Thursday 30 June 2011

Me and the Mill Hill Music Festival

So we're half way thru the music festival now. So far every gig has been well attended, with all having at least 100 people in attendence. One wag came up to me last night and said that if nothing else, I've proven I could organise a piss up in a brewery (although most of the hard work has been done by the rest of the committee).

A big change at this festival, compared to the last one is just how many people are aware of the blog.  There are also loads of people who I haven't seen since I was canvassing at the local elections last year. As the blog is about the festival this week, I won't go into this too much, but it is nice to have people recognise the efforts. Some of you have said that you'd prefer the blog to carry on with it's usual theme's this week, but I don't think that would be fair on the rest of the committee, as the festival is a cross community event. I don't see it as an excuse to promote whatever I do here.

The question was asked last night "What is the purpose of the festival?" It's quite simple. It is to promote live music in Mill Hill. We aim to give everyone a week of great music, at an affordable cost on their doorstep. We try and have a diverse selection of styles of music at a selection of different venues. Some are free, where the pubs pay the artists out of bar takings (Three Hammers, Adam & Eve), some we charge, this covers the cost of staging the festival. Some are put on by other organisations, we just promote them (St Vincents School, Mill Hill Jazz club). It is all about trying to build  a better community around the festival.

For some people, the gigs at John Keble & St Pauls may be the only time they set foot in a church this year. As these buildings, religious connotations aside, are great places for music, it opens up areas of the community. All gigs have breaks/intermissions, where people can catch up with old friends and sometimes make some new ones ! I'm a musician. I run a music related business, providing music rehearsal and recording facilities and selling musical instruments. I've run it for 32 years and I'm now seeing some of our original customers coming in with their grandchildren (or even great grandchildren). This year's festival celebrates 18 years of the festival. It has changed as it has gone along. I hope it's got better. It's true to say you can't please all the people all the time, but I sincerely hope we've brought a little happiness to a few people week. 

Mill Hill Music Festival - Day 5 - The Geoff Mason Quintet at the Mill Hill Jazz Club

So tonight we were down at the Mill Hill Sports club for the Mill Hill Jazz club night. Yet again we had over 100 people turn up. Yet again we had a brilliant night. The boys were on top form and gave the audience a fair treat. The Mill Hill Jazz club runs every Wednesday at Mill Hill Sport club. It is the longest running regular music gig in Mill Hill and helped launch the career of Imelda May !

Long may it continue - more details at

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Mill Hill Music Festival TV - The Al Warner & Paul Myerson show at the Adam and Eve

Here's a few selected highlights from Sunday Night at the Mill Hill Music Festival show featuring Alan Warner and Paul Myerson at the Adam and Eve. It was a fantastic night. Here is a link to the Adam and Eve's website detailing their forthcoming events (and there are some crackers coming up) -

There are still tickets left for the party Night at the Mill Hill Sports club on Saturday, featuring some of our top local musicians playing hits from the 1960s, 70's, 80's & 90's. There are also tickets left for the BBC Symphony Orchestra players at St Pauls Church. Both events are likely to sell out, so get your tickets ASAP. They are available from Mill Hill Wines -

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Klegg Exposed !!!!!!

Mill Hill Music Festival - Day 4 - The Charles Court Opera at Trinity Church

So after a brief night off, the Festival kicked back into life tonight with Opera at Trinity Church in Eversfield Gardens. This featured the superb Charles Court Opera. There were over 120 people in attendence and a truly marvellous night was had by all. It was the first time I'd been to the Trinity Church Hall for possibly 30 years and it is an excellent venue for such a do. It is small enough to be intimate, but well laid out with a decent car park and good transport links, having a bus stop right outside.

This event probably had the most London wide appeal, as we sold telephone booking tickets to people from all over London & the home counties. When people in Dulwich start booking for the festival we know we're doing something right. The venue suited the opera. People in the UK tend to associate Opera with expensive halls and ladies with pearls. In countries such as Italy it is the music of the masses. The Charles Court Opera are trying to re-establish that link. The program featured french, italian & Gilbert & Sullivan to name but a few. There were four singers and a pianist. I've been to Operas at the Royal Opera House, but this was a more intense and intimate experience. One day maybe we'll do an "Opera Picnic" with fireworks, I suspect that would work rather well, but what do I know I'm a rock and roller.

As Opera doesn't need a PA system, my role was limited to watching, eating peanuts and drinking beer. What better way to spend a wet Tuesday night in NW7 !

Tomorrow night, we are back to the Mill Hill Sport Club for the Jazz night. The Mill Hill Jazz Club are hosting the Geoff Mason Sextet. There are a few tickets left and it's £9 on the door (£7 to Jazz club members). It promises to be a good night. We've had 700 people attend the five festival events so far, all in small intimate venues, with every event having a minimum of 100 people in attendance. As an organiser, that tells me we are doing something right !

Monday 27 June 2011

Mill Hill Music Festival - The night off

Rust never sleeps. I've been editing up some of the footage from the first two nights of the festival. Here's a few edited highlights from the first night, with the False Dots featuring Connie A, The Ron Lewis Partnership and Angels with Enemies

And here's the opening song from the False Dots - "Crazy" - watch this space

Tomorrow night we have the Charles Court Opera at the Trinity Church Hall Eversfield Gardens, there are a few tickets still left.

Andrew Dismore press releases : 27/6/2011



Andrew Dismore, Labour candidate for the London Assembly for Barnet and Camden, has today submitted to Barnet Council’s District Auditor a request that the auditor conducts a section 8 public interest inquiry into the Council’s contracting arrangements, both generally and with specific reference to the MetPro scandal ( copy reference to auditor attached)

Mr Dismore said:

“Like most Barnet taxpayers and residents, I have been following with growing alarm the revelations concerning both MetPro and the underlying lack of proper contracting procedures more generally that the scandal has identified.

Having been at the Council meeting when the Robocop style of security used by MetPro at the request of the Council first came under criticism, the consequent investigations have revealed a catalogue of catastrophic failures by Barnet Council and its leadership.

This poor contracting and lack of financial control is not a one off, as the Iceland investment fiasco and cost overruns of the Aerodrome Rd bridge confirm.

What is especially worrying, is that the internal audit found there were inadequate systems to ensure the same thing did not happen again. The “One Council” initiative will create dozens of opportunities for more to go wrong too, with consequent mammoth losses to Barnet’s long suffering tax payers, if immediate corrective action is not taken.

I therefore believe it is vital that the external district auditor now uses his powers to conduct a full public interest inquiry into Barnet Council’s contract procedures and I have today written to the auditor, seeking such an intervention on his part”.




