd rather like to keep the service as it is". Now no Tory in Barnet is going to actually suggest making a small increase in Council Tax, but a rise of 10p a week per council tax payer would cover the 20% cut Ramsbottom talks about with money to spare. I wonder how many Barnet Taxpayers would begrudge such a small sum to preserve the service for future generations. Sadly they are just too thick to realise.

Oh yes, I should report that in the 5th week of running stalls, we had our first person who was prepared to argue for library cuts. "I hate Edgware Library, it's rubbish, I want it to close". He then said "There are big libraries in central London such as the British Library which are far superior". I asked him how he proposed that the elderly, children and people with mobility issues should get there. "Oh I hadn't thought of that". I asked whether it was fair to discriminate against them. He rather sheepishly signed at that.

Another guy came up to you and said "I hate people like you from Trades Unions". I replied that I'm not a Trades Union member, I'm a small businessman who runs a succesful company. He then said "Yeah, but your a Labour Party member aren't you". Well actually I'm not, no, I'm a member of the Lib Dems. "Oh, so why are you out here then?" He asked. "Because I passionately believe that we need to keep to the libraries open in Barnet". He said "Fair Enough". I said "So will you sign?" He said "Is it a Labour or a Trades Union petition". I replied "No it is a non political campaign for everyone who supports libraries, we've had helpers from the Unions, but we've also had Lib Dems and Conservatives signing and  offering to help". At that he signed. He then said "I think it's crazy to shut them".

Have you signed the petition yet? From my stats I can see 75 people a day link to the petition, but only about 10-20 per day sign it. Why the hesitation? Come on, sign up. Email your friends, tell them to. If you have a Twitter account, twitter it, Facebook it.

We added another 100 or so signatures this morning. Given the fact that I thought it would rain and we'd get none at all, it was a great result. What is rewarding is how many people thanked us for our efforts.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Barnet easyCouncil....don't follow SouthWestOne disaster...

As Barnet Council embarks on its One Barnet/Future Shape outsourcing project, it is worth considering the experience of other councils where similar projects have been tried.
You may have seen the Southwest One ITV West documentary made 18 months ago detailing the IBM takeover of services in Somerset. The project was beset with controversy. Somerset County Council back then was a Lib-Dem Council; however the Deputy Leader found himself subject to a large number of Standard Board charges. This councillor was objecting to the Southwest One project. It took him two years to clear his name.
Somerset UNISON fought a campaign to expose the secrecy surrounding this Project and surprise surprise the branch secretary was suspended for almost six months. I am pleased to report he is back in the UNISON office.
For those of you who saw the ITV West documentary will know the project was shrouded in secrecy and very few people actually saw the Business Case for the project. I have a copy of the documentary if anyone would like to view it.
Bridgewater MP Ian Liddell-Grainger (Con) has been campaigning against Southwest One for over two years and fought hard to have access to the Business Case.
I imagine Somerset County Lib-Dem councillors wish they had demanded to see the Business Case as the Lib-Dem’s were later ousted by the Conservatives in the last elections.
Interestingly a contingent from SouthwestOne paid a visit to Barnet during the summer. I don’t know what they discussed but after viewing this latest news I really, really hope they haven’t been advising Barnet Council on the benefits of partnerships with the Private Sector
Professor Dexter Whitfield was the consultant providing expert advice for Somerset UNISON Branch. Dexter said at the time “The Somerset strategic partnership with IBM was a classic example of ideologically driven outsourcing. Somerset UNISON warned about the declining level of savings and higher contract management costs. The increasing annual losses of the joint venture company serve to illustrate the high risks involved in these contracts."
Dexter has and continues to provide expert advice for the branch.

