Tuesday 31 January 2012

Truth and the ability to admit it

I've just spent a rather enjoyable evening with a mate of mine with a spinal injury, who is confined to a wheelchair. Like many people in his position, he is at the sharp end of the government policy on benefits for the disabled.

In a civilised soceity, the government should employ people to help him and make sure that he takes up all of the benefits he's entitled to, so his life is bearable. Like many honest and decent people, he's totally baffled by the rules and regulations. As I have a few friends who are knowledgeable about such matters, I got  a couple of them to come around and see if they could help him.

Barnet Council used to have a department called the Welfare Rights Unit, which helped people in my friends situation. Sadly the deemed it a waste of money and chopped the funding. As a result, if you happen to know a blogger, who happens to know a few experts, you may get what you are legally entitled to. If you don't then you'd better get down on your knees and pray for a miracle, because you'll need it to figure out the minefield.

Let me just give you one of my friends dilemmas. He needs a new kitchen, his existing one is falling to bits. He needs to save up £10,000 to buy one. If he has more than £6,000 of savings, his benefits get chopped. Result? No kitchen and an unhygenic food preparation area. What sort of system puts you in a situation like that?

When my expert friends left, we had a chat about life, the universe and everything. There are many things we agree about and a few things we don't. It was great to have a chat and I left pondering a few of the subjects we talked about. As he has time on his hands, he's very well read on certain issues and I'll certainly brush up on a few subjects before I take him for the beer I promised.

We had a long debate about truth. The one thing which I know to be true beyond doubt it is the mind that matters, not the package it comes wrapped in. Sadly as a society, we push intelligent people to the margins, purely because they lack mobility. Most of my best friends are fairly spiky individuals. Nothing makes me happier than when they tell me I'm talking bollocks and can back up their statements with facts. What do I do? I go off do my homework and if they are right, concede the point. If they are wrong, I take great satisfaction in telling them so. One way or another, I suspect that the next conversation with my friend may be rather interesting.

It brings to mind the situation at Barnet Council. I rather wish that the people at Barnet Council responsible for the One Barnet project would do the same. We never here a justification based on fact and we never hear a concession that they've got it wrong. Why are they scared of the truth?

Monday 30 January 2012

Welcome to the Barnet province of the Peoples republic of Londonski-Borisov

Ok, so tell me this. We live in Barnet. It is run by the Conservatives? It is part of London, which is run by a Conservative Mayor. We have a government which is Conservative (albeit propped up by a bunch of Lin Dem collaborators). So I guess this means that the people of Barnet really want to live in a regime run under Stalinist principles, doesn't it? Well I don't know how we got to this situation, but read this DPR (Delegated Powers Report). I don't think I've ever read a more Stalinist document in my life. For those of you who don't know what a DPR is, it means that a bloke at the council is allowed to sign it off with no debate by his democratically elected colleagues.
I suppose what put the icing on the cake is the fact the document is simply called ICON on the Council website - http://committeepapers.barnet.gov.uk/democracy/reports/reportdetail.asp?ReportID=10954 . And we all know that Russia was famed for it's ICON's

The porkie pies of Brian Coleman, GLA member for Barnet and Camden exposed

Last week I received a leaflet from the Back Boris campaign. In it there was this piece of "information" (apologies for the poor quality of the copy) :-

I was intrigued to read the claim that Brian Coleman had "worked tirelessly" to drive down crime in Barnet. It occurred to me that this is fantastic news and I should be reporting on this achievement as a responsible blogger. I immediately sent a Freedom of Information request to the Chief of Police in Barnet, to make sure I had the full details to make a proper report on the issue. I asked the following questions :-

I have just received a leaflet from the Conservative Party stating that "Boris Johnson and  Brian Coleman have worked tirelessly to drive down crime in Barnet. I would be interested to know how many meetings you or you predecessor have had with Brian Coleman to discuss crime reduction strategy in Barnet. I would also like to know how many anti crime initiatives have been instigated by Brian Coleman in Barnet since 2008. Please could you provide me with details of these as an FOI response. Please forward this to the appropriate department or furnish me with their details.
Now as regular readers of this blog will know, Barnet Council invariably answers FOI requests way beyond the statuatory time of 20 days, in which they are supposed to answer such requests. Usually there is no reason given for the delay. Even worse, the responses are as obtuse as possible. Information is not revealed, because the completely exact question was framed in a way which allowed a degree of interpretation and Barnet have chosen to interpret it in a way which means they don't give you the information they clearly know you are seeking.

This is the first time I've had reason to send an FOI to Barnet Police. I was wondering how their response would measure up to the quality of service I usually get from Barnet Council?

Well, I sent the request on the 22nd January and received the response today. That is a working week. Barnet Council should take note. And what did it say? Well, here is the full response :-
TICHBORNE Final Reply Borough Commander

So what does this tell me? First and most obviously that Brian Coleman was telling porkies when he stated he'd been "working tirelessly" to drive down crime. As a GLA rep he's actually held no meetings that the Metropolitan Police can find any trace of. In fact the only meeting the Met can find on record is one to discuss licensing issues in his Council ward of Totteridge.

Now if it was just a question of a politician over egging the pudding in the run up to an election, in an attempt to preserve his £52K a year salary, I suppose no one would be too surprised. The trouble is that it is fundamentally more serious an issue than this. By printing such a misleading document, Brian Coleman has inadvertently drawn our attention to his complete lack of interest in engaging with the Metropolitan Police in his area. Why is this important?

Coleman gets paid £52,000 per year by the taxpayer to advise and assist the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson in his role as Mayor. Brian Coleman represents Barnet. Boris Johnson recently abolished the committee that oversees the Police and brought them under his direct control. It is clear that the priorities of Barnet Police will not be brought to the table, because Brian Coleman hasn't discussed them.