Andrew Dismore, the Labour candidate for the London Assembly for Barnet and Camden, has just received the response to a Freedom of Information request to the Metropolitan Police which has revealed that in the 3 years since he was last elected Conservative Assembly member Brian Coleman has not written to the Met. even once, raising concerns about Safer Neighbourhood and Safer Transport Police team numbers and deployments. (FoI attached below).

Mr Dismore said:

“It is appalling that the police have no record of Assembly member for Barnet and Camden having written with any concerns about the strength of our SNT and STT teams. It has been clear for some time that they have been under threat from Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. The boundaries of the ward based teams are breaking down and we have just learned that the two Boroughs are to lose 9 SNT sergeants between them.

As for the STTs, when they were first introduced by former Mayor Ken Livingstone, Mr Coleman dismissed them as a “gimmick”.

Serious and damaging as these cuts are, it will come as a real shock to local people that their Assembly member apparently could not be bothered to put pen to paper or sit in front of his computer to compose even one letter to the Met. to raise objections or concerns about the SNT police cuts, imposed by the Conservative Government and Mayor.

If I am elected to the London Assembly next year I will stand up for our local police teams and make sure local people’s views are properly represented to New Scotland Yard and City Hall”.

For further information call Andrew Dismore 07957 625 813

MIll Hill Music festival - Day 2 - End of the Night

Just back in from the Adam & Eve. Tonight was a resounding success. Every event (4 so far) has had over 100 people, which is truly incredible. The Adam & Eve gig, featuring Alan Warner and Paul Myerson was in the garden of the pub and we estimate over 150 people attended, which is brilliant for a Sunday night. In all we've had well over 500 people at the gigs. The two I didn't attend were at the Three Hammers, fetauring Ian Bameld Dixieland Jazz band for a Jazz lunch, and the Salvation Army at the John Keble Church. So we've had Rock, Rythm & Blues, Hip Hop, Punk Rock, Dixieland Jazz, a brass band and a truly awesome blues/rock guitarist.

As if that wasn't enough, I spent the afternoon at St Vincents School DJ'ing at the school fete. For Al Warner, I was sound guy. I had to pick up the PA, and be the gofer for the night. The pub looked after us very well and fed us and gave us a beer. Twenty years ago that was pretty standard, doesn't happen quite so often these days. They were over the moon with the evening and have promised to talk about more music. Ticket sales this year are well up on previous festivals, which hopefully indicates that live music is on the up. Before the festival, when we discussed it with the pub, being a new venture they were not really sure if we could deliver a crowd.  By the end of the night, they were thrilled to bits.

We finally got away at 12.15, although the music finished at around 10.30. Musicians like a beer and a chat with friends before they go home. Al Warner is one of the nicest guys in rock and roll. He's also a superb guitarist. We have a night off tomorrow. Mondays is not a great night for gigs, no one comes, so we've learned that if we have a night off, it helps us pace ourselves and keep fresh.

Rather interestingly, when I arrived home I found a "fight the CPZ" leaflet on the other car. They are clearly ramping their campaign up. But as I'm not blogging about politics, I'm not going to discuss it here.

All in all a great start to the festival. Watch this space for piccies & vid clips tomorrow. And buy those tickets, they are selling out fast !

Sunday 26 June 2011

MIll Hill Music festival - Day 2

So did you make it down to the Mill Hill Sports Club last night? If you did thanks for your support, if you didn't, it was a hoot. Fittingly the 9th Mill Hill Music festival was kicked off by a young local band from Mill Hill, Angels with Enemies. A three piece with a big rock sound. I'll be posting some video of them (and most of the other events) here over the course of the week. Next up were The Ron Lewis Partnership, featuring the amzing harmonica skills of Nick Greenberg ably supported by John Turner (guitar), Nick O'Reilly (bass) and Charlie on drums. They are an in your face rythm and blues band. It was a special gig for John as it was also his mum Betty's 81st Birthday and she came down in the mood for a boogie. Getting the whole audience to sing happy birthday to her was surely one of this years high point.

Last up was my band, the False Dots with Connie A, our amazing vocalist. We had a blast and were joined for the last two numbers, which were us jamming by Bob Stout on guitar, Nick Greenberg on harp and Paul Amsetrdam on sax. I guess that if you didn't enjoy that, you probably don't like rock and roll music. I think we played pretty well and the one I song I enjoyed most was probably "If you really mean it" although the missus said our slow slushy ballad "It's too late" was the best one.

Being the first gig, us as festival organisers were especially hoping that it would be successful and kick the festival off with a bang. Much preparation had gone into the festival. Small details such as organising PA systems, car parking, ticket sales, publicity takes months of planning. It all came together beautifully. For many of the venues,it provides a useful bit of extra cash. The bar staff at the Sports club told me they were more than happy with the takings from thirsty False Dots fans ! Another good thing was we paid all the bands and made a small profit, to be ploughed back into the festival. There are many costs which have to be covered apart from the band expenses. Printing, petrol expenses, lighting rigs, drapes for venues with no curtains, insurance, banners etc. The organisers take nothing other than out of pocket expenses though. We do it because we love music.

For me, one of the highlights of the Indie night is that I get to choose the bands and I get to choose the music we play between the bands. Whilst for many this is just something in the background, I spend hours pondering over the selection. Last night you'd have heard tunes from Boz Boorer's album Miss Pearl (in honour of the finest Mill Hillbilly!), who played with Morrissey at Glastonbury on Friday night. You'd also have heard some of the following - The Ramones, The Heartbreakers, MC5, Ronnie Spector, T-Rex, The New York Dolls to name but a few.

As I was having a night off from festival organising (as I was playing) I must thank the team of organisers and helpers, This included Gerry (who did a fine job on the PA), Clare, Dan, Joan, Leslie, Richard, Steve for their efforts as well as the staff at the Sports club, for making us so welcome.

Today we the Dixieland Jazz Lunch at the Three Hammers, The Salvation Army band + The London Single Reeds at John Keeble Church and Alan Warner at the Adam and Eve. Just to add to the fun, I've got to do the sound for St Vincents School Garden Fete. Rock and Roll !

Saturday 25 June 2011

MIll Hill Music festival - Day 1 - The Build up

For those of you who haven't read the warnings, for the duration of the Mill Hill Music Festival, this blog becomes my festival diary. I'm one of the organising committee. I won't be blogging about Barnet Politics again for eight days, unless aliens land at the Town Hall or Nick Walkley abidcates and I get his job
So it's 10 am. Had a nice breakfast in bed. As it's Clares Birthday, so as a treat, gave her one of my special recipe bagela - Smoked Salmon, Gherkins, Tomatoes, red onion, watercress, pepper, having collected Maddie from swimming practice at 8am. She wasn't too impressed with her present. A ticket to see the False Dots at the Mill Hill Sports Centre, where we play tonight.

