Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Why the time has come to stop writing blogs

Every day I spend two/three hours writing and researching this blog. It is a Labour of love. Over the last ten and a quarter years, I've written a total of 5,714 blogs to date. At an average of 1,200 words per blog, that means I've written 6,856,800 words. To put that into some sort of context, William Shakespear wrote around a million words. Of course, I am not claiming I'm William Shakespeare. If I dropped dead tomorrow, by the end of next week, most of you would have completely forgotten I ever existed. I doubt that anyone will be quoting my witticisms in 400 years time.

When I look back on what I've achieved as a blogger writing about the London Borough of Barnet, I think it is extraordinary. As the first of what has been called "The Barnet Bloggers", I kicked the whole idea into life. I felt that hyper local stories were not being covered by anyone. I believed that there was a huge amount of interest in what was going on in our community and that no one was writing about it. I believe that the fact that there are 2.6 million views of the blog have born this out.

When I set up the blog, I committed to writing a blog every day. To do this, I've had to do a huge amount of research. Sometimes I've sat up until 3am and then got up for work at 7am. But I do feel its been worth it.

The battles we've won, saving Friern Barnet Library, overturning the illegal parking charges, getting the Midland Hotel listed as an Asset of Community Value, getting rid of some truly rotten councillors and a criminal GLA member, saving respite care at Mapledown School and saving Barnet residents millions by exposing the Metpro scandal are things that spring to mind. These are campaigns we've been at the spearhead of. It has made all of the hours, all of the sleepless nights, all of the personal insults from former Council Leaders, all of the standingin the snow on marches, drinving around the Borough with a video camera, all of the sitting through unbearably boring meetings listening to intellectual leprechauns who masquarated of Councillors talking absolute nonsense, seem worthwhile.

But this is a special year for another part of my life, in many ways to me a far more important part. I've spent my adult life playing music, running a music studio and organising gigs and music festivals. This year is the 40th Anniversary of the start of my band, The False Dots and the founding of Mill Hill Music Complex studios. When the studios started, they were a very different beast. They were known as "The Cottage", as we started in the derelict caretakers cottage in Bunns Lane Works. As a bunch of rather naive 16 year olds, we didn't realise that the term Cottage had a meaning in the LGBT community that didn't really reflect the activities we were hosting. As these anniversaries loom, I have realised that they really should be marked properly. The studios now play host to approx 2,000 musicians and artists a week. We directly employ 12 people, around 30 more people (tutors, choreographers, ballet teachers, Yoga teachers etc) rely on our studios to earn a living. 50% of our customers come from more than five miles to use our facilities, so we bring money into the Mill Hill economy. The journey from a small musicians collective into a massive hub has been a veryinteresting story. In parellel the story of the band, totally intertwined with the studios has been perhaps even more interesting. The only reason I started the studio was to ensure I had a place to rehearse. The fact that it has mushroomed into such a massive feature in the London Music scene is purely down to the fact that I needed a place to play my music in.  When I realised others also neeeded a place, I decided that we would run it properly as a business, rather than as a musicians collective and a hobby. The change came in 1992. We'd rebranded the studio from The cottage to Unit 25 Studio to aoid confusion as to what we did. When I bought out my previous partners, we rebranded again as Mill Hill Music Complex.

The False Dots
As for the band. It has undergone a huge number of changes. We've had 38 people play with us, played in Scandinavia and Belgium as well as all over London and The Home Counties. The story of some of the people in the band would make a book in their own right. The story of our 1982 tour of Scandinavia would make a brilliant film. The story of our long time bassist, Paul Hircombe would make a brilliant Ken Loach tale of lost innocence, redemption and tragedy. Our current line up would probably make an excellent TV sitcom.  I am surprised that no one has ever made one about the shenanigans of a bunch of 50-60 year old wannabe rock stars. Perhaps the most interesting part for anyone watching would be the end of rehearsal discussions we have, where anything from mental health treatment to holidays in Cromer are discussed.

I've decided to put all of this down. I am writing a book, provisionally entitled "How to succeed in the music business with no talent at all". It was one of my new years resolutions. It has to be out by the end of the year, as does the False Dots retrospective album "Songs of Love and War",which is a mix of songs from 1983-5 and new compositions, as performed by our current line up.