Take a look at this report

From Local Government Chronicle
Somerset joint venture loses £16m in its first year
21 October 2010 | By Ruth Keeling
A controversial joint venture between Somerset’s councils, police force and IBM has made a multi-million pound loss for the second year running.
Southwest One posted an operating loss of £16.1m in its second year of operation, according to accounts lodged with Companies House earlier this month.
The 2008-09 accounts state that the loss – a significant increase on the £2m it lost in its first year – “was larger than originally budgeted” because its investment period had to be extended and because it failed to attract new customers. A credit facility from parent company IBM means it will continue to operate for the “foreseeable future”, according to the accounts.
The joint venture was set up in September 2007 by IBM, who own three-quarters of the company, and Somerset CC and Taunton Deane BC to provide back office services including HR, finance, estates management and IT. Avon and Somerset Police later joined the partnership but it has been dogged by arguments from the first.
Most recently, it emerged that the two councils would be fined because of the extra checks that the Audit Commission had to make on their accounts prepared by the firm. Taunton Deane said it would pay its £15,000 charge itself while Somerset CC, whose leader is currently considering an internal review of the Southwest One contract, said it would pass the charge on to the company.
The contract, worth £585m over 10 years to the company, was set up with the aim of finding efficiencies for the three customers, although those savings have been downgraded from the £200m originally quoted to £144m “pipeline” savings listed in the most recent accounts.
In a statement, Southwest One emphasised that the 2008-09 figures were “a reflection that first of a kind ventures like this require up-front investment in the early stages” and stated that there had been no negative impact on the service. In fact, it added, a new customer contact centre had call waiting times for residents.
Southwest One’s accounts blamed its failure to attract new partners on the “adverse UK economic environment, coupled with a high degree of political uncertainty”.
However, the company said it was in discussion with a number of potential customers and argued that the spending review and the communities secretary’s enthusiasm for shared services would provide “significant opportunities”.
It stated: “South West One, as a pioneer in this field, is ideally-placed to help public bodies respond to this challenge”.
But Bridgewater MP Ian Liddell-Grainger (Con) branded the partnership a “failure” and questioned whether they would have any success in attracting new partners. “They’re such a tarnished outfit that short of changing their name there is no point in talking to anybody,” he said.
Somerset CC said it had no further comment to that provided by Southwest One.
"I bet they had no comment."
I nicked this from the Unison blog with a few small amendments - here's the original

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Friday Joke - 21/10/2011 - The Answer

A Trebor Mint doesn't have A HOLE in it - if you get my drift

The three types of Tory Councillors in Barnet

Last night I attended the Barnet Council Cabinet meeting. I realised that if you want to get on in the Tory Party in Barnet you have to be one of three types of people. These are :-

A) People who are very rude. We saw several fine examples of this last night. Top Cat for rudeness was Lynne Hillan. Sheltered housing resident David Young, who launched a legal battle with Barnet Council last year and got the decision to scrap sheltered housing wardens declared illegal by the High Court cam down to ask a question. Given that Lynne Hillan was the architect of the policy, which was declared illegal, having indulged in a lengthy legal battle against Mr Young who is 78 and should be enjoying his retirement, you would think Hillan would have a) Apologised to him for persuing an illegal policy. B) Extended him a modicum of courtesy, given that he'd given up his evening to participate in the democratic process. She didn't even give him the time of day. As Mr Young tried to ask a question, Lynne Hillan continually butted in and told him to hurry up. After two minutes and 36 seconds, she finally said "Have you actually got a question", to which Mr Young replied "How stupid are your Councillors". As Mr Young walked away he commented "Don't you realise that some of the residents have told me they will commit suicide if the wardens go". At this Lynne Hillan rolled her eyes. She was ably supported in the rudeness stakes by Brian Coleman, who managed to insult the local papers such as the Press and the Edgware Times. He was also rather rude to Councillor Dean Cohen, who was trying to be helpful in suggesting ways Barnet could improve it's response to bad weather (but I'll forgive him that).

