Monday 28 February 2011

Barnet Council vs The People - Hugh Rayner - Barnets Tinpot Dictator

If you wanted to know just how out of touch Barnet Council are with the people, watch this video. In it, Councillor Hugh Rayner, chair of the Business overview and scrutiny committee rudely barks at the Barnet Eye for having the audicity to try and make the functions of the committee more accessble. I was filming because I was asked if I could video the work of the committee in relation to Sheltered Housing for a Housebound "victim" of the warden cut. Unlike our councillors, I believe that such people have a right of participation -

(Here is the legal opinion - )

As you will hear, Hugh Rayner announces that it is up to the chairman (him) to decide if the proceedings can be recorded and he won't. When I try and explain that I have a legal and democratic right to do this he just keeps shouting over the top. Eventually when he realises that I may have a point he asks a member of democratic services to help him. She gives a non answer. In actual fact, we'd sought legal advice before I entered the council chamber. There is nothing in the constitution which forbids video recording or broadcasting. A letter is being sent to Barnet tomorrow. At tomorrow nights full council meeting, an army of residents armed with recording devices will turn up.

Given that no one noticed I was recording for 7 minutes, there can be no question that I interfered with the process. I only uttered a word when Rayner decided to stop me recording. I tried to be polite and respectful to him ( a courtesy he did not afford me). I handed a letter to the committee explaining that Rayner was a disgrace and that he'd infinged the rights to participate of a disabled resident affected by the cuts. As far as I am concerned Hugh Rayner behaved more like a tinpot dictator than a councillor elected to represent the people. His actions are a graphic example of what is wrong with Barnet Council.

Rayner looked quite pleased with himself. I doubt he will when he realises the voters and taxpayers of Barnet will view his actions differently. This sorry clip is the first time that a Barnet Council meeting has been video'd and put on the internet. It won't be the last. Please join us tomorrow.

This is just one of many clips that will feature in Barnet Eye - The Film - Rayner has the dubious pleasure of being the first Barnet Councillor to embarrass himself in it.

***** Update - If you listen carefully to the comment from the lady who advises Rayner, she says that no motion has been passed allowing recording of meetings. Sadly she clearly doesn't understand the principle of English law that you can do anything you like so long as it isn't banned. More proof of Stalinism at the Council.

A question for Lynne Hillan - What sort of person is respectable?

If like me, you read Lynne Hillans comments about bloggers being unrespectable today (see previous post) in a state of disbelief that she could be so stupid. Anyway, I was musing on the word "respectable" and I guess that Hillan and myself just view the adjective slightly differently. You see if you asked me what made someone "respectable" I'd say honest, hardworking and loyal are qualities I'd associate with the word.

I suspect Hillan has focussed on different ways it can be used.

Here's a few examples :-

"Brian Coleman gets over £115,000 from the taxpayer for doing a series of non jobs - thats a well respectable wedge"

"I drank three bottles of bubbly last night and I've got an extremely respectable hangover for my troubles"

"Mrs Beans-Dugdale-Smith is a Lapdancer, when she does the business you get a well respectable reaction in your underpants"

So I guess when Ms Hillan says I'm not respectable, I really need to know what context she means?

P.S Should there be any Mrs Beans-Dugdale-Smiths in the Borough who aren't lapdancers, apologies for any embarrassment caused. Also if there are any Brian Colemans in the Borough who don't get over £115,000 per annum for a series of non jobs, apologies to you as well.

Reeeespectable ??

Best laugh I've had all week. Whilst I may not be "respectable", it is great to see  Lynne Hillan transform her Conservative group into a laughing stock.

Sunday 27 February 2011

Barnet Eye the Movie Update - Jabba the Coleman becomes a world wide star and other blogite stats

Firstly an update on the progress for the film. I've had an unprecidented amount of interest in it so far. I've been inundated with suggestions, offers of footage and offers of locations and suggestions to shoot the film at.

My primary concern is to make the film watchable and interesting. If it is "worthy but dull" I will have failed. The feedback from the trailer has been good. People have said that the trailer has been great.

Here's a little wish list of things I want.

* Someone with a helicopter who can take me for a spin, so I can film Mill Hill, Brent Cross, Hendon, Stonegrove and Totteridge Valley

* A fat suit

* Video footage of our local councillors in action

* Young filmmakers who have clips etc
Now on to Councillor Brian Coleman

Our local hero, Councillor Brian Coleman has become a worldwide star - courtesy of this blog!

Listed below are the top five most popular blogs of all time on this blog. The third most popular is  "Brian Coleman finally defeats Rog T". I was alerted to this because this morning it suddenly leapt to the top of my "Most Popular Blogs" list in the sidebar (which is this weeks most popular blogs)

2 Aug 2010, 3 comments 

6 May 2009

12 Aug 2010, 1 comment

26 Sep 2010, 3 comments

8 Mar 2009, 2 comments 
Further drilling showed that of the last 500 hits,  44 have come from searching on the keyword "Jabba the Hut". Here are the top ten seraches (excluding barnet eye and Rog T)

Number  Percent Search
44    27.85%    jabba the hut
5       3.16%    shannon powell
5       3.16%    john prescott
3       1.90%    imelda may
3       1.90%    iranian woman
2       1.27%    barnet blogs
2       1.27%    new labour isn't working
2       1.27%    twatman strikes again
2       1.27%    broadway bikes west hendon
2       1.27%    "Labour Isn't Working"

These Jabba searches have arrived from all over the world. I do wonder what they make of it all when they find a piece on Londons finest public servant.
On to the week ahead. Tuesday is the big one. That is the day when Barnet Council meet to approve the Budget. One of my moles at the Council has informed me that the Cabinet are in a state of panic at the prospect of disruption. They have put in place elaborate plans to adjourn to "private rooms" if necessary. 
The plan involves making use of fire escapes and a form of lockdown of the Town Hall. My kindly source has leaked all of these plans to me. Now if I was an urban terrorist who believed in anarchy and insurrection, there would be no budget set on Tuesday. The plan is rather weak and rather flawed, especially as I now know what they are doing. In fact the whole concept of their plan is based on several rather dim assumptions. It was quite fun working out a way to completely stymie it.