Every Borough has different issues. Barnet is a very diverse Borough. We have the largest Jewish population, so one would think that there may be the occasional meeting between our GLA rep and the Police to discuss issues relating to hate crime. We have many major road networks in Barnet (A1,M1, A406, etc) , which also fall under Brian Coleman's remit as the Council cabinet member with responsibility for roads. Barnet is plagued with traffic accidents and injuries. Most of these are caused by speeding vehicles, surely this would warrant the odd discussion with the Police. Then there are issues related to poverty in Barnet, Coleman has the Environment portfolio at Barnet. It is no secret that a bad environment breeds crime. Badly planned estates are hotbeds of crime. Given that Barnet has major redevelopments, and the Mayor has the final say on many of these, surely Coleman should at least canvass the views of the local Police on whether the plans are going to have an impact on crime in the Borough? It is not the job of the Police to tell the Police how to do their job, but they can help set priorities. They control huge budgets, which if spent wisely can bring crime down and if spent badly can send crime soaring.

Let us consider the current "growth" crime in Barnet. This is theft of mobile phones. Barnet has seen a 10% rise in crimes related to mobile phones in the last 12 months. It is becoming a major concern for the police as stolen phones have become a tradable commodity. What has this got to do with Brian Coleman and his policies? Well he is the man who brought in the "pay by phone" scheme. This requires people to stand on the street, talking on their phone, often with wallet and credit card in their hand. Did Brian Coleman consider the impact of his scheme on phone related crime? Well if he did, he didn't discuss it with the Police.

One final note about the FOI response. It is refreshing to see a response which is clearly in line with the spirit of the FOI act. It was on time and answered the question. It also provided additional information, which was clearly related to the inquiry and has forestalled the need for a follow up question. In short, the Metropolitan Police in Barnet have given the council a timely lesson in how to do their job. I suppose that the point Brian Coleman and Barnet Council should learn from this is that if you do your job properly, there is no need to tell porkies, no need to claim credit where none is due and no need to waste everyones time with silly follow up enquiries.

Andrew Dismore give Brian Coleman a parking ticket !

The Barnet Eye always appreciates a cunning stunt  (I had to check that statement six times being dyslexic). Andrew Dismore pulled off a corker. He issued a parking ticket to Councillor Brian Colemanm the man responsible for the parking carnage in Barnet. Here is Mr Dismores press release

When out campaigning with Labour Councillors and activists against Barnet Council’s monstrous parking charges on Saturday 28th January, Labour’s London Assembly candidate for Barnet could not resist the temptation to “ticket” Barnet parking supremo Cllr Brian Coleman’s car with Labour’s “parking ticket” campaign leaflet (photo and copy leaflet attached)
Mr Dismore said:
“It was too good an opportunity to miss.
When I saw Brian Coleman’s car parked on his off street parking space outside his church owned flat, it seemed to me grossly unfair that while others in his street needed parking permits for which he has jacked up the charges, he did not, so I “ticketed” him.

It’s a pity we can’t levy a fine on Cllr Coleman just  as his parking wardens fine so many residents and business customers  as they struggle with his outrageous charges and convoluted payment systems. But our parking ticket leaflets make the point  by  demonstrating  the unfairness and asking  people to sign labour’s petition against the charges.
He is now planning even higher charges with a proposed increase of 5% from April this year.
People power forced Westminster Council into a humiliating climb down over their proposed night time and weekend charges in the West End. We need people power to stop Conservative Barnet Council’s unfair charges too, so that’s why we are encouraging people to sign our on line petition, which has thousands of signatures already.”

For further details call Andrew Dismore 07957 625 813

I hope that the people of Barnet make their point in a manner which Coleman really will have to take notice of by shunning him at the GLA elections. Does he deserve his £52,000 a year allowance to represent us? I dont' think so.  Well done to Dismore for an amusing stunt. I think many Barnet residents will agree wholeheartedly with his sentiments.

Guest Blog - Housing Emergency - Time for an Alternative

 By Defend Council Housing,

Council Housing in Burnt Oak
Tenants' security, rents and benefits, and the principles of council housing are under all-out assault.
DCH and Housing Emergency have lauched an open statement and on 21st Feb 6.30 House of Commons Ken Loach, Owen Jones (author, Chavs), Stephen Battersby, Councillor Catherine West, Austin Mitchell MP, Gail Cartmail,tenants, unions and others will launch a new wave of meetings and campaigning round the country: Time for an Alternative. Meetings already organised around the country to galvanise action, including: 25 Feb Leeds, 16 March 7pm Cambridge, 26 March Tower Hamlets, 29 March Harlow. Many more are planned, by Tenants Federations, Trades Councils, local DCH and housing campaigners and others. 

What you can do
1. sign the Housing Emergency statement - download the statement here. Get tenant, union, community and political group(s) to sign it.
2. Come to an organising meeting 7th Feb 6pm at Camden Town Hall Judd St WC1 9JE - see map here
3. Get people to the launch meeting 21 Feb 6.30pm meeting at House of Commons with Ken Loach, Owen Jones, Stephen Battersby and others - see leaflet here or contact
 info@defendcouncilhousing.org.uk for copies
4. Organise a local meeting - get in touch if you want help with leaflets, speakers etc

For background information on the demand for investment in council housing and who supports the campaign see www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk
Defend Council Housing is a regular contributor to this blog. Guest blogs are always welcome

Sunday 29 January 2012

Rog T's Cancer blog - another week another test

For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts, you can skip this first paragraph.This is the latest installment in my occasional series about how I'm adjusting to living with a big C in my life.  For those of you who aren't, here's a quick summary. I'm 49 years old and I recently had a prostate biopsy following two "slightly high" PSA tests - 2.8 & 4.1. The biopsy took ten tissue samples and one of these showed a "low grade cancer" which gives me a 3+3 on the Gleason scale. I'm now on a program of active monitoring. I've no symptoms and sadly for a few people, if I'm gonna die soon, it won't be from Prostate cancer. Got the picture?

