Saturday 30 April 2011

Policing in Barnet

I had a rather interesting private chat with a couple of the top cops in Barnet last week. It was really interesting for me to discuss various issues with them such as their views on what the main challenges and priorities in Barnet are. I think that this is one subject which has probably been rather neglected by the blogs in Barnet.

This time last year, I was spending most of my waking hours out on the streets canvassing for the Lib Dems in Mill Hill (how long ago that seems now). In hindsight (given the abject failure of my campaign), it is perhaps surprising that I took so many positives out of the experience. The one thing which came over time and time again was that the ordinary voters of Mill Hill were far more interested in issues of policing than of local politics.

It was quite illuminating to hear different peoples perception of local crime. I knocked on the door of one gentlemen who told me there was a vicous local gang making everyones a misery in one street. They detailed horrible tales of drug dealing, gang fights, robbery and extortion. I asked "have you personally been a victim?", the answer "Not yet". I asked another neighbour, five doors down about this "Oh, they are just a bunch of teenagers who hang around on the green over there, because they are bored". What about the drug dealing? "Yes they do have the occasional spliff, but they aren't really a problem.". Two people, two completely different perceptions. Even more interesting was the fact that both people had been canvassed shortly before by my Conservative adversary, Councillor John Hart. The person living in fear said "That John Hart had the right idea, he said he'd put yobbo's in the stocks if they terrorised the neighbours" (of course, sadly even for a Jedi Knight like John, this is pure fantasy). I suspect they were big fans of John. My cautious observation that "You can't actually do that" went down like a lead balloon. Mr Hart hadn't made such a good impression on the neighbours - "He seemed completely out of touch" they said.

So what is the view of the local Police. Barnet doesn't have the social problems of certain other boroughs. There are trouble hotspots and low level gang activities, but not on a scale comparable with some Boroughs. They are not complacent, because if they were, what we see as isolated experiences would risk becoming more commonplace. The biggest worries are the effects of budget cuts.

In the 1980's there was a  huge disconnect between the Police and the general public. The Police and the Politicians recognised this, got them out of the squad cars and back on the beat. Efforts were put into community engagement and building bridges. The Met has put an enormous amount of effort into modernising the attitudes of the men and women on the front line. Has it been successful? Well according to our top cops in Barnet, yes. I do however regularly chat with quite a few lower ranking police. I'm not sure that they see the world through the same eyes as their bosses. If you have a few beers with any of the coppers I know, at some point they will hush their voices and say "I'd get the sack for saying this, but....."

In many cases this is because they see the worst of humanity on a daily basis. When it comes down to it, the Police are a thin blue line. I suspect that if ever London went up in flames, due to anarchy and insurrection, Barnet would be the last Borough to go up. It's probably one of the reasons we pay such hugely inflated house prices to live here. Most of the time, the Police do a good job. I suspect that most of the time, when they don't it's because they are stretched.

My advice, for what it's worth, to our local Police is to actively participate in local community forums such as the residents forums. Make themselves available to local people and local blogs for dialog and interviews. Policing works in London by consent and publictrust and acceptance. When incidents, such as those we've seen at certain protests occur, this can damage trust. It is important for all of us that this doesn't happen. Anything which adversely affects the ability of the police to prevent bad things from happening, makes us all less safe. That is why the Police need to maintain our trust and we need to support them.

Royal Wedding Special

So what was your favourite bit. The verger doing cartwheels, the Lancaster Bomber flypast, the Vintage Aston Martin, the dress, the kiss on the balcony. Whatever it was, I think it's fair to say that we do pomp & ceremony better than anyone else. Now I'm not a Royalist, but only an idiot would doubt that what was probably the most expensive commercial in history worked rather well. Even Ken Livingstone stated on LBC this morning that it would boost tourism. I wish William & Catherine well.

I must be honest though. The next time a  Barnet Tory Politician says that we can't afford to fund Barnet Councils brain injury unit, I might just be tempted to lump them (although I'm a good boy these days so I'll just privately seethe).

Friday 29 April 2011

Why superinjunctions are wrong

Let me tell you about Mrs Beans (not her real name). She loves up the road. Every morning, Mr Beans jumps onto the train at Mill Hill Broadway with a rather large smile on his face. Why? Because Mrs Beans has a rather high libido. Mr Beans may not have quite such a big smile though, if he knew that shortly after he left, Ted the milkman nips in to, shall we say, supply Mrs Beans with some gold top. Once Ted resumes his round, Harry the window cleaner nips in to ensure that Mrs Beans frame is thoroughly serviced. Rumour has it that even Rev Reggie has been known to nip in to take a "private confession" or two. I'm sure you all find this fascinating, but I doubt it will make the front page of the Sun. Why? Because no one has ever heard of Mrs Beans, Mr Beans or her entourage of admirers. They are private individuals. If the Sun did decide to expose Mrs Beans, she's too skint to do anything about it. She'd probably end up doing a topless shoot for them, to help make ends meet, once her little world collapsed. For someone like her, I'd say a superinjunction was fair enough. The Sun could ruin her life. Sadly she hasn't got the means to actually afford one.

What about the Premiership footballers, who use them to silence interest in their shenanigans. Well hang on, don't they receive millions for their image rights? They get paid by companies to promote their products. They put themselves up as icons. What about the likes of Andrew Marr. He claims he didn't want his family to be upset. Well don't shag around then Andrew. You have chosen a career in the spotlight. You have to take it.

A law which protects the rich and famous, who exploit their image for personal gain, but is beyond the reach of ordinary people, who court no publicity and just happen to find themselves in the middle of media storms is a bad law. I don't really care if the Wayne Rooney's of this world wants to pay grannies for sex, I have no interest in whether John Terry shags his mates girlfriends. I don't bother reading those stories. I do however think if these guys are exploiting their image rights, we do have a right to know what sort of image they really have. As for Marr, he's been exposed as a total hypocrite.

I have a small amount of experience of what it's like to be on the receiving end of bad press coverage. When I went to the standards committee in Barnet, Brian Coleman went on the Vanessa Feltz show and told a stack of lies about me. The biggest lie was that  I'd abused his 83 year old mum in my blog. Vanessa said "what sort of person abuses someones 83 year old mum" I immediately rang up and told Vanessa that the charge was a lie, and told her to check the blog. She did, I was vindicated and Coleman exposed as a liar. She read what I said about Brians mum and commented that it was extremely complimentary (I'd mentioned in passing she shared the name Gladys with my own mum). They repeated the fact that Coleman had lied all morning (presumably so I didn't charge them with libel). The point is though, if like me you've not committed the crime, then you can do something about it. If like Terry & Rooney, you have then you should man up and take it.

Thursday 28 April 2011

Mrs Angry's Royal Wedding Special

Some blogs in Barnet are going totally over the top for the Royal wedding. I'm happy to say no such fever has overtaken the Barnet Eye.

David Cameron Special - Calm Down Dear

By Kate B ( Hangbitch) & Rog T

David Cameron tells a senior Shadow Cabinet member to "Calm Down Dear".
Hangbitch & Rog T have been analysing Mr Camerons record. Looks like this
sexist crap is part of a bigger pattern.

As we approach 1 year and two budgets of this ConDem Coalition, the
 mist is clearing and we can start to see what the real priorities are
 - and the real winners and losers. The leading players - Cameron,
 Osborne and Clegg are all products of privileged backgrounds and
 public schools. One thing which is obvious - if you put a bunch of
 public schoolboys in charge of the economy, you get an economy which
 is geared towards the boys.