Happily for our esteemed Councillors, I believe in democracy. I don't believe in civil insurrection to stop a council meeting. I think that what will happen will reflect far worse on them than if we stopped the lawful, legal process of setting a budget. 

What amazes me is that Barnet Council Cabinet seem to think they are under attack from a rabid lynch mob. They need to man up. If they can't cope with a few OAP's, pensioners, middle class yummy mummys and a few bedraggled Trades Unionists shouting at them occasionally in a meeting, they really are a complete bunch of knobheads.

Lets just say that if I really wanted to knobble this bunch of idiots, I'd just get up rather early in the morning with a tub of superglue. Hasn't it occurred to them that all of their employees are rather fed up with them. If you can't open a door, you cant go in.

If I was them, and I really believed that there was a problem, I'd get a new plan !

What is Eric Pickles really like? - Update 27/02/2011

I just read this blog. I've no idea if it is true or not, but as he's the local authorities minister, I'd suggest that you take a look.

From our near neighbours in "Not The Harrow Times".

****** Updated 27/02/2011 ******  Following comments from Dan Hope and emails from readers of the blog, here is some extra info on the career of Eric Pickles. What I love about blogging is that we learn more about such figures as a result of these posts.

Pickles Papers

I hope Dan agrees that these ARE SLIGHTY MORE CREDIBLE sources.

Saturday 26 February 2011

Why I started the Barnet Eye

I was tidying up my mailbox and I found the original email from Barnet Council Adult Services. The issue behind this email was why I started writing political blogs. As you can see, this email details the reality of outsourcing - the political motivation for One Barnet / Future Shape / Easy Council

I believe that the stress caused by this change considerably shortened my mothers life. It demonstrated to her that her "independent living" was an illusion which could be taken away from her at any time. I didn't expect to find myself at the centre of a political storm, to stand for Barnet Council, to write a blog acknowledge by medial outlets as diverse as the BBC, ITV and the Guardian (quite an achievement for a thick dyslexic). I just started writing stuff because I was angry and I wanted to stop other peoples mums and dads having to endure the shit my mother took. My mum worked all her life. She was born in Oldham in 1925, lived through the depression, was nearly killed by a diptheria outbreak when she was 12 in 1937. Most of the children taken to hospital with her died. She told me she'd wake up every day and say "Where's my friend today" and anurse would reply "She's gone to heaven". She worked in London, at Barclays Bank offices during the war. She survived stomach cancer in 1970. She raised six children, was an active member of the community, volunteering for many charities, until a stroke robbed her of her speech and mobility in 2000.

I think she deserved better than this. I think all of Barnets pensioners deserve better than this.

Sadly it seems to me that the Tory Councillors of Barnet disagree.

I have redacted the name of the Council Officer who sent this, as he was only the bearer of bad news. If you don't want to read the whole email, the last paragraph sums up the truth of outsourcing

From:  ***** *****
To: Roger Tichborne
Sent: Wednesday, May 09, 2007 10:51 AM
Subject: The Meals at Home Service

Mr Tichborne,
I am sorry that there has been a delay between your email to some of our councillors and my response today.  We have been working with Sodexho to ensure we have an acceptable service and this has taken a priority over the past few days.  Nonetheless, I did still want to take the opportunity to respond to you formally because the service in general, and the service for your mother in particular, has not been acceptable during these early stages of this new contract.  I want to apologise for that and below I set out some specific responses to both the issues and questions you raise.
    Interestingly,  I personally delivered the meal and desert to your mother on Tuesday of last week and I assume it was your sister who answered the door.  This was delivered at 12.55pm.  I took the meal because the round that included her address was not going to leave the depot until about 12.30pm and Mill Way was in the middle of the round.  Your mothers meal would probably not have been delivered until1.30pm or later.  In an ideal world, the round would be leaving at about 11.45am and the meal, if the round were to remain the same, would be delivered at about 12.45pm. Once the meals rounds and the new contract settle down, there will be a 'routine' in terms of meal delivery.  No-one - either us or a private contractor - could guarantee an exact delivery time but, in general, once the rounds are efficiently organised your mother will receive her meal at approximately the same time every day.  But this will not be before 12 noon.  A practice had developed over the past few years whereby meals were being delivered from 11.30 am and both ourselves and Enfield (with whom we have a shared contract) have specifically stated that no meals can be delivered before 12 noon, nor after 2pm as 11.30am is too early for lunch. This was also the feedback we received when we consulted older people using the meals service.  When the contract is working properly, your mother will get her meal between these times and it should be at a similar time each day and a 'routine' will develop.  Last week, given the problems, being able to guarantee a meal between 12 and 4pm would have been a success since some meals were delivered at times far outside the 2-hour window agreed in the contract with Sodexho. You make a number of valid additional points but the fundamental issue about the 5pm delivery time is a totally unacceptable practice.  It is my considered judgement that Sodexho have considerably underestimated both the importance of the 'transition' from our in-house service and the planning required to 'get it right' from day one of the new contract.  In this, I believe, they failed to fully understand the complexity of the task.  Despite being a £10bn company with over 330,000 employees working in 80 countries (as you indicate) they have got this handover stage wrong.  I am still confident they will turn it round but I really don't think we will see the real benefits of this until next week.  I wish I could say this would be earlier but it would be unrealistic of me.  There is now a recovery plan in place to address the fundamental issues and we have contributed, substantially,  to this.  There are more Sodexho management staff in the two centres (Enfield and Barnet); they have introduced additional equipment to keep the food warm and they  have introduced specialist, cooking staff into both centres.  This will improve the cooking process and mean the meals will be ready to be transported by the time required. However, the issue of the rounds and the drivers is still being resolved and it will still take a few more days to 'get right'.  We have stated very clearly that their expectation that drivers can deliver 40 meals in 2 hours is a false expectation - especially from day one when they are delivering, in most cases, to new locations.  Furthermore, their computer generated delivery rounds are not producing the best routes for people to deliver - and in many cases they have added an hour and more to the delivery time.  I think they have eventually recognised this but it has taken a lot of time and effort by a number of us to get them to accept that this is a major contributor to the failure of the service.  And the fact, as you point out quite succinctly, that the drivers were not provided with the opportunity for 'dry runs' was another contributory factor.  If this had happened Sodexho would have known that the routes were badly organised and, in many cases, far  too long.  In the end, they only discovered this on the first day of the contract with all the consequences we are facing. I cannot explain why your mother did not receive a menu.  They were delivered, by hand, to all service users about 3 weeks ago.  A menu was sent in the first class post last Tuesday and I hope that this has now, rather belatedly, been rectified and that she will have a choice for her future meals.  I cannot comment on the quality of the food and I do not know what meal she actually received on the Monday but it must have been mince beef as I am told that chilli mince was not an option. The meals are not allowed to be delivered if they have been more than 4 hours out of the oven.  We have had this tested and approved by our Environmental Health Officers and the containers in which the meals are transported provide the required protection and they maintain heat to the required temperature for this period.  Obviously, your mother's meal was delivered close to the limit but none of the meals actually left the Meritage Centre on Monday before 1pm - which was yet another factor in the problems with delivery times.  On better days, all the meals will be delivered within 2 hours which will be easily within the limits necessary to ensure healthy and safe products. Finally, the contract change has not been driven by money.  We believe the new arrangements are just about cost neutral but there are a number of improvements and benefits that they bring.  Such as culturally sensitive meals for an additional 7 ethnic groups in the borough.  A choice, for the first time, in meals and deserts.  Better quality control over portions, content, protein, vitamins etc. and compliance with EU regulations around labelling and health and safety when compared with our traditional service.  Whilst the benefits have not yet been realised I am confident Sodexho will get the management and organisation right and, as you can appreciate, we are addressing the current failures with considerable urgency.  I hope this information is helpful and I only wish it was a better picture I could paint.  Sodexho are an internationally successful company and we expected a much higher level of compliance and success at this early stage given their track record.  Please come back to me if I can be of further help. **** ***** Adult Social Services