Friday morning, I had my third PSA blood test. This followed hot on the heels of my MRI last Saturday. I've had two so far. The first one I scored 2.8, which I was imformed was "slightly raised". It was one of ten different blood tests and at the time the last thing I expected was a diagnosis of prostate cancer. I'd had no symptoms and was part of a suggested "MOT" because the doctor hadn't seen me for a while. I actually went for a referal for a bad knee ! So then I had the follow up test. This I fully expected to be normal. It was 4.1 - it had gone up. I still thought it was because the test is "notoriously unreliable". The specialist recommended a prostate biopsy. I agreed, I thought this would put the silly suggestion of cancer to bed and I could sleep soundly. They took ten cores. One came back as cancerous. A low grade cancer, six on the Gleason scale. "Active monitoring" was recommended. This and the MRI are the start of this regime.

I've made a few lifestyle changes. I immediately read everything I could, to try and ascertain what I could do for myself. I read a great book on the subject - anti cancer - a new way of life - at the behest of my gym personal trainer. A well researched book, based on sound scientific principles, written by a trained medical practitioner. This recommends a diet based on pesticide free foods (organic as far as possible). The idea is to eat drink as many things as possible which have been shown to inhibit cancer and as few as possible which promote it. Out go the processed foods, the fatty foods, the high omega 6, low omega 3 foods. In come the low fat foods, the high omega 3, low omega 3 foods, the high in antoxidant foods and drinks. Green tea with honey, ginger and lemon replces black tea with milk, for example. Pomegranites and pomegranite juice come in. I've been doing this for nearly three months. The effect so far? Well my weight has come down from 106 kg to 98 kg. People keep telling me I'm looking great (usually not knowing the reason for the weight loss). How do I feel? Physically good right now. Mentally? Now this is a harder thing to describe. I am extremely positive. I am busy at the moment so I don't spend hours thinking about it, and I feel fine, but at times I have dark moments. I'm told by the family that I've been exceptionally moody right now. I don't know if this is purely down to the diagnosis, or other stresses in life. Who can say?

I've changed my working schedule. I'm volunteering one morning a week at The Passage - a homeless drop in centre. It is strange to think that although I have cancer, statistically I'll probably easily outlive most of the people I serve breakfast. A friend asked why I was volunteering there. Was it an attempt to set myself right with God in the face of a challenge to my health, a sort bargain "I'll help the homeless, if you heal me". Sadly for me, I doubt that God is open to such deals. The two things are unrelated, although I have found that sit does help me get my head around the human condition. I would recommend such work for anyone in my position. I am not sick, I have no symptoms and the only thing wrong at the moment is my unease at the possible difficult journey which awaits me at some point in the future. The thing is that we live in the here and now, not the future. I sleep in a warm bed in a centrally heated house. I can afford to eat organic carrots and bananas if I choose. The people I dole out the breakfast for have a choice of bacon, eggs, sausage tomato and toast. Food is a fundamental requirement. The day centre offers the chance to eat, get cleaned up and get warm. For me it puts it in perspective.

Which brings us back to the PSA test and MRI scan. There are three possibilities. The small cancer in my prostate will either a) be roughly the same as it was in August when I last had the PSA test, b) It will have continued to rise or c) It will have dropped. I suspect that the most likely option is a, then b then c. If the diagnosis is a or c, then to me at  least that will validate the lifestyle changes and make me pleased that I've made the changes. What about if it has continued to rise? That will be a bit more problematic. Whilst I have no doubt that the changes are doing my general health a world of good, it will cast doubts on my strategy for dealing with the cancer. To me this won't mean that I've deluded myself, it will merely mean more research and potentially more changes, if there is anything else I can change. There are other factors I believe could create issues, such as mobile phone radiation and stress. These are issues I've really done nothing to address so far. I'm really not sure how you destress when you are me? Due to recent changes to my working day, I'm not using my gym where I do yoga, so I've actually removed one of the things which may help. I'm still going to my other gym, where I do have the luxury of the sauna and the jacuzzi after my session, which I'm taking full advantage of. 

One of the most sensible things in the book I've been reading is the fact that there is no miracle cure for cancer. All you can do is alter the odds in your favour. The strange thing is that unless you have a clone double with the same condition and they don't make any changes, you never really know. On the 6th, when I see the specialist again, I may be told it's gone into meltdown. I may be told it's disappeared. Whatever they tell me I'll never know how the changes have affected me. If the news is really bad, it may have been even worse. If a miracle has happened, it could have happened anyway.

I have a friend who has been told he has 6-12 months to live. His doctor has told him that if he enjoys smoking, he may as well carry on because stopping won't cure him and if he enjoys it, then he might as well do it. The awful truth is that the doctor has a point. I'm hopefully at the point where I can make a difference by such changes. My anti cancer bible tells us we should avoid all carcinogens at all costs. The philosophy is to do everything in your power to improve your chances and remove all cancer promoters. I don't really smoke, so it's not a dilemma I have. Basically the theory is to get yourself as far as you can into the tail of the bell curve graph at the top of this blog. You do this by avoiding all things which promote cancer. I'm an engineer by trade, so it is a philosophy which seems sound to me.

Like religion and helping the homeless, it is something you do because you think it is the right thing for you. That is all you can do.

