Thursday, 17 May 2012

Barnet Council and an atmosphere of oppression

I have been told by someone I was in discussion about a local issues with, that they cannot provide a guest blog as being seen to be associated with this blog would deem them "political" in the eyes of Barnet Council. In short, it seems that anyone who dares use a blog to inform people of real problems in the world of Barnet Council is deemed to be persona non grata at Barnet.

This attitude disturbs me. I accept that this blog is a harsh critic of some policies of Barnet Council. I happen to believe that only a very poor organisation rejects criticism. This blog has had over half a million hits and has posted over 2600 posts. Maybe not a single word of value has been written. Maybe nothing we've identified has had any real world implications for Barnet Council. If I believed that was the case, I would give up today, but in reality, this blog and my fellow bloggers have identified huge failings within Barnet Council.

The greatest of these was the Metpro Security scandal. This saw and unlicensed, unregulated and bankrupt company, employing people without CRB checks to provide security for vulnerable youngsters at Council run locations. I was informed of several serious allegations in relation to Barbera Langstone House in North Finchley, where vulnerable young women are housed. Sadly the people in question were too scared to persue the matters. Now it may be there was no substance in the allegations, but it is clear to me a company which does not perform CRB checks on staff at such sites, should not be working for the Council.

On several occasions, both myself and other bloggers have offered our services to Barnet Council free of charge, to assist with improving efficiency at Barnet Council. These offers have never even been acknowledged. Now it seems that if people in organisations which have a relationship with Barnet council display an association with the blogs, they run the risk of victimisation, both individually and as an organisation.

I have been challenged time and time again to state my motivation in writing this blog.  What amazes me is that it is beyond the wit of some people to conclude that I've lived in the London Borough of Barnet all of my life (give or take a couple of years in my late teens), my kids go to school in the London Borough of  Barnet. My parents are buried in the London Borough of Barnet. My business is based in the London Borough of Barnet. All I want is for this Borough to be a decent place for me and the rest of the people in the Borough, to live in. I don't want to install security gates and bars on my windows. I don't want to have to drive to Brent Cross to buy a pint of milk or pair of trainers. I don't want to see my elderly neighbours forced out of their homes by prohibitive charges from Barnet Council. I don't want my son to be unable to join a football team because all the playing fields have been sold. I don't want my children to have to move out of Barnet when they want to raise a family, purely because it is too expensive to live here.

You may say "mr negative, nothing but moans". What about what I do want? I want the green belt to be preserved against cowboy builders, especially around the conservation area. I want people who start small businesses, be it cafe's or cheese shops to get all the support they need from Barnet Council. I want the schools to provide decent education, locally for people. I want people who run sports clubs to be helped by the Council. I want elderly people and people with care needs to see the council as a trusted partner, who they can rely on for help and support. I want the roads to be safe to drive cars on and safe for children to cross. I want a parking regime which helps businesses to thrive. I want my taxes to go on providing services, not subsidising extravagent lifestyles for senior executives. I want local businesses to be able to compete on a level playing field with multi national companies when bidding for work with the council. I want the Council workforce to be able to bid for contracts against private companies, as in-house departments and the tenders to be decided on quality as well as price. I want these decisions taken without political interference. And finally, I want our local councillors to earn their allowances, respect the people of Barnet and to represent us to the best of their abilities.

If wanting all of these things from the Council is political and means that no one who supports these principles can comment, isn't it arather sorry state of affairs. Mr Nick Walkley is the CEO of Barnet council. I chalelnge him to tell me which of the statements above are unreasonable and debar people in the Barnet Council partner organisations from contributing guest blogs. I don't suppose he'll bother to tell me though.

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