B) People who are very spineless. Into this category falls Deputy Leader Andrew Harper, Councillor Robert Ramsbottom and Councillor Melvin Cohen. Harper and Ramsbottom both asked reasonable and sensible questions. Both got nonsensical answers and said "Thank you councillor Rajput for such a marvellous answer" or words to that effect. Ramsbottom asked "Are we going down the same road again" Rajput said "No of course not" and then went on to actually detail why we were. Yvonne Hossacks, who is the countries leading lawyer on sheltered housing, must have been laughing her head off (she was there with David Young). Harper asked an even more sensible question "Is it sensible to spend huge amounts on legal fees for these quite small savings" or words to that effect. Rajput responded "Yes of course it is, because, it is". As for Melvin Cohen. If Brian Coleman had talked to my son, in the manner Coleman spoke to Dean Cohen, I'd have probably stuck a ball point pen in his eye and said "Oops sorry Brian, my pen slipped" or at least said "Can it, knobhead, that's my boy !". Of course Melvin C is a gutless spineless lackey, so he just sat there grinning as pooe little Deano got squashed.

C) Completely useless. This brings us back to Dean Cohen. He was presenting a report about the chaos in Barnet when the Snow hit in January. Councillor Dean Cohen spoke for 5 minutes and 31 seconds on the subject. Guess how many times he said "er" or "erm" in that time as he read his prepared speech. Well I counted 46 times, including several "er, erm, er's". I'm sure big daddy Melvy sent him to the finest school, so where did it all go wrong. Having not allowed Mr Young, who spoke clearly and eloquently 30 seconds without interruption, Hillan was quite happy to let ineffectual Dean ramble on seemingly forever. In all my years (apart from injury time in the Manchester Derby last year) has 5 minutes and 31 seconds seemed so long. When he finally finished, Brian Coleman wiped the floor with him. Whilst I may not like Brian Coleman, I can understand why he would be so angry, wasting 5 mins and 31 seconds of valuable sponging time listening to him. Another one of the useless squad, Joanna Tambourides gave a fine cameo performance as Councillor Rajput spouted waffle about introducing a "menu of charged services" for adults with care needs. She asked Councillor Rajput "How much will these services cost". Now given that she's a Cabinet member and she'd read all of the papers, it was patently obvious that no one has a clue. Rajput replied "as affordable as possible". She responded "Marvellous, Marvellous". She must be easily impressed.

As I left, Yvonne Hossacks was waiting for a cab in reception with David Young. I passed on some information they had missed. I asked a couple of questions about the strategy she might employ and pointed out what I thought was a couple of major weaknesses in the approach Barnet are adopting. She smiled the smile of a cat watching as the mouse emerges from it's hole. In a perfect world, David Young wouldn't need to go to war with a useless and uncaring council. I was given some information, which I am not going to publish here, but yet again Barnet will lose. To use a football analogy, they are using a Ryman League legal team to take on the Premiership champions. Hossacks is an expert in her field. If I was Jeff Lustig, Barnets in house legal chief, I'd take Hillan and Harper into a quiet room and say "Just drop the whole scheme quietly, otherwise we'll lose again and look ridiculous". I spoke this morning to a Tory Councillor about the plan. He agreed with me that Barnet should just stop digging. He told me a shocking fact. The £300,000 savings that were quoted are entirely bogus. The new scheme will cost even more.

Oh yes, he also told me rather proudly that I'd like Barnet Councils new website. They are spending £50,000 on a redesign, to make it more funky. So there we go. Who loses in OneBarnet - The elderly, the disabled and the disadvantaged. Who wins - Committee chairmen (54% rise), Legal briefs, Consultants and website designers.

As I left the meeting I saw Councillor John Hart sitting there. I gave him a friendly smile. He smiled back and shook his head.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The Day Barnet Council sold out its pensioners

Have you ever been for a pint in Northumberland? or Barnsley? or Thurgoland? If like me you have, you've probably been rather surprised at how much change you got back when you handed over a tenner. What has this got to do with Barnet Council. Well Councillor Sachin Rajput tonight announced that £163.75 is a fair living wage for a UK pensioner. This is the Uk wide figure, deemed the UK fair living wage for someone above pensionable age. Mr Rajput announced at the Barnet Cabinet meeting that this would be the basis for all charging calculations with regards to payment for services.

