Friday 26 December 2008

No Comment !!!!! Some hope

I love reading the comments that get left on this blog. The nastier the better, it sort of fires up my adrenaline and makes me even more belligerent. As we approach the end of the year, I can now make a few awards to my avid army of fans. Before I do I'd like ramble on for a while about nothing (well almost nothing). Why am I such an awkward sod? Well it all dates back to when I was about 14. At the time I was at Finchley Catholic High School in class 4b. The headmaster at the time was known to all and sundry as "Ned". Ned and myself really didn't get on. For some reason (can't possibly think why?) he'd taken a real dislike to me. As we were still living in the grand old days of corporal punishment and he was the headmaster, this put him at something of an advantage in our tussle. Not being particularly partial to being beaten black an blue, it limited the opportunities for obtaining revenge !!!! One fine opportunity which presented itself was when he took us for RE. Although Ned fancied himself as an intellectual, I found him rather easy to wind up. Ned decided to stage a "class debate". Red rag to a bull!!! Anyway, to cut a long story short, Ned rather lost his rag. He asked me to stand at the front of the class. He then announced that every single member of the class would tell me what they thought of me , so I would be fully aware of my many failings. In short, a ritual humiliation.

In a very Nedesque move, he asked my best friend at the time, Pat Walsh to get the proceedings going. Pat stood up and announced "He's my mate, I'm not saying anything about him, do your own dirty work". The class erupted and at that moment, Ned realised he'd lost it. I was very proud of class 4b. I doubt any other class would have reacted quite the same !!! At that moment I learned three very important lessons.

1. If you stand up and be counted (as Pat Walsh did), then you can change the course of things.

2. You should stand by your friends through thick and thin.

3. That if you stick together you can win and when you do it feels great.

I vowed that I'd never stand by and let things pass that I didn't agree with.

Mind you I'm not the only one with friends. Our council leader, Mike Freer has many friends. Now I'm not sure whether these friends are real or imaginary as their Blogger profiles are rather, shall we say, sparse. We have BARNETRESIDENT, NORTH LONDON, AMANDA, JULIE, DO CALL ME DAVE, JOHN-PAUL, P.,ALISON, ANDREW and CLEFTY.P. They're all rather keen on Mike (generally only leaving posts only where he's mentioned). They all have a remarkably similar use of English to Mike, I wonder if they were all his classmates?

Then there are the non Freerite Barnet Tories. We have DONT CALL ME DAVE and DAN HOPE. Now unlike Mike's (imaginary?) friends, they are most certainly real people. They are both Tories and I guess they're what I would consider "traditional" in as much as that they're anti waste and pro democracy.

Then we have BRIAN COLEMAN AKA MR TOAD HAS GOT TO GO. He's doing a ine job of keeping us all up to date with what a fine job Brian Coleman is doing promoting Global warming and spending any council surplus money. Then there's good old STADLER AND WALDORF reminding us all how blogging should be done. We have DUNCAN MACDONALD for the LibDem's and VICKIM57 for Barnet UNISON, both of whom run fine blogs to boot.

Anyway here's my awards, voted on by the Barnet Eye awards panel.

1. Best (other) Blog in Barnet - 2008 - BARNET COUNCIL WATCH by DON'T CALL ME DAVE
- Highly informative and revealing, fine work in 2008

2. Best single issue commenter - 2008 - BRIAN COLEMAN AKA MR TOAD HAS GOT TO GO
- Staying focused on the big prize

3. Best Blog - 2008 - Frequent Flyer Freer (Tuesday, 29 July 2008 -
- This story has opened many a can of worms - Well done David

4. Nastiest Comment on a blog - Julie (click HERE for full blog for context)
Your late friend is entirely responsible for the situation he created for his family when he died. He did not plan for them.....

Had a taken out enough life cover and income protection they could have bought somewhere and had an income for a set period.

- As I said above, comments like this only make me want to blog a bit harder. If I were Mike Freer, this is one of my friends I'd give very a wide berth to.

5. Lifetime achievement award for blogging - STATLER AND WALDORF
- Nuff said

6. Most Expensive blog in Barnet - WWW.LEADERLISTENS.COM - Mike Freer
- I just hope all of his friends enjoy it.

7. Biggest inspiration to Barnet Bloggers - Brian Coleman.
- Without his tax funded excesses, freeloading, displays of pomposity, offensive outbursts and rather amusing speech impediment, these blogs would be so much more bland.

8. Barnet Council's Breakdancing award - Mike Freer
- Anyone who saw him trying to open the window during the council debate on the Icelandic Financial scandal would be truly amazed. He should be on "Strictly come Breakdancing"

9. Most Missed blog in Barnet - Mike Freer - Barnet Times
- Didn't say much but at least I didn't have to pay for it !

As I said, 2008 has not been a great year for me, here's just a few of the things I'll miss.

RIP for 2008 (From a personal perspective). My mum, My father in law, Claremont Road football Ground, My Edgware Times Blog, Mike Freer's Barnet Times blog, Woolworths in Mill Hill, Sven Goran-Erikson at Manchester City, various local post offices, MacMetals in Mill Hill, Paul Hircombe leaving the False Dots after 29 years.

Can't leave on a low note though. He're a few good things from 2008.

Great Cancer Charity gig in March with Lee Thompson & Chris Spedding, Highly successful Mill Hill Music Festival Jazz Long weekend, Fast trains to London reinstated from Mill Hill, The Barnet Eye, Adi Denton joining the False Dots on Bass, The Watling Festival, Finchley Carnival, the Sex Pistols at Brixton Academy, X-ray Specs at the Roundhouse, Miss Pearl by Boz Boorer, The Pogues at The Brixton Academy.

Unless our friends at Barnet try and sneak a sly one in under the wire, whilst we are all looking the other way, this will be the last blog until the New Year, so I wish you all a great 2009.

Wednesday 24 December 2008

Merry Christmas to you

A very merry Christmas to all of you. I hope we all have a great new year and learn from all of our mistakes in 2008.

For me personally 2008 has been an awful year. I hope it's been better for all of you.

Peace and goodwill to you and in the words of the great and wise Leonard Graves-Phillips - keep watching the skies !!!!!

Mike Freer - One for the road - review of the year

Here's one for all Mike's fans to Enjoy - click HERE

Tuesday 23 December 2008

Mike Freer - The ego has landed.

A chance passing comment lead me to discover something rather alarming about MiKe Freer. To understand how massive an ego the Tory Candidate for Finchley seem's to have, I suggest first you have a look at the constituency next door and see how they do things. Click this link to the Chipping Barnet Conservatives website.

The front page has a nice picture of the High Street. Click on the constituency link and you get a very interesting breakdown of the history of the seat. The Branches link gives you all of the details of the wards and the key people. The Gallery page has a selection of pictures of various people, events and themes for association activities. Some have pictures of MP Theresa Villiers, some have pictures of other worthy people. The Links page is a bit of a disappointment as it has no links to the Barnet Eye, but other than that has most of what you'd need. In short, if you were interested in the Tory Party in Chipping Barnet, it's a good place to find out about it.

Now have a look at their next door neighbours, Click this link for Finchley Conservatives website. You are greeted with the Banner

Welcome to Mike Freer's Website the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Finchley and Golders Green

There are two short sentences which say :-

Finchley is best known for its former MP, Margaret Thatcher. She was the UK’s first female Prime Minister, breaking a string of records including three general election victories and the lengthiest premiership of the 20th century.

If you compare that to the five paragraphs Chipping Barnet dedicate to backbench former MP Sydney Chapman. Now I would have thought there would be a few quotes about Lady Thatcher's achievements in the constituency. Maybe something about her charity work. It seems that to Mike Freer, such a venerable predecessor is unimportant. What does it say about the conservative councillors? Nothing. What about Links to other important Conservative websites? None

Now click on the photo's. What do we get? We get 15 pictures of Mike Freer. Just in case we haven't got the message there is a special link to "about Mike Freer". Whilst Lady Thatcher warrants two short sentences, Mike gives himself 9 paragraphs. Strangely the achievements don't list increasing Barnet's borrowing by 5 times, losing £27.4 million in Iceland, deposing the Leader who'd just won the Council election in 2006, putting a Plasma screen Telly on the desk of all the top officials or overseeing a huge cost overrun on the Aerodrome Road bridge project. Mike recently supported a motion from former Mayor Braun condemning the governments "Big Brother" policies, but he lauds the installation of the 100th CCTV camera in Barnet. He mentions that he used to be a meals on wheels volunteer, but fails to say that he privatised the service last year, causing chaos and major distress to the borough's most vulnerable people.

Mike also says on his biography that he'll work for less Government regulation. As his field of experience is Financial services, it is fair to assume that he would deregulate this, even though the credit crunch is a direct result of loosening of regulation.

I wonder what ordinary Conservative members of the Finchley association make of this. Wouldn't you like to know about your councillors on your party website? Wouldn't you like some info on the history of such an important association? Does Lady Thatcher's contribution to Finchley really only warrant 2 sentences? Far be it from me to tell Mike Freer how to do his job, but if I was a Conservative in Finchley, I'd have a whole page dedicated to Lady Thatcher and her life's works. The association must have a whole stack of photographs and papers which are genuinely worth viewing.

One other thing I noticed. If you go to the Home page of Mike's website and click on the map of the constituency, you get a map of the whole of the Borough of Barnet. It seems that our very own Napoleon, Michael Witney Freer, isn't content with the current boundaries of Finchley. It reminds me of a Monty Python Sketch where a candidate, bearing an uncanny similarity to a certain rather unsavoury historical figure announces "Historically, Taunton is already part of Minehead"

Remind you of anyone?

