Thursday 30 September 2010

Save Barnets Library service from closure - Stall in Mill Hill Broadway, Saturday 10.30am -12.30pm

Please come down, sign the petition and find out how you can oppose the Barnet Council Library Closure program. If you can't make it, please sign the on-line petition in the sidebar. Once the Library service has been closed down, the buildings sold off and the staff sacked, it will be gone forever.

We have a stark choice in Barnet. We can get off our backsides and try and stop Barnet Council ruining the Borough, so that they can keep their lovely juicy allowances or we can let them destroy all of the things which make Barnet a great place to live. Here's a short list of things (by no means conclusive) of all the things threatened by future shape

The Green Belt,
Sheltered Housing Warden Services,
local cemetries and morgues.
playing fields,
Childrens Services,
Services for the elderly,
Advice centres

Here's a list of things not threatened

Councillor Allowances
Consultants pay packets
Barnet Council executives pay packets & pensions
Council Civic Buffets
Cuncillors Jollies

Do you care? If you do please make a start by signing the petition in the sidebar opposing the Library Closure program

Wednesday 29 September 2010

One mother in law joke Barnet should ban immediately

The press have rightly been ridiculing the way Barnet Council has banned mother in law jokes. Having denied the ban, the council has now published the book with the ban in. The Barnet Bugle reveals details here :-

Last week, Barnet council announced it's corporate parenting strategy. Having now read the policy, I have realised that Council leader Lynne Hillan is my corporate mother in law. She has the right to interfere in my life, tell me how to bring up my children and even "nudge me" towards a healthy diet.

She's one Mother in Law joke Barnet Council should ban immediately.

Q: What do you call a Council Leader who has just divorced reality?

A: Lynne Hillan

Yesterday there were two important stories in Barnet. One was this story on the Barnet Tory Bugle, telling of how a junior Government under secretary (or Minister as the Bugle called him) was visiting Lynne Hillan and praising the Future Shape project.

The other was the relaunch of the Barnet Future Shape Leaked documents website by this blog. Here we published a secret internal council document detailing the fact that the project is in meltdown.

Lynne Hillan believes the Future Shape project is marvellous. She's now suckered a minister (who presumably she hasn't shared all the bad news with) into saying it's marvellous. Sadly all of the professional organisations who have reviewed the project (Council auditors Grant Thornton, Councils own CSO group) say the wheels have come off (if indeed they were ever on).

All I ask Hillans Tory colleagues to do is read these documents. If they read them, I cannot believe that they can arrive at any other conclusion than she's lost the plot and should be replaced immediately and that the council should stop throwing good money after bad on the bonkers Future Shape scheme.

 Oh and how come we've not heard a peep out of £250,000 a year CEO Nick Walkley? Surely it's his job to deliver this fiasco. Nick, it's about time you got a grip.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Barnet Council - more leaks than a St Davids day parade

The Barnet Eye is pleased to announce the relaunch of our sister blog today as a wikileaks style resource for anyone who has some juicy info about Barnet Council Future Shape program which should be in the public domain, but Barnet Council are hiding. We kick off today with this - a document slid under our door which is entitled "CSO Success : Notes for the Project Team".

The best bits are in section 3 - here's a few choice quotes

3.2 - "You need a project plan for the consolidation"

3.6 Revenues and benefits. How are you going to reach a decision on this? As you know, the manager isn't convinced you bring any benefits, but is convinced splitting up the service imports change risk to critical services ....

and best of all

3.12 ..... can you access any bridging finance where channel shift has up front costs, for you or services.....

In other words

a) There is no proper plan
b) The bloke implementing the project thinks it delivers nothing worthwhile
c) The project isn't properly financed and hasn't got the cash it needs

I wonder how many councillors have seen this document. If they have it's scandalous that they are proceeding. If they haven't then it is even more disgusting.

Sometimes I wonder just what our Councillors get paid for? It certainly seems that our Tory masters in Barnet don't think they are paid to protect our interests. Please forward me any other nuggets you feel the public of Barnet deserve to see. It is 100% clear to me that the Leader of the Council is engaged in covering up a huge and systemic case of mismanagement. It is not clear at all to me why she should wish to do so.

Barnet Eye Exclusive : Mobile wardens costs £175,000 more than keeping them on site - Hillan hides the facts

One of the key foundations of the Future Shape project is the abolition of On Site Wardens. Evidence has reached The Barnet Eye that a detailed investigation by Barnet Council has found that moving to a system of mobile wardens (the Councils preferred option) may cost up to £175,000 than retaining on site wardens. Now a sensible council would see the light and drop the proposal. What do you think Barnet Council did? They hushed this fact up. Councillor Maureen Braun presented a report which completely neglected to mention this. Lets just hope that some kind person serves an FOI on Barnet Council to get them to reveal this.

The only question which the Barnet Eye is currently unable to answer is whether Braun knowingly conspired to hide this fact or whether Leader Lynne Hillan specifically selected Braun for the job because she knew Braun was too dim to realise she was playing the stooge.

Editors note : Councillor Maureen Braun was chair of the planning committee responsible for approving the multi billion pound Brent X/ Cricklewood redevelopment. Was she up to the job? Well she didn't even know she needed planning permission for her own shed -

It just fills me with such confidence in the whole of Barnet Council

Barnet Council Leadership Challenge - Unelected official threatens councillors

**************** Update 27/09/2010 22:50 ******************
The mystery post returns. Now you may wonder why this disappeared and then came back again. Well one of my sources suggested that the screenshot was not genuine and someone was playing silly games. As such I thought that the safest course of action was to get the whole thing verified. I now have the information which has satisfied me that the screenshot is genuine.

Why, you may ask would someone take such a screenshot? Heaven only knows, but it has been suggested that it could possibly have been because they were rather pleased with themselves.

Anyway, if you are a Finchley Conservative Councillor, you now know how much respect Mike Freer's agent has for you. Whatever I may or may not think of our Tory councillors, at least they've been elected by someone and have some sort of mandate. What mandate or right does a party apparatchik have to behave in such a way. I suspect I'm probably a bit more familiar with the writings of Trotsky and Marx than many of our Finchley Tories. As a public service to them, I'd suggest they CLICK HERE to find out what this sort of thing is called. Anyway, here's what I had to say

Just out of interest, do you know who pays the allowances for Councillors? In case you didn't, the answer is we do. The Taxpayer. How do you feel about paying the wages of people who don't work for your interests, but work for someone else. I was passed an email with a screenshot of an "alleged" instant messaging conversation between the agent for the Finchley Conservative Party, Rachel Shawcross and an unnamed third party regarding the vote of confidence in Lynne Hillan. This has been passed to me by an impeccable source, who is less than happy at such interference by a minor party apparatchik in the democratic process (follow this link to see the structure of the Finchley Conservative Party - It is bad enough that they are a gutless bunch of lackies, they fact that the person pushing them around isn't even elected makes it so much worse. Even more bizarre - ask yourself this (and I don't know the answer). Why did they take a screenshot of the Instant messaging session?