Barnet Eye - The film

The Barnet Eye is pleased to announce the most exciting project yet undertaken. I am making a film. It is something I've wanted to do for a very long time. As there have been more than 1/4 million page views of this blog since I started, it strikes me that there are a few people interested in our Borough. When I started The Barnet Eye, the idea was to try and keep people informed of what is happening locally in a readable, snappy format. I made a deliberate decision to lampoon those who deserve to be lampooned, stand with the people who deserve to be stood with and to try and bring a few things to you about Barnet which you might not have known. I hope that where possible an element of humour comes through. I knocked this trailer up from some Library footage last night, just to give you a flavour of what we'll be covering. Much of the stills will be replaced by live footage and there will be dialog - this is just the taster !

For those of you who don't know much about me, other than my blog, I run a very successful music services company in Mill Hill. I will be putting all of my resources into the film. Now in keeping with the ethos of the blog, I'll also be welcoming contributions from the whole community. If you have something you want to say about Barnet, you are a film maker and you have some footage or you can help me in some other way, please get in touch.

The film will be a documentary. It will be shot on video camera and will either be 25 or 55 minutes long. Here's what I'm looking for at the moment.

People of all ages, who are willing to be filmed talking for approx 30 seconds about some aspect of living in Barnet, what makes Barnet great, what is bad about Barnet, the best joke they know about Barnet.

Short films of up to 2 minutes about some aspect of Barnet. They must be of suitable technical quality and the sound quality must be of a broadcastable or near broadcastable quality.

Short clips (up to 30 seconds) of video/ mobile phone footage, which we can put a relevant voice over or music to.

Now as it's my film, you will have to be happy for me to use what you do in any way I see fit and sign relevant waiver forms. I am not making the film for profit and after recovering any costs I may incur in the making, any profits (which I don't expect there to be) will be distributed between local charities and causes - don't ask though as the first rule is that if you ask, you won't get.

What you will get if you contribute, is a pair of tickets to the world premier, wherever that may be.

Oh yes, we are planning to doorstep a few people in the forthcoming couple of months.

And one final thing. If anyone bears a strong resemblence to our beloved Councillor Coleman or possess a fat suit, please get in touch as we have a role for you. I'll even make an exception and provided expenses and a free lunch for the filming, so as to ensure that it is shot totally in character.

And just in case you are wondering, no this isn't a wind up. I'm deadly serious -

Friday 25 February 2011

The latest Barnet Council Bombshell - Proof Barnet is not spending money wisely

My thanks to Councillor Andrew Harper for (albiet inadvertently) pointing me in the direction of the latest Barnet Council Scandal. You can read the whole sorry story here :-

It details (albiet in a nice sugary way) the fact that Barnet Council has lost control of the way it spends your money. Now maybe you don't think that matters, but I do. This is the reason why Childrens Centres are being chopped, Sheltered Housing wardens sacked and 800 Council workers threatened with redundancy.

Turn to the conclusions on page 15 and you will find this :-

This couldn't be more clear and the conclusion couldn't be more stark. Barnet Council are not spending our money wisely.  The computer systems they use are not set up properly. This blog recently exposed how during the reign of  Mike Freer, a SAP system was implemented. Mike Freer trumpeted in 2006 that this would "modernise procurement" and save Barnet Council millions of pounds. The system is outsourced (what Barnet want to do to everything else they run). This report says it doesn't work properly. Mike Freer said the system would cost £6 million. Some estimates say it has cost £15 million.

This is a scandal. Council workers are facing the sack, children are being cut loose. Vulnerable adults are losing their wardens. Today one of my friends in the Barnet Alliance for Public services asked me what I have been doing to save those affected by the cuts. I'll tell you what? I've been reading reports like this. I just hope that all of our useless, ineffective Council Leaders such as Lynne Hillan and Andrew Harper have been reading them as well. I just hope that they understand what the reports are saying. If they don't they should be sacked and be replaced by people who do. They cannot keep sweeping these disasters under the table. Just what does CEO Nick Walkley do for his money (£200,000 PA + perks) ? He certainly doesn't make sure our money is spent wisely. His own council report says so

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Guest Blog : Power to The People (of Barnet)

By VickiM57,

On Monday 14 February an innocuous young man was threatened with expulsion from the public gallery at the Barnet cabinet meeting. His crime? Attempting to make a short film of proceedings on his phone.