I have sadly come to the realisation that it is impossible to write the book and write the blog. In life, I've learned one thing. The only way you get anything done is to have a degree of self discipline and structure to your life. You set aside time to do the things you have to do. For the last year or so, I've allocated the time between 10am and noon for writing and researching this blog.  My wife made me commit to not doing the 3am shifts after my problems with cancer. With family life, running the business etc, this means something has to give.

As there are some issues I care passionately about, I have decided to commit to a new timetable in my life. Last May, in their wisdom, the people of Barnet decided to renew the franchise of the organisation known as The Barnet Tories to run the Borough for another four years. Not only was it renewed, they were given a hugely increased mandate. Unlike some I respect democracy. I fully intend to spend the next three years working to ensure that in Mill Hill, they are booted out and sensible local people replace them. But it is futile to blog like a headless chicken about them. It has become clear to me that whilst I've nearly killed myself working to stop the worst excesses of their policies hurting the most vulnerable people, I've been cut out of many of the activities that oppose them by people who don't want anyone from outside a small cabal with a very set agenda. They are happy to use me when it suits them, but constantly seek to deny me a wider platform at all other times. I've noticed that recently references to the "Barnet Bloggers" fail to mention me at all, whilst heaping praise on other bloggers, more in tune with their views. Given that I've been far more active I find this rather sad. I am not the type of person to throw my toys out of the pram, but the fact that I get no support at all in what I'm doing and no useful information to help me write blogs means that I have to work ten times harder just to get the information out. It has simply occurred to me that if people co-ordinating campaigns don't want to supply the information, write the guest blogs, and use the amazing platform this blog gives, it is simply a waste of my time trying to do it all by myself.

So what does this mean for the Barnet Eye blog? Well it is not going to go away, far from it. But it will be changing into a slightly different beast. I have had a long, hard think about what I want to do and what I don't want to do. I am committed to my Environment Monday series of blogs. This is a passion, so I will continue to spend the three hours on a Monday putting them together.  I love the Friday joke and usually this take five minutes, so that will continue. I enjoy putting the Saturday list together, so that will continue. I also enjoy putting the tweets of the week together on a Sunday. That only takes half an hour whilst I watch football. So all of those things will stay.

What else will stay? Well I am 100% committed to the fight to Save The Midland Hotel. That is central to what my band do. It is central to our community. I will continue to support Mark Amies in his fight to Save The Railway hotel. So if there is anything I can usefully do, I will.

As to the rest of the time. I'll publish any sane and rational guest blogs that I am sent. I will publicise events such as The Mill Hill Music Festival. I will give updates on how the book and album are coming on. Clearly if some terrible thing blows up in the Borough of Barnet, I will also blog about that. So there will be new content here from Fri-Mon along those lines and presumably the odd thing during the middle of the week. I still support things like the #KickOutCapita campaign, but I won't be writing any blogs on the subject, unless there is something monumental. I won't be trawling through council papers.

One of the things I will be doing is making a few more videos, combining the music of The False Dots with issues affecting locals in Barnet. I think this is the future for local bands such as ours. Here's the one we did last year for the #KickOutCapita campaign. I think it is rather good. It immortalises the demolition of the NIMR.

There are a few things that will be exceptions over the next few weeks. There are a few outstanding FoI requests that may warrent a blog. There is also one major scandal that I am aware of that will be subject of a major blog, when the time is right. If there is anyone who wants to contribute a guest blog, I'd love to publish it. But life has moved on, so this will be the last Tuesday morning that I sit, listening to Robert Elms on BBC London, writing a blog like this.

Many thanks for your support. We hope that this will continue.

And if you know a good literary agent, let me know!

Monday, 21 January 2019

Environment Monday - Rats and Rubbish - A risk to your health

In the last four weeks, I've seen more rats on my walks around Mill Hill than I've seen in the last ten years. Barnet has historically been a relatively rat free Borough, in 2017 we were 21st in the list of rat reports. Given that we are the second largest Borough and have the largest population, that is something that the Council would have been able to say is a very good performance. The reasons for this are largely down to the fact that Barnet adopted wheelie bins for refuse collection, which are not rat friendly and they were historically very good at collecting them. Since the 5th November, this has all changed. Rubbish has been piling up and rotting everywhere. As far as rats are concerned, this really was a great reason to celebrate Christmas. Whilst it is unlikely that the rat population of Barnet has grown significantly in that period, the rats are far more likely to be seen as they forage in the piles of waste.