Monday 22 December 2008

Brian Coleman - The Pork Pie at the Bahmitzvah ????

If you want a good laugh before Christmas, check the Finchley Conservatives photo gallery of Mike Freer Pics (click HERE). There are many things made me chuckle, but the picture above is the best one. This was taken at a meeting of Tories with local Orthodox Rabbi's. Notice the body language of the Rabbi's with Brian Coleman. They clearly stuck him on the end and are leaning away from him as much as they can. They also seem to be giving Mike as wide a berth as possible. They are clearly chuffed to bits to have such esteemed visitors !!!!!

Saturday 20 December 2008

Future Shape of Matthew Offords political career

The Barnet Eye Weekly Caption competition.

1st Prize - A free pot noodle from Mill Hill Music Complex.

Tomorrow belongs to Mike ?

Worse still that unlike in the selection of the member of parliament, where members of the party have a say, the members of the local party are shut out from the selection of Councillors. Apparently, in Chipping Barnet Association the Councillors even vote for and change the rules affecting their own (re)selection. When I first ran every Conservative Party member in my Ward came to a general meeting and voted. Now the selection is now done in private and by as few as 3 people! Councillors are also mainly the Chairmen of the Branches that will make the selection decision.

This is a quote from Daniel Hope, a former Barnet Conservative councillor in Barnet. I'm not a member of the Conservative party and I don't support their policies, but I do believe in democracy and acknowledge the fact that for all its faults the Conservative Party of Great Britain is a force for democracy and freedom. A Conservative Prime Minister, Winston Churchill is probably the main reason that Western Europe has had a democratic political system for the last 60 years.

Dan left the above comment on my last blog and it started me thinking about the Barnet Tories, Mike Freer and Democracy. Lets start joining the dots up. Firstly how did Mike Freer come to be in charge of the Barnet Conservatives? Well in the 2006 Council elections, the Tories under leader Brian Salinger won the election with an increased number of councillors returned. They put a program before the people of Barnet. The people of Barnet liked it and elected them. Having gained power under one leader and his manifesto, they then stuck their fingers up at the electorate of Barnet and had a vote of no confidence in that leader and his platform. These councillors had all campaigned under a leader they had no confidence in. The reason for the vote? The Councillors didn't like his policies. Is this Democracy?

What happened next. The new Council leader enrolled himself on the BT Vital Vision program. This is an educational program run by a supplier of Outsourcing services, to get leaders of the public sector to think in new ways about running services. The new, unelected leader, Mike Freer then set up a panel to develop a future shape program for the council. Who did he put on the panel? A few council officials, a bloke from BT and a bloke from a quango. More interestingly who didn't he put on? Any elected councillors.

Within the council, there is a small cabal of councillors called "The Cabinet". This group take all of the important decisions. They get significant amounts of extra cash for doing this. How do you get into the cabinet. Mike Freer, the unelected leader, asks you. How do you get out of the cabinet? Mike Freer tells you. How are these decisions about cabinet structure taken? Behind closed doors, away from public scrutiny.

What happens if you criticise the way Mike Freer does things? Well if you are an opposition Councillor, you are publicly humiliated in council meetings. If you ask for the right to reply, you get told to sit down by the Tory Mayor. I thought that in Great Britain we valued the right to defend yourself? The Barnet Tory bully boys have a different view.

What happens if you write bogs? Well if like me, you allow any registered user to comment and don't censor anything you get comments like this (from my previous blog).

Blogger Amanda said...

What a load of crap actually what happened was he started spouting random crap on an item which wasn't listed as a debate and the Mayor asked him to sit down, but instead he was rude!

18 December 2008 12:46

I've been in touch with Jack Cohen, leader of the Liberal Democrats and asked his opinion of the comment. He wrote a blog on the Hendon Times website (click HERE) that detailed the incident. Lets just say Councillor Cohen isn't too impressed.

Repressive regimes use "show trials" as a means to destroy the opposition. Although I wasn't there, the incident with Jeremy Davies certainly reminds me of a certain rather notorious show trial, when the poor victim tried to defend himself he was told in no uncertain terms to sit down and shut up. It is a clear sign of an authoritarian streak within Barnet that has rather unfortunate precedents. I cannot think of a reason for not giving Davies a minute to defend himself? it can only be seen as bullying. What did the Tories fear? That Davies might show them for what they were? The motion would have still passed as they have the majority and they all know how to put their hands up at the right time.

The council spent hundreds of pounds setting up a propoganda site for the leader (under the leaderlistens banner). Comments may be left on this site, but they are screened by "The Social Media manager" - again without democratic scrutiny. I posted a comment on the site which never appeared. Councillor MacDonald asked Mike Freer why this wasn't posted in open council. Freer ignored the question.

Critics of the council have anonymous comments left about them, often of a rude and spiteful nature. As former Councillor Daniel Hope has fallen out with the ruling elite in Barnet, he is seen as fair game. When he leaves intelligent and well reasoned posts on blogs, comments such as this are left (This appears on David Millers Barnet Council Watch blog)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

" 'fat cat' Councillors allowances"

Which you Daniel no longer get! Bitter are we?

18 December 2008 09:18

Here's the response to one of my comments on the same blog

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shut up Rog!

17 December 2008 15:16

Nice, isn't it. You may well wonder why it bothers me to see one faction of the Tory party sniping at another. Well I don't agree with much of what Dan writes about on matters of policy. I used to call him "Bonkers Dan" in response to his comments on the Hendon Times. This was because I disagree with his political views. The thing is he always puts his name on posts. He stands up for what he believes and he makes his points. I respect that. His Tory detractors hide anonymously. They don't argue the point, they just slur him. I am sure that Dan doesn't mind me having a go, because he knows who I am and if he can make his point properly, he can get his argument across. I don't mind him calling me a "swivel eyed Trot", he's a Tory !!! What I do worry about is the hidden character assassination that he's subject to. Again it is a form of bullying by those in power. It shows scant regard for manners or democracy. It is against the law to publish a political leaflet without putting your name and address on it. I rather think that this should be true of electronic media as well. That is why I require comments to be left by registered blogger users. I know that many of the commenters such as "Amanda" are smokescreens. I used to work doing textual analysis for a large organisation investigating cases of fraud a few years ago. I know who they are, the syntactic style of writing is like a fingerprint. It just reinforces my desire to expose them.

So lets summarise how the Barnet Tories behave.

So how do the Barnet Tories rate as a democratic party? Well from Councillor Hope's comment they aren't very democratic in their selection procedures. They put up a leader who they have no confidence in, with a program they are not happy with to win an election. They install a new leader, who appoints a team of unelected placemen to reinvent the council in a manner not discussed in the manifesto they were so unhappy with. They squash political opposition, without even the right to reply. Anyone who has studied history will know where this path goes.

Mike's baby is the Future Shape project. He wants the Barnet of Tomorrow to be moulded in his image. He wants to completely remove democratic accounbtabilty from services and run them at arms length. He wants to stifle debate and destroy his critics.

The Future Shape, the shape of tomorrow may be rather ugly.

Thursday 18 December 2008

Barnet Council censures Councillor

This week on of our best know Councillors has been in the news. He's made openly sexist comments in the media and given advice about fire safety which contradicts the policy of the fire authority of which he is chairman. He has admitted this was done purely for political advantage, as the comments were aimed at a respected female MP from another party.

I got a phonecall from one of my many Barnet moles who said "Did you hear about the Council censuring one of our best councillors at the council meeting (on Tuesday)". Having been up at my sons school, providing a sound system for the Christmas concert, I hadn't. I replied "It's about time the Tories had the guts to put Brian Coleman in his place. He has had that coming for ages, since his comments about the Olympic team having blood on their hands"

"No Rog, you've got it all wrong, they censured Jeremy Davies". I was dumbstruck. I know Jeremy quite well and he's a great councillor. He is diligent, hard working and well respected in Mill Hill. My mole continued "When he asked for the right to defend himself, the Mayor wouldn't let him".

Now I don't know the ins and outs of what happened, but I know this. Many local Tories vote for Lib Dem Jeremy at Council elections, as they trust him. He's been at the forefront of all sorts of local campaigns. Like his Mill Hill Tory counterpart, John Hart, he's Mill Hill through and through. I respect and like both men.

This is an act of political bullying by the ruling Tory group. They may have had some fun at the council meeting, but in denying Jeremy Davies the right of reply they have diminished themselves. The British hate bullies. This will backfire on them. Deputy Leader Matthew Offord is standing in Hendon. If he's prepared to stand for this and condone it, then he too is diminished. I'm not a Lib Dem, but I believe fair play and the right to defend yourself.

The Barnet Tories under Mike Freer have become playground bullies. They are rapidly gaining a reputation for being deeply unpleasant. They clearly found the whole thing a real hoot. My advice to all of you. If you like bullies and you believe that good honest, hard working councillors should be slurred without the right to reply, vote for Mike Freer. If you find this sort of thing disgraceful, tell Mr Freer you will vote for someone else. Tell all your friends what he's making the Barnet Tories become. 99.99% of the Conservatives I know are honest, decent people. Only they can deal with the .01% that have taken over the Barnet party. Do rank and file Tories really condone this disgraceful behaviour (arrogance, sexism, bullying)? Not from what they tell me. Wake up and smell the coffee.

Wednesday 17 December 2008

The London Borough of Barnet - The Zombie council !!!

I looked up the word zombie on the cambridge on-line dictionary.

zombie Show phonetics
noun [C]
1 INFORMAL DISAPPROVING a person who lacks energy, seems to act without thinking and is not aware of what is happening around them:
He just sat in front of the TV all day like a zombie.