Of course, it may be that this is nothing to do with Rachel Shawcross and someone in the Finchley Conservative Party is making trouble for her. I have published this as it is a matter of huge public interest. If Rachel contacts me to confirm that :-

a) This instant message conversation never took place

b) She put no pressure on councillors to toe the leadership line

c) She had no letters ready to "sack councillors from the party"

I will immediately remove this posting and replace it with a public apology - I will also make a £20 donation to a charity of her choice. If it is genuine or even if an unelected official such as her took the actions detailed, it is a gross interference in the process of democracy, is a matter of huge public interest and as such should be in the public domain. By the way I do have some other evidence of all of this, but it would expose my sources to publish it.

Anyway the ball is in Rachels domain now. Lets see what happens.

Monday 27 September 2010

Barnet Council chops £30 million from childrens service budgets (and other auditing gems)

I was shocked to see the scale of cutbacks that Barnet Council have made in the last year. These are exposed in this document produced by auditors Grant Thornton.

It seems that £30 million has magically disappeared from the childrens service budget.
Of course not everyone in Barnet has suffered cuts, on top of the five "superleague" salary kings of Barnet, detailed in THIS BLOG, we have all of these "second rung" posts on huge salaries as well.

(click on the image to make more readable).

Perhaps the oddest comment in these accounts is the one about the money deposited with "other local authorities"

What I can't understand is how the note of explanation ties up with the table. None of these authorities actually border on Barnet ????? Whilst I'd probably trust any of these authorities more than I'd trust Barnet with our cash, why are they depositing £21.5 Million pounds in with Southend? 

Anyone care to explain. Do we earn interest on these deals? Is it a necessity for the function of the Borough?

Nice work, if you can get it

And you thought the public sector was hard up - you mug ! Of course it doesn't mention Deputy Director Mr Andrew Travers who is a contractor and gets £17,000 a month - what a bargain !

Sunday 26 September 2010

Tory shenanigans leave me speechless

On the 17th September, I received an email, supposedly detailing some shenanigans surrounding the Leadership battle within the local Tory party and pressure put on Tories to shun Jack Cohens leadership motion. I wrote a draft blog and contacted various parties to ascertain the full facts. As regular readers of this blog will know, I do try and check all of my facts. The final piece of supporting evidence was sent on Thursday, but as I was busy organising the launch of the Library petition, I only got around to posting the information today.

Rather interestingly, within 30 mins of the blog going up, one of my original sources contacted me to say that a couple of key facts were incorrect (shall we say). Now whilst the gist of the blog was correct, it would be wrong of me to have left it there as is. I have removed the offending text and reset the original posting date. So if you are wondering where it went, that is why.

I do wonder whether the musical chairs being played out in the Barnet Tories at the moment played any part in the fact that someone suddenly decided that certain key facts were perhaps "inaccurate".

Before you sign, read the terms and conditions

Reports reach the Barnet Eye that a couple of BNP activists were out collecting signatures for a "Bring our boys home" petition at the weekend. We live in a free country (thank God) and as such, people are free to collect signatures for such a petition and to sign it. What seems to have caused some consternation though, is that several people I spoke to put their names to the petition, without realising that the BNP were the sponsors of the petition. You may say "Well, if I agree with the petition, why should it matter?". Well there are several reasons that it matters quite a lot.

The BNP will say "We got X numbers of signatures for a petition we started". This implies to the wider public a level of support that simply isn't there for their policies. The BNP have not been telling the truth about the whole situation. They told people on the streets "We are the only organisation fighting to bring our boys home". This simply isn't true. There is a massively well supported campaign run by the Stop The War coalition - - They are organising a massive demonstration against the war on November 20th. This is a cross party national campaign. Did the BNP tell the people signing the petition about it? Of course they didn't. Did they hand out leaflets to promote the rally? Of course they didn't. The reason is because they are using the war in Afghanistan to promote their party. Their opposition to it is a cynical ploy.

When they say "Bring our boys home" what do they mean? Who is the bravest man in Great Britain today. I would say it is Johnson Beharry VC is my choice. He won the VC in Iraq for actions of extreme bravery, way beyond the call of duty. Because he's black and because he was born in Grenada, the BNP do not consider this giant of a man to be British. BNP Leader Nick Griffin specifically said when asked about Beharry said "No, he's not British". In fact Nick Griffin said that Beharry, who saved 30 mens lives, only got the medal because he was black.

Now this comment is not just an insult to Beharry. It is an insult to the whole army. This is recognised and a whole array of top generals signed a letter refuting Nick Griffens disgusting comments. Falklands veteran Simon Weston and Ex SAS man Andy McNab also slated the BNP for their comments.

The BNP also opposes the rights of Gurkha veterans to settle in the UK.

The BNP also refuses to acknowledge the sacrifices of the 8 million Commonwealth citizens who served in the armed forces in the second world war and who contributed massively to the defeat of fascism and Nazism.

One of the distinguishing features of the British Forces is the way it accepts people from all around the world and molds them into the worlds most professional army. As well as Gurkhas, many fine soldiers are from places such as Fiji, Africa and the West Indies. When the BNP says "Bring the boys home" they mean "unless you are black, in which case you can piss off".

When you sign their petition, that is what you are signing. If you really care about ending the war, go to the stop the war march.

Pictures from the launch of the Save Barnets Library Service campaign in Mill Hill Broadway

Yesterday we launched the Save Barnets Library Service Campaign in Mill Hill Broaday. We have started a petition, we had a book collection, which we will pass on to Councillor Robert Rams, the man who wants to scrap our libraries. We gave out hundreds of leaflets, collected over 150 signatures in two hours and received a great reception from the people of Mill Hill, with queues forming to sign the petition. Thanks to VickiM57 for the pictures.

Even the dogs of Mill Hill Support the campaign !

We asked Rover what he thought of Robert Rams and he said "Rough"

A local residents completes the first sheet full of signatures

Whilst this picture was being taken I was chatting to a Hendon resident, who was telling me how Leader of the Council, Lynne Hillan tried to use the Barnet Police force to silence him, after he publicly criticised her. Apparently the police spoke to him and then realised it was all a complete lot of nonsense. I always thought wasting police time was a criminal offence. It is rather sad that the Tory Leader of a Council thinks that the police have nothing better to do than harass her critics.

 Local residents start to queue to sign.

Several offered to buy the books we collected. The Rise and Fall of the British Empire had the most offers.

Even when they have heavy bags full of shopping !

We ended up having two sheets running simultaniously as we had so many people waiting at one stage. The piles of books grew as we went on.

Sadly Mill Hill isn't the only library threatened by Councillor Robert Rams cuts. All of the libraries will be turned into Starbucks or Tescos if he gets his way. We were invited to run a stall by several locals visiting from other parts of the Borough.

I have a message for Lynne Hillan from the people of Mill Hill. Sack Councillor Robert Ramsbottom immediately, scrap the library sale and closure program, and start doing your job and running the council properly. If you think that young Ramsbottom is an asset to you, then you have truly lost the plot.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Successful launch for Save The Library Service in Barnet Campaign today

I am pleased to report an extremely warm reception for the launch of the Save the Library Service in Barnet Campaign in Mill Hill Broadway today. We collected well over 150 signatures in two hours, with queues at times to sign the petition. Fellow Barnet blogger VickiM57 turned up to lend a hand along with a host of other local people from across the political spectrum.

