Saturday 30 June 2012

The Saturday Listr #4 - 30/6/2012 - The things which make me mad

The things which make me mad. Yes, really mad. This morning I had the pleasure of experiencing No1 on the list. All of my staff who were present said they'd never seen that side of me before.  They all thought I was a lovely mellow chap.

1. Builders who do the must idiotic things imaginable, in defiance of common sense and reason.

2. People who drive into their neighbours cars and drive off in the belief that nobody saw them do it.

3. Barnet Council Dustcarts who show no consideration to traffic behind them and block the road when they could quite easily pull over slightly to allow cars to pass.

4. People who visit the beautiful green spaces and fantastic parks in Barnet and don't clear up theior mess.

5. Dog owners who are too lazy to clean up the shit their dogs leave on the pavements and in our parks.

6. People who sit in the outside lane of  dual carriageway with a 50mph speed limit doing 30mph for no good reason.

7. Bullies who abuse their position to victimise people who cannot fight back.

8. People who never lift a finger to help at events but criticise because things aren't to their liking.

9. People who park inconsiderately at events, blocking roads and causing traffic jams.

10. People who are quite happy to take your money to provide services and are not prepared to correct problems caused by their own shoddy workmanship.

It may (or may not surprise you to know that I'm a very calm and even tempered person normally. I rarely lose it or shout at people. Sadly (for me), I've experienced every single one of these ten in the last three days and am now in a foul mood. It will pass, but if you bump into me tonight please be well disposed because I am cruisin' for a bruisin'. After shouting at builders, I went tro my childrens old Primary school to DJ for their open day. I sat for four hours in the sun on what should have been a fantastic day. Sadly a few idiots made the lives of dozens of people miserable by their selfishness and lazyness parking. As for the lack of consideration shown by some dog owners and other park users, some people really do deserve a slap (and I'm not a believer in corporal punishment). And as for Barnet Council dustcarts, I had to pick up my neice who was unwell and waiting at the school gates in the rain. I was stuck for ten minutes and late due to these selfish bastards.  And as for builders...................

Enjoy your weekend. I may if I can find enough alcohol to calm me down

Live Music in Finchley ! July 6th - Elephant Inn Finchley

Friends of Justice Matters, the awesome Feltoe's Folk, are playing a charity gig at the Elephant Pub in North Finchley on the 6th July. Admission is free and all donations go towards the North London Hospice.

Promises to be a great evening - see you there!

Nick Walkley announces that your senile Granny represents an opportunity !

From: "First Team";
Date: 29 June 2012 14:59:01 GMT+01:00
To: "AllStaff"  

Subject: Weekly message from the Chief Executive

I was in Birmingham for part of this week attending the Local Government Association (LGA) Conference. The overriding message of the conference was that local government faces an extended period of budget reductions and increasing demand. The LGA has set out its cross-party view on what this means and much of it will be familiar to those of you who have attended a budget briefing here in Barnet in the past couple of years.

Not all was doom and gloom although this was not an ‘upbeat’ conference. There seemed to be three responses which councils from across the country were exploring that go beyond the efficiency agenda we are all familiar with.

Firstly, the troubled families programme and finding new ways to ensure young people do not end up in cycles of deprivation and high demand on local services. As you know, Barnet is recognised nationally for its work in this field but, as the director of the national programme said, we have to move from small ‘boutique’ projects to mainstream authority. The strategic review of early intervention work needs to set its sights on delivering exactly that.

Secondly, that our growing elderly population must be seen as an opportunity. Engaging these citizens in using their skills and experience to support others delivers for the individual and for communities.

Finally, that councils have a key role to play in promoting the economic growth that ensure the UK economy begins to improve. The council took its first significant steps in this area, agreeing a Skills and Enterprise Action Plan last week. There is a £1million package to support local business and help young Barnet residents back into work. Guidance for businesses wishing to access the scheme is available on our new web page for business. However, I want to encourage all staff to get involved in signposting local businesses they know to the proposals as we look to significantly improve our business engagement.


This is Nick Walkleys weekly proclamation to all Barnet Staff. I am really not quite sure what to make of his comments about the elderly population being an "opportunity". Having supported several elderly relatives through illness and dementia, I actually find the statement to be offensive. If Walkley is actually saying that Barnet Council should be seeking to employ over 65's who are fit and well, then I would agree that is a sensible idea, but as far as I'm aware, Barnet have no positive policy of employing over 65's. I suspect that what Walkley actually means is that it is a good idea for everyone else, because as we all know, if he gets his way, Barnet Council won't actually employ anyone at all. 

Then we have the last paragraph. This is of special interest to me. I asked a question at the Barnet Council Cabinet meeting about this very subject. Barnet Council has drawn up a £1 million scheme aimed at small businesses, yet they didn't bother to consult small businesses about it when they were putting it together. There are many organisations they could have spoken to such as the Federation of Small Business, the Barnet Chamber of Commerce, etc. They didn't bother.  When I asked the question, Nick Walkley looked at me as if I'd ordered a bacon butty at a Bahmitzvah. You don't need to be psychic to read his mind "why should we speak to them" was written all over his face. 

What is hilarious is Mr Walkley imploring staff to tell local businesses to get in touch about the scheme. He obviously wasn't listening to a word I said. Why doesn't he use the organisations which already exist? I sometimes wonder why I bother going to these meetings at all. I make perfectly reasonable points, in this case the cabinet of Barnet Council agreed with me, yet they don't actually bother to do anything about it. 

Yesterday I alluded to something rather disturbing going on in Barnet. Mrs Angry detailed this in her blog yesterday - - Finchley Traders rep Helen Michael has been asked to visit the Police Station for a chat about a poster the traders put up as part of their campaign to reverse the parking policies of Barnet Council. At the moment we have no idea who instigated this investigation. It is quite clear from the information Helen has been given, that the Police have called her in on what is lovingly known as a fishing expedition. This means that they haven't got enough evidence to prosecute her, so they are hoping she'll drop herself in it if they pile enough pressure on her. I suspect that this is likely to backfire spectacularly. I am sure that they are unaware that Helen is a qualified solicitor. She used to work for a top legal firm, but jacked it in when she had kids to run Cafe Buzz as this was easier to fit in with her childcare arrangements and she wanted to do a job which didn't involve staring at paperwork all day. Many of her friends from University are top lawyers and she's got a few of them to go through the paperwork (as it stands at the moment) to make sure her interpretation is correct.

The big question is who is responsible for the decision to go after Helen Michael. If it is anyone to do with Barnet Council, then this is a disgrace. I nipped into Cafe Buzz yesterday to offer Helen my support. As I chatted to her, a Tory Councillor (I won't embarrass him by naming him) nipped in to offer his support as well. He explained that he thought it was disgraceful that the Police were harrassing Helen. He said that he intended to ensure that if the complaint was being driven by Barnet, this stopped immediately. I asked him whether he thought this was good for the relationship between  Council and small businesses. He replied that it was ridiculous.

This weekly proclamation reminds me of the old days of the Kremlin, when party bosses in Ivory Towers issued proclamations, harrassed those who disagreed, using the tools of state to destroy the opposition. The Barnet Eye blog started because of neo Stalinist behaviour by Barnet Council. It seems that this tendency is getting worse, not better.

