Wednesday 31 March 2010

The Important questions for the Barnet Council elections in May - Number 5

Today is question no 5 in our series dedicated to looking at the important questions which face voters in Barnet as we approach the Council elections on May 6th.

Question No 5.
Standards of behaviour in public office
Is it important to you whether the people who run for public office maintain high standards of behaviour whilst in office. I am not talking about their sexual preferences or what they do behind closed doors. I am talking about how they conduct their business. This shows whether they are honest, decent and trustworthy. The two highest posts within Barnet Council are the Leader of the Council and the Mayor. Both of these positions were appointed by the Conservatives using their larger block vote. How have these people conducted themselves and their business in the time they've been councillors.

Council Leader Lynne Hillan. In 2006 the company Lynne Hillan ran, Ashurst Direct Marketing Ltd was liquidated, leaving debts of over £100,000. As a result, the creditors were significantly out of pocket. The largest creditor was you and me, the taxpayer. Whilst not illegal, if Ms Hillan cannot run a small company successfully and thinks knocking the taxman for tens of thousands pounds, whilst serving as a councillor is a good grounding for taking over as leader I'm flabbergasted. What is even more amazing is that a majority of her Conservative Councillors don't seem to mind either. It is worth pointing out that Ashurst Direct Marketing went bust before the credit crunch bit and the economy was in good shape and growing. It is also worth pointing out that Lynne Hillan has displayed the same grasp of economics when setting the Council budget. She has raided the council cash reserves to institute a Council Tax freeze in an election year. This means that the Council, like Ashurst Direct marketing is running at a loss under her tenure. If she'd raided the reserves for a genuine purpose to deal with an emergency, such as an emergency road resurfacing program, to deal with the pothole crisis in Barnet, I would have agreed that this is sensible. To raid them purely for an election bribe is scandalous.

Mayor of Barnet Brian Coleman. Brian Coleman is the only Mayor of Barnet to be found guilty of a breach of the Barnet Council code of conduct whilst in office. How did he react to the verdict? He went out celebrating with other Conservative Councillors. Mr Coleman also stated that the Standards Committee was a waste of time, rather hypocritically, given that he had reported an opposition Councillor to it (a complaint that was slung out). Mr Coleman has publicly supported disgraced Brent Councillor Bertha Joseph, who was suspended for using charity donations to buy ball gowns. He was banned from driving for speeding offences. He described Middlesex University as "crap", insulting thousands of hard working tutors and students. He insulted the successful British Olympic team for taking part in the Olympics in China, stating they had "blood on their hands" whilst not saying a dickybird about Mayor Boris Johnsons embassy in Beijing. Everyone in Barnet knows exactly what sort of a person Brian Coleman is. The Conservative group thought he was the best man to be Mayor.

I was talking to a local Councillor last night. He told me that an ex Barnet Councillor now holds office in St Albans. He is an opposition Councillor there. He said that in St Albans, party politics plays very little role in Council politics. People just want to do a good job. He said that after Barnets toxic mix, it was a very pleasant change. Mayors are selected from all parties as recognition of their long service and civic mindedness. Sadly this isn't what happens in Barnet.

Question No 5.
Do you believe that Councillors should have a track record of good judgement and good behaviour, especially in senior positions within Barnet Council?

Barnet Conservatives: The appointment of Lynne Hillan and Brian Coleman to their jobs says it all.

Barnet Lib Dems: The Barnet Lib Dems will support all measures to improve and strengthen the quality of Barnet Councillors, the sanctions for serious breaches of the standards code and the improvement of the public image of Barnet Council. Note : No London Lib Dem MP was found to have claimed second home allowances or flipped property allowances in the recent expenses scandal.

Barnet Labour Party: Sadly the two local Labour MPs in Barnet featured promenently in the criticism of MPs behaviour in the expenses scandal.

Other parties and independent candidates are welcome to leave comments outlining their position on this issue. Comments will only be deleted if off subject, racist, sexist or abusive. This is a debate we must have

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Welcome additions to the blogs of Barnet

As regular readers of this blog will know, we keep a keen eye on what is going on in other blogs. Sadly Don't Call Me Dave, Barnets most sensible Tory has put away the keyboard and has given up blogging. Several conspiracy theorists have contacted me to ask whether he's been nobbled by the local Tories in the run up to the election. Appealing though this theory is, sadly it isn't true. He took his blogging very seriously and found it was interfering with his studies as he was trying to build a new career. David felt that if he couldn't do the job properly, he shouldn't do it at all. Anyway having cleared that up, lets have a look at a few new blogs. - Written by Mrs Angry.  A tale of awful neighbours and ASBO's. Not party political but very pissed off. - Otherwise known as chopped liver - This is the diary of David Kallin who is a Hendon resident awaiting a liver transplant. It is a compulsive read, if a bit harrowing and upsetting. - A blog by 17 year old Mohamed Zain Dada. He's a young guy with something to say about the world.

Finally, not a Barnet blog at all, but if you like your blogs to make you feel itchy and shout yuk, you should check this out :- Now generally I don't promote corporate blogs because they are like watching paint drying, but this one is actually quite entertaining at times. The comments are the best bit. I should declare an interest here. I own a grands worth of Rentokil shares (which is how I knew about the blog). I hope my little plug of their blog leads to an instant quadrupling of their shareprice!

Anyway, enjoy. If any of you are writing blogs out there in Barnet please feel free to contact me for a plug. Finally on the general subject of London bloggers, Dave Hill of the Guardian has now got  a regular slot on BBC London to discuss blogs  - read more here -

Again I should declare an interest, being nominated as one of Dave Hills Guardian Top London Bloggers.

The Important questions for the Barnet Council elections in May - Number 4

Today is question no 4 in our series dedicated to looking at the important questions which face voters in Barnet as we approach the Council elections on May 6th.

Question No 4.
Respect for our war dead.
Of the many questions we have to ask ourselves as we decide who should run the council, maybe the most important is "What are our values?".  Her Majesties armed forces are staffed by volunteers. Men and women who are prepared to sacrifice their lives to protect their loved ones. For this risk how much does a squaddie in Afghanistan get paid? Less than the CEO of Barnet Council, Nick Walkley who pockets £200,000 a year. Less than his deputy Brian Reynolds who pockets £180,000 a year. Less than all of the executives who make up the management team at Barnet. Less than the "allowances" Councillor Lynne Hillan gets to do what a previous Leader of Barnet Council called "a part time job". Less than the allowances of any Barnet Cabinet member for their part time job. Less than the £60,000 a year that Mr Robeson, the Conservative Political officer for Barnet Council gets from the Barnet taxpayer, to advise Conservative Councillors to ignore their consciences and follow the Tory party line. I think you get the idea. Now you may say "fat cat bosses always get more than squaddies risking their lives in far off lands". Well actually no. In the aftermath of the second world war, Councillors were not paid for their services, they did it out of a sense of civic duty and the concept of "local authority paid political officers" was an alien concept in Great Britain, being seen as a Stalinist construct. In Barnet these servants of the public, who gave their time for free recognised the huge sacrifice of the local servicemen and women. They erected war memorials from the public purse around the Borough. Finding the cash for these was never a party political matter, it was just done because it was universally recognised as the right thing to do.

How times change. This blog recently reported how Craig Cooper, Commercial manager of Barnet Council (not even an elected officer), on a salary many times larger than any squaddie in Afghanistan, signed an order banning the addition of names of fallen servicemen, killed since World War II from the council owned war memorials on cost grounds. Council Leader Lynne Hillan was asked about this by the local press and she said "We are doing something else to commemerate them", whilst admitting she hadn't a clue what. In our house we call that being caught with your knickers round your ankles with the postman, pretending to look for a stamp.

This writer of this blog contacted the Leader of the Local Lib Dems, Jack Cohen and insisted that the Lib Dems take some action. Jack immediately proposed a budget amendment to set aside £2,000 (a tiny sum in the billion pound council budget) to cover this work. Jack said that he expected the local Conservatives to nick the idea and pass it in a fanfare of good publicity. In an act of spite, as it was a Lib Dem amendment they voted it down.

Question No 3.
Do you think that the Council should add the names of heroes who have fallen in action since the end of World War II to their local war memorial.

Barnet Conservatives.
No, at £2,000 per annum it costs far too much money.

Barnet Lib Dems.
Yes, and there is a budget amendment on public record to prove it.