I am especially pleased to report the warm reception to the petition from many lifelong Conservatives in Mill Hill. One senior Tory party official signed on behalf of  "The Hendon Conservatives". Whilst it is important that the whole community unites against the library sell off, it is heartwarming to know that the Torys are even out of touch with their own supporters.

We dished out over 250 leaflets. I also asked for donations of books to help educate Robert Rams and we got a great selection. The wit of the people of Mill Hill was clearly evident. My top five favourite donations for Mr Rams were :-

1 - How to banish cellulite forever - Liz Hodgekinson
2 - Next, After Lucifer - Daniel Rhodes
3 - Nemisis - Isaac Asimov
4 - Christmas fun, things to make and do - Maggie Downer
5 - Fight Back, a womans guide to self defence - Emil Farkas and Margaret Leeds

They certainly made me chuckle. I thought that Robert Rams and the Barnet Tories were onto a loser with the Library closure program. What I saw today convinced me of this. We need more people out next Saturday in every ward in Barnet. If we got 150 in two hours in Mill Hill, that means that we'd have got over 3,000 if we visit every ward and 10,000 if we visit every high street in the Borough of Barnet. If you want to fight this madness, please get in touch and offer 1 hour of your time to collect signatures. I was amazed by how many people turned out to help in Mill Hill, we need to take the campaign across the Borough. Once they shut the Libraries, they are gone forever. Let's kill this stupid policy now - sign the online petition here -

Email me via THIS LINK if you want to help with the campaign. I will post the piccies when Vicki sends them

Save our Libraries in Barnet - Campaign Launch today - Sign this petition

The campaign to stop the closure of libraries in Barnet starts today. Please sign this petition, which will be presented to the Barnet Conservative Party. This petition is non party political. We believe that all citizens of Barnet, regardless of creed, colour or party allegiance, are best served by having a decent library service.

Your names will not be passed on, or used for any other purpose. Please sign this petition if you care about the future of our library service. Please forward the details of this petition to everyone you know who may care about libraries in Barnet.

You can join us today - Saturday 25th September, in Mill Hill Broadway between 10am and noon. We will also be collecting signatures then.

Friday 24 September 2010

Barnet Twat Update : Is Brian Coleman jealous of Robert Rams new found fame?

My sources tell me that Brian Coleman has not been a happy bunny at all today. What could be troubling him? Well for years he has revelled in being the Barnet Tories bogeyman. He has been a figure of hate for the left (and just about everyone else including nearly half of the Tory Councillors in Barnet) and he loves it. His infamy gives him purpose and celebrity.

I've long been of the opinion that he only makes his inflammatory outbursts, so he can sit back and watch the bloggers whip themselves up into a frenzy. Sadly it seems that his powers are on the wane. His star is fading into the Western skies. There is a new kid on the block, who makes even good old Brian look sensible. Enter stage right, Robert Rams. Even more galling for Brian Coleman is the fact that Ramsbottom is his bag carrier at the GLA.

As a result of this blog, it's investigation into the Grant Thornton report, it's exposure of Mr Ramsbottoms twattish behaviour and his stupid comments about libraries, Coleman has taken on the aura of "Yesterdays man". Now, when we want a stupid comment, it's Rams we look to, not Brian Coleman.

Coleman has twice tried to kick up a stink today. Firstly he made stupid comments about the trades council campaign launch. This was a meeting attended by hundreds of local people to fight Robert Rams Future Shape program. A star studded panel, including world famous film director Ken Loach, launched the protest. You can read Colemans comments if you want, but to be quite honest they are so stupid, it's hardly worth the effort. The picture on the left was taken there. Coleman claimed the meeting was badly organised by a lone voice - rather odd and rather at odds with reality (picture from Unison Blog - ):-

Colemans comments to the Times group can be viewed here :-

Coleman also spouted off about Londons Firemen. These comments were extremely odd. He thought it odd that Firemen would want to lose a days pay to protest about dangerous changes to their working patterns that he (in his role as Chairman of the Fire Service) is trying to impose. Coleman has told the firemen that unless they unilaterally accept the changes he's trying to impose, without proper negotiaition, that he'll sack the lot of them. He claims he can't understand why they are upset.

Again, you can read his bizarre blatherings here :-

The only rational explanation for Colemans outbursts today is that he's jealous because we think Robert Rams is a bigger Twat than him. He wants to reclaim the crown. Sadly for Coleman, whilst there are many words which would sum him up, I don't think Twat does.

Unlike Rams, who is just plain dim, Brian Coleman is quite intelligent. I genuinely feel sorry for him, as I believe that his lack of social graces and his desire to strike out at opponents is due to the rather nasty bullying he suffered at school (this has been confirmed to me by former classmates). When he rants at our brave firemen, it is really the rantings of a scared and puny 12 year old, getting his own back on the big tough boys who made his life hell. When he rails against the Unions, it is railing against his dislike of "group solidarity" as he was always a bit of an outsider at school. I urge everyone in Barnet not to get angry with Brian Coleman. Feel sorry for him, because he's really rather sad inside. His biggest fear is that the only thing he's ever been really good at is about to be snatched away from him by Rams, who I suspect is what we all thought Coleman was, before we realised he is just a victim lashing out.

The Guardian disses twat boy Robert Rams and future shape

Quote of the day from the Guardian -
Mike Freer, the former council leader who championed the reform, has since been elected to parliament and the leadership of the project passed to Rams, a less senior figure. Labour believes this may indicate a lack of belief in a project.
The Barnet Eye concurs  - Don't forget to vote in the poll - today is the final day. It seems that the Guardian, having read all the evidence has concurred with The Barnet Eye on the abilities of Robert Rams and the value of Future Shape.

The Guardian also mentions the plan to sell off the Boroughs Librarys (another of Twatboys masterplans) - If you don't want to see this happen, visit us tomorrow (Saturday) on Mill Hill Broadway between 10am and noon. Here is the second quote of the day
The council is considering closing some of its 16 libraries and relocating them with other services. A council paper this month discussed selling off libraries, because like allotments and sports clubs, they are now a "lifestyle choice" and said there is "a genuine case with safeguards to make disposals". The paper admits such a sell-off would invite "public opprobrium".

This madness can be stopped, by a concerted community campaign. It won't be easy and it will take work. The important thing is that is we fight this idiocy every inch of the way and that we name and shame those who champion it.

Barnet Libraries : Would you like fries with that?

One of my favourite Tory bloggers, once said that Councillor Robert Rams, the man in charge of future shape and the library closure program in Barnet was only fit for a job which involved asking "Would you like fries with that sir?".

Rather ironically, Mr Rams has now said that we should collect our books from Starbucks. Why didn't he go the whole hog and suggest McDonalds. I'm sure armies of Barnet pensioners would be impressed as they browse for books "I'd like Cider with Rosy please" they could ask. "Is that a regular or a supersize sir".

McDonalds gets a lot of stick, but it is actually a well run corporation. Barnet Council could learn much from its business techniques. All employees have to work in a restaurant for a month so they  understand the business, before they can start any management assignment. I personally think it would do Rams no end of good to work in a library for a month. Then he'd actually meet a few real people and understand the problem. As Council morgues are also part of his sell off, maybe a spell there would help as well. Of course, unlike McDonalds which is hugely profitable and clearly has great management, Rams probably thinks he know it all already.