2 a dead person who is believed, in some Caribbean religions, to have been brought back to life by magic

Both definitions brought to mind the "Future Shape" scheme. Remove all personal resoponsibility from staff, employ the lowest common denominator. If Zombies 'R' US tendered for the contract ("They're dead, they don't want to be paid") they'd win hands down. They may do a rubbish job, but hey they're cheap.

Barnet has experience of Outsourced contracts. Fremantle, Sodexho (meals on wheels). Does it bode well? Now I'm all for a bit of efficiency and lower tax bills (who isn't). It's just that Barnet has a history of not implementing schemes very well.

On my last blog "Andrew" left a comment saying that my FOI request had cost £150 to answer. Now I have no idea whether "Andrew" knows what he is talking about, but if he's correct it is a sickening indictment of the council. All of the questions were seemingly answered in a phonecall to the "media manager". Either the media manager is on a million pounds a year, Andrew is telling porkies, or they've lost the plot.

The trouble with Zombies is that they need an evil genius in control. Without that they are just glorified headless chickens. I'm sorry to say that from what I've seen of Mike Freer and his track record, the one thing you can't accuse him of being is a "Genius" (Mike, please feel free to post your certified IQ below should I be wrong - I'll even send you a box of ASDA mince pies as compensation for my slur).

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Leader Listens - Value for Money?

I asked a few questions of Barnet Council to try and ascertain whether the website is value for money. I'll let you make your own mind up !!!

1. The total cost of operating this blog since it's inception. Please include details of all relevant charges and all time spent by paid council officials on this.

Response: Around £4 5 0 to set up including domain registration and hosting. The staff costs were minimal.

2. As the blog is paid for by the Barnet taxpayers and Councillor Freer indicated that there is an "editorial policy" of publishing comments, what are the criteria for not publishing comments.

Response: These details are available via the following link

3. As the blog is a publically funded information service, who is responsible for applying the editorial policy. Is it a paid council official, the Council Leader himself or some unpaid third party? If it is an unpaid third party, what authorisation do they have to edit Council taxpayer's comments and on the basis of what guidelines.

Response: The Social Media Manager in accordance with the terms and conditions as outlined above.

4. Who requested the creation of the "LEADERLISTENS.COM" blog and who approved this decision.

Response: The Social Media Manager suggested the creation of the blog following the posting of the Leader Listens event on You Tube. This was approved by the Leader as well to support his work out around the borough and to widen the conversation beyond those able to make the meeting, allowing them to review the meeting and comment after the event. This was part of a Delegated Powers Report for the whole programme.

5. Please can you provide a copy of all Council correspondence concerning the LEADERLISTENS.COM blog.

Response: All the residents comments are available on the blog and are reviewed prior to publication..

6. Please can you provide any details of an evaluation of the service to show the cost benefits of this blog over a free to use service.

Response: It was decided to go down this route on the basis of the flexibility it provides as well as security that all information is stored securely rather than being hosted by an external provider.

7. Please can you provide all details of any third party outside of Barnet Council involved in the creation, design and implementation of the blog.

Response: The company Yellowpark were used for some of the creation, implementation (including training) of this blog.
The in-house design team worked with Yellowpark and created the look and feel for the web pages.


So there you go.

By the way, I might have a rather interesting exclusive on Barnet Council and how touchy they can get. In the words of the esteemed Leonard Graves-Phillips - "Keep watching the skies".

Monday 15 December 2008

A protection racket?

Barnet Council Website says the following about child protection (Click HERE for the full page) :-
Child protection

Children at risk

In the Children's Service we aim to:

* Support families in times of difficulty. This might be because they have a child with a disability or their family is having difficult times.
* Support children to make sure that they are safe and looked after properly by their families and carers.
* Safeguard and promote the welfare of children in the London Borough of Barnet who are in need, and
* Promote the upbringing of children by their families.

There are a variety of ways to support children and their families. Following an assessment, the services that may be arranged can include:

* ongoing social work support
* attendance at a Family Centre
* help from Family Workers
* referral to other agencies, such as a psychology service
* shared care for children with special needs
* support from the Youth Offending Team.

Sometimes children have to be `looked after' by Barnet Council. If this happens we will work with parents and carers to ensure that they are fully involved in plans for their children.


What struck me reading through the Barnet web page was how little it said about child protection. Given that the title is Child Protection and the sub heading is Children at Risk, there seems to be a complete aversion on the part of the person who put the page together to discuss the issue.

The Child protection page doesn't tell you what to do. You need to click on the Child abuse link. Five paragraphs down the abuse page, there is a telephone number and an email address (in standard type). Now I don't know about you, but I think that if you are searching "child protection" on Barnet's website (unless you are a saddo blogger like me) you have big worries about something. Surely the page should have a massive banner saying "If you have any concerns about a child at risk, call this number 24 hours a day". Rather than all of the waffle, as detailed above, cut to the chase.

If I'm worried that the alcoholic junkie next door (metaphorically speaking as my neighbours are lovely) is a threat to his children, I don't want him to be "involved". I want his children taken to somewhere safe. If he's abused them, I want him locked up. I want to know that serious action will be taken.

What made me think about all of this was a blog I read by an ex IRA terrorist - Anthony MacIntyre - who spent 18 years in prison. It made me think - what about you - (click HERE for the full blog) :-

There is little room for doubting the extent of professional negligence displayed by Sharon Shoesmith in her management of the child protection scheme in Haringey. The helpless and vulnerable were abandoned to the perverse designs of their tormentors. The Baby P case demonstrated that prisoners have a greater degree of protection than children at risk. It is inconceivable that someone detained in Belmarsh would be visited 60 times by professionals supposedly concerned about allegations of ill treatment at the hands of prison staff only for the prisoner to be later murdered by the same staff. And if, four days before he died, prison officers were to present him to professional visitors unconscious, his face smeared in chocolate, claiming that he was only asleep, it would be just as inconceivable that the professionals would walk away after a cursory wave.

Now am I drawing too much into a few lines of text on the Barnet Council website? Probably, but as a parent, I want to know that the council put the "at risk child" first. The website doesn't say that to me at all. I want to know that at risk children are afforded more, not less, protection than inmates at Belmarsh. Every so often, something happens and we have to re-examine the way we approach things and re-focus on what we are really meant to be doing. The Barnet Council Child protection website would be a good place to start.

Brian Coleman or Susette Palmer - Who would you trust more?

Susette Palmer writes on her blog today about the Barnet Future Shape proposal (Click HERE for the full text - it is worth reading. I'm not a LibDem but this is probably the most sensible thing I've seen written about Future Shape by any Barnet Councillor.

Here's what Susette has to say :-

Basically I became a Councillor to organise and oversee Council Services as they affect the residents of this Borough and to help the residents of my ward with Council related problems, which even this report admits will become ‘more complex’ i.e.harder to get done. I did not become a councillor to outsource services and develop strategic documents.

Councillors outside the Cabinet , including the Tory majority backbenchers, are increasingly sidelined and prevented from having any effect in discussing policy as it is made. The Cabinet system imposed on us by central government , particularly as it is now applied in Barnet, removes all real checks and balances on the formation of policy. Council meetings are a farce with the opposition not even being told what resolutions we are going to discuss until the meeting starts. This is totally childish.

This ‘Future of the Council’report appears to want leave the Council with virtually no in-house services and an overload of ‘consulting with other ‘partners’ and to make our efforts to help our constituents ever more difficult.

I don't know Susette, but having seen her in action in Council meetings and read this, she seems to be someone who's opinion I trusted. She seems to care.

Lets compare and contrast this with how Brian Coleman talks about his opponents.

Talking about Lynne Featherstone calling the Fire Brigade when she thought her boiler may explode, the chair of the London Fire and emergency planning authority said to the Daily Telegraph (click HERE for full article) :-

"You don't call the fire brigade - you switch your boiler off and call a plumber the next day. It costs £250 per hour for a call out and I look forward to receiving a cheque from Lynne Featherstone. She has shown herself to be completely dizzy, she advertised the fact she is dizzy on her blog, which is even more stupid. Airheads and airlocks are obviously not unrelated. She can't tell the difference between an airlock and a major catastrophe." He later added "Would a man have called the fire brigade? I don't know."

Patronising, sexist and insulting. Given that the Fire Brigade said she'd done the right thing, it is a classic case of cheap and petty point political point scoring.

Have any local Tories come out to criticise Brian Coleman. Has he been censured by his Leader, Mike Freer? No. He carries on at Barnet receiving huge allowances for his various cabinet roles and other posts. Mike Freer clearly thinks that this man's judgement is sound.

So I ask you this. Who would you trust more to organise Barnet's community Safety and Community engagement - Brian Coleman or Susette Palmer?

Sunday 14 December 2008

The Rog T Manifesto

The London Borough of Barnet has many challenges and issues ahead of it. Contrary to what the council are saying, this is nothing new. Councils have always had to run a tight ship and balance spending priorities with value. Given that we are more prosperous than ever, then in some ways this should be easier than it ever was.

What truly alarms me is the total inability of the council to see beyond 1980's ideology and ideas. It seems that the solution to every problem is to privatise services. They seem to forget that Barnet tried this before and it didn't work very well. Only last year, they outsourced meals on wheels to Sodexho. This was a nightmare. I know, the stress nearly killed my elderly, disabled mother. The thing is, the council does need to consider it's future shape, but it needs to do this by consensus. It needs to take into account the views of everyone in the borough, not just a bunch of consultants who have a vested interest in generating work for themselves.