Planet Earth calling Councillor Rajput (and the rest of the Tories). In case you hadn't noticed, Barnet is one of the most expensive places to live on Planet Earth, let alone the UK. Whilst £165.75 might get you a decent lifestyle in the places listed above, it wouldn't get you a decent dinner at some of Councillor Brian Colemans favourite restaurants in Barnet. Barnet Council have decided that everyone should pay for services if they can afford them. Fair enough I hear you say. Is it fair enough if you use the UK average as your basis for calculation, if you live in the 4th most expensive Borough in the Country.

Sadly, it seems that common sense has completely bypassed our councillors. Councillor Rajput announced that 3% of the elderly population required 63% of the budget. This must be wrong, he exclaimed !!! Well think about it for a second. If 3% need constant supervision, 17% need some help and 80% need none at all, then of course 3% will use up 63% of the budget. I remember my own father. He died aged 69 of a heart attack. In his entire life, he never received a penny in benefits, other than an old age pension, which he'd spent a lifetime paying in to.  My Mother never claimed a penny either, until she had a stroke aged 75 and needed help to live independently. The difference between an able bodied pensioner and one with age related issues is huge. 64% of Barnet pensioners need no intervention whatsoever. This is a figure Rajput neglected to inform his cabinet colleagues of. Being over 65 doesn't mean you need a care plan. Being infirm does.

What Rajput and the rest of the dim Tories seem to have ignored is that the frailer you get, the more it costs. As they sat there, self righteously pontificating, I was struck by a vision of them all in 20 years time, senile, incontinent and unloved. Who knows when such tragedy strikes.  I saw my mother changed from a proud, independent, self reliant woman to a totally dependent wreck, in the course of a few minutes by a stroke. I used to think I'd never wish that on anyone. I hate myself for saying it, but as I watched Lynne Hillan (the woman who moved her mother to a location where the wardens were being retained, just before announcing the warden cuts) pontificating on the issue, I said a silent prayer for some poetic justice.

I simply couldn't believe just how rude Lynne Hillan was to David Young, the man who stopped the destruction of Sheltered housing warden service with a court case. She should have apologised to Mr Young, for ruining his elder years, instead when Mr Young exercised  his constitutional right to ask a question and Ms Hillan treated him like an idiot. Even before he started she insulted him "Keep your supplimental question short". According to the timetable, 1/2 and hour was allocated for public questions. There were four questions and they took 14 minutes in total. Hillan thought this too long and refused to answer Mr Silverman or Mr Young in any proper manner.

There is one question I have for Lynne Hillan. How can you look in the mirror on the day you sold out the pensioners of Barnet.

Save Barnets Library Service - Twitter it now !!!

In the green sidebar, we have a link to the Save Barnet Library petition. Please sign this. If you have a Twitter account, please twitter it. If you have a Facebook account, tell all your friends to sign it. Email your friends and ask them to sign it. It will take a minute of your time to do any of these things and if we all pull together and get everyone we know to sign, Barnet Council will have to stand up and take note. We now have over 2,000 signatures in total, but only 200  of these are online, the rest are on paper. Our target is 7,000. Please sign it now. If we can get 7,000 signatures, Barnet Council has to have a full council debate on the Library closure program by law. Then we can organise a mass lobby and make sure that Councillors know how we feel about our libraries.

Usually viral marketing is used to sell beer and cars. All this petition wants is you to say you want to protect the library service for future generations.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Barnet Council Parking Policies - fleecing the motorist

Barnet Council roads supremo, Brian Coleman stated his priority was "Roads, Roads, Roads" when he took up the post, following his disaster riddled year as Mayor. He's hardly been in the job and his own parking enforcement staff are in mutiny over the the "sharp practices" abounding in Barnet Council. The purpose of these is to fleece the car driver. As a result staff are working under terrible stress and sickness is becoming more and more commonplace.

