Monday, 21 January 2013

Letter to Councillor Andrew Stronglou

Over the weekend I've been doing my bloggers homework on forthcoming Council meetings. My attention was drawn to a sudden burst of activity from one of the slightly "more laid back" members of our local Tory party. Councillor Andrew Stronglou has until now only attracted any attention for his habit of wearing sunglasses in Council meetings and not actually saying anything. His appearance at committee meetings reminded me of the dearly departed former bassplayer of my band. He'd always wear shades and say nothing. In his case, it was usually because he was exploring planet Zob under the influence of LSD, whilst the rest of us had to actually do the talking to the interviewer. In one such interview with the Hendon Times, when asked about the recent edition to our band of two dancers, he replied "It's a philosophy of life". Now whilst I'm sure that Councillor Stronglou has never taken anything stronger than a chocolate biscuit, his past record of actually contributing to meetings has been no more enlightening. It seems this sleeping giant has awoken from his torpor. He has asked a whole string of questions regarding the way the council funds Barnets Trades Union activities.
Question 15 Councillor Andrew Strongolou
Could the Cabinet Member please tell us how much support the council gives to the trade unions?
Answer by Councillor Richard Cornelius
The council provides pre-agreed release time. In 2012-13 the budget is £113,320. This represents a cut of 65% from the 2009=10 budget.
In 2012-13 £43,000 is budgeted to assist with the One Barnet programme. This will cease. There is also some un quantified, pre-agreed ad hoc release, use of offices, notice boards and meeting rooms.
Question 17 Councillor Andrew Strongolou
Does the Cabinet Member know how many council employees are members of Unison, Unite or any other trade union organisation within the council?
Answer by Councillor Richard Cornelius
The Council does not hold this information as not all Unions utilise payroll deduction facilities.
Question 29 Councillor Andrew Strongolou
Does the tax that goes towards supporting the trade unions provide as much value for money as other council expenditures?
Answer by Councillor Richard Cornelius
Unions have a historically useful function but I would hate to feel that tax payers resources were being applied to political activity.
 Question 33 Councillor Andrew Strongolou
Could the Cabinet Member please tell us who has paid for the wrap around advertising in the local newspapers in the name of BAPS?
Answer by Councillor Richard Cornelius
I cannot say who has paid for these advertisements however the names of several unions appear on the BAPS website claimed as supporters,

Question 41 Councillor Andrew Strongolou
Does the Leader feel that giving tax payers money to trade unions is a good use of public finances?
Answer by Councillor Richard Cornelius
Not always.
Now whilst it is always nice to see formerly "relaxed" Councillors taking a bit more interest in Council affairs, it seems that Councillor Stronglou doesn't really understand what the role of Trades Unions in the workplace is and how they have helped the nation develop socially. The Barnet Eye is never keen to see people make them make complete berks of themselves. We therefore felt compelled to email Councillor Stronglou and make a few helpful suggestions. Here is the text of my email

Dear Councillor Stronglou,
I noticed that you have asked a string of questions regarding the activities of Trades Unions and their funding at the full council meeting. From reading the questions, it is rather clear to me that you do not understand the role that trades unions play in the modern workforce.
It strikes me as strange that you do not understand the need for advocacy and mediation in the workplace or the need for the workforce to have an organisation to ensure their views are properly represented. Unions also do much valuable work in the field of health and safety.

I would suggest that if you are serious in your role as a councillor, rather than ask questions of the leader of the council, you should speak to a trade union branch secretary and find out exactly what he does. This would enable you to ask sensible questions which would potentially assist the running of the council. I am sure that if you were to have a cup of tea with the Barnet Unison branch secretary John Burgess, he would be more than happy to explain the role of the unions and why they deliver value for money.
I also understand that you are upset at the Barnet Alliance for Public Services producing a wraparound on the local papers. The wraparound provided public information concerning the One Barnet project. The Leader of the Council, Richard Cornelius has been widely featured on TV and Radio speaking about the benefits of the program. As you presumably support the One Barnet program and believe that it will deliver the promised huge savings, I would have thought that anything which promoted awareness of the project should be welcomed. As a councillor, surely you should be pleased that residents are taking an interest in the way Barnet Council makes its policy?
I would suggest to you that to be an effective councillor, your time would be far more wisely spent scrutinising council business and seeking out waste, inefficiency and bad practice. I would draw attention to the fact that Barnet bloggers uncovered the Metpro scandal and as a result of this, savings of over half a million pounds have been identified.  This is four times greater than the figures Councillor Cornelius detailed as being spent supporting Trades Unions.
Barnet bloggers have long contended that there are likely to be dozens of other such savings to be made, should anyone at Barnet Council actually bother to look for them. I would suggest that rather than asking questions which are clearly motivated by political concerns, you would deliver better value for the people who elected you and pay your allowances, by concentrating on find real savings and real issues.
For the absence of doubt, I am a business owner and have never been a Trades Union member.
Roger Tichborne

I hope that Councillor Stronglou takes up the suggestion to have a chat with John Burgess. In light of the response to one of the questions, I have today emailed Councillor Cornelius regarding his response.

Dear Councillor Cornelius,
I note your answer to Councillor Andreas Stronglou.
Question 29 Councillor Andrew Strongolou
Does the tax that goes towards supporting the trade unions provide as much value for money as other council expenditures?
Answer by Councillor Richard Cornelius
Unions have a historically useful function but I would hate to feel that tax payers resources were being applied to political activity.
As I am sure you are aware, both Conservative and Labour groups in Barnet have a taxpayer funded full time political assistant, who's role is a  purely political one. Please can you tell me how much money these assistants cost the taxpayer. Please could you also tell me whether you think that spending money in this way is consistent with your reply to Councillor Stronglou.
I would also draw your attention to the fact that Councillor Robert Rams works in a taxpayer funded political role at the GLA. Do you consider such positions to be wise use of taxpayers money?
Please consider the relevant parts of this email to be a Freedom of Information request.
Roger Tichborne

I will be interested to see the response (if any) and will keep you informed.


Ron said...

This Strongolou guy is really "nothing to declare" type. he presents himself as an actor, but you won't find him on any stage, he spent 3 years in the history department of the met uni, but apparently learnt nothing. a real NEET, living of the public purse.
unless you believe in creationism and creating intelligence out of void, one should unavoidably reach the conclusion that someone wrote the questions for him. I won't be surprised if it will turn up to be the same person that wrote the answers.

Moaneybat said...

Strongolou is a NEE, he is in T'raining....... in "Bolloxology. The leader and his Cabinet have all followed a similar path.

paper tiger said...

Questions to Council are along the lines of volleyball rules, having no altruistic value:
Pass: The pass is the attempt by a team to properly handle the opponent's serve, or any form of attack.
Set: The main goal of setting is to put the (subject) in the air in such a way that it can be driven by an attack into the opponent's court.
Strike: ....a kill is the slang term for an attack that is not returned by the other team thus resulting in a point.