 Let's have a look at the latest budget. The headline policy is a 1p
 tax cut on a litre of petrol. Who gets the biggest benefit? The old
 lady on the no 9 bus, or the city boss in his Jag? Suppose you commute
 from Berkhampstead to London in your jag and fill your tank twice a
 week? You'll probably see a £1.40 a week tax cut. Will it change your
 life? Doubtful. Sadly, for many, the £72 might make a big difference.

 Let's think about the extent to which your gender will determine how
 you fare under the ConDems.

 David Cameron happily talks about big society. We all ask "What is big
 society?" It's all about members of the public working for nothing.
 And who are these people who are expected to do this work? Is it the
 bosses of the banks (to a man, erm Men)? Hardly. They won't be wiping
 any geriatric relatives' bums for their sins. So who will? The women
 of Great Britain will. As public sector job opportunities shrink and
 care services are cut, the pay packets of many carers will disappear.
 Councils outsource care to the private sector – which pays low wages.
 How many minimum wage agency and outsourced staff are ex-Etonians? For
 that matter - how many of them are male?

 A local Tory suggested to Roger that big society was merely an
 extension of what we see in Roman Catholic churches up and down the
 country - where old ladies hoover the church, arrange the flowers and
 have coffee mornings to raise money for starving kids in Africa. The
 penny really dropped then. Big Society is female slavery, by another
 name. Who looks after the elderly relatives? Who looks after the
 children? Who looks after the old lady up the road? Many churches
 would shut down if the old ladies who looked after them demanded so
 much as the minimum wage. Sadly, this kindness and generosity is
 misinterpreted by our high Tories as a sign of stupidity. "They clean
 the churches for free - why can't we get them cleaning the streets?
 Then we can sack a few roadsweepers and knock a penny off the top rate
 of tax".

 How little society moves on. I've been re-reading Marilyn French's
 “The War Against Women” and marvelling (as you always do when
 re-reading feminist greats) how little has changed in the fundamental

 Here's French on Reagan's Conservatism:

 “Cuts (to social services and federal entitlement programmes) were
 rooted in patriarchist theory, which is woman-hating. The idea that
 poverty is a result of human inferiority is rooted in the beliefs that
 aggressive pursuit of wealth is a characteristic of superior human
 beings and that economic inequality, stratification of classes, is
 adaptive, beneficial to the human race. This is essentially to worship
 domination. Conservatives like Reagan believe that poverty is a result
 of personal failure and that programmes aimed at ameliorating poverty
 actually increase and perpetuate it by encouraging sloth in the poor.
 This belief masks an implicit agenda on women.”

 Here we are again, then, with a government that lines women against
 the wall with the services so many women rely on – the services that
 offered some buffer between themselves and the caring duties and
 poverty that fall first to females. There are too many examples to
 count, but let's have a few: there is Lancashire county council's
 drastic tightening of care eligibility criteria - nearly 4000 service
 users will be reassessed and many will be told they are no longer be
 eligible for care. That caring work will fall to women. There are the
 daycentres for people with learning and physical disabilities at
 Middlesbrough's soon-to-close Breckon Hill community centre. That work
 will fall to women, who so often make up the majority of volunteers.

 We have the Fawcett Society's devastating, and largely ignored,
 observations that cuts to the public sector will affect women out of
 all proportion:

 “Female unemployment is already at its highest in more than 20 years
 and is set to rise still further, but the one million unemployed women
 in Britain will find little in the way of welfare support to fall back
 on. Women’s incomes will be further squeezed as child benefit is
 frozen, housing benefit capped, maternity payments scrapped and the
 value of benefits and tax credits reduced.” Employment opportunities
 for women hardly look set for a bounce: women, as Fawcett observes,
 make up 65 per cent of the public sector work force. “”The threatened
 600,000 job losses are very much hanging over women’s heads.”

 French again: “Men's motivation to shift to conservatism may well be
 their opposition to women's increased economic power and political
 voice.” Indeed.


Rog T suggests you to check out the Hangbitch blog.  We've been writing this article for a couple of weeks and after Camerons outrageous comments, I had to post it today

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Barnet Council - Memo to Nick Walkley

Dear Nick,

I have a suggestion. Please have a chat with someone within the legal department, preferably the person who you trust most and think is best qualified. Ask them this :-

"Please explain to me in words of one syllable the term 'duty of care' "

I think you'll find doing a little bit of homework on the subject may come in very useful. I've just had a very interesting chat with someone who is rather well qualified on this very subject. I found it rather fascinating. We walked through a couple of scenarios related to Barnet Council. I wonder if any of my legion of readers could guess what those could be? As the old saying goes, you learn something every day !!!!!

Barnet Council : Metpro Scandal

A few more rather interesting things.

Just when I thought the Metpro Scandal could get no murkier, Mrs Angry reports that Barnet Council have admitted that the CCTV footage of the Council meeting on 1st March, which they claim to have destroyed, was a copy.Mrs Angry also reports that the Council have admitted that they never bothered to check the SIA registrations or CRB status of the Metpro staff, even though they were clearly working with vulnerable people.

Another rather interesting fact was brought to my attention last week. Now I have no idea whether this is relevant to anything, but the head of audit, who will be responsible for overseeing the work of the Audit Committee is Maryellen Salter. It appears that Ms Salter joined Barnet Council in October. I was rather interested to be informed that she is an ex employee of Barnet Council's auditors, Grant Thornton. Does this matter? Well Grant Thornton have been responsible for auditing Barnet Council. They have presumably signed off on accounts with the payment of large invoices to Metpro Rapid Response Ltd. (Metpro Rapid Response have been a supplier of Barnet Council since 2006, working without a proper contract).

Does the fact that the person leading the enquiry for Barnet Council worked for the people who were meant to ensure that Barnet behaved in an above board manner matter? I'm sure Maryellen Salter is an exemplary auditor, I'm sure she will do the finest job possible. But I am also concerned that the whole thing may  APPEAR to be a rather, shall we say, incestuous inquiry.

Local residents have been pushing for an Independent inquiry for this very reason. No one is questioning the goodwill, abilities or intentions of any of the people conducting the inquiry. We just want it to be completely free of all vested interests and all possible suggestions of any party having an "pre existing interest" in the matter. I believe that it is in everyones interests to see  a credible and thorough inquiry, with no stone left unturned and full public confidence.

As the whole Metpro issue gets murkier and murkier, when will Nick Walkley wake up to the fact that the people involved in the internal inquiry are too close to the issue. What we need is a team which is independent and can either (hopefully) give Barnet Council a clean bill of health or alternatively identify the weaknesses in the processes and procedures. I'm not an expert on what auditors are meant to do, but given Grant Thornton's involvement with the Council, I'd suggest that people with no connection to the firm would be better placed to undertake the inquiry. This is not in any way because I have an issue with Grant Thornton, in fact they have done stirling work identifying major problems with the whole Future Shape/Easycouncil/Barnettrack process. I just feel that given the length of time Metpro Rapid Response Ltd had a business relationship with Barnet Council, we need an inquiry completely independent of all vested interests.