Saturday 28 January 2012

Exclusive - Guest Blog : The One Barnet Consultation

By Wally Nickley,

Preamble by Rog T of the Barnet Eye,

Barnet council is about to launch a massive program of outsourcing under the title (currently) of One Barnet. These contracts are worth approximately One Billion pounds and it will have a huge impact on the people of Barnet. You may think that none of this will affect you directly. Sadly this is something that none of us can know for sure. The contracts will last for ten years and who knows what will happen in that time. For any of us, our lives can change in an instant. I will briefly give you two examples of people I know well, and why they demonstrate that such huge changes may affect us all.

In the case of my mother, she was a successful business woman. She was wealthy and in the year 2000 she was semi retired. She was in good health and went on three long cruises, spending her hard earned cash. In December 2000, she suffered a major stroke which changed her life. She couldn't communicate effectively and her ability to walk was severely restricted. She lost all self confidence and after a lengthy spell in hospital recuperating, she returned to live independently. Although financially secure, her ever declining health and frailty required ever increasing support from the NHS and Barnet Social services. She became reliant on the Barnet meals on wheel service for her main meal, as she was physically unable to cook. In april 2007 Barnet Council outsourced provision of these meals to Sodexho. For a period of weeks, the delivery of these meals became extremely unreliable and the quality decreased massively. The whole experience completely demoralised my mother as she had become to used to a routine. She knew the people who delivered the meals and they made sure she was OK, as they did for all of the other vulnerable people they served. My mother was extremely upset that they were summarily replaced. She became depressed and despondent. The summary actions of Barnet council emphasised to her that she was vulnerable and her independence was subject to the whim of the pen pushers at Barnet Council.

The second case is a friend of mine who I'll call Bill. I've known him since I was eight years old. Bill and his family used to live up my road. Bill was a successful website designer. Seventeen years ago he married a lovely girl from the Czech republic and planned to move there to make a new life. On his honeymoon, he broke his neck. He has been paralysed in a wheelchair ever since. His condition is described as permanently life threatening, so his care is directly funded by the NHS. Due to changes made by the Coalition, even though he is paralysed and totally reliant on a team of home carers for every function, he has been deemed a "jobseeker" and has had his benefits cut. Barnet Council abolished the disabilty rights units as a response to budget cuts. As a result, Bill has had no one to help him navigate the minefield of trying to survive, when thousands of pounds have been removed from his benefits. Due to his condition, he cannot regulate his body temperature, so turning off the heating is not an option.

Neither of the cases I described above, ever thought they'd have to be reliant on services provided by Barnet council, merely to exist. Lives can change in an instant and our needs can also change in an instant. I used these cases as examples to try and explain why the changes are important to all of us on a human level. There is another level to the One Barnet program we also need to consider. Does it make financial sense? Barnet has shown that it cannot manage small contracts. We need look no further than the Metpro and Freemantle/Catalyst contracts to see major disasters with huge financial impact on the taxpayer. Barnet are talking about contracts for ten years for a billion pounds. Would you think that someone who failed to run a whelk stall should be put in charge of running Tescos? That is in effect what they are doing. The most bizarre aspect of the whole thing is that they have spent millions on consultants to "redesign the council", when employing a far smaller team of auditors to sort out the existing mess would have saved a fortune. Surely they should have got their house in order first.

Then there is the impact on the local economy. Hundreds of Barnet jobs are being destroyed and exported to other Boroughs. You may think that this doesn't affect you. Consider this. There is a recession. The local business relies on the incomes of local people. Many businesses are struggling. As people are laid off, they spend less. Shops and businesses with no links to Barnet Council, see less turnover. For businesses already struggling, this may be the final straw. What about the people being transferred to private companies? They've been told that their conditions of employment will be protected for one year. What then? The only way private companies can make more money is to cut wages. The staff will either suffer pay cuts or be replaced by cheaper staff. More money out of the Barnet economy. Sadly unlike an in house team, any savings go to the shareholders of the companies.

Sadly, Barnet Council fail to try and do any "joined up thinking" in respect to any of this. Now it may well be that Barnet Council have information about the process which makes a positive case for the changes. Why haven't they gone public and made this case? Surely something which will so fundamentally change peoples lives and will involve ten year contracts, should involve public consultation? It is scandalous that we aren't being asked for our views. The Barnet Eye has seen (and published) much leaked detail about this process. None of it reassures us at all. Like Carlsberg, the Barnet Eye does not do public consultations about major changes to the way the Council interacts with the taxpayers. If we did, these are the questions we would ask you, before we changed anything. I sincerely hope that the other Barnet bloggers, the local media and our councillors also ask these questions, because I believe they are fundamental. Most of all I hope Barnet Council use it as a template.

One Barnet Public Consultation

Dear Barnet Council Taxpayer,

Barnet Council The Barnet Eye is committed to public consultations before any major changes are made to the way services are delivered to the Barnet taxpayer. The Council are currenlty considering making major changes to the way services are provided and we believe that it is vital that the taxpayer, as the funder of this process is kept well informed of the process and is given the opportunity to comment on the changes so that Barnet Council can deliver a package of services which fully meets the requirements of the people who pay the bills.

The local economy.

Do you believe it makes sense, especially at a time of recession to export hundreds of jobs from the London Borough of Barnet, to other parts of London, other parts of the country and to other parts of the world?

Do you think that it is appropriate that local businesses are excluded from the process of providing council services?

Do you think that companies bidding for One Barnet Contracts should have to show that they are making a contribution to the local economy as a key deliverable of the contract?

Do you agree that all companies bidding for One Barnet Contracts should agree to pay the London living wage for all London based staff?

