I'm a blogger. I write blogs about Barnet Council. Anyone who is that interested knows who I am, what I do for a living and all manner of other info. I have at times been harrassed, threatened, insulted and smeared for some of the things I've written. Those who have tried these tactics, have learned that such behaviour is counter productive and if anything it makes me realise I'm on to something. When I first started blogging in 2008, the then Leader of Barnet Council first tried to silence me, by putting pressure on the Times group of Newspapers to drop my blog. This worked. That's why I started the Barnet Eye. When he realised that his cunning plan had blown up in his face, he made a podcast, where he called me a "One Handed Blogger" and suggested I liked to pleasure myself with the other hand whilst blogging. Two weeks after my mum died and I wrote a blog in tribute to her, he wrote a blog on the Times where he talked about his "armchair critics, cossetted by family wealth". When challenged, he denied that the reference was a dig at my inheritence (actually my mum left it all to charity).
There was also a blog set up called "Barnets Third Eye". This was allegedly set up by a young Tory Councillor and was dedicated solely to insulting people that were not Barnet Tories. It disappeared shortly after it produced a blog containing the pictures of all Barnets Labour Councillors with a scurrillously insulting caption. Needless to say, yours truly also was a target for it's ire. I had been told who was producing it and I was hoping they would really cock up, but sadly it got pulled before I was able to properly expose them.
After Councillor Brian Coleman sent me an offensive email, I decided that I'd had enough and reported him to the Standards Committee. It was as clear as day that he'd broken the rules, but the then Leader backed him to the hilt and arranged for a top lawyer to try and get off. It failed. What I did learn at the Standards commitee where Coleman was found guilty was that there is no concept of justice for the ordinary person in Barnet. Colemans Lawyer was able to spend two hours attacking my character to the committee. Much of what he said was untrue. I had no right of reply and no opportunity to make a statement. I had no represenative. Can you imagine a court where only one side is allowed a say? And yet Coleman still lost.
You would think that Barnet Council would have learned, but they haven't. This blog received an FoI response detailing how the Council tried to use the Information Commissioners Office to silence a blogger for having the audicity to publish information that the Council had already put on the net (full details here - http://barnetfutureshape.blogspot.com/2011/11/barnet-council-foi-response-reveals.html ). The only thing they seem to have learned is to pick on someone else - This time Mr Mustard who blogs here - http://lbbspending.blogspot.com/ - was the one who was on the receiving end. Strangely enough, it seems that Barnet have decided that Mr Mustard is the blogger they hate most. Councillor Daniel Thomas was exposed recently making up porkies about Mr Mustard, claiming his FOI requests had cost Barnet Council £40,000.
My guess is that when they worked out the £40,000 a big chunk of it was possibly getting the legal opinion that suggested their could be a case to answer with the ICO. We all know how much legal advice costs. I've no idea if anyone could actually tell exactly how much the Bloggers of Barnet have cost the council. I guess that they have racked up a small fortune wasting time trying to thwart us.What they most certainly won't say is how much we've saved. The fallout from the Metpro disaster has doubtlessly saved a fortune, as they have now got a cheaper company which is operating legally. They have also had to tighten their purchasing system. We forced them to reverse the allowance raise for councillors which also saved a fortune.
I am sure in the fullness of time, we'll get them to abandon One Barnet, which will save millions. Sadly this victory will have only been won through a bitter campaign, sifting through dozens of FoI requests, where all of the relevant facts are redacted. What is truly shocking is the fact that Mr Mustard was not even told that the ICO were asked to investigate him. The email from the Council clearly revealed exactly who he was, to anyone with half a brain and a working knowledge of Barnet blogs. It was simple, just check the blogs for the date in question and see who wrote something which fitted the scenario in the complaint. Council officers dod all this, but we are not allowed to know who authorised the complaint to ICO. Mr Mustard only found out six months after the fact because I served an FOI and I then told him.
So this is Barnet in the year 2011. A council who wage war on their own citizens, yet hide behind a wall of redaction, where no one is ever to blame and no one can ever be named, no matter what they do. Why the hell shouldn't we know who at Barnet Council thinks it's ok to try and harass innocent citizens?
The only thing which continually surprises me about Barnet Council is how completely useless they are. BAck in 2008 they tried the same stunt that Mr Mustard suffered on the blogger Don't Call Me Dave (AKA David Miller). The publicly named him as the person who'd asked the most FoI requests and said he'd cost the council a lot of money. Miller complained. Barnet retorted that they weren't talking about him, but about a group of people known as "David Miller".
That was in 2008 - some things never change in Bonkers Barnet