Friday 29 June 2012

The Friday Joke 29/6/2012

 On a beautiful summers day, two American tourists were driving through Wales.

At the village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllantysiliogogoch they stopped for lunch, and one of the tourists asked the waitress, 'Before we order, I wonder if you could settle an argument for us. Can you pronouncewhere we are, very, very, very slowly?'

The girl leaned over and said, ' Burrr . gurrr . king '

Nick Walkley and conflicting interests

This week I've heard some rather disturbing news. At this stage I cannot disclose the nature of this news, but it has caused me to question the way Barnet Council seems to be morphing into an organisation which is less interested in simply providing good services to local people and becoming something altogether more sinister.

Let me try and explain. The Chief Executive Officer of Barnet is Mr Nicholas Walkley. To do this job, he gets paid £200,000 + benefits. For this enormous sum of money, I happen to think Mr Walkley should be 100% focussed on making sure that the council runs properly and not have any other distractions. It is a big enough job on its own and surely he doesn't need any more cash?

Then I came across this document -  - this is an organisation called the London Crime Reduction Board. In the minutes, I found this paragraph 

Nick Walkley provided an outline  of the work of the Recovery Coordination Group (RCG),  a body set-up by representatives of the boroughs affected, London Councils, the GLA, the Metropolitan Police and the London Fire Brigade.   It is  a short-life group with terms of reference to help London get back on  its feet in the wake of the disturbances.  NW chairs the Group.

As I read further, I came across this paragraph
The RCG is leading work on an impact assessment, to assess how the disorder has affected victims, businesses and communities and what is being done in each local area.  NW said that at present the majority of businesses, many of whom are sole traders, are facing financial difficulties.
The date of the meeting was the 25th August. Now there is a very interesting thing to consider. Mr Walkley talks here about local businesses suffering from "financial difficulties". Do you know what he was planning to do at the same time as he was chairing this meeting? He was planning with Brian Coleman to abolish Pay and Display in Barnet's High Streets and replace it with Pay By Phone. He was also planning huge hikes in High Street charges. I wonder if the RCG discussed this when they met and discussed how to get London back on it's feet? I wonder if the conversation went like this

Mayor of London - Boris Johnson - "Well Nick, you are the leader of the RCG, what ideas have you got to help business and get London back on it's feet financially"

Nick Walkley -  "Well Bozzer, in Barnet we are planning to abolish pay and display parking, hike up parking charges and drive all the customers away from local businesses and into large shopping centres like Brent Cross, which we want to see double in size, they have to get their customers from somewhere you know"

Now this may seem outlandish, but back in 2010 I asked an FOI question about the "One Barnet Project Board" - a board set up by Barnet Council to integrate the One Barnet project and ensure smooth liaison between various major stakeholders in Barnet. Here is the details of the FoI response.

Non-Executive Directors of Barnet Council 

a) How many Non-Executive Directors does Barnet Council have?  

None in the usual sense of the term, but the executive heads of the five principal partner bodies advise the Council's Chief Executive and senior colleagues on an informal unpaid basis.  They are referred to as Non-Executive Directors (NEDs), although they have none of the usual responsibilities associated with this function.

 b) Who are they?  
•    Tom Nathan, Commercial Director, Brent Cross Shopping Centre
•    Cameron Ward, Chief Executive, NHS Barnet
•    Stephen Knight, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Middlesex University
•    Neil Basu, Borough Police Commander
•    Marilyn Hawkins, Principal, Barnet College
c) What organisations do they represent?

See above

d) What criteria does Barnet Council use to engage these Non-Executive Directors?

They are not "engaged" but have accepted invitations to meet with the CE and senior colleagues on an informal advisory basis, the only criterion being their posts as heads of the five principle partner bodies listed above.

e) How often do they meet?


f)  What is the name of the Council Committee(s) in which they assemble? 
The CE of NHS Barnet attends Cabinet meetings in an advisory capacity.

g) How much are they paid to fulfil this Non-Executive Director role? 


h) What influence do they have on Council Policy? 

The Council has a role of civic leadership amongst the above partner organisations.  The NEDs informally advise the CE and his senior colleagues in fulfilling this role. 

i) How long has Barnet Council had Non-Executive Directors? 

Since 2006 

j) Do these non -executive Directors represent Barnet Council in any capacity on Committees outside the Borough? 


k) Which Council Officer appoints them in their role as Non-Executive Directors? 

No appointment is made - they are invited to take part in this advisory process by the Chief Executive. 

l) What is their period of Office as a Non-Executive Director and how do they cease to
become a Non-Executive Director? 

The arrangement is purely informal.  No period of office is stipulated.  Their  position as NEDs is consequent on their appointment as heads of their respective organisations.

As you can see, the board contains the chief of police and the managing director of Brent Cross. They meet informally and so no minutes are taken. Who was the only private sector representative. Not someone from small business or a representative of small traders. No, it was the MD of Brent Cross. Now I've attended a presentation by Tom Nathan and he is a superb speaker. One has to say that in his role on the board, is he likely to favour measures which benefit his business or local traders?

Now this is bad enough, but lets consider another role of Mr Walkley. He is the returning officer at local elections in Barnet. It is his role to oversee elections and make sure they are conducted legally. His job is to resolve any breaches of election law and make sure they are dealt with appropriately. Let me give you a recent example. At the Brunswick Park by-election, the Conservatives put out a leaflet which made claims about car parking charges which technically breached election law. It is Mr Walkley's duty to investigate these and ensure that the Police do their job in prosecuting anybody seriously breaching the law. It is not unknown for private individuals, with an axe to grind to breach these laws on a local level. If someone has a beef with a local councillor or GLA rep, they may do something which breaches such laws, by putting up posters which contain minor breaches. Mr Walkley has to decide whether these should be acted upon. In most cases, a simple call explaining the law and a request to stop suffices. After all we live in a democracy and we don't want to persecute citizens, do we?

So consider this. Take the Brunswick Park leaflet. This was out by a professional political party, who should know the law. The election agent should have training in what should and shouldn't be put up. Mr Walkley, who is CEO on £200,000 is also returning officer and gets paid a few grand for this job as well. He does however report to the Leader of the Council, Richard Cornelius, who is leader of the Conservative Party group. If Mr Walkley chooses to prosecute the election agent of the Conservatives for the leaflet, how will this go down with his Conservative boss? Is this a conflict of interest?

Then lets consider the other side of the coin. We have the One Barnet project board, that meets with members of the Council, Police and Brent Cross. There are no minutes so we don't know what is discussed. At present Barnet is awash with protests about car parking charges. There isn't a single representative who has the local traders interests on the board, quite the opposite.

We theoretically could have a situation where Mr Walkley has found himself embarrassed by the parking protests, which reflect badly on him and his organisation. We have Brent Cross, which stand to financially benefit from the movement of trade from High Streets to the large shopping complex. All very cosy. We also have the Chief of Police sitting in on these convesations. Now I know Neil Basu and Neil Seabridge, who are the last two chiefs of police. I have no doubt that these two gentlemen are completely above board and would not be party to any underhand dealings. I do however have concerns about a structure that allows for the potential of conversations which may be prejudicial to certain groups and individuals withing Barnet.