Last night we went to see "Million Dollar Quartet" at the Noel Coward Theatre in St Martins Lane. It features the story of a jam session at Sun Records recording studios with Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins & Jerry Lee Lewis. Great Tunes and a decent show. As I watched it, I was reminded of the many hours I spent in recording studios in my career. My mind was cast back to a session in 1984 in Reading. The studio had no chill out area, so after we laid our tracks down, we went to the pub. When the pub shut, we had nowhere to go, so we all sat in a cupboard for four hours. Our lead guitarist Bill Pithers was a very clean living individual, a non smoker. At the end of this he resembled a kipper and had to have a couple of days off work, recovering from the ordeal. In the early days of the band, recording sessions were always stressful and involved rushing everything and using tracks that weren't right. As a result we'd rehearse the songs to death, so we knew the parts inside out and backwards. At that session, this came in useful because we actually recorded Bill's guitar solo backwards on a track called Africa Morning. Our singer at the time was the extremely marvellous half Nigerian singer Vanessa Sagoe (her sister Sally was Kelvin's mum in early episodes of Eastenders). The song is a very dark song about sexual tourism & exploitation of Africa. I wrote it after seeing a documentary about how Westerners visit the third world to shag children.  The basic message of the song was that because we are rich, we are a bunch of exploitative piss taking bastards. Sadly the lyrics got watered down and it just sounds like a nice song about going on holiday. The chorus is observes the fact that although we still have slavery, now it is economic.

Africa Morning, 
don't know if I should, 
have another, 
or buy the freedom - You know I wish I could

Of course, music is about conveying emotions. The best songs are ones that you connect with and the best singers are ones that you feel an empathy with. I think the reason most performers have tragic lives is because to be a truly great performer, you have to be deeply vulnerable in some measure.

As my thoughts turn to the festival week ahead, I contemplate what awaits us. The unforeseen emergencies, the laughs, the temper tantrums, the 3am Kebabs. Organising a festival is a massive commitment and we've been planning it for nearly a year. In the current economic climate, we were worried that ticket sales would be slow. Fortunately they've been more than respectable with at least two of the biggest shows all but sold out.

As ever, there is a mixed program. Our biggest name this year is Jacqui Dankworth on Friday at The RAF museum. This is sold out. Tonight, my band, the False Dots play. We feature Sudanese singer Connie A, who has interrupted a tour of Africa with rapper Emmanuel Jal to appear with us. Connie is awesome. Also on the bill are "The Ron Lewis Partnership" who are an in your face rythm and blues band in the Feelgood mode, with Nick Greenberg on harmonica. The show is opened by local rock band, Angels with Enemies. We believe in giving up and coming artists a showcase as well as the established acts.

If you are in Mill Hill or nearby, please support the festival. The organisers give our time for free, we pay the artists because we believe that musicians should be supported.  When I was a teenager in a band, there was virtually no music in Mill Hill and it was a worse place for it. If you support the festival and the events, it sends out a strong message that people believe in the community and they want to see a local music scene. It is a real treat to see artists of the calibre of Jacqui Dankworth locally. Please help us ensure the success of the festival, so we can carry on staging it for years to come.

Friday 24 June 2011

The Friday Round up - Mill Hill Music Festival Looms

This will be the last blog until Sunday 3rd July that will not be dedicated to the Mill Hill Music Festival, of which I'm an organiser. The reason for this is because it will be a hectic week and I need to focus. This blog will become my festival diary for the week.

This is rather lucky for a few people, not least Nick Walkley, as it gives him pause for thought following our little email exchange. We had some disgraceful scenes at the Finchley Residents forum last night, as described by Mrs Angry. It seems from her bolog that Councillor Reuben Thompstone is destined for great things in the small pond of the Barnet Tories. Sound's like he's a rather large halibut.

Anyway, keep an eye on the sidebar for the fantastic work of the other Barnet bloggers. I hope you enjoy the festival diary. For those of you who are interest, my band, The False Dots open the festival tomorrow night at the Mill Hill Sports Club, Graham Park way.

And here's the Friday Joke.

Stella places an add in the lonely hearts column. "Looking for a man who won't hit me, won't run away and is great in bed".

Bob knocks on her door a week later. He says "I can't beat you because I have no arms and I can't run away because I have no legs" He tells her.

Stella replies "What makes you think you're so good in bed?"

Bob replies "How do you think I knocked on the door".

Have a great Friday evening.

Barneteye TV : Metpro 3 : The Weakness in Barnet Council Audit

Lord Palmer succinctly outlines why Barnet Council Audit is not fit for purpose, with a mass outsourcing process looming. A lovely cameo appearance from Non Stick Nick Walkley. Lord PAlmer praises the efforts of bloggers

Thursday 23 June 2011

Dyslexic with the attention span of a gnat

Yup, that's me. Sometimes I'm intently watching something on the TV and there's a commercial break. I decide to go to the Toilet. When I've finished, I decide to make a cup of tea. Whilst the kettle is boiling, I check my emails. I get an email from an employee at Barnet Council and I start doing a bit of research. I find out that the issue is actually far worse than even they suspected and much of the info is public domain, which any organisation which performed a bit of due diligence would have spotted. I write a blog. Being dyslexic, this takes ages. I proof read it three times. By this time it is well past midnight, the family has gone to bed and I'm knackered.

It takes a toll. You end up tired and ratty. You ask yourself why you do it? You wonder if you are becoming obsessive, to add to the list of things wrong with your brain. You wonder if anyone gives a shit. This goes on for years and years. Then something like Metpro blows up. You feel vindicated. You feel that all the hard work may have some sort of payoff, that maybe, just maybe it has all been worth it and you might see a small change for the better, because the evidence is there in black and white. But ......

You realise that the people who allowed the mess to develop are still in place.

You realise that the people who need to sort the problem out aren't in the least bit interested in doing their job and making this happen.

So what do you do? You write to the Secretary of state responsible. You get no reply.

So what do you do then? You suddenly remember that maybe, just maybe, you have access to someone who can give him an almighty kick up his fat useless arse.

So what do you do then? Well that would be telling wouldn't it.

But if any of you have dyslexic kids, with the attention span of a gnat, don't get disheartened. One day your kids may do something vaguley useful. I just hope that unlike my parents, you live long enough to see that day.