Rats pose a clear and present threat to public health. Rentokil list the following disease risks from rats (other local pest control companies can be found with a simple google)

Rodents carry a wide range of disease-causing organisms, including many species of bacteria, viruses, protozoa and helminths (worms). They also act as vectors or reservoirs for many diseases via their ectoparasites such as fleas, ticks, lice and mites, as well as some diseases carried by mosquitoes.
In fact, rodents are thought to be responsible for more deaths than all the wars over the last 1,000 years.

 We urge all Barnet residents to take any sightings of rats seriously. If it is on public land, notify the council. If it is in your house, I strongly suggest you contact the council or  a pest control company and wash down all affected surfaces with disinfectant. Many of these diseases can affect pets as well.

Many Barnet residents have been wondering why we've got the problem with bin collections. Members of staff have compiled a list of the issues and root causes of the problem. It is quite extensive and pretty shocking

  1. Because of the split depots and the traveling time to and from rounds and to and from tipping stations (Hendon and Edmonton) area based working does not appear to work.
  2. The Round sheets were wrong from day one and are still wrong, which is frustrating for the drivers.
  3. Work has been taken off some rounds, but it is still showing on round sheets, no one appears to know why this is happening?
  4. The maps were wrong from day one and are still wrong.
  5. Assisted collections are still wrong.
  6. Route and round risk assessments have not been done
  7. The mileage being walked by the loaders is too great.
  8. The rounds are too big.
  9. Putting agency staff on the same round who don’t know the borough, don’t know where they’re going and who have had no banksman training is very dangerous.
  10. The trade rounds are too big and having only one loader is very dangerous, with R.A.T.S left uncollected for weeks because a big vehicle just can’t get in the alleyways.
  11. Restricted access rounds have been biggest problem, again because big vehicles just can’t get into small locations.
  12. Flat rounds have been a big problem, again because of access problems and the sheer volume of tonnage involved.
  13. Green waste rounds have been impossible to complete even a single day because of the size of the rounds.
  14. No lessons have been learnt from previous years about Xmas collections and the sheer volume of waste and Xmas trees to be collected.
  15. Bulking area problems, not helped by off-hiring1 artic cab, deleting 1 job and using the other 2 staff to drive refuse rounds, leaving 1 worker to run site.
  16. Too much recycling for the area to cope with, so it is up to the roof and left on site overnight. Add to this tons of green waste tipped in unsuitable holding bays also left on site overnight.
  17. Not all staff trained on new vehicles.
  18. Vehicles left full overnight and not fuelled up, causing knock on effects for the morning crews, also rat damage and fitters unable to do repairs, servicing and MOT’s.
  19. When work is left uncompleted, no proper procedures in place to identify what’s been left and on what round or road, with sometimes several crews sent out to clear up only to find work has already been cleared.
  20. No way of monitoring tonnages.
  21. Supervisors and managers unable to do their jobs because they have been out loading or driving.
  22. No procedures in place to pick up loaders to drop them off to other rounds to help them or take them back to the depot.
  23. Bin deliveries regularly cancelled
  24. Clinical waste regularly cancelled
  25. Hazard round too big to complete and regularly cancelled
  26. Fear some staff working over their driving and working hours to clear up work.
  27. Staff being abused by members of the public because of their frustration
  28. Members of the public reporting they can’t get through on the help lines and when they do no one gets back to them.
  29. Staff off sick with stress, depression and injuries.
  30. Household waste left uncollected for weeks.
  31. Trade waste left uncollected for weeks
  32. Flats left uncollected for weeks
  33. Green waste left uncollected for weeks/months
  34. Drivers coming from Harrow to pick up loader or vehicles in Oakleigh depot
  35. No shunts have been available
  36. Occasions where there may be up to 6 vehicles working on the same road
  37. Saturday and Sunday working almost since the new service started.
  38. High level of agency staff at both depots
  39. Lack of keys or FOB’s or codes on round sheets
  40. Some support crews cancelled
  41. Emptying refuse, recycling and green waste into same vehicle
I urge all Barnet Residents to not discard food and other edible waste in the street, or anywhere that can be accessed by rats. One of the most unfortunate things residents are doing is leaving food waste in parks and public places used by children and dog walkers. This leads to rat infestations where children play. No one wants children and pets to be exposed to these dangerous diseases. The best way to stop them is to dispose of rubbish responsibly. Always wash your hands with an anti bacterial hand wash if you have come into contact with anything which may have rat urine contamination. We recommend anti bacterial hand wipes.