Just suppose, for instance that a group opposing the parking changes found themselves on the wrong side of the law? How could anyone have any confidence whatsoever that the process hadn't been compromised by all of these conflicts of interest. We rely totally on the honest and integrity of the particular individuals to ensure that everything is above board. There are absolutely no checks and balances and no democratic accountability for this process. All of the people listed above are listed by the Council as "One Barnet Stakeholders". Someone such as me, who opposes One Barnet finds themselves not only in opposition to the policies of the Conservative administration, but up against the Police, the NHS, Middlesex University and Brent Cross shopping Centre.

Do you find this all a bit disturbing? I most certainly do. Barnet Council and Nick Walkley seem to have no concept of what a conflict of interest is. They have no concept of democratic accountability and transparency. That is why there are are no minutes for this meeting and we have no idea what they get up to.

The more power that gets concentrated in the hands of an unaccountable few, the more potential there is for abuse. How much of this is a real threat and how much of this is just potentially a threat? Sadly you only find that out that the process has actually been compromised when people who oppose projects like One Barnet start finding themselves on the end of police investigations for the most trivial of matters. Whilst we all hope that no such thing could happen in Barnet, shouldn't we insist that the structures and separation of responsibilities are in place to ensure that such things are impossible.

Thursday 28 June 2012

Opening of the Bomber Command memorial

My Father in Italy with the RAAF (Centre)
Picture from Australian war memorial site
Today we see the official opening of the memorial to the crews of bomber command. The fact that the nation waited until most of the survivors were dead is a national scandal. How many memorial have we seen since 1945 for people who did nothing, achieved nothing and gave nothing for the country? I have a special interest. My dad was a bomber pilot. He flew Wellington bombers for 40 squadron, mostly in North Africa and Italy. He was shot down on his 40th mission, which was the end of his tour of duty, in 1944 over Ploesti in Romania.  His rear gunner F/O A (Spud) Murphy was killed, the rest of the crew survived, were taken prisoner and then successfully escaped and were repatriated.

Here is my little memorial for my Father and all of the other brave men. This is what he wrote in his diary in 1944, up until he was shot down. If anyone doubts the bravery of these men, then read this and imagine yourself living in tent and doing these things. By 1944, the Wellington aircraft was largely obsolete. 40 Squadron was later equipped with Liberator bombers, but was the last squadron to fly bombing  missions using the Wellington. There is a great book on the subject by Maurice Lihou OBE called "It's dicey flying Wimpeys over Italian Skies" on the subject. Sadly my father died in 1987, so never even knew that a memorial was planned. He was a member of the "caterpillar club" for those who had bailed out of a plane. Some of us question the morality of some of the missions performed by the RAF. We forget that we were fighting a ruthless and evil enemy, who were engaging in genocide and had attacked and subjugated many of its neighbours. I have no doubt that if Adolf Hitler had the resources, he would have unleashed far worse on Great Britain. I also believe that bomber command made a huge contribution to destroying the ability of the Nazi's to fight a war. I don't agree with the moral or logistical justifcation for carpet bombing cities, but I've never been in the position to have to even consider that decision. I do know that there is no doubt that the crews of the RAF were honest, decent and very brave. I know that they took no pleasure in bombing cities.

Here is what what he wrote and  a little bit of commentary from me.  On the 1st January, he was on leave in London, but all of this soon changed.

Sun 9th Jan 1944. Came to Rabat/Sale 10.30 hours. Starboard engine conked out 100 miles out from Portugal but came on again when in sight of Land and operated OK for rest of Journey.

Tues 11th Jan. Rabat - Enjoyed Sunshine, reminds me of Aussie

Fri 14th Jan - Maison Blanche, Algiers. Just a Dump

Sun 16th Jan - Came to Foggia (airbase in Southern Italy) gave up DF542 entered 40 Squadron (he drew a little picture of the badge & the Moto Nostem a Coelo Expellere in his diary).
Note : Foggia was a major Airbase for the RAF and US army airforce. My father's squadron were billeted in Tents and received a hard living allowance). 

Mon 17th - Enjoying the liberty of squadron life

Tues 18th - First Op on No 40 Squadron. Transport Senegalia Railway (italy).
Thurs 20th - 2nd Op Plombino Railway - West Coast Italy
Fri 21st - Briefed and scrambled - hada party instead. Vino - Oh -h-huh

Sun 23rd - 3rd Op Marilian P/C works Yugoslavia. 1000 mile round trip. Weather very poor. being very heavy

Mon 24th - Breifed and scrambled. Had a quiet night. How I'd love to be back in England.
Weds 26th - air Tested "DF689" Wellington IV

Thurs 27th - Briefed and scrambled. Given V as my permanent aircraft. 'V is an aircraft' Low level it is OK but above 8000 ft it just won't

Fri 28th - Bombed Verona. Al (Bomb aimer)collapsed after delivering flashes.
Sat 29th - Had a party at 104 Squadron. Merry - Not Arf. Had a door thrown at me

Sun 30th - Snowed today. very cold

Tues 1st Feb. Bombed Maribou Yugoslavia. Aircraft hit by 6 bursts. Limped happily home with part of windscreen blown away, petrol tanks holed 2n'd airplane nearly lost

Sat 5th. Played cards today. Poker leaders choice. Won 1250 lira

Mon 7th Bombed Padria Italy 9X500HE. Bombs fell right on Marshalling yards full of trucks (target). Jimmy Keily and crew missing. Arrived back at 06.00 slept all day

Wed 9th - Went to Barletta. enjoyning wine tasting almost as much as we bought. Blagged our way through the door. Soaked on the way back

Thurs 10th - Innoculations for Typhus today. testing aircraft

Sun 13th - did two trips to Anzio - dropped 36 X 250lb HE bombs. Had bad weather freezing -29C Spud (rear gunner) had almost to be chiselled out of his box. Hope 36 X 250lb bombs did good work on the Jerries.

Thur 17th - Flying Kit stolen. 1 Blue Kit bag. 1 Leather helmet, 1 pr Gauntlets, 1 Suit, 1 pr shoes, 1 pr Sunglasses, 1 pr sick gloves. Bombed San Stefano. Had trouble all the way with 'B' but made grade OK. Brought back a perfect photo of Target.

Fri 18th - Went to flight and told 1-B had been repaired. Ken Lyon was blown up on take off in 'B' - the kite I had the previous night.

Sat 19th - My sweethearts birthday. I wish I was with her tonight and every night. 

Sun 20th - Attended the court of enquiry on crash of 'B'. I gave evidence as pilot the previous night and the trouble I had.

Thurs 24th - Longest Trip to date. Bombed Steya, Austria 1200 miles. Flew over Berchdescarden (Hitlers mountain retreat). If I had only remembered I might have been tempted to give it one for the road!

Mon 29th - Mum's Birthday

March 3rd - 13th trip tonight. Zara Yugoslavia - really pranged it - had bad weather all the way, heavy using base base conditions. 10/10 closed from 900ft to 13000 ft. nuff said

March 4th - Took s/c Avent and Naples today. Flew around Vesuvius, good trip but bags of clouds. Air testing 'T' for Tommy. Hass cookie Disappear

March 7th - Air testing 'X' for X-Ray. Aircraft OK. To get away from some Fortresses (US air Foce), I opened up full throttle and did 265 mph slow and level.

