Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Richard, you owe us an apology

I didn't attend the Council meeting last night. According to the Barnet Times, this is what I missed
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 )
The reason I didn't attend the meeting? Well I actually had something better to do. Something more useful. More of that in a minute, but I am deeply upset by these comments. I left a response on the Times website
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.
Now of course Richard is welcome to call us what he likes and to say what he likes. It is a free country and we have free speech. He is however the leader of Barnet Council and so I believe he has some sort of duty to not misrepresent people. No one in this day and age expects high moral standards from politicians, but surely we should expect better than this? It is not just socialists who are sceptical about Outsourcing. Merrick Cockell, the Tory Leader of Kensington and Chelsea council has expressed his reservations. His own former Tory ward Council colleague, Brian Coleman has also stated his reservations publicly as has Tory Councillor Sury Khatri. Many others have private doubts. If I say something in the blog which is demonstrably wrong, I correct it and apologise. Richard should do the same. Maybe not for me, the American exiles or the coffee shop owners, but for the over 7,000 people who signed the petition.

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.


paper tiger said...

The rolling out of bigger and bigger foodbanks could well be the frightening plan of government - local caring people, mainly from church groups, may be unwittingly helping to bring about the demise of the welfare state; this following article may be inaccurate, but worth a thought:

Zoe said...

Barnet Council have treated the council tax payers, voters, and anyone who really cares about where they live or the community with utter contempt. The only time the majority count is on polling day. As for those, for whatever reason, have fallen on hard times where they require either financial or other support. Barnet Council treat this as a burden. The fact that others who have been fortunate enough and articulate enough to highlight this are now being labelled is a measure of what a rotten borough we live in. Quite frankly the behaviour and personal attacks by those who have put themselves in a position to push for what they want is disgraceful. What good do they think can come of this when the CEO jumps ship as have many others. The schemes are leaving ever more damage in its wake and yet they continue to trawl despite the fact that the damage they do will leave nothing for the future.

Rog T said...

Paper Tiger,

You are completely wrong about it being part of the plan of Govenrment, for the simple reason they don't give a shit about the people who are homeless or using foodbanks. They have no compassion and simply want rid of people in such situations.

I totally agree that the state should provide a safety net, but the harsh reality is that until we get a change of government, someone has to make sure the most vulnerable are not thrown to the dogs.

I personally think all churches etc should tell the people who attend that they are acting against all morality if they vote for political parties which tolerate poverty and injustice.

It is a disgrace that they dont

Zoe said...

Exactly Roger they are treated as a burden by our Borough and beyond. Has anyone who pays council tax objected to their funds being spent to support those in need? Why do Barnet think (not they are right) that it is their duty to save money? There is a saying that "you cant afford to buy cheap" and of course "false economy". all this means is the cost of consultation will never be recouped and the cost of re inventing the wheel we be horrendous. Maybe they don't care because most people of no fixed address don't vote so don't count in their books. without the charities who do help where would they be?

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paper tiger said...

I totally agree, they despise the poor; that's why they do nothing to help those in crisis while being secretly delighted that "big society" style foodbanks are on the up. Meanwhile, outside local supermarkets, Tory councillors are waving food collection buckets at shoppers. The hypocrisy is astounding...

paper tiger said...

..and I too have always wondered why Christians would vote against the principles of their doctrine!