Barnet Labour Party
The position of the Barnet Labour party on this issue is unclear.

Other parties and independent candidates are welcome to leave comments outlining their position on this issue. Comments will only be deleted if off subject, racist, sexist or abusive. This is a debate we must have

Monday 29 March 2010

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow

Today, I am really in no frame of mind to blog about Barnet or nice things. I had to accompany a friend to Oxford Crown Court to provide some moral support today. Not being sure of exactly when the case we were attending was taking place, we sat through all the mornings business (our case was the last before the recess for lunch). The case before the case we were attending rather disturbed me. A young man was being sentenced for the rape of  a 9 year old boy. The rape occurred 10 years ago and had apparently had a devastating effect on the victim. The perpetrator was 19 at the time, with learning difficulties and a troubled home life.  As the judge heard submissions from the prosecution and the defence, we heard how the police had asked that an order be placed on the perpetrator. We then heard from the judge that he felt that it wasn't appropriate for the police to request such orders and that it should come from a lawyer. We heard from the defence of the terrible effect that incarceration would have on the perpetrator. How he would become institutionalised if he was inside for too long. We heard how he'd not been convicted of any attacks in the intervening 10 years and we heard how he'd had a job.

I have a nine year old son. How would I say someone should be sentenced for such and attack. Personally I wouldn't take the chance. I would say that raping a 9 year old boy is a lock them up and throw away the key sentence. How did the judge see it? Six years and his name on the sexual offenders register with a life ban from working with children.  Oh well, at least a few people will sleep more soundly in their beds tonight - and for the next couple of years until he's released.

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow. I just need to have a long, long shower, a large number of beers and maybe a few cigarrettes (I don't normally smoke). I need to wash every trace of that courtroom from me, kill every braincell that looked at the face of a child rapist and inhale some smoke to hide the taste of breaths of air I took which were breathed by the same monster. I drove back from Oxford with the phrase "Anal penetration of a nine year old boy" rattling around my head.  Some things are just too vile to really deal with at all. Sorry for sharing any of this.

Sunday 28 March 2010

Barnet Council : Where have all the Tories gone?

At the last Council Election we elected 37 Conservative Councillors in Barnet. I'd like to think that at the time they were all enthusiastic and keen to do a four year stint serving the people of Barnet. Where did it all go wrong. Since those heady days, three of them have emigrated. Edgware Councillor Richard Weider legged it to Israel, Golders Green Councilor Chris Harris upped sticks to Australia (he didn't tell his colleagues and collected his £800 a month allowance for six months, even more worryingly they didn't notice) and now news emerges that East Barnet Councillor Terry Burton has moved to the USA. It is not clear whether any of his colleagues noticed. That is a staggering 8% of Barnets Tory Councillors who have had enough.  Now I've never felt the urge to  up sticks and emigrate, I rather like Mill Hill. My friends are here, my family are here and I love the place. I don't know what thought process makes someone leave. I suppose if Uma Thurman rolled up on my doorstep and begged me to accompany her to California, I may be tempted but other than that I can't really think of anywhere I'd rather live. Assuming these three didn't stand planning to run off at the first opportunity, why did they get so disillusioned that they had to go. Sadly Richard Weider told us that it was "because Jewish people no longer feel comfortable here". Thankfully this isn't what my Jewish friends tell me, but it is highly worrying none the same. Given the large Jewish population of the Borough, it was sad that Mr Weider didn't think he could address this as part of a Tory administration. Harris and Burton haven't really enlightened us at all. Given that for most of the last four years, the Tories nationally have been ahead in the polls, it is sad that they don't think Great Britain has a Bright future.

As well as the three who have emigrated, we've seen a pattern of Councillors resigning and moving away. Sadly the pattern is that they have been extremely capable and committed female Councillors, who clearly felt that Barnet was not a place where their talents would be recognised. Both Caroline Margo who defected to Hertfordshire and Jane Ellison who left Hale to stand as PPC for Battersea, were highly capable councillors. I know Jane extremely well from her efforts for the Mill Hill Music Festival, which she set up. Had she been a PPC in Barnet, Finchley or Hendon, I'm sure that she would have easily won, as she's hard working, intelligent and committed. She doesn't carry the baggage that accompany the selected candidates. As for Caroline Margo, I don't know her, but the Tories I know who do, tell me she would also have been a great PPC. Sadly we've lost these great talents.

Then there are the Tories who aren't standing at the next election for Council. I've been told that Fiona Bulmer is not standing in Underhill. If you do a search on this blog, you will see that from day one I said that she was a credible Tory who did a good job. I've got three children at school in Barnet and they've all had an excellent education (which was her portfolio). I don't agree with Fi Fi's politics, but she is an excellent administrator and has a track record of doing the job well. She challenged Lynne Hillan for Leadership in December so it is quite clear she wasn't planning to leave. She only lost because Hillan bribed several unscrupulous councillors who knew Bulmer was the best candidate with the promise of cabinet positions (some of which never materialised, Ho Ho Ho). Bulmer knew that Hillan would be a lousy leader and she didn't wish to be associated with a culture of failure. Who can blame her. If you think I'm just saying nice things about her now to make trouble, read this blog, written in December 2008, where I graded the performance of all of the then Tory cabinet and in hindsight was remarkably fair -

If you are a Barnet Tory, ask yourself this question. Just suppose for one second that Jane Ellison had been the PPC for Finchley and Golders Green, Caroline Margo the Candidate for Hendon and Fiona Bulmer the Council Leader. Do you think that the Tories would get more or less votes in the election in May. Do you think that the Council would be better run? Do you think you'd have shown that talent was rewarded in the Barnet Conservatives? Sadly all I see from Barnet Council and the Barnet Conservatives is that talent is stifled and driven out and failure is rewarded. Candidates which would be attractive to the electorate and have good track records are undermined, driven out and destroyed. The only people who prosper are those who kow tow to the ruling junta and don't point out the obvious flaws in the various cunning plans which Lynne Hillan and her cronies have cooked up (just see how many Court battles Barnet Council have lost recently).

It may surprise you to know that The Barnet Eye thinks it is bad for Barnet to see all our most talented Conservative Councillors leaving.It also explains why the Council is doing such a rotten jo

Picture at the top : Ex Barnet Councillor Caroline Margo (now Caroline Clapper) on left, at Jewish blind and disabled charity event.
Picture in middle : Ex Barnet Councillor Jane Ellison (left) at Battersea Park School fair

Saturday 27 March 2010

The Barnet Eye Post no 1000 - The Kids are Alright

Welcome my friends to the 1,000 post on the Barnet Eye blog. My first blog was posted on Saturday 11th October 2008.Times have changed a bit since then. The top story on that day was a claim in the Daily Mail that affair smears were set to derail Barack Obamas presidential campaign. Finger on the pulse as ever at the Mail. Anyway that's enough of that nonsense, BTW.

All we ever hear about in papers such as the Daily Mail, are horror stories about immigrants, hoodies, asylum seekers etc. Try a search on the Daily Mail website and just type in the word YOUTH. I got this as the TOP STORY. How often do we hear good things about our youngsters? Well let me tell you about my day. I started it at the Finchley Music Centre for my sons end of term Concert. The standard of play was superb. A special mention must be made of Julian Hinton, who organises the Jazz Strings group. They are truly superb. I must pay tribute to all of the staff. The standard of playing has always been good at the Finchley Music Centre (my wife started her music career there in the early 1970's) what they have added in recent years is an element of fun to the concerts. If you have children who are interested in playing, please check out the centre. As a player myself, I recognise all of the hard work the young people who entertained me today put in. I was especially impressed by one young lady who as part of her Duke of Edinburgh award has assisted with Group 1 in tuning up and encouraging the youngsters. We don't hear enough of this.

When the Concert was finished, I nipped into the office. I run Mill Hill Music Complex and today we were hosting Barnet Community Focus, who were doing a youth radio project at the studio. I cannot praise this group highly enough. They are based at the Arts Depot and this is part of their mission statement :-

CF is a place where people of all ages, abilities, faiths, ethnicities and circumstances cross paths with a common enthusiasm for the arts and a desire to learn new skills in a friendly and welcoming environment.