Quality of services.

For people with acute care needs from Barnet Council, do you think that private companies should be subject to large financial penalties if companies fail to deliver the current high quality of services?

As a Barnet resident, would you be happy discussing your council related business with a telephone operator in a foreign call centre?

When vulnerable people such as the elderly, the infirm and adults with care needs, experience constant changes to provision of care, this can cause stress, lead to depression and can massively impact their quality of life. Do you think that continuity of service should be guaranteed, by financial penalties, for any services outsourced by the council?

Financial security.

When the council reviewed bidders tenders for the One Barnet program, the council considered that "transfer of risk" only warranted  less than 3% of the total scoring for evaluation of the bid. Do you believe that private companies taking on provision of services on behalf of the council, should pick up the financial risk for their failure to provide services/

When the council reviewed bidders tenders for the One Barnet program, the council considered that "Maximising commerciality of the services" warrented nearly 13% of the total scoring for evaluation of the bid. Do you think that this is more than four times more important than ensuring the council does not incur financial risk?

When the council reviewed bidders tenders for the One Barnet program, the council considered that "Maximising commerciality of the services" warrented nearly 13% of the total scoring for evaluation of the bid. Do you think that the council should be seeking to transform itself into a commercial supplier of services and incur the risks associated with this on behalf of the taxpayer.

When the council reviewed bidders tenders for the One Barnet program, the council considered that "Compliant high quality service delivery" warrented nearly 5.7% of the total scoring for evaluation of the bid. Do you think that this is less than half as important as "Maximising commerciality of the services"?

Do you think that the council should tie itself into a supplier for ten years, when the whole concept of such a massive outsourcing is completely unproven?

Cost to taxpayer.

In previous examples of Barnet Council outsourcing projects, badly drawn contracts have resulted in multi million pounds financial settlements being awarded against the council. Do you think the Council has the expertise to avoid similar problems?

As a taxpayer, who do you think should bear the risk of financial penalties caused by the failure of contractors. Should it be the taxpayer of Barnet or the service provider?

Best Value for taxpayer.

In house bids (ie the council providing the services themselves after efficiency savings) have not been considered by the One Barnet team. In house teams, who actually know how to provide the service were not invited to bid. Do you believe that excluding the in house option can be demonstrated to deliver best value for taxpayer.

Due to the scoring mechanism used by Barnet Council to decide the provider of the services, it is possible that a company tender could provide the highest quality of service and the highest guaranteed financial benefit to the Barnet taxpayer, but fail because another bid may demonstrate an aspiration to provide a more commercially saleable product. Do you think that it is appropriate that the Council puts risky, speculative income ahead of service and guaranteed return?


Do you think that Councils should follow the Barnet Council method of working, where all decisions are made in top secret and taxpayers are not allowed to know why decisions are made, on pain of legal action, or should they follow the Windsor and Maidenhead Council model where all decisions are made transparently and all relevant information is freely available via the Council website?
Guest blogs are always welcome at the Barnet Eye. Wally Nickley sent me the "One Barnet consultation" for publication. He asked me to write a suitable preamble. Wally Nickley (not his real name) is a Barnet Council employee and avid Barnet Eye reader. Although guest blogs are usually printed without comment or edit, Wally specifically asked me to in this case. All figures etc used in Wally's consultation document are supplied by him. Although I happen to believe them to be correct they cannot be verified as the council refuses to release the information. I also amended the first sentence of the blog as Barnet Council was not asking the question and I felt this may be misleading.

Friday 27 January 2012

What is going on at NLBP today?

Dear Mr Walkley,

Please could you do me a favour? I am intrigued. My blog stats give me all sorts of interesting information. They tell me what people were looking at before they visited my blog and what google search they arrived on to find it, amongst other things. Now as CEO of Barnet, I'm sure you can get your IT department to tell you anything you need to know about who at Barnet was looking at my blog and why. There was very unusual pattern of hits today. I'm intrigued. Something is clearly going on. I'm sure you won't but I'd be most grateful if you could drop me a quick line, as it were, and let me know exactly what it is all about. Have I missed something?

I wasn't even going to look, but Linda asked me if anyone at NLBP had been looking at her blog. That was a rather less unpredictable spike.


The Friday Joke - 27/1/2012

My friend Jeff always told me he wanted to die in bed with two hookers. He got his final wish, his wife burst in on him and shot him.

Have a pleasant friday night.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Guest Blog - Learn From the Past? London Borough of Barnet (LBB) Adult Social Care and Health Or Continue to Repeat in The Present and Future!

By Linda Edwards

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope... and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”  Robert F. Kennedy


My adult daughter has a learning disability and is on the autistic spectrum.  I am a family carer.  I am a reasonable person.  However, I am sure that the London Borough of Barnet (LBB) Social Care and Health senior Managers and Directors would not agree! 

I don’t want anything for my disabled daughter that she is not entitled to receive or that other vulnerable people do not receive.  I believe this to be fair and reasonable!

Having challenged their shoddy commissioning and lack of monitoring of damaging and inappropriate services for my disabled daughter, they continued to fund these services and sign them off as “good value” for over 15 years.   I believe this to be unfair, unreasonable and just plain stupid!

They doggedly refuted my formal complaint submitted 28th March 2008 and wasted thousands of pounds of LBB and ratepayers money in defending the complaint, allowing it to progress as far as the Ombudsman stage. 

All they had to do was become more competent in their monitoring and evaluating process.  This should undoubtedly have led to the removal of the bullying service provider that was not providing the service to which my disabled daughter was entitled to receive and which they had irresponsibly commissioned.

