From: "First Team" First.Team@barnet.gov.uk;
Date: 29 June 2012 14:59:01 GMT+01:00
Subject: Weekly message from the Chief Executive
I was in
for part of this week attending the Local Government Association (LGA) Conference. The overriding message of the conference was that local government faces an extended period of budget reductions and increasing demand. The LGA has set out its cross-party view on what this means and much of it will be familiar to those of you who have attended a budget briefing here in Barnet in the past couple of years. BirminghamNot all was doom and gloom although this was not an ‘upbeat’ conference. There seemed to be three responses which councils from across the country were exploring that go beyond the efficiency agenda we are all familiar with.Firstly, the troubled families programme and finding new ways to ensure young people do not end up in cycles of deprivation and high demand on local services. As you know, Barnet is recognised nationally for its work in this field but, as the director of the national programme said, we have to move from small ‘boutique’ projects to mainstream authority. The strategic review of early intervention work needs to set its sights on delivering exactly that.Secondly, that our growing elderly population must be seen as an opportunity. Engaging these citizens in using their skills and experience to support others delivers for the individual and for communities.Finally, that councils have a key role to play in promoting the economic growth that ensure the economy begins to improve. The council took its first significant steps in this area, agreeing a Skills and Enterprise Action Plan last week. There is a £1million package to support local business and help young Barnet residents back into work. Guidance for businesses wishing to access the scheme is available on our new web page for business. However, I want to encourage all staff to get involved in signposting local businesses they know to the proposals as we look to significantly improve our business engagement. UKNick
This is Nick Walkleys weekly proclamation to all Barnet Staff. I am really not quite sure what to make of his comments about the elderly population being an "opportunity". Having supported several elderly relatives through illness and dementia, I actually find the statement to be offensive. If Walkley is actually saying that Barnet Council should be seeking to employ over 65's who are fit and well, then I would agree that is a sensible idea, but as far as I'm aware, Barnet have no positive policy of employing over 65's. I suspect that what Walkley actually means is that it is a good idea for everyone else, because as we all know, if he gets his way, Barnet Council won't actually employ anyone at all.
Then we have the last paragraph. This is of special interest to me. I asked a question at the Barnet Council Cabinet meeting about this very subject. Barnet Council has drawn up a £1 million scheme aimed at small businesses, yet they didn't bother to consult small businesses about it when they were putting it together. There are many organisations they could have spoken to such as the Federation of Small Business, the Barnet Chamber of Commerce, etc. They didn't bother. When I asked the question, Nick Walkley looked at me as if I'd ordered a bacon butty at a Bahmitzvah. You don't need to be psychic to read his mind "why should we speak to them" was written all over his face.
What is hilarious is Mr Walkley imploring staff to tell local businesses to get in touch about the scheme. He obviously wasn't listening to a word I said. Why doesn't he use the organisations which already exist? I sometimes wonder why I bother going to these meetings at all. I make perfectly reasonable points, in this case the cabinet of Barnet Council agreed with me, yet they don't actually bother to do anything about it.
Yesterday I alluded to something rather disturbing going on in Barnet. Mrs Angry detailed this in her blog yesterday - http://wwwbrokenbarnet.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/exclusive-new-poster-prosecution-threat.html - Finchley Traders rep Helen Michael has been asked to visit the Police Station for a chat about a poster the traders put up as part of their campaign to reverse the parking policies of Barnet Council. At the moment we have no idea who instigated this investigation. It is quite clear from the information Helen has been given, that the Police have called her in on what is lovingly known as a fishing expedition. This means that they haven't got enough evidence to prosecute her, so they are hoping she'll drop herself in it if they pile enough pressure on her. I suspect that this is likely to backfire spectacularly. I am sure that they are unaware that Helen is a qualified solicitor. She used to work for a top legal firm, but jacked it in when she had kids to run Cafe Buzz as this was easier to fit in with her childcare arrangements and she wanted to do a job which didn't involve staring at paperwork all day. Many of her friends from University are top lawyers and she's got a few of them to go through the paperwork (as it stands at the moment) to make sure her interpretation is correct.
The big question is who is responsible for the decision to go after Helen Michael. If it is anyone to do with Barnet Council, then this is a disgrace. I nipped into Cafe Buzz yesterday to offer Helen my support. As I chatted to her, a Tory Councillor (I won't embarrass him by naming him) nipped in to offer his support as well. He explained that he thought it was disgraceful that the Police were harrassing Helen. He said that he intended to ensure that if the complaint was being driven by Barnet, this stopped immediately. I asked him whether he thought this was good for the relationship between Council and small businesses. He replied that it was ridiculous.
This weekly proclamation reminds me of the old days of the Kremlin, when party bosses in Ivory Towers issued proclamations, harrassed those who disagreed, using the tools of state to destroy the opposition. The Barnet Eye blog started because of neo Stalinist behaviour by Barnet Council. It seems that this tendency is getting worse, not better.