In my opinion, the biggest problem for politicians in Barnet is the lack of trust, we the people, have of them. This needs to be rebuilt. Given the nature of this problem, I was amazed that this isn't addressed in Future shape. They say Turkey's don't vote for Christmas, but unless the issue of trust is resolved, we run a very real risk of parties such as the BNP making headway. This is my greatest fear for Barnet.

It may surprise many people to know that many of our parks in Barnet were the result of bequests from wealthy residents. They left the parks (and often large trust funds to maintain them) for the enjoyment of future generations. We need to rekindle that spirit of civic pride if we are to make Barnet a place where our grandchildren will enjoy living.

As well as our top councillors getting large allowances, we read of senior Council officers such as Leo Bolland getting huge pay rises. This drives a wedge between the ordinary man on the street and the people running the council. There is no accountability, therefore no trust.

There are many groups in Barnet doing great things in the volountary sector. I am of the opinion that future shape proposals take these groups for granted and will ultimately destroy the good will of those giving up there time.

The environment is another major issue. One of the reasons for the choking traffic in Barnet is that parents drive across the Borough to access better schools. The net result is that the best schools thrive and some schools are viewed as failures. This then gives pupils at such schools a severe disadvantage. The only way to deal with this is to take bold, courageous and unpopular measures.

One other issue which greatly concerned me was the lack of consideration for small business in Future Shape. Small firms employ many people in Barnet and would employ many more if rules, regulations and red tape were removed. Local suppliers should always be considered and this should be a major factor in consideration of tenders for council services. Councils could also encourage inclusive employment practises by ensuring these were keystones of Council tenders.

Finally I would like to see road safety become a priority. One idea that has been trialled elsewhere is road safety awareness days. On these days an area of the borough would be targeted. Any motorists caught speeding would receive an instant 2 week ban and a large fine. By having a hugely visible presence on the streets, it would make motorists aware of their speed and have a long term effect on their driving. One of my biggest disagreements with the current way of dealing with speeding drivers is that you get 4 chances and then a long ban that can lose you your job. I'd prefer to see no chances and a ban which you could work around. I'd even let them off the first time if they did a speed awareness course (or suspend the ban for 3 years).

Anyway, here's my Manifesto :-

* All council allowance rises and Council official rises pegged to the general level of rises council staff

* 125% Inheritance Tax relief on all bequests of land for public amenity.

* Establishment of a renumeration committee for all senior posts made up as follows. 1 Member from Trades Unions. 1 Member from Council of local Faiths. 1 Member from Federation of Small businesses. 1 Member from local Council Taxpayers organisation. 1 Councillor. Each member has an equal vote.

* All children must select their nearest school (or nearest faith school if adherent to a religion) as one of their options. If they are offered a place at this school and choose a school further away, then they will have to pay an annual £500 charge. This will reduce car journeys and free up places at local schools.

* Abolish the preference for siblings as a criteria.

* Ensure that any outsourced contract contains stringent requirements for diversity and equal opportunities. Ensure that all contracts pay staff a minimum of the London Living wage. Blacklist any firm involved in any form of employment malpractice for a period of 7 years.

* Have a local supplier preference in the awarding of any outsourced contract

* Establish a vendor selection process which allows Trades Unions a veto for any firm found guilty of poor employment practices anywhere on the planet in the preceding 3 years or any supplier undergoing litigation for poor working practices.

* Introduce a scheme whereby anyone can propose a cost saving efficiency to the council and receive a sum of 5% of all realised savings.

* Have Road safety days where all speeding or other traffic offences result in a 2 week ban and large fine. Have these in limited areas within the borough and have high visibility policing

* Remove all plasma screen TV's from Senior Councillors offices and donate to help the aged.

* Require that all senior council officials spend 1 day per month working on front line services so that they gain aproper understanding of the issues facing their staff.

So let me know. Do you think my version of Future Shape is Excellent, OK or Rubbish. Do you think I'm a swivel eyed Trotsky nutter as Mike Freer seems to or am I Saint Rog of T, the man who saved Barnet? I don't actually think I'm either, but I think all of the above are damn fine ideas.

Saturday 13 December 2008

Brian Coleman - Barnets biggest sexist bigot.

Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone was making loud banging noises and the house was vibrating. She was concerned that the boiler was going to explode, so she called the Fire Brigade. Fortunately the problem was nothing more than an airlock. Ms Featherstone thanked the Fire brigade on her blog. She said

I called 999 and the Fire Brigade, moved the car out the drive, put one daughter and dog in the car and the other daughter ran back in to turn off heating and hot water - which did stop the noise. We waited. Within a couple of minutes the firefighters arrived - checked everything - said it was a hammer airlock (probably) and that we had done the right thing. As another firefighter came up the path - he said - hello, I lobbied you in Parliament last week. And so he had! Small world.

Anyway - just want to say a public thank you - as it was a very frightening situation and they were there when we needed them. Literally - my heroes!

Now reading Lynne's blog (click HERE to read), it is pretty clear that she was acting sensibly. She is also understands what good manners are.

Someone who's bad manners have been highlighted in this blog before is Brian Coleman. It seems that not only is he bad mannered, he's a sexist. What does he have to say about Lynne Featherstone.

"Airheads and airlocks are obviously not unrelated. She can't tell the difference between an airlock and a major catastrophe." He later added "Would a man have called the fire brigade? I don't know."

Would a man be described as an "airhead"? What would Mr Coleman expect a mother (or a man) with Children in the house to do if she thought there might be a gas explosion.

I think Brian Colemans comments are shameful and dangerous. Coleman says he wants a cheque for £250 from the MP for the cost of the callout. Given his record for spending Taxpayers money, he really does have some nerve.

Boris Johnson appointed Coleman as supremo of Fire services. Mike Freer handed him a cabinet post. If Coleman made such a comment because of Colour what would happen. If he said that the incident happened because of the sexuality of someone what would happen? They would be drummed out of the job post haste.

Well Boris, Mike - Do you approve of having an openly misogynist sexist as a key player in your team. Sack him today and set a good example.

Future Shape (of Mike Freer's head)

It's a terrible thing. Vanity has been responsible for more wars, more cock-ups and more trouble than just about anything. It's not a new thing, the Greeks fought the Trojans over Helen of Troy, the original WAG and trophy girlfriend. My dearly departed Dad used to dismiss certain characters by saying "The Mirror is the best used utensil in that house" referring to those who love preening themselves in front of the mirror.

The Leader of Barnet Council, Mike Freer strikes me as a very vain man. In years gone by, Council leaders were people who beavered away behind the scenes, for no pay, working to improve the local neighbourhood. The reward for Councillors who gave years of service to the Borough was a plaque on a park bench. In years gone by we had Tory Council Leaders such as Dennis Dipple, a neighbour of my Mother in Law. He'd always greet you with a cheery Good Morning. If Mill Hill Park was vandalised, he'd nip round, have a look and make sure it was cleaned up. Having lived in Mill Hill most of my life, I remember Barnet in the 1970's. Neatly tended public spaces. Clean public toilets with attendents. Road sweepers who we all knew. Park keepers on site to ensure the safety of children.

These days, the Council Leader has a different vision. He's been being groomed by BT (a supplier of Outsourced services to local authorities) for a couple of years on a program called "Vital Vision". This is a program run and paid for by BT, where senior council figures are "educated" to think in a different way about provision of public services. Now why would BT spend huge sums on Council leaders? Nothing to do with being a supplier of services, I'm sure. I've seen the letter inviting Mike Freer to join. It plays to all of his vanity "Only the very most senior...." type of nonsense. Members of the scheme are encouraged to think differently about the challenges facing councils.

As a result we end up with the Future Shape program (click HERE to see how this was put together). BT have seconded Barnet a Consultant to help draw up the plan, Mr Max Wide. At the recent Council Cabinet meeting to discuss this, the Trades Unions organised a protest outside. Over 400 people turned up. Was Mike Freer devastated by the strength of local opposition? Actually he was chuffed. The BBC came down and interviewed him. He was on Telly, he's famous now. He clearly had gone to lots of trouble, as he was very nicely scrubbed up for the cameras. I've realised that Mr Freer is not only very vain, but he's very big headed. He loves being on TV, he thrives on publicity. As he's gone on, his head has just got bigger and bigger. I don't know if this is just puffed up self importance, Botox injections or a trick of the light, but we seem to have council leader who's massive head towers above his lesser colleagues (in his own mind at least). He has set up a scheme called leader listens. As part of this he despatches a council film crew to video him speaking to "invited members of the public" (click HERE to check out).

Having read the Future Shape documents (slated by the campaign for plain English, dismissed by all who've read it), I could not possibly understand why Freer was pushing on. Then I realised, lots more protests, lots more opportunities to be on Telly. Lots more opportunity for the voters of Finchley and Golders Green to see old big head on Telly. By the time any of it may be implemented, he'll have gone to Westminster, leaving all of the lesser Barnet numpties (sorry Tory Councillors) to clean up his mess. You see, when it comes down to it, rather like the Trojan's, Barnet is being destroyed by the vanity of it's leader.


(thanks to Statler and Waldorf for the lovely piccie of Mike Freer - sorry of you were having your breakfast).