There are many great things going on in Barnet but this project is one that I am proud to be associated with. The young people were a joy to host at the studios. The group was diverse in many ways, yet they all pulled together and delivered something special. If you have an interest in arts check it out and if you have a surplus in your bank account, give them some cash (click on the support us in their website sidebar). Having seen the music centre concert and the Community focus project, I was feeling rather proud of the London Borough of Barnets young people. I was going to write a blog saying this, but I decided to be a bit lazy and not bother. As I sat down for my cup of tea, I heard a knock on the door. I wasn't expecting anyone. Who could it be? As I opened the door, I was greeted by the sight of a large black guy, aged about 18 in a hoodie, with a set of headphones. As I opened the door, he said in broken English "Sorry to trouble you sir, is that you car there, the red one". It wasn't. I said "No, sorry it's not". He replied "Oh, sorry to trouble you, but they've left the window open and it could get stolen. It is going  to rain and the seat will get wet". I didn't recognise the car, it probably belonged to a shopper in Mill Hill Broadway. I told him I'd keep an eye on the car. He said thanks and went on his way.

They say the good Lord works in mysterious ways. As I shut the door, I thought "yeah, the Kids are alright" and I realised that the least I could do for all the great young people I've met today, is tell you all about it. Then I noticed that it was blog no 1000 - if that isn't a sign, I don't know what is. Have a great Saturday night.

David Cameron upsets Hendon Blue Rinse brigade

There was a story in yesterdays Evening Standard which made me chuckle. It seems that the President of the Hendon Conservative Party Mrs Elizabeth Sparrow, aged 70 was featured in the famous 1979 "Labour isn't working" Poster campaign when she responded to a call to party activists to turn up at a location to be photo's as part of a "queue of people". She wasn't told that the queue she was going to be photo'd in was a "dole queue" and she would be depicted as a "benefit scrounger" on posters up and down the land (Amusingly, if you look closely at the picture, they are a "dole queue" all dressed up in their Sunday best, not a hoodie in sight - no 1979 punks, skinheads, goths or rastas). Now that David Cameron has rehired Maurice Saatchi, creator of the original poster in a last desperate attempt to revive his flagging campaign, Mrs Sparrow can keep silent no longer. She told the Evening Standard that she did not like “distasteful” electioneering. She said: “It's all spin, and in a way that's what advertising is.”

No doubt we'll soon be seeing truthful election leaflets from Mrs Sparrows association, detailing how the Barnet Tories lost millions in Iceland, how their candidate presided over a the Aerodrome Road fiasco which cost Barnet Taxpayers £11 Million and how they are abolishing sheltered Housing wardens against the wishes of 85% of the elderly and vulnerable people they consulted. Mrs Sparrow is always welcome to write a guest blog here telling us the truth about what a cock up her party have presided over in Barnet.

Swallow my Pride

The Ramones from 1977

Swallow my Pride

Winter is here and it's going on two years, swallow my pride

Things were looking grim but they're looking good again, swallow my pride
Loose lips sink ships they say, but isn't it always that way

Swallow my pride oh yeah,
Swallow my pride oh yeah,
Swallow my pride oh yeah,
Swallow my pride oh yeah
Winter is here and it's going on two years, swallow my pride

Things were looking grim but they're looking good again, swallow my pride
Gonna have a real cool time and everythings gonna be real fine

Swallow my pride oh yeah,
Swallow my pride oh yeah,
Swallow my pride oh yeah,
Swallow my pride oh yeah

If ever there was a song which summed up what is going on in Great Britain today, what we've endured and to give us a bit of hope for the future, this is the one. Lets hope a few people Swallow their pride and lets pray we're gonna have a real cool time and everythings gonna be real fine. I wonder if Geoff Hoon, Patricia Hewitt and co's loose lips have sunk Battleship Brown?

I love the Ramones and I think their minimalism says more than whole tomes of meaningless tosh spouted by many commentators. There's a lesson in there for us all from the greatest rock n roll band ever to walk the face of the earth. Oh Yeah !

Friday 26 March 2010

Whatever happened to Stiv Bators?

I know how you feel. There are many things troubling you in this punishing world. We have a huge financial deficit, the country has been at war in the Afghanistan for the best part of a decade and Manchester United, the source of all evil, are top of the league. I have troubles and worries on my mind. A rather random sequence of events made me see some sort of bizarre pattern in the madness of life. Let me explain how what happened to Stiv Bators, legendary frontman of US punk rock outfit The Dead Boys, crystalised my thoughts on life. Thanks to Wiki I now know. He was run over in Paris and died of concussion in 1990.

You may wonder why I suddenly asked the question of what happened to Stiv? Well I wasn't a big fan of The Dead Boys, they had a few good tunes, most notably Sonic Reducer. To be honest I'd rather forgotten about them. I'm going to see Iggy and the Stooges in May and I thought I'd have a look at a few YouTube clips. When I did a search on "Search and destroy" (A stooges classic) I saw the above clip for The Dead Boys. Yeah I thought, whatever happened to Stiv Bators? Perhaps the most interesting and sad fact for me was that he was the only member of "The Whores of Babylon" (other members Johnny Thunders and Dee Dee Ramone) not to die of a heroin overdose. I vividly remember hearing of the deaths of both Johnny and Dee Dee.  Somehow Stiv's passing just passed me by.

Interestingly (for me at least), it occurred in 1990. At this time, I'd really fallen out of love with music. I'd dissolved my band (The Falsedots) in a sea of despair at our inability to keep a lineup together. We had a really good line up going, with a great singer, Tony Robotham. We were doing music which I felt was years ahead of it's time. Just as the set was coming together, our drummer Big Grey Ramsey became a father and his partner demanded his presence at home. I felt that if we couldn't succeed with that line up, we couldn't succeed with any. Tony showed up at our rehearsal to check out our new line up on Wednesday. He was suitably impressed with Koni, who is singing with us now. On Monday, I am going up to give some moral support to an ex band member who has been a rather naughty boy and is up before the beak. Sadly like Johnny and Dee Dee, his problems were brought about by drug problems. In the space of five years of heavy cocaine abuse, he went from having a job, flat and a life to being in prison. He split with his partner of 30 years, which amazed me. He has a new girlfriend who is standing by him and he has vowed to solve his problems and get his life on track. Apparently he's been completely clean in prison and has been studying and going to the gym. I hope he gets his head together and his life together as he is a talented musician and a lovely guy. Our friendship started to drift when his life became focussed on his habits.

As I pondered the demise of Stiv, Dee Dee and Johnny, my friends personal problems and music in general, I realised that life is a precious gift. Some of us carelessly toss it away like Johnny and Dee Dee, some of us have it stolen from us in a tragic accident like Stiv. Some of us get a wake up call and realise what a gift it is. I hope that on Monday that process starts for my friend. Have a great Friday evening.

Proof that Barnets Conservatives are a bunch of zeroes

Councillor Tambourides reminds me of a certain old Chinese proverb from his demeanour. I must say it is refreshing to see some honesty from Barnets Torys. I was told they were asked how much of the cash they'd lost in Iceland they've managed to get back so far.  This was their answer.

It's nice to see a display of unity and so many happy smiling faces. Maybe they were talking about when they get a real Tory leader to replace David Cameron who apparently they all hate. Hats off to Lynne Hillan standing in front of this bunch. She shows the bravery of Julius Ceaser when turning his back to Brutus. I see that former Leader Brian Salinger (blue shirt, fourth from right), who was unceremonially booted out of the job a few days after the last Council election is one of the few without a trademark "Gordon Brown" smile? What's he got to be so miserable about.

Stalinism in the Conservative Party?

One of the things us bloggers do is keep an eye on our stats. Every so often we spot an unusual pattern. At the moment there is an extremely unusual pattern occurring. A blog I posted last April has suddenly started getting dozens of hits for no apparent reason. What could be going on? All I know is that people up and down the country are sending each other emails and linking to the page. This is the page :-

I thought I'd revisit the blog to see what they could possibly be finding so interesting. Now in a rather Stalinist move, the organisation I was blogging about -  The Conservative Political Officers Network removed the page which I linked to in the blog. Anyway, here's the next best page that still exists which explains what this mob do :-

Now here's the disturbing bit. From their aims and objectives page :-

Since then, CPON has grown with local authority demand for political assistance supporting elected members. We continue to maintain the original aims of providing a support network for Conservative political officers, but have expanded in recent years to provide a consultancy service to local authorities considering creating political officer positions.
 The Barnet Eye passionately believes that if a Councillor needs "political assistance" from a member of CPON (or anyone else), they are not up to the job. We also believe that the last thing local authorities should be wasting taxpayers money on is Political Officers. The mere term Political Officer stinks of Stalinism. The idea that elected representatives need these sort of people to "Help" them is abhorrant to me and the fact that Local Authorities pay the wages of an openly political officer merely to ensure that Councillors tow the party line rather than follow their consciences is disgusting.

