Sunday 31 January 2010

Bands I hate for the most irrational of reasons

As it's Sunday, I thought I'd share a few of my prejudices with you. Are there any bands that you can't stand, not because of their music, not because of their image, but just because something which really has nothing to do with them has offended you? Here's my top three irrational dislikes. We'll do this in reverse order, like all of the best awards shows.

3. Foreigner. Now if you've followed the blog, you'll know I like Punk rock, so it's probably no surprise that I'm not the number 1 fan of a band like Foreigner. But why do I have such a rabid dislike of them? Well it all goes back to 1984. I'd split up from a long term relationship with a girl called Lorna Davis (which happens to also be Dolly Partons real name, but no it wasn't Dolly). I was feeling a bit miserable and sorry for myself. I happened to bump into Ms Davis in Mill Hill Broadway and she didn't cheer me up. She told me she'd started going out with a chap called Dave Rotherie. I said "That's nice". She then told me that he'd taken her to see "Foreigner" the previous night. I greeted this with derision. "Why would he take you to see a crap band like Foreigner?" I was bemused. She replied "Because I like them. He asked me what I'd like to do and I said I'd like to go and see Foreigner". She then added, rather hurtfully "They were much better than all those crap bands you used to force me to watch". From that moment, I've loathed Foreigner with a vengance. How could I possibly have gone out with a girl who thought Foreigner were better than Richard Hell and the Voidoids, 999, The Vibrators, The UK subs and the Damned? She added "You know that in 2 years, you never once asked me who I'd like to go and watch". I triumphantly replied "Well as it seems you'd have forced me to watch Foreigner, it's probably just as well".

2. U2. Now if you think my dislike of Foreigner is irrational, this one is even better. On September 2nd 1978, the Boomtown Rats played at Middlesex Poly for the BBC as part of the Rock Goes to the Colleges series. The singer of the False Dots at the time, Peter Conway, loved the Boomtown Rats. He was of Irish descent and so felt a special affinity with the Rats. He'd seen them all over the place, spending his meager wages as a trainee butcher for Dewhursts on going to their gigs. As they were playing on our doorstep, we decided that it was imperative that we went to see them. We made our way to the Burroughs in Hendon and started trying to see how we could get hold of tickets. Sadly for us we were informed that the Students Union controlled allocation and they'd all been given to students. Pete Conway felt affronted. He was a "real fan". How could all of these "student tossers" get tickets, when he was deprived of one. My philosophy in life is "there is always a way". We decided to adjourn to a local cafe to consider our options. As we walked down, we spied the Boomtown Rats in a local restaurant, scoffing a large dinner and quaffing a few beers. Pete was bedecked in various Boomtown Rats regalia.I said "look, it's clear your a rats nut. If we nip and ask to be put on the guest list, he's bound to". This seemed like a great plan. In we trotted, up bound Pete to Bob Geldolf and said "Hi Bob, any chance of putting us on the guest list?". Geldolf replied "F*** off". Pete was rather taken aback by his heroes response. I was less easily deterred "The Vibrators always put us on the guest list" I chimed. Geldolf spat back "The Vibrators are a bunch of C**Ts. They are a rip off". As they were my favourite band, I was not prepared to stand for such a slight."Don't you call the Vibrators C**Ts, you C**t, at least they look after their fans, not like you, you T*****r". At this, the Italian waiter et all, ran over and informed us that if we didn't leave, they'd call the police. As we walked out, I shouted "I never wanted to see you lot anyway, your S**T". Pete Conway was devastated. Not only wasn't he going to get to see his heroes, they'd turned out to not exactly be what he was hoping for. He said dejectedly "I suppose we might as well go home". I said "Not at all, I swiped the passes that were on the roadies jackets as you went up to Geldolf". We walked back up to the Poly, bowled straight in and then hung around till the show started. Later on we sold the passes to a student for a fiver and told him he'd be able to go backstage and meet Geldolf with them (Hee Hee). Now you may ask what all of this has to do with U2. Well as a result of our meeting with the Rats, I formed a deep seated hatred of the Boomtown Rats. I thought they were arrogant and disrespectful to their fans, which was not part of the Punk Rock ethic. Anything which was associated with the Rats, I also developed an instant loathing of. When U2 came to promenance, I read that they were mates of Bob Geldolf in the NME and so instantly hated their music. Whilst I'm sure that they are lovely chaps, they always remind me of Bob Geldolf scoffing pasta and telling Pete Conway where to go. Is that irrational enough for you? the mere sight of them enrages me! The next one is even better.

1. REM. They are my No 1 irrational dislike. Now what terrible crime have REM committed, you may wonder? Well as you now know, I dislike the Boomtown Rats and all things associated with them with a passion. In what way are REM associated with the Boomtown Rats? Well do you remember an Irish band called "The Waterboys". I quite liked the Waterboys. I even bought their first album. I was playing it one day, when someone told me that Bob Geldolf was mates with them. That was it. I instantly went off them. They were tainted goods. What has all of this got to do with the REM. Well I was going to Somerset with some mates for a five a side football tournament and they put a cassette of the then unheard of REM on the car stereo. He didn't say who the band were, but I, for some reason thought it was the Waterboys. I chimed up "I hate this band". My mate said "Oh, I thought you'd really like them. It's your sort of stuff". Well that was it. It was only after a five minute rant about how much I hate the Waterboys, that he said "Rog, it isn't the Waterboys, it's a new American band called REM". Having spent five minutes ranting, I then replied "Well they're rubbish and I hate them". Ever since then, as  a point of honour, I've hated REM.

So there you go. It may amuse you to know that just getting the pictures for this blog unleashed a whole wave of loathing and diisgust. How could anyone possibly like these bands? Is there anyone with more irrational dislikes of bands than that. People say it's only music. Not in my house it isn't.

Have a nice weekend.

Saturday 30 January 2010

Tony Blair and Lynne Hillan - two sides of the same coin

Ask yourself this. Tony Blair led Labour to three election victories. Which of these policies were in his manifesto? :-

Capital punishment
Unlimited detention of suspects without trial or judicial process
Circumvention of international law

Regardless of whether you agree with these policies or not, they were all introduced under Tony Blair. You see under the British mandate in Iraq all of these things have happened. Whatever you think of the invasion, whatever you think of Tony Blair, all of these things have happened in Iraq. We were part of the coalition which deposed Saddam Hussein, we wrote the new rulebook and constitution. We did the same thing in Germany at the end of WWII. Even this week, Chemical Ali was hung. We put together the new Iraqi constitution. We are responsible. You may think he deserved it. That isn't the argument. The point is that we deposed a government, imposed a new one and allowed things to happen there, which we banned long ago in this country.

The problem with Tony Blair is that he didn't think "the law" applied to him and his little adventures. He totally believes he was right, so the law didn't matter. Having read the comments by the Leader of Barnet Council, Lynne Hillan, with regards to national law applying to local authorities, sadly it seems she's afflicted with the same syndrome. She's lobbying to make an incoming Conservative Government let Council Leaders make up their own laws.

It seems to me that the most dangerous disease on the planet is "Leaderitis". This is where you decide that because you are leader, you know best. The unfortunate symptoms range from invading Iraq, to scrapping sheltered housing wardens. The most unfortunate effect is that people suffer. Other people.

