Tuesday 31 July 2012

Barnet Eye Exclusive : One Barnet - Doubts at the top

The One Barnet project is (we are lead to believe) supposed to deliver ocst reductions and generate revenue for Barnet Council. For any project with a contract value of £1 billion, there should be a sound business case and a thorough analysis of alternatives. This is a huge sum of money.

The Barnet Eye has been informed by inside sources that certain items within the business case would not stand up to scrutiny. In short, the figures may have been "sexed up".  This is a very serious charge and one which would be extremely easy to prove or disprove. All the council has to do is to invite the Audit committee to review the business case and challange any unsupported assertions. I been told that a review of source documenation will demonstrate a degree of unsafeness in the information within the business case. The Barnet Eye would like to see an independent external auditor review the business case and report back to the audit committee. For a project of this size, this would surely be a wise piece of due diligence. I cannot see any grounds for such a step being undertaken. The audit must also consider the alternative strategies for cost savings, along with a full risk analysis of all strategies for delivering cost reductions.

I also call on Barnet's political Leadership to urgently set up a whistle blowing procedure, which offers protection for staff who uncover information which their superiors want suppressed. I also urge the CEO, Mr Nick Walkley to address a situation where his staff will speak to the Barnet Eye about their concerns, but not to the Leader of the Council. Mr Walkley may be supremely confident that the One Barnet program has a copper bottomed business case. In this case, why are we not permitted to see ALL of the information?

Monday 30 July 2012

Guest Blog - There's One Barnet for them and One Barnet for the rest of us, by John Sullivan

By John Sullivan,

Such a shame so many pensioners disabled people and families with children looking forward to the "Our Barnet not One Barnet" party in the park  on Saturday  the 21st , had to be stopped from attending  due to the crass behaviour of Barnet councillors and were so sadly let down at the last minute due to the threats from Barnet councillors arriving at one minute to six on a Friday evening.

Who would have thought that Barnet residents who I personally thought owned their local parks and open spaces, who pay taxes to upkeep and maintain those parks and open spaces. would be stopped from holding a residents party in the park to complete the Barnet Alliance for Public Services " Our Barnet not One Barnet Parade " ?. So many people that were for a mixture of constructive reasons unable to join the parade, but were looking forward to the party in the park on the first dry and sunny day in months to demonstrate their objections to the One Barnet Programme? . Who would have thought that public sector workers would be frightened to join a march against the privatisation of the services they work in and in many ways love, a privatisation that threatens their future security of employment ,for fear of intimidation and possible threats of the sack if they did so?.

Who would have thought there were so many rules and regulations to stop Barnet residents that supposedly own the local parks and pay to maintain those local parks holding a party in those parks, that threaten them with up to £ 20,000 fines and possible imprisonment if they held a party in the park ?. Worst of all what kind of democracy is it  when Barnet councillors bully & threaten their residents with £20,000 fines and possible imprisonment at one minute to six on a Friday evening, leaving no opportunity or time left to respond or seek a reasonable compromise, when all they wish to do is to lawfully assemble to discuss their opposition to the One Barnet programme ?. Couple this with attempts by somebody unknown presumably from Barnet council to stop the " Our Barnet not One Barnet " torch parade, by making  calls to Scotland yard, saying  the Baps parade was being formed to disrupt the Olympic torch parade even though it was on a different day ?.
All  this venom, intimidation and bullying to stop Barnet residents discussing the rights and wrongs of the proposed" One Barnet Commissioning Programme ". So I have to wonder" WHY ", what is it that is making these councillors go to these extremes to stifle free speech and the right of assembly on the One Barnet issue, along with access to the redaction free  One Barnet business plan. The Leveson inquiry exposes the stench of the possibility that the current PM, Chancellor and current and former Ministers along with some senior police officers were  in the pockets of Murdoch's billions and the stench of corruption still prevails,  the inquiry into the banking industry has exposed bankers as the most dishonest corrupt and rotten scheming lying thieving rats in the history of mankind, that still  maintain what appears to be questionable links with the current government, and the stench in banking and politics grows worse by the day.