To me it completely beggars belief that the CEO of Barnet Council, Nick Walkley and the de facto leader of Barnet Council, Andrew Harper do not want an inquiry which will restore credibility. How can they possibly fail to see that a) The Audit Committe have missed all of this for years  b) Other members of the team have also missed things for years c) The head of audit has an association with the company responsible for signing off the accounts. When Councillors tell me it doesn't matter because they have a marvellous team, I have to ask - if that is so, how come we got into this mess in the first place

The day the world turned dayglo - Poly Styrene RIP

I cannot describe how upset I am at the news that Poly Styrene has passed away. I put "The day the world turned dayglo" as my fifth favourite track by a female artist on Sat 19th Jan 2009 in this blog. Poly has progressed to a higher plane. I also put X Ray Specs as the 25th reason I'm proud to be English. Nuff said.

Poly Styrene - RIP - most sadly missed.

Monday 25 April 2011

Dear friends .......

I felt the need to have a weekend where I completely ignored the shenanigans at Barnet Council, the issues with the Metpro inquiry, the scandalous plans to outsource all council functions under the easycouncil/OneBarnet/BarnetTrack project, the Catalyst Legionella outbreak, the fact that the Leader of the Council - Lynne Hillan has disappeared and no on is in charge, the fact that they've been exposed by Mr Reasonable for spending over £20 million on an IT project with a budget of £2.5 million, the list goes on and on. I feel much better for having a weekend where I concentrated on football, family and films. Sadly the problems have not gone away and if we don't keep writing blogs and highlighting all of the things which are going so badly wrong, they will get away with it all.

We need to keep the pressure on about all of these things, if not redouble it. I have been passed some rather interesting information, which I will start sifting through tomorrow. Watch this space, there will be some very interesting blogs appearing here later this week, concerning the shenanigans within our Council. I really don't want to say too much until I've done my homework, but I'd strongly advise the de facto Leader of Barnet Council (in Hillans absence) Andrew Harper, to have a long chat with his CEO - Mr Nick Walkley and ask him this question -  "Nick, have you checked the CV's of some of the senior officers you've brought in. Are you aware of their previous track records".

I'm playing a rather interesting game now called "join the dots". If things go where it appears they are going, we are in for some exciting times.

Barnet Eye Exclusive : Brian Colemans PR Guru named !!!!!

You all may have noticed that this blog has been relatively quiet on the Barnet Council front recently. This is because Rog T is happy to announce that he has a new job in the runup to the GLA elections. He has appointed himself as Brian Colemans PR Guru. As everyone knows, Brian Coleman is addicted to publicity. He likes nothing better than a big scandal with him in the middle (apart from a big buffet with him in the middle - you've heard of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we have Brian the Buffet Slayer).

Anyway with the election looming next year, this blog has donated itself free of charge to Mr Coleman and we will ensure all of the top gossip, scandals and tittle tattle are brought to you.

VickiM57 reports that our Brian has appointed a paid PR guru. My advice to Brian is this. Sack them immediately.  Anyone who thinks having "Brian Colemans PR guru" on their CV is clearly the last PR guru any sane person would need. I trust they haven't realised that Brian, shall we say, has some blue touch paper sticking out of an orafice and we have a rather big box of matches. I doubt all the PR advice in the world will stop Brian when he decides it's time to look  like an arse.

I do have some free advice for Brian Coleman though.

1) Move out of the subsidised charity flat, meant for people with limited income
2)  Cut the free taxi's and sponging
3) Apologise to the British Olympic team for your slurs
4) Stop insulting residents at every opportunity
5) Stop insulting Londons brave firemen and apologise for past form

The reason I say these things is because, as your free PR Guru, if you don't, there is going to be a concerted effort to make sure every voter in Barnet and Camden knows all about exactly what you are like as a human being.

And one last reminder - remember that for most other people, charity is about giving money or time free of charge, not turning up to events and eating buffets.

Film Review : The Kids are Alright

Now yesterday I got a call from Mrs T (the wife, not the chronicler of the adventures of Mike Freer). She was in blockbusters video store selecting a DVD for our enjoyment. She says "Do you fancy watching The Kids are Alright". I'd never heard of the film, but I know it is a cracking track by the Who, also brilliantly covered by Eddie and the Hot Rods - it sounded highly promising. "Whats it about?" I asked. She replied "A lesbian family relationship". Well the concept of watching Lesbian relationships to the sound of the Who and Eddie and the Hot Rods worked for me. "Yup, I'll watch that".

So anyway, late last evening, we cracked open a nice bottle of wine and settled down to watch the film. Sadly it didn't live up to my high expectations. Firstly, no soundtrack by the Who or even better Eddie and the Hot Rods. The film was about a "normal lesbian couple with teenage kids". So did it enlighten me as to how such a relationship might work? Well, I've got to say that if Hollywood has accurately portrayed such a family, they seemed, erm rather strange. Firstly, I didn't realise that Lesbians get off on watching gay blokes make out in porn films. Now, maybe they do, I don't know I've never asked any, but the depiction of "real lesbian sex" seemed shall we say, a touch joyless. Anyway help was at hand, because in rode Paul on his bike, the hunky sperm donor, who ran a wholefood restaurant. Now whilst there was absolutely no sexual chemistry between the two main lesbian characters, it instantly crackled between mum no 1 and Paul. In fact she couldn't wait for a "proper seeing to", which she clearly thoroughly enjoyed and repeated at every available opportunity. Of course, being a lesbian she was also evil, so she sacked the poor old bloke who was helping her do up Paul's garden, because he found it rather amusing that she was skiving off for a shag.

Then there was the teenage kids. Now unlike most teenage siblings, they got on great and didn't spend all their time trying to wind up, humiliate or kill each other. The boy had a dodgy mate, who in his search for some Pot to smoke, found the lesbian mums vibrator and gay porn, which he proceeded to watch with the straight son. Now even though the boys seemed disgusted with it, they watched it long enough to get caught by the mums. Anyway, as the friend was clearly a bad influence, the director had to show that he was truly evil, so there was a nice scene where the son is petting a stray dog and he decides to urinate on it. Was this because he was a pot smoker? Anyway that was the end of the boys bad influence.

And then finally the adulterous lesbian mum gets caught by her wife. How? Well they all go round to Pauls and lesbian mum no 2 decides to look in the plughole of Pauls bath and finds some of her hair (strange people these lesbian mums). She instantly figures out that her wife has been having an affair. Big rows ensue, Paul gets told to piss off and the two lesbian mums can get back to their joyless sex and gay porn.

As with many Hollywood films which tackle what they feel to be "tricky subjects", it really couldn't have been worse. There was a scene where the son asks why the two mums need to watch gay porn to get off - "because lesbian porn is usually two straight women pretending" - said without irony, given that the film featured two straight actresses pretending. Then there was the myth they were seeking to dispel that all a lesbian needs is a good shag from a bloke to turn them straight. I defy anyone to say that the respective displays of affection gave this message. Then there was the kids. The son was quite homophobic and the daughter was a complete wet blanket. When push came to shove, the whole family pulled together and excluded Paul, who skulked off into the night. Sadly though, it really didn't answer any of the questions it posed. Let's just hope that they don't feel the need to make "The Kids are Alright 2" to answer them.

My advice to you, don't bother. By the way , I just read the Wiki review and it's a comedy (all of the comedy I saw was purely unintentional) and it won a golden globe for best film - lord help us.

