Saturday, 30 March 2013

Some advice from Barnet for people fed up with their local authorities

This morning I had received an email from Gwynn Clague who is setting up a blog to try and pressure Prestatyn's local authorities into delivering a better service for local people. He asked for help and suggestions. Given the huge achievements of the Barnet bloggers in trying to inject some sanity into the administration of Barnet Council and the hundreds of thousands of pounds we've saved the taxpayer with our exposure of bad practice and dodgy contractors (The Metpro Scandal, exposed by Barnet Bloggers alone has saved the Taxpayer half a million pounds), of course I was delighted to share some advice.

Checkout Gwynn's site. There are some good ideas there. I particularly like the listing of councillors contact details and their allowances. Maybe the Barnet bloggers have a thing or two to learn from Prestatyn.

Here is what I told Gwynn
My advice would be to move to Australia and forget about the council ! Having written a blog for  4 1/2 years I have concluded that would have been the best way to preserve my sanity and to enjoy life.
However assuming that you don't consider that an option, there are some very clear lessons I've learned from Barnet.
1. Work out who the good guys are in the local parties. In every council and every party there are good, bad and indifferent councillors. When I started I tended to tar them all with the same brush on party lines. It is always a good idea to maintain good relations with those who are trying to do a good job. I used to get very frustrated when the good ones voted with the whip, but it is far better to have open channels to them. In Barnet there are three councillors who would not talk to me under any circumstances, a few that are polite but distant and the rest will have a chat and drop the odd snippet of information when it suits them. This gives me much material for the blog. I often get a private email or phonecall, where at the end someone will say "Oh, by the way, have you seen this DPR?". It suits them because if something is not right and has become a matter of public interest, it can lend weight to their argument. Oddly I get far more tip offs from Tories than Labour.
2. Work with other groups, bloggers and activists. In Barnet we have five main bloggers and we often work together on campaigns and coordinate with each other. We issue joint blogs and promote each others blogs on our own ones. This helps build up traction. Also use Twitter and facebook.
3. Build up relationships with trades unions and faith groups and invite guest blogs. These are great assets and resources.
4. Stick to the facts. If you publish something be able to prove it. That will avoid the possibility of libel accusations.
5.  Avoid the temptation to rant about national politics. Local blogs are most effective when they are just that. It is far easier to influence local issues than national ones, which means that ranting about the likes of Osborne, Clegg, Cameron and Miliband is a waste of time. People soon tire of rants, wheras they are usually very interested in the local scene.
I've copied the other four Barnet bloggers into this reply as they may have something interesting to add/contribute. Keep up the good work.
Rog T
----- Original Message -----
From: gwynnclague
To: roger tichborne 
Sent: Saturday, March 30, 2013 7:45 AM
Subject: help

dear mr tichborne,
read the barnet eye for the 1st time last night, brilliant.
thick north walians like me are just getting the knack of social reporting.
I have been an activist against my local councils, town & county, for years, they would rejoice if I dropped dead.
I have just started a site called
It is in its very early stage but nevertheless I would appreciate it if you would have a glance when you have time, and let me know if you consider I am heading the right way.
all suggestions would be welcome.
gwynn clague

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