Farce Crapital Conmerchants - Weekly roundup

Thought I'd just give a little roundup of all the weeks activity, just to show how well our campaign is going.

The petition to strip FCC of their franchise has been signed by over 5,000 people.

ITV London reports have ran major stories twice this week, highlighting the dissatisfaction with the service as has BBC London. There have been countless radio news pieces.

MP's have raised the matter in the commons and their is a debate scheduled for next week.

We have also seen that First Capital Connect are now telling massive porkies to try and protect their profits. The two biggest lies are "we have run a normal service since the 17th January" and "we are not worried about losing the franchise". Messages have been sent to the TV companies by stooges saying "I commute from Borehamwood and the service is excellent".

We had their meet the manager session where one of their managers admitted driving 27 miles out of her way to avoid the Thameslink service.

First have also announced an "improved" package of compensation - two weeks free travel as compensation for 3 months of misery. For most people working in the city theis doesn't even compensate them for the time lost to 2 weeks of disruption, let alone 3 months.

And finally, what does journey check say today?

Line problem in the Streatham area.
Train services on all routes via Streatham are now running normally in the Streatham area.
Engineers have worked as fast as possible to restore services to normal.
Message Received: 08:55:16 30/01/2010
Funny that, I thought normally that police were called and trespassers arrested and taken away? Why the engineers?

Let's keep up the pressure on Lord Adonis and get this properly sorted out

Friday 29 January 2010

Rejoice, Rejoice - Barnet Council drops sheltered housing appeal

The Hendon Times reports that Barnet Council Leader, Lynne Hillan, author of the Sheltered Housing warden cuts, today announced that the Council has abandoned its plans for an appeal. Furthermore, the full cost of wardens will be met by the Council.

I cannot tell you how pleased I am for the elderly and disabled of Barnet. Hats off to David Young, who launched the appeal. On the night of the Cabinet meeting where Barnets Tory Council decided to scrap the wardens, I trudged dejectedly outside, after the decision had been announced. I bumped into Mr Young and his solicitor. They informed me that they were launching the court case and gave me a copy of the letter they had served on Barnet Council informing them of the intention to launch a judicial review. I promised Mr Young that I would place that letter on the blog that night.I pledged to do everything I could for the campaign. I was given renewed hope by Mr Young, that all was not lost.

That letter is the most downloaded item on this blog. Mr Young has set a shining example to all of us as to what you can achieve if you are prepared to fight. Whilst Mr Young deserves all of the credit, there was a huge campaign across Barnet. We marched through the Council Leaders ward, bringing traffic to a halt. We held rallys at Council Meetings. We wrote blogs, letters to the local paper and left comments.

Make no mistake though, the reason Lynne Hillan has dropped the appeal is because there is an election this year and she knows it will damage her bedrock support. She has killed the issue, for this years budget. If you read the article carefully, you will see that she quite clearly indicates that she's planning to try it on again in future.

Pensioners in the twighlight of their lives such as Mr Young, should not have to launch court cases against their own council. When you put your vote in a box, to elect a new council in May, be sure that if you select a Conservative Councillor, you will be voting for Warden cuts, more court cases, due to botched policies, more slapdash management, more potholes in the road, where budgets are cut. If you think Mr Young has had enough aggravation, give Hillan and her cronies a wide berth when you vote.

Tonight, I'm taking my wife and children out to celebrate. We'll toast David Young and his feistyness. I am over the moon for him and all of the other residents in Barnet.

First Capital Connect : Lies, distortions and untruths

First Capital Connect are going into PR overdrive to try and head off the threat to their franchise. This morning must be the first morning for months where the on line departure board hasn't shown a stack of "operating issues". My guess is that they are currently throwing the kitchen sink at the service, sanctioning overtime left, right and centre & possibly even delaying regaular maintenance to ensure all possible units are in service (this last statement is pure speculation, based on a private email from someone who claims to work for FCC - if First Capital Connect would like to comment on this, I'll print their response). They are doing this in the hope that the pressure dies down and they can "get away with it". Yesterday they did a meet the managers session and had a spokesperson on ITV London reports.

What infuriated me was the blatant Lies, the distortions and the untruths which have emerged. Michelle Smart from First Capital Connect said this on ITV London Reports  (The report starts at 5:36) :-
I don't think the companies worried about being stripped of it's franchise. The company knows what the ministers are indicating is that we need to deliver for our customers who value their time and we need to make sure that we can get them from A to B on time and that's what we are doing at the moment we had a good timetable last week, we're running a good timetable this week
Firstly, do you really believe that they are "not worried". If that is true, then they have either received private assurances and the Labour Transport Minister Lord Adonis is lying, or they are so completely out of touch with reality that they are clueless. Second, the blatant porkie. They say they ran a good timetable last week and they are running a good timetable this week. I've been monitoring the journey check board and today is the first trouble free day for months. Every late rush hour train inconveniences approx 500 people. A good timetable is one where all trains are the advertised length and all trains are on time. If you use the line, you'll know that this hasn't happened.

The next blatant distortion I want to expose, again pure hearsay, but believeable. It was contained in a comment by "fijago" on the I Hate First Capital Connect noticeboard - He quoted one of the managers "Julie" who was at St Pancras last night. Fijago said
She also just kept going on about how even though she lives in Northampton she prefers to travel in from Welwyn on FCC as she thinks it is a better service
Here the devil is in the detail. Firstly she probably gets a free ticket as an employee (or at least a heavy discount). Secondly, if she lives in Northampton, her nearest FCC station is Bedford. Welwyn is a considerably longer drive and on the Great Northern section of the route. Bedford is 21.5 miles from Northampton, Welwyn is 48.1 Miles from Northampton. Julie is actually saying she'd rather drive over 26 miles out of her way to avoid the FCC Thameslink route. That sums it up.

There is also a report on BBC London where Michelle Smart says that passengers are happy with the service over the last two weeks since Jan 17th (click on embedded interview). This woman is either deluded or just thinks we are stupid.

My challenge to Lord Adonis is this. If you want to improve ALL railway services for ALL passengers, strip the FCC franchise. This will send ALL operators a message they CAN'T ignore. Can Lord Adonis really let FCC take the mickey out of him by saying they are "not worried"?

Thursday 28 January 2010

Who Stole the 186 Bus? Deputy Leader of Barnet Council Andrew Harper !

A chance conversation with an old friend of my mums alerted me to the hardship caused to many elderly Mill Hill residents living on  the Watford Way, south of Mill Hill Circus. Quite rightly, our pensioners get a Freedom pass, which enables them to use free travel on buses. Many elderly people will downsize their properties and move to locations with convenient bus services. One of the most popular destinations for a shopping trip for many Mill Hill residents is Brent Cross Shopping Centre. Many elderly people moved to homes close to the Watford Way to take advantage of the 186 bus service, which would deliver them to the doors of the shopping centre.

Sadly for these people, Barnet Council has paid London Buses Services Limited a huge sum, over £600,000 to divert this bus away from this road. Originally the plan was that a dedicated bus service would serve Graham Park, but the council has decided that diverting the 186 would be a better idea, ignoring all of the elderly people who this change would massively inconvenience. You can read the full details of the decision by CLICKING HERE. You will see that no thought was given to the Elderly residents of Watford Way. What shocked me even more was that this diversion was partially paid for by the developers of the RAF section St Georges London Ltd. Why should this shock me? Well the bus service diversion significantly enhances the properties, yet Barnet Council didn't get the full amount required from the developers. The Council had to find over £60,000 from its own coffers (see extract from the report).