The reason McDonalds is successful is because they know what they are good at, they stick to it and they do it properly. They don't look to outsource chip frying to Burger King because its cheaper. A less for Barnet Council. If you want to teach Rams a lesson, vote in the poll in the sidebar. It's your last opportunity

Thursday 23 September 2010

Allowancegate : Andrew Harper - The most greedy parasite in Barnet

Ever feel like you've been conned?

You probably thought that the Barnet Council Allowance scandal had gone away. Leader Lynne Hillan announced that the huge rises for cabinet members had been dropped. There is a story in this weeks Hendon Times where she says "she listened to the people". I am sorry to tell you that this is a massive lie. As you will recall Councillor Mark Shooter launched a leadership battle against Hillan in protest at the rises. Hillan immediately claimed she'd scrapped them. She kept the leadership by one vote.

Well how did she get those votes? She bought them. The key player was her deputy, Andrew Harper. He let it be known that what the price of his continued support was. You can see this today on page 17 of the on-line copy of the Press newspaper. This has a full page advert from Barnet Council, telling us of the "new scheme". Click here and go to page 17 :-

This is a (rather badly copied because I am in a rush) print of it, direct from the paper. Click on the image for an easier to read version

As you can see, Harper, the deputy Leader has seen his allowance rise from £9,974 to a whopping £27,429 - That is a £17,455 pay rise - That is a whopping 175% increase by my maths. This is at a time of budget cuts, job losses and all round belt tightening.

There is no other word for this than GREED. It is absolutely disgusting. Our poll for Councillor Rams is reaching it's conclusion tomorrow. Sadly it appears that whilst Rams isn't exactly the most pleasant or bright member of the cabinet, he is not the greediest or most parasitic member by a long way. Harper is in a league of his own. The man is a total disgrace and is a shameful stain on the good name of Barnet Council.

Perhaps the most galling aspect of all of this is the lies which the Conservative Leadership have told the good people of Barnet. It makes me sick. The battle goes on

Bwian needs a wubber wing - A Brian Coleman Free Dinner Register special

One of the most popular blogs on this site is the regular update on the sponging of Brian Coleman, Barnet Councillor and GLA member. Brian very helpfully keeps a register of all of his sponging, purely for the entertainment of malicous bloggers such as me and my readers such as you.

I am intrigued by the 2nd latest entry on the Free Dinner register for Barnet and Camden GLA member Brian Coleman

16-AUG-10 Lunch at the Wolseley, Piccadilly, SW1Mr Tony Hutt Four Communications Group plc

What, you may ask, is so interesting about this entry? Well, you'd think Uncle Jabba would be taking young Tony out for lunch, not the other way round.

Also of note is the most recent dinner of the lot :-

18-AUG-10 Muslim Aid 25th Anniversary Iftar  Dinner Sir Iqbal Sacranie OBE and the Board of Trustees of Muslim Aid

Seems like Brian hasn't quite twigged that the purpose of fundraising dinners is to donate, not to sponge off charities. I hope he spent 50p on a raffle ticket.

For Brians free GLA

dinners click this link :-

He also has a completely different sponging list for his job as chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority - So many dinners, so little time

No to Library cuts - No to Easy Council - Yes to better public Services

Don't cut our services. Don't privatise our services. No to easyCouncil!

Public Meeting Tonight - Thursday 23 September, 7pm, Emerald Suite, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1GN.

Be there or be shafted !!!!!!

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Robert Rams - Twattus Norvegicus

As our little poll in the sidebar about Councillor Robert Rams, the man who wants to close and sell off  all of Barnet's libraries and send us to Tescos and Starbucks for our books draws to a close, I thought I'd share with you an amazing likeness I happened to nothice.

Last night I attended a School Transfer meeting with my son. He was enthralled by the biology department (where I had as a 15 year old studied biology). The cause of his excitement? The pet rats being handled by the students conducting the tour. On returning home, I thought I'd read up on domesticated rats, as they were rather appealing little chappies. As I started to research, I was struck by the similarity to a certain Barnet Councillor (and a few of his friends). First of all, the Latin name Rattus Norvegicus. Simply substitute a "T" for the first letter of the name and it seems to sum up our lovable councllor.

There are many little snippets of Rat behaviour decribed on Wikipedia, which reminds me of the way Robert Rams has "risen to the top" of the local Tory hierarchy.

Here are a few examples :-
Brown rats live in large hierarchical groups, either in burrows or subsurface places such as sewers and cellars. When food is in short supply, the rats lower in social order are the first to die.
It sounds rather like the way that the non cabinet members were shafted to ensure that the likes of Rams got a pay rise.

It also seems that rather like Barnet's Libraries and Robert Rams, proximity to rat populations can be fatal :-
Similar to other rodents, brown rats may carry a number of pathogens[53] which can result in disease, including Weil's disease, rat bite fever, cryptosporidiosis, Viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF), Q fever and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. In the United Kingdom, brown rats are an important reservoir for Coxiella burnetii, the bacteria that cause Q fever, with seroprevalence for the bacteria found to be as high as 53% in some wild populations.[54]
Another similarity with Robert Rams is the way they both squeak to communicate :-
In addition, they commenly sqeak along a range of tones from high, abrupt pain sqeeks to soft, persistant 'singing' sounds during confrontations.
Of course not all rat behaviour is similar to Robert Rams and his Tory chums. They clearly seem to be a far more social and amiable bunch

Social behavior

It is common for rats to groom each other and sleep together.[27] As with dogs, rats create a social hierarchy, and each rat has its own place in the pack. Rats are said to establish an order of hierarchy and so one rat will be dominant over another one.[28] Groups of rats tend to "play fight", which can involve any combination of jumping, chasing, tumbling, and boxing. Play fighting involves rats going for each other's necks, while serious fighting involves strikes at the others' back ends.[29]

Clearly there are some distinct differences. I can honestly say that I've never seen such behaviour (apart from the hierarchy and dominance)  in the Council chamber.

By the way,  on other matters Ramsbottom, it has been reported in the local paper that when asked why, after  3 years and  several million pounds, when Mr Ramsbottom was asked why there was no business case, no cost justification and a high risk profile for the Future shape project to privatise the council, Mr Ramsbottom replied "Don't worry, I'll knock one out by Christmas" or words to that effect. We here at the Barnet Eye wouldn't leave Mr Rams in charge of a rattery, let alone a massive Council transformation. If you agree or disagree, please take 5 seconds to join in our poll at the top of the green sidebar. Please join me on Saturday morning between 10am and noon in Mill Hill Broadway as we protest against the library cuts. We are having a collection of books for young Rams in an effort to  teach him the value of reading. If you have any books which you think could help, please bring them along.

I apologise to any rat lovers who may feel that they get a bad enough press without being compared to Robert Rams.

Barnet Council Future Shape Scandal - The Secret costs they want to keep hidden

Interesting fact : Did you know that when the Barnet Conservatives took power in 1992, they hiked up the council tax by 26% to pay for a supposed £10 million hole in the Barnet Council reserves. Now read on.

As you will recall from the political "advice" offered to Councillors by Barnet Councils best paid contractor, Deputy Chief Executive Mr Andrew Travers,  there are some hefty costs involved in the Future Shape project (you know, the project that the Councils own auditors have criticised for being risky and lacking a business case).

