Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Whatever happened to the local papers?

Bill Montgomery
Bill Montgomery - A local press giant
In the London Borough of Barnet, there are three main local papers. There is the Times Series, The Press and The Ham and High. By clicking on these links, you can see a digital copy of the paper edition (although the Times group seems to have given up on putting all but the Barnet edition on the website since last December). At one point all of these papers have won awards for the highest quality of local journalism. For many years, Bill Montgomery used to write an award winning column on the Times, where he'd report on the shenanigans at the meetings of Barnet Council.

I originally started blogging on the Times group, before the Barnet Eye existed. I used Bill's style and column as an inspiration. I believed that the local papers in the Borough of Barnet were neglecting the goings on at the Town Hall. The public agreed with me. To my amazement, my blogs were constantly in the "most read articles" list on the website. This was an online, realtime list of the stories receiving the most hits. As my blogs were not complimentary to Barnet Council, this attracted the ire of the Conservative Councillors running the council and they pressured the editor of the Times, Phil Crowther, to get rid of my services. Rather incredibly, the pretext they used was that I had written an inflammatory blog, detailing how Barnet Council had uploaded a youtube of a BNP sympathiser spouting anti semitic bile onto the Council website as the reason. Amazingly, the council objected to my requests that such an obnoxious piece could be given a slot on the Council website and demanding its removal.

As a result, two things happened. Firstly I set up the Barnet Eye and the Barnet blogging scene was well and truly established (although to be fair, David Miller, AKA Don't Call Me Dave, had set up his own right of centre blog in response to my column, and Dan Hope had also made various efforts to cover Barnet Politics, prior to this). The other Barnet Bloggers soon followed suit, Vicki Morris was first, and Mr Reasonable, Mrs Angry and Mr Mustard soon followed, and the Barnet Bloggers became the voice of the people of Barnet. Whilst that was the good thing, the bad thing was that it seemed to mark the end of the local papers attempt to cover Barnet Politics properly. A new low occurred last week for Barnet's old fashioned press. On Tuesday, there was a meeting of the committee responsible for childrens services at Barnet Town Hall. The committee was reviewing the most serious scandal in Barnet in living memory. OFSTED have issued a report that the councils childrens services were not fit for purpose. The council were debating this. The Barnet bloggers issued a joint statement last Monday to ensure that the issue was given a serious response. However not one of the three papers carried a report in the paper version. These go to hundreds of thousands of local households. The local Conservatives crow that local residents have given them a good rating in a recent survey. I believe that the local press have been complicit in ignoring the failures of the council and not covering council meetings properly. The argument is that "people are not interested in local politics". This is nonsense. I proved this when I had a blog on the Times website and I've proved it again, with the enormous number of hits I receive on this blog, as have the other Barnet bloggers.

Time and time again, we've had huge scoops. Some of the individual blogs on this site have gone viral and had tens of thousands of direct hits. I don't make any particular efforts to publicise the blog, other than to tweet them when I post them. Anyone who looks at the blog does so because they are interested. Over two million hits says  that there is a huge interest. I believe that if the local papers carried proper local news, they'd get more readers and sell more advertising, but there is nothing worth reading in them, whilst huge stories are ignored.  I was disgusted to read on the Barnet Times paper edition on Page 11 a virtual reprint of the press release about high satisfaction in last weeks edition, whilst no mention at all was made of the torrid meeting on Tuesday, where the council had to own up that they have failed vulnerable children. At the end of the cut and paste article it says "what do you think, call our reporter Jenny Desborough". Let me tell you what I think. I think Jenny Desborough should do what local reporters such as Bill Montgomery did. Get down the town hall, get out and  about, read the Barnet Blogs, as we have the stories before anyone else. Work with us and make the local papers of Barnet win awards again. Once again, I will repeat my offer. I'll happily write a guest column or regular blog for any of the local papers that are interested. I won't charge a penny for it. It's not as if I haven't proven two million times that people are interested in what I have to say!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Capitaville AKA The London Borough of Barnet

At the weekend, I had a strange experience. Long term readers will know that in 2010, I unsuccessfully stood for Council in Mill Hill ward. I camped exceedingly hard and chatted to thousands of local people. I dedicated six months to full time campaigning, to the detriment of my business. I did this to try and prevent the mess that has unfolded.