Yes, the council is sponsoring property developers, inconveniencing local elderly residents and not even considering them in the decision. Who was the person responsible for signing off this deal? Why none other than Barnet Council's deputy Leader and Conservative party "rising star"  Andrew Harper.

So there you go. A bad deal for the Council tax payer and a bad deal for the elderly. I just don't get why our local Conservatives seem to have no understanding of local transport, no empathy with the elderly of Barnet and a strange predeliction for doing deals rather favourable to property developers.
I wonder if Mr Harper has a nice new pair of boots like his leader Lynne Hillan?

Barnet Council is full of Grit

I thought that any Barnet Residents may be interested to see what Barnet Council spends your Council Tax on. Here is a video they made explaining what a marvellous job they did gritting roads and footpaths during the recent bad weather. Strangely all of this seemed to completely bypass my road and many in Mill Hill.

As you may recall the Leader of Barnet Council, Lynne Hillan and her Deputy, Andrew Harper were on holiday during the worst of the bad weather when the grit ran out. I suppose that they watched this from their luxury hotels in the sun and thought "We're doing a fine job". Strange how they can find the money to make videos saying what a marvellous job they've done, but they can't find the cash to pay for Sheltered Housing wardens for the elderly

The First Crapital Con Job !!!!!

There are lies, damn lies and First Capital Connect performance statistics. If you look at the First Capital Connect website, you will see that for 13 Dec-9 Jan only 62.8% of trains arrived on time. Pretty shabby you may think. Well, it may surprise you to know that for the vast majority of passengers, the figures were far worse. You see the figure tells you how many trains arrived at their destination within 5 minutes of the scheduled arrival time. For someone like me, who regularly travels from Mill Hill Broadway to St Pancras, what does this mean? Not a lot as the actual destination for the train is Sutton. If it arrives 20 minutes late at St Pancras, where the vast majority of passengers get off and are inconvenienced, it doesn't count as late. It is only late if it arrives at Sutton 5 minutes late.

This means that if First Capital Connect can make up the 15 minutes between St Pancras and Sutton, then the train was officially on time, even though 95% of the passengers for that journey were extremely late. So you may ask, how can a train which is 20 minutes late make up 15 minutes?

Well there are two rather clever little tricks that I've noticed. The first trick is that they suddenly change the schedule, so that the train doesn't stop at certain stations. I've read that every stop a train makes adds 2 minutes to the journey time. This is the time to slow down, stop, let passengers off and then speed up. Between Blackfriars and Surrey there are 10 stations. If all of these are missed and the trains is made not stopping, it will arrive on time at Sutton and therefore will not count as a late train. Sadly for the 5% of passengers who want to travel to stations between Blackfriars and Sutton and who are already 20 minutes late, they have been completely let down. How many times have you arrived at the station only to find that the train is "not stopping". This is why. It is purely to allow First Capital Connect to avoid penalties for running a late train.

The second trick is even more sneaky. Have a look at these timetables Firstly we have the Bedford - Brighton timetable.  If you look at the Journey time from Bedford to Flitwick. The first train leaves at 18:54 and arrives at Flitwick at 19:04. A journey time of 10 minutes. Then look at the the journey time for the same train between Gatwick Airport and Brighton. It leaves Gatwick at 20:41 and arrives at 21:18, a journey time of 37 minutes.

Now have a look at the Timetable for Brighton to Bedford. Take the first train shown. At 17:08 the train leaves Brighton and arrives at Gatwick airport at 17:39. The journey takes 31 minutes. This is six minutes less than the train travelling exactly the same distance in the other direction. Now look at the arrival time at Bedford. It leaves Flitwick at 19:26 and arrives at 19:38. A journey time of 12 minutes, when the train travelling in the other direction takes 10 minutes. This pattern is repeated throughout the timetable.

You may wonder why this is relevant and why it is a con. Because as I said at the top of the article, the train is only late when it arrives more than 5 minutes after it's scheduled time at it's final destination. On trains travelling to Bedford, they are allowing an extra 2 minutes to catch up. On trains to Brighton, they are giving it 6 minutes. What this means is that it your train from Bedford is 10 minutes late getting into St Pancras, it can catch up between Gatwick an Brighton and so counts as on time. Look at this another way. Likewise, if your train is six minutes late at Flitwick, it will be "on time" when it arrives at Bedford. One other "little con" I've noticed is the fact that "semi fast" trains from St Pancras to Mill Hill (stopping only at West Hampstead) are now timetabled to take 15 minutes. In the days of British rail, the journey from Kings X Thameslink, stopping at West Hampstead, to Mill Hill took 14 minutes ( a longer journey). Could it be that they are running the trains slower, so they can speed them up if they need to catch up? I suppose it's irrelevant as the stats say they are usually late anyway.

What is truly staggering is the fact that with all of these fiddles and cons going on, they still only managed to run 62.8% of trains on time. From the blog stats I see that "Westminster" are reading this blog. If you are reading this Lord Adonis, this has gone on long enough. Strip First Capital Connect of their franchise. The figures you see for lateness are being nobbled. And if you are just a regular passenger and you haven't yet signed the petition, please do this now by following the link in the sidebar (unless you like being conned).

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Mug the Motorist - Official Barnet Council Policy

Barnet Council would have you believe that they are motorist friendly. That's what they say, but what do they do?  (item six at bottom - go to page 41)

Here the council states that it is using parking tickets as a cash cow to balance the books.

Pg 41. "Parking Income Reduced Parking income due to the poor economic climate and severe weather conditions. To mitigate some of the risk overtime for CEO have been re-instated which will result in additional income. The effectiveness of the re-instatement of overtime is being monitored on a weekly basis."

So there you go, they are making traffic wardens work overtime to raise cash. That is the reality of Council Leader Lynne Hillans Barnet Council motor friendly policies.

Hendon Conservatives failing us on First Capital Connect

On May 6th, we'll have an election. We'll have the chance to elect a new government.  There aremany challenges which this government will have, but one of particular concern to the voters of Hendon (which contains Hendon and Mill Hill First Capital Connect stations) is the state of the mainline railway into London. Anyone familiar with First Capital Connect will know how miserably they have failed to deliver a service. As the local Conservatives are trying to take this marginal seat, you might think that they'd put sorting this awful train company out at the heart of their campaign. Whilst local Lib Dems and Labour politicians have actively joined the campaign to sort out First Capital Connect, the local Conservatives have been strangely silent. I visited the Hendon Conservatives website to see what they had to say on the matter. Nothing at all, not a dickey bird. Whilst there is a cursory mention of issues with the Northern Line (strangely run by a Conservative Mayor) - Boris Johnson, nothing at all on the biggest source of frustration in the Borough. I note with interest that the story was posted on 14th December, at the height of the problems with the First Capital Connect Temporary timetable, due to lack of staff.

I rather cruelly wondered whether the same people designed the Hendon Conservatives website as designed the rather useless one for First Capital Connect. For instance in the ABOUT US section it says about the People section :-

PEOPLE - How to contact your Conservative Councillors and representatives
Now if you click on the link it says :-

The Conservative Party is a large and complex organisation, representing and involving people with a diverse range of backgrounds, interests and concerns.  It is a broad church, which encourages open debate and accepts differences of opinion.
It doesn't actually tell you who any of the people are and how you contact them. It then waffles on about their aspirations. Strangely enough, it used to mention some of the people here, but this blog pointed out that a certain individual was, shall we say, rather controversial in Mill Hill and so all the "people" have been removed from the people section. I daresay if you click on enough links, rather like First Capital Connect's website you'll eventually find them.