Lets have a look at the costs Mr Travers "owned up to" in his letter.

"£810,000 was spent on externally commissioned support for development of the Future Shape programme in 2008/9 and 2009/10. For 2010/11, there is a revised budget for delivering the programme of £1.5m."

It isn't clear from his wording whether this is one or two lots of £810,000.

I have a few questions to ask. The first question is this. Why have so many costs been concealed from Councillors in this letter. Anyone familiar with the project will know that there are many other costs which have not been mentioned. Rather craftily Mr Travers makes no mention at all of "internally commissioned support" ( so much for the truth, The whole truth and nothing but the truth).

What do we know about these other costs?

Well there is an internal team of directors and other staff. I believe that the Furture Shape director alone earns well in excess of £100,000 per annum.

Then there is the contingency fund for legal costs. I have been informed that this could be up to £5 million (I would be more than happy for Barnet Council to clarify this figure).

Then there is the bill for implementation with an outside firm of consultants. The council have tried to keep this under wraps (read Councillor Jack Cohens blog about these shenanigans - ). I have been reliably informed that the figure they hav tried to conceal is £2.5 million.

All in all, I make this approx £10 Million without a business case or a proper plan. A huge sum. As anyone who has followed Barnet Council will know, they are rather bad at getting things in on Budget.

The last big project they managed was Aerodrome Road Bridge replacement. This had a budget of £12 million and cost £23 million in the end. Does this bode well? Since then, Barnet Council cannot even persuade executives to work for them. They have to hire contractors such as Mr Travers, who is paid £17,000 a month.

I have made extensive enquiries about the One Barnet/Future shape program finances, but no one seems to know. I have this question for Councillors such as Robert Ramsbottom and Daniel Thomas, who have been saying it's marvellous. If this is true, why won't you release the figures and present a proper business case. Mr Rams is in the process of "drawing up a business case by December". Unless this has a full break down of all costs, expenses and other figures, then we can be pretty sure that they are hiding something. Why? With such huge amounts of money sloshing around, one has to question exactly what is going on. It was reported that there were some very searching questions asked by Tory Councillor Tom Davey at the audit committee last night. Mr Davey is an accountant by trade. He is at the start of his career so clearly doesn't want this albatross around his neck for the rest of it.

It is quite clear to me that there are currently three types of Conservative Councillors in Barnet, when it comes to sorting the finances out

A) The ones who are too thick to even realise they've been lead up the garden path - Hillan, Rams, Thomas to name but a few

B) Those who have twigged that something is wrong, but lack the guts to spill the beans, for fear of getting ostracised -  Davey, Shooter, Schama, Rayner

C) Those who are just burying their head in the sand and saying "I know nothing" - Helena Hart, Wendy Prentice, John Marshall and Graham Old

The Barnet Tory Councillors have a stark choice with Future Shape / One Barnet. They can kill it now, cut their losses and hope that in three and a half years we've all forgotten or they can wait till it becomes a train crash, the council tax bills go through the roof to clean up the mess, the Tories get kicked out and the Labour Party takes control of Barnet. I must remind our Tory councillors that the next Council election will take place after 4 years of coalition budget cuts. It will be difficult enough hanging on to the council anyway, but with this mess, it will be impossible.

It is worth reminding the Tories of Barnet that the last time they were in charge, with an unpopular Tory National Government in power (in 1994) they lost.

Interesting fact  : When the Conservatives took charge of Barnet Council in 1992, Council debt was £38 million. According to the latest accounts it is now over £200 million. You and I, the taxpayer, will have to pay this ineptitude.

Barnet Council Future Shape Scandal - My response to Andrew Travers

Following on from my previous posts on Future Shape/One Barnet and the scathing Grant Thornton audit report, here is a response I sent. This was emailed to all Barnet Councillors and the press, in response to a supposed "clarification" sent to all Barnet Councillors by Mr Andrew Travers, Deputy Chief Executive of Barnet Council, following my original email.

See this blog for further details of the original post

Mr Reasonable has written an interesting blog on the Audit Committee meeting

I couldn't be at the meeting, had a school transfer meeting to attend for my son. From what MrReasonable has to say, it sounds like the penny could finally be dropping with our local Tories.

Anyway, this was my riposte to MR  A.T. Ravers email

Dear Barnet Councillors,
I have been passed this email detailing the response from Andrew Travers to my email asking that you read the report prepared for Barnet Council.
Like Mr Travers, I too would like you to ensure that you understand the full context of this report - You can find it by accessing this link
Strangely Mr Travers makes no reference to the findings and the recommendations as set out in the Grant Thornton report (see below) - this is an extract from thre report.

Mr Travers makes no mention of the fact that no business case has been developed, the benefits and outcomes have not been identifies and most seriously, it has a high risk profile.
Whilst it is quite clear that Mr Travers has drawn a significantly different and more rosy conclusion of the contents of the report, all I ask is that you read the report in its entirity. If you have not got time to do this, please read at the very least, sections 3.2 and 3.3. These clearly show that there are serious issues with the management and implementation of this project. These sections paint a far less rosy picture than the rather selective extracts that Wendy Stout circulated.
Given the large sums discussed, I believe it is vital that all Barnet Councillors read this report in full, to ensure that they can in no way be accused of being negligent in their duty to the Council Taxpayers of Barnet. I suggest that councillors urgently contact Mr Travers to clarify the full implications of the issues identified and the recommendations. I would suggest that Councillors also ask how the figures detailed in this email can be derived without there being proper estimates of cost.
The function of elected representatives is to keep the executive in check. This means, on occasion reading reports such as this and asking difficult questions of Council officers aned reigning in their schemes.
Roger Tichborne

Tuesday 21 September 2010

The failure of the Press in Barnet and why I bother doing this

I used to write a blog on the Hendon Times much like this. Following pressure from the ruling Tories on Barnet Council, this was stopped in October 2008. I was told that Brian Coleman crowed "We've seen the last of him". I started the Barnet Eye blog. Today I was reminded why I didn't "F*** off and die" as a certain councillor hoped. There is a massive scandal concerning the finances of the future shape program. This has been compounded by pressure from the executive to ignore a report by Grant Thornton auditors. I copied the local press, who have websites into the correspondence, so that they could broadcast what is clearly a matter of public importance. To date they haven't bothered to say a dickybird. If they do now, it is too late for the meeting of the audit committee which is going on as I write this. I could despair. I would despair but for two things. The magnificent support of the readers of this blog, growing all the time, here's the stats for the last three months. As you can see, with 10 days of the month to go, the stats just keep on rising month on month.
The other thing which makes it worthwhile is the fact that there are other blogs in Barnet who also care. I draw great support from this. They are on both the left and right of the argument, but most of all they care. Please take five minutes to have a look at the sidebar in the right hand column and check them all out.

Generally there is a decline in circulation and readership of the traditional local papers. As they are free, most of the people in Barnet still see them on a weekly basis, wheras you have to choose to look at this blog. I'm not having a go at the journalists on these papers. They do their best and I am not having a go at them, but it is time for the editors to get out of their comfort zones, start campaigning, start taking risks and start serving the people of Barnet. Three years ago, this blog didn't exist. Now look how many people read it. This isn't because I'm a genius or even a good writer. It's because their is a fierce interest in these issues.