Needless to say, Barnet Council employ one of these. They would rather pay a political officer's wages than a few Sheltered Housing Wardens. I asked a Conservative Councillor whether he thought that this was a good use of public money. He told me that "He'd read my comments about CPON and thought I was ignorant, naive and stupid" He told me I knew nothing about how a modern Council is run and what the job of a Councillor is.

Let me just say one thing for the record. In the event of the electors of Mill Hill giving me the privilege of representing them, I will represent them to the best of my ability. If anyone starts giving me political advice as to why I should ignore my conscience they will get told two words, one starts in F and the other is "off". As I said, if you need a Political Officer to tell you how to think, you aren't up to the job.

As ever, you dear reader can make up your mind as to whether I'm "ignorant, naive and stupid" or whether I'm right.

The Important questions for the Barnet Council elections in May - NumberThe Important questions for the Barnet Council elections in May - Number 3

Today is question no 3 in our series dedicated to looking at the important questions which face voters in Barnet as we approach the Council elections on May 6th.

Question No 3.
Secrecy Culture. Many independent commentators on both  the left and right of the political  world have criticised the secrecy culture in Barnet Council. Only yesterday this blog detailed how Barnet Council hid the details of how much it was paying "consultants" who had been awarded a contract without even looking for cheaper bids. Given that the money belongs to us, this is a scandal. If you want to know how much Mayor of London Boris Johnson gets paid for expenses or how many free dinners he has, paid for by other people, the Greater London Authority (GLA) have a website where you can find out. This is because, for all his faults, Boris Johnson knows that a culture of secrecy is a culture of corruption and inefficiency. If you want to find out about anything the GLA spent more than £1000 on, they have a website where you can find out. As a result of this I know that in January, the GLA paid a company called Urban Design a grand total of £16,243.22 for "consultancy fees". Now if I was a competitor of Urban Design and I'd bid for that contract and I'd only wanted to charge £10,000 I'd know they charged more and I could raise it. This would mean the GLA knows they get best value for money. In the Conservative run London Borough of Barnet, things are done slightly different. If I want to find out about the Mayor of Barnets free dinners, I have to make an appointment, in office hours to view the register. If I want to know about his expenses, I have to submit a Freedom of Information request and if I'm lucky and he agrees I will eventually get to see it. If I want to know how much Richard Ellis Consultants got paid to advise the Borough on privatising it's land assetts, I'd have to burgle the council offices, rifle through Brian Reynolds desk and find the relevant papers. They have deemed this "confidential". I can guarantee that if all of this was in the open, the taxpayer would get better value. The Conservative Council in Windsor did just that and Council tax has been significantly cut, as savings have piled up. Sadly Barnet Council has gone the other way and gets more secretive with every day. If you want lower taxes, this is a simple way to get the best value from councillors, executives and suppliers.

Question No 3.
Do you believe that the culture of excessive secrecy within Barnet Council should come to an end?

Where do the Parties stand on the issue?

Barnet Conservatives : They've been in power for nearly nine years and they've shown they are committed to keeping us all in the dark about everything.

Barnet Lib Dems : Open government is a key Lib Dem principle and policy. The Lib Dems will sweep away the secrecy culture and institute open and honest administration in Barnet.

Barnet Labour : They have not stated their policy on openness and transparency within Barnet Council.

Other parties and independent candidates are welcome to leave comments outlining their position on this issue. Comments will only be deleted if off subject, racist, sexist or abusive. This is a debate we must have

Thursday 25 March 2010

Barnet Council : If it's value for money, why the secrecy?

One of the many disturbing things which Barnet Councils Conservative administration are doing is looking at ways to offload the property which it owns. This property is currently owned by you and I, as taxpayers. Many of the decisions about this are being made outside of democratic control and with little scrutiny by councillors. In short we are all being kept in the dark. One of the things they are looking at doing is setting up a Local Asset Backed Vehicle (LABV) to manage Barnets property portfolio. What the practical implications of this are, I am really not to sure, but anything which involves transferring tens of millions of pounds of our assetts, to a body we don't control worries me. As ever Barnet Council have called in a team of highly paid consultants to "develop a strategy" on how this can be achieved. You can read the full story here :-

First question is who are these consultants and why were they chosen. This is what the report says :-
3.2 It is recommended that the commission is placed with CB Richard Ellis as they have served as consultants on several projects for the Council over the past few years,  including advising on the Brent Cross Cricklewood regeneration. It is suggested that,  what with a wide knowledge of the Borough gained through these previous commissions,  the company is that best-placed to efficiently and expertly undertake this study.
So were other providers evaluated? Were Richard Ellis selected because they demonstrated that they could provide best value for money? This is less than clear from paragraph 3.2. It seems that the selection criteria was "They've done a bit of work for us before". So I asked myself, how much would this study cost us as taxpayers?
5.3 The cost and terms of the consultancy agreement are noted in the exempt report. In accordance with the Contract Procedure Rules, the consultant with a proven track record in this field, has been chosen through a process of reasonable selection (Rule 6 and Table 6-1, Barnet Contract Procedure Rules) whilst, normally this process would involve attaining more than one quotation, however due to the work already carried out by CBRE in Barnet and their acquired knowledge of the borough and based on the relative merits of CBRE’s quotation and previous purchasing powers for services of a similar type it was agreed that no further quotes would be sought.
So there you go. It was the only quote for the work and they won't tell us how much it costs. Please would someone from the Conservative administration tell me how they can be sure this quote was the best value? The arguement is "well they did a good job last time". If companies know that once they've got the foot in the door, other quotes are not required, will they be "keen on price"?

This report was signed off by Brian Reynolds, deputy chief executive on 11th March. In my previous blog I detailed how Mr Reynolds is paid £180,000 per annum. This enormous salary is justified on the basis that you need to pay top dollar to get the best candidates. I've run a successful small business for 31 years. I belong to the Federation of Small businesses. If you ask anyone with a commercial background how you get the best price for a job, the first answer is "shop around". I would have no issue paying top dollar if our council officials demonstrated a knowledge of how to get a good deal for the taxpayer. I see no evidence of this happening. If a contract is handed out with no commercial tender, why should the cost be "exempt" from public scrutiny. I would have thought that it would be vital to disclose the figures, to ensure that we'd got the best deal. There is nothing about the way this is being handled which fills me with confidence. Does the Leader of Barnet Council actually exercise any meaningful control over her executives? Does she care how they spend our money? Does she even realise they are spending it? The only way the Conservatives delivered a zero percent Council tax increase was to raid the reserves (funny that with an election coming up).  Until we get an administration commited to delivering value for money, by paying attention to detail and being transparent with their finances, we'll never have the prospect of real tax cuts.

The Important questions for the Barnet Council elections in May - Number 2

Today is question no 2 in our series dedicated to looking at the important questions which face voters in Barnet as we approach the Council elections on May 6th.

Question No 2.
Council executive pay. In 2003, the salary of the chief executive of Barnet Council was £113,000. It now stands at £200,000. Have you had a 76% percent payrise in this period. He's not the only one to be doing rather well. The deputy CEO gets £180,000. Barnets most sensible Tory, Don't Call Me Dave, highlighted this issue in an excellent blog before his retirement from trying to knock some sense into his Tory colleagues. The following table shows all of the Barnet Council fat cats.

As you can see there are 11 people now earning more than the CEO of Barnet when the Tories took over. The argument the Tories Council have used is that you need to pay these high salaries to ensure "the right calibre of people". This is an old list. Clive Medlam has left as he didn't follow council rules for investments and was blamed for the Icelandic fiasco. As you assess the potholes in the borough you may ask whether the executives are delivering on road maintenance. As you look at all of the legal fiascos, which have cost enough to save the warden service several times over (Icelandic Banks, Underhill, Warden cuts) you may ask whether this area is delivering. Barnet has a housing crisis.Over 6,000 families are on the list for Council houses. The Council has a strategy to build rabbit hutch flats to house  60,000 people from outside the Borough, addressing the Council House shortfall is not part of this strategy, we'll still have people on the waiting list. The infrastructure will not cope. Can you possibly say that the people devising the strategy are doing a good job. The Council plans to transform itself. The latest budget has a sum of £5 million allocated for "legal issues". Is this what you want your council tax spent on (especially  with Barnets record of losing legal battles).