Friday 12 December 2008

Money wasted in the name of savings

It seems that there is one area of the Council budget where "tightening of belts" doesn't apply. This is in paying consultants and advisers. What do we actually get for our money? We get to decimate rainforests in order to produce mountains of reports, which are so badly written that only the committed believers (or the insane such as me) actually bother reading. The latest example is the Future shape report. This was lambasted by the plain English campaign. They say

From a plain English point of view, it is an awful document

Now the council is spending another £250,000 for the next phase. There is a very revealing interview in the Edgware Time (Click HERE for the full story)

Now Mr Grice (The program director of Future Shape) makes a few rather strange statements - lets have a look in detail

If we carry on the way we are, several million would have to be cut from the budget each year for the foreseeable future

So Mr Grice seems to be saying that the Privatisation will result in the budgets being maintained? What has the provider got to do with the budget?

He then says :-

The trade unions argue that jobs will be at risk. Jobs and services are at risk if we carry on doing what we’re doing now.

So according to Mr Grice, it's OK to destroy jobs, attack the living standards of transferred staff and line the pockets of Private shareholders because some jobs would have to be lost anyway.

Most bizarrely he says :-

It isn’t mass engagement with the private sector. It’s not huge job losses — this is a further stage of research.*

So the Director of Future Shape doesn't even know what he wants (apart from a massive budget to write reports). I personally think that giving consultants huge fees without a clear brief is obscene. Anyone who has read future shape knows exactly what they are proposing. Either the program director realises that the case is flawed or he is too dishonest to tell us the truth. In either scenario, I wouldn't give him a penny.

A little dicky bird at the Council tells me that our Glorious Leader Mike Freer dismissed a comment of mine as "someone who simply moans and never has anything constructive to say" (or words to that effect). Well Michael, I have a constructive suggestion for you. One which will save the Council a shedload of money. If you are going to pay expensive consultants, then pay them on the basis of all verifyable savings they identify. Give them 5% of any savings they identify. Don't pay them a penny otherwise. Give the same incentive to the Residents, Local Businesses, Staff and Trades Unions. No top limit on how much you get. I suspect that you might get rather more savings identified by people on the ground, who know the job than consultants in Ivory Towers. You make the Council more efficient you get a load of Cash. And Oh yes Mike, I want £12,500 (5% of £250,000) because I reckon I've just saved you £250,000 on rubbish reports. You are a Tory, turn us all into innovative Millionaires.

Grice says of Future Shape :-

The advantage is that we can free up the capacity in the council to look at the difficult challenges we’re going to have going over the hill in Barnet, and bring in the skill potentials from other sectors.

I think my scheme would bring in far more "Skill Potentials from Other Sectors"* and if they wrote reports in Gobbledygook, they wouldn't get a penny !!!!

* Indicates BARNETCOUNCILSPEAK - Used to make the sentence sound clever and disguise the true meaning.

Thursday 11 December 2008

The Barnet Eye Round up - Mike Freer is Spot on & Brass Helmets

A great week for news. A fine article from Mike Freer in the Barnet Press talking much common sense. More of that later.

Firstly to Private Eye. Seems like they've picked up on a story featured here a couple of weeks ago. Yup, Brian Coleman's crass comment about the fire brigade museum and "When you've seen one brass helmet, you've seen them all". It seems like Boris has slapped down Coleman announcing that the museum is "A valued assett to the community and an educational resource". Hear Hear Boris, why don't you just sack him and spare yourself further embarrassment.

Next on to a great victory for the community in Barnet. A story I've mentioned many times was Barnet's plan to turn Sanders Lane into a trunk road. Well it seems that the inspectors agree with us.

A little quote from the Edgware & Mill Hill Times (full article HERE)

They were dismayed at the potential loss of a public amenity that boasts an abundance of wildlife, is part of Barnet’s network of nature trails and is used by children to walk to school.

Mr Machin held an examination in public at Barnet House in October to which members of the Save Sanders Lane campaign submitted evidence.

In his report Mr Machin acknowledged the weight of public feeling and wrote that the council had not made the case for reopening Sanders Lane as part of the development and its inclusion made the AAP unsound.

This makes it all worthwhile for us bloggers and other assorted campaigners. A special well done to Valerie, who organised much of the Sanders Lane protests. We can't win them all but we will win some !

So on to Council Leader Mike Freer. This week in the Edgware Press (on page 14 between the ads for Brazilian haircuts and the sexual services at the back) he rants against the Governments ID card proposal. I completely agree with him, it's a well written and quite witty article. ID cards are a terrible idea. Much of what he says is sensible, so well done Mike. Lets hope the outbreak of sensibleness spreads to the parts other blogs can't reach and he drops the appalling future shape scheme in next weeks copy.

There you go, nice about Boris & Mike in one blog. Who says I'm biased !

Wednesday 10 December 2008

The regeneration Juggernaut rolls on in Barnet

This time last week I sat in the council offices listening to Mike Freer moaning that he had to privatise all of the council services because the Government doesn't give him enough money.

Exactly a week later this press release pops up on the Council website (click HERE to view). This week they've got the third biggest allocation in the country. I dare say Mike is toasting Gordon Brown's generosity as I write this !!!

It seems that Gordon has given Mike a nice fat cheque for over £12 Million pounds to help him build 20,000 new "Homes" (please note that in Barnetspeak a new home is a rabbit hutch flat with no garden for your kids). Now are these homes allocated to the 6,000 families on the Council waiting list? Nope. What this money will help Mike do is enact area action plans. These are scheme's to destroy vital nature reserves such as Sanders Lane and turn them into busy roads.

I'm not against new homes, but these are not for the existing residents of Barnet. If you have tried to get a child into a local school recently, you'll appreciate what effect 20,000 new households will have on the Borough. If you've been to Barnet General A&E did you wait a long time. It will only get longer you know.

Mike's grand plan is to turn Barnet into the new Elephant and Castle. Massive blocks of tiny flats, stretched services, lack of facilities. Playing fields, sports grounds and amenities are all being destroyed (HENDON & EDGWARE TOWN FC). One by one the things we love about the borough of Barnet are being destroyed.

Oppose this now, before Freer ruins Barnet.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Roge'T's guide to Barnetcouncilspeak

Following on from my blog yesterday about words going in and out of fashion, I thought I'd publish a guide to the jargon and terms used by our beloved Barnet Council. I hope this helps - Please note that this is the first draft, please correct any incorrect terms as this is a work in progress for the poor Council Tax Payer of Barnet

----------------- ooooOOOOOOoooo --------------

Regeneration - Concreting over large areas of green space and building rabbit hutch flats on them.

Future Shape - A scheme to get outsource (privatise) council services and remove them from democratic control of councillors.

Cabinet - A self appointed clique within the council ruling group who take all the important decisions and get paid lots more money

Leader Listen - A propaganda exercise to raise the profile of the leader and deputy leader who happen to be prospective parliamentary candidates in the borough, excluding political opponents

Responsibility allowance - A sum of cash given to selected councillors for something or other????

Public works board - A place to borrow money from to invest in failed Icelandic banks at rates higher than the current Bank of England Rate

"No one could foresee" - An excuse regularly employed by the Council leader when things don't quite work out as he hoped.

"Conference equipment" - Plasma screen telly for senior officers desks

Reasonable travel expense - Business class tickets to the USA

Officers training budget - Used to pay for Business class tickets for CEO to go to Seminar in USA

Ordinary Conservative Councillor - Someone not allowed to debate cabinet decisions

Vote of Confidence - Convenient method of deposing "off message" council leaders

----------------- ooooOOOOOOoooo --------------

I hope this helps you pick your way through the minefield of jargon when dealing with the Council !!!!!

Monday 8 December 2008

Out with the Monarch - In with the EU !!!!!!!!

No, it's not my idea, or some left wing Trotskyite plot (I think) it's the Oxford University Press. Their latest edition of it's Children's dictionary has some rather surprising changes. It seems that "Monarch" is no longer a useful word, but EU is.

Here is a list of words - See if you can guess whether they've been taken out or added in to the new edition?

1. Diesel
2. spinach
3. commitee
4. apparatus
5. allergic
6. newt
7. export
8. fungus
9. negotiate
10. poppy

The answers are at the bottom. It seems that many words with Christian symbolism such as manger, alter and bishop have been removed. Many added words reflect modern trends in society such as Celebrity, tolerant, vandalism, interdependent, creep and citizenship.

Now clearly the English language is constantly changing and words such as database may well be more useful to youngsters than cowslip. To many "Euro" is more useful than "disciple". Having said all of that the inclusion of words such as "brainy" and "bungee jumping" at the expense of "sin" and "decade", certainly remind me of George Orwell's prediction of "Newspeak". a form of english which made it impossible to even think subversively. One wonders whether in 50 years time we'll actually understand English as spoken today. Does it bother me that a dictionary compiler doesn't think that it is worth having the word for the head of state, but does have the abbreviation for European Union? Actually it does. Not because I'm an old stick in the mud, but because I think that a good vocabulary is a gift. As a songwriter and a lover of good lyrics and poetry, I cannot possibly be happy to see such words as "newt" be disregarded. What would Ken Livingstone think of that? I noticed that Dandelion is another word to bite the dust. I really don't think that The Rolling Stones 1960's hit of that name would have been so poignant if it had been called "biodegradeable", even if it was played on your "MP3".

Some of the changes, I think are clearly of the time. I suspect "Lobster" will be around far longer than "Bullet point". For some other words, I was surprised they weren't in there in the first place. For example, and maybe it's because my dad was brought up in the Australian outback, but I was amazed that "drought" has only just been added.

The thing which does upset me is just how ugly many of the new words are.
So were you right? I've got to confess,

1. Diesel - out
2. spinach - out
3. commitee - in
4. apparatus - in
5. allergic - in
6. newt - out
7. export - in
8. fungus - out
9. negotiate -in
10. poppy - out

I wonder what words will be in and out of the next edition?

There's a good story on this in the Telegraph click HERE.