March 17th - St Patricks day. Couldn't find anything green to wear , but many of the boys faces were that colour from the effects of vino drunk at our party last night

March 18th - Al's (bomb aimer) birthday today. he winged a bit about flying on it but weather was in his favour and he didn't have to go so had a party instead.

March 19th - Ops in 'Q' for Queen. Bombed Philipopolis (plodiv) 1250 miles round trip. Had a farly easy time apart from the usual clapped out weather.

Weds 22nd - Vesuvius has made itself felt. Clouds of Ash and Cinders fell all day. One couldn't go outside without getting eyefulls and cloths immediately soiled.

Thurs 23rd - Had a party with the boys of SAAF, NZ, Yanks RAF, RAAF, Newf, Polish, French airforce and infantry units about. Rather Noisy but very merry.

Sat 25th - Went to Positano this evening. Had dinner then did a pub crawl round the village. The town is built on the side of a cliff.

Sun 6th - Had tonight at 5th Army camp - drinking Sarti Cognac and Vesuvius special -champagne and cherry brandy in equal proportions. Really good

Mon 27th - Went to Pompeii. Saw the Cathedral which is most amazing and grand sight I have seen. Then visited the ancient city which has been excavated out of the pumice and dust of 600bc.

Tues 28th. Returned (from leave) to Foggia Today. Bumped in the back of a 3 ton Lorry for 120 miles. Shakes you. Had 6 letteres from Cecilia waiting. Worth the shaking.

Fri 31st - Briefed for ops and scrambled ditto last night. It's getting me down. If this keeps up I'll never get finished.

Sat 1st April. "Q" for Queen. Ops to Varese North Italy A/C factory. 1050 miles. Good trip for my Birthday. Got back to our mess by 5.30 am and to bed by 6am. Brought back a good target photo.

Mon 3rd April - Ops in 'Q' for Queen. Ops to Budapest - 1100 miles. Really pranged the Hun. The best show of Tracer hosepiping one could wish for. the whole target area seemed to be glowing red until we were shut off by the haze. F/sgt Redder Ditched on way home after being hit by a/a fire.

Weds 5th - Listening to Tommy Trinder on BBC. Describing here he said that there was hardly a building standing - and some more lines.

Sun 9th - Went to mass. The Bishop of Foggia celebrated it - Sermon given by American Padre. Tony, Max Hendry and I went.

Mon 10th - Ops in 'Q' Queen. San Stefans - Italy. Boy did we get hell kicked out of us with ack-ack. Spud (rear gunner) said he almost had kittens. Aircraft hit by several bursts but was brought home Ok.

Weds 12th - Ops in 'Q' Queen. Budapest Hungary. Fairly Hot. Coned in searchlights twice but dropped bombs on target. Encountered ME109 on way home but we got away OK.
Fri 14t - San Stefano Ack-ack not as hot as previously but backed up with 3 searchlights.

Sun 16th - San Stefano San Stefano - Italy, ack-ack not very accurate. I think their best gunner must have gone on leave. Trip done in 'R' for Roger.

Mon 17th - My poor old aircraft 'Q' for Queen was destroyed by fire tonight. Managed to get a few instruments and dials for momento.

Tues 18th - Big party tonight - rowdy.

Weds 19th - Got a leter from Cecilia asking if I was in Budapest on 12th - Was I !!!

Sun 23rd. Find our entertainment officer is so tired of planning updates of parties - has placed up a notice "party each evening".

Sat 29th - Ops to Leghorn. I dropped a 4,000lb HE bomb on the power station at Leghorn, Italy. Boy there was a flash and an explosion that shook the kite at 8,000 ft.

Mon 1st May. Ops to Spezia. 4,000lb Bomb dropped on power Croatia,. Good Photo taken of it.

Fri 5th May. Ops to Campina Rumania, Oil refinery hit. Fuel Oil exploded to Height of 4,000ft with clouds of flames. This place was really wrecked. Later intelligence reports as above.

Sat 6th. Moved under canvas. Tony (wireless operator), Spud and I share a tent. We have some wooden blinds for mats and a chiffonaise for furniture.

Mon 8th - Willy Wilham and w/o Bradshaw didn't return tonight. Bradshaw was on his last op to finish his tour (an op was 40 missions).

Mon 9th - Johnny Huggler lost on ops on his last trip of second tour.

Weds 10th - Swimming at Manfredonia beach. Enjoyable evening

Thurs 11th - Ops to Budapest, Hungary. Terrific electric storms all the way. Sparks on west wind. Screen looked just like a fireplace. f/s Goodlet NZ is our navigator henceforth.

Fri 12th - Air testing Wellingtons for Ops.

Sat 13th Ops to Orieto, Italy. Really good op. Target properly pranged. Crew cooperation and spirit improved 100% since Goodlet is our navigator. Waether very heavy. Had my helmet, gauntlets returned. recovered when station thief was shot and his house searched.

Tues 16th. Ops to Elba Island. Very happy landed at San Giovanni on return and was given a meal of doughnuts and maple syrup by yanks.

May 22. Ops to Valmontone, Italy. Bad weather with electrical storm that lit up the kite and flashed all around teh windscreen.

May 25 - Returned with Kite from Aindendola. Ops to Niterbo, Italy. Good bombing on transport of Jerries.

Tues 30 - Ops to Subiaco, Italy. Sgt McSweeney came along as an extra gunner as he wanted to see what the town looked like as he came from Subiaco, Western Australia.

Sun 4 June - Sgt McSweeney was lost on ops this week, together with Rod Hughes and crew.

Thur - 8th June- Ops to Nis Marshelling Yards, Yugoslavia. On bombing run we dropped bombs in formation. Really good prang

Sat 10th - Ops to Brad Oil refinery in Yugoslavia. Target really pranged and set on fire.

Mon 12th - Ops to Almasfuzito oil refinery. These oil plants certainly go sky high when they get hit as this was. Intercom trouble made us 30 mins late on take off but made target on time.

Weds 14th - Was stopped on runway by engineering officer when one tyre was damaged taxiying out due to inner walls going out.

Thurs 15th - Bathing at Mandfredonia - 236imig cove ! Beautiful day spoiled by the absence of Cecelia. Had a party at group's new mess on way home.

Fri 16th. Ops to Elba Island. Porto Longone. Bombing as a prelude to invasion. On way home flew over Rome Vatican. Ingris Battle area, Casino, Subiaco and Liria Valley in Broad Daylight. Landed at 7.30am.

Sat 17th. Bathing at Manfredonia. Had a real holiday. 40 Squadron ****** tonight. Must have been the invasion of Elba Island.

30th June 1944 - Shufti

On the 30th June 1944 My dad was shot down by an ME109 whilst bombing Ploesti. His good friend, Spud Murphy died. Tony Duff and and f/o Goodlet were all taken prisoner of war, to a camp near Bucharest. My father was taken by the Romanian airforce to identify his rear gunners body and his funeral. On seeing the large graveyard, he commented to the Romanian Airforce liaison officer that it was a shame to see so many fine airmen in the graveyard. The Romanian officer asked if he'd like to pay his respects to the fallen Romanian pilots. He was shocked to see that the Romanian cemetary was four times the size of the Allied cemetary. He was then given dinner and a drink and was returned to the POW camp. 