On a completely different subject entirely. I'd really like to sit down and have a chat with the CEO of Barnet Nick Walkley and the Local Government secretary Eric Pickles. I'd like to know if maybe they'd be interested in organising a seminar on how bloggers can make a positive contribution to democracy and local government. I think Barnet provides and excellent example of how this can happen. Give us a bell chaps.

Manuel the Doggone Soup Waiter & Brian Colemans Spin Doctor

 I had a rather amusing thought regarding Matthew Offord MP and his recent TV appearence concerning his annoyance at his human rights being breached, because he can't take his dog to work. Rumour has it that Manuel, Parliaments most famous soup waiter is none to pleased with this title. Do you suppose he had a word with Brian Colemans spin doctor and said "How can I stop everyone calling me Manuel?" and BC's spin doctor said "Well you could always do something which makes you look and even bigger berk" and so Matthew thought "What a marvellous idea".

If it's of any interest to Manuel, I have just the job for him, if he's too distraught at being apart from Max to continue as an MP. My old friend Ron The Ratcatcher passed away a couple of years ago. As Matthew has a Jack Russell, he'd be an ideal replacement, as these dogs excel at pest control

Wednesday 22 June 2011

No !

I had a short conversation tonight regarding the Barnet Council Metpro Audit. They asked a simple question. If the council fully implement all of the recommendations of the audit committee will that be enough?

The answer is no. This is not because I'm a member of the audit squad or unreasonable. It is because the terms of reference of the audit inquiry were flawed. Many of the most serious issues were "out of scope". I fully agree that many things in Barnet would be greatly improved by implementing the findings. The serious point which has emerged (and been reinforced as I reviewed and edited the video footage of the meeting) is that there are matters which haven't even been looked at.

I have to ask myself why? Is it because the CEO of the council doesn't care? I doubt it, I'm sure he's a decent chap at heart. Is it because he's scared of just what might be found and what the implications for his future career prospects are? I've no idea, but if that is the reason, I am truly horrified. I am disturbed by some of the comments made in the two clips I've already posted. I'm even more disturbed at a couple of comments in the next clip.

What is the most disturbing fact of all is that, even though I was at the meeting, with a team of fellow Barnet bloggers, with all  of the crap coming out at the meeting, we missed key sections. Councillor Richard Cornelius, the new Leader of the Council would, I'm sure, be concerned had these issues been brought to his attention, but because there was no recording, apart from the Barnet Eye video, no one would have told him so he'd never know.

There can no longer be the slightest doubt that in a democracy all public meetings should be recorded. If anyone tells you differently, review the clips I've posted. If anyone asks you if there is any good reason why council meetings are not recorded, the answer is simple and straightforward. No

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Barneteye TV : Metpro 2 :The Angry Brigade storm the Barnet Council Metpro Inquiry

Well, not quite. This is a video of redoubtable (according to Brian Coleman, this term is an insult) Barnet Blogger Mrs Angry, getting the answers to her questions at the Metpro inquiry - Enjoy

Andrew Neil exposes Matthew Offord MP for "using his dog"

I live in the Hendon Constuency. We elected this bloke

Click on this link for the most cringeworthy TV clip you will see for a long, long time

Lord help us 

Barnet residents respond to Barnet Council’s MetPro audit report

On Thursday 16 June 2011 the Audit Committee of the London Borough of Barnet met to discuss the internal audit report into the MetPro scandal.
The report was commissioned as a result of pressure from Barnet residents, who alerted the Council to problems with the MetPro companies that the Council’s own procedures had completely failed to identify.
While the audit committee, under the chairmanship of Lord Monroe Palmer, did an excellent job of identifying many serious problems with this vendor account, many issues which residents were concerned about were deemed out of scope of this investigation. Furthermore, the committee has no powers to impose any remedy, and can only aspire to “inspire the executive to do better” (to quote Maryellen Salter, Assistant Director - Audit).
In addition to the serious concerns about Barnet Council’s relationship with the MetPro companies, there are wider implications of this affair for the Council as a whole. The problems which remain to be addressed are:

A) Legal issues. The Council’s Internal Auditor cannot exclude the possibility that fraud may have taken place. The Director of Corporate Governance Jeff Lustig indicated that since there was no evidence of fraud, there was no need to investigate. This is a highly unsatisfactory response and appears to be in breach of the council's own policies and procedures.
The Council’s financial regulations are clear on this point:
“Any suspected irregularity involving any asset, or the exercise of any function, of the Council must be reported by the appropriate Chief Officer to the Chief Internal Auditor to inform the overall assurance that can be delivered and to the Corporate Anti Fraud Team (CAFT) Manager for investigation.”

B) Contract procurement and monitoring. Barnet Council are pushing forward with the One Barnet Programme, a major outsourcing scheme, even though the audit team has identified serious and fundamental flaws in the Council’s contract procurement and monitoring processes.
The audit report into MetPro confirmed that there had been a breach of EU procurement laws which ensure fairness and anti-discrimination as well as best value. The internal audit report is silent on compliance with procurement law; however, given that only the largest 180 contracts out of 9,700 vendors are audited, it is likely that there are other legal breaches. In view of the shocking findings of the audit report and the recognition by the Audit Committee that the focus on change and the One Barnet Programme had been a contributory factor in these failures, we believe that all but essential contract renewals should be put on hold until an effective system of contract procurement and monitoring has been put in place and tested.
The multiple failings detailed in the MetPro report and in the Internal Audit Annual Opinion must be addressed, and Council staff working in procurement fully trained in the Council’s own Contract Procedure Rules before the Council can even consider embarking on an expansion of outsourcing.
The chair of the Audit Committee said that the audit department is unable to perform its duties owing to lack of resources. Barnet Council’s audit team should be strengthened and ways found to ensure that its recommendations are carried out.

C) Project management. In 2006, Barnet Council launched a SAP system to manage procurement, at an initial estimated cost of £8 million. This was done to modernise the control of payments and purchasing.
The cost of this project has spiralled to £25 million, more than three times the original estimate. Not only has this system failed to prevent the problems demonstrated by the MetPro report, it seems that the promised benefits of automation have not materialised. MetPro invoices have had handwritten numbers and notes on them. Payments have been made to non authorised accounts, and it seems that no proper audit trail exists. How can a system that cost £25 million have failed to address all of these issues?
The SAP fiasco shows that Barnet Council cannot manage large projects, cannot control costs and cannot implement outsourcing projects that work. They should not be considering One Barnet outsourcing until they fix the problems with their project management that the MetPro scandal has highlighted.

