A campaign group fighting Barnet Council’s outsourcing programme was dismissed as “a group of eccentric socialists” by the leader in charge of the scheme.Conservative group leader Richard Cornelius made the comments about the Barnet Alliance for Public Services as the authority’s annual budget was passed at Hendon Town Hall last night.
In his speech, he attacked the group, which has fiercely criticised and campaigned against the Tory-imposed One Barnet outsourcing scheme.He said: “(They are) just a group of eccentric socialists, American exiles, bloggers and a coffee shop owner.” (Full story http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/10268573.One_Barnet_campaigners_are__eccentric_socialists___says_leader )
I'm a bit saddened by Richards comments about One Barnet opponents. Over 7,000 people signed the petition opposing the scheme. he fails to mention that several members of his own administration have reservations about the scheme.
The issue is that the stated savings are completely unverifiable. One of the first One Barnet outsourcing projects was Your Choice Barnet. This company has just been given a £1 million taxpayer funded bale out as the business case it was based on was proven to be deeply flawed.
Richard was clearly refering to me as an "eccentric socialist blogger", but he fails to mention that I run a company employing directly and indirectly over 30 people in the Borough and have recently invested over £1 million in a new studio complex to boost music provision in Barnet, with no help from the taxpayer (or taxman) at all. I probably have more experience of running a business than three quarters of his cabinet put together.
I feel that the description is misleading and deceitful.
So, you may ask, why didn't I go to the Council meeting. I had two other meetings to go to. The first of these was at the Sacred Heart Church. This was a meeting to discuss various business in Mill Hill Parish. There were two main issues being discussed. The first was a plan to support the Borehamwood food bank, which provides basic meals for people in extreme economic hardship. I believe that it is scandalous that residents of our locality should need such a service, but they do and I feel that we are all obliged to support such a venture. The second issue was the establishment of a night shelter for rough sleepers in Mill Hill, in association with Homeless action Barnet. A shelter will be provided one night a week as part of a wider scheme, from 17th March. The second meeting was at John Keeble Church. This was a training session for those who have committed to help at the shelter. We had representatives from churches and synagogues who are already participating in the scheme, explaining what we can expect.
For those of you who may be suspicious of such schemes run by churches, there is a strict "no evangalisation" rule. The centres participating provide shelter, food and warmth for participants. There are a diverse bunch of churches and synagogues participating and we'd be more than happy for other faiths, and people of no faith to participate. We need people to cook, people to drive, people to spend the night at the shelters, and people to clean up. If you don't want to participate via a church or other religious organisation, contact Homeless Action Barnet and do it via them.
Whilst blogging council meetings, where it is all tucked up in advance is important, filling the gaps where the council is failing is, in my opinion, a thousand times more important. Richard can call me all the names he likes in the council chamber. I like to think I'm simply trying my hardest to be a decent human being in difficult times. That is enough for me. It saddens me that Barnet is sinking to these sorts of levels in the Council chamber. At the meetings I attended, I hope I saw a more representative view of the real people of Barnet, deperately scrabbling to fill the gaps left by the awful maladminstration by local and national governments. That a rich borough needs charity food banks and overnight homeless shelters is truly shocking. I would forgive Richard his petty insults if he fixed there problems, but this won't happen with a tax cutting agenda.