Where is the business case for the One Barnet project?

Councils all over the country are looking for ways to save money. The government has imposed drastic cuts on their budgets and every council knows that they will have to try and make do with far less money. In some ways this is not a bad thing. The cash they spend is our cash, it is paid for by our taxes. Challenging councils to improve their efficiency is not evil, it is common sense. If they can cut out administration and deliver the same quality services that is a good thing. If they can use modern technology to "work clever" that is a good thing. If there is duplication in staff or services overlap, these should be consolidated

Then there is outsourcing. There are two cases where this should be considered. Firstly where a new service is being developed and an outside organisation already has a working model which can be transposed at lower cost, without the related start up costs of building systems from scratch. The second case is where there is a clear, low risk model for outsourcing supported by a robust business case. The business case should be based on hard evidence and not guesses of revenue that the council may accrue if all goes well. There should be no costs hidden from the business case (such as legal costs) and it must demonstrate the customer experience will not be degraded. Once such a business case has been developed, then the council should be in a position to open it to challenge from organisations such as trades unions. If it is robust, it will survive and any criticisms will be rebutted.

The One Barnet project is the culmination of four years work. What does the fact that no one is allowed to see the full business case tell you? Barnet Trades Unions have engaged various experts such as Dexter Whitfield and APSE, all of whom have deemed the project "risky".

One aspect of the project which has been completely understated is the risk brought about by change. This week we've seen the effects a minor computer software change at RBS/Nat West had on their business. Customers were left without banking facilities for days on end. People were left in jail, rent wasn't payed, home moves weren't completed. Why? Because someone in the organisation underestimated the impacts of change. One Barnet is a project which completely changes the way the Council is run. If it fails, tens of thousands of vulnerable people could be affected. Where is the detail which tells us this can't happen? Where are the contingency plans, if a contractor fails?

Most of all, who bears the risk? The answer to all of these should be in the business case. Sadly we are not allowed to see it. Why?

One final word. Bidders such as Capita Symonds and BT are licking their lips at the prospect of big contracts with guaranteed profits. Have they done a downside analysis? If the changes fail to deliver, there are an army of armchair auditors in Barnet. The world will soon be made aware. Over 2,000 people have now seen the film "A Tale of Two Barnets" which explains in laymans terms the problems with One Barnet project and the implications for the residents of Barnet. Many people, who would normally support "cost cutting measures" have expressed their concern. If the companies are happy to take a big contract for big profits, based on a dodgy business case, they will reap the whirlwind of bad publicity and reputational damage when it goes wrong and unravels.

One question which BT, Capita Symonds and all the other bidders should consider. There are more TV producers, documentary makers and people involved in the media living in the London Borough of Barnet than any other London Borough and probably anywhere else in the country. That is why Barnet is so regularly featured in programs such as London Tonight and The One Show.

Although this isn't the way the world should work, whilst these companies may get away with cock ups at Sefton Council, and the world at large won't notice, you can bet your bottom dollar a cock up in Barnet will have a completely different impact on their business.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Beware if you want to do business with Toxic One Barnet Council

Yesterday the Barnet Eye posted details of a DPR assigning a contract of not more than £74,999 to Addleshaw Goddard, a legal firm.This is what Addleshaw Goddard say about themselves

Welcome to Addleshaw Goddard. If you want to find out more about us, you should find it here. Our key facts give you a snapshot about us and our external profile, our Client Serviceswill tell you what we do, who we do it with and how we've helped them, and our international pages talk about our global capability. 

I was interested to see that the Barnet Eye had about 20 hits yesterday from the Addleshaw Goddard domain. This isn't surprising, given that we'd mentioned them in a blog. Most companies are very keen to see what is being written about them and hope that all coverage will be as positive as possible. According to the Barnet Council DPR, the firm had advised Barnet on a contract to replace street lighting and were again being engaged as this contract had run into issues with European tendering rules. Barnet have re-appointed the firm to advise on the issues raised. The Barnet Eye asked the question as to whether they were the best firm to take forward the case, given their previous involvement. It may come as no surprise to Barnet Eye readers that we have our own legal advisers (who give us free advice in exchange for the odd beer). They called yesterday to inform me that this was actually quite right and proper in this case and would be the most cost efficient way forward. The reason being that they are fully conversant with the contract and could hit the ground running. Another firm would have to start from scratch and incur a huge cost to the taxpayer, coming up to speed. Such legal issue crop up all the time and firms are not instantly dropped whenever there is a problem. If they were, then nothing would ever get done and legal costs would be enormous.

This seems to be a reasonable explanation as to why the firm were used. As was also pointed out, we have no idea at this stage whether the issue is a minor technicality or a major problem, that will presumably only become apparent as the complaint is processed.

What the issue does highlight is the way that the One Barnet project has become toxic for all involved. Barnet has a team of five highly committed political bloggers who pore over every One Barnet related DPR and other council paper. They have a huge team of informants within the council (and it's suppliers) who point us in the direction of the things Barnet don't want us to know. We use FoI requests to glean information and have become adept a making sure no stone goes unturned. We also get bundles of secret paperwork delivered to our doorsteps. Sadly Barnet Council consider information that other more open Tory Councils such as Windsor and Maidenhead put in the public domain, to be to important to share with the taxpayers.

Companies spend a fortune on PR and advertising, to ensure that potential clients and business partners know that they are good firms and do a good job. What any firm wishing to get work from Barnet Council on any One Barnet related outsourcing project should realise is that there is an enormous amount of public scrutiny in Barnet. Any firm involved in any project which goes pear shaped is extremely likely to find itself mentioned when the problems come to light. In this day and age, any sensible customer will at least do a quick google search on potential suppliers to see what sort of public image they have. This blog typically gets a very high rating, as you'd expect with over half a million hits and links to it from the Guardian, the BBC and a stack of other respected media outlets. Every blog we post gets displayed promenantly on the Guardian's London pages. The Barnet bloggers have dozens of other hits on a daily basis from various local, regional and national news organisations. Over 30 stories broken on this blog have been featured in other established media. Two of these have been on Prime Time TV - The parking protests on an ITV Tonight documentary and the Friern Barnet Library protest on the One Show on BBC 1.

Barnet Council has never released details of the business case for the One Barnet program. In fact, their own accountants said there wasn't one. Every major detail of the program which the Barnet bloggers have analysed appears to be flawed. The Association for Public Service Excellence described the project as flawed and risky. If you are involved in a company bidding for work on the project - Capita Symonds, BT, EC Harris, etc, you run the risk of all manner of bad publcity. Do not for one second believe that issues will be swept under the carpet, because they won't.

The Barnet Eye knows for a fact that Barnet Council has had to have many meetings in the offices of it's legal advisors for fear of leaks to bloggers. What does this tell you? Surely if the case stacked up, they would be shouting about it from the roof tops. The Barnet Eye believes that the One Barnet project is toxic and the reputational damage which firms face should be a primary consideration for these companies when bidding on it.