Barnet Council detail what they do and don't do and how to report rodent infestations on their website. We strongly urge everyone to make sure they report all rodent sightings.  
We don't investigate complaints of mice outside, but we're able to investigate complaints regarding rats outside or rats and mice inside premises. To report a rat or mouse problem please contact the Environmental Health Service on telephone 020 8359 7995 or email nuisance@barnet.gov.uk that includes your address and telephone number as well as details of the premises where the rats or mice have been seen. The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 requires land owner/occupier to keep their land free from rats and mice. The Environmental Health Service is able to take enforcement action against a person failing to comply with the legislation.

And finally, please email your local councillor to ensure that they take the issue of rodent infestations seriously.

(Please note that we have not been paid by Rentkil to post this blog).

Sunday, 20 January 2019

The Tweets of the Week in The London Borough of Barnet - 20/12/2019

It's that time of the week again for us to view the our corner of paradise through the eyes of our local tweeters.

Don't forget to follow any that tickle your fancy.

1. We start with a tweet that exemplifies British humour when faced with things that really are rather poor

2. Once again pub champion Mark Amies, a regular feature on BBC London Radio talking about London history has been putting in a shift for the campaign to sort out the sorry tale of The Railway Hotel in Edgware

3. Historic Tweet of the week, Angel cottages Mill Hill

4. Urban wildlife picture of the week!

5. A great show from the 2nd Edgware Scouts at the @BarnetScouts Gala

6. A big thumbs up to the efforts of the Colindale Litter Pickers

7. Great tweet signalling changing times at the MPS Peel centre in Hendon

8. We still have some amazing walks in the Borough of Barnet

9. The brought a smile to my face. I saw the play, it was written by an old friend, Laurence Lynch

10. Great to see local musicians raising mony for Cherry Lodge Cancer Care

That's all folks!

Saturday, 19 January 2019

The Saturday List #204 - Every gig I've been to in 2018

Todays Saturday list is a list with a difference. Every other list is frozen in time when it is done. This list won't be finished until Jan 1st 2020 (unless I drop dead in the meantime). I thought it would be good to write a quick review of every gig I've seen this year. So this blog will just grow and grow!

My new years resolution is to see a minimum of 52 gigs this year (one  a week) and to visit 1 new venue a month.

Sat 5th January - The Tremolites live at the Pizza Express

The Tremolites are a Ska/Soul outfit playing a mix of originals and quality covers. They were excellent. It is a nice little venue which I'd not been to before.

Weds 10th January - Stewart Curtis and K-Groove at Mill Hill Jazz Club

Stewart is our in house brass tutor at Mill Hill Music Complex. He is an amazing musician. K Groove are a mash up of Klezmer, Latin rythme's and Jazz. Fortunately his playing is infinitely better than his jokes.

Weds 17th Jan - Giles Robson & The Cinelli Brothers at The 100 Club

This was meant to be Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Sadly he had health issues, so blues Harp, Giles Robson stepped in. He was brilliant but what really blew me away was the support act, The Cinelli Brothers. They are awesome, the singer is a real star. Check them out

.Sun 20th January - Kenny Charles and Friends at The Highbury Inn.

A pretty stonkingly good night. Proper funk played well with some great musicians getting up and guesting. Kenny used to be a regular at The Mill Hill Jazz Club when Paul Amsterdam used to book bands.


Friday, 18 January 2019

The Railway Hotel in Edgware - Latest update

This morning, there has been all sorts of activity at The Railway Hotel in Edgware. It appears that three months after the fire, the temporary repair has been secured.

Edgware Councillor Sarah Wardle stated on Twitter that a multi agency task force had been set up to ensure that the Grade II listed building is properly looked after.