How behind the times Barnet council shows itself to be. They act in a draconian manner to stop their own residents (to whom they are accountable) from using a piece of equipment that has become as everyday and routine as the pop-up toaster. Haven't they seen how people in the Middle East and North Africa are using social media to help them win their democracy?

I invite every resident coming to the council meeting at Hendon Town Hall next Tuesday 1 March to come with their cameraphones at the ready. Perhaps Brian Coleman will learn some manners if he knows that what he says will end up on YouTube for all the world to see before the night is out.

Oh, and who is this agreeing with the call for greater openness? This is a statement made today by none other than Eric Pickles, the Conservative Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government:

"Many councils are internet-savvy and stream meetings online, but some don't seem to have caught up with the times and are refusing to let bloggers or hyper-local news sites in. With local authorities in the process of setting next year's budget this is more important than ever.

"Opening the door to new media costs nothing and will help improve public scrutiny. The greater powers and freedoms that we are giving local councils must be accompanied by stronger local accountability.

"We are in the digital age and [the] analogue interpretation of the press access rules is holding back a new wave of local scrutiny, accountability and armchair auditors."

Vickim57 is a blogger, "well known trades unionist" and the heart and soul of most of the good things going on in the Political scene in Barnet. I have the utmost respect for Vicki and I will be writing to David Cameron to recommend her for an OBE shortly. Her blog is -  and I heartily recommend it to you, if you don't already know about it. I nicked this blog from her blog without telling her, because I am so tired I can't think and she says everything I would have written anyway. 

Eric Pickles Special : Thank you for listening to the Barnet Eye about transparent local Goverment

I wrote an open letter to Eric Pickles MP, the local Government Minister on Tuesday the 8th May. You can read it here  :-

The final paragraph stated :-

The problems in Barnet could have been avoided by proper financial management and sound husbandry of taxpayers money, Transparency as implemented by Windsor and Maidenhead would go a long way to preventing Councils such as Barnet playing fast and loose with Taxpayers money. Whilst I agree with the concept of localism, it cannot possibly work if councils shroud themselves in secrecy. As such I urge you to use your powers to agree to meet Barnet Councils defecit, on condition that they appoint a new cabinet made up of people who actually know what they are doing. I would also insist on a fully open and transparent policy of management to be enacted to ensure that "difficult problems" cannot by hidden in the books in future.
It seems like Eric Pickles has got the message. There is a BBC report today which Pickles states the following
He said: "Fifty years ago, Margaret Thatcher changed the law to make councils open their meetings to the press and public. This principle of openness needs to be updated for the 21st Century. More and more local news comes from bloggers or citizen journalists telling us what is happening at their local council."Many councils are internet-savvy and stream meetings online, but some don't seem to have caught up with the times and are refusing to let bloggers or hyper-local news sites in." He added: "Opening the door  to new media costs nothing and will help improve public scrutiny." 
 It is nice when people actually listen to sensible advice. Pickles is right. People like me write blogs because we see that things could be improved. Most of us have things we'd rather do with our time, but are not prepared to see the Council, waste our cash, trash our services and treat us with disdain. Since the inception of the blog, I've bumped into many readers. After chatting for a while, I often hear the same thing "Until I started reading your blog I hadn't got a clue what the Council were up to". Here's a confession, neither had I. The sad thing is that in many ways, I still haven't.

Let me give you one small example of how bad things are. Have a look at this document on the Barnet Council website. It is a report for the One Barnet Overview an Scrutiny panel. There are many things which are amiss with the project, but have been "airbrushed" to look good. It's only when you get to page 24 and look at this table, you see how badly wrong it its going. Here is the income and expenditure table :-
Look at expenditure commitments - Forecast £983,000 - revised forecast £2,087.850 - in other words over 100% and over £1 million pounds over budget. Program management office. Forecast £148,280 - revised forecast £367,147 - nearly 150% over budget and well over £200,000 over budget. And how is it being financed?  From the contingency. The "LAA reward grant" (whatever that was) has disappeared, so it is yet more debt.

Future Shape has been running for three years and delivered no savings so far and cost millions. It is well over budget, as demonstrated here. What is the next milestone? (Bottom of page 23) - "Project plan with system build milestones to be finalised" - Yup, all this cash squandered, with no plan and no milestones. This is why it is so over budget.

This is why the Barnet Eye wrote to Eric Pickles. This is why Eric Pickles is right to urge openness and public scrutiny. This is your money they are wasting. The cash wasted on this could have kept several childrens centres open. It could have reduced your taxes. It could have saved the libraries of Barnet. Sadly your cash has just been squandered on waste of money consultants reports, with costs spiralling ever out of control.

That is why Barnet is having to make cuts. That is why we need to stop this blatent waste of our cash

Twatman strikes again - Robert Rams exposes himself again on the JCoSS bus run

You just can't keep Robert Rams out of the news. Ok, now try and follow this. Barnet Council spent squillions building the finest music auditorium outside the West End. It's called the Arts Depot. I know what a great place it is to play and to watch a band, because I did a gig there recently as part of the Rock Against the Cuts aevent on 31st January, the one where 2,000 people turned up to express their dismay at Barnet Council Cuts.

Now the man responsible for destroying art and culture in Barnet, Councillor Robert Rams clearly knows a thing or two about great venues. He's decided to organise a gig, with a local Band - Fallen Millie. Having got one of Barnets brightest up and coming bands and having the best venue outside central London to put them on at, guess what Rams did next? Yup, he's staging the gig at, wait for it, Chipping Barnet Library. Rams says
“It’s important we continue to encourage our younger residents to explore what libraries have to offer and allow them to see that there is a lot more to them than just books.”
Which is all very well, but as we've got a great music venue, shouldn't we be putting bands on in music venues and literary events in libraries. Rams has bought into the idea of the "Get it Loud in Libraries" campaign, which started in Lancashire. Now I've no problem with the concept of opening up new music venues, it's a great idea, but lets save the ones we've got first.