Sunday 24 April 2011

Barnet Eye Special : Rog T's Easter message

Firstly I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Easter. If like me you spent the last couple of days enjoying the sun (apart from a much needed shower yesterday Evening), hopefully everyone agrees that it's pleasant to have a little bit of time off to chill out & maybe see a few friends, catch up with a few people you haven't seen for a while. This is what I was doing yesterday. I rang a friend of mine who'd played bass in my band for many years. He's a couple of years younger than me, but we've played music together since we were teenagers. He moved out of the area three years ago for work. Sadly he made a few bad choices and ended up in prison for 10 months. His crimes were petty theft on gaming machines (but on a fairly large scale, if that makes sense). He got out before Christmas and we've spoken a couple of times. His sentence has given me a rather interesting perspective on our legal system. If a crime where no one gets hurt and the people who are the victims, themselves are responsible for exploitatiion of peoples greed, stupidity and sometimes desparation, what should child molesters, people who mug grannies and rapists get? Sadly some spend the same or less time in prison for far less trivial offences, offences where peoples lives are changed. His term was 2 1/2 years. Next time you see a real scumbag get less, remember this.

I would say that in some ways my friend has benefitted from the experience. He did several courses and the time for reflection has caused him to realise that he needed to change. He'd just been offered a job working for a local authority (who were fully aware of his history) when he found out last week that he's got cancer of the stomach and throat. Hopefully they've caught it early enough to operate. I am truly devastated to hear this. It just reinforces my belief that we shouldn't waste our time and we should try and do things which benefit the wider community, rather than make the choice he made.

Having been thoroughly depressed by the news, we visited St Albans last night to see another friend. She is over from the USA and has had a truly awful time. She had a brain tumour several years ago and a series of operations etc. Just when her life seemed on track, her husband left her for one of her friends. We've not seen her since (that was three years ago). I did wonder if, as we knew her husband first, she was worried we'd "defriended" her. As she's a lovely lady, no chance at all. Anyway, work had brought her to the UK for a couple of weeks. Our friends in St Albans organises a little gathering at the last minute (she only called a couple of days ago) and we had  a get together. She looked absolutely fantastic and was in great form. It's clear that she's been hurt but it's pretty clear she has bounced back big time. Of all the people I could have seen, after my earlier conversation, it was the best possible tonic.

Which brings me to my Easter message. This time of year, there are several holidays & festivals. It started off with a friend giving me a mango for Nepali New Year, then there was Passover and finally Easter (apologies if I've missed any other festivals). It struck me that all of these festivals in some way celebrate the same thing. Renewal and change. Many of the traditions associated with Easter are borrowed from pagan traditions, but fit nicely. Eggs signify new life. It is worth noting that in the New Testament, all of the followers of Jesus deserted him and denied him when he was at his darkest moment. They all basically lost their bottle. That could very well have been the end of the whole show. Whether you believe or you don't, there is one lesson that can be learned. Having behaved in a cowardly manner, they got their act together, got over their fears and cowardice and got on with spreading their message.

Which brings us to my message and it's not a religious one. We all have setbacks in our lives. Sometimes we bottle out of doing things we should. Sometimes we don't support our friends when we should. Sometimes we don't do the right thing when we should. My message is this. If we make mistakes, do the wrong thing, we shouldn't sit around moping. We should try and put it right. We should face up to our failings and try and do better. Don't get disheartened, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get things back on the right track.

Happy Easter, passover, Nepali New Year, to you and have a fantastic day. Enjoy the sun whilst it shines.

Saturday 23 April 2011

Local Charity Special : Noah's Ark Childrens Hospice

Ask any parent their worst fear and they will most likely tell you that it is their children becoming ill. Sadly every year in Barnet, some children will develop terminal illnesses, suffer horribly and die. For their parents, brothers, sisters, wider family, friends it will be a traumatic and life changing experience. I cannot imagine how awful it would be to be faced with that stress every single day, knowing the person you love most in the whole world (because we all love our children more than anything), faces such a struggle and will die well before they ever have a chance to reach their potential.

Families often struggle to cope with the stresses and strains of such an experience. No one can easily cope with such pressure. Relationships suffer, siblings are relatively neglected (and if they complain are made to feel guilty), finances and working life can often also suffer, leading to further stress and worry. Parents have to support their sick children, but are often in need themselves. There is no magic wand, but there are organisations who can help to ease the burden. One such organisation is Noah's Ark Childrens Hospice. They are a small local charity,  working to help life-limited children or young people, and their families, living within the communities of Enfield, Barnet, Camden, Haringey and Islington.

They provide all manner of services and support to families with terminally sick children and have recently acquired land in Byng Road, Barnet for a purpose built Hospice. Much of what they do is family support, respite and assistance with the praticalities of such a situation  (which can all be too much for people going through such a traumatic experience). Like many small local charities, they receive scant funding from government for this important work and rely on the generosity of local people.

The charity was this years Barnet Mayoral Charity, having been selected by Mayor Tony Finn as one of his two charities. Being selected as a Mayoral charity raises the profile of projects and can be a major help in raising funds. There are many ways local charities can benefit from fundrasing activities. One way that we can all make a difference is to leave a bequest in our last will and testament. My dearly departed mother did this and as a result, I've realised what a fantastic thing it is to do.

She didn't specify which charities should benefit and suggested that her children choose ones to which they had a personal attachment. Recently her solicitor wrote out all of the cheques and we have been distributing them. I have five brothers and sisters and we chose a whole range of different beneficiaries.

For me it was an easy choice (if such things can ever be easy). As my big sister Valerie works as a hospice nurse in the USA, I know exactly how challenging the work is. The Noah's Ark Childrens Hospice seemed a perfect choice. As it was the Mayors Charity, I contacted Councillor Finn and yesterday had a visit from our esteemed Mayor when he collected the cheque on their behalf. We had a good chat about the work of the hospice and why he chose it. I explained how my mother had been a successful businesswoman. She had a stroke late in 2000 and after that had been virtually housebound. She'd always supported a wide range of charities and felt that having had a successful career, she should give something back to the community. Myself, my brothers and sisters all supported this decision. Councillor Finn asked if I could write a few words about my mother, so he could say a few words when he handed over the funds. Here's what I wrote :-
Laurie & Celia Tichborne moved to  Mill Hill in1948 and set up a crash repair business called Mac Metals Ltd in Bunns Lane Works, Mill Hill shortly after. They ran the business successfully until retirement in 1984. Laurie passed away in 1987, Celia passed away in August 2008. As they had an extremely happy and rewarding life in Mill Hill, raising six children and running a successful business, they both supported many local charities. Upon her passing Celia made a substancial bequest in her will for the benefit of charities chosen by her children. The family were pleased to choose Noah's Ark Childrens Hospice for the fantastic work it does supporting terminally ill children and their families. We wish Noah's Ark Hospice the greatest success in their project to build a new hospice in Byng Road.

There are many reasons why leaving a bequest is a great thing to do, especially to local charities. As well as the obvious good which it does for the community, it is also extremely tax efficient. When you draw up your last will and testament and you assess your financial situation and that of your beneficiaries, ask yourself this. Is there any scope for helping a few of the people in society who really need it ? If there is, then why not write a bequest.  It doesn't have to be huge, for many local charities, a couple of hundred pounds would make a big difference. As for most of us, the biggest asset when we pass away is our home, consider whether say 1% of this would be missed by your beneficiaries. If your house is worth £250,000 then that would be £2,500, and  that could make a huge difference. Would your children/ relatives really miss £2,500 if they got a cheque for £247,500?

Oh and on a slightly more cheerful note, you don't have to die to donate to Noah's Ark. You can click right here for the details on how to make a donation right now :-

And one final note, sadly all of the money bequested by my mother has been divvied up and donated.