Thanks for your support. I do this in my spare time, which is why I can't cover all of the things I'd like to. This is why I can't attend things like the audit committee tonight (had to attend a meeting for my sons school transfer). I apologise for the fact I can't. It is time that the people of Barnet started getting the service they'd like from the people who's job it is to provide it, rather than from people like me. I hope these stats might get the editors thinking about the fact that they are actually missing a huge opportunity to grow their readerships. What is undeniable is that in three years, this blog has grown from nothing to a very respectable figure, for something which mostly just covers the shenanigan of our local masters. Just imagine what the figures would be like if I could cover sport, arts, local news, restaurants. Anyway, must go, got a studio to run.

Barnet Council Scandal *updated* - Letter to Barnet Councillors : Blind panic as Future Shape Sinks

 I have just been sent a copy of this email. It was sent by the Deputy Chief Executive of Barnet Council to all 63 Councillors, in response to the letter I sent detailed here :-

Here is Mr Travers "advice" to Councillors. Sadly, he neglects to mention the issues raised in sections 3.2 and 3.3 -  I will post my response, but as far as I can see, Mr Travers has taken a political stance on this, which as I understand it, is against the rules.  I believe this to be a very serious matter. Anyway, see what he has to say and see if you can spot the flaw in his argument. If I were Mr Travers, I'd start looking for another assignment. The job of officials is to implement Council policy, not to make it. The scandal grows

Dear Councillors

One-Barnet programme

You are all in receipt of a letter from a Mr Roger Tichborne which was copied to the Chief Executive. Given the wide circulation of the correspondence, I thought it might be helpful to provide some further context.

Our external auditor, Grant Thornton, has undertaken a review of the One-Barnet programme. This review was agreed as part of planned work on the annual Use of Resources assessment. Prior to finalisation of the review, the government announced the abolition of the Use of Resources Assessment, but it was agreed that it would be helpful to the development of the One-Barnet programme if the report were concluded as part of the auditor’s statutory reporting in respect of Value for Money in 2009/10. The review is on the agenda for the Audit Committee tomorrow.

The review is a helpful and timely piece of work, and will assist as we finalise arrangements to move into the more intensive delivery phases of the One-Barnet programme. I have attached the key findings from the Executive Summary. The report finds that the governance arrangements for One Barnet programme are “generally robust” while making a series of recommendations for the delivery phase. The Council has agreed with these recommendations and the next steps are set out in an action plan.

The Future Shape report to the Cabinet in October 2009 set out the strategic approach for the programme and established the key principles of:

one public sector in Barnet
a new relationship with citizens
a relentless drive for efficiency.
Since that time, the programme has moved into the operational phase and the Council has developed its capacity to manage the programme effectively, including the establishment of a Programme Management Office and the One-Barnet Board.

It is now appropriate to bring together the strategic principles agreed in October 2009 with the emerging programme to agree a One-Barnet business case, and this is in hand. It is, however, important to note that the One-Barnet programme is a strategic transformation programme and will continue to evolve as we work with partners in response to the changing national and local context.

With regard to costs, £810,000 was spent on externally commissioned support for development of the Future Shape programme in 2008/9 and 2009/10. For 2010/11, there is a revised budget for delivering the programme of £1.5m. For future years, the Council has established a transformation reserve to enable the programme to be taken forward. Costs are carefully controlled at the individual project level with approval through the officer Investment Approvals Board and will be reported through to the Cabinet Resources Committee. Savings of £1.4m (£3.2m in a full year) have already been identified and reported to the Cabinet Resources Committee. Further savings will be set out through the business planning and budget-setting process. Overall costs and benefits for the programme will be managed through the One-Barnet business case referred to above.

I hope you find this helpful, and of course all Members are welcome to attend tomorrow’s Audit Committee to discuss this issue further.

Yours sincerely
Andrew Travers
Deputy Chief Executive
London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP

Barnet Online:
Update at 21:31 - You might be interested to read the following, sent to me by an avid Barnet Eye reader. When Mr Travers calls himself Deputy Chief Executive of Barnet Council, it aint' the whole story - and thanks to my favourate dyslexic Tory for the update !
Mr Travers is not a council employee

you can find his payments here

Chief Executive's Service Consult Fees Halliford Associates Ltd 14.05.2010 5000257036 - £15,000.00 - (monthly invoice for services)
Chief Executive's Service Consult Fees Halliford Associates Ltd 14.06.2010 5000260724 - £17,500.00
- (monthly invoice for services)

Companies House, looks like he saw an opportunity to leave and come to Barnet and set this company!

someone suggested that big earning consultants are not being engaged by the council according to HMRC guidelines. Apparently consultants should not be using council equipment like council staff. Perhaps someone should contact the Tax office,

Seems Mr Travers is well used to dealing with Auditors he has come from GLA

and this

you are going to love this wonder he has come to Barnet

The letter recommended urgent actions to improve the monitoring and accounting of spending at the agency and the development of "robust quality assurance processes" to ensure that accounts are presented for audit error free. The letter was sent to the LDA in January, just after the agency announced that financial director Andrew Travers was leaving the agency as part of a restructure aimed at improving financial accountability. full story here!

Monday 20 September 2010

Brent Cross : Open letter from Federation of Residents Associations in Barnet

By David Howard,

Dear Barnet Councillor,

I attach a letter with a series of questions relating to the Brent Cross development that are a matter of concern to residents and I suggest should be of concern to Councillors also.  Please consider the questions carefully and refer the item back for answers to be provided.
Federation of Residents Associations in Barnet
                                Chair: David Howard

19th September 2010

Open letter to all councillors on Barnet Planning and Environment Committee

Dear Councillor,

Brent Cross and Cricklewood  Application number C/17559/08

You have been given one more chance at the PEC on Monday night for sanity to prevail and to prevent the council incurring large sums in defending an expensive Judicial Review, then paying out costs to the winning plaintiff,.

There are a number of questions that need satisfactory answers:-

a.    Is there a need for another new town and extended retail centre?

b.    Why has the council relied on the developers assessment of the need for more retail space?

c.    Why has the council not carried out its own assessment in light of the large new Westfields development at White City and the imminent opening of Europe’s largest shopping mall by Westfields at Stratford?

d.    Why has the council not had regard to the change in shopping patterns eg the rapid growth of internet shopping?

e.    Why has the council not considered the impact of a new town centre and extended retail mall at Brent Cross on the other 22 town centres in Barnet plus others further afield?

f.    Why is the council ignoring the impact of 29,000 extra cars a day coming to the site?

g.    What evidence do the officers have that leads them to believe that 70% of all current Brent Cross users plus 70% of all future users will leave their cars at home and travel to the centre by bus?

h.    Do you as Councillors with knowledge of your electorate honestly believe this will happen?

i.    Do you believe that the Edgware branch of the Northern line will be able to cope with tens of 000s of shoppers for Brent Cross, 20,000 occupiers of the new hutches for hobbits at Brent Cross, 30,000 new residents at Colindale plus c 20,000 for other new residents up the rest of the Northern Line every day?

j.    Why are the officers refusing to safeguard the route for a possible future light rail/rapid transit system?

k.    Why has the Council ignored the opposition in writing to the proposals from the neighbouring Borough of Brent?

l.    Why have the officers misled the Councillors in respect of recent changes in National and Regional Planning policies?

m.    Are you aware that only phase one with the retail mall extension, the rubbish dump and a few flats are guaranteed to be built if permission is granted? 

n.    Are Councillors aware that the developer can build the most profitable first phase and then use the flexibility they persuaded the officers to build into the legal agreement to walk away from the remaining phases?

o.    Are Councillors happy to proceed with a £4.5billion scheme on the basis of a deal with a shell company eg no assets or parent company guarantees?

p.    Have the councillors seen the evidence that “the air leaving the 140 metre high chimney will be cleaner than the air entering the plant” as stated by Cllr Freer last year?

q.    Have the developers been given examples of successful pollution free heat from waste plants as promised by the developers last year?   We have only been able to find examples of the new technology failing in the UK, Germany, Austria, Norway, America and Australia. Is that why the developers are keeping quiet?

r.    There are many more unanswered questions but  the above give an idea of why we are concerned

There are too many major unanswered questions to allow this scheme to proceed in its present form.