My daughter became emotionally unwell, struggling for many years because of this inappropriate support, lack of management and staff being thrust on her that we wouldn’t trust to take our dog for a walk!  They certainly knew very little about the needs of people on the autistic spectrum.  Their management were so arrogant as to not want to learn from the Recommendations from the National Autistic Society!

What did LBB Adult Social Care and Health learn from my complaint?
  1. They shortened the complaints process, making it harder for family carers to have a successful outcome.
  2. They learnt that reporting and listening to lies (their response 4th July 2008 to my complaint) prevails and succeeds within the culture of LBB Adult Social Care and Health.
  3. How to best discourage paid and family carers from reporting complaints and safeguarding issues.
  4. LBB Adult Social Care and Health Senior Managers vindictive behaviour results in promotion.

What they should have learnt from my complaint:
  • Family Carers will challenge their dogma, injustice, oppressive culture and resistance to listen to vulnerable people and family carers. 
  • We will find the energy and support to continue until there is a satisfactory conclusion for our family member and the people we are supporting and working with. 
  • We will do this individually, supported by each other and through organisations and newly formed groups such as “The Campaign Against Destruction of Disabled Support Services” (CADDSS).  For further details, please email CADDSS1 @ gmail.com

Update, Celebration and Thanks
Many of you have read my previous articles and I am thrilled to share with you that there has been a ‘Eureka’ moment because of the change in my daughter’s Service Provider. 

I would like to thank my daughter’s solicitor, Yvonne Hossacks without whom I would still be asking for a meeting, which if agreed, would go nowhere because rarely was anything from LBB Adult Social Services and Health Managers followed up or actioned!  There were so many times over many years that I was disregarded but in her role as my daughter’s solicitor, she achieved some considerable change for my daughter.  Solicitors representing vulnerable people in Adult Social Care and Health should not be necessary and I am a sure solicitor who has a social conscience like Yvonne Hossacks would much prefer to be unnecessary and have more profitable work.   Why is the culture of LBB Adult Social Care and Health so unfriendly to working in partnership with family carers?

Thank you to the Family Advocate who accompanied me to so many LBB meetings, even though the meetings achieved nothing for my daughter.  She left many meetings feeling frustrated and upset and once remarked “I have been doing this job for over 30 years and have seen no change in how they behave towards family carers!”  However, it proved crucial that there was a witness to the many broken promises and lack of action from LBB Adult Social Care and Health Managers!

I should also like to thank my daughter’s LBB Social Worker who has ‘listened’ to, ‘heard’ my daughter’s explicit needs, choices and decisions and checked out that they were from her rather than from me as some LBB Managers have suggested!  In spite of her assessment of my daughter’s needs July 2011, in August 2011 when she was on holiday, the LBB In-House Learning Disabilities Services Manager overrode her assessment and removed my daughter’s crucial night support.  This LBB social worker has supported the transition of the new service provider and demonstrated her excitement at the recent amazing changes in my daughter’s personal development.  This must make the role of a caring social worker all the more worthwhile and satisfying. 

My sincere thanks and appreciation to this new Head of Integrated Learning Disability Services who has been proactive in trying to heal the emotional damage done to my daughter after the LBB Manager of the In-House Learning Disability Services withdrew my daughter’s night support suddenly in August 2011.  The outcome for her was…….. Guess what?  Promotion!   

The new Head of Integrated Learning Disability Services has authorised Direct Payments for as long as my daughter needs night support and has also demonstrated a desire to work in partnership with me as the family carer.  Whilst I fully accept she doesn’t approve of my ‘tone’ in correspondence, I hope she can try to understand that my daughter and I have been on the receiving end of LBB’s Adult Social Care and Health’s “oppression, injustice and resistance” for many, many years….. 

It will take a long healing process and conditions set by family and paid carers before we can withdraw from our campaign to highlight the effects of the abuse of power that prevails in LBB Adult Social Care and Health.

Thank you too, to the new service provider who I cannot name just yet for fear that I am ‘dreaming’ about the way in which the new service provider are working with my daughter and me, (family carer) and that tomorrow I may wake up to another nightmare! 

Trusting they are working in this way with everyone, these are some of the differences between the new service provider culture and the previous service provider bullies that LBB Adult Social Services and Health Director refused to remove since her response to my complaint on 4th July 2008.  The new service provider:
  1. Responds to my emails
  2. Responds to telephone messages.
  3. Is proactive in planning for my daughter’s future and greater independence
  4. Has not lied to me!
  5. Has been respectful of my daughter’s needs.
  6. Whilst they have been proactive in supporting my daughter’s needs, they have also reacted positively to her decisions and choices and encouraged her rather than attempted to control her.
  7. The new Service Provider has been respectful of my own needs as a family carer (I am at last beginning to plan my own life because my daughter is being supported appropriately and I am no longer having to fight for my daughter’s support to be as it should be!)  For example, on one occasion, when I became ‘panicky’ because of the many years of the previous staff being late, their response was “you’re allowed to panic, too!” There was no contempt or scorn, as I have been so used to in the past.
  8. They have demonstrated respect, civility and understanding of everyone’s needs.
  9. They have not blamed me if my daughter has made a decision that is opposed to their own view.

Of course, with all the above, the new service provider has higher expectations to meet and further to fall than the previous service provider bullies, but we are all willing to take this risk! 

When I thank them, they respond, “We are only doing our job!”  Why didn’t LBB Adult Social Care and Health Managers and Director insist that the previous service provider bullies did their job?