Question No 2 in our daily series is this. Do you think the fat cat culture of Barnet Senior Executives should be addressed. Should the management structure be streamlined and should salaries reflect the difficult economic circumstances which face public finances.

Where do the parties stand on this issue?

Barnet Conservatives : They have a record which shows that they believe in a bloated corporate sector in Barnet, fat cat salaries and inefficiency.

Barnet Lib Dems : The Barnet Lib Dems promoted budget amendments which would have saved the sheltered housing warden scheme, paid for by streamlining the management structure and addressing these pay rates (the Tories rejected this)

Barnet Labour Party : Their position on this issue is unclear.
Other parties and independent candidates are welcome to leave comments outlining their position on this issue. Comments will only be deleted if off subject, racist, sexist or abusive. This is a debate we must have

Wednesday 24 March 2010

David Cameron loses the plot at the Gay Times

The Barnet Conservatives are an open minded lot. They have lead the way in promoting equality and fairness within the council and within the Conservative Party. Our beloved Mayor, Brian Coleman is out and proud of it. For a while, both the Leader of the Council and the Mayor were both openly Gay Conservatives. The former leader is now one of the seven (I believe that to be the number) openly gay Conservative candidates. It is a tribute to the people of Barnet that this is not an issue that has ever been mentioned to me on the doorstep. People are relaxed about the private lives of our politicians and rightly so. No one, from any party would make the sexuality of a candidate an election issue and if they did they would be given short shrift from voters and their fellow party members. For the Barnet Eye blog, it is a matter of some pride that all of the parties in Barnet have their feet firmly placed in the 21st century and this is one area which we are united. Sadly, not all members of the Conservative Party are as committed to freedom and equality as our local politicians. In a recent interview with The Gay Times, Conservative Leader David Cameron was asked about a rather unfortunate vote by some of his MEP's. I was rather shocked to see how badly David Cameron responded to the questions and how he got completely flustered. This is the man who wants to be the next Prime Minister. Check this interview out :-

The sad thing about this is that Cameron really should have anticipated such questions in an interview with Gay Times shouldn't he? What did he expect them to ask him questions about. I never thought I would say this but it seems Mr Cameron and his MEP's could learn much from his Conservative Colleagues in Barnet.

The Important questions for the Barnet Council elections in May - Number 1

Here at the Barnet Eye, we don't believe in telling people how to vote. We believe in giving you the evidence. What you do with that evidence is up to you. Between now and the 6th of May we are going to run a daily series of important questions. Every one of these questions can be influenced by the way you vote on May 6th.  With each of the questions, I'll give a brief summary of the positions of the three main parties in Barnet.

Question No 1.
Barnet Council are currently trying to abolish the warden service for sheltered housing residents. This policy was first introduced when current Council Leader Lynne Hillan held the responsibilty for the social serviceses portfolio. The policy will save the Council approx £400,000 (less than the cost of the salaries of three senior council officials). They will replace the existing on site wardens with a service provided by telephone, where wardens will drive from site to site on request. For every four on site wardens, they will replace them with one mobile warden. In the consultation for the change, over 85% of the residents strongly opposed the changes. The residents have taken the Council to court and had the changes declared illegal. The Council are now trying to reintroduce the changes. Do you believe that stripping the elderly and vulnerable of the security of their on site wardens is a policy you agree with or not?

Barnet Conservatives : Strongly committed to abolishing the Warden Service

Barnet Lib Dems : Strongly committed to retaining the Warden Service

Barnet Labour : Strongly comitted to retaining the Warden Service

A pledge to the pensioners of Barnet

The pensioners and tenants who live in Sheltered Housing were out protesting at the headquarters of the three main political parties on Monday. It is a scandal and a disgrace that these folk, who have paid their dues to society many times over, need to fight a protracted campaign, when they should be sitting safely and comfortably at home. The policy of scrapping wardens for the the elderly and vulnerable was the brainchild of Councillor Lynne Hillan. She used to have the social services brief. The council had hoped that they would have implemented it by now, but they botched it up. The pensioners fought back, launched a legal challenge and it turned out that the Council hadn't even done the basic groundwork to check whether the policy was legal or not. The High Court squashed the Councils decision.

How did the rest of the local Tory group react to this fiasco? Their social services policy had landed them in court, they'd lost and they all looked like a bunch of plums. Their beloved Social services chief, Lynne Hillan had proven to be useless and incompetent. Well they sat down and decided to promote her. She's now the leader of the Council. In a free election of Tory Councillors, they decided that the person who had made the lives of the Boroughs pensioners a misery, the person who'd landed the Council in court, costing tens of thousands of pounds, was the best person to lead their group. Councillor Lynne Hillan has done all of this to save less than half a million pounds. In the recently passed budget, she's allowed for a sum TEN TIMES BIGGER to fight legal challenges for her policies. It seems her mantra is "STUFF THE PENSIONERS, WE'VE GOT TO LOOK AFTER THE LAWYERS".

In Mill Hill, we have Tory Councillor John Hart who told the Guardian the following, during an interview :-
With council tenants, and I'll admit I am putting it crudely, it has been a lot of 'my arse needs wiping, and somebody from the council can come and do it for me.
Mr Hart seems to resent the fact the infirm and the disabled have to rely on Council services to perform these tasks. This statement was the most crass, repulsive thing I think I've ever heard said by any politician. What made it especially upsetting for me on a personal level was that less than two years ago, my dear father in law died. He was 89 at the time. He'd become very infirm and for the last year of his life, he relied on a team of carers from the council to wash, dress, bath and clean him. He lived at home with my mother in law, but she could only manage helped by a team of young, fit carers who visited twice a day. He was one of the people John Hart was talking about, who needed a carer to wipe his arse. He didn't like it, but he was stuck. Was it right for Hart to stigmatise him?

I urge the pensioners of Barnet to throw out on their arses the likes of Hillan and Hart and all of the other heartless Tories who care nothing for the vulnerable, who care nothing for the residents of sheltered housing. The Barnet Lib Dems have made a solemn pledge to the pensioners and the vulnerable of Barnet. If we take control of the Council on May 6th, we will immediately scrap all plans to destroy the Sheltered Housing Service and the wardens. We will guarantee that this will not be cut as long as we have any say in it's running.

I have a special reason to want to defend and preserve the Sheltered Housing service. My cousin who is the same age as me, lives in Sheltered Housing in Barnet. She's independent but needs a bit of help. The picture at the top of this page was taken last year in Gavarnie in France, I took her their on holiday - she's the good looking one on the horse !

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Your local Conservative Candidates - obstructing progress

There is a rather interesting picture on the Hendon Conservatives website, which aptly sums up the attitude of our local Conservative candidates to the rest of society. I would post the picture here, but every time I've used a picture from their website, they've threatened to sue me for breach of copyright (you would think they'd be pleased to get their picture in the Barnet Eye).

Please click on this link (if you get a 404 error they've moved it so check the link to the main page above)

You will see that our two local Conservative candidates are having their picture taken at the The Shree Swaminarayan Temple in Golders Green charity mile event. What struck me was the fact that they've jumped into the middle of  the route of the Shree Muktajeevan Pipe Band. You can clearly see that they are actually getting in the way of the band as they are trying to march and play. The thunderous look on the faces of the pipe band says everything you need to know about what they think of these two chancers and their selfish attempt to grab a photo opportunity.

Let me give a little bit of advice to all political wannabees. Don't spoil the show chaps. The drummer on the left is having to march out of line to avoid the candidate for Finchley and Golders Green and the drummer on the right is having to move to avoid the photographer. Why they didn't have the sense or good manners to stand at the side and have their picture taken as the band passed by is beyond me.

As ever these two are obstructing progress in the borough. Council Leader is well rid of these two from the Barnet Council Cabinet. Sad really.

Picture : The Shree Muktajeevan Pipe Band successfully dodge politicians seeking photo opportunities outside the palace of Westminster (sadly it's harder in Barnet).

Wham Bam thank you Sam Cam !

The big story this morning is the news that Samantha Cameron is pregnant. I think it's great news. She's one of eight children, David Cameron is one of four. They had a terribly sad personal tragedy when their child Ivan, who was severely disabled died. I am sure that this experience made David Cameron a better person. I happen to believe that children are a blessing and that a politician who has a large family and young children is far more likely to understand the needs and problems of other families.