 Whilst it is clearly a good thing that the hotel is finally waterproofed, it is ridiculous that it has take 3 months to get to the point where this work has  been done. We clearly hope that this is just the start. We will be giving regular updates to our readers on this matter. We are sure that Sarah will find these useful in her tireless efforts to ensure that Barnet Council enforcement department are able to say they are on the case.

 As regular readers will know, there is a planning application on the Barnet Council website to turn the car park into a Coach Station. It seems that this is already happening, despite the fact that the council have not granted permission. We urge the Council to take proper action to deal with this. The bottom image implies that the coachers will be small minibuses (see picture at bottom from planning application). As you can see the coaches are massive and have trailers.

It is quite clear that Barnet Council and Sarah are being lead a merry dance by the people who are operating this service. If we can see what is going on, why can't the Council Officers, who are paid your taxes to enforce this, do their job?

If you want to get a full update on the awful state of this Grade II listed building, watch the video at the bottom
Image from planning application

Is Twitter bad for your mental health?

Technology can be corrosive to you!
I am not asking this question lightly. I don't know if any specific studies have been done on this subject. There are general articles about "social media" being bad for mental health, but Twitter is a very specific form of social media.

According to The Huffington Post, there are ten types of Twitter user. I was rather disappointed to read this article, in that it failed to mention the three categories of people I seem to almost exclusively interact with. These are

1) Politicians, who spend most of their time on Twitter arguing black is white to defend totally ridiculous behaviours, which their parties have rather unfortunately decided are party policy. Many of these hibernate between election campaigns, then Tweet frantically like demented gerbils the closer the election gets.
2) Activists and campaigners, who are generally highly passionate about causes they care about and get really upset at the slightest hint of dissent from their viewpoint.
3) Wind up merchants, who simply get a kick out of irritating and annoying the above two groups.

I could make a fairly good case that in some way, shape or form I belong to all three groups. But I primarily associate with group 2. Most of the people I consider "twitter friends" do as well. In the Barnet scene, I've actually met most of these over the years. It is quite interesting when you've been exchanging tweets with someone for a couple of years, then they bump into you in Tesco's in Finchley and they look nothing like you imagine. As I'm a shameless self publicist in a Rock and Roll band, who has been appearing on telly and in public most of my life in some way shape or form, most people locally have an idea what I look like. Over the past month, on three occasions, people have stopped me, said how much they enjoy the blog and then said something that has rather upset me. They have mentioned that they have stopped "doing Twitter". When I asked why, I got exactly the same answer from all three. "It was starting to get too stressful, I was unable to go to bed without checking twitter and sometimes was sitting up to 3am arguing with people and getting very upset".

Interestingly, two of the people cited the same major source of this stress as a single maicious tweeter. I was quite stunned by this. I had easily identified the said individual as an unprincipled wind up merchant and a bully. Generally they leave me alone, I suspect that it is because they know it isn't particularly worth the effort in my case.

I have had mental health issues in the past. When I was in my early teens I was clinically depressed and was put on medication at age 13. This was a culmination of several things, being dyslexic and underperforming at school. As a result of being an August birth (six weeks premature), I was one of the smallest children in my school year and I was being bullied by both older children and some teachers. I hadn't yet discovered the resilience to fight back. My mother had cancer when I was eight and we had a period of two or three years, where we thought she was going to die. Seeing my Father, who was  a very strong ex RAF officer crying disturbed me. I had constructed a fantasy world, in which I lived and I had no wish to come out of it. In 1975, my mother was given the all clear. When I was 14 in 1976 I discovered punk rock music and found myself. I started to grow and so the bullying stopped. I started to argue back with teachers. I realised that being beaten with a cane was less painful than being humiliated. That was an important lesson, one I've never forgotten. I understand what it is like to feel stress, to feel fear and loathing at having to be in a position where you are going to get torn apart. Why would you want to do that?

What shocked me was that this same fear and stress seems to be triggered by the simple act of logging on to Twitter. At first I struggled to understand how the blatherings of strangers could possibly cause such anguish. When I thought about it, it became apparent that in many ways it is the same thing. The thing that used to really hurt me when I was 13 wasn't people kicking or punching me. It was the humiliation in front of the world, the belittling. It is the thought that you are just trying to the right thing, make people aware of important things in your community and someone comes in and kicks seven shades of literary $hite out of you, mercilessly winkling out your weaknesses and then, having located your achilles heel, ripped you apart. You feel that all of the people who you thought liked and respected you, now realise you are an imbecile. The fact that this world is unseen, the "friends" are simply people you largely don't know on the other end of an IP Address is irrelevent. Put on top of that the disruption to the sleep patterns, the interruption to work as you frantically check your twitter feed to see the next humiliation. You see it, you don't want to respond, but you can't bear the thought of letting the bully put the boot in unchallenged, so you ping another message and wait with that ever sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.