I just find it amazing that the main challengers for the seat, completely ignore this story. We can conclude that either

a) They don't care


b) For some reason they don't want to upset First Capital Connect

Either way, if I were a Hendon Conservative who has struggled into town, I'd be none too pleased at the total inaction of the Party. I also note that there are no reports of Barnet's only Tory MP signing the petition, whilst the other MP's signed up straight away.

The campaign against First Capital Connect is one across party lines. Having said that, I'd expect the candidates to explain their views on the problems. My message to the Local Conservatives - pull your fingers out and tell us what you are going to do

"Do you want to lose the franchise like First Capital Connect?"

There is a simple reason for commuters on the Thameslink route having to suffer the daily tribulations that are inflicted upon them by this awful company. That reason is because their no 1 priority is to ensure huge cash returns for their directors bonuses and their shareholders dividends. Every time any measure is proposed which may improve the daily lot of passengers is proposed, chairman Martin Gilbert and CEO Moir Lockhead ask this question "What benefit does this deliver to the shareholders of First Group PLC?". If it can't be shown to increase profits, then the suggestion will be ignored. That is why First Group have a professional asset manager as their chairman. He knows how to find the G-spot of investors and knows how to keep the share price high.

The hard pressed passengers have a unique opportunity to change this equation at the moment. We can change it for all passengers of every train company across the country. We need the government to sack First Capital Connect for failure to deliver a proper service. There is an election approaching on the 6th May and the line passes through many marginal constituencies. This is one of the few times when politicians might actually listen to the people, the voters. If Lord Adonis were to sack First Capital Connect, this would have a massive impact across the country. Rail operators would sit up and take note. They would realise that passengers must be considered. When the question "What benefit does this deliver to the Shareholders?" is asked, the answer will come straight back "Do you want to lose the franchise like First Capital Connect?". You see First Group PLC pocket massive profits from the line. Losing the franchise will hit them where it hurts. It will send a strong message to all of the other companies. Let us not forget that all of the problems with the system have been caused entirely by bad management.

They are indulging in a massive PR operation to try and save the franchise and hope the protests go away. The truth is that unless they are stripped of the franchise, they will think they've got away with it. Removing the franchise will send a shot across the bows of all train operating companies, saying "get your house in order". Anything less will just perpetuate the existing status quo, where passengers are the last consideration for the Government and the Train companies.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

No 10 Petition for the truth about the death of David Kelly

As you know,Lord Hutton has said that the results of the autopsy on Weapons Inspector Dr David Kelly will be supressed for 70 years. A friend of mine, Nick Page (a fine musician to boot)I has started a petition on Number 10's website. If you feel as strongly as I do that the results should be made public,please click the link below and sign it. It reads :

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to make public the results of the post mortem of Government Weapons Inspector David Kelly"

If  there's nothing to hide, why hide it or 70 years? 

This link will also feature in the sidebar

First Capital Connect Update

Firstly, for anyone who missed the ITV London Reports story on First Capital Connect last night, here it is (thanks to Don't Call Me Dave at Not The Barnet Times for the clip) - Enjoy.

Next up, remember that First Capital Connect said that the days of 4 carriage trains were a thing of the past? We'll I just checked the First Capital Connect journey check website (at 17:45) and saw these affecting Mill Hill Broadway :-
16:44 St Albans City to Sutton Surrey due 18:08
This train will be formed of 4 coaches instead of 8.
Message Received: 05:09:55 26/01/2010
17:18 Luton to Sutton Surrey due 19:05
This train has been revised.
This train will be formed of 4 coaches instead of 8.
Message Received: 16:39:27 26/01/2010
20:20 Luton to Sutton Surrey due 22:07
This train will be formed of 4 coaches instead of 8.
Message Received: 05:10:41 26/01/2010

As for the petition to terminate the Franchise. It now has 4,726 signatures and has risen to the 26th most popular petition in the country.

One other thing I found out today. I was rather interested in who actually runs First Group PLC, the parent company for First Capital Connect. We've already looked at the CEO Moir Lockhead and his compensation package. I thought I'd see what the Chairman, Martin Gilbert brings to the group. If you click on this link, you'll see an impressive array of chairmanships etc on Mr Gilberts CV. He is the CEO of Aberdeen Assett Management, where he's worked since 1983. What amazed me (maybe I'm just naive or stupid), but he seems a bit light (shall we say) on experience of running transport companies. He looks like a great guy to manage your assets though. Could this be why First is so much better at looking after it's directors and shareholders than it's passengers?

When will the penny drop and Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Transport Minister Lord Adonis realise that the people who should run railways are people who understand railways?

Barnet Council - Dishonesty in action !

I am totally disgusted by the latest scheme from Barnet Council to waste your money. There are many aspects of it which disgust me, which we'll discuss, but the worst is the big porkie that it "costs the Barnet Taxpayer nothing".

Barnet Council are planting non native Dawn Redwood trees along the route of the Edgware Road. According to the article in the Hendon Times :-
As the cost of planting and initial maintenance is being covered by the Mayor of London’s funding, users of the Edgware Road will be receiving a real boost to the environment and atmosphere of the street, which is currently overwhelmingly urban, at no cost to the Barnet taxpayer.
I'm sorry to have to explain this to Barnet Council, but the Barnet Taxpayer funds the Mayor of London. Where did they think the money came from? Do they think it grows on (Dawn Redwood) Trees? We are funding this. We are paying. I've no idea who the Tories in Barnet think pays for the Mayor, but we do. The taxpayer.

Now I'm a big supporter of the Environment. I'd love Barnet Council to spend more on improving it, so why don't I like this scheme? Because it is the wrong scheme in the wrong place. I don't think any scheme where Councils plant non native species is ever right. Trees should be planted to provide habitat for native species and should be sited in such a way as to give the maximum environmental benefit. These trees planted along the Edgware Road are only likely to encourage scavenging species such as pigeons, which are a nuisance. Barnet actually say :-

A statement from Barnet Council said: “The primary reason for choosing Dawn Redwoods was because they grow upright, in a tall and thin style, avoiding problems of bird mess dropping on to shop displays or car dealership forecourts, or obscuring them from the view of passing motorists.

Now there are plenty of spaces in Barnet where trees would provide a huge benefit to the local ecosystem. They could provide shelter for rare species, provide shade and improve the environment for all. As Barnet admit for these specimens, all we will see is the bottom of the trunk. How many songbirds will nest? They won't provide acorns or berries as a foodsource for local wildlife. What exactly will they achieve apart from looking nice on glossy brochures? Do you think that if you gave the experts, say the London wildlife trust, the money and said, "devise a scheme that will have the maximum benefit for Barnets wildlife and we'll apply for this money" they would have come up with this scheme?

The trouble with Barnet Council under Conservative Leader Lynne Hillan is quite well demonstrated here. They don't understand who payes taxes, they think they know better than the experts, they waste public money and they deliver no tangible benefit to the people who foot the bill - you and me. I'm just amazed that a supposedly Tory Mayor, Boris Johnson colludes with such scandalous wasting of his cash. Do you think he knows who foots the bill?