With my daughter’s now superb service, why am I still campaigning about the past?
  1.  My daughter will never get the wasted years back that LBB Adult Social Care and Health robbed her of by rebutting my formal complaint.
  2. She will not recover from the emotional damage done to her because LBB ignored the NAS Recommendations and my ‘expert’ knowledge and experience as a family carer
  3. I was made unwell on many, many occasions.  This still affects my work and my life.
  4. LBB Adult Social Care and Health Directors and Managers have never acknowledged their responsibility for our many years of angst caused by them.
  5. We have uncovered many similar issues that are being ‘swept under the constantly expanding LBB Social Care and Health carpet’
  6. In spite of many issues of abuse, safeguarding, lies and rudeness reported to LBB Senior Managers and Director of Adult Social Care and Health, they have refused to remove the previous bullying service providers from the list for other LBB vulnerable people. This is outrageous!
  7. A written acknowledgement statement and apology needs to be forthcoming.
  8. A commitment for change needs to be put into place and monitored by independent lay leaders, including family carers.
  9. £16,000 is owed to my daughter, which LBB promised to ensure was returned to her.  This was never actioned and I have always been too exhausted and weary in fighting to ensure my daughter was safe and had the necessary support to worry about her money.


Why am I connecting my daughter’s past trauma caused by LBB Adult Social Care and Health senior management to LBB Cabinet Resources Committee Meeting Monday 16th January 2012 to finalise the handing over of Learning Disabilities Services to the new Local Authority Trading Company?  There are a few reasons for this connection and my continuing campaign:
  1. Cllr Rajput, Cabinet Member for Adults fervently believes that LBB Adult Social Care is providing a high quality of service to vulnerable people and their family carers.  The problem is that whilst he may be taking note of carer’s surveys etc, he appears to be listening too much to the same senior managers and directors who have behaved so unprofessionally!
  2. Many other vulnerable people are receiving a similar lack of support and respect and suffer from the same lack of partnership.
  3. One of the people who asked questions at the Cabinet Resources Committee Meeting, asked about previous Safeguarding issues that had not been dealt with adequately when reported to LBB Adult Social Services and Health senior management.   

Immediately after the Cabinet Resources Meeting on Monday 16th January, the Director of Adult Social Care and Health rushed out of the meeting to approach the person who had asked the Safeguarding questions.  She informed us that it was not appropriate to bring Safeguarding issues to this public meeting (no personal confidential information had been divulged).  She also said that had these Safeguarding issues been brought to her privately, she would, as she always does, have dealt with them immediately… watch this space for update!
  1. Councillor Brian Coleman, (together with his dear mother), who both give considerable service to the community, came downstairs to speak to the people who had asked Safeguarding questions at the Cabinet Resources Committee Meeting.  Coincidentally, he also advised them that this meeting was not an appropriate place to ask Safeguarding questions. 
  2. The Director of Adult Social Care and Health had been responsible for responding to my complaint (4th July 2008).   I have continued to question LBB why what is written in glossy brochures and spoken in meetings and public conferences are not being put into practice. 

Because of my behaviour in this way, the Director has refused to allow me to be a member of the Learning Disability Partnership Board.  This is in spite of an “excellent interview” and “vast knowledge and experience” as reported by the people who interviewed me for the position of being a member! 

This decision is spiteful and undemocratic and should have been challenged by Cllr Rajput – please look forward to my letter enclosing the communications and notes of meetings regarding my exclusion.
  1. The Manager of Barnet Homes and the Director of Adult Social Care and Health spoke at the Cabinet Resources Committee Meeting about LBB having extensive carer involvement.  I believe this to be true.  However, is this involvement only with family carers who do not complain and challenge injustice?  Once they complain about a service for their family member, senior management abuse their power and authority by discriminating and excluding them!

The French sculptor Auguste Rodin said “Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience widely”
So how have I used “the experience widely”?  Whilst LBB Adult Social Care and Health were actively rebutting my complaint and allowing all my daughter’s problems to continue, little did I know that in another part of Barnet were Safeguarding issues being reported to the very same people who were disregarding the issues that I had complained about on behalf of my daughter!  Shame on all the people who knew about this and did nothing!


Please watch this space for further celebrations of good practice from my daughter’s new service provider.  I am optimistic and hopeful that the ‘honeymoon period’ of the first six months will continue because of the management of her service.

Recommendations for LBB Adult Social Care and Health, which I am so sure, will be disregarded:
  1. Adhere in practice to Government policies and strategies, instead of merely speaking and writing about them.
  2. Monitor and evaluate outcomes!
  3. Adhere in practice to their own LBB policies and strategies, instead of continually speaking and writing about them.
  4. Monitor and evaluate outcomes!
  5. Whistleblowers should be embraced and helped to feel safe, as they are able to see what Managers and Directors don’t have the opportunity to see.   Safeguarding training and administration is costing LBB a great deal of money.  Therefore, as soon as whistle blowers have the courage to bring issues of abuse to the notice of managers, considerable energy and resources has been put into cover up, thus allowing the abuse to continue.  This is unforgivable, unacceptable and must be reversed immediately!
  6. The Director of Adult Social Services and Health ignored my three communications for a meeting (early 2011) so that I could describe how her response in refusing to remove the ‘cowboy’ service provider had put my disabled daughter at risk and damaged her and me, as a family carer.  Instead, she passed my request to her senior manager to action as a complaint, when it clearly was not a complaint!  Once again, wasting valuable resources and money in investigating a complaint that hadn’t been made rather than agree to meet with me to hear the outcome of not removing the bullying service provider. They must be made accountable for the money and resources they waste!
  7. Some people are not suited to working with vulnerable people.  The odd day training cannot break down a culture of bad practice that has been in place for many years, especially if Management endorses this practice.  LBB need to be less concerned with protecting staff and themselves and more concerned with the rights of vulnerable people according to the Seven Key Outcomes for Social Social Care Service Users.
“The time is always right to do what is right” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Linda Edwards is a carer in Barnet. Guest blogs are always welcome at the Barnet Eye

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Brian Coleman calls Barnet traders lazy and boasts of his own uselessness !