Even more bizarre is his latest jolly jape. He's started a petition to put pressure on Boris Johnson and TFL to run more 384 buses to serve the JCoSS school. There are two aspects of this which are rather odd. Robert Rams is part of the Tory team at City Hall. He's a Tory GLA bag carrier. He has been telling anyone who'll listen for the last couple of years, that he has "the ear of Boris" and that he's one of the most influential Londonders. If this was true, surely he wouldn't need a petition, he'd just say "Hey Boss, can you get TFL to lay on a couple more 384 buses" and Boris would say "Sure thing Robin". Another thing Rams has done is he's inadvertently exposed the fact that his administration told  a stack of porkies about the whole JCoSS project. I supported JCoSS. One of the reasons was because the Council told us that there was "a cast iron transport plan" to ensure that the pupils would have good access to public transport. Clearly this was a complete fabrication. Rams petition states
"We the undersigned, call on Transport for London and the Mayor of London to increase the frequency of the 384 Bus, which runs between Cockfosters Station and High Barnet Station, in the hour before and after school. This would mean more pupils from across London would be encouraged to use public transport to get to school and would mean fewer cars on the roads of East, New and High Barnet."
So much for the cast iron transport plan. At present there are only 180 of the 1,500 pupils which will occupy the school when it is fully running. According to Rams petition, the transport infrastructure is already creaking and there is inadequate bus provision. A further question also springs to mind. Councillor Brian Coleman is the Barnet Transport supremo and also a close confidant of Boris. Has Rams spoken to Coleman about this? Barnet has stumped up cash elsewhere for buses to be provided. Most notably to divert the 186 bus to Graham Park. If Boris doesn't listen to Rams and Coleman doesn't listen to Rams either, hasn't he just exposed himself as a completely ineffectual waste of space.

In Robert Rams world things work like this, you shut the gig venues, and make bands play at libraries, you put libraries in Tescos or on buses, you blame Boris for lack of buses, because your mate Brian Coleman is too inept to sort out a transport plan for a school with 1,500 kids at it. Because Brian and  Boris don't listen to you, you start a petition, having totally ignored the petitions signed by thousands of members of the public to Save Barnets Libaries and to Save the Arts Depot, which is really clever because you have now undermined the argument that the petitions have no value. Robert Rams is now publicly exposed for what he is. Twatman incarnate.

For the record, I have signed the petition -  I believe in good public transport provision - - my signature is no 103 on the list. You can also leave a comment for Robert Rams on the petition, up to you of course.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Richard Littlejohn slates FBF Brian Coleman for shafting local businesses

Richard Littlejohn today exposes the way Brian Coleman is shafting small businesses and local restaurants with his parking changes and charges. Littlejohn states that he will no longer use his favourite chippy in Finchley (Two Brothers) because Coleman has moved to a pay by mobile phone for much of the Boroughs parking. Littlejohn states that he "can't be bothered with it". He's not the only one. Not everyone has mobile phones, many elderly people use them purely for making emergency phonecalls, being bamboozled by the other features.

The bottom line is that in the middle of a recession, it is yet another kick in the teeth for small business. Brian Coleman is rather keen on many of the restaurants in Barnet. I hope that those who have been hit by these changes don't take revenge in the time honoured manner, when a customer upsets them.

Rock the House - Band competion at Houses of Parliament

Local Hendon MP made me an offer I couldn't refuse. He has asked me to help him find local bands for the Rock The House competition being staged at the Houses of Parliament -

For information on the competition those interested should check out the website for more details and an application form.

Here's the press release :-

Battle of the bands comes to Hendon

21st February 2010

Hendon MP Matthew Offord has sought the assistance of local music producer Roger Tichborne to help in the quest to identify a winning local band from Edgware, Hendon, Mill Hill, Burnt Oak or Colindale. The chance to play in the Houses of Parliament, an opportunity for some recording time and the possibility of meeting music industrial professionals are just three of the benefits for a lucky band who win the Rock the House music competition in Parliament.

Rock The House is an exciting Parliamentary project, in partnership with leading music industry practitioners, which will encourage young people and new musicians to pursue a career in music and promote live music venues. At the same time it will raise awareness of the need for copyright protection measures and inform MPs and the general public as to the importance of copyright protection within the creative industries.

The list of prizes include:
·         A winners' reception at the House of Commons
·         To perform live at a top music venue in 2011 (details tbc)
·         Win Yamaha gear and instruments
·         Invaluable PR and promotional exposure
·         Network with top industry professionals
·         A masterclass from a top sound and lighting engineer
·         The opportunity to record an original CD
·         Possible opportunity to record (or be at a recording tbc), a music video
·         Loads of other runner's up prizes.
Matthew said “Roger and I may not always share the same points of view but we are both interested in playing music and giving opportunities for young people. I am very pleased that he has agreed to assist local bands to enter this competition which could lead to them entering the music industry.”

Roger commented “I'm always on the lookout for ways to help aspiring musicians. When Matthew contacted me I was delighted to be able to help. Music is a force for good and cuts across all sorts of boundaries, as I think Matthew and I have demonstrated here. We are united in our aim to make sure that the winner is from this neck of the woods"

I suppose some regular readers of the Barnet Eye may be surprised by the fact that, given my criticism of Matthew Offord, we should work together to publicise this for aspiring musicians in Barnet. I support anyone who is offering opportunities to our young people, which given the fantastic prizes, this most certainly is. There is more to life than party politics. I sincerely hope that a local band wins it, I know that there are plenty who are good enough.

Barnet Council - it's tough at the top !

La la la , la la la, Happy days are here again, read this extract from the latest £140,000 + job advert for Barnet Council :-

It is a really exciting time to be working for the London Borough of Barnet. We’ve always prided ourselves on actually realising the grand plans that we speak about.

As a public service, I've listed the full details here on the Future Shape blog :-

As Council Leader Lynne Hillan says "We're all in it up to our necks together".

As Barnet public services are put to the torch, it's great to know some people are getting nice exciting jobs

Monday 21 February 2011

Stop Press : Barnet Council withdraws report on New Jewish School from Cabinet resources meeting

Following the publication on the Barnet Leaks website of details of plans for the New Jewish school, Barnet Council have withdrawn the paper from consideration at tonights cabinet resources meeting. Nick Walkley announced this in a letter to a local resident, stating that more work was needed on the paper. I have published this letter on the Future Shape leaks website

From Mr Walkleys letter it was quite clear that the whole process was being rushed through. Barnet have made many costly mistakes rushing such papers through in the past. A typical case in point was the sale of Underhill Football ground. The resulting legal enquiry cost nearly a million pounds and the potential loss to the taxpayers of Barnet is several times that.