When I heard the news, the first thing I thought was to hope that the baby is healthy. Given the problems with Ivan, she is in for a lot of worry hoping the baby is healthy. I am sure this will be foremost in the Camerons minds. Unusually all three party leaders, Cameron, Clegg and Brown have young families. They've all had issues, challenges and tears through their children. As a father of three, it has changed my perspective on life massively. I know all about the worry of finding schools, changing schools, the worry of sick children, the elation of your childrens success.

There has been a flood of cynicism on the radio this morning concerning the new addition to the Cameron family. I think that just shows what a sad, cynical lot we are. I can see no circumstances where I would ever vote Conservative (unless it was the only way to prevent a BNP win), but I am happy for the Camerons and I think we should all pray for the health of his new baby and the health of all other pregnant women and their children. I also think that when we cast our votes we should cast them for whatever party will build the best future for these children. I happen to believe that if Samantha Cameron wants the best future for her lovely new baby, she'd be far better off voting Lib Dem, not least because if the Lib Dems won, David could spend more time with his family. So if you want to do Sam Cam a favour, bear this in mind.

Monday 22 March 2010

The Tip of the Iceberg : Hoon, Byers, Moran & Hewitt

As if these four and their dodgy shenanigans wasn't bad enough,  there is a story on the BBC website which names and shames all three MP's in the Borough of Barnet :-

I suppose it is too much to ask for the two of them who haven't stood down for the next election to sling their hooks and give someone who isn't tainted by continual scandals a chance? I'm not making a party political point here. Both the local Labour and Tory parties have plenty of members who are fine upstanding citizens and who would have no problem reading the rulebook and following it. It would do their parties chances a power of good to get a clean pair of hands. One of these members is a frontbencher in their party and the other is a member of the Standards and priveliges committee. I don't know any grassroots activist of any party (and I know quite a few from all three parties) who thinks this sort of behaviour is acceptable. It undermines trust in all politicians, it undermines trust in democracy and it has to stop now. There is going to be an election soon, so why not use the opportunity to chop away the dead wood. A local party worker for one of these MP's told me recently that the MP had suggested that the expenses scandal had blown over and would be forgotten by the time people actually had to vote. I do hope that MP was wrong.

Chase Lodge Development - Kentish Town FC - A few facts

I have been asked to clarify a few facts regarding Kentish Town FC and their proposed move from Copthall Sports Stadium, to the Chase Lodge Sports Ground next door. Conservative Councillor John Hart made the following statement to local press :-
Residents are already unhappy with the amount of parking in Page Street on weekends for people going to play sport, so this would make things worse still.
I believe that before local politicians start speaking about local issues and worrying local residents, they should check their facts. As Mr Hart hasn't bothered to check his facts, let me spell out to him what the facts are. Kentish Town FC already play at Copthall Stadium, which is next door to Chase Lodge. There will be no extra local traffic. If you click on this link to Kentish Town FC's fixture list, you will see that there attendances for games at Copthall Stadium in March have been 17, 28 and 21.

Kentish Town FC play their fixtures at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon.  The key times when parking is an issue is Saturday and Sunday mornings when the pitches at Chase Lodge are currently used to capacity. Unless there is a change to the laws of football, to increase the number of players in a team from 11 to 50, there is no likelyhood of the proposals causing more problems. What will happen is that the facilities will be improved for local children.

As to the issue of development on Green Belt Land. I agree that this is a concern. I strongly support any proposal to strengthen Green Belt Legislation, to ensure that Green Belt land cannot be concreted over. I support organisations such as the Mill Hill Preservation Society who fight to preserve the nature of Mill Hill. I cannot understand why Mr Hart has been so vocal in his opposition to a football club, who get 28 people watching them, when he has said nothing about a recently opened tourist attraction on Mill Hill Green Belt (without planning permission) which has caused parking gridlock on the Ridgeway and will attract thousands of visitors every day in the summer. Could it be because the Tourist attraction is owned by a senior member of the Hendon Conservative Association?

If Mr Hart and the Local Conservatives really cared about the Green Belt, they would have amended the UDP to make the Green Belt safe and make it impossible for schemes which might damage it to progress. They have chosen to neglect this. Last year the Conservative Council even suggested passing the buck for Green Belt protection back to Central Government.

The reports in the local press talk about Stadiums and hundreds of people. Kentish Town FC play in the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division and their biggest crowd this month was 28 people. They already play at Copthall Stadium.  There are genuine issues with parking in the locality on a Saturday and Sunday  morning. This is the responsibility of Conservative Council to sort out (an issue Mr Hart and his colleagues have done nothing about). They could easily do this by getting the local teams using Chase Lodge to rent parking spaces in Copthall School, bringing some extra revenue for the school. This is what is called a win-win arrangement. Sadly all we get is our local Conservative Councillors scaring the living daylights out of local residents with ill informed scare stories.

A few questions you may want to ask your local Conservative Councillor

Over the next few weeks you are likely to get a knock on the door from your local Conservative Council candidates seeking your support in the Council elections on May 6th. There is nothing that politicians like more when they are out canvassing than for local people to take an interest in their campaign. They like to answer questions to clear up any misunderstandings about their policies and to tell you why they are doing a great job. Having just read the latest "In Touch" Newsletter from the Mill Hill Conservatives, I thought I'd help the voters make sure they could ask just the right questions to ensure that they get to the bottom of the issues that matter. Bear in mind, these are the issues which our local Conservatives think are the most important. The way this works is the big letters are the headline on their newsletter and the small letters are the questions their stories raise :-

Council Tax Frozen
Why has Council tax risen at a rate above inflation since the last election?
Why is Council Tax now higher in Barnet than it is in Brent, where the Council is run by Lib Dems. It was lower in Barnet when the Tories took over in 2003, by several hundred pounds.
Why have the council raided the reserves to keep council tax rises down in an election year when they criticised the previous administration for doing this.
When will the Council Tax payer have to pay the bills for all the money lost by the Council in Iceland.

£5,000 Sports Grant for Disabled Children
Who is actually providing this money and why are Barnets Conservatives claiming credit for cash they haven't provided?
What new sports facilities for Disabled Children have Barnet Council funded from Council Tax?
Under this Conservative administration, the previous leader of Barnet Council and the CEO were bought first class tickets to America for a Conference. This cost more  than twice the amount that they've won in this grant and it was paid for by Council Taxpayers. How can they justify this extravagance?

£50,000 for Mill Hill Play Area

Why are the Barnet Conservatives taking the credit for a scheme created by the Government?
Why does the leaflet show a picture of a play facility which was installed by the previous Council administration years ago as an example of the benefits of the new funding?

Page 2.

Preserving the Character of Mill Hill
Why have the Conservative Council not taken enforcement action against the man elected deputy chairman of the Hendon Conservatives in March last year, for developments on the green belt, which the council have publicly stated require planning permission?
Why have the Conservatives in Barnet taken no action to strengthen Green belt legilsation in over eight years in charge.
Why have the number of enforcement actions taken by the Conservative Barnet Council fallen year on year if they are serious about preserving the green belt, when the number of complaints have risen?
The Conservatives talk about how he "saved a Pagoda tree" on the Ridgeway. Who did he save it from (his own Conservative Council)?

Mill Hill Barracks Site
How can the Conservatives cry that the Mill Hill Barracks site is "A classic example of over-intensive development" when they are in charge of the planning committee and have the power to stop it?
When they talk about over development, why have many leading Conservatives, including the Council Leader, spoken at a planning hearing for the Brent Cross redevelopment in favour of rabbit hutch housing?

Improve our local transport
The leaflet states "commuters and other travellers have suffered long enough" and states that they  demanded "improvements".  What improvements are these?
Are the Local Conservatives unaware of the Thameslink Program, which costs £5.5 billion and will massively increase capacity on the line from Mill Hill?
Are the Conservatives unaware of the Northern Line upgrade, currently also under way?
What additional improvements are they suggesting?
What is the position of the local Conservatives on whether First Capital Connect should retain their franchise?
The Conservatives privatised the railways, causing the system which has brought chaos to the Thameslink line. Do they now admit that this policy was a disaster and are they prepared to apolgise for it?
If the Conservatives want to improve local transport, why did they divert the 186 bus away from many parts of Mill Hill, removing the only direct service to the doors of Brent Cross shopping centre?