D) Safeguarding. The issues of safeguarding raised by MetPro have not been addressed. In light of the contact with vulnerable adults and children at Barbara Langstone House by MetPro employees who were neither SIA licensed nor CRB checked, Barnet Council should investigate in conjunction with the police whether there was the potential for or actual incidents of abuse, not only in relation to MetPro, but also in relation to any other security firms engaged by the Council. In addition, Barnet Council should keep central registers of all CRB, SIA and other required checks for all people working with the Council. This issue should be addressed immediately.
Barnet Council should work with residents who were illegally filmed by MetPro at the Council meeting on 1 March to address any data protection issues that arose from that episode, and possible other actions of this nature, instead of, as it has done up until now, trying to wash its hands of all responsibility.
E) VAT and invoicing. The Council do not have procedures in place to ensure that invoices meet legal requirements. The example on the Council’s own website is deficient. It is clear that staff are not properly trained in dealing with payments. A training programme must be instituted as a matter of urgency, to ensure compliance.

F) Culture. It is of great concern that the Audit Committee has made similar criticisms in the past, yet there has been a further deterioration. This should be a disciplinary matter for senior management, since it is accepted by the CEO, Nick Walkley, that this is a widespread problem resulting from lack of proper operational management. It is clear that attempts to inspire an audit culture have failed. 

There is a culture of complacency at the top of Barnet Council. Senior officers know that they will not be held to account for any failings that take place under them, and that they can expect huge payoffs if problems are detected. Senior posts are filled by contractors on short contracts, with no vested interest in the future of the Council. No effort is made to replace these interim appointments with permanent staff. Until this culture of complacency is eradicated, nothing will improve. Senior staff should not be contractors on temporary contracts with no vested interest in improving the procurement culture, since it is clear that a root and branch review is likely to uncover more issues which will require addressing.
As concerned residents, we call for all of the issues above to be dealt with immediately. We want an action plan to be drawn up, with short timescales, and published for residents’ information. Without this, the residents can have no confidence in Barnet Council, its executive or its leadership


Derek Dishman
John Dix
Adam Langleben
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne

Monday 20 June 2011

Mill Hill Music Festival - Support your local Blogger

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am an organiser of the Mill Hill Music Festival. This is a bi-annual event, which between 25th June - 2nd July will take over my life. Most nights I'll get to bed at 3am, having been doing sound, rigging and de-rigging the gigs. We've done our absolute best to put together a brilliant program of gigs. As with previous festivals, I will not be writing political blogs at all during this period. The blog will become my festival diary and hopefully give anyone who is interested a feel for what it is like to run a local music festival.

At the time of the last festival, two years ago, we had VickiM and Don't Call Me Dave on the local blogging scene. Sadly DCMD has retired, but we now also have Mrs Angry, Mr Reasonable and Mr Mustard to give you your fix of high quality Barnet blogging during this period. I am sure they will suitably fill the breach, if you are missing the tales of shenanigans in the town hall.

Anyway, this is a heartfelt appeal. The Music Festival is a labour of love. The organisers do it for free, give our time & efforts. All the musicians are paid (apart from me!) as we believe that they deserve it. We have some great artists playing all sorts of music, please click in the sidebar.

Anyway, here's my little plug for me. My band, the False Dots, are playing on the first night, along with a brilliant young band called Angels with Enemies and a great Rythm and Blues band called  The Ron Lewis Partnership. We are appearing at the Mill Hill Sports Club in Graham Park Way. The tickets are £5 in advance or £7 on the door. They can be purchased via the website link in the green sidebar. You can also buy tickets from Mill Hill wines. Please come down, say hello and support us. If you do, please say hello. Our band has two guitarists. I'm the tall one, Fil is the short Portuguese one.

If you can't make Saturday, please come to another event. Jacqui Dankworth is sold out, but there are a few tickets for the other gigs

Here's a little taste of the sort of stuff we play

Mike Freer MP & Mobile phone questions

I am intrigued. If you click this link -, you'll see literally dozens of questions from Mike Freer about mobile phones. They all ask the same thing :-

Mike Freer: To ask the XXXXXXXXXXXX what the name is of each contractor or supplier of (a) mobile telephone and (b) mobile data services to his Department.

The XXXXXXXXXXXX is the bit that changes, on the first page of answers we have the following ( I got bored after then).

Chancellor of the Exchequer
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Secretary of State for Health
Secretary of State for Wales
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Secretary of State for Scotland
Secretary of State for the Home Department
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Secretary of State for Transport

Why does Mike Freer have such a fascination with which mobile phone provider these departments use? It is a matter of public record that Mike Freer received an honoury MBA for his participation in the BT Vital Vision program. It is clear that his work on the program resulted in a deep fascination with telephone networks. As many people in Barnet read this blog, I'd like to ask Mike Freer to write a guest blog here and explain exactly what he's deduced from his enquiries into which firms supply which departments with mobile phones. I'm sure the information is highly useful. To someone, somewhere. I'd like to know who, purely out of curiosity

Barnet Tory Councillors : Metpro Scandal - The silence of the lambs

I did say that I would keep you all informed as to who issued the instruction to Barnet Councillors about not replying to the open email I sent - asking them not to reply to me. I have been informed that the instruction was only issued to Tory Councillors and was issued by the new leader, Councillor Richard Cornelius. I have been told that the reason for this was because actions related to the Metpro report were being worked on and that the Leader was keen that nothing be said that would prejudice this work or disrupt it. He was keen that the people working on this focus on the job at hand and those that aren't working on it, don't speak from an uninformed viewpoint. I have been assurred that the matter is being taken seriously.

I received simple acknowledgments from two Lib Dems, without comment and no Labour Councillors. Is this satisfactory? Under normal circumstances, I'd completely understand that, but this isn't normal circumstances. The issue for me is that the people at the top of the executive, who allowed the scandal to occur are the same people investigating it. There is no independence whatsoever. However I look at it, I come back to the same place. Barnet need an independent investigation with power to recommend disciplinary action. That way all of the tongues which are rather tied and the paperwork which can't be found might appear.

Does Barnet Council have a structure to allow whistleblowers and protect them from disciplinary action? If they don't they damn well should. I'm not saying that Barnet Council should share everything with me. I do however feel that they should appoint an independent arbiter to sort the mess out, WITH POWER TO SACK ANYONE FROM THE CEO DOWN, if needs be. I think that as the bloggers of Barnet found the mess, it should be someone who we all agree is independent and acceptable. Maybe then, some faith will be restored in the process. I don't want to tell them how to do their job, just hear from them why they are the best person to do it. I'm not an expert, but I do sense that people would collectively have faith in someone who the local resident/citizens reports gave a thumbs up to. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures

Non Stick Nick's weekly bulletin translated into English

Nick Walkley's weekly Memo to Staff.