This blog has no objections to the concept of  a school for Jewish children in Mill Hill. We do however have many concerns about the fact that Barnet Council has a history of rushing things, not drawing up contracts properly and not paying sufficient regard to process. As a result, the whole community is left with huge bills. I completely understand the desire of parents pushing to get a good school for their children, I raised thousands of pounds to help rebuild my childrens school. I just urge those parents to make sure that Barnet Council do not botch the sale and end up with court cases, legal bills and delays due to "unforeseen circumstances".

Barnet Council always say "no one could have predicted that....." when things go wrong. I can predict one thing with absolute certainty. This isn't the only thing in Barnet which needs more time spent on it, more proper scrutiny doing and more attention to detail. Sadly whilst putting the details of this proposal on a blog will without doubt ensure that things are done properly, there are plenty of other things that will slip by.

A very Barnet Style of insurrection

Yet again Barnet Council is mentioned in the Evening Standard today (on page 2 of the West End Final edition). The story says "Councils "could need Police to pass cuts". The text says "Police were called to Barnet town hall last week and in Labour controlled Islington protestors in the public gallery drowned out councillors agreeing £52 million of cuts".

On page one of the Standard there was a headline "LIBYA ABLAZE" with a picture of a building burning down, with reports of hundreds of people being shot. So in terms of riots, how did the Hendon Town Hall massacre shape up (given that it was only knocked off the front page by such a story).Well in the front row of the public gallery, there was a lady in a wheelchair and a couple of pensioners. I suspect (although I may well be wrong, that I was the third or fourth youngest of the 17 people who asked a question and I'm 48).

As to the Police being called. There were several Police around before the meeting began. These weren't TSG riot police, just the normal bobbies who you ask where the loo is if you don't know the place. One of these was summoned to the council chamber and had to speak to a couple of members of the audience. One of these was a pensioner and the other was a lady who was a Doctor. The Policeman rather politely asked them both to be quiet or he'd have to ask them to leave. The two people in question stated they had a democratic right to free speech. The policeman agreed but asked them to be quiet. This was repeated several times as both the pensioner and the lady who was a Doctor were rather upset.

Quite a few of the rest of us chipped in as well, but not with the persistence to actually get a telling off. I must confess that I must confess that the walk out by the cabinet was really rather a poor show. It just demonstrated  what a spineless, cowardly bunch they were. At the point where they walked out a couple of extra bobbies were summoned from downstairs. They came, took one look at the crowd and walked off again. I've stood on Football terraces when trouble has kicked off, been to marches which have turned into riots. I've been in pubs where full scale brawls have taken place, with people losing eyes to broken glass & bottles. I'm a pacifist, so when I see the signs I leave. There was never the slightest chance of any violence whatsoever. The one thing that was patently clear was the "raging mob" was not out for violence. They were there to make a political point and have their say. I was probably identified by the bobby on duty as "a ringleader and potential troublemaker". What did it earn me?  A smile and a joke when I went home.

Councillors such as Hillan, Harper and Coleman clearly know that they are in the wrong. There has been an unprecedented level of spin about the meeting. Harper has tried to pretend that there were "respectable residents trying to make their point, being drowned out by a raging mob". I don't know if he's telling Porkies, got lousy eyesight or he's just plain stupid, but the "raging mob" were a bunch of respectable local residents who were riled by the pisstaking of the individuals at the cabinet table. There was anger at the meeting, people were highly upset, but in a dignified and reasonable way.

I have a theory as to why Hillan, Harper and Coleman made so much of the whole thing. Because they despise the people of Barnet and they'd probably have enjoyed it if the Old Bill had piled in and duffed me, a pensioner and a lady who is a Doctor up, in the hope that we'd not come back.

Sunday 20 February 2011

Sunday Express Front Page : Barnet Council parking Rip Off

The Front page of The Sunday Express

Guess what Council the Express is referring to - here's what they say :-

Barnet Council’s income from parking fees has more than doubled in four years from £2.2million to £4.7million. Police were called to a council meeting last week after residents in the north London borough protested at plans to double the cost of parking permits this year and raise the cost of a three-month visitor permit 400 per cent to £240.

The Sunday Express is one of the most staunchly Conservative papers. For Barnet's antics to be slagged off on their front page just shows what a basket case the Council is. Another Lynne Hillan/ Brian Coleman lead disaster. Can any Tory Councillor now doubt that you are plonkies lead by donkies

Urban Terrorism in Barnet - Simple ways to make bombs at home

I've just returned from the private viewing of the Harry Beck exhibition at the Church Farmhouse museum in Hendon. Harry Beck designed the modern tube map, a design classic, copied around the world.

Due to the Tory Council chopping it's budget, sadly this is the last exhibition at this iconic museum, the oldest standing building in Barnet. Well that's what we'd been told but today at the meeting it was announced that there will be one more exhibition squeezed in. This is the one we've all been waiting for :-

Urban Terrorism in Barnet - Simple Ways to Make Bombs at Home

Yes the Church Farmhouse museum is staging an exhibition dedicated to the struggle against the cuts ! For the youngsters there will be the chance to make Molotov Cocktails and practise using them in the beautiful gardens of the Museum. The local womens institute are holding workshops in how to conceal handguns in your bloomers and hand grenades in your handbag. The Rotary club have chipped in, making a film on how to sabotage a Gatso camera and best of all the Catholic Womens League are holding a cake making contest to find the best cake with a concealed weapon in, so your loved ones can break out of Barnet nick.