It is worth also making the point that the Street Lighting contract which Addleshaw Goddard advised on was not a One Barnet outsourcing project. It was a small (in comparison) deal of several million pounds. The One Barnet deals are £250 million an £750 million. The sad truth for all companies working on all outsourcing projects is that they are likely to be tarred with the same brush. Mud sticks

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Another Barnet Outsourcing cockup rears it's ugly head

A very interesting DPR has emerged on the Barnet Council website. It appears that Barnet are in the soup again, with another outsourcing cock up. Before we get into that though, I noticed another interesting little detail on the report. It appears that Jeff Lustig is no longer in charge of Barnet Legal, as the report is signed off by "Sheila Saunders, acting head of Legal". Has Lustig been pushed out? It is public knowledge that he has not been too happy with Nick Walkleys proposal to flog Barnet legal services off to Harrow's Labour council. 

Anyway, enough of that. The DPR details how Barnet Council have had to appoint a specialist legal firm "Addleshaw Goddard Solicitors" to handle a forthcoming legal challenge against the way the street lighting contract was tendered. The e deal with the legal firm is not expected to exceed £74,999 (presumably the figure at which they'd have to tender this contract as well). Given the way previous legal challenges etc have gone, I will be most interested to see how this goes. It is worth noting that Barnet spent nearly a million pounds on legal fees surrounding the reopening of Partingdale Lane and a similar amount on the enquiry into the sale of Underhill Football ground to Barnet FC. I will bet a years supply of pot noodles that the figure of £74,999 is nowhere near the amount these services will ultimately cost. 

Even if I am completely wrong on this and it comes in well under the figure, this is still a huge sum. It is nearly enough to have run Friern Barnet Library for a year. Why are we in this pickle (yet again)? Because yet again Barnet Council have cocked up a procurement process. This is the council which wants us to believe that they have the expertise to outsource the whole caboodle. Rather bizarrely, they are commissioning this firm of solicitors to advise them, even though it appears from section 8.7 that they were the original advisers, whose advice has landed us with this challenge. Rather oddly section 8.6 states that the circumstances require appointment of this particular firm of solicitors and no other firm. There are many obvious questions about these two paragraphs. Perhaps the most obvious of the lot is this "wouldn't  a fresh pair of eyes be appropriate in this case". But then I'm not a lawyer, so I clearly haven't got a clue how these things should be handled, have I. 

As with all outsourcing contracts there is a huge hidden cost, that appears in no business case. This is the cost of all the legal fees arising from when the contracts get cocked up. Many of these we never see, because they are dealt with by the in house legal team.

So my question is this. It is one Dexter Whitfield asks in the film "A Tale of Two Barnets". It is "If Barnet can't manage outsourcing contracts of several million pounds properly, how can they expect to manage outsourcing contracts of fifty times that value?".

If you want to see the full details, click this link. I've put the extracted highlights below.

5.2 The estimated contract value is not expected to exceed £74,999. 
8.1 DPR 1330 identified and authorised the measures  required to vary the Street Lighting PFI Contract, by deferring the installation of a number of Core Installation Programme assets, in order to fund the commencement of the installation of a Central Management System (CMS). 
8.2 The Council received an e-mail, dated 3rd  April 2012, from Martin Leverington, Procurement Policy Division, Energy Reform Group (ERG), informing the Council that his department was acting on an infraction process notice from the European Commission in respect of the procurement of the energy saving measures. 
8.3 The EU Infraction Pilot file states a complaint has been received regarding the procurement of energy saving measures and alleges that the London Borough of Barnet has infringed EU public procurement 
legislation  by not tendering the ‘contract’. 
8.4 The Council have been provided with a Timeline for the Infraction Pilot Response and it must adhere to this timeline.  A draft response to the complaint has been submitted to the Cabinet Office ERG.  It is important to urgently appoint legal advisers to provide legal input into the process on behalf of the council. 
8.5 The Director of Commercial Services has been consulted and has confirmed that the circumstances requiring the appointment of Addleshaw Goddard solicitors are urgent such as to justify the direct appointment of those solicitors. 
8.7. The decision to appoint Addleshaw Goddard Solicitors is being made based on urgency, on their expertise in the specific field and in light of their significant, previous, input and advice as Legal Advisors to the Council with respect to the original Street Lighting PFI Contract.   

As ever, with these cock ups, the question is "who picks up the bill". As ever, the answer is "we, the taxpayer do". The truth is that this is chickenfeed compared to the legal bills which will be racked up by the One Barnet project. At a recent cabinet meeting, Councillor Richard Cornelius stated that Barnet should learn to walk before they can run. Mrs Angry asked a question which agreed with this. She stated that surely this appoach applied to One Barnet. Deputy Leader Dan Thomas reassured her that the council was getting the finest possible advice to ensure that no further cock ups will happen. In light of this DPR, do you have any confidence in his statement?

Monday 25 June 2012

Why David Cameron is wrong about housing benefit

David Cameron has announced that he wants to stop housing benefits for everyone aged under 25, apart from victims of abuse and domestic violence. David Cameron is wrong. I only have to look at my own life to explain why I find it so. I started full time work when I left school aged 18. I worked for the summer and then moved to Stockholm for six months to be with a girl I'd met. On returning, I started work as a painter and decorator, then did a TOPS course to get a job in IT. At the time I was also playing pretty much full time in a Rock and Roll band. I then met a girl I loved dearly, got a flat and was working in a well paid profession as well as running my own studio part time and playing regularly in a band.

By the time I was 24, I had a very responsible job, had been living with someone for two years and also had my own business and a rock and roll band, playing all around the UK and Europe. Then things went wrong, my relationship went broke down and the band split up. I also had severe health problems, caused by a stomach ulcer, which nearly killed me. I ended up being confined to bed in Edgware General hospital for 6 weeks. I was lucky, the firm I was working for were supportive and I kept my job. I ended up spending six months sleeping on floors at friends. My parents put me up for a few weeks when I came out of hospital, but the arrangement was impossible for both of us. They wanted to enjoy their retirement and not have someone with my lifestyle disturbing them. I'd worked and paid tax for the best part of six years and was used to living on my own. With my parents religious views, there were many clashes and arguments which didn't help my health or their state of mind. I respected their views, but I had moved on.

After six months, my health improved and I found a new flat. In all this time, I didn't need any benefits, in fact I've never claimed them. I do know for a fact that if I'd lost my job I would have had to claim them. Why on earth should someone who has lived independently for six years, be forced to live with their parents, due to a temporary setback. I had a stack of possessions and furniture, which my parents had nowhere to accomodate in the house. Luckily they had a large shed which housed them for the duration of the period between flats.

Many of my friends at the company I was working at were graduates who moved from all over the country to work in London. Would Cameron force people like them back to Scotland, Wales and the North of England if they lost their job, to live with mum and dad? What likelyhood will they have of finding work in those areas, given that they moved in the first place? Many people aged 24 would have similar issues if they lost a job. A period on housing benefits would see them through a period of disruption. Is Mr Cameron really seeking to have people thrown on the street, when they have paid rent (and tax) for several years and suddenly lose their job (there is a recession Dave, brought about by your policies), for want of housing benefit for a few months.

I was lucky that I had an understanding employer and my family were local in London. Many people move to our great city for work and things go wrong. It doesn't escape my notice that Cameron also wants to make it easier for firms to sack someone. Put all these things together and you'll end up with a situation where people under 25 will find it impossible to buy or rent accomodation. So much for a mobile workforce.