Who do First Capital Connect think that they are kidding?

The sorry saga of First Capital Connect and the Thameslink route was given a good airing on ITV's London Tonight program last night (Please note this clip will be replaced later today). It is a really good expose on the shambolic service and contains a great Youtube clip. There were two rather revealing moments in the broadcast. The first was the fact that First Capital Connect were unable (or unwilling) to put a spokesman on air to explain the shambles. The excuse "We're too busy". The second thing, gave lie to what they were busy doing. After the clip at the beginning, the presenters asked for comments by email. The emails were read out towards the end of the show. Now if you are a Thameslink commuter who has used the service in the last three months, you tell me if you think this is a "real commuter" or whether you think that this was a message planted by someone in the First Capital Connect PR department. If you forward the clip to 25:04 you will hear it. Shane from Borehamwood said :-
 "I use Thameslink to work in the city. I find the service good. It's a great service"
It is simply totally unbelievable that anyone who commutes to the City from Borehamwood, could possibly say such a thing. Given the "emergency timetable" we had to endure, do you believe that any real person using the service would say it? First Capital Connect stand to loose hundreds of millions of pounds worth of revenue if they are stripped of the franchise. It is clear that they've gone into PR overdrive. It is clear to me that this company will stop at nothing to protect the revenue for their shareholders and directors. Sure I can't prove anything, but I use the service from the next stop on the line. I know what it's been like.  Lord Adonis should take note of these tactics

Monday 25 January 2010

Trainspotting with First Capital Connect

Oh how times change, in the 1950's, trainspotting was quite a popular hobby for bored young lads. Many would merrily make their way to Mill Hill Broadway Station to watch all manner of impressive Steam locomotives speed through, hauling all manner of carriages and goods. Services with names as glamourous as "The Thames Clyde Express" and "The Manchester Pullman" whizzed through. Boys would re-enact these scenes of mechanical majesty in their front room with Hornby train sets.

As technology moved on and boys got Bicycles, TV's, Scalextrix, games consoles, DVD's, IPODS and DS's the appeal of standing on a railway station, waiting to see if a train came along faded. I've used the service at Mill Hill Broadway for most of my working life and I can't recall the last time I saw anyone standing, waiting with a notebook. Admittedly the modern fleets of trains are rather ugly square box shapes and are rather hard to tell apart. The commuter services we have to put up with have rather more mundane names such as the 21:17 to Sutton. I thought that the days of standing on platforms, taking pictures of trains passing through had passed. I was wrong.

First Capital Connect have re-invented the art of trainspotting. Websites are springing up, 10 to the dozen detailing train movements. Clips of trains pulling in and out of stations proliferate. Even more curiously, it's not young boys who are driving this, but adults of both sexes. What on earth could possibly make the movements of these dowdy unglamrous modern people shifters so interesting?

Here is just one of the better clips highlighting the problem. This was posted originally in June 2008 which graphically demonstrates that the problems with this mob are nothing new.

Sadly this hasn't been encouraged by the fantastic service provided by First Capital Connect. It hasn't been stoked by sexy new paint schemes for the trains, luxury coaches, where commuters are pampered. Nope, this mushrooming interest in train movements has been generated out of desparation. How many times can you arrive at work late? How many times can you watch trains packed to the brim pull into your station and pull out again, before you are literally driven insane. How many journeys home must you endure where you get more physical contact with your fellow passengers than you get with your spouse in a month of Sundays? How many times must you apologise to your boss?

I had a quick look through the latest messages on the "I Hate First Capital Connect FACEBOOK page". It looks to me as if the sexes are evenly represented. All races, colours and creeds are represented. Everyone is sick of First Capital Connect. We All hate them. If you'd told half the people leaving messages on this page a year ago that they'd become obsessed with train timetables and movements a year ago, they;d say you were bonkers. That is just how far First Capital Connect have pushed us.  There is a report in the Edgware and Mill Hill Times that FCC are allowing commuters to "grill the managers". I was quite excited about this. I thought "I'll bring my barbeque tongs and a couple of beers", but I was disappointed to see that we weren't going to be able to roast them over a hot fire. We can simply ask them for their latest set of lame excuses. Doubtless a PR company has said "Now the worst of the disruption is over, we can pacify the mugs and keep fleecing them".

Well I don't want to "meet the managers" I want to sack them. I want to see the back of this useless company and it's lame excuses. The temperature must be turned up and they must be removed. If you haven't already signed it, sign the petition at the side of this blog. Join the facebook group. Email all of your friends and ask them to do the same.Over 4,500 people have now signed up and it is growing every day. Write to your MP and tell them you'll vote for the other bloke unless they support the campaign AND IT'S SUCCESSFUL. Even better write to Transport Minister Lord Adonis and tell him

Daily Mail Special Offer : A free lobotomy for every femail reader !!!!!

I don't always find the Daily Mail revolting, nope not by a long chalk. I only ever find it revolting and repulsive when I read it. Most of the time, I just pretend that it doesn't exist. That way I can delude myself that this horrible rag isn't an insidious poison in our society. The thing I find most revolting is its crusade to stifle female ambition. To me, the Femail section of the horrible rag is tantamount to a cross between heroin addiction and brain cancer. I don't say that lightly. It proselatises for the creed of zero ambition, zero life choices and zero intelligence for its women readers. If you want to be happy, get a crap job or even better no job at all. Find a nice man to make all of your decisions, fund your pension, pay for your hairdos.

In short, the Daily Mail is the propoganda rag for the advocates for stepford wives.I read one of the most offensive articles ever in the awful rag today.  Here's a few choice quotes from this article in the Femail section :-

'Sure, you might have a gold card, but you've maxed it out buying things you can't afford and that you don't even need, trying to fill a void that just can't be filled. You numb your discontentment every night with gin and tonics.'

'far from fuelling our ambition, it seems that the current economic crisis is only compounding our sense that status, success and money are a fool's gold.'

First Capital Connect - The uprising grows ! News round

Just a quick roundup of the campaign to strip First Capital Connect, Britains worst train operator of the Thameslink franchise. The Observer picked up the story yesterday - CLICK HERE TO READ - interesting to read the FCC saying that they are a great company because the Great Northern route hasn't deteriorated to the same level as the Thameslink Route just yet.

There is a press release from First saying they've now got all of the trains they ordered - CLICK HERE TO READ - in this press release they say that as they now have a full compliment of trains, they have no excuse to run short formations. I thought I'd check the First Capital Connect journey check site to see how they were doing this morning. Guess what
07:30 Luton to Sutton Surrey due 09:12

This train will be formed of 4 coaches instead of 8.
This is due to an operating incident.

Message Received: 06:00:54 25/01/2010
 The uprising continues to grow. The current number of signatures is 4,384. I predict that this will rise to 5,000 by the end of the week. Here's a video showing what many of us suffer on a near daily basis. This is a train at Cricklewood. This scene is repeated on a daily basis up and down the line.

I guess Lord Adonis doesn't see this much in his ministerial limo.