Anyway, back to Saturday. I was buying some bagels in Marks and Spencer's in Mill Hill when an old Lady approached me. 'Your the fellow from the Council aren't you?' She said. I explained that I wasn't as the people of Mill Hill hadn't elected me.Then she said 'can you explain what is going on. I've been trying to speak to the council about a problem I've got, but all I do is get put through to a Capita call centre and they haven't got a clue'. I advised that they spoke to a local councillor. She said 'I did but they just said their hands are tied as Capita do this now'. I advised that all I could do is write a blog, but she said 'ok but don't mention me or what it's about as I don't want any trouble'.

So I have. I think this bodes I'll. If such people are discontented and have twigged that it's all going wrong, then the local Conservatives who sold out to Capita may get a pasting in next years council election. But that needs the local opposition to ensure that the blame for the mess is understood by the electorate. The Barnet bloggers have been warning for years. I just hope people finally listen.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Tweets of The Week in The London Borough of Barnet - 23/7/2017

It's Sunday so it's time for our favourite regular feature. Don't forget to follow any local tweeters who might tickle your fancy (or anything else!). Once again a rather interesting and varied selection!

1. We start in Burnt Oak. A terrible fire and a reminder of what a brave bunch the London Fire service are.

2. Nice historical tweet from LCC Municipal

3.Dipa Patel has found a rather good reason to nip up to Colindale

4. Hendon FC asked for us to retweet this. We've done one better and put it here!

5.This is a nice one. I wonder if I can get the chairman of Thameslink to open my train set!

6.Communist polt exposed in East Finchley! (sorry for the awful Daily Mailesque pun)

7.Fancy a bit of sausage! Cricklewood's your place. I've had one of these tasty bangers and can thoroughly recommend it

8. need your monobrow sorting? Seems like Edgware is the place to be

9. Our Barnet_rebel does love his sparrows!

10. And finally... Excuse the narcissism, but I am chuffed about this

That's all folks!!!!!

Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Saturday list #139 - The ten biggest eyesores in The London Borough of Barnet

Sometimes I just have to laugh. There is a press release on the Barnet Council website, stating that they are taking action against residents with untidy 'eyesore' gardens. To quote "Three garden eyesores have been cleared by Barnet Council after the owners ignored repeated planning enforcement requests to take action.Teams cleared overgrown vegetation and rubbish from the gardens of three properties in the borough after the owners failed to heed official notices requiring them to clear their land."

It made me think about our locality. If the council are clearing untidy gardens and 'eyesores', where should they start? Here are my top ten eyesores in the Borough. What are yours? I was going to attach pictures, but it really was too depressing, so we've only featured our winner!

Brent Cross Shopping Centre viewed from the North Circular

1.  Brent Cross shopping centre. Inside it is a palace of retailing, but the view of it from the North Circular is one of the most ugly and depressing sights I can possily think of.

2. Mill Hill car park in Flower Lane. This never seems to have any rubbish cleared and Mill Hill
Neighbourhood forum had to organise a litter clearance. This car park earns the council more money than any other in the Borough, but unlike residents gardens, they have no interest in tidying it up.

3. The railway land at Cricklewood. A complete eyesore, with huge piles of rubbish and builders waste. This will soon be replaced by an aggregates depot, which I am sure will have all of the aesthetic charm of an aggregates depot. Here's a video of what greets commuters on a daily basis!

4. Fiveways Corner. A few years ago some money was spent tarting it up and some impressive sculptures of leopards were installed. It has since been untouched and is overgrown and depressing.

5. Burnt Oak Market. I believe a clearance is being done there, but last time I went it was a sorry sight.

6. Mill Hill Bus Station. If your idea of fun is breathing pollution in a concrete void under the Motorway, this is the spot for you! 

7. The Concourse at Grahame Park. Would you believe that an architect won an award for the Grahame Park Estate? The concourse is ugly and unwelcoming and sums up the attitude of the people who built it to the working classes who they built it for.