Friday 22 April 2011

Barnet Eye Official : Councillor Robert Rams is not a Twat

Nope, it's not April 1st. The Barnet Eye is happy to announce that we have revoked the title of "The Biggest Twat in Barnet" which we awarded to Councillor Robert Ramsbottom. Word has reached this blog that young Councillor Sheepsjacksie has seen the error of his ways. Let me explain what seems to have happened. Last August, young Sheepsjacksie had fallen in with a right dodgy crowd (AKA. The Barnet Tories). Under their bad influence, young Bobby, who is a bit weak and impressionable, came up with the marvellous idea to close all of Barnets libraries and sell them off to Starbucks. Now as regular readers will know, this blog immediately lead a campaign to halt the process in its tracks. Poor old Bobby started to feel the heat, being regularly harangued by angry Grannies whenever he emerged from his bunker.

Now my blog stats showed that young Bobby had taken to obsessively reading my blog. At some point, the penny dropped. He suddenly realised "Hey, that Rog T is right. If I don't shut the libraries, the grannies will love me and I'll be able to poke fun at all of those nasty socialist Councils who are shutting them. I'll be a hero!". Now it is quite likely that he discussed his cunning plan with his former boss at the GLA, Roger Evans. Roger is probably the nicest and most sensible Tory in London, if not the whole world. He does good things like campaigning to keep hospitals open, writes a brilliant blog, and is a generally good egg. Now I don't know what Roger would have said, but it was most likely something like "That blogger Rog T is a genius, you'd do well to listen to him and not those dunderheads like Brian Coleman".

Anyway there was a loud clunk as the penny dropped, the Libraries were saved and hey presto, from being the biggest pariah in Barnet, the bum of the sheep became the best loved Tory in the Borough (after Kate Salinger of course). Now as part of his rehabilitation, Roger also clearly recommended that Bobby write a blog. Roger clearly would have given Bobby a few tips "Keep the voters informed, in an interesting and informative way" would most certainly have been his advice. Sadly Bobby's early efforts were rather grim and written in Barnet "Kremlinspeak". This lead to young Sheepsjacksie being awarded the inaugural "Crap London Blog" award. Sadly, as we've established, young Bobby is rather thin skinned and doubtless got rather upset. As ever, he doubtless sought the wise Council of his mentor Roger Evans. Now I've no idea what Roger would have told him, but it was probably something rather like this "Now listen Bobby, I already told you that Rog T is a genius and he's quite right, it is rather dull. Now listen, why Rog T is such a marvellous blogger is because he can be quite funny. He uses all of the tools of the trade, Irony, Sarcasm and Fantastical situationalism to illustrate his points. And don't censor the comments, use them to your advantage to display your sparkling wit".

If ever you want to cut the mustard, you'd do well to listen to him". Now I'll give young Bobby this, he's nothing if not a quick learner.  Yesterday we saw the first efforts, using Roger's wise advice.

You can read it for yourself and see that the Kremlinspeak is largely gone. Best of all his comment in reply to Mrs Angry is an effort of supreme wit and irony. I suspect it may even be the work of the Great Roger Evans himself. Check this out
robertrams says:
You will be pleased to know that there is a skilled One Barnet team in place to make sure all the contracts are watertight.

Now anyone who has followed the Metpro Scandal, the Catalyst Scandal or knows anything about the background to the IT system which caused the cock up, will know that Councillor Rams is what is known in the trade as "having a laugh". As being a humourless dolt is essentail to being a successful Twat, it is impossible for him to keep the title of Barnets Biggest Twat. Don't worry though, the Barnet Eye team have already started the search for his replacement.

Clarification for the rather dim and humourless : Any references to the opinions of Roger Evans regarding the intellectual prowess of the author of this blog (or anything else) is purely made up for purposes of your entertainment. Whilst both Roger Evans and myself are proud members of the League of Rogers, I'd like to state that we have at no time discussed Councillor Robert Rams, his intellectual prowess, his policy on libraries or whether he's a twat.

P.S - Roger Evans has another blog called Get Selected. He offers advice to women on how to get selected as Candidates. I'd like to suggest that he takes Mrs Angry and VickiM57 under his wing, as I think they have the potential to be the best 2 councillors in Barnet. I don't know if he helps Socialists, but if he does, then I can think of no better candidates in London.

 P.P.S. - I also noticed that Councillor Ramsbottom referred to Mrs Angry her "alleged" first name. Is this a Brian Colemanesque "We've got your number" type of threat?

P.P.P.S - Lets see if young Sheepsjacksie is "man enough" to moderate my comment on his post

Rog T says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.

My Dearest Robert,
Does that team contain the tooth fairy? I trust you are familiar with how the “skilled One Barnet Team” have administered the Metpro contract, the Catalyst contract etc.
As to the “one person making a human error”. I trust you are aware that a well designed IT system should have what are called maker/checker controls to prevent such single points of failure.

Enjoy your bank holiday !

Thursday 21 April 2011

Barnet Council - Metpro Scandal - response from Lord Monroe Palmer

Following my email to Barnet Council yesterday, regarding the Metpro Inquiry, I received this response from the chair of the Audit Committee, Lord Monroe Palmer. Unlike the previous email from BArnet, Lord Palmer has answered the questions posed.
To: Roger Tichborne 
Sent: Thursday, April 21, 2011 4:57 PM
Subject: RE: Metpro Rapid Response inquiry

As you can see I have been asked to respond. I will try to range beyond your questions.
Council voted against having an independent outside investigation.
As Chairman of Audit Committee I agreed with the Chief Executive that Internal Audit could deal with this matter. I have great confidence in our small Internal Audit Team.
I have not agreed  terms of reference, as to set out detailed terms of reference for the audit may hamper internal audit and the committee to exert their constitutional independence and professional expertise.
I asked the Deputy Head of Internal Audit (The Head is away for a few more days) to draft out a scope of the work to be undertaken. I have spoken to him both on the phone and at a one to one meeting today to agree the draft scope and to alter/add in some items I felt should be included. I will meet with Head of Internal Audit on May 4th
I asked Internal Audit to seek the opinion of Grant Thornton, Barnet’s external Auditors as to the work they feel should be carried out.
I have every reason to believe that the audit work will be in depth and hopefully will not be the very expensive exercise if the work is done by an outside body, whoever that might be.
Audit Committee is me, 4 Tory and two Labour Councillors + two Independent members of the committee. The committee never rubber stamps anything
However, what will happen is an Internal Audit, with perhaps some review from an outside body such as Grant Thornton. That’s not decided yet. I am floating various options and will discuss with Ms Maryellen Salter
It will come to the committee on 16th June which will be in the public gaze. As to public speaking rights, I have no personal objection but need to hear the views of the Council lawyers which has been requested by the Chief Executive. I will press, if needed, for a space for public speaking rights. I will Chair the meeting
It is early days, but my guess is that at start of the meeting you and others may wish to speak and be questioned by the committee. Then the meeting continues as usual with only the Councillors speaking.
We may request Council officers/.members to be questioned. This will depend on results of the audit.
I would stress that this is an audit not an outside inquiry, so will proceed in accordance with Barnet’s constitution.
The terms of the scoping has been seen by Internal Audit and me. It has yet to be finalised. It is then my intention to share that, by email, with all the Committee Members. It would  be very inappropriate to share this more widely at this stage, although in due course everything should be made public.
What I need now is a bit of space in order to do ’my job’