Many Tories never take account of the fact that housing benefit is beneficial to the economy. It ensures that people can move around the country to find work, because without a secure tenure, this would be impossible. I also believe it to be highly unfair on parents. Once people reach the age of 18, children are legally independent. The government is, by the back door, raising this age to 25. Parents are already faced with huge extra costs for educating their children, especially if they go to University. As usual it is the decent working parents in the middle of the tax bracket who will feel the burden the most.

As with most of Dave's policies (pasty tax, caravan tax, etc) this really hasn't been properly thought through. If Cameron really is intent on raising revenue, go after the tax avoiders (most of whom are Conservative supporters).

Sunday 24 June 2012

Englands coming home !

So that's it. 120 minutes, penalties and the England team are on the plane home. In truth, we didn't really deserve to progress. Apart from 20 minutes in the first half, we didn't really play much football. I was disappointed with Rooney, he looked as if he lack half a yard of pace and his touch wasn't great. I thought the enforced break might give him a degree of freshness, but it wasn't to be. Personally I'd have taken Young off instead of Milner, who was having his best game for England. Maybe I'm biased but I thought Young was Englands weakest player in every game.

I thought the team did well to hang in. All the debate of Terry vs Ferdinand has been forgotten, with "football reasons" vindicating Roy Hodgson's decision. I don't really know what England can take away from this tournament. Our players did OK against average teams and less OK against good teams. The trouble we have is that there just aren't loads of great players waiting to break through. Sadly Theo Walcott did not have the impact this time. I suspect that Oxlade-Chamberlain may develop into a very useful player. Walcott also has started to show flashes of what he could become. The downside is that our two best players, Gerard and Terry are really starting to reach their sell by date.

As for penalties, what is it with England? We just seem to pick players who mentally crumble when they are faced with the situation. The other major nations never seem to have the same sort of problems, we were one up and we still crumbled. Oh well, let's hope that with a bit more time and a world cup qualifying campaign, Roy can do the business. It was almost fun whilst it lasted.

Jonathan Hoffman pickets Miriam Margolyes at the Arts Depot

Leading Zionist campaigner Jonathan Hoffman staged a protest at the Arts Depot against actress Miriam Margoyles, for signing a letter criticising the Globe Theatre for inviting an Israeli Theatre company  Habima (The National Theatre of Israel) to give two performances of The Merchant of Venice as one of its 37 Shakespeare plays in 37 languages season. 

Former Mill Hill Tory council Candidate, Richard Millet reports on the incident in his blog. He also shows a short video clip of a local resident giving Mr Hoffman short shrift for his campaign - - clearly offended by this attack on a "national treasure". Some of the comments are (to me at least) rather interesting. One commenter is deeply offended that Ms Margolyes boasted of "helping a soldier to Mastibate (sic)". What an easily offended bunch of people read Richards blog.

What I'm going to say next will probably sound like heresy to most of my friends on the liberal left in Barnet. I actually feel a bit sorry for Mr Hoffman. The last time he was in action protesting, I met him and had a chat. He was leading a pro Brian Coleman protest when Brian was done for breaching the standards code. On that occasion he had two other protestors with him. His protest failed and Coleman lost.

On this occasion it seems he only had Richard along for company. It appears that the sell out crowd largley ignored him and it seems they all went in to see the show. As someone who has been to a few protests, there is nothing more disheartening than when no one else turns up and everyone by and large ignores you. I was warned after I spoke to Mr Hoffman at the Coleman hearing, that he was a dangerous and shady individual. I have to say that a bloke standing outside a theatre handing out leaflets which are largely ignored, is in my book no threat to anyone. I always feel quite relieved when we see oddball protests, which we don't really understand. To me it is all part of the fun of living in a democracy. Earlier this week I blogged about how a Russian punk band called Pussy Riot had been jailed for writing an Anti Putin song. The more people  that we have on the streets like Mr Hoffman, the less likely we are to see that happen here.

We need people like Mr Hoffman (whether we agree with them or not) to make peaceful protests. It is part of a democracy. We should also not be surprised when people meet such protest with complete apathy, when people think the whole thing is a complete waste of time.

You may wonder what my views are on Miriam Margoyles, her criticisms of Israel and Mr Hoffmans response. As Ms Margolyes is, like Mr Hoffman, Jewish, my view is that I'll leave them to have their argument well alone. They both clearly feel quite passionate about it and totally disagree with each other. The last thing they need is people like myself who are ill informed about the issues to stick their oar in. I'm sure if you have an interest in Israel or Palestinian issues, you will already have made your mind up and this little incident will only reinforce whatever views you already had. Anyway, I'm sure that having offended everyone with my comments here, I'm off to help at the FCHS annual Garden Fete. Have a pleasant Sunday.

Why do we have to continually read this drivel about the Euro?

The Great Britain the Murdoch press yearn for
Pick up any paper owned by Rupert Murdoch, or the Sun, Mail or Telegraph and you will read all manner of complete nonsense about the Euro. The authors of such articles are usually:

a) Right wing
b) Completely economically illiterate
c) Economical with the truth

Let us consider a few of the propositions they put before us

1. That Greece would be in better economic shape if it hadn't joined the Euro. What basis they have for making such a claim is sketchy at the very minimum. The crisis in Greece is caused by an unmanageable fiscal deficit, caused by decades of fiscal mismanagement. The reason that the Greek economy has hit the buffers is because of a global credit crisis, that is affecting every developed economy, not just Greece. If the Greeks were not in the Euro and not backed by the ECB, they would be in even more dire financial trouble. Whilst UK pundits who know nothing of economics or the Greek economy suggest that they would be better leaving the Euro. This ignores the fact that without the backing of the ECB, the Greeks would be totally unable to get credit with their basket case economy. This would mean that they would be unable to afford to buy imported goods and the citizens of the country's savings would become worthless. This is the scenario that lead to the rise of Nazism in Germany. It is no coincidence that extreme parties in Greece have had a massive upsurge in support. Imagine how much worse that could have been.

2. That the UK economy is in better shape because we are not in the Euro. The problem with this proposition is that we cannot possibly know. There have been periods when the UK economy has outperformed the Eurozone, but there have also been periods when it hasn't. If not being in the Euro was the answer to all of our economic woes, why are we in recession? The benefits of Euro membership are never put before us. Lets consider a couple of these. Our main trading partners are in Europe. When a major deal is done between two parties for instance Airbus and Rolls Royce, the value of the deal has to be priced in either Pounds or Euros. If the deal is over five years, both parties have to take a view on which currency would be safer. Just suppose Rolls Royce decide to price in Euro's and the Euro appreciates against the Pound. Airbus work in Euro's so they have no issue. For Rolls Royce, they get a nice healthy windfall because they get more money when they convert the Euro's. Great you may say. But what if the Pound goes up. All of a sudden, the deal ceases to be one which earns them what they were expecting. To get around this Rolls Royce will "hedge" the deal. In effect they take insurance out against the Pound appreciating. This adds costs to their product which a European company wouldn't have. If you are talking multi Billion Euro deals, these costs are significant. If the £ appreciates 5% against the Euro, for us going to Spain for a holiday, this seems insignificant. On a multi billion engine contract it is a huge risk and the costs of mitigating it  reduce the competetiveness of Rolls Royce against competition. You may also want to consider the case of an Chinese Technology company are wishing to set up a European operation. They want to set up a base where they can expand across Europe and develop business contacts. London has many good selling points as a location for the office. The problem is that the UK has a population of 58 million, Europe has six times that. An office in London will have all the issues of currency that the Chinese company already has. Profit/loss forcasts have to be built to withstand the fact that the main markets for the operation use a different currency. Does this improve the competetiveness of a UK office? Of course not.