Conservative Council Goes to Town on Potholes
Do our local Conservatives think that the state of the roads in Barnet is anything less than appalling?
Do our local Conservatives think that their neglect of road maintenance has lead to the massive number of potholes in our roads?
Why has the Council got no system of getting its own street operatives such as dustmen to report the site of potholes back to the Highways department. They rely on residents using their fix my street website to report the location. Given that Dustmen cover every road in the Borough so why don't they keep an eye on Highways?

Now a few other questions you may like to ask, whilst they are there.
Why the office for the Mill Hill Conservatives is in Finchley, not Mill Hill. It isn't even in the same constituency?
Why can't the Conservatives find three residents of Mill Hill ward to represent them in the election?
Who has paid for the lovely glossy leaflet which they have delivered?

I am sure they will be only too pleased to answer all these questions and clear up any misunderstandings.

Sunday 21 March 2010

The Killing Moon

Just because there's a killing moon tonight ! Being a Manchester City fan, I've always had a soft spot for this song. I've had a strange day. Watched my boys team Watling FC under 10's win 4-3 in a rather bad tempered (by the parents) match. It is sad that some parents don't realise that they influence the children when they abuse the ref. Sad really.

Went out and did a heavy days canvassing. We did in and around Mill Hill Broadway. I had the surreal experience of knocking on the door of  a brothel and asking the rather attractive young lady who answered if she would be supporting me. She looked rather bemused. I knocked on the door of another guy who studied our leaflet for five minutes and then said rather solemnly "I will have to discuss this with my friend and I will ring you to tell you if I support you".

The oddest moment was the bloke who said when he got our leaflet -   "What happened to the old bloke with the moustache?" I took it that he meant Conservative John Hart. I replied that he was standing again for the Conservatives. "He always tells me the same joke when he comes around". I asked "Is it funny?". He replied "No, not really". I wanted to tell him a funny Lib Dem joke, but my mind went blank. If there are any Lib Dem comedians out there who have a Lib Dem joke book I could borrow, I'd appreciate it.I asked if he would be voting Lib Dem.He replied "dunno, I might - depends how I feel on the day".

It can be an uphill task. One lady told me "I really like all the things you are doing locally. The campaign for the 186 bus, free parking, dog mess and the potholes". I was pleased "Will you be voting for us then". She replied "No, I don't like Lib Dems". I wasn't so pleased. A friend rang to say that he'd just been knocked up by John Hart in Lidbury Square. "Did he tell you a joke" I asked. "No, was he supposed to". Anyway, if you live in Mill Hill Ward and John Hart knocks on your door, ask him to tell you his joke. I really want to post it here.

So why the killing Moon by the Bunnymen on a Sunday night on a post about canvassing. It sort of sums up how you feel when you've spent all day trudging around Mill Hill only to be told 500 times "erm, I don't know, I haven't made my mind up" I suppose the only good thing is that 499 of those people who haven't made their minds up told us last time they were Conservatives, so I guess if we work just that bit harder, they might come over to us. Those who said Lib Dem last time still seem to like us. What is noticeable is that no one who said "Labour" last time is still admitting to supporting them this time around. I think the expenses issue has really hit the trust of the working class Labour vote.

The Killing Moon by Echo and the Bunnymen

Under blue moon I saw you
So soon you'll take me
Up in your arms
Too late to beg you or cancel it
Though I know it must be the killing time
Unwillingly mine

Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

In starlit nights I saw you
So cruelly you kissed me
Your lips a magic world
Your sky all hung with jewels
The killing moon
Will come too soon


Under blue moon I saw you
So soon you'll take me
Up in your arms
Too late to beg you or cancel it
Though I know it must be the killing time
Unwillingly mine

CH X 2

La la la la la...


La la la la la...


La la la la la...

Chase Lodge playing fields - The hype and the truth

This week there has been some hysterical coverage in the local press of the proposed transfer of Chase Lodge playing fields from Camden Council to Camden Community Football and Sports Association. Local Conservative Councillor John Hart has been vocally opposing the plan and talking about plans to "tarmac over the green belt" and "put a stadium on the site". He has been talking about the plans to relocate Kentish Town FC to the site. Lets just take a step back from Mr Harts hysteria and look at a few facts.

Firstly, Kentish Town FC is not Arsenal. They are in the South Midlands League Premier Division. they have an average attendance of less than 150 people. To accomodate this number of people, you don't need a stadium, you need a small clubhouse with a tea stall.Most shockingly, where do you think they play at the moment? They play at Copthall stadium and my guess is you didn't even know they were there. Now knowing this fact, had Mr Hart chosen to be present all the facts, he would have mentioned this. There is not traffic gridlock on the roads when Kentish Town FC play. They have submitted no plans for a stadium. If they do it will be subject to the normal planning process and the Conservative Council control the planning committee so they will have the final say. Is Mr Hart saying he doesn't trust his fellow colleagues to do the right thing?

One interesting thing about Mr Harts campaign is that by taking his stance, he now has a vested interest in the issue, so he has barred himself from the decision making process under Council rules. Has he done this as a deliberate ploy? In other words he's got himself out of the pickle of having to follow official Tory policy in Barnet on this proposal. It is quite noticable that Mr Hart hasn't chosen to involve his fellow Tory candidates in the campaign. Given that he's well known and they are not, why could this be? It would be a great chance to introduce them to the people of Mill Hill

For the absence of doubt, lets consider a few issues Mr Hart neglected to mention.

1. It is the official policy of Conservative Barnet Council to sell off it's playing fields. Unlike Camden Council, this usually isn't to charities which promot sport and football.

2. Barnet Council imposed a massive increase in rent on Mill Hill Village Football club this year, nearly forcing the club out of existence. To cope with the rise, Mill Hill Village have had to step up commercial activities and cut community work, just to balance the books.

3. The Deputy Mayor, Hugh Rayner is known for his anti football stance.

4. Any increase in usage of Chase Lodge playing fields for football is entirely due to the council selling off or closing other local pitches.

5. Barnet Council agreed to the Powerleague facility next door, which doesn't have adequate parking on site. This has resulted in most of the football related disruption locally. Mr Hart has done nothing and said nothing about his own Tory councils negligence in this matter.

If and when any plans are announced and submitted we should judge them on their relative merits. That is the way the law works and that is the way things should be done. There is only one reason Mr Hart has been scaremongering. He knows that he's likely to lose his seat on the Council in May so he's using classic "wind up and scare" tactics on the doorsteps of local voters.

Mr Hart may think he's clever, I think some people might interpret this as rather shifty, dishonest and desperate, as he's totally ignored other local green belt development issues which have been caused by promenent Conservative supporters. I hope local voters see through these statements.

Saturday 20 March 2010

Barnets Conservatives admit that they are ruining the Boroughs economy

There are some shocking revelations on the Finchley Conservatives latest press release. This proves that the policy of the local Tories is damaging the local economy. To quote their own press release :-

The news comes at the same time as unemployment in Finchley & Golders Green rose by 2.4% in the last month, bucking the national trend. Across the country the level of claimants fell slightly, although so did the number of people registered as in work.
So the economy in Barnet under Lynne Hillans Tories does worse than the rest of the country and they boast about it on their website. It gets worse. Later in the press release it says the following :-
Our local area is being disproportionately hit by the recession, and it is those under-24 that are paying most of all.
So if you want to know why to  give Barnets Conservative Councillors a wide berth, just read their own press releases. They've mismanaged the local economy, driven many small businesses to the wall, refused to implement sensible suggestions to improve access to local shopping areas. They've spent £2.5 million on Consultants for the Future Shape project which is all about outsourcing jobs and creating unemployment in Barnet.

Of course, in the press release the Tories blame the government, but if you read the small print, then you soon see through the BS. The reason Barnet is doing so badly, compared to the rest of the country is Tory mismanagement of the local economy and nothing can disguise that truth. Not only are they too stupid to run the local council without ruining the local economy, they then stupidly put press releases on their website boasting about it.

As ever with cock ups, their strategy is to blame someone else. We can all see through it

Give Brian Coleman an ASBO !

The disgraced Mayor of Barnet, Brian Colemans record of shame continues to grow. His efforts to bring Barnet Council into disrepute know no boundary. Not satisfied with being the first serving Mayor of Barnet to be found guilty of breaching the code of conduct whilst in office, he's even managed to upset other representetives on the National Joint Council for Local Authority Fire and Rescue Services so much that they sacked him as chairman (follow this link for an excellent report by the Tory Troll blog).