The type of people who repulse me - volume 1

The Seven Deadly sins of Modern day Barnet

I thought I'd make a little list of all of the personality traits in people which really repulse me. Heaven forbid that anyone thinks I'm referring to any particular local politicians - any similarity to any local politician in Barnet is purely coincidental :-

1. Spongers - People who earn £85,000 a year but still ponce tickets for charity dinners.
2. Responsibility shirkers - For example those paid a responsibility allowance, who when things go wrong say "Not my fault guv, I didn't know"
3. Brown nosers - People who agree publicly with their leader, when they know full well he's wrong - "I was pleased to join my colleagues in unanimously agreeing to the recommendations".
4. Fiddlers - Directors who let their firms go bust, not paying suppliers in the processs, who provided goods and services in good faith.
5. Liars - For example, people who say 90% of the emails they receive are "racist" and then confess they only actually got one.
6. Vain posers - who get hundreds of pounds spent on vanity websites, when perfectly reasonable free alternatives are available
7. Elitists - Set up little power cliques, excluding those not in the loop

I think we can all agree that these are fairly repulsive personality traits - can't we?

Sunday 7 December 2008

Letter to Brezhnev Mike Freer

Dear Comrade Brezhnev Freer,

Warmest fraternal comradely greetings. Since your excellent putsch to depose General Secretary KruschevCouncil Leader Salinger, I hear work is progressing well on the Five Year Plan Future shape scheme. The excellent scheme to stifle debate by ordinary party members councillors on decisions taken by the PolitburoCabinet has proven most effective. We note that the schemes to replace outdated, inefficient green spaces with efficient concrete rabbit hutches for the proletariat is progressing nicely. I am pleased to see that General secretary Gromyko CEO Leo Boland has been suitably rewarded with anorder of Lenin Job for Boris for all his hard work supporting our plans.

I hear that you have had some trouble with that awkward intellectual Solzhenitsyn Dexter Whitfield. These types never appreciate the generosity of the regime and must be crushed !!!!!

I have read with great interest your latest achievements in It seems that you are achieving great things. It is a shame about the minor diificulty in Cuba with KennedyIceland with the cash. These offshore adventures can often have unpredictable consequences.

Anyway, must go - got to invade Vietnam shut the studio's up

Yours Sincerely

Chairman MaoRog

Saturday 6 December 2008

Are the Daily Mail Still Nazi sympathisers?

Sometimes I read something so crass and repulsive that words fail me. I spotted this item in the Daily Mail
Hitler was the perfect boss: Former maid breaks her silence on the 'charming' dictator

It was well known in the 1930's that the Rothemere family, who owned the Mail were Nazi sympathisers, but I honestly thought they had seen the error of their ways. It doesn't surprise me that a naive young girl could be taken in by this monster who was responsible for the deaths of tens of millions. What does surprise me is that The Daily Mail prints an article trying to humanise such a monster. The world needs to be reminded about the consequences of this man and his policies. We need to be shown what happens when people follow the path of hate. An attempt, such as this, to portray him as a "very nice man" is totally repulsive to me. As to his interpersonal skills with young women. All of the women with whom he was romantically linked committed suicide. The man was an evil monster. End of Story.

Shame on the Mail for printing this. I hope people see their true colours, especially their Jewish readers.

Ignorant and mean spirited

It seems that the Hendon Times can't be bothered to put the letters they receive on their website any more (standards have dropped since my blog disappeared!). There is a letter in the paper this week which really got my goat up. As I can't post a link, here's what James S. Fluss has to say :-

Gurkha debt is on foreign soil

I disagree with your claim "Fighting talk to support Gurkhas" that the British people owe a 'special debt of gratitude' to Gurka soldiers.

Firstly, almost none of the conflicts in which the British Army has fought since the Second World War have been to defend British people. Instead the British Army has defended the people of Korea,Cyprus, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

I am sure the Gurkhas fought bravely in all those conflicts, but the beneficiaries if their bravery have been foreigners, not British people. It is those foreigners who owe a debt of gratitude to the British army and Gurkhas.

Secondly, the main reason why Gurkhas have enlisted in the British Army is that alternative well paid work is hard to find in Nepal.

According to the International Monetary Fund, the income per capita for 2007 in Nepal was only $377, making it the 12th poorest Country in the world.

The British Army offers a career which is far more financially rewarding than other possibilities in Nepal.

This is probably the most ignorant and mean spirited letter I've seen in the Times. The British Army fights to support British interests. The reason that the British army is in Afghanistan is because this was the operational hub of Al-Quaida. Sympathisers of this organisation carried out the 7/7 bombings in London. Saddam Hussein was a very dangerous man in a key region of the world. He posed a threat to our oil supplies and our economic prosperity. The rights and wrongs of that conflict are not issues to be debated here, but the army's mission was not humanitarian, it was in support of British interests. The British Army didn't fight a war in Hong Kong, they provided security to a key British economic interest. In Cyprus they supported colonial rule and then provided security to a key military base which allows Great Britain to support it's economic interests in the region and beyond. In Malaysia the army was involved in supporting colonial rule, again maintaining British interests. That leaves Kosovo and Korea. Anyone with a knowledge of history would know that the first world war started in the Balkans. The British army helped to keep a lid on a situation which could have easily escalated. A war in europe would not be good for Great Britain. As for Korea, we were supporting the United Nations in a conflict against a regime and an ideology which was seen as a threat to Britain and British interests.

The British Army's operational strength and the security of Great Britain is enhanced immeasurably by the Gurkhas. I've yet to meet a single military man who has had anything but admiration for the Gurkhas and their contribution. The sheer number of VC's awarded to members of Gurkha regiments speaks volumes for their contribution and our debt. I would be interested to know what James G. Fluss has done with his life to warrant the right to criticise the Gurkhas? Maybe he'd care to show us his campaign medals.

I can think of few groups we have more of a debt to than this fine group of soldiers from a faraway land.

Friday 5 December 2008

A song for Councillor Brian Coleman

It's Friday evening so it's Colemanbashing time !!!!

I thought I'd put together his top ten tunes - they are all far to good to waste on him, but there you go !

1. Your an embarrassment - Madness
2. Fast Cars - The Buzzcocks
3. I just can't get enough - Depeche Mode
4. You drive me ape - The Dickies
5. Life (is knowing when it's time to go) - Michelle Shocked
6. Take the Money and Run - The Steve Miller Band
7. Feed me - Wire
8. Hollow Man - The Cult
9. Me and my Desire - 999
10. I wanted everything - The Ramones

I don't know about you, but I think he makes a far better compilation album than he makes a human being or a councillor.

fAST CARS - The Buzzcocks

They're nice and precise, each one begins and ends
They may win you admirers, but they'll never earn you friends
Fast cars, fast cars
Fast cars, I hate fast cars
They're so depressing going around and around
Ooh, they make me dizzy, oh fast cars they run me down
Fast cars, fast cars,
Fast cars, I hate fast cars
Sooner or later, you're gonna listen to Ralph Nader
I don't wanna cause a fuss, but fast cars are so dangerous
Fast cars, fast cars
Fast cars, I hate fast cars, fast cars
Fast cars, fast cars
I hate fast cars

Mike Freer could learn a lesson from Boris !!!!!

Anyone who knows me or has followed my blogs and comments in the local press will know that I'm not a fan of Boris Johnson. I was asked by a friend why I've said nothing about Boris Johnson's atrocious decision to abolish the western zone of the congestion charge. The reason is quite simple. Boris won the mayoral election. Part of his manifesto was to hold a public consultation into the Western Congestion charge zone. He did this and the result was to abolish the scheme. Democracy means that if your opponents have a democratic mandate and do things properly, you have to accept it.

I don't agree with Boris, but I believe in democracy. I believe in open government. If sometimes it gives me an answer I disagree with then that's life. I'll criticise Boris when he does silly things, but carrying out a manifesto pledge in the manner he did is democratic and honest. Mike Freer wasn't leader when the Tories were elected in Barnet. He staged a palace coup against Brian Salinger shortly after the election, where Salinger increased the Tory majority. Future shape is the biggest change in the history of Barnet Council. It was not in the manifesto. There is no democratic mandate. A small fortune is being spent on consultants. The team of contributors listed on the council report contains only council officials, members of Government quangos and suppliers of outsourcing companies. Amongst those not contributing - Local business, local charities, locally democratically elected representatives, local residents associations. The report was issued a day before the deadline for questions to the cabinet. I had several questions, but by the time I'd read the report, the deadline had passed. Even Councillor Andrew Harper stated that he was worried about the democratic scrutiny aspect. I agree wholeheartedly with Councillor Harper on this.

Thursday 4 December 2008

Barnet Eye - News round up

I suppose the big news this week is the Barnet Council Cabinet meeting. I attended the TUC rally outside before, along with various local characters and the esteemed film director Ken Loach. There were a couple of hundred people outside at the rally, all of whom were locals and all of whom cared about the future of the Council enough to stand around in the cold. The item made the BBC local news.

Inside there was the Barnet Council cabinet. They announced they'd made arrangements to accomodate a couple of hundred people wanting to attend the meeting. As I made my way to the chamber, I was just about to go in when I was told it was full (very conveniently). I was directed to the overspill room. This was a large room full of chairs and a rather small PA system. Now strangely enough for a Council which has spent nearly £100,000 on large plasma screens for conferences, there was no video link. So there I was with the commoners in the big room. I was happier there, but sadly I can't tell you who the person who got ejected for heckling Mike Freer was.