The need by the Officers to get some cash into the Councils coffers quickly has obscured the longer term best interests of the residents of Barnet and the wider community of North London.

This is your last chance to reach the right decision as Councillors.  If you fail the Courts will take over and we will not only lose the projected income but also incur large legal bills.

We urge you to refer back the scheme tonight for a full review of the above issues.
Yours sincerely,
David Howard
Chair of FORAB
David Howard is the Chair of Forab and an occasional contributor to the Barnet Eye. All relevent guest blogs and open letters are welcome for publication without comment or editing. In this case, I have removed Davids address and phone number from the letter.

Barnet Future Shape Project Scandal : An open letter to every Barnet Councillor

I sent this email to every Barnet Councillor. I want to make it 100% clear that they all know what a mess  the project is in and the fact that the audit by Grant Thornton has been scathing. This way when they try the Mike Freer defence of "I know nothing" we can all say "oh yes you did". Here is the text of the letter. I also copied the local press. They are trying to get another £2.5 million to chuck down the drain after the millions (some reports say £5 million) that they've spent on a project without a business case, a project plan and which the auditors say is "high risk"..

Dear Barnet Councillor,
I am writing to draw your attention to a document being put before the Audit committee this week.
This document contains a report by Grant Thornton on the Future Shape/One Barnet project. The conclusions and recommendations contained in this report strongly indicate that vast sums of public money have been wasted (with more to follow). To illustrate this fact, here is just one small exert.

I have received advice, following an article featuring this report on my blog, which indicates that the implications of this report are enormous for Barnet Council, given the huge amounts sepnt on this project, with no business case, no organisational blueprint, no high level cost and benefit analysis and a "high level risk profile".
I would suggest that to avoid any risk of the council appearing negligent and to avoid future costly legal issues regarding the Future Shape project, you read this report and make sure that you give appropriate feedback to the leadership, the audit committee and the Council officers as you see fit.
I am not seeking a reply or a justification from you regarding this issue, I just ask that you discharge your responsibilities as councillors properly and make sure that you are fully conversant with the current state of this project. I am sending this email to all 63 councillors, as I have been advised that it is a serious enough issue to warrant it. I have also copied journalists from the local papers as I believe this is a matter of notable public interest and the CEO of Barnet Council.

Roger Tichborne

Sunday 19 September 2010

The five most influential people in Barnet

If you live in the London Borough of Barnet, you may wonder who are the people who have most influence on your day to day lives. I'd be interested to hear your suggestions and why you think they "matter".  This list was compiled by the "Barnet Eye official panel" over a cup of tea in at the studio last night during a slack moment in business. This list is not a public endorsement of these people, just our best guess at who can most affect your life.

1. Nick Walkey - Barnet Council CEO - He's the man who makes the Council run. He believes that Leader Lynne Hillan is there to do his bidding and it seems to the Barnet Eye as if he's right. he is the guy who makes all the decisions and your Councillors simply rubber stamp them. Know to be partial to Punk Rock.

2. Tom Nathan - General Manager of Brent Cross and leader of Barnets biggest religious sect, The Shopaholics - Apart from Nick Walkley, has more effect on peoples lives than anyone else in Barnet. He runs the temple in which we all worship and is a Non executive director of Barnet Council for good measure. Thousands of people are employed by him and his empire is the largest taxpayer in Barnet, one way or another. As Brent Cross expands, he gets ever more powerful.

3. Neil Basu - Borough Commander of Barnet Police - He's the man who sets the policing policy and decides whether the bloke robbing your shed, or the bloke mugging your granny or guarding the mayors lawn is the top priority for his policemen. As the recession bites and unemployment rises, his decisions will become ever more critical. Competent, with a modern view of policing. The member of the Barnet Eye panel who is a Barnet Copper pointed out that he's also extremely keen on maintaining a well groomed, tidy appearance.

4. Brian Coleman - Barnet Council Cabinet member responsible for roads and chief of Londons fire brigade. This is the man who's decisions are most likely to end your life. He's also the power behind the throne (a Rasputin to Tsar Lynne Hillans). The most intelligent, motivated and driven of all Barnets leading Tories. Hates Trades Unions, bloggers. Probably the only Councillor feared by Council officials (if not respected).

5. John Burgess - Barnet Trades Union Convenor - workaholic, strident campaigner and the most effective opponent of the cuts and changes affecting Barnet Council. Understands the detail of changes such as future shape and the effects at ground level far better than anyone. Hugely respected across the board for his sensible, pragmatic and reasoned approach. If Barnet public sector workers ever go on strike, you can be guaranteed that it is because Barnet Council have been stupid, unreasonable and haven't thought things through properly.

Saturday 18 September 2010

Councillor Robert Rams - A description of the Barnet Library killer

Being a dyslexic, I sometimes have difficulty finding the words to describe how I feel about people when they do bad things. Barnet Councillor Robert Rams(bottom) is in the process of drawing up a plan to sell off and flog off Barnets libraries. This will have a terrible effect on many elderly residents who view the Library as a source of joy. Ramsbottom doesn't understand that reading means so much to many people. He doesn't realise that many young people rely on the quiet space in the library to study. He doesn't care that this might ruin the school grades of many children (probably because they are aspirational kids of less well off households). As I said, I'm far too stupid, dyslexic and inarticulate to sum him up. That is why God gave us John Cooper Clarke. Please listen to this as it sums young Ramsbottom up so well.

And yes, I'm having a collection of books to help educate Councillor Rams as part of the "Save Barnets Libraries" campaign in Mill Hill Broadway on Sat 25th Spetember between 10am and noon.
A kindly old lady up the road has already donated a copy of the Ladybird book "Jack and Jill" to start the process off. She tells me she's relying on me. Well I'm relying on you, because I can't do it alone. She told me that she'd never seen my blog till a friend showed her at the library and she'd never called anyone a twat until she'd heard of Robert Rams and his scheme.

If you agree with me on this matter, please participate in the poll in the top right hand corner of the blog. Unlike Barnet Council leadership elections this is an honest open and transparent poll, so you are equally welcome to vote if you think Robert Rams is marvellous and I've got it all wrong.