I have been passed a selection of emails detailing these. I have put on on our sister blog, the Future Shape leaks blog. The leaks blog today reached a milestone with it's 1,000th visitor in less than a month since it's relaunch.

If you are a motorist in Barnet and you've had a ticket recently, check this email out. It is truly unbelievable.  Amongst the shocking revelations is the fact that over half of the Boroughs pay and display machines were out of service and targets for ticketing have been issues, which is banned.
Nick Walkley received this email a couple of weeks ago. Several more have followed.  Sadly rather than addressing the issues in the email, several Conservative Councillors are using it as a way to justify outsourcing the service. This will mean even more tickets and even more sharp practices.

Don't say you haven't been warned. Mr Walkley is coridally invited to respond to this email in the form of a guest blog here. It is high time the secrecy culture in Barnet was abolished and the likes of Coleman and Walkley started serving the people who pay their wages, rather than treating us like mushrooms.w

Barnet Council Cuts - What sort of a world do we want to build?

Who will suffer from the Barnet Council cuts - The old, the disabled, students, families on low incomes, residents of sheltered housing, to name but a few. The elderly have spent a lifetime paying into the tax system. Where is the justice for them? Youngsters and students are told by politicians, who had University grants and no tuition fees that "it's too expensive". Children (such as myself as a kid) who are intellectually late developers will be cut loose by a system where they don't fit in. Elite and selective schools cream of the A* students, whilst the less able, who need help more are neglected. Is there any justice in this? Just about any averagely bright child can get into any of Barnets selective schools, no problem at all. They just need wealthy parents who know how to play the system. That might mean spending a fortune on private tuition. It might mean paying over the top for a property in a school catchment area. Where is the justice for the poor children, who's mummys and daddies don't have that option.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is this. We need to pull together as a community. We need to ensure that when cuts are made they are made fairly. We need to make sure that those least able to shout and complain are looked after. One day we'll all be old and vulnerable. Whatever world we build today is the one we inherit tomorrow. If we sell out our kids and destroy our care system, we won't have to wait till we die to go to hell, it will come to us in our old age. Our kids won't care and we will be at the mercy of a harsh uncaring system. No one thinks they'll be a disabled geriatric, entirely forgotten in a badly run home, semi starved to death, abused by staff, left to fester in your own urine. That will be the final destination for many of us, unless we ensure that social justice is ALWAYS the councils first priority.

On Sunday I was reminded of the need to campaign tirelessly for justice, in a rather unexpected place.
This blog doesn't do preaching, but I was reminded of the need to stand up for justice on Sunday when I attended mass. The reading was from Lukes Gospel (chapter 18) and told the story of the unjust judge and the widow seeking justice. Every day she pestered him, until he gave in, just to shut her up. The priest Fr Kevin, then reminded us of the women in Argentina who opposed the Fascist dictatorship which was killing their menfolk. He explained how with silent, dignified protest, they eventually brought down an evil dictatorship. The point was that violence didn't win the battle, dignified and persisitent protest did. He drew the parallel between the Argentinian Mothers and the Widow seeking justice. They both won because they never gave up.

Sometimes I get ground down by all the bad things which happen in Barnet. Sometimes I think "Is it worth it, what can we achieve". Sometimes we need something, in my case a pep talk at Mass, to keep us going. I'm probably the worlds worst Catholic, but there are times when such moments give me the strength I need to keep going. We have a massive challenge facing us as key services are cut and vulnerable people are thrown to the wolves. We are faced with a council which clearly cares about nothing about the people to whom they owe a duty of care. Unless we campaign tirelessly for Justice in Barnet, we cannot expect justice for ourselves when a time comes when we might need it.

Barnet is full of caring communities. Tens of thousands attend religious service, tens of thousands belong to trades unions. All of this is worth nothing if the people who pay their dues are too lazy to get off their backsides to fight for justice.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Library closures on BBC London Tonight 94.9.