Anyway what can I tell you? Mike Freer is cross with the Unions, because the council paid for them to hire a consultant and the union's consultant didn't agree with him. Whilst the unions gave a response to the council's document, Mike felt that they should have come up for a better plan of their own. Maybe Mike should look up the term RESPONSE in the dictionary (Mike can click HERE if he wants to see what it means).

I found the whole proceedings rather surreal. Mike seemed to be saying that we had to privatise Barnet because the Labour Government think it's a good idea. He said that as his administration had failed to achieve a decent settlement from Central Government, we had to save money. He said that Future Shape was the way to do this. He rather bizarrely stated that Barnet's excellent (his words) in-house refuse service would be given the opportunity to bid for the service? Those of us who remember the previous rather lousy outsourced service had a look of puzzlement. Anyway he then had the chance to be grilled by the rest of the cabinet members. Not being able to see how he coped, I'll have to use artistic license (please forgive me). Each member in turn stood up and paid homage to dear leader and his 5 year plan (sorry Future Shape plan). They bowed as they spoke and dear leader anointed them. Then from left field Deputy leader Matthew Offord stood up "I'm outraged" he announced. Everyone in the room's ear's pricked up. "The response from the Union is disgusting." Mike agreed. He went further "The Unions are stuck in the 1970's". I looked at the assembled masses of union members. No glam rockers in sight. Not a Mohican or a pair of bondage trousers. I suggested that maybe the Tories are stuck in the 1980's. I don't know what it is about Mike Freer, but I could well imagine him with a Mullet. Anyway, once all of the Cabinet had paid homage and received their blessing, they put their hands up and it was agreed to progress to the next stage. I must mention Councillor Harper. He actually suggested that maybe a bit more Democratic Control might be a good idea. Not being versed in Barnetology, I'm not really sure whether this was criticism or not. Mike sounded slightly less effusive in his blessing of Councillor Harper, but it is hard to tell when you are in another room with a dodgy PA. Maybe next time they should pipe the meeting to the pub. At least then we can all have a pint.

At the end of the Future shape discussions, most of the public left. I took the opportunity to move to the main meeting room. A long debate on the merits of the Middlesex University scheme ensued. It seems that this has the potential to cause much damage to the local community, many councillors had reservations about aspects, but agreed to pass it anyway. They also agreed to sell the lease on the town hall and rent it back. Brian Coleman said he didn't understand why. I have to say I agreed with him. Mike Freer explained that it was because the council was rubbish and hadn't looked after the building, so they should give Middlesex Uni the chance to do a better job. I find it rather surreal the way that when the council are rubbish Mike says "The Council" and when they are marvellous he says "We". I'm sure there is a term for having two personalities?

We then got on to the subject of equality. Mike told us what a marvellous job he'd done. Councillor Harper said he didn't understand what "level 4" meant in this context. A kindly Council officer explained (although I suspect that neither Councillor Harper or myself were really any the wiser).

There was then a general motions (quite apt) section. Mike asked if any councillors wanted to ask any questions. Councillor Offord said he'd like to ask a question. His question went along the lines of "I'm marvellous because since Burnt Oak library reopened it has 500 new members". It was rather hard to tell because Councillor Offord, despite his years at the BBC, seems unable to operate the button on the Microphone in front of him. Mike had the look in his eye of someone who wanted to be somewhere else as Offord droned on. Later Offord commented (on a different subject) that he'd have to defer to Mike Freer's greater skill with Council funds. At this I had a fit of the giggles. Just how bad is Offord with money. Does his mum let him have pocket money? It took a Herculean effort to suppress my laughter as I could see Mike itching to chuck me out for my rudeness.

The best thing about the Council meeting is that you get to see the Councillors in action. You get to notice their mannerisms. Brian Coleman picks his nose and bites his fingernails when he thinks someone is getting a bit too much of the limelight. He has a slight lisp, as he spoke I thought of "welease wodderwick" from the "Life of Brian" - yep, he most certainly isn't the messiah, he's a very naughty boy.

As to Mike, he was playing a friendly at home. Wheras at the previous full council meeting we had a championship display of gurning, this time we got some mild eye rolling for Councillor Offord as he droned on. The saddest moment (well it was actually quite happy for me, as I don't like him) was Brian Salinger presenting his report on childcare on behalf of the Committee. Salinger is like one of Mao's cohorts who was demoted to a menial job, but is occasionally summoned back for a ritual humiliation. He diligently presented his report whilst the cabinet patronisingly smiled. They agreed the motion and off he went. Oh how the mighty fall.

We then all got slung out so the cabinet could have their secret session. No doubt that is where the real fun is had. Visions of Brian Coleman and Mike Freer doing the conga around the office? One of the assembled crowd works in MacDonalds and he told me that there is nothing Brian Coleman likes more after a council meeting than a Big Mac as we made our way out. Apparently he has to pay for it as well. I suppose that after all those free banquets it makes a nice healthy change.

Anyway, back home to watch the protest on the BBC London news. As I write (10.30 Tuesday), Mike Freer is on telly explaining that all sorts of options are being considered for future shape. I suspect that deep down, Mike is rather pleased that the Unions organised such an effective protest. It got him on Telly, which can only be good. It's just a shame he didn't have his '80's mullet wig and gold medallion on for the cameras.

"All sorts of options" ? - I was there and that's not how it sounded to me !!!!!

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Congratulations to Barnet, London's top Borough !!!!!

I'd like to congratulate the Borough of Barnet. They were crowned London's top borough at the ASA London Interborough championships at the weekend (click HERE to see the full story). This is a testament to the hard work of the coaches and the swimmers. The many hours of training certainly paid off. They retained the trophy, which they won last year with a total of 262 points. The Borough of Ealing came second with 232 points. They won a total of 17 events. They also achieved 11 seconds and 5 third places.

Tuesday 2 December 2008

Barnet Council Future Shape - A conflict of interest?

BT invited Barnet Council Leader Mike Freer and CEO Leo Boland to participate in the Vital Vision program. This program involves seminars and conferences to "nurture" interest in concepts such as outsourcing within the public sector. Participants are invited to conferences in places such as Boston and attend swanky restaurants such as Lucca restaurant in Boston (click HERE for a preview). I've detailed the full program elsewhere on the blog, but on the eve of the Future Shape discussion, I feel obliged to ask a few questions regarding the proposal and the way the report has been put together.

I am directing these questions primarily at the Cabinet of Barnet Council and am asking them to give these points due consideration in advance of the debate tomorrow (3rd December).

1. Do you think that Council Leader Mike Freer's enrollment in the BT Vital Vision program may be interpreted as a conflict of interest given that BT are a primary supplier of Outsourcing services. Could this be construed as giving BT unfair access to a senior decision maker within Barnet Council?

2. Do you think that the inclusion of Max Wide, BT Director, Strategic Development Local Government, as a contributor to the future shape report, may be construed as giving an unfair advantage to BT in the procurement process?

3. Do you think that restricting access in the process of framing the report to an elite circle, including a supplier standing to make a lot of money from the recommendations, whilst excluding established stakeholders, is likely to be seen as an open and honest way of conducting business?

4. Do you think that suppliers of particular products are more or less likely to recommend solutions provided by their employers than those of rival organisations?

5. If you were seeking advice pertaining to your own personal financial situation, would you use an independent adviser or an adviser working for a company supplying the products you wanted to buy.

Whilst only participants of the vital vision scheme will actually know the detail of the subject matter covered and whilst it is made quite clear that the scheme is not a sales related scheme, the Council has to be seen to be open and honest in its procurement policies. Whilst it is quite clear that BT do not pay travel and subsistance for participants, being a public body, the Council must be seen to be completely honest and impartial in all its dealings. The participation of Mike Freer in BT Vital Vision and the role of Max Wide in the framing of the Future Shape report raises many questions regarding the way the scheme is being implemented.

I strongly urge all Barnet Council Cabinet members to consider these points and ensure that all decisions taken with reference to "Future Shape" are done in such a manner that it is 100% clear that there is no conflict of interest in the process.

Stop Press - Future Shape - Latest briefing

The European Services Strategy Unit report on future shape is out now. They recommend that the following principles are adopted as the bedrock of any proposal.

Fundamental public service principles
• Democratic accountability (acceptance that accountability and scrutiny are core functions of the Council as a political institution serving collective and community needs).
• Participation and involvement (a commitment to user, civil society and employee/trade union involvement in the design, planning and policy making processes).
• Openness and disclosure (transparency in the policy making process and information disclosure whilst maintaining personal confidentiality and reasonable commercial confidentiality).
• Social justice (to eliminate victimisation and discrimination and to identify and mitigate adverse impacts of policies).
• Public interest (in the management of assets, physical and intellectual, and minimising risk).
• Quality service (maintain good standard and responsive services with effective use of resources).
• Integrated and well-coordinated services (to provide a holistic response to community needs and minimise duplication)

These principles are just, honest and fair. I would say that they are an excellent starting point for any "Future Shape" scheme. These principles will assure widespread support and increased likelyhood of success.

Monday 1 December 2008

Mike Freer, Leo Boland, Outsourcing and BT

Mike Freer and Leo Boland attended a conference in America organised by the BT VitalVision program. BT paid the course fees and the Barnet taxpayer paid their fares. What was the purpose of the BT vital vision course?

Here's what their website says :-

Vital Vision brings together a unique mix of senior Government decision-makers, BT research partners, and leading academic institutions including Harvard, Berkeley, Stanford and MIT.

The goal is to explore current business thinking and how it can best be applied to Government. The process is enhanced by the quality of the participants, and the stimulating, interactive environment they create. It is designed to be 'of the participants, by the participants' and is most definitely not a sales event.