My fellow Barnet blogger, Mr Mustard has invented a new name for the CEO of Barnet - Nick Walkley. The Bloggers of Barnet have proclaimed that henceforth he will be known as Non Stick Nick, because when the shit hits the fan, non of it ever sticks to him. I have also received a copy of Non Stick Nick's latest proclaimation to his subjects Barnet Council Staff. I have helpfully provided a translation into English for those of you not fluent in *Walkleyspeak. The original is in black, my translation is in RED
Last night's Audit Committee meeting was, quite rightly, amongst the most difficult in my time as Chief Executive.
I really thought we were in the shit at last nights meeting of the audit committee
Alongside the Metpro report, which was dealt with in last week’s email, I attended to specifically respond to the Internal Audit Annual Report. This, like the Metpro Report, pulled no punches but is rather more important in the conclusions it draws about aspects of the council's work. Overall it gives only "limited assurance" that we have the right controls in place to ensure that we spend wisely and meet the objectives we set. The Metpro report and the Audit Annual report shows that we are doing a crap job, we haven't got a clue how to deal with it and no one here, least of all me, really knows what is going on.
As I confirmed to the Committee its vital that we have the robust internal challenge that audit provides and for too long I do not think that has been the case. However equally important is that when we identify concerns we learn from the findings and act on them. I waffled on to the committee in the hope that they were too thick to realise I was bullshitting and tried to convince them that we would do something to sort the whole mess out. I think the schmucks fell for that.
Members have an absolute right to expect that when we get things wrong we prioritise putting them right. Last night I committed us to addressing all of the issues raised by the Internal Audit Annual Report. Those uppity WOODENTOPS on the committee seemed to buy the line that we are sorting it out and we know what we are doing.
On procurement this means a rapid programme of activity that will involve many staff across the council. An action plan is in place and procurement leads across the council are being briefed. I've told the lazy gits who work for me that they'd better pull their fingers out or we'll all be for the chop.
Much media focus has been on "who is to blame" and "who is going to carry the can?". The public, the bloggers and the press have twigged that we are useless and are out for blood. However my firm belief is that now is the time for all of us to ensure that the contractual arrangements and suppliers we depend on are documented, monitored and in place and where they are not take action to tackle this.  Who gives a shit about them, they can get stuffed. There will be more about this process in First Team but now is the time to make sure any suppliers you use have been through the right process. You'd better go through the motions of sorting out your suppliers though, as it is getting a bit hot. Moreover if you are concerned about an issue or your own knowledge/skills in this area - speak up. This is a time to put things right and not simply point fingers. If something is going tits up, and you are too stupid to know what to do, tell me. I promise I won't sack you and make you a scapegoat, honest guv.
A second strong theme in the report is our management of information. We have made really good progress on Data Protection over the last year but there are still instances of paper records in particular leaving the offices unnecessarily. If I catch anyone leaking anything to bloggers, they will be sent straight to the testicle slapping room. Keeping adequate control is not just about the right system but also that everyone follows those systems and procedures. Across the council, information management and contract management are matters that the vast majority of us have a roll to play in. Let me know if any of the numpties who work for you might be leaking to bloggers
Its an oddity of the role of Chief Executive that I find myself congratulating the Assistant Director for internal audit Maryellen Salter on the quality of her work whilst then having to challenge myself and the rest of the council to rise to the challenges that work gives us.  Maryellen Salter has dropped us all in the shit, if we don't at least appear to be doing something about it, we'll all be serving fries and shakes at drive thru takeaways next year. You have been warned.
But as custodians of public money that is exactly how it should be. Pull your fingers out my friends, or the party will be over.
Non Stick Nick
Barnet Eye Note : Of course this is purely a humourous take on the CEO's comments in his bulletin to staff. I am assurred that in reality he thinks nothing of the sort and is working tirelessly on behalf of the residents of Barnet. Bollocks

*Walkleyspeak is a language used in Barnet Council to mask/hide/ obscure the facts regarding whatever the latest cock up is. It has been invented to ensure that no matter how bad a cock up occurs, it's never Non Stick Nick's fault

Every day, someone somewhere is trying to murder you !

I spent a good part of Thursday afternoon helping the Police with their enquiries. No I wasn't discussing the shenanigans at Barnet Council with Metpro, or even being taken to task for one of my numerous sins. I had noticed someone behaving in, shall we say, a rather suspicious manner in central London. Whilst I have no idea what the person was up to, lets just say that it was clear that whatever they were up to could potentially have implications which would not be positive for the people who live and work in London.

Sadly we live in a world where many people believe that attacking unarmed civilians is a legitimate means to whatever their political aims are. Living in London means that we are in a City which historically has had more than its fair share of terrorist incident. I've personally witnessed the carnage from several bombings at close hand, most recently on 7/7 when I was on the no 30 bus behind the one which got blown up. I saw dazed survivors staggering around, my first reaction being "bit early in the morning to be so pissed".

Whatever the reasons people want to blow us up, it is never the decisionmakers who bear the brunt of random attacks on civilians. I fundamentally oppose these wherever they take place. I believe them to be totally opposed to the teachings of all main religions, specifically Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I believe in Peaceful, non violent protest as the way to achieve political aims. I don't support armed force in all but the most extreme circumstances (ie Against an expansionist despot such as Hitler).

Anyway, I am writing this blog because I believe that it is vital for us all to keep our eyes and ears open. I don't want someone to blow me up as I walk down Fleet Street. I don't want my kids to be blown up as they buy a burger at Burger King. I don't want my friends to be blown up as they go to work. If you see someone behaving in a manner which you think could indicate they are involved in terrorist activities, here's what you should do.

We don't live in a perfect world, we don't have a perfect government and we as a nation have not got a great history of how we deal with other countries. Having said that, none of this gives the people who are sitting around right now trying to think of way to kill and maim us an excuse. I write a blog as I believe there are plenty of things wrong in the world. It is my way of doing what I can to change things. If like me you see something which makes you think someone may be engaging in activities that could lead to someone getting hurt, I'd advise you to take positive action to prevent that from happening. It may be that what you've seen is trivial. Let the experts decide.

Barnet Council - The next big scandal is just about to break - The OneBarnet Fiasco exposed

If you want to be the first in your block to read about the next big scandal to hit Barnet Council, click on this link to the Barnet Council website and download report 12 :-

I will be analysing some of the information in here (and seeing what lessons we can apply from the Metpro debacle) over the next few days/weeks. In the meantime, here are a few choice exerts for your enjoyment. There are loads of items which have been flagged up for risks. These are just a few porky prime cuts. First lets see what has happened to the budget (remember this is from Barnet's own document) :-
See the note for the "Rapid Improvement project" - They spent £18,500 without having a budget.
Note "DRS" - Legal costs in dispute - slipped to 2011/12 - More costs stacking up?
Parking "Costs absorbed elsewhere"

So what conclusions can we draw. It is out of control, with money spent on projects with no allocated budget. There are legal issues and they are cooking the books, by "absorbing costs elsewhere". This is rather worrying, wouldn't you say.