Library closures are being talked about as we speak on the Eddie Nestor show on BBC London 94.9 (18:38). It is clear that this is a cross London problem. It is also clear that Londoners love libraries.

We need libraries to hold the fabric of society together (as one of the people interviewed said). It is vital that we get a minimum of 2,000 signatures on the petition, to get senior officer review. We currently have 1,600 (10% of these are on line). Please sign the petition if you haven't already. It is in the sidebar.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Brent Cross redevelopment - Questions requiring an answer

Brent Cross and Cricklewood Application number C/17559/08

There are too many major unanswered questions to allow this scheme to proceed in its present form.

The need by the Officers to get some cash into the Councils coffers quickly has obscured the longer term best interests of the residents of Barnet and the wider community of North London

There are a number of questions that need satisfactory answers:-

 Is there a need for another new town and extended retail centre?

Why has the council relied on the developers assessment of the need for more retail space?

Why has the council not carried out its own assessment in light of the large new Westfields development at White City and the imminent opening of Europe’s largest shopping mall by Westfields at Stratford?

Why has the council not had regard to the change in shopping patterns eg the rapid growth of internet shopping?

Why has the council not considered the impact of a new town centre and extended retail mall at Brent Cross on the other 22 town centres in Barnet plus others further afield?

Why is the council ignoring the impact of 29,000 extra cars a day coming to the site?

What evidence do the officers have that leads them to believe that 70% of all current Brent Cross users plus 70% of all future users will leave their cars at home and travel to the centre by bus?

Do you as Councillors with knowledge of your electorate honestly believe this will happen?

Do you believe that the Edgware branch of the Northern line will be able to cope with tens of 000s of shoppers for Brent Cross, 20,000 occupiers of the new high rise flats at Brent Cross, 30,000 new residents at Colindale plus c 20,000 for other new residents up the rest of the Northern Line every day?

Why are the officers refusing to safeguard the route for a possible future light rail/rapid transit system?

Why has the Council ignored the opposition in writing to the proposals from the neighbouring Borough of Brent?

Why have the officers misled the Councillors in respect of recent changes in National and Regional Planning policies?

Are you aware that only phase one with the retail mall extension, the rubbish dump and a few flats are guaranteed to be built if permission is granted?

Are Councillors aware that the developer can build the most profitable first phase and then use the flexibility they persuaded the officers to build into the legal agreement to walk away from the remaining phases?

Are Councillors happy to proceed with a £4.5billion scheme on the basis of a deal with a shell company eg no assets or parent company guarantees?

Have the councillors seen the evidence that “the air leaving the 140 metre high chimney will be cleaner than the air entering the plant” as stated by Cllr Freer last year?

Have the developers been given examples of successful pollution free heat from waste plants as promised by the developers last year? We have only been able to find examples of the new technology failing in the UK, Germany, Austria, Norway, America and Australia. Is that why the developers are keeping quiet?

More point to ponder:

· the regeneration scheme does not conform to a number of national planning policy issues. For example, the Government’s Climate Change Law has agreed to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. However, this scheme will generate thousands of extra car journeys per day, and this will only detract from the required reduction in CO2 emissions. In addition, residential buildings will only achieve a 3-star rating under the Code for Sustainable Homes, further contributing to CO2 emissions.

· the adverse impacts arising from this scheme (the large increase in noise, traffic congestion and air pollution) extend far beyond the London Borough of Barnet boundary, so decisions concerning the scheme should not be left to Barnet councillors alone

· there is increasing confusion over what is being proposed. For example, the large waste handling facility is unspecified. Arguments abound concerning incineration and gasification; both could have adverse effects on the health and safety of residents.

· there has been a significant lack of adequate and meaningful consultation concerning this scheme, including with Brent and Camden residents. Although Barnet Council mostly adhered to the letter of the law, they did not adhere to its spirit.

· Barnet Council are unable to take an impartial view of the scheme due to a conflict of interest, since they are supporters of the scheme, major landowners in the area, and acting as ‘objective’ Local Planning Authority decision-makers.