Throughout the programme, we examine the technological, social and business changes that will affect us all, and debate how best to meet the profound challenges they raise. In sharing our respective visions of the future, we identify practical ways to address present issues as well as anticipate key developments.

Click HERE for the full detail. A brochure detailing the program is available HERE.

The course was held in Boston. I am assuming the program is the one described in the brochure (or one very similar). It sounds like a fascinating course. It started with a cruise and a buffet dinner aboard the Miz T (good name, wonder if she's a relative) on Sunday afternoon from 15.00 till 20.00. Here's the rest of the program

Engaging the citizen
Glen Urban


Supply Chain Advantage
James Rice


Financing E Government
Jerry Melching

Advancing the Service to the Citizen
John DeFigueiredo

Dinner at Hampshire House

Robust & adaptive Government organisations at what risk?
Danny Ertel


Engaging the Citizen
Dimitris Bertsimas

Supply Chain Advantage
James Rice


Free Time in Boston

Dinner at Lucca Restaurant


Change is a Risky Dance
George Roth


The Dicital Divide

Centre for E Business
Panel discussion
Vital Vision June
Planning London Workshops


Overview of MIT media labs

Theatre Visit

The Blue Man Group


Visit to MIT Media Labs


Visit to MIT media Labs


Sharing perspective on E-Governemy
Jerry Mechling
Closure 3pm


According to the brochure "the purpose of the (Vital Vision) programme is to foster relationships between leading Government decision-makers, our research partners and ourselves, to DEVELOP AND TEST our visions of the future. We aim to enable the shaping of policy, inform new thinking and suggest practical solutions relevant to the unique complexities of the public sector"

"Participation is by invitation only, and restricted to very senior individuals who help to shape the agenda for change. Typically this is at the CEO or equivalent level. We ask participants to commit to the programme for a minimum of one year. Participants are responsible for their own travel and subsistence - as a result the programme does not contravene government hospitality rules."

So what exactly is being developed and tested? Well since the conference, Barnet Council have started working on the Future Shape scheme. If you have followed my blog you'll know that this is all about outsourcing as much work as possible to the private sector. The philosophy of the scheme is "The council should only do it if nobody else can". I know a little bit about BT and outsourcing. I worked for the company between 1985 and 1987 within the department that ran their "facilities management arm" (now called Outsourcing). I was technical support manager on what was their flagship project. It was extremely successful at the time for BT.

I still have contacts within the organisation and the outsourcing arm of the business has grown beyond our wildest dreams in 1987. I was talking to an ex colleague not so long ago and he told me about an exciting new concept they were developing. It seems that the hardest part of selling a project to a government or local authority body is getting through the decision making chain. Typically you convince the people in middle management, then you wait 10 years for a decision to be made. My friend at BT was working on a concept whereby you sell the "idea" to the decision makers, before you propose the product and then they champion the concept. In a throwaway comment my friend said "It's pretty easy selling them (politicians) the concept, because most of them aren't very bright". All you have to do is persuade them that there is massive kudos to be had from "transforming organisations". You can also sell them lots of consultancy. The clever thing about the programme is that it isn't a sales pitch. It just makes the participants "receptive" to the ideas you are promoting. Once they have taken the worm, who do they come to? The experts - You've got it - BT. They would target CEO's etc and give them a weeks intensive brainwashing. The message would be hammered home that people proposing objections (no matter how reasonable) were obstacles to be sidelined. It seems that you define your vision and get a team of like minded individuals to push it through. The idea was to create an "evangelical cult of agents of business change" (or words to that effect, I'd had a few beers as this was explained). Reading through the links above and knowing how future shape is being implemented, does any of this sound at all familiar?

I hadn't really joined the dots on this one until a comment on another blog pointed out that one of the authors of "Future Shape" is on secondment from BT. Now is the "transformation" of the provision of Council services by outsourcing a bad thing? As I said above, I worked on a pretty successful outsourced project for BT. They were selected as the organisation that commissioned them didn't have the ability to provide the service. After 3 years when the concept was proven they "insourced" it and is still insourced today. I've no fundamental objection to outsourcing. There are many things where outsourcing is better. For example it is far cheaper to Outsource Brian Coleman's taxi service. A nice Jag and a Chauffer would cost much more than the his last £8,000 taxi bill to the GLA for no real benefit. The council insourced the provision of Video conferencing equipment at a capital cost of £91,000 (I believe from the invoices)to save £4,500 they'd spent in the previous year on hiring equipment. It may well be that there are many services that a compelling business case can be made for outsourcing. It may be that service will improve. The thing is that future shape has no case studies, no cost justifications. It is just woolly thinking conceived (I suspect) over dinner in Boston.

I can tell Mike Freer and Leo Boland exactly how they should approach outsourcing or any other management change free of charge.

a) identify a problem within your business process.
b) define the problem in easily understandable terms.
c) define the solution in easily undertandable terms
d) show the benefits of the solution in easily understandable terms.

I've read the Future Shape report through several times and none of the above have been done. If they did this they might actually arrive at something which works and which saves money. Now for all I know, BT's Vital Vision course may have played no role at all in Freer and Bolands thinking on the subject. They've not asked me over to tea to discuss it, but as I join all the dots up, it really does look to me like a term we used at BT when a manager went of on a course, then came back enthusiastically implementing madcap schemes they'd been taught. We called it "Courseitus". It usually passed after a couple of weeks of reality. It seems that there is a more serious strain now. Rather than a department, it affects a whole council and seems to last at least a couple of years - I'll call it "Conferenceitus" - I believe it can only be cured by a palace coup, a new job or an election.

Sunday 30 November 2008

The Barnet Future Shape Pledge Card

Barnet Council Outsourcing - The death of goodwill?

Barnet council have just paid a kings ransom to a team of highly paid beancounters to come in and tell them how to run the Council. It seems that the contributors listed on the report which the council will debate on the 3rd of December include the following :-

Richard Grice (on a secondment from a quango - IDeA)
Max Wide (on secondment from BT)
Clive Medlam, Director of Resources (The man responsible for losing £27.4 Million in Iceland)
Jeff Lustig, Director of Corporate Governance ( The man responsible for overseeing the sale of Underhill which resulted in enquiries costing £1 Million)

Does this team fill you with confidence?

The report suggests that the Council outsource everything they possibly can (apart from their own jobs rather surprisingly).

One key phrase of the report says :-

Development of proposals with potential private, public and voluntary sector partners for the re-configuration of services in the borough, including a detailed assessment of costs and potential savings, and when they would accrue

Now maybe I've misread this, but the way it seems they want the model to work is that the Public sector (e The council) provides the cash, the Private sector makes a handsome profit and the voluntary sector plugs the gaps. Now from a beancounting perspective, this is a great plan. Sack qualified council staff and get people to do the work for free (the voluntary sector).

Lets take the example of Mrs Beans aged 85(not a real person), who lives in Outsourcing Avenue. She was fit and sprightly for her age but was run over by a car hurtling down Partingdale Lane whilst walking her dog. She is now totally reliant on council services as she is severely disabled. Now at the moment Barnet council employ a care team to look after her. She's used to all of the people who she has to deal with and is happy and secure in her Council provided flat. Mr Beans is a relatively fit 87 year old who can make her a cup of tea and open the door for the care team.

Now a bloke from a quango and a bloke from BT have sat in a council office on a fat salary and decided that Mrs Beans needs a "different outcome". They've decided that what Mrs Beans really needs is a "transformed experience". Instead of the regular Council care team, they'll get carers from "". They'll give Mr Beans the number of a nice call centre in Bangalore to ring if anything goes wrong - You know "Select option 1 for a heart attack, Option 2 for a stroke and Option 3 for a broken hip)". Nor "" are a lean mean organisation. They have a fine team of very badly paid carers, who do there best, but are constantly leaving, not turning up. The Beans family suddenly find that they haven't a clue who is supposed to be coming. All of the staff who knew Mrs Beans and understood her situation have left. Now because the situation is getting too much for poor old Mr Beans, nice Mrs Counter down the road, has started popping in. When it all goes wrong she steps in, hangs on the phone to Bangalore, tells the constantly changing new carers what they should be doing and what they should know. She doesn't get paid (voluntary sector), she's put upon, but she knows without her the Beans family would not be able to cope.

There are plenty of other Mrs Beans and Mrs Counter's all over Barnet. Because of their transformed experience what happens (in our mythical ideal world) :-

Richard Grice goes back to his quango and gets a nice fat bonus
Max Wide goes back to BT (maybe to manage the Barnet Call centre Contract in Bangalore getting a fat bonus)
Clive Medlam, has saved a pot of resources so he gets a fat bonus
Jeff Lustig, has negotiated a fine contract with BT and, so he gets a juicy fat bonus as well.

As for Mrs Beans and Mrs Counter - well who really gives a stuff about them. If the stress kills Mrs Beans, that is yet another saving to be added to the pot ! Another value for money outcome. Does council Leader Mike Freer and councillor Lynne Hillan know or care about the vulnerable in Barnet? I suspect they have other priorities - Freer is hoping he'll be off to Westminster by the time it all goes pear shaped.

At least Mrs Counter can sleep peacefully at night knowing her efforts have helped all of the above get a big bonus. Now I believe in goodwill, helping your neighbour out and being a good citizen, but in the Brave New world of care in Barnet I think that these values may well be the very first casualties as people realise they are being taken advantage of.

I guess that they'll have to change the line from the theme tune to the well loved soap.

Neighbours, every body NEEDS good neighbours,
Thats when good neighbours become good unpaid dogsbodies filling the gaps in care provision left by the outsourcing of care services in Barnet".