Pope in London : The best thing is the protests

In case you haven't noticed, the Pope is in London. Millions have come out to see him, the papers are full of it. The media has been awash with the chattering classes giving their opinion. Richard Dawkins must be chuffed as he's been rolled out time and again to tell us all his views. Stephen Fry has jumped on the bandwagon. These pundits take the view that the Pope shouldn't have been invited because, unlike the 5 million Roman Catholics in Great Britain, they don't like him. Gay rights campaigners such as Peter Tatchell have been out on the streets protesting. I never really imagined Tatchell getting into bed with Ian Paisley, but this is one of the stranger effects of the pope's visit.

People have asked me what I think of the protests (for those of you who don't know, I'm a Roman Catholic). I think it is great. If people feel strongly enough about something to protest, they should. I don't agree with many of the protestors, but so long as the protestors are peaceful and don't prevent other people from enjoying the visit, it is perfectly right and proper for them to protest. I am sure the Pope himself is actually chuffed. All of the debate has caused huge interest in the visit.

Many people forget that until 1829, it was illegal to be a Roman Catholic. Untold numbers of people died as a result of the reformation and the religious infighting. Roman Catholics couldn't legally practise their faith. There are still vestiges of this discrimination in the Act of Settlement, which prevents a Roman Catholic becoming monarch. For the Pope to formally visit Queen Elizabeth II is a sign of the progress we've made. We live in a tolerant society. We can say what we like. If we don't like someone, we can protest and that can only be a good thing. A society where a Papal visit didn't spark a few protests would be a society I couldn't live in. If we only tolerated protests we agreed with, we'd have no freedom at all. That is why, even though I don't agree with the protestors, the fact they are there shows we live in a healthy democracy.

I won't be going to see the Pope tonight, although my son will. I'm going around to see some friends and celebrate the end of the Yom Kippur Fast. This isn't a comment on the Pope, its what we always do on this day. We live in a multi racial, multi cultural, multi faith society and that to me is something worth celebrating. I believe Londoners love a bit of Pomp and ceremony. We know we are the capital of the world and as such it is only right that the Pope should come to see us. I hope he has a good time and all of those who see him get something great from the experience

Friday 17 September 2010

Breaking News - Barnet Council Scandal - Official Barnet Document - The Future Shape Project has failed

It's been called many things, Future Shape, EasyCouncil, OneBarnet. Millions of pounds has been spent drawing up reports. Barnet Council has commissioned Grant Thornton to do a review of the Governance arrangements. This is being reviewed by the Barnet Council Audit committee next week. You can read the document here :-

The report is the most shocking thing yet. I have reproduced the key findings and recommendations here. This could not possibly be more damning. Read this (it's an extract)
It is there in black and white in the Councils own report. After all of the millions, Grant Thornton have found they have not developed a business case to support it. That is after three years work developing it. They haven't identified the benefits of doing it. There are no proper estimates of the cost. They don't know the timescales and the project milestones and the project is a "high risk profile".

In other words, they don't know what they are doing. Lynne Hillan is one of the chief architects of this program. She should be sacked for sanctioning the spending of so much cash whithout developing a business case or identifying the objectives and benefits. Mike Freer MP, the previous council leader, should be surcharged for all of the millions wasted. The very first thing you develop when implementing any project in anything is a business case and a cost benefits analysis.

Jack Cohen, in his blog discussed how the scrutiny committee sent back a proposal to spend even more money on the project. Jack talks about blue papers giving the amount, which he's not allowed to disclose. Jack may not be, but I can. It's approx £2.5 Million (and before you ask it wasn't Jack who told me). This is for further work on a project with no business plan and no cost justification.

The only conclusion for any sane individual is that Barnet Council really do not know what they are doing. The whole fiasco is a money pit (for your taxes and mine). They are planning to flog libraries and shut childrens centres to pay for it.

Much as I may deride our Conservative Councillors, some of them are intelligent people. I urge them to read this report and then reconsider the results of their leadership vote. This report has been commissioned by them. It details all of the catastrophic failings of the whole project. It is couched in nice words and a few bits have been chucked in to give the council a fig leaf.

The bottom line on the report is that it spells out the fact that Barnet Council are not capable of running a whelk stall, let alone a local authority. No one can possibly offer any excuse for spending millions of pounds without developing a sound business case for it. That is exactly what Mike Freer, Lynne Hillan and the team have done with our money. This is a massive scandal

Barnet Tory Cabinet member promises to put Wales first

I kid you not. Daniel Thomas, represented the Tories in Islwyn in Wales for the general election. He made no mention of being a Barnet Councillor and promised to put the people of Islwyn first. He also promised to not claim a second home allowance. Whilst he clearly cared about saving his Welsh friends money, he had no such qualms about the people of Barnet, leading the fight for a huge allowance raise for the Barnet Tories. Read this

As far as I'm concerned, the Welsh are welcome to this two faced git

Thursday 16 September 2010

Councillor Robert Rams - the enemy of The Barnet Library Service

One of the better things about Barnet is the fine Library service. Even the previous Barnet Council regime of Mike Freer, for all it's failings (and these were many) recognised this and spent a pretty penny renovating a few of them (most notably Burnt Oak). What happens when a library is done up? More people go there and the community thrives.

Sadly for us poor residents, the new leader (oh so nearly the old leader last week), hates communities. She has appointed the most useless councillor she could find to flog them off and shut them down. This is currently being dressed up as a library review, saying nothing is being ruled out. Whilst the review is being performed another review is being done of the properties. In this, the Librarys have clearly been earmarked as up for sale to raise cash. The man in charge of all of this, Uber Twat Councillor Robert Ramsbottom  has suggested that we might prefer to order the books online and collect them from Tescos. He has also suggested that the Libraries may be more popular if they were branches of Starbucks.

Now as Mr Ramsbottom clearly has no idea of who uses libraries or why they use them, let me explain why he is a complete twat wrong.

A) Starbucks is a coffee shop where people meet to drink coffee, socialise and chat. A library is a place where people go to borrow books, read books and study away from noisy environments.

B) Librarians are skilled and qualified staff who have a knowledge of books and indexing. With all due respect to Starbucks staff, they aren't.

C) People like to browse books before borrowing them. Older members of the public are not IT literate.

D) A library freehold is an assett for ever. It has already been paid for. A library lease is a cost until it is (as will inevitably happen when this hits the balance sheet) closed.

E) Once a library is sold off and closed, that asset is gone forever. The loss of a quiet space for study will be most detrimental to bright children from noisy households, with no private study area.

One wonders where Mr Ramsbottom got the idea that we should get our books from Tesco's? One wag has suggested his favourate books are found on the top shelf there and he can handily buy a pack of tissues at the same time as it's a shop. Libraries offer no such opportunities, which is clearly why Little Bob finds them dull. Of course the Barnet Eye would never be so scurrillous as to say such a thing.

I am organising a collection of books for Robert Rams. He clearly needs educating and I'm starting a Save Barnet Library Service. A petition will be set up shortly. I will be manning a stall in Mill Hill Broadway on Saturday 25th September from 10am till Noon. If you can help, please contact me via the email address in my profile on this blog - Fight it or Lose it. Please register your vote in the poll in the to right hand of this blog

****** The Barnet Eye wishes to clarify that in our reference to books on the top shelf, we were clearly referring to motoring magazines. Our reference to tissues was clearly referring to the nasty cold the veneral Councillor was suffering which made his voice so squeaky ******