Local Police boss, Neil Basu stated at "Well as the Council are going around vandalising the Borough and wrecking local services, it would violate our equal opportunities policy of we stopped residents doing the same. We did consider sending a PCSO down to the class to make sure the Molotov Cocktails for Kids conformed to the Health and Safety guidelines for Urban Terrorism classes, but we decided that nicking old ladies for parking on yellow lines was a higher priority"

Leader of Barnet Council, Lynne Hillan added "Barnet believes in Big Society. We believe that the public should be fully involved in the process of cuts and if we can get them to blow up a few libraries, that will save us a fortune">

Local MP, Matthew Offord, who attended the private viewing, along with esteemed and well respected councillor John Hart added "Harry Beck changed the design of the tube map forever, with the new exhibition  we're rather hoping that the whole place might get burned down and that will free up space for a nice new Tescos on the site".


Ok, you probably guessed by now. There is no "Urban Terrorism in Barnet" exhibition as I described at the Church Farmhouse Museum as such. Sadly though, I beleive that the closure in itself amounts to an act of Urban Terrorism by a bunch of right wing extremists. Whilst 52 people were killed in horrific circumstances during the 7/7 bombings (some from Barnet), I believe that the agenda of cuts will kill far more people in Barnet as they are implemented. They won't die as a result of bombs, but as the elderly suffer falls, injury and worst of all stress due to decisions such as warden cuts, the toll will slowly and silently mount up. The situation with the Catalyst Care homes is an example. This week it was announced that Legionella was found in the water. I spoke to a friend who runs an air conditioning company. He told me that the conditions in which Legionella thrives are well known as are the regular maintenance procedures to prevent it. It is his view that there has been systemic failure for this to break out at 2 local care homes.

I'm rather glad we don't suffer from Urban Terrorism and I'm rather glad that we don't solve our problems by making bombs. What does disturb me is the fact that our elected officials are not listening. The one item of what I wrote above which was true was the fact that Matthew Offord MP and Councillor John Hart were at the private view. I sincerely hope that these two come out publicly in favour of Church Farm Museum and persuade their colleagues to preserve it for future generations.

Church Farm Museum was described by a senior councillor recently as "a nice to have". If he believes that history, culture and identity are merely "nice to have's" lord help us all. I don't know about you, but I care about where I live and I want know about the history of the Borough. There is a word for not knowing something - Ignorance.

Author Mark Billingham supports the Save Barnets Libraries Campaign

Mark Billingham is a Barnet resident whose best-selling novels include Barnet locations such as Colindale Police Station and The British Newspaper Library. He created the character Detective Inspector Tom Thorne whose exploits have been adapted into the successful Sky One TV series ‘Thorne’ in which the role is played by David Morrisey.

Mark has joined a 1,000 other residents by signing the ‘Save Our Libraries’ petition online. He comments:

Without the use of my local library when I was a kid I would never have discovered books and, put simply, my life would not have been changed for the better. We should fight tooth and nail to keep every library open.

You can join Mark and sign the petition online here:

Local Tory Library supremo, Councillor Robert Rams takes a different view to Mark on Libraries. He stated that people should get books from their local Tescos and that local libraries could be turned into branches of Starbucks. That is what we are up against !

Saturday 19 February 2011

A lesson for Councillor Andrew Harper in what is unfair

Ah diddums. I have been informed that the Deputy Leader of Barnet Council, Andrew Harper thinks some of the comments about him in this blog are "a bit unfair". Well Mr poor didumkins, let me explain what I think is unfair. Then maybe you'll understand why myself and an ever increasing number of people in Barnet, from across the political spectrum think you are not deserving of respect.

Rog T's Top ten list of things which are unfair in Barnet

1. Elderly and disabled people in Sheltered Housing are having their wardens taken away by Barnet Council, despite and overwhelming majority asking to keep them in the official consultation.

2. Childrens lives being placed in danger, by removal of funding for Lollipop men/ladies, saving less than £45,000 in wages. A sum which is far less than the cost of increases in allowances to Barnet Tory Committee chairmen, voted through just after the Council elections.

3. Shutting of various Childrens services around the Borough, removing vital support for young people. Sadly Barnet have not learned the lessons of the tragic death of Marvin Henry.

4. The Library Closure program. Despite Barnet being committed to Consult, they have not informed us or discussed with interested parties any of their plans or allowed us to make the case for retention of specific libraries.

5. Barnet Council outsourced care homes to a company called Catalyst. This company insisted a clause was put in the contract which guaranteed extra profits for them. Barnet then failed to pay and recently lost a court case, resulting in £8 million being taken from the social care budget, to pay the shareholders of private companies (Note : This week it was announce that two of these care homes had Legionalla, a deadly bacteria, in the water systems).

6. Barnet Council Tories have made catastrophic blunders with money, resulting in over £54 million worth of losses to the taxpayer of Barnet (£27.4 Million in Icelandic Banks + £3 million lost interest, £11 million overspend in Aerodrome Road, £8 Million lost to Catalyst Court Case, £1 million legal fees etc for Underhill enquiry, £1 million legal fees for reopening Partingdale Lane, £5 Million wasted on reports for Future Shape projects + Consultants fees, delivering zero savings after three years). Who has picked up the tab? The Taxpayer. Who copped a payrise? The Barnet Tory Council leaders. Who copped a promotion the leader and deputy, who are now MP's.

7. The 800 Barnet Council staff have been served redundancy notices. At the same time senior council posts are occupied by contractors, using shell companies to "optimise" their tax status. Some of these receive up to £17,000 a month.

8. Residents wishing to ask questions of the cabinet at a recent open meeting were mocked and laughed at by elected officials and treated with total disdain. The local press then gave a full article to Lynne Hillan to tell blatent porkies about the meeting. Residents who were present were given no opportunity to respond to her fabrications.

9. Tory Councillor John Hart insulted a member of the public and was immediately stripped of all responsibility by Lynne Hillan. He is not a member of her inner circle. Councillor Brian Coleman has insulted members of the public on numerous occasions, has lost a Standards complaint case for doing just this, has recently been reported again for such behaviour and yet is allowed to carry on with his cabinet job. He is a member of Lynne Hillans inner circle.

10. Tory MP for Hendon, Matthew Offord used Parliamentary privilige to attack a disaffected member of the Hendon Conservative Party. Not a single local Tory Councillor, many of whom were helped by the man in question Adrian Murray-Leonard, has publicly stated that Offord was not telling the truth, despite the many hours Mr Murray-Leonard put in to help them get re-elected. They all know the truth of the accusation and the real motive for saying it.

