A very odd thing happened last night at the meeting of Barnet Council Cabinet meeting. A senior Conservative Barnet Councillor, Hugh Rayner of Hale Ward gave a presentation to the committee about the package of measures that the Council had announced for helping young people not in education, employment or training. Councillor Rayner opened his preamble by saying to the committee that he supported the points made in my question and the committee also concurred.
Even more strange was the fact that he wasn't immediately dragged from the building and hung drawn and quartered (or the One Barnet equivalent, which is to be stripped of his allowances). Whilst many Barnet Conservative Councillors have privately stated that they agree with much of what I've said on certain issues (although not with the strident tone of this blog), the words "I agree with Mr Tichborne" have hither to been tantamount to blasphemy.
One question I've been repeatedly asked (often by friends who really should know better) is whether the Barnet Eye is really written by me (apart from the guest blogs). Of course it is. Much of the material is given to me, but I use what I want, leave out what I want and format it how I want. No one gives me a penny for writing the Barnet Eye (apart from the click through's from the adverts from Google). I have long suspected that certain Conservatives have completely misunderstood the motivation for writing this blog.
Lets get a few things sorted out.
a) I don't write the blog because I want a career in Politics. I don't. I stood for the council in 2010 because I was asked to and was reluctant. I would not rule out standing again if local people thought I could do something useful. Many people have expressed regret that I was not elected, not because they agreed with my politics, but because they thought I may shake a few things up and would be honest.
b) No one pays me to write opinions and everything I write is what I actually believe. Some of the things I advocate are what I see as the best feasable option rather than what I would subscribe to in a perfect world.
c) I don't go looking for stories or making things up for the sake of it. People have suggested that I sometimes display some "artistic license" in what I report people as having told me. Actually I only probably report 5% of what people actually tell me. For instance, after the council meeting, a group of Barnet bloggers adjourned to the pub. We were told a horrible tale of woe, but asked not to report it, due to possible repercussions for the person involved. This happens more often than you could possibly believe. I know for a fact that people have given me "duff information" at times to cause trouble. Usually I spot this, but sometimes it only becomes clear weeks, months or years later. I also have chosen to not publish stuff, because I've not been sure of the accuracy.
d) I don't bear a personal grudge against certain Barnet Councillors. I have documentary proof that two Barnet Conservative Councillors have publicly lied in their dealings with me. On both occasions this has been documented at length in this blog. Strangely enough, I have no personal animosity against them for their actions. I believe that they have let themselves and the people who elect them down. I believe that this should be brought to as wide a public audience as possible. I do not however hope they fall under a bus. I just hope that they will see the error of their ways and behave better in future. It may be a hard thing for many of the readers of this blog to read, but on a personal level, I think a majority of the Barnet Councillors of all parties are nice people. I don't necessarily think they do a great job, but is being bad at your job really a reason to be disliked? I do however also understand the local people who absolutely hate their guts for the way they have behaved towards the people they care for.
e) I am not a Trotskyite revolutionary. I don't belong to any political party. I was a member of the Labour party for 30 years and a member of the Lib Dems for two years. I have voted for both parties in the past. I have never voted Conservative. I travelled extensively in the 1980's in Eastern Europe, visiting Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the USSR and Lithuania (illegally) under Communist rule. It became clear to me that the Soviet style of Communism was a complete failure for the average man in the street. It was also an extremely dishonest form of government. This view was reinforced when the USSR disintegrated and Russian friends were able to speak honestly about the system. Of all the systems I've experienced, in my opinion the Swedish model circa 1981/2 was the best. Many people who talk about these systems have absolutely no concept of what the countries were really like and didn't know any ordinary people who lived there. Witnessing repression taught me to value personal freedom. I run my own business, employ people and benefit from the labours of my work as well as my staff. I go to Church with my family on a Sunday and I sent my children to faith schools. I am most certainly politically and socially on the left, but not on the hard left.
f) I don't care what people say about me. One charge that has been thrown at me was that I was "thin skinned" for reporting Councillor Brian Coleman to Barnet Council Standards Committee for personally abusing me. They felt I should have taken it, as I dished it out in my blog. This argument is wholly spurious and completely misses the point. Brian Coleman had signed up to uphold the standards of Barnet Council. He broke the rules. I didn't want him to be thrown out of office, but I did believe that someone who sends abusive emails in the manner he did was not fit to be Mayor of Barnet. My daughter received an award from the Mayor during his term and I didn't attend, as I had not wished to embarrass her. I missed a very proud moment for my daughter, purely because the encumbant mayor could not behave himself. I happened to know of other cases where Councillor Coleman abused people and had got away with it. I felt that this could not continue. Sadly it has and he has been recently found guilty of a similar offence, with a similar outcome (nothing happened). The good thing is that when the people of Barnet had the opportunity to pass judegment on Coleman at the GLA election, they threw him out of office. If Brian Coleman wants to give me a mouthful of abuse in private, that is fine. He may get a mouthful back.
You may wonder why I've chosen today to make these points. Well it seems to me that Barnet Council is changing. It seems to me that our councillors are finally waking up to the fact that all is not right and there are problems. Councillor Rayner also criticised aspects of the One Barnet program for relocating jobs out of Barnet. Councillor Cornelius stated that Councillors would be mad to ignore the APSE report. The Barnet Trades Unions have publicly committed to working with APSE and Barnet Council to improve efficiency if the council reconsiders it's mass outsourcing One Barnet program. It strikes me that this means that Barnet Council actually has the opportunity to save the Taxpayer a stack of cash, in a very low risk manner.
As no business case has ever been published for the One Barnet Program and APSE have deemed it a "very risky approach" it would seem sensible to use this moment to pause for thought and just see if there is a better way. By all means outsource if the figures stack up and a good case can be made, but in house teams have to compete on a level playing field. I wanted to emphasise that I write the blog because I want Barnet to be a better place and I want the people of Barnet to get the best possible deal for their tax. The causes this blog supports are :-
a) Freedom for individuals
b) Social justice for all, especially those unable to fight for themselves
c) Value for money for the taxpayer
d) Decent working conditions for all people in employment
e) A decent education and good job opportunities for young people
f) A council which listens to the people who par for it.
Now if any of these aspirations set me out as a dangerous madman, then so be it. I am starting to be a little bit more hopeful that Councillor Rayners comments indicate that in actual fact our local councillors have twigged that I may actually be saying something worth listening to occasionally.