***** Update at 18:00 ************
So much for the extra carriages ending the days of short trains. Just spotted this on the Mill Hill Journey check board

17:38 Luton to Sutton Surrey due 19:12
This train will be formed of 4 coaches instead of 8.
This is due to a problem currently under investigation.
Message Received: 11:23:30 25/01/2010
18:44 Luton to Sevenoaks due 20:43
This train will be formed of 8 coaches instead of 4.
This is due to an earlier train fault.
Message Received: 17:50:18 25/01/2010
21:20 Luton to Sutton Surrey due 23:05
This train will be formed of 4 coaches instead of 8.
This is due to a problem currently under investigation.
Message Received: 11:24:03 25/01/2010

Sunday 24 January 2010

A true vision of Hell in Burnt Oak

As regular readers of this blog will know, we like something different at the weekend. Have you ever wondered what Hell is really like? We have the vision of Dante's inferno style of hell, the fire and brimstone vision such as proclaimed by tub thumping preachers. Being a good Catholic boy, it is quite noticable how we never much hear about hell in the pulpit these days. In the good old days of the sixties and seventies, when I was a youngster, we'd be scared to death with images of Satan and Hell.

Sometime in the late 1970's or early 1980's, I was having a beer with my Uncle Jim. He was a real larger than life character, a WWII veteran of D-Day, a father of 10 children and owner of local building firm. He was one of the world leading armchair philosophers and like all of the Fanning family, a great raconteur. He could conjour up vivid visions with his words, and make some of the most seemingly trivial incidents seem to be world changing events of monumental proportions. He used to brew his own beer and for a skint teenager was a great source of an evenings entertainment.

One evening as we chatted (well he chatted and we all listened), he announced. "You know all of these stories of hell and fire are rubbish. Hell isn't like that at all". I asked curiously "How do you know". He replied "Because I've seen hell and it isn't hot and crowded, quite the opposite". I was intrigued. Did this happen on the beaches at D-Day? No he replied, it happened on a dark, cold, foggy night in Burnt Oak during the blackout. Jim explained that he was back from the front on leave and he'd arranged to meet up with a few mates for a beer. One thing had lead to another and a little pub crawl had occurred. At chucking out time, Jim merrily toddled off into the smoggy, dank night air. After a short while walking, he realised that he'd taken a wrong turn or two and was completely lost. Nothing moved, no lights were on, he could hardly see five yards. One hour turned into two, two into three, three into four. Cold set in, fingers, ears, toes. There was not a soul on the street. Every house looked forebidding and alien. The mixture of disorientation, cold, dark, loneliness and tiredness started to play tricks on his mind. What if he'd died at the front and imagined everything since. What if he was in purgatory or even worse hell? He knew Burnt Oak like the back of his hand, but everywhere looked alien. What if there wasn't a home? What if he was to spend an eternity wandering lost around the streets of Burnt Oak, looking for home, looking for family, looking for friends. He said as he trudged, feeling ever more miserable, he realised Hell wasn't a place of fire and swrming crowds, it was a cold lonely place with no home, no family and no friends. Somewhere where you were isolated from the things you loved forever, trudging searching in the dark and the cold. Exhausted he stopped and sat down, distraught at this awful realisation. Then in the distance he hear a noise and realised that it was something moving on the local railway line. Overjoyed he knew that if he headed in that direction, he could find his way home. The trainline was located and soon the welcoming door of 55 Milling Road, had been located. As he entered the door, his father (my Grandad) asked "Where've you been, the pub shut hours ago?" Jim replied "I got lost in the fog and dark". Grandad replied "You stupid bugger". He then made him a cup of tea and they chatted for a while by the fire. Jim tld me that after the cold, dark outside, a warm fire and a mug of tea with the family seemed like heaven.

Jim told me that the feeling of being lost, lonely and cold was one he never ever wanted to experience again. You may wonder what brought this to mind? Well I was thinking about the situation in Haiti with the Earthquake and someone describing it as hell on Earth. At our Church this evening, they had a collection for the appeal and I was pleased to see a whole selection of notes of different colours. As we had a sermon asking us to think of the victims I thought of Uncle Jim, who died many years ago and his experience of hell in Burnt Oak. That is what the people of Haiti are feeling, bit they aren't drunks in the smog. Their local town really has changed. Their homes have gone, whole neighbourhoods of families and friends have been wiped out. For many, they will be cold for days, months or even years. If Hell is as Jim said being "cold, lonely, lost, hungry, thirsty and without a home, a friend or a family" then the least we can do is spare a little of our cash to change the bits of that we can change, such as the cold, hunger and thirst. That is why I stuck every spare penny I had in my wallet in the collection for DEC. I just wish I we could fix the things money can't solve as well.

Picture : The long gone Burnt Oak cinema. A landmark from a time gone by

"Friends, Romans, Conservatives, lend me your votes"

When I started writing a blog, I didn't have any agenda. I didn't think to myself "if I do this, then in two years time I'll be doing that". For those of you who have followed the blog since the days of the Hendon Times blog, will know that what started as a bit of a rant about what I perceived to be mismanagement and Stalinist tendencies within the ruling Conservative elite in Barnet Council, has grown, like a large snowball being rolled down a hill. There were things that I probably could have predicted, if I'd thought about it. I'd probably have predicted that if I felt like this, then a few other people would. What I would never have predicted was just how many real Conservatives in Barnet agree with me. As the blog evolved and I started to research the things I write, two things became crystal clear. One was a deeply personal issue and one was a far wider issue, affecting the whole of Barnet.

On the personal level, it became clear to me that I couldn't, in good conscience, remain a member of the Labour party. I'd belonged to the party for many years, but how could I support a party that had launched an illegal war, based on lies, in Iraq? How could I rant, day after day, about the local Tories telling us porkies and mismanaging us, when Blair and Brown had done such a thing, leading to tens of thousands of deaths of innocent Iraqi civilians. When Bush and Blair abandoned the UN route, they had stuck two fingers up at international law. When it became clear that Parliament had been mislead, I realised that a line had been crossed. I examined my conscience and found myself and Labour had to go our seperate ways. I have huge respect for some of our local Labour Councillors, such as Julie Johnson. It is the top level of Mandelson, Brown, Johnson, Blair who have shown themselves to be unfit to run the Country. It's not just Iraq. The privatisation of the Post Office, the destruction of our pensions, the retention of the rail franchises such as First Capital Connect, the abolition of the 10p tax rate, the bailout of the big banks, with no safeguard against massive bonuses. I could go on. Nobne of these policies I can in any way agree with.