One of the questions I get is whether it ever gets me down. The honest answer is that when I first got into Twitter, I did have a few occasions when it was becoming a pain in the bum, but I soon learned that it is not worth having lengthy debates with people who are simply trying to wind you up, unless you are actually enjoying it. I also learned to limit my time on social media and not to look at it when I am not supposed to be (according to my self imposed schedule). I never look at it at work (apart from our business account, which we use to promote the firm).

My advice to anyone who is using Twitter is quite simple. If people are trolling you, block them. If Twitter is makingyou feel unhappy, take a break from it for a week. If your life is better, knock it on the head. Never look at Twitter for an hour before you go to bed, no matter how strong the temptation. Have a long, hard look at how you are using it and make sure it is working for you, not destroying you.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

The Barnet bin fiasco update - The Council call in the cavalry!

Firstly lets start with this weeks apology from the Leader of Barnet Council.

The Leader of Barnet Council has provided an update on the progress being made in relation to the new recycling and waste collections.
The Leader of Barnet Council, Councillor Richard Cornelius, said: “I’m pleased to report that we have started this week on a positive note, building on the progress that we started to see last week.
“The vast majority of collections were completed to schedule yesterday and we are carrying out collections scheduled for today. We expect to complete these by the end of today.
“We will continue to build on this progress this week by doing our utmost to collect residents’ recycling and waste on the allocated days. We have brought in additional staff to help us do this.”
Refuse collections on a small number of roads in the N20, and EN5 areas, specifically flats and roads with narrow access, could not be completed yesterday. These collections have now been completed.
There were also some collections that could not be carried out yesterday in the Mays Lane area due to utilities works blocking access to bins. We will return to carry out these collections as soon as possible, when access is available.
If your bin is not collected, please leave it out at the boundary of your property and it will be collected as soon as possible. Barnet Council will be collecting real Christmas trees up until Sunday, 3 February 2019 if they are left out by residents' bins on their correct collection day.
To report a missed bin collection, please visit here
There definately seems to have been a marked improvement in the collection rates. Last week Edgware Councillor Linda Freedman claimed on Facebook "We are having a much better week this week – we have deployed additional resources and are fully up to date with Monday and Tuesdays collections. We will have a full service operating tomorrow that will be capable of collection all of Thursdays work, along with any excess material that we didn’t collect last week."

 I was intrigued by this and emailed the CEO of the Council John Hooton, to clarify what was going on. I had rather hoped that he would be keen to inform residents of what was going on. Sadly, Mr Hooton doesn't seem to consider responding to residents as part of his job. Yesterday I think the mystery of the "extra resources" was solved.  As I was walking the dogs in Mill Hill, I saw a bin lorry collecting commercial waste from the offices on the Watford Way. I was intrigued to see that the binmen were wearing Harrow Council hi vis jackets.

I made some enquiries (another unanswered email to Mr Hooton and a call to contacts in the council). I also posted a question on facebook on the Mill Hill group. It seems that quite a few residents had noticed these extra resources. It is quite clearly a good thing that the piles of rubbish are being cleared. What is not such a good thing is how much all of this must be costing. The bin rounds were reorganised to save money. Bringing in the cavalry from Harrow must be costing a fortune. Ultimately the whole reorganisation has been a complete fiasco. The council was forced into this because they have mismanaged finances and now they are spending a fortune just to keep things on track. 

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

The Railway Hotel in Edgware - Now the owners want to build a coach station

This morning, I received a whole stream of emails etc from local pubs and heritage campaigner Mark Amies. Mark is currently featured on a series on the Robert Elms Show on BBC Radio London, discussing Londons Industrial Heritage. When Mark isn't preparing for his broadcast career, he's busy fighting the good fight preserving our local pubs and other landmarks.