3. The Euro is a dodgy currency. The markets never lie. Just check how many pounds the Euro will buy you today compared with when it was launched. Despite all the market turbulence, the Euro is still viewed as a better bet than the pound. Of course there are problems, billions have been pumped into failing economies, but none of this has improved the view of the pound in the eyes of the world.

The UK would be stupid to join the Euro at this time. There clearly are major upheavals in the currency taking place. Only a fool would ignore these. What we must not do is fall for all of this stupidity which is spouted by the right wing press about the "failure" of a currency which has been far more successful than the one we currently have. The nonsense that "we would be uncompetive" if we were in the euro is nonsense. For most of the major companies operating in the UK, in effect they already are. They have Euro accounts where money is kept offshore to act as a hedge for these deals. Many UK banks also offer corporate Euro accounts (as they do dollar accounts). Not that you'd read any of this in the right wing press any time soon.

Saturday 23 June 2012

A Tale of Two Barnets goes to the seaside !

If you want to arrange a screening of A Tale of Two Barnets, please email us via the email link in the top right hand corner of this blog or vistit the film website at

Yesterday was quite a day for me. Due to bus strikes I had to be up earlier than usual, to drop my son off to Finchley for school. After dropping him, I drove to near Underhill to meet Ruth Kutner and Tirza Waisel, two of the stars of the smash huit film (in Barnet at least!) - A Tale of Two Barnets. We'd been invited to the UNISON conference at Bournemouth, where the film was being shown, to talk about the film. ccompanying us was stallwart campaigner Maggi Myland.

This was actually the 22nd screening, including local showings. 150 of the conference delegates gave up their lunchtime to watch and participate in a Q&A session. I estimate that well over 2,000 people have now attended the various screenings and  there are more being lined up.

I was actually rather worried about this screening. Whilst it was an honour to be invited by UNISON to their conference and to sit on a panel and answer questions, there were several aspects of this I found daunting. Firstly I am not a Trade Unionist. I've never belong to a Trade Union and I run my own business. I've never worked in the public sector either. The second aspect is that I was worried the film wouldn't be waht they were expecting. I suspected that many people would expect a film at the UNISON conference to concentrate on opposition to the cuts and to issues which affect trades union members. Whilst we discuss these issues in the latter part of the film, it is really more about how the general policies of a right wing and rather uncaring council affect local people from all sectors of the community. The first 8 minutes are about how Barnets parking policies affect local business owners. I wondered how these issues would play qith the delegates.

The third issue which made me wonder how the film would be received by a room full of people with no association with Barnet and scant knowledge of the political scene here. During local showings, the footage of the Leader of Barnet Council and the CEO elicited a strong response. How would people who don't live here respond. When Charles Honderick and myself sat down to discuss the editing of the film and the pace and structure of it, we wanted to ensure that someone with no knowledge of Barnet would still find the film interesting.

So at 1pm, I stood up and gave a short introduction. I explained the film was about the community in Barnet and how it had been affected by local and national polices. I also briefly explained how the production of the film had brought together diverse groups and had acted as a focus for those seeking to change the policies of  Barnet Council.

Then the film started. Aside from the original editing, this was the 11th time I've watched it in a public showing. Apart from the original showing at the Phoenix, this was the most nervous I'd felt. We had also made some technical improvements to the film. We have had some money back from video sales & donations and we were able to pay a friend of mine who is a sh*t hot sound engineer to improve the sound quality. We'd also made some small technical edits, which make it seem a little bit smoother and slicker.

I had wanted to do this for the original showing, but time and money ran out. This was the first time I'd seen the new cut on a big screen. As Ken Loach opened up the film someone behind me said "That's Ken Loach, how did they get him?". What was interesting was just how similar the reaction was to the Barnet screenings.
At the end the Q&A was also very interesting. It was totally different to the Barnet Screenings. In Barnet, people say "We didn't know all this was going on, what can we do to change it". A room full of UNISON reps said the same thing in different ways "These are exactly the same issues we are facing with our council, this film shows us how to get the message across". One delegate asked me how we had put the film together. I explained that all you need to do is find someone who wants to make a film, maybe local students etc, give them a small amount of financial help (for expenses etc) and introduce them to local people who havea  story to tell.

One delegate said he wanted to show the film in Nottingham. He also was pleased that we'd highlighted the parking issue because they had problems in his own. Many other delegates agreed. Afterwards, I chatted to delegates from around the country. The message was the same. They'd been struggling to get the message across to local people. The film had given the ideas. I'd pointed out that you don't even need to hire a cinema, you can get a big local audience through Youtube and viral emails. We've chosen to not go this route, because we want to meet people and engage with them. That doesn't mean that this is always the best way.  The clips on the website have all had over 200 hits and have been featured on other sites. The film website has had nearly 4,000 hits. All in all, I think this is a very impressive result for a film made with virtually zero budget and with promotion being done purely by email and blogs. We've also sold nearly 200 copies of the DVD. Many people have given us £10 or £20 donations for the DVD rather than the suggested £3 sale price.

I sincerely hope that some of the UNISON delegates go away and make their own films. It is a powerful medium and one which I believe is under utilised. One UNISON delegate congratulated me on the fact that as a direct result of Brian Coleman losing the GLA election, the GLA had reversed the privatisation of the Fire Brigade Command and Control centre. I believe that the film played a major role in helping to organise the campaign against Brian Coleman. For me that is a matter of some pride.

The Saturday List #3 - My top 10 films of all time

We all have our top ten favourite films. Here's mine.

1. High Noon. Shot in real time. The film does tension better than any other film, innovatively filmed in Real Time, it builds towards a crescendo, and we get the right result in the end. Just about all sides of human nature are summed up in this film

2. The Producers (Original version). This film is brilliant and funny. All of the characters in it are highly questionable characters, but all have redeeming characteristics.

3. Unforgiven. Clint Eastwood at his best. Grim and harsh and completely brilliant.

4. Star Wars. The gold standard for epic sci fi.

5. Bad Leuitenant (Abel Ferrera 1992). Dirty, disturbing, sleazy, meandering. Not easy but thought provoking.

6. Black Hawk Down. IMHO the best war film ever. It shows the stupidity and the cock ups.

7. Ben Hur. For a spectacle, completely unbeatable. The first film I ever saw twice at the the cinema.

8. Woodstock. The best pop video ever. Highlights - Santana, Country Joe and the Fish, Sly and the Family Stone, the Who and Crosby Stills Nash and Young. The rest are pretty good too.

9. Up in smoke (Cheech & Chong). I love this film, two mad stoners on the rampage.

10. Blade Runner. The best sci fi ever. Intelligent, thought provoking and beautiful. Based on a great book as well.

Have a great saturday