I have responded to Lord Palmer as follows :-
Dear Monroe,
Thank you for your response.  I have no doubt that the audit committee will do a fine job within it's terms of reference and having yourself as chair of the inquiry is likely to add credibility that having a member of the ruling Party may lack. Without seeing the terms of reference of the inquiry, it is not possible to comment on how effictively the inquiry will address the matters. The following major issues have been identified, I trust you will work to ensure that all of these are covered by the terms of reference of the committee.

a) Metpro Rapid Response had been paid a total of £1.2 million pounds by Barnet Council, although there is apparently no evidence of a proper contract.
b) Barnet Council have been unable or unwilling to provide any evidence that such a large contract was ever properly tendered.
c) Barnet Council never sought documentary evidence that the Directors of Metpro Rapid Response Ltd were properly accredited by the SIA to run such a business.
d) Barnet Council never sought more than assurances that staff were CRB checked for work they undertook with vulnerable people.
e) Never asked Metpro Rapid Response Ltd staff to wear ID badges with SIA registration details, despite this being a legal requirement.
f) Were unaware that the company was undergoing liquidation proceedings, whilst continuing to work for Barnet Council.
g) Had transferred their business to another company Metpro Emergency Response Ltd (which had bought the database, assetts and Website of Metpro Emergency Response Ltd).
i) Were unaware that Metpro Rapid Response Ltd staff routinely and covertly filmed residents whilst undertaking work on behalf of Barnet Council.
j) Have claimed all such film was obtained and destroyed, even though it could contain footage of criminal activity.
k) Have subsequently stripped Metpro Emergency Response Ltd of the contract and awarded it to Blue 9 Security Ltd, using delegated powers (ie with no democratic oversight).
j) Have claimed that as of th 13th April the matter was not of public interest, despite numerous press articles, including an article in the Eevening Standard the day before (12th April).
l) Have claimed that the chair of the business Managament and Overview Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Hugh Rayner has discussed the issue of Metpro with nobody, despite this being a clear matter for his committee, indicating that Councillors have been kept in the dark.
m) Barnet Council refused to sanction a debate on the issue, which was asked for by Councillor Alison Moore, the Leader of the Labour Group.
n) Metpro Rapid Response Ltd have debts reportedly of over £245,000  to the inland revenue, which implies they have paid no tax at all on their income from Barnet Council.
o) Many FOI requests regarding the issue have been late or worse still, not responded to at all.
Given the number of issues with contractors working for Barnet Council, I happen to believe that the remit of the inquiry should be wider than just the issues with Metpro and look at the wider issues of commissioning of outsourced suppliers. Whilst I fully understand your desire to "get on with the job", I must point out that the whole sorry affair has only come to light as a result of local bloggers. Barnet Council was completely unaware of many of these issues until highlighted in local blogs. I am sure we all agree that it is a positive development that these issues have come to light and as such, rest assurred that myself and other local bloggers will continue digging to try and find more informantion, which may be of use to you.
I have taken the decision to share all official correspondence regarding this issue with the wider public on my blog, as I believe that the secrecy culture within Barnet must end.
I personally believe that an independent public inquiry was the only appropriate way forward, to regain the trust of the people of Barnet. This is not a comment on your abilities, which I hold in high regard, more a view that Barnet Council needs to have faith restored. I believe that only an independent public inquiry will do this, although I am also sure the inquiry you chair will do a fine job. Please contact me if I can be of any further assistance.
I need to state a few things. I believe that Lord Palmer will do a decent job of the internal inquiry. Although some people locally are suspicious, given the national Tory/Lib Dem links, there is no coalition in Barnet Town Hall. I believe that Lord Palmer is independent of the Tory ruling group. He is most certainly not subject to any whipping arrangements.

Having said that I am of the opinion that an independent public inquiry would have been seen to be open, honest and fair. If we can have a public inquiry about the Iraq war, there is no earthly reason why a Barnet inquiry into Metpro should be conducted in private or under the auspices of the Council. I intend to keep pressing for a fully independent inquiry. Without seeing the terms of reference, I cannot criticise them. We await these.

I am pleased that Lord Palmer has stated that he will support the right of the public to address the committee. Anything else would be scandalous.

I believe we should respect the work Lord Palmer and the audit committee are doing, but keep up the pressure for a widening of the scope, to ensure that the whole procurement process is reviewed. We must keep up the pressure for a public inquiry and we must keep digging.

We need to collate a file of evidence for the committee and also to present to Eric Pickles, Nick Clegg and David Cameron, along with our letter explaining why we demand an independent public inquiry.

One other matter Lord Palmer raises is the cost of an inquiry. Dodgy contracts which are badly drawn up have cost Barnet tens of millions of pounds. The whole procurement process is broken. Whilst an independent Inquiry, including teams of forensic auditors, may be expensive, it would send a signal that Barnet Council has to discharge its duties to the Taxpayer in a proper manner. In the long run, that will save the Taxpayer a fortune and improve the whole way the Council does business.

I have no faith in Barnet Council internal inquiries. In last years Elections, hundreds of voters were cheated out of their votes by Barnet Council being unable to make proper arrangements. The count was a fiasco, being held in freezing cold tents, without proper heating. All sorts of problems and irregularities were reported, including many by me to Nick Walkley, who was returning officer as well as CEO. I was never contacted by the inquiry and the final report concluded that Barnet Council had done a marvellous job. It was a complete whitewash.

That is why I am totally sceptical about this whole process.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Andrew Dismore to take on Brian Coleman for Barnet & Camden GLA seat

Mrs Angry Exposed

It transpires that Barnets very own Mrs Angry is married. I was wondering why she is so obsessed with leaving comments on the blog for Havering GLA rep Roger Evans. It has all become clear. Her better half is Mr Angry of Havering. Anyway, following her recent saucy post, aimed at raising the blood pressure of certain elderly gentlemen around the country, the ever diligent Barnet Eye has found a picture of her, taken by her better half, practising her one handed blogging technique - Click here to see Mrs Angry in action - ENJOY

Barnet Council :Metpro scandal - response to my email

They work for you.

To: Roger.Tichborne
Sent: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 11:50 AM
Subject: Metpro Rapid Response inquiry

Dear Mr Tichborne,
Further to your e-mail dated 19th April, please note that Maryellen Salter (Assistant Director of Finance, Audit and Risk Management) is currently on annual leave and I am  deputising in her absence.
The terms of reference and conduct of the inquiry are a matter for the Audit Committee.
Manjeet Bhania
Senior Principal Auditor, Finance Directorate, Audit and Risk ManagementLondon Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP
Tel: 020 8359 7155      Mobile: 07961 *** ***     Fax: 0870 889 6792    Barnet Online:
P please consider the environment - do you really need to print this email?

This was the response from Barnet to the Email I sent yesterday and posted on this blog. Anyway, it is clear that I didn't make myself clear to Mr Bhania, so I sent the following email, hopefully so he now knows what I am asking.
Dear Mr Bhania,

Thank you for your helpful and informative reply. Sadly it doesn't answer the two questions I asked. For the purposes of clarity, let me rephrase them.

1) Please can you tell me what the terms of reference are for the inquiry. I realise that these are a matter for the audit committee but I would like you tell me what they are (unless they are a secret). If they haven't been set yet, please can you tell me when they will be set and when you can tell me what they will be. If for some reason you are unable to provide this information, please can you forward it to the appropriate person who can.

2) Please can you inform me whether myself and other concerned residents will be able to address the committee. Again if you cannot answer this, please forward to the person who can.