I was shocked to see what Mark was reporting this morning. Firstly, he has found a list of enforcement actions against the owners. Mark has tweet this (click on the picture for more details)

I suspect that Mark was tipped off by another local Tweeter concerned with local issues.

Photos from application
The planning permission contains a document that shows just how badly the situation is with the neglect of the area. The owners have demonstrated a blatent disregard for the local community. This scheme will damage the ability of any business in the building to prosper. It will remove car parking spaces and generally contribute to the run down nature of the building.

It is clear to me that only someone with total disregard for the neighbours could think that thee pictures would help a planning application.

Click here if you want to object to this awful proposal. It is clear that the owners have only decided to comply with the law as there is enforcement action.  A quick search and review of the Councils enforcement pages reveal that a complaint was received in Jan 2018 and the case was closed with "informal compliance". I assume that the council rang up and said stop this and they said "Ok" and carried on without taking any notice. The latest notice was issued on 12th December. As the owners have shown that they take no notice of what the council says, it really is beyond belief that they will start to comply now.

 The other local Councillor with a Twitter account is Sarah Wardle. She at least promised us an update on 20th December.

We are still waiting for this and have just given Sarah another nudge.

If you want to see just how bad the whole site is, myself and Mark Amies made a short film about it last week. Please make sure you comment, tweet to your councillors and do everything you can to make sure that our community is not destroyed by such awful schemes.


Shameful behaviour of Barnet MP's in EU vote

This blog has made no secret of its position regarding the EU and Brexit. Last October, we laid out the evidence showing that the result of the referendum no longer represented the views of the UK electorate. This was based not on people chaning their mind, but on the change of the demographaics of the electorate and the narrowness of the vote. When we analysed the vote, we found that the number of elderly Brexit voterds who passed away and no longer have a stake in the process and the number of young people likely to favour remain, meant that if not a single soul had changed their mind, the current electorate would be highly likely to deliver a different result. As the majority for #Brexit was tiny, we've always felt that another referendum to endorse or reject any final position would be appropriate.

We believe that if the #Brexiteers have made their case, this would be a formal rubber stamping and would offer the opportunity to put the argument to bed forever. If the electorate decides that after the years of attempting to work out something that would be in the interests of the UK, remaining is the best option, then that too should be respected. If the ERG and the rest of the #Brexit family believe they have a good case, why can't they trust the people. For the last referendum, we had dodgy Dave Cameron and Greasy George Osborne in charge of Remain, they ran an inept campaign based on a load of highly dodgy claims. I for one am not in the least surprised that they lost. If Dave had been honest and said "The EU isn't great, I've not managed to get any meaningful concessions from them, but the alternative to remain is years of political chaos, which will damage the UK for decades and split the country, so please vote remain as it is the least bad of all options", people may hae trusted him a bit more. It would also have helped if he'd actually bothered to talk of all of the benefits.

But that is history, here we are today. There is no majority for anything in Parliament. I suspect that the only solution is to let the public do the job that the politicians can't. I just wanted to lay out my position, so that my comments about our local MP's can be taken with full background and context.

In the London Borough of Barnet, we have three MP's. These are Mike Freer in Finchley and Golders Green, Theresa Villiers in Chipping Barnet and Matthew Offord in Hendon. All three are Conservatives. In yesterdays vote, Freer voted for the Government motion and Offord and Villiers voted against, as they are both hard line Brexiteers. Lets discuss Mike Freer first. He is a junior whip, and it would be the end of his pretty unspectacular career if he defied the whip. Like his two colleagues, Mike Freer was not elected because there is a large consensus in Finchley and Golders Green that thinks he's a marvellous MP, clever, good looking or full of saintly compassion. He was elected because he persuaded the Conservative Party that he was the best candidate. The party invested a huge amount of money and effort into making sure local people knew he was a Conservative Candidate and that they knew what the Conservative manifesto was. Every single Conservative voter should expect Mike Freer to vote in line with Conservative Party policy. Therefore no one could reasonably complain that Freer had not done what he was mandated to do.