Sometimes I cannot believe what I read. The following is taken from the report pack for the next Council meeting.
Question 60 Councillor Alison Moore
Some local businesses are citing the cashless parking service and huge parking charge increases as a major reason for a reduction in trade, and even for shops and businesses closing down - when will the Cabinet Member listen to local people and reverse the enormous and unfair parking charge increases that he imposed last year?
Answer by Councillor Brian Coleman
Since Christmas there have been an interesting set of announcements to the Stock Exchange from many retail companies and a number of chains have called in the receivers. What all trading announcements had in common was that Internet sales are booming.  Even Tescos have announced relatively poor trading and the vast majority of their supermarkets have free car parks. We need to manage these dramatic changes in the High Street , more flexibility on change of use, support for the nightime economy , more intelligent Planning decisions , the promotion of There are more empty shops in Whetstone where there are no parking controls than North Finchley where there are . The parking income figures prove the numbers visiting our High Streets and elsewhere are buoyant. Quality retail businesses that are flexible will always survive those that are not will go to the wall.

The lazy cop out is to blame the Council
I could ask WTF Brian Coleman knows about running a business, given that he makes his living from a string of taxpayer financed non jobs. Let us consider what Coleman said in a bit more detail. Firstly Brian Coleman acknowledges that High Street retailers are struggling and that this may be related to the boom in on line trading. This shows a complete lack of understanding of what makes a successful High Street. Firstly Brian Coleman implies that the only businesses on the High Street are retailers. In North Finchley the person leading the campaign against High Street parking charges is Helen Michaels. She runs a Cafe. The leader of the Council, Richard Cornelius acknowledged that restaurants are keeping many Barnet High Streets alive. Coleman clearly has no understanding that someone like Helen makes her living from passing trade, people buying a cup of tea and a sandwich. Don't such businesses matter. Then Coleman talks about the figures from Tesco's. Again Coleman shows a complete ignorance of that retailers business. Coleman states that the majority of their sites have car parks. In actual fact, the majority of Tescos outlets are small Tescos Express type outlets. These do not have parking facilities and are located on the High Street. Tescos have spent a fortune building this chain up and are as a result now far more vulnerable to the vampiric parking policies of the likes of Brian Coleman.

When Coleman talks about what needs to be done to re-energise the High Streets, he completely ignores the fact that the parking charges he's championed are the biggest single factor damaging businesses. Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of his outburst is the bit where he trumpets his own incompetence and uselessness. He exclaims that Whetstone is a less successful town centre, with many boarded up shops, than North Finchley. Who is the councillor for Whetstone? None other than Brian Coleman. If you needed a more stark example of what happens when you have a completely useless councillor, you couldn't find a better example.

His claim that retailers blaming the Council is a "lazy cop out" is offensive. Last week I had a meeting with North Finchley traders. Did I get the impression I was talking to a bunch of lazy bastards? Not at all. In fact, nothing could have impressed me more than their attitude. Helen Michaels said "We are not looking for handouts, all we want is for our customers to not be penalised when they park". Brian Coleman exemplifies all that is bad in career politicians. He fails to listen to anyone. He spouts complete nonsense about subjects he knows nothing about and he makes offensive comments about anyone who has the audacity to argue with him. He is standing for the GLA in May, at the same time as the elections for Mayor of London. If he wins, he will get £50,000 a year for doing a part time job. I think he's shown that he is unfit for this role.

Coleman claims that "The parking figures prove our High Streets are buoyant". I suspect that when the GLA Election results are published, those figures will "prove that the People of Barnet think Brian Coleman is useless".

Tuesday 24 January 2012

When will Barnet Councillors grow some of these?

Let's not mince any words. I am thoroughly sick of the way the cossetted councillors of the London Borough of Barnet hang impotently around the council chamber, pocketing huge allowances and doing nothing at all for the people of Barnet. Let me a few examples of this

Parking charges. They ALL know that these are killing the High Street, which is the heart of the community. Which of them have done anything to help. Even the Leader says "he can do nothing".

One Barnet. They know that the business case is a complete joke. No one has come forward to defend it. No one knows who the project sponsor is. We even had one Tory councillor telling a resident at the weekend that he didn't understand it and voted for it because he was told to. An opposition councillor told me that the report I leaked was shown to them for 10 minutes. They were not allowed to take a copy and weren't allowed enough time to read it properly, consider it or debate it. They are paid to scrutinise such things, yet are "not allowed to".

Overdevelopment. Councillors know that there are too many rabbit hutch flats going up all over Barnet. Which of them say a dickiebird to oppose it. One Tory Councillor told  a resident at the weekend that he was "relieved Boris had canned the Brent Cross scheme". He voted for it.

Sell off of Church Farmhouse Museum for redevelopment. Another Councillor told a resident that he was "sickened" by this proposal. He has said nothing publicly about the proposal. (Note : I emailed every single councillor about this. Only Susette Palmer bothered to reply. She sent an email to council officials demanding to be informed of progress - an example to all).

Cabinet allowance rise. All of the Tory group, apart from Kate Salinger, voted for this, even though most knew it was morally wrong in the current climate.They ostracised her for her stand

Even the most lowly councillor gets thousands of pounds in allowances, for merely attending two council meetings a year. They have to do nothing else to get the cash. We elect them to represent us. Is it too much to ask them to grow some balls and represent us properly. This isn't party political. It is aimed at just about all of them (with a shamefully few honourable exceptions). DO YOUR JOB, REPRESENT THE PEOPLE PROPERLY.