I hope this email clears up any perceived misunderstanding as to what exactly I was asking


Roger Tichborne
I am not sure whether the staff of Barnet Council realise that their is a crisis of credibility and trust in their competence, following a seemingly unending series of cock ups. They do have the opportunity to sort this out, by being open and honest with the people of Barnet and gviing proper answers to reasonable questions.

And as an aside, why is it that whenever there is a crisis in Barnet, the relevant person always seems to have just gone on holiday?

Barnet Council Outsourcing : Another major Barnet Cock Up

Barnet Council double debited (ie charged Taxpayers twice for their Council Tax).

This happened because the IT supplier to Barnet Council forced them to change the system they run their Council Tax billing on, which worked perfectly well, to a  different system.

Councillor Daniel Thomas said the following
"They obviously have my sincere apologies, and we’ll make sure there is no financial cost to any residents as a result of this"

So what will he do for the resident who contacted me and said they had filled their car up with petrol, their card was declined as they were overdrawn and they had to call their wife to bring another card out, otherwise the garage were going to call the police? I'm sure Councillor Thomas will be keen to apologise to him

This is Easycouncil in action. Does a week go by without a scandal involving Barnet Council outsourcing?

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Music & Gardening Special

It may surprise some readers of the Barnet Eye that I'd rather not have to blog about politics and Barnet at all. I'd rather spend all of my time writing music and pottering around in my garden. I've been playing with my new IMAC and trying to figure out all of the video editing capabilities. I thought I'd shoot some footage of the garden in all it's spring glory and put one of the rough pre prod mixes from Connies album over the top. Hope you like it

This one's for Scarlett, who writes a great gardening blog !!!!

Barnet Council : Metpro Scandal - Time to let them know what we think

Today I emailed the head of audit at Barnet Council and the CEO. I want to know what the terms of reference are and I want to address the committee investigating it. As well as ensuring they know what the people of Barnet think the issues are, I also want them to know that an internal investigation is not appropriate and why.

I urge everyone who is unhappy with Barnet Council's handling of this scandal to do the same. Here's what I had to say :-
From: Roger Tichborne
Sent: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 7:44 PM
Subject: Metpro Rapid Response inquiry

Dear Ms Salter,
As I believe you are head of corporate audit for Barnet Council, please can you email me as a matter of urgency detailing the terms of reference regarding the inquiry into Metpro Rapid Response Ltd and its relationship with Barnet Council. There are many issues raised by this internal inquiry and this is a matter of wide public interest. As a resident and Council Tax Payer, I am asking for the opportunity to address the inquiry personally.

Roger Tichborne

Matthew Offord MP : Sharia Law for Hendon - Conservative Chairmans opinion

On Sunday we detailed how Matthew Offord was asking residents whether they supported a Sharia law style Compsory Sobriety Scheme in a leaflet delivered around Hendon constituency.

Following rumours, Local Conservative party chairman Hugh Rayner contacted the Barnet Eye to give his views on the proposal. Councillor Hugh Rayner stated "I have not expressed an opinion".  Thanks to Hugh for clearing that up

Monday 18 April 2011

Barnet Council : Metpro Scandal - The catalog of failure by Barnet Council

Barnet Council, it's CEO Nick Walkley and its (de facto) Leader Andrew Harper are doing their utmost best to bury the truth about this scandal. Our Barnet Conservative Councillors have collaborated in this blatant attempt to hide the truth, by voting en mass to reject the opposition call for a debate at the last Council meeting. There can be no doubt at all that they put party loyalty before good governance or the interests of the Council Taxpayers of Barnet. I have made a list (I'm sure I've left a couple of things out) of the many worrying failures of Barnet Council in this sorry mess. Can any reasonable, fair minded person read this list and conclude that an internal enquiry by the very organisation which allowed this catalog of shame to occur, is acceptable or appropriate.

The latest edition of the Ham & High details more disturbing details (go to page 4 of the E-Edition)

This blog renews its call for an Independent Public Enquiry. If Barnet Council are unwilling to do this, then we will take our cause to Eric Pickles, the Local Government Minister, David Cameron, The Prime Minister and Nick Clegg, The Deputy Prime Minister. A full press release on the issue is currently being drafted by a group of concerned Barnet Residents and Taxpayers. If you wish to participate in this campaign, please email me via the link in the sidebar.We cannot allow the Council to behave in such a shoddy manner. Every responsible Council Tax payer suffers through such shoddy deals. Contracts are meant to be awarded on the basis of an open honest tender, not by backroom arrangements such as this.

Here is the list of reasons why Barnet Council cannot be allowed to sweep the matter under the carpet. An internal investigation can have no credibility, given that the Council have a vested interest in closing the whole matter down. We say that the procurement process in Barnet has failed and needs a comprehensive overhaul to ensure a debacle such as this can never happen again.

a) Metpro Rapid Response had been paid a total of £1.2 million pounds by Barnet Council, although there is apparently no evidence of a proper contract.
b) Barnet Council have been unable or unwilling to provide any evidence that such a large contract was ever properly tendered.
c) Barnet Council never sought documentary evidence that the Directors of Metpro Rapid Response Ltd were properly accredited by the SIA to run such a business.
d) Barnet Council never sought more than assurances that staff were CRB checked for work they undertook with vulnerable people.
e) Never asked Metpro Rapid Response Ltd staff to wear ID badges with SIA registration details, despite this being a legal requirement.
f) Were unaware that the company was undergoing liquidation proceedings, whilst continuing to work for Barnet Council.
g) Had transferred their business to another company Metpro Emergency Response Ltd (which had bought the database, assetts and Website of Metpro Emergency Response Ltd).
i) Were unaware that Metpro Rapid Response Ltd staff routinely and covertly filmed residents whilst undertaking work on behalf of Barnet Council.
j) Have claimed all such film was obtained and destroyed, even though it could contain footage of criminal activity.
k) Have subsequently stripped Metpro Emergency Response Ltd of the contract and awarded it to Blue 9 Security Ltd, using delegated powers (ie with no democratic oversight).
j) Have claimed that as of th 13th April the matter was not of public interest, despite numerous press articles, including an article in the Eevening Standard the day before (12th April).
l) Have claimed that the chair of the business Managament and Overview Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Hugh Rayner has discussed the issue of Metpro with nobody, despite this being a clear matter for his committee, indicating that Councillors have been kept in the dark.
m) Barnet Council refused to sanction a debate on the issue, which was asked for by Councillor Alison Moore, the Leader of the Labour Group.
n) Metpro Rapid Response Ltd have debts reportedly of over £245,000  to the inland revenue, which implies they have paid no tax at all on their income from Barnet Council.
o) Many FOI requests regarding the issue have been late or worse still, not responded to at all.

The Barnet Eye supports Journalists fighting for the future of the local Press

The Barnet Eye has received steadfast support from journalists at the Press group of newspapers for our recent campaigns for honesty, decency and trust in local government. I believe their support helped us to achieve a fantastic victory in the battle to save local libraries, forcing Councillor Robert Rams into a humiliating volte face on his closure program. Those same journalists are now going on strike to preserve the quality of the newspapers they work for. Here is their press release. Click on the image for a more readable version

Sunday 17 April 2011

Matthew Offord MP - Time for Sharia Law in Hendon?

This morning, as I sobered up after a heavy night of celebrating, following Manchester City winning the FA cup semi final against Manchester United, I was truly gobsmacked to read the latest leaflet from our local MP Matthew Offord. Mr Offord has a "Local Resident Questionairre" on his leaflet. Question 4 is the following :-

Click on Image for more readable version
Do you support a Compulsory Sobriety Scheme to tackle drunkeness and violence?