So Mr Harper, please tell me why you think all of this, which as a senior Barnet Tory, you could easily sort out is fair. Tell us why you think that a man who can not only tolerate this, but is up to his neck in it is worthy of respect. As deputy Leader of the Barnet Conservatives and a cabinet member for several years, there is not one thing on this list that isn't covered in your fingerprints.

If you are a party to the sort of obnoxious behaviour and policies as outlined above, you really need to "Man up" take it on the chin and stop whinging. You'd better get used to it because as your policies sink in, it will get far, far worse.

Say no to 0870 - Don't let these robbers rip you off - Shame on Talk Talk

And now for something completely different. Of the many things this blog tries to do, one is to stop us all being ripped off. A massive thank you to my good mate Brian Maskall for this tip. Yesterday I had to ring Talk Talk to cancel an account. I got my bill and was just about to ring when Brian said "Don't ring that number, it's a premium rate line". This means you don't get charged the normal cost of a call, you pay a fortune. I responded "But I need to ring them up". Brian responded "I think you'll find that if you go to the Say No to 0870 website, you'll find a normal rate number there." So id followed his advice and sure enough I did. Guess what? Talk Talk passed me from pillar to post. I was on the phone for half an hour and I still didn't manage to even speak to the right department. The final operator I spoke to said "I have to transfer you to customer services" and at that, the line went dead. I will be reporting Talk Talk to OFCOM. I was only calling them as they didn't cancel the account when I wrote to them. This is sharp practice and a rip off. If any utility, phone co etc puts a number starting "087" on your bill as a contact, you will be ripped off. You can avoid this by visiting this website :-

Click on the dialog line (near top left hand corner of the page) that says "search to find an alternative number".

I reckon I saved between £14 and £30 as a result of this yesterday. Please pass this tip on.

Councillor Andrew Harper - A very very bad boy

Mrs Angry has pointed out how deputy leader of Barnet Council, Andrew Harper always refers to Leader Lynne Hillan as "Madame Leader". Following his revelation that he "wants to go with Model X" at a recent council meeting, the Barnet Eye has been greatly amusing ourselves by doing a Google Image search on various keywords with Andrew Harper. It seemed logical to do a search of  the keywords ANDREW HARPER MADAME LEADER. Guess what popped up? Amongst other things this image :-
According to the Daily Mail, this is Madame Lash, a notorious Australian dominatrix. Now whilst there is clearly no connection between our esteemed deputy leader and this lady, it did cause me to reflect on the Cabinet of Barnet Council. With a couple of notable exceptions, all of the men come across as a bunch of rather weak, ineffectual and useless individuals. I never quite worked out why someone as useless as Hillan could become leader of the council, but it is clear that (again with a couple of exceptions) they are all scared to death of her.

Avid readers of this blog will recall that one of the first paid painting and decorating jobs I undertook, back in the 1970's, was to redecorate the home of a local madame. At the time I asked her how she managed to keep on the right side of the law. One of the tips she gave me was this "Coppers are always welcome for a free session and Councillors are always welcome for a free spanking". Now quite clearly, that was a long time ago and I'm sure none of our current bunch of Tory Councillors would ever indulge in such activities. It did however remind me of the scene in the film Personal Services (starring Julie Walters), about the life of notorious Madame Cynthia Payne. She had a whole bunch of silly old duffers, who used to tidy her house and garden, in exchange for a good telling off. That was enough to keep them happy (interesting footnote - much of Personal Services was shot in Mill Hill and the wedding scene was filmed at John Keeble Church)

Maybe this is the secret of Hillans success. Maybe she's realised that if you assemble a selection of completely useless men and tell them off on a regular basis, they will love and adore you forever (of course if you give them a big fat allowance, thrown into the deal, it helps no end). It strikes me that Harpers description of "madame Leader" is very Freudian. For all his many sins, Harper has never struck me as stupid. He must know that Hillan is not up to the job, yet for well over a year he has propped her up in her role. Last June he had the ideal opportunity to finish her off, but he bottled it. Why? She's been a disaster for the Barnet Conservatives and she's destroyed any credibility Harper may ever have had. He is now mortally wounded as a politician, for his role in such a bankrupt regime.

Lynne Hillan rather gave the game away on Monday night when she announced "There are places for sensible discussion and the Cabinet is not one of them". It reminded me of the classic Spitting Image sketch, where Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet are dining in a restaurant. The waiter asks Thatcher what she wants. She replies "Steak". The waiter then enquires "and the vegetables". Thatcher responds "They'll have steak as well".

How can we possibly make this bunch of dullards see sense? I've no idea. Maybe the "Madame Bloggers" of Barnet could borrow some clobber off Miss Lash, corner Harper and a few of his cronies and tell them they will be thrashed to within an inch of their lives if they don't get rid of Hillan. Sadly though, they'd probably enjoy that and decide to keep Hillan. Lord help us all.

Friday 18 February 2011

Full details of proposed new Jewish School at Wyvale Nursury site

There is a cabinet paper detailing the full proposal for the New Jewish Nursery in Mill Hill at the site of Wyvale Nursury. I've published this on the Future Shape leaks website in full :-

Key details :-  Wyevale Ltd to transfer lease to new School, Car Park MAY be developed (with extra car parking provision elsewhere ??), Sea Cadets building to be a temporary location whilst the school site is developed. There is also an exempt report (rather oddly for a school development).

As I said before, I welcome the additional school places, I am sure it will provide an excellent education and I personally have no objections to faith schools or parents sending their children to them.

I have concerns about the loss of amenity if the car park is "developed". I have concerns that the "replacement" may be on park or green belt land. I have major concerns about the effect on traffic as 150 parents drop their kids off so close to the A1/A41. All of these would be true, regardless of the religious nature of the school. I am also rather puzzled at the fact that the State is 100% funding the school. When St Vincents RC school was rebuilt, parents & supporters had to raise 10% of the figure, which amounted to approx £250,000. I wasn't aware that the rules regarding faith schools have changed. I am not sure why this rule has been waived? Can anyone shed any light on this?