The Tory Troll reports that a senior LGA spokesperson said that this wasn't an isolated incident. Mr Coleman has form for not treating his colleagues with respect and dignity.

Mr Coleman admits this - The Local Government Chronicle reports Coleman as saying the following :-
Cllr Coleman said he accepted he had been “extremely rude” at the meeting, but insisted he had been enraged by what he described as fellow councillors’ stretching of business.
Does Mr Coleman think that being so rude to colleagues that they sack you reflects well on Barnet Council and the people he represents. Lets review a few highlights of Mr Colemans career as a Barnet Councillor

* Banned from driving for speeding, whist being Barnet Road Supremo
* Describing the successful British Athletics team at the last Olympics as having hands stained with blood because they competed in China (Hypocricy alert: his Boss Boris Johnson hasn't shut his Chinese embassy)
* Besmirched tens of thousands of students and tutors by calling Middlesex University "Crap"
* Caused uproar at a GLA meeting, resulting in its suspension by hysterically calling GLA rep John Biggs an "Odious Toad"
* Abused Lynne Featherstone MP in sexist terms, calling her an airhead
* Thinks Standards and codes of conduct don't apply to him

Someone recently asked me whether I thought Coleman should be thrown out as Mayor for his many indescretions. I responded "I think that an ASBO would be more suitable". He certainly needs to curb his anti social behaviour. The man is a total embarrassment. What I find incomprehensible is why Boris Johnson has allowed him to continue as the Chair of the Fire and Emergency planning Authority and why our local Barnet Conservatives put up with him at all.

Friday 19 March 2010

No More Heroes ........ Where are the Finchley boys now?

Whatever happened to Leon Trotsky? He got an Icepick, that made his ears burn ....

The Stranglers from 1977. You've no idea what effect this appearance on Top of The Pops had on me. Jean Jacques Burnel swatting flies with a newspaper when he was supposed to be miming the bass. At the time I was at Finchley Catholic High School, just embarking on what was to prove my final year at the school. The Stranglers hardcore fans were known as "The Finchley Boys". A bunch of herberts who suddenly had a purpose in life. "No More Heroes" was an anti anthem. A call to arms for all of us who were sick to death of being pushed around, told to respect people who deserved none (why did a vision of the face of Brian Coleman enter my head as I wrote this?).

I suspect that if the Stranglers hadn't appeared on Top of  The Pops singing No More Heroes in September 1977, I wouldn't be writing this blog now. I wonder what song in the charts today will still resonate with someone who is 14 today, in the year 2043 (When I was 14 in 1977, 2010 seemed a very long way away!). Maybe I'll ask my 14 year old Daughter the question and see what she has to say? As to the original Finchley boys? What are they doing now?

Enjoy your Friday Night. I'm off for a belated St Patricks night out at the Three Hammers with "Na Fianna" and a few friends. I'm rather hoping to sink a couple of pints of the good old black stuff !

The scandalous destruction of Barnets Town centres by Barnets Conservatives

I asked one of Barnets leading Conservative Councillors whether they supported the Federation of Small Business  manifesto for Barnet. As a small businessman who employs 9 people, I believe that this is the best way to reinvigorate the local economy. His response :-
I don’t think it would be appropriate for the Council to be supporting any particular lobby group’s manifesto. 
Fair enough you may say. It is not an unreasonable position to take. Whilst I had hoped for a more positive response to a sensible set of proposals, in the dull, unimaginative world of Barnet council, it is probably to be expected. I talk to many other small businessmen in Barnet. Many run shops in our High Streets. The story I am told time and time again is that they get no support from Barnet Council. When the Barnet Lib Dems proposed changes to parking fees, making the first hour free in Mill Hill Broadway, a move supported by all of the traders, the council refused point blank on cost grounds.

Parking wardens seem to approach CPZ ticketing with a military precision. If the CPZ starts at 11am, they pounce at 11am and get as many tickets in as possible, knowing some peoples watches are a couple of minutes slow. All of this pushes shoppers away from the High Streets, towards large shopping centres such as Brent Cross, where parking is free. It has long seemed to me that Brent Cross shopping centre and the large chains which inhabit it operate under a completely different set of rules to the rest of us. Whilst I understand the need for Barnet to encourage a thriving business, such as Brent Cross, this cannot be to the exclusion of small business and small shopkeepers. The question I've often wondered is "Does Brent Cross get special treatment from Barnet Council". Until yesterday I thought that this was unlikely. Now I'm not so sure. Let me share with you a response to an FOI which I was shown.
There are no such committees.  They meet informally with the CE, Deputy CEs and Assistant CE.
Non-Executive Directors of Barnet Council

a) How many Non-Executive Directors does Barnet Council have?  

None in the usual sense of the term, but the executive heads of the five principal partner bodies advise the Council's Chief Executive and senior colleagues on an informal unpaid basis.  They are referred to as Non-Executive Directors (NEDs), although they have none of the usual responsibilities associated with this function.

 b) Who are they?  
•    Tom Nathan, Commercial Director, Brent Cross Shopping Centre
•    Cameron Ward, Chief Executive, NHS Barnet
•    Stephen Knight, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Middlesex University
•    Neil Basu, Borough Police Commander
•    Marilyn Hawkins, Principal, Barnet College
c) What organisations do they represent?

See above

d) What criteria does Barnet Council use to engage these Non-Executive Directors?

They are not "engaged" but have accepted invitations to meet with the CE and senior colleagues on an informal advisory basis, the only criterion being their posts as heads of the five principle partner bodies listed above.

e) How often do they meet?


f)  What is the name of the Council Committee(s) in which they assemble? 
The CE of NHS Barnet attends Cabinet meetings in an advisory capacity.

g) How much are they paid to fulfil this Non-Executive Director role?


h) What influence do they have on Council Policy?

The Council has a role of civic leadership amongst the above partner organisations.  The NEDs informally advise the CE and his senior colleagues in fulfilling this role.

i) How long has Barnet Council had Non-Executive Directors?

Since 2006

j) Do these non -executive Directors represent Barnet Council in any capacity on Committees outside the Borough?


k) Which Council Officer appoints them in their role as Non-Executive Directors?

No appointment is made - they are invited to take part in this advisory process by the Chief Executive.

l) What is their period of Office as a Non-Executive Director and how do they cease to
become a Non-Executive Director?

The arrangement is purely informal.  No period of office is stipulated.  Their  position as NEDs is consequent on their appointment as heads of their respective organisations.
As you can see, one name sticks out. Mr Tom Nathan, Commercial director of Brent Cross shopping centre. All of the other NED's are members of public bodies. The sole commercial representative is Mr Tom Nathan, from Brent Cross. As you see, this job is the gift of the CEO of Barnet, Nick Walkley. Although unpaid, Mr Nathan gets unprecedented access to the chief executive. I attended a Leader Listens business breakfast with Mr Nathan last year. He was a fine speaker and I'm sure that in many ways he's an asset have in Barnet. It's just that I can't possibly agree that letting Mr Nathan have an executive position within Barnet Council is good or healthy. Just suppose the Lib Dem proposal to allow free parking comes up before Mr Nathan in his meeting. If local shopping centres get more trade, Brent Cross gets less. How will he use his influence with the CEO? I was rather concerned about the issue of democratic scrutiny of these NED's. I asked the Leader of the Lib Dems, Jack Cohen for a comment. He was shocked. He wasn't aware of this arrangement. So it seems there is an executive arm of senior management within Barnet Council which is completely outside of Democratic control.

The biggest, most fundamental change to take place in the London Borough of Barnet is the Brent Cross redevelopment. There are many Borough wide issues which this impacts. Barnet Council wheeled out the Leader of the Council to support the planning application. The only senior Tory to oppose it was the Mayor, Brian Coleman, who has since been marginalised.  Do you feel comfortable in the knowledge that someone as closely associated with Brent Cross and the redevelopment as Mr Nathan has a position of executive responsibility on Barnet Council, purely by way of his job?

This whole issue is a can of worms. Is it any wonder that Town Centre regeneration is bottom of the list of priorities for Barnet Council and its Tory overlords.

Oh, one last thing on the subject of Town Centres. Please sign the petition for one hours free parking in Mill Hill Broadway -