This was the first I'd heard of such a proposal for Hendon. The only countries where I was aware that Compulsory Sobriety was enforced were those living under Sharia Law, such as Saudi Arabia. Now I think it is no secret that Mr Offord likes a tipple, so what on earth is this all about? I've seen no plans, there is nothing on his website. It seems truly bizarre that he should ask us to support a scheme, which he doesn't mention in the leaflet and he doesn't explain what the implications are.

Does Mr Offord realise that there is already a compulsory Sobriety scheme in place for offenders and lawbreakers? It's called prison. I fully support the concept of locking people up who break the law. Sadly, the Tories are cutting the number of front line Policemen to implement the scheme. I support the idea of giving offenders the opportunity to enroll in schemes to combat alcoholism, in exchange for lighter sentences. I don't support big brother state bossing citizens around against their will.

Drinking alcohol is a fundamental part of our culture. It isn't always done responsibly, but then short of implanting "behaviour regulation chips" in our brains, many things will cause bad behaviour. I suspect that plenty of violence is a direct result of arguments about sexual relationships. Is that the next area to be targetted in Offords drive for Sharia Law in Hendon? If young men were completely segregated from women, forced to only drink water and pray five times a day when the football was on, I'm sure that Hendon would be far calmer place to live. However I personally don't want to live under Sharia Law, where such measures are compulsory. I don't want to live in a country where the state micro manages our lives. I like it here, where we all misbehave from time to time. I'm quite amazed that a Tory MP should even begin to propose such a thing.

I'm quite sure that when the local Tories read this blog they will claim I've misinterpreted what Offord was trying to say. Well, if that's the case, why hasn't he laid out what his scheme entails, why he asked the question and what he wants to see. This strikes me as a crafty attempt to trick people into supporting a scheme which they would totally reject if they were asked if they wanted a "Sharia style ban on drinking alcohol"

FA Cup Semi Final - Manchester City 1 - 0 Manchester United

Thanks to a good friend who happened to have the Wembley debenture, I was able to attend the FA Cup Semi final, in the Bobby Moore club area with my 10 year old son. As City fans, given our recent form against United it is fair to say, I approached with a degree of trepidation. My wife dropped us off by Brent Town hall at 4pm and we commenced the walk to Wembley. As we walked down, we saw a huge group of United flats "celebrating" on a green outside some flats. They were in high spirits, drinking lager, letting off flares, singing obscene songs about City and how they were going to stuff them as usual. Then past the pub at the top of the Wembley approach. Again not a City fan in sight. Matt asked "Do you think any City fans are coming?" I reassurred him "Yes, we'll have just as many in the stadium". Again more celebration.

As we walked up Wembley way to the stadium, the City fans started to appear. To me, nothing is better than the feeling of approaching the stadium. The smells of the burger vans, the tense energy, the banter. Wembley has one of the best approaches in the world, it looms large over you. Again the United fans were celebratory, the City fans discernably tenser. The noise from inside the stadium again rose as we approached. One young lad, possibly 12 years old, broke away from the United fans (walking on the left) to abuse a young city fan the same age on the right. The City fan responded with "Piss off you chav" and the United lad disappeared back into the red mob.

We arrived at the Bobby Moore Club entrance. Unlike the rest of the stadium, the Bobby Moore club is a "Neutral Zone" - no team shirts. As such a rather odd atmosphere pervaded. The odd scarf, logo'd T-shirt. I had a pint of Carlsberg, Matt had a medium coke and we shared 10 mini donuts. That set us back £10.80. I really object to the way fans are fleeced at such events. It is truly obscene to blatently rip people off.

Having savoured them in the lounge, we made our way to our seats. We were at the very top of the Bobby Moore club area, back row. Above us was the corporate area. As I looked up, I couldn't believe my eyes, standing right behind me were City legends Gary Owen and Tony Book. I instinctively waved to Gary, who immediately came over and started chatting. Not only was he one of the best footballers of his generation, Gary is a true footballing man and a die hard City fan. When I told him that it was Matt's first derby, he said "Well today you are going to see City beat United at Wembley. You are our lucky mascot". Gary told us that he thought the idea that the fans in the Bobby Moore area were neutral was crazy. He said "how can you be neutral when City play United". Gary, like me clearly couldn't relax. He predicted "This is the day that we beat them and we move on to the next phase at this club".  Suddenly the mystery of where all the City fans were, became clear.Rather than standing in pubs or on grass verges quaffing lager by the gallon, they'd got to the ground early to soak up the atmosphere. Maybe the United fans are jaded by their success, but the party atmosphere in the ground in the City end (flags, inflatable bananas, celebratory songs) marked a huge contrast. Matt commented that the City fans certainly seemed to know how to enjoy themselves.

As the game started, United dominated the early exchanges. Joe Hart saved City when Berbatov was clean through. Ten seconds later, Berbatov, put it over the bar from two yards out. I said to Matt "I think it might be our day". After about 30 minutes, Zabaletta put a great tackle in. That seemed to lift City and they started to play. Barry hit the side netting, Balotelli forced a great save from Van Der Sar. The half ended with City on top.

At half time, Gary Owen, who couldn't sit still came over for another chat. I said "I think we'll do it, possibly two/nil" Gary responded "No, one goal will do it, I think we'll score at around the hour" (proof, if ever it was needed that Gary Owen knows more about football than Rog T). The half started, City came out and started to boss the game. The players had the belief that was lacking in the first half hour. United players were being hassled and harried. On 52  minutes the pressure paid off. Yaya Toure capitalised on a Carrick mistake. Beating Vidic, he put the ball through Van Der Sar's legs. City suddenly seemed to be playing as if they had an extra man. United were hassled and harried and hardly got a look in. The only real scare came when the hassling got  a bit too exhuberant. Nani took a fantastic free kick. Joe Hart showed why he's undisputedly England No 1, tipping the ball onto the post.

On 73 minutes, United went down to 10 men , when a rash Scholes tackle on Zabaleta earned him a red card. I suspect Scholes new the game was up and didn't fancy hanging around till the end. Normally when United are down, the last 10 minutes is  a surge of attacks, wave upon wave. They seemed strangely muted.  When the ref announced 5 mins of extra time, there was a cheer from the Red end, but in truth they'd already started heading for the exit.

When the whistle blew, the City end erupted. Gary Owen vaulted over the barrier from the corporate area to be closer to the real City fans. Passing, we shook hands and he said "See you at the final". We sang Blue Moon and joined in to a Slade track on the PA. The City fans applauded the Team. The Team applauded the fans. I said to Matt "Enjoy this, these moments don't come along too often".

Then we left the Stadium, as we descended the walkway towards Wembley park, a group of middle aged United fans (probably about six people) ran towards the City fans and started fighting. The City fans by and large didn't react, other than to defend themselves. People shouted "Where's the Police" and others shouted "We've won, they can't take it". Suddenly a group of police stormed up. Given that the United fans were not wearing any colours, I've no idea if they got caught. It all seemed rather pathetic. Many City fans had children, and one guy said to me "You''d think at their age they'd know better". Sadly I think some people never will.

As we walked back to the 302 bus stop at Blackbird Hill, we walked past the spot where the United fans had been celebrating earlier, letting off flares. All that remained was a sea of plastic bags, beer cans and other detritus. It seemed to sum up their day. Looking at the forlorn mess, Matt commented to me "Now I know why you don't like Man United fans" - Indeed.