Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Holly Park school hygene report - the fallout

Yesterday Barnet bloggers collaborated to expose a huge scandal affecting Holly Park School. The school canteen had received  a zero hygiene rating from health inspectors. As a parent of three children at Barnet schools, I was appalled that the Council could allow things to deteriorate to such a level. Even worse, it transpires that whilst parents were kept in the dark, governors, including a member of the ruling Barnet Conservative administration had known of the problems since the report was released in January.

As a result of the bloggers breaking the story, the local press have also now taken an interest. The Barnet Press acknowledges the major role of bloggers in breaking the story


The Barnet Times makes no mention.


What is rather amusing is a stream of tweets from the Barnet Times moaning that bloggers seemingly get better service from the FOI department at the Council than they do

Martin Buhagiar @TimesIndyEditor  ·  6h ago
That then released information to all and sundry but not us is a tad irritating and we will find out why.
Martin Buhagiar@TimesIndyEditor 5h
Bizarre response from council. First FOI submitted on March 5 and dealt with. We then submitted ours. Council is dealing with it. Why?
Even more oddly, the Times seem to be taking credit for the story they missed.
Martin Buhagiar @TimesIndyEditor  ·  6h ago
Had we not published that food hygiene rating article this story may not have come to light. The list criticised by a certain few...
Without mentioning that the criticism was not for the story but for the fact they couldn't count up to ten (they said they'd published the ten worst takeaways in Barnet and listed nine establishments, two of which weren't takeaways).
Now whilst I take great delight in winding up Martin Bulgaria at the times (or whatever his name is), I must confess that he seems to have missed the point rather. As far as I am concerned the local press and the local bloggers should work together. The local paper reaches far more Barnet residents than bloggers can and I am always delighted when they run with the stories we break. I believe that Martin whatshisname is missing a trick by not making an effort to get on better terms with the local bloggers. It may surprise you to know I've not spoken to him once since he started doing the job (that I can remember). I've no idea whether the other bloggers ever speak to him, but if I were he I'd by the bloggers the odd pint and sandwich and cultivate a working relationship. That's not because I can't afford a pint myself, I can. I just think we'd all do a better job if we worked together.
Over the years I've had a good relationship with staff at he Times, going back to 1979 with Dennis Signey and Kevin Black, through the 1980's with the likes of Joy Bentley and Clarence Mitchell. Former editor Phil Crowther even invited me to be a guest blogger for a while, although it ended in tears. After that I got on well with Alex Hayes. for some reason the current crop  seem to think bloggers are a bit "beneath them". I suspect they've even avoided stories because the bloggers have broken them, out of pique.
I don't want special favours from the Times group. I just want a vibrant local news scene. The last thing I'd want is the local press to disappear. One good development is that Mr Mustard is now writing a guest blog on Parking. This relationship started via a twitter convsersation.
I somehow suspect that the Times (or at least the current incumbents) would rather nail there willies to the doorframe than let me write for them again, but I do think they are missing a trick not engaging the talents of Mrs Angry and John Dix (AKA Mr Reasonable) as well as Mr Mustard. I think only a fool would claim Mrs Angry isn't a talented writer and John isn't an expert on the intricacies of the finances of Barnet Council. Both have far more of interest to say than anyone in either the Labour or Conservative Party.
Interestingly enough, the most read story on the Times Website namechecks myself and Mrs Angry
with a quote from my tweet. It is good that the Times at least recognises that myself and Mrs Angry have something to say that Barnet wants to read.
One final word must be said about the rabid rantings of certain Tory attock dog tweeters in response to the story. The Barnet Eye suspects that they don't have children so don't really understand the genuine concerns parents may have in this matter. Most parents don't care what colour the administration is, they simply want the problems at local schools sorted. They want the press and bloggers to expose stories in the knowledge something will then get done. In Barnet, there is a Tory administration, who have been in charge for twelve years. They rightly will get a good kicking from bloggers and the press about this matter, because it is on their watch. As a parent and a blogger, I would have exposed this story whoever was in charge, because what has happened is simply not acceptable. I will kick those that can make things better, in this case the Conservative administration. The leaders of the administration know this will not play well for them with an election looming. That is too bad. If they don't want this sort of story, make sure schools are properly funded and properly run. If hygiene reports are bad, fix them immediately, don't boot the report into the long grass. This has been known about since January. If the Council was doing it's job properly they would have sorted it out by now and invited the bloggers for a guided tour of how marvellous the repairs etc had been and how quickly they'd been done when it came to light. Maybe they'd have invited the local press as well and Martin Bonkarier could have bought us that pie and a pint afterwards.
None of that happened, so we are where we are. If the problems get fixed, that is a good outcome as far as I am concerned.

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