Ok, now lets have a look at how the report says this is affecting the staff who have to keep the Council running?

CP0012 - "Uncertainty may cause employees to look outside organisation for what are perceived as more secure roles" How will they mitigate this? "Aim to bring contractor in to speak to staff as soon as possible after contract award". What planet do they live on?

As for CP0011 - what can I say. Do the council not realise this is people's livelihoods. What would you think if your boss abolished the "workforce code of practise" - Would you be reassured by a bit of management consultation? The report is full of statements like this - and yes people are being paid £1000 +  a day to write this crap.

Lastly on our tour of the report highlights, we have this :-

This is perhaps the most alarming part for me. There is £6 million worth of spending for the financial year 2011/12 (ie now)  and they haven't agreed the budget for it yet? Can anyone doubt that the project is out of control.

The likes of Councillor Daniel Thomas and Councillor Robert Rams keep saying that OneBarnet is the answer to all the ills of Barnet Council. Don't they read the reports or are they just too thick to understand them.

The Barnet Tories have a new boss, in Councillor Richard Cornelius. I sincerely hope he reads this report and asks the questions which seemingly leap out from every page. Surely the time has come to call a halt to this extravagant, uncontrolled waste. There are plenty of sensible, cheap measures which would get spending under control (see Metpro report). OneBarnet in it's many guises has rolled on for years and cost millions. It is a monster that is out of control. It may well be that there are parts that are salvagable, but just as the Metpro audit discovered a can of worms, surely the time has come to audit OneBarnet in a similar way and stop the rot.

Sunday 19 June 2011

Barnet Council Metpro Scandal - The key questions - Part 1

I have spent hours poring over the video footage of the Metpro Scandal audit committee report. Perhaps the best question was the one from Mill Hill Conservative Councillor Brian Schama. I have transcribed it below as best I can. Many apologies to Mr Schama if I've not quite got it 100% correct as the sound quality wasn't superb and I've amended a few ums and erms etc to make it readable, but I think that the point is clear. Mr Schama being a Conservative clearly has no axe to grind and his questions were a genuine attempt to try and fix the problem. He got a round of applause for this from the public gallery.  I think that anyone, regardless of political affiliation, would agree that Mr Schama's suggestions are the way forward, to ensure Barnet Council sort this mess out
Why under our contract management procedures don't we have a due diligence template?

Due diligence template – one for each vendor – signed authorization to be given by Head of Finance – and Head of legal department only after template has been submitted and approved – final sign off by the Commercial Director & the Chief Executive. Delegated responsibility for lower contract values, total not annual value. The Template should include

Viability of the company balance sheet and trading account

Checks on directors and staff if appropriate

Confirmation of vendors Public Liability Insurance

A unique vendor code number for each vendor using vendors initials followed by the contract number. I.e. SUP/ 123, where no invoices can be paid without the vendors unique supplier code and the contract number being entered into the LBB Contracts Register.

Confirmation of settlement terms.

Confirmation of vendors Bank payment account and VAT details which cannot be changed during the term of the contract without written clearance from LBB

Confirmation of quality and delivery requirements and penalty clauses for poor performance

Confirmation of the final expiry date for the contract and an indication of the anticipated quarterly or annual call off value until the expiry date – whichever is appropriate.

Confirmation by name of the senior officer responsible for the ownership of the contract

Confirmation of budgetary provision broken down by timeframe i.e. annual or total

Confirmation of the maximum value for a single purchase order allowable for the contract.

Confirmation that competitive tenders had been evaluated prior to awarding the contract.

Matthew Offord MP stands up for human rights !

It is quite amazing. How many times have we heard Tory MP's moan about human rights legislation? That is until it suits them.  Today the Daily Mail reports that my local Tory MP, Matthew Offord has claimed that a ban on him taking his dog to work breaches his human rights.

If you look closely at the pictur, you'll see Matthew looks rather damp. I do hope that Max hadn't disgraced himself.  It is interesting to see that Matthew thinks the most important issue in Hendon is whether he can take his woofter to work. Hasn't he heard about the Metpro scandal? 

As for me, I think Offord has a valid case. I've seen Matthew out and about with Max and he's a lovely little doggy, very bright indeed. Guide dogs for the blind are allowed, so surely clever dogs for the stupid are equally valid? Mind you I suppose that there is a risk of tripping over whilst serving the soup.

Saturday 18 June 2011

The Barnet Eye Saturday Quiz - Great Prizes

We are proud to announce the launch of the Barnet Eye Saturday Quiz. We have a great prize, an all expenses paid holiday for two at the lovely Sandbanks Hotel. Just cut and paste the questions below into an email, knock up an invoice for the amount of the holiday with the name "Metpro Security Response" on the top. Add 20% to it for spending money (detail it as VAT) and email it to (actually please don't as it's illegal, not that it seems to stop anyone round here). The quiz is actually just for fun

1. Metpro Group got paid over a million quid whilst operating without required licenses or accreditation Who spotted this?

A) Andrew Travers (Barnet Council Cheif Finacial Officer on £1000 a day)
B) Grant Thornton (Barnet Council Auditors with massive contract)
C) Lord Monroe Palmer (Head of Audit Committee - allowance £15k per annum)
D) The Bloggers of Barnet  (Free of charge, guvnor)

2. When the Council became aware of the serious problems with Metpro, and the fact that the company had been providing services without the legally required checks, did they?

A) Call in the Police to see if there had been any criminal activity?
B) Set up an independent inquiry to get to the bottom of the issue, with power to discipline individuals for wrongdoing?
C) Suspend all work on outsourcing until the Council systems for contract management were given a clean bill of Health?
D) Set up an internal inquiry, with no power to do anything except "Inspire the Council Officials" (to quote Maryellen Salter)?