However there is a big difference between this vote and every other vote. This vote was one where there had been a national referendum. Freer voted Remain.He knows that Brexit, whatever its form will be bad for the UK. We can make a case for him doing what he is paid to do, to enact Conservative policy, however there is another side to this. Freer's constituency voted strongly to remain. He knows that any sort of leaving will be bad for the UK. But Mike Freer has kept his head down and said nothing. His website has said nothing about the EU and last nights vote. In short, he has shown no backbone. Is it any surprise that we are in this mess if MP's show no backbone to stand up for what their constituenciesvoted for.

Then there is Villiers and Offord. Like Freer, they only have their job because they were selected to represent the Tory party. But unlike Freer, they are Brexiteers. They represent trongly remain constituencies, but have voted against May as they want a hard Brexit. Whilst at least Freer has a fig leaf of being able to say he voted in line with the party that sponsors him, the other two have simply gone off on an ego trip. They are not representing either their party or the majority will of their voters. I suspect that amid all of the chaos, they will get away with it. Not least because all of the local Tory associations are strongly biased towards leave. Maybe I am just very naive, but ultimately I think that MP's should represent the people who elect them. As such, the behaviour of these three is shameful.

My suspicion is that this chaos will go on for a very long time. Whilst MP's feel that they can stick two fingers up at the public and get away with it, there is little hope. To be honest, I am sick of the whole thing. Whilst the vote was being cast, we went to watch the new Laurel and Hardy film. It is brilliant. The fim has many parallels with how I suspect Brexit will play out (from the perspective of leavers). The film starts with them at the height of their careers in 1937. They want a better deal. It ends in Ireland in tears.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

How Barnet Council and Capita insult the memory of our loved ones at Hendon Cemetery

If you have ever wondered what privatisation means in practise, when it comes to Council services, you need look no further than Hendon Cemetery. I visit this regularly. My parents and grandparents are buried there, as well as Aunts, Uncles and some of my best friends. When my Father was buried there in 1987, it was spotless, a feature of civic pride. I felt it was a fitting place for my Father to be laid to rest. He was an RAF bomber pilot (you can read of his heroism here - http://aircrewremembered.com/tichborne-lawrence-franklin.html ). I always hae felt that if I was a tenth the man my father was, I'd have done alright in my life.

In 2014, as part of the outsourcing contract with Capita, Barnet Council came to an agreement with Capita to run the cemetery. The idea was that Capita could turn my father's final resting place into a cash generating pot of gold. You may wonder how you make more money out of a Cemetery. Sadly there are three ways. The first is that you cut back on maintenance. The second way is that you charge people more to bury their dead and the third is that you rent it out for events and TV/Filming. Sadly Capita have vigorously persued this. Last April I made a short film detailing the neglect inside the cemetery. I hoped that this film would explain one of the reasons I allowed my name to be put forward to run as a candidate in the local elections.

I am sorry to report that it is no better today. Today I posted a series of tweets showing just how awful the external appearance of the Cemetery from the road appears. Are Barnet Council and Capita really happy to have this as an advert for how they run things and treat our dead loved ones.

Capita Mausoleum
Have a look at this thread. Perhaps the most appalling thing of all, from my perspective was the shoddy, laminated advert for slots in the Mausoleum. The worst of all of these is this one, adertising slots in the mausoleum for £10,000 for a hunded year lease on a slot.  I showed my wife this picture and she said "That is really tasteless, how can you think that's funny". She had thought that this was something I'd knocked up as a joke. I am sorry to say that it isn't. I have never seen anything as ugly in all my life and to take a shoddy picture, laminate it and stick it over the previous, tasteful opening hours time is sickening.

It really doesn't seem to occur to Capita or the Conservatives who run Barnet Council that many people who visit the cemetary are elderly people who just want quiet time with a loved one. They need a large, clearly written sign with opening hours on. Sticking these shoddy signs over these details is simply irresponsible.

How do you think I feel when I see this as I go to pay my respects to my father and mother. Let me tell you. I saw this and turned around and went home. I was simply no longer in the right state of mind to spend any time with my parents memories. I was bloody furious, so I came straight home and wrote this f'ing blog. If ever you wonder why I do all this, just think for a second how I feel today.

And you know what makes me sadder than anything. I used to want to be buried there next to them. I have changed my mind. Now I wish to be cremated and have my ashes scattered over Areendene. I'm sure that sooner or later the Tories and Capita will ruin that as well, but at least I won't die knowing I'll be lining the pockets of such sickening leeches.