That was the private issue. Then there was the wider issue. I've lived in Mill Hill all of my life (give or take a year or two in my teens & early twenties). I love the area and I want to make sure that my three children and their children have an even better life than I have had in the area. I care passionately about the green space, preserved by green belt legislation.  I care about our schools. These are the biggest guarantee of our future. I care about our local small businesses. I run a small business, a music facilities company. My father started a local crash repair business in 1946 called Mac Metals in Bunns Lane Works. He ran it until he retired in 1984, selling it to his foreman. My brother runs a Welding Company and a storage business, which lets low cost space for small businesses. Another brother and sister are trustees of a trust which owns a small industrial estate in Mill Hill which provides local businesses with premises at relatively low rents.  Whilst many such sites have been sold and redeveloped for huge profits in residential housing, we believe in the small business ethic. We look for long term investment, rather than short term gain. When my Father died in 1987, my mother considered selling the site. We persuaded her to retain it and set up the trust. As a result, the asset is far greater now. Had she flogged it and invested the money in the Stock market, who knows how it would work out, but it provided an income and a far better investment. It's all about planning long term, rather than short term. Then there is the issue of family. I believe that families are the bedrock of society. I don't just mean Mum, Dad & two kids. I mean the wider family. We have lost the ethic of the wider family. At Christmas, I went to Sandhurst for a get together organised by my Cousins. It was great  to see cousins. old and young. What we need to do as a society, is realise teh huge debt we owe the older members of our families. That is why I passionately oppose Barnet Councils policy of abolishing Sheltered housing wardens. My own mum had a stroke when she was 75 years old and became dependent. For 8 years, myself and my brothers and sisters organised our lives around my mothers care. One sister spent 2 days a week with my mother, coming down from Northampton. Another delayed a move from Edgware to Essex for several years. In the course of this experience, we saw first hand the misery caused by the outsourcing of the meals on wheels to Sodexho. The stress caused by this cock up nearly killed her. This is why I think David Young is so admirable to fight Barnet Council through the courts. Does Council Leader Lynne Hillan care? No, she moved her own mother to a location where wardens were being retained, shortly before the policy was publicly announced.

So what has all of this got to do with the price of fish? Well, when I did a blog saying I'd resigned from the Labour party, local Lib Dem boss Jack Cohen rang me up and asked if I'd like to join the Lib Dems. I'd spoken to Jack a few times to get info about several council issues and found him to be a good guy. I laughed at the idea, until a couple of days later. I was having a beer with a friend, who is a staunch Tory. I mentioned the conversation with Jack Cohen and he said something which really shocked me. "Rog, you should join and stand for the Council. Did you know that Andrew Reid has become a local Conservative Officer?". He then went on to tell me that if I stood, many local Tories who have become totally disillusioned with Barnet Council, would vote for me. He explained "You understand business, you are a strong family man, you care about the green belt and you are honest" He went on to point out that I'd helped many local businesses with rates appeals, done much fund raising for local charities and organised all sorts of local events. I asked him if my political views would put people off locally. "Rog, you would never stand for policies which hurt local business, attacked families and pensioners and you're honest. You are more of a Tory than most of the lot in the local party". Whilst that's not a platform I'm standing on for the Lib Dems, this conversation was pivotal. If you've read this blog over the years, you'll know all about my views on everything. Local Politics, football, punk rock, wasabi almonds.... There isn't any politician in the country who you could find out more about their views. There's 853 blogs on this site. Have a look.

Barnet urgently needs change. When the Tories took over, residents paid far less in Council tax than neighbouring Brent and it was well below the national average. Now it is higher than Brent and higher than the National average. Given that the Tories have always said low council tax is their priority, they are failures. As if that wasn't bad enough, they collect more in parking fees than any other Council. You'd think with such high tax and parking fees, they'd be providing good services, but no. They are cutting services to the most vulnerable. Who benefits. Well check how the allowances for senior councillors has shot up. Check how senior Council officers have been kept in line with big pay rises. Some senior officers have even had tellies installed in their offices. Some officers have been sent to the South of France for property conferences.

This isn't all about me though. This can only be changed if, throughout the Borough, people reject the failed regime of Lynne Hillan.If you want lower taxes, better management, then the Lib Dems offer the only realistic chance of getting it in Barnet. This isn't an idle boast. There is a big difference between myself and Council Leader Lynne Hillan. We've both run small businesses. Hers went broke, mine has gone from strength to strength for over 30 years. All of the Lib Dem candidates I've talked to in Barnet have track records of success. They are people who want change for the better. If you are a Tory living in Barnet and you aren't happy with what Barnet Council are up to, lend us your votes at the next council election. Give us a chance to show what proper management can achieve. Let us show you that budget cuts don't have to hit those least able to cope.

If you are sceptical, read this blog. It tells you all you need to know as to why Barnet needs radicle reform. If you don't believe me, then read Don't Call Me Dave at Not The Barnet Times. He used to be a bigwig in the Chipping Barnet Tory party until he saw whats going on.

Saturday 23 January 2010

Daylight robbery, Barnet Council style

Guess which Local authority stings it's residents hardest for parking fees. Yup, our very own "motorist friendly" Barnet Council. Now as everyone in Barnet knows, parking charges are not used to ensure that parking is well managed. It is a stealth tax used to rob motorists who clearly have no choice. I went to a Leader Listens business breakfast last year. The guest speaker was the absolutely excellent Mr Tom Nathan, managing director of Brent Cross shopping centre. Mr Nathan explained that free parking was a key to the success of Brent Cross. You can shop till you drop at Brent Cross and you don't pay a penny. I'm all for business friendly policies and if it helps Mr Nathan and his tenants, great. The trouble is, that whilst Brent Cross has someone who understands business and the needs of shoppers running it's parking policies, Barnet Council doesn't. You see, if you want to park in Mill Hill Broadway to buy a pint of milk, you have to pay for the honour. As a result, shoppers are robbed and business suffers. Surely any sensible council would let short term car parking operate on the same basis as Brent Cross. Of course we need to discourage commuters from using the spaces, but we need a happy medium. Most people park for less than 1 hour, so let people park for the first hour for free. This would help business and help hard pressed motorists.

Next Saturday, the 30th January, I will be out with some Lib Dem colleagues, collecting signatures for a petition to the Tory Council to reform parking charges, to take into account local business and the motorist. We will be in Mill Hill Broadway between 10am and 11:30am. Please add your signature to the petition. Even if you are a Tory or a Labour voter and you strongly dislike Lib Dems, I'd suggest you sign if you agree with the petition, as a big response is the only way that we'll ever get the council to change it's policy. If you'd like to help us with this campaign to reform parking, please email me by CLICKING HERE.

Friday 22 January 2010

Manchester United and the death of football

First up, I'll put my cards on the table. I'm a Manchester City FC fan. I don't like Man United. Having said that, what I'm going to say next is in no way influenced by this prejudice. I love football. I've said many times that I'd watch two three legged dogs kick a ball around Mill Hill park. The team I most enjoy watching play right now are Watling FC under 10's who my son plays for. This is real football for the purist. Standing in the freezing rain, kicking every kick, for the love of the game. Sadly the biggest football club in the world is run for completely different reasons. When the Glazers were children, did they want to pull on a Red shirt and score the winner in the FA cup final at Wembley? I doubt it. I doubt they even knew what Wembley was until a few years ago.

The last trophy Manchester City won was the League cup in 1976. The winning goal was a bicycle kick by Dennis Tueart. I wanted to be Dennis Tueart. I wanted to win a cup with a bicycle kick. I'm sure that Man U fans have their moments too. The point is that the Glazers don't. To them it is just business. The players are a commodity. Old Trafford is an assett. Old rednose (Sir Alex Ferguson to you impartial fans) says nice things about them, but only because he has to. The club generates more money than any other club on the planet, yet they cannot compete in the transfer market. The excuse is that they won't pay inflated transfer fees, but whilst owners of clubs such as City plough money in, the owners of United take money out. I'm sure the sheiks at City never even thought of owning the club until recently and probably weren't aware of it either. That's not the point. They want to live the dream. They live in a place where there really aren't any great sports clubs. My guess is that they love football. Do the Glazers? I doubt it. Do you really think they'd rather watch Man U than the Tampa Bay Bronco's or whatever they are called? To them, the club is just a cash cow. When players are signed (or let go) the effects on shirt sales is a big consideration. Fergie is no fool. He knows he needs a couple of decent defenders, but these are not glamour players. I suspect that the beancounters won't sanction it. A super sexy striker, who will improve the brand - no problem, but a Japp Stam lookalike who could win the League - forget it.

