Last night I attended the Barnet Council Financial Performance and Contracts Committee, chaired by Councillor Peter Zinkin. I'd submitted two questions. In the good old days, you'd get the responses in a timely fashion to allow you to compose a sensible follow up, if your question was not answered. Yesterday, I was forwarded the responses at 16.12. This was a bit inconvenient, as I had a meeting with the Sacred Heart Church Finance committee at 6pm, the committee started at 7pm, I was working until 5pm and had to walk dogs and eat dinner. As a result, I didn't see the responses until I arrived at the meeting. To make matters even more interesting, I was in such a rush getting from Mill Hill to Hendon for the meeting, I dropped my key getting in the car. I spent ten minutes looking for it, then left my phone in the car when I arrived, so I couldn't tweet the meeting or video it. To say I wasn't overly happy when I arrived is a mild understatement.
I arrived to see Mr Reasonable there. Barnet has a few bloggers. He's the only blogger I've seen at the Town Hall for a while. It used to be that whenever I went there'd be a bevvy of them, especially for any meeting discussing Capita. I thought I'd just do a quick recap on our fine bloggers, so anyone reasonably new to Barnet would have an idea who I'm talking about. I was the first of the bunch, but all have been around for well over a decade and our work has been recognised by everyone from the Guardian to former Tory Local Govt minister Eric Pickles, who commended our work.
If you consider each blogger as a newspaper, I'd probably be The Daily Star, Mrs Angry would be the Daily Mail, Mr Mustard would be Packaging News and Mr Reasonable would be The FT. When I say this I don't mean that any of the bloggers have sympathies with the publications, but in content terms and what we cover, I am very eclectic and being a bit thick, like the Star don't use long words to demonstrate my intellect. I like to put the boot in, but also to cover football, music and all manner of other irrelevence.
Mrs Angry is very much a 'sensible mid market' paper that loves a sensationalist scoop, but decries anyone else who has the nerve to beat her to it. She loves a good old long word, here's a classic Mrs Angry sentence, where I'd say "Lets sling out the Tories in May", she would say "Roll on May: it's time to clear out the Augean stables, and rid ourselves of the rotten stench hanging around this Tory council and their collaborators. " Her work is pretty damn good, but a bit too wordy for plebs like me! Mrs Angry seems to have semi retired, only knocking out the occasional blog when the mood takes her, which is a crying shame as she does rather wind up a few councillors who thorughly deserve it.
Mr Mustard started blogging about Barnet Council, but now mostly concentrates on parking issues, he's become very niche and probably is far better for it. He's also moved beyond the boundaries of the Borough, his latest blog being about the parking in Hillingdon. If Parking tickets are your thing, his blog is brilliant. He does other stuff, but mostly transport and roads related these days.
Mr Reasonable is the man who really get stuck into the detail. Whereas I skim the council papers and if I see something juicy leaping out, I blog it, John reads them properly and when he blogs, it is full of detail. His brain works in a different way to mine. He often picks things out that I've missed completely. His latest blog about how Brighton Marina is costing Barnet Ratepayers a fortune is typical. I read the report and missed the detail completely. I was not alone, it seems our Tory councillors also missed this detail. It seems that they miss most of what he blogs about.
Anyway, I digress, last night I arrived to meet Mr Reasonable. He looked more irritated than usual. I had taken a chance. I'd not read the answers, so I may have had a wasted journey. If they'd given me a complete and sensible answer, it would have been a wasted journey. When I read the responses, I was not suprised. Perhaps the most irritating thing about Barnet Council meetings is that they rarely actually answer the question. This was no exception. The nub of the first question was "Please clarify in plain English, what this means in financial terms to Barnet Taxpayers." The response did no such thing. I did get an apology, that to paraphrase was along the lines "Sorry you are too thick to understand what we were saying". In my second question, I asked whether the failure to inspect restaurants had resulted in an increase in the number of cases of food poisoning. The answer was "No". I asked for some evidence, as this was not provided. I was told that this would be forthcoming. We shall see.
As for Mr Reasonable. Whilst I'm thick and don't understand words of more than four letters, he does. How did he feel about the responses to his questions? Well this was what he tweeted.
Not sure why I bother going to council meetings. I raised serious questions about call answering, a service Capita are due to retain. They couldn't meet the target to answer 80% of calls in 20 secs so increased it 60 secs then to 120 secs & still can't meet target. pic.twitter.com/JMv5Y6caMl— Mr Reasonable (@ReasonableNB) March 14, 2022
It seems that it is not only thicko's who are exasperated by Barnet Council. It has been crystal clear for a long time that Barnet Council hate the bloggers and take great delight in providing waffly non answers to infuriate us. Oh how jolly it all is. To once again quote Mrs Angry's flowery prose Roll on May: it's time to clear out the Augean stables, and rid ourselves of the rotten stench hanging around this Tory council and their collaborators.