8. The sculpture outside Hendon Town Hall. Famously described by local punk poet Pete Conway as "ten tons of scrap metal on a pile of broken stone".  The Tory Council leader who was responsible for its erection stated that in years to come residents will come to love it. That was 37 years ago, and we all still hate it.

9. The pond at Church Farmhouse Museum. This used to be magical and beautiful. The Philistines who run the council and shut the museum have allowed it to go to rack and ruin. It is heartbreaking to see.

10.  Pentavia Retail Park. Mostly abandoned and desolate. A depressing sight to see. If the developers get their way, it will become twelve storey high tower blocks and become an even bigger eyesore.

I wonder what Barnet Council's Eyesore squad will do about these? What's your favourite eyesore in the London Borough of Barnet.

Friday, 21 July 2017

The Friday Joke 21/2/2017

Image may contain: one or more people
US Healthcare debate
 It's Friday, so here's a couple of items to get you in the mood for the weekend! Have a great one
A retired older couple return to a Mercedes dealership where the salesman has just sold the car they were interested in to a beautiful, leggy, busty blonde in a mini skirt and a halter top.

The old man was visibly upset. He spoke to the salesman sharply.

"Young man, I thought you said you would hold that car till we raised the $55,000 asking price," said the older man. "Yet I just heard you closed the deal for $45,000 to the lovely young lady there."

"And if I remember right, you had insisted there was no way you could discount this model."

The salesman took a deep breath, cleared his throat and reached for a large glass of water. "Well, what can I tell you?  She had the cash ready, didn't need any financing help, and, Sir, just look at her, how could I resist?," replied the  grinning salesman sheepishly.

Just then the young woman approached the senior couple and gave the car keys to the old man...

"There you go," she said. "I told you I could get that idiot to lower the price...." "See you later, Dad, Happy Father's day."


Thursday, 20 July 2017

Guest Blog - Report on the Children, Education, Libraries and Safeguarding committee of Barnet Council on 18 July by Keith Martin

Mr Keith Martin

By Keith Martin,

Ed note : The Barnet Eye is always keen to receive guest blogs from Barnet Residents. One of our most long standing and best friends is Keith Martin of Chaville Press. On Wednesday night, Barnet Council held a meeting of the Children, Education, Libraries and Safeguarding committee. A key item of discussion was the damning OFSTED report into Childrens services. Unfortunately, we couldn't attend due to a long standing commitment, however Keith kindly stepped up and gave us his report on the meeting. Here are his observations :-

Attendance at council meetings often opens the lid on how our Councils are run. The Children, Education, Libraries and Safeguarding committee of Barnet Council on 18 July was no exception.

1                     The order paper ran to 260 pages (Ed - This is the report pack under discussion). Clearly this committee is overburdened with responsibilities. It needs to be subdivided. “Children” included a damning indictment by an Ofsted report of Barnet’s acknowledgedly inadequate children’s services. Pages 240/241 described the council’s aim to deliver quality services, the statutory duties of the Council and the risk management necessary. Thus councillors are informed of the appalling risks being taken by pursuing ideologically motivated and damaging policies. Yet they have been doing this as part of a mistaken library strategy since 2002, unchecked by either the Secretary of State for Culture or by rumblings from opposition councillors, the media or the Four Barnet Bloggers who, in response to the Ofsted revelations, have called upon the Chair Reuben Thompstone to resign.
2                     The meeting dwelt at length on the Ofsted report. Chris Munday, the Strategic Director for Children and young People, was questioned by members of the committee on current plans to improve services.
3                     The imminent time bomb was left ticking of how library services, arguably in breach of the council’s statutory duty under the 1964 Act to provide a comprehensive and efficient public library service, are currently the subject of a report by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), to the Secretary of State for Culture Karen Bradley. Watch this space.
4                     Clearly lots to do. Islington in contrast to Barnet received an Ofsted report on its outstanding leadership, so good models are at hand.
5                     The CELS committee has four co-opted members. It would benefit hugely by co-opting more pillars of the community with local experience rather than employing expensive consultants without such local knowledge. They have done something right by co-opting Kevin McSharry of the One Stop Shop in Graham Park.

Keith Martin