It was suggested to me that a reason for Tevez being sold was because he was ugly and this damaged the brand. I've no idea whether it's true, but Uniteds loss is most certainly City's gain. Fergie felt £30 Million was good value for Berbatov, but £25 Million bad value for Tevez? Given that he'd taken Tevez on in the first place, is he saying Tevez got worse at United?

What really upsets me is the fact that Football is THE sport in this country. Much as I don't like them, United are THE club. They are being run purely to line the pockets of a few overseas chancers, who don't love the game and have no respect for the supporters. By the day, they diminsh the achievements of  old Rednose. I doubt that United will completely fall apart any time soon. That isn't what worries me. What worries me is the fact that greedy B******Ds like the Glazers are taking money out of the game. This money comes from the pockets (mainly) of ordinary mums and dads who are struggling to make ends meet in a recession. Many have been priced out of actually watching games. I guess that people could possibly stomach these inflated costs if it is to pay for a Ronaldo, but they cashed him in. It seems to me that it's just going to line the pockets of wealthy men who care nothing for our national game. In truth I despise the system of the Premiership, the Champions League, the big four. It's not because City are not currently big players, it's just that in the 60's/ 70's/ 80's a team could emerge, with good management and win the European Cup (Villa and Forest). That won't happen again any time soon. What does this do? It kills the dream. The only hope for supporters of outsider teams, such as myself, is that a very rich benefactor comes along and burns money to fuel success. Is that what the dream has come to? I used to read "Roy of The Rovers". There would be stories about non league teams winning the FA Cup. Boys suddenly playing for the champions, after  scoring great goals at the park. All nonsense I know. The thing is, that was the dream. That dream is dead and I personally think that The Glazers killed it.

First Capital Connect - Sack them now !

Just a quick update to let you all know that the No 10 petition to Sack First Capital Connect as the operating company for the Thameslink service now has over 4,000 signatures.

You may find this article interesting

The most interesting thing is the reams of comments

Lynne Hillans biggest Porkie

This article, on the front page of the press finishes with a statement from Lynne Hillan :- "This has no effect on council tax because it's nothing to do with the revenue budget"  - When the Tories took power in Barnet, they put Council tax up by 24%. The reason? Because they said there was a £10 hole in the reserves. Was a £10 million "hole in the reserves" anything to do with the revenue budget? Last time there was a supposed £10 Million hole in the reserves, the Tories put up council tax by 24%. They won't this year because it's an election year and Hillan would rather slash and burn than tell us the truth and plug the hole.  Victor Lyon was the Tory leader who enacted the 24% rise, he claimed at the time that it would be a one off. He claimed that the Tories would transform the Tories into a "low tax council". In 2008 the Hendon Times reported that 5 years of Tory rule had resulted in 44% rises.
However much Council Leader Lynne Hillan bleats, the truth is that in 2003 when the Tories took power the London Borough of Barnet had a lower Council tax than the London Borough of Brent.

Brent Council - Council Tax - Band D 2003/4 - £1075.05
Barnet Council - Council Tax - Band D 2003/4 - £796.89

Brent Council - Council Tax - Band D 2003/4 - £1368.76
Barnet Council - Council Tax - Band D 2003/4 - £1423.02

You may also be interested to know that Barnet Council Tax is now above the national average (£1414). Brent is lower. So you may ask. What is the difference between the administration in Brent and the administration in Barnet. Well as a Lib Dem, I'd like to point out that a Lib Dem Council has kept tax down in Brent. If Barnet had the same Council tax increase as Brent over the period (27%), we'd all be paying £1012.05 per annum - over £400 less.

Can I tell you why Brent has done so much better than Barnet? Because the Councillors running Brent Council do their job properly. Brent Council used to be so badly run that it was nicknamed "Bent Council" by Private Eye. Sadly now it's Barnet which has become a "Barmy Council". Who pays for this extravagance? You and me, my friend.

They ask questions when Council officers demand more money. They understand the fact that if you lose £9 million, it has to be paid for out of your tax. I daresay that a Barnet Conservatives will come up with all manner of excuses when asked about this, but at the end of the day you are paying over £400 a year more than you should. That is the bottom line. That is a difficult fact that the Tories running Barnet do not want you to know.

Thursday 21 January 2010

Barnet Council, Lynne Hillan and a culture of negligence?

I have just read the most unbelieveable press release from a Council that I've ever seen. Barnet Council have just announced their intention to appeal against the High Court ban on their  policy of abolishing wardens for Sheltered Housing tenants. This press release contains the following statement :-
The council expressed concern on publication that: the judgment suggests that a council has to demonstrate that every member,  not just officers, involved in the decision making gave full and stated consideration to all relevant legislation and guidance. This raises profound issues for the working of local government.

Lets get this right. The Council thinks that people making decisions on important issues such as removing wardens from the old and vulnerable shouldn't take account of the law? They shouldn't listen to guidance? How does Council Leader Lynne Hillan think decisions should be made?  There is a word for making decisions without giving due consideration to the law. It's called negligence. If members of committees can't demonstrate that they have given consideration to the law and the appropriate guidance, then they shouldn't be on the committee.

Let me explain how this process should work in a well run council, where committee members discharged their duties with a degree of diligence. The Borough would make their proposals and the legal department would then check them for compliance with the law. The legal department would then set up a briefing session for the decision makers and provide them with a pack detailing all of the relevant points to consider with regards to the law. Councillors would then read this and would confirm their understanding as a minuted item at the meeting where the decision was made. Members of Council committees get a large cash allowance for being a member of the committee. This is to compensate them for the time they spend reading briefing notes. If they don't want to do this, then resign and let someone who is prepared to do the job properly step up. We should note that Hillan herself receives a Special responsibility allowance of £33,000 (I wonder what she thinks "special responsibility allowance" means)

There is another, rather misleading statement from Lynne Hillan contained in the press release :-
Councillor Hillan added: In developing our service we will, as always, consider the needs of disabled people in the borough, but we do need to make sure we are making services open to all disabled people in the borough, not only those in one type of accommodation.
What Hillan doesn't mention is that for every 4 existing site based warden, they are replacing them with only 1 "travelling" warden. Hillan is trying to con us that a quarter of the existing workforce can not only service the needs of the existing tenants, but can cover the entire community outside of Sheltered housing accomodation as well. Does she really believe this? Well her own mother was in a Council operated Sheltered Home. Hillan arranged for her to be moved to a different site where the warden would be retained. Do you trust Lynne Hillan as Council Leader? Do you think that her actions and statements reveal her to be up to the job or out of her depth? Do you think Barnet Councillors should bother to read their briefing papers before making decisions? Do you think that life changing decisions for the elderly and disabled should be made without taking proper guidance?

Let me tell you why Lynne Hillans problems with the law are no surprise to me. I asked a question at a Barnet Council Cabinet meeting. I asked whether a risk assessment had been done for the abolition of sheltered housing wardens for the elderly and disabled. The Council Leader simply replied "Yes". I then asked how many pages long was it. The Council Leader replied "Three paragraphs". Sums it really.

This press release tells me everything I need to know about Lynne Hillan