3. Having established that there was no audit trail of the Metpro Contract, Invoices were paid to unauthorised bank accounts, VAT was paid in contravention of VAT rules and EU law on contracts was not followed, how many Council officials have been suspended or dismissed from post?

a) 0
b) 1
c) 2
d) 3 or more

4. Every member of the Audit Committee expressed their disgust at what happened. It is clear that the duty of care they owe Barnet Residents has not been discharged properly. The MP's of Barnet , Theresa Villiers, Mike Freer and Matthew Offord are elected and paid to look after the residents interests. Additionally Freer was head of the Council when Metpro started to work for the Council. Offord was Deputy Leader. Which of these MP's has gone on record to  express their dismay at the situation?

a) Villiers
b) Freer
c) Offord
d) None of them

5. What percentage of Vendors did the Head of the Audit Committee say that Barnet Council monitored until recently?

a)  100%
b) 10%
c) 1%
d) 0.1%

Please send your answers to along with any comments you may think appropriate. You may wish to CC the Leader of the Council

It is your money. Over £1 million of it. Please do not sit on your hands, contact these guys and tell them what you think

Barneteye TV - Metpro Scandal - Audit Committee public questions - episode 1

Here is epsiode one of our series on the Audit committee report into the Barnet Metpro Scanda. In this we hear that the council has lost control of the procurement process. We hear the Barnet Eye ask whether any processes were or are in place to ensure the council employs best pratice and learns the lessons from mistakes. We get no answer

Barnet Council Metpro Scandal - The zombie councillors who represent us

A recent news report stated that Leicester Council had responded to an FOI request asking whether they had plans to thwart an attack by Zombies. They confessed that none existed. I wonder if it is too late for Barnet and the Zombies have already taken over at the Town Hall. Have they been spiked with ZOMBIE CUCUMBER sandwiches, to create passive vegetables who are pliant to the whims of the executive?

I ask this because I was completely disgusted to find that following the email I sent to all of our councillors, regarding the Metpro Scandal yesterday, of 63 Councillors, not a single one responded. You may think "Why should councillors bother to respond to emails from awkward bloggers"? Well the chair of the Audit Committee, Lord Monroe Palmer, praised the bloggers of Barnet to the hilt at the Audit Committee, stating that the scandal would not have come to light without our efforts. He put on public record the fact that we'd done a massive service for the people of Barnet. I started to get paranoid, thinking that maybe the Council had blocked the email. I rang a councillor who I am friendly with, to ask whether they had received the email?
Their response was even more shocking. They said "Yes". I expressed my surprise that not a single councillor had responded. They said "Oh, I think that's because we got an email shortly after saying we shouldn't respond to it". I was livid. I asked my friendly councillor if they could forward me this email, exactly what it said and who sent it. They realised they'd told me something they probably should have and said "I don't think I can do that".

So in Barnet, unknown forces can tell the people I elected to represent me, and who's allowances I pay, that they are not allowed to respond to a perfectly reasonable email I sent them, even though the chair of the Audit committee agrees that we are performing a vital service.

I am not prepared to take this sort of treatment. I believe it infringes my democratic rights. I was highly impressed by the contribution of my Mill Hill ward Tory Councillor, Brian Schama and wish to discuss this further with him. I do not want to see Mr Schama put under undue pressure. Today I sent this email to the FOI department. I will of course publish any response - and when Lord Palmer lays on the buffet in thanks for the efforts of the local bloggers,I will of course avoid the cucumber sarnies !

----- Original Message -----
From: Roger Tichborne
Sent: Saturday, June 18, 2011 9:46 AM
Subject: Email to Councillors

Dear Freedom of Information,
Yesteday I sent the attached email to the CEO of Barnet and all Barnet Councillors. I have been informed that shortly after, an email was sent to councillors asking them not to respond to this communication. Please send me a copy of this email, detailing who it was from and who it was sent to. I would like to remind Barnet Council that the chair of the audit commitee praised my efforts (and those of other bloggers) in exposing the Metpro fiasco. I trust that all concerned would like to expose bad practise in Barnet Council.
Roger Tichborne

Friday 17 June 2011

Barnet Council - Metpro Scandal - Open letter to Leader and CEO

From: "Roger Tichborne"
Cc: <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>
Sent: Friday, June 17, 2011 10:14 AM
Subject: Audit committee and section 151 officer

> Dear Mr Walkley/Mr Cornelius,
> I was sent a guest blog by an employee of Barnet Council who wishes not to
> be named. This details the track record of the Barnet Council Section 151
> officer, Andrew Travers. The contents of this raise serious questions as to
> whether he is the most appropriate candidate to reform the council following
> the shocking revelations at the audit committee meeting last night.
> I have circulated these details to all Barnet Councillors, as I think this
> is an issue of extreme importance and urgency.
> I must say that last nights meeting and the review of the Metpro scandal was
> probably the most damning endictment of any organisation, one could possibly
> imagine. I must take this opportunity to state that Councillor Brian Schama
> raised some excellent points about the lack of a "due diligence template". I
> must also applaud Hugh Rayner for securing a commitment to publish the
> findings. I am disturbed that Mr Walkley seemed reluctant to have his oral
> submission openly published. This seems far from the spirit of the inquiry.
> It must be stated that Lord Monroe Palmer must be congratulated for his
> chairmanship of the meeting. Unlike some previous meetings, his generous
> thanks for the concerned citizens of Barnet was duly noted. His Lordship was
> correct to conclude that public involvement is a positive force for good in
> public life.
> It is worth noting how many members of the public turned up to observe the
> meeting. Everyone who observed the proceedings would have been left in no
> doubt that the no 1 concern for Barnet Council, its officers and its
> councillors is sorting out the "business as usual" procurement, purchasing
> and payment processes. It would be criminally negligent to persue the One
> Barnet outsourcing model, whilst this process is clearly not fit for
> purpose.
> The chairman of the audit committee noted that there are only 3 full time
> staff and 1.5 external resources involved in audit, for an organisation with
> a turnover of approx £1 billion and 220,000 people relying on it's services.
> He noted that resources had been pulled off other important work to complete
> the Metpro review. I don't think that any reasonable person would disagree
> with his conclusion that the department needs beefing up. Given the millions
> of pounds spent on consultants, working to "transform" the council, it is
> ridiculous that the audit department is under resourced.
> What struck me about the committee's response to the report was the complete
> cross party unity in the disgust at the findings. This is not a partisan
> matter, it is too important for that. The audit committee report has spelled
> out in terms which cannot be ignored, the fact that Barnet Council has not
> got workable systems for existing business, let alone new contracts on a
> scale unseen before.  The most disturbing phrase, which was "we don't know".
> When this is used in relation to contracts, invoices, VAT and procurement,
> it could not be more disturbing.
> I believe that a full review of this report and the meeting, by the cabinet
> and executive is a matter of urgency. This review should be held in public
> and should invite public questions and submissions. I am asking you to
> schedule an emergency meeting to deal with this. I do not believe that a
> single issue could be more important in your in-tray this mornings
> Regards
> Roger Tichborne
> The Barnet Eye