· the current scheme is simply a way of extending Brent Cross Shopping Centre, a proposal that was strongly opposed and thrown out by a public inquiry in 1999, and a Judicial Review and a High Court judgement in 2003. The recent reduction of other elements of Phase One, but still allowing the doubling of the shopping centre, seems to support this view. No other phases are guaranteed to be delivered by the developers.

The BNP accuse Councillor Brian Coleman

I pondered long and hard about posting this particular blog. It made me ask myself "What is the fundamental point of writing a blog such as the Barnet Eye". The answer has to be "To inform people of things which they may not have been aware".

As I detailed yesterday, I was at Barnet Spires shopping centre, collecting signatures for the library petition. I had a conversation with a man who voted BNP at the last election. It started quite jovially. He signed the petition and said that he thought Barnets Tory councillors were a complete disgrace. No argument from me there. He then said he used to be a  Tory and despised socialists and communists.  He then said "I'm not a racist, but I vote BNP". I asked him why, if he isn't a racist. He responded that "It was because of Brian Coleman, he's worse than Adolf Hitler". Now I don't like Brian Coleman. Any search on this blog will tell you just how much I dislike him, but to compare him to Adolf Hitler? A man responsible for the most terrible war in the history of the planet. The man responsible for the genocide of the Jews?

He replied "yeah but on a personal level Brian Coleman is much worse" and walked off. I was truly taken aback. Then I thought about it. If you support a party, such as the BNP, which is sympathetic to the policies of the German Nazi party and who's leader is on record as an admirer of Hitler, then of course you'd think Brian Coleman is worse than him, because you must think Hitler is OK on some level.

Vicki's blog has had some pretty bizarre comments from BNP supporters recently. Deriding the local campaign to save libraries and calling Barnet pensioners who sign it "frail lemmings" amongst other things. As I watched my sons football match this morning, I pondered these things. I guess that the comment from the bloke who voted BNP sums up what I was thinking. They are just completely out of touch with both reason and reality. Barnet politics would be far better off without the likes of Coleman, but he's not a genocidal maniac, a war criminal or anything other than a rather sad and talentless individual who has carved himself out a lucrative niche at the taxpayers expense. The trouble with the BNP is that they are out of touch with ordinary British people. Things such as libraries are part of the fabric of British Society. They are worth preserving. Things like racism and Xenophobia are not. The reason that Great Britain is successful as a nation is because we are outward looking. We are reasonable. We can see the big picture, which is why people would recognise the comparison of Hitler with Brian Coleman as ridiculous. Sadly there is a small subsection called the BNP which rejects all of these values.

A personal message to BNP Candidate Stephen Curry - Time to stop snivelling and apologise

BNP candidate Stephen Curry called my Father a coward on a BNP message board. One of his fellow travellers suggested that I need to supply his "service number" so they could "check him out" before they considered an apology. If the BNP gave a stuff about our armed forces they would have removed the comment and slung Curry out. They are a complete total disgrace. Well, just so they have no more snivel room, I took the trouble to download and save part of my fathers active service record from the Australian National Archive. I've provided a link if you want to see the whole file - click on view digital file - pages 33/34 and 43 are the ones reproduced here. One details the how he was shot down over Bucharest, captured and escaped and had returned to his squadron. The other is his flying record detailing his operational flying record. Whilst I personally couldn't give a S**T what a twat like Curry thinks of anything, the fact that he has the gall to insult a man such as my Father and that the BNP think it's fine, on the specific issue of his service record, is something which I believe should be brought to the attention of anyone voting for this man or his party.  Just in case you were wondering what Curry said - "it wouldn't suprise me if he is telling porkys more than likely banged up like Jack Straws father who was a coward and wouldn't fight for the Country."
Well you have the evidence below. What do you think? Does F/O L.F Tichborne sound like a coward to you? What do you think of Stephen Curry, an Official BNP Candidate, who made the remark  (You can click on these documents for a more readable image) :-