Therefore with that in mind and with the refusal of Barnet councillors to make the proposed One Barnet business plan available to full and open scrutiny to all, does something begin to smell at Barnet council I ask ? do they have something to hide ?. Why for example would you spend "24 million" yes I repeat the figure " 24 million " on consultants to privatise public services that is being paid for by the cuts to the provision of services to the vulnerable ,  when those millions could be spent improving those in house public services?. I sense a smell rising that I fear will become a stench, and would encourage the opinions of all on this matter including Barnet Tory councillors  through Baps email if Baps will allow it ( Barnet Alliance4Public Services@gmail.com ). In order that we can form a broader opinion of what is going on and what possible reason there could be for this cover up, this refusal to be open about the One Barnet business plan . After these recent threats and acts of bullying and intimidation from Barnet council to deny open debate and lawful assembly on this  subject, something  has started to smell for me, the question is how many of us can smell it and what is it that is starting to smell.
John Sullivan is a Barnet resident and a carer for his adult daughter Susan. Guest blogs are always welcome at the Barnet Eye.

Sunday 29 July 2012

It's Barnet Eye Crowdsourcing fortnight !!!!!!!

Tomorrow marks the start of an experiment in Barnet blogging !!!!! It is the start of the Barnet Eye crowdsourcing fortnight. I have asked contributors old and new to submit guest blogs on a range of topics close to their heart. I will still be writing blogs, but the aim is to showcase the news, views and opinions of as many other people as possible during this time. There are some very interesting contributions on the way. Please feel free to submit your guest blogs to the Barnet Eye for crowdsourcing fortnight. I have a weeks worth lined up. I will be editing and submitting the next batch starting on Friday 3rd. SO send them in and I'll email you back next Friday to let you know. All I ask is that

a) You are a Barnet resident or have a strong link/interest in the Borough
b) You have a short biog
c) You send me a picture
d) You write the guest blog under your real name or if you want anonymity, you supply me your details and request that I withold them and suggest s pseudoname.

So get writing !

Saturday 28 July 2012

The Saturday List #8 - Ten Barnet Landmarks

Continuing a theme from a couple of weeks ago, I thought I'd compile a list of  Barnet Landmarks which most of us have noticed at one time or another on our travels around the Borogh

1. La Deliverance - (AKA "The naked Lady") at Henleys Corner. Generations of young men have been entranced by her curves. Features in the opening sequences of  "A Tale of Two Barnets"

2. The National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill. The big building with a green roof, visible from all over London. Featured in Batman films as the set for Arkham Asylum.

3 St Josephs College, Mill Hill. The tower is visible all around Mill Hill. Currently the set for "Call the Midwife".

4. The Royal Airforce Museum, Colindale. You can't ignore a buiding with a big missile outside it. Also visible from the train, although mostly obscured given the recent new buildings.

5. The Welsh Harp, West Hendon. The largest bit of open water in the Borough. Home of several sailing clubs.

6. The Whale's Jawbones, Whalebone Park, Wood Street, Barnet. The entrance to the park is formed by the jawbones of a Blue Whale.

7. Brent Cross Flyover. At the intersection of the A406 and the A41, Brent Cross Flyover is the biggest road junction in Barnet. When it was built it was deemed a design masterpiece and had very interesting road illuminations. I have always considered it an object fo great bueaty, especially when viewed from the Norther Line at Sunset, unlike the very ugly shopping centre next door.

8. Mill Hill East Rail Viaduct. Noted in the blog 150 great things about the London Underground - http://150greatthingsabouttheunderground.com/2012/04/10/12-the-viaduct-at-mill-hill-east/ - The biggest viaduct in Barnet and the best as well.

9. British Library Newspaper Museum, Colindale. A fantastic piece of architecture and the source for authors of many of the most fascinating things we read.

10.  The Orange Tree Pub. There is no pub in Barnet with a more enticing a vista than the Orange Tree. It has a duck pond outside and a large grassy area. On many a hot Sunny Sunday, it has been my destination on a long walk. Served by the 251 bus, it serves a decent pint, albiet sometimes surrounded by the some of the most annoying yuppy types on the planet. It used to be said that the way to pull at the Orange tree was to borrow a Ferrari. Frequneted by foootballers and wannabe's, but a great stop off on a walk none the less

Friday 27 July 2012

The Friday Joke - 27/7/2012

A doctor and a One Barnet Consultant were talking at a party.

Their conversation was constantly interrupted by people describing their ailments and asking the One Barnet Consultant for advice about Barnet Council.

After an hour of this, the exasperated doctor asked the One Barnet Consultant, "What do you do to stop people from asking you for advice about Barnet Council when you're out of the office?"

"I give it to them," replied the lawyer, "and then I send them a bill."

The doctor was shocked, but agreed to give it a try.

The next day, still feeling slightly guilty, the doctor prepared the bills.

When he went to place them in his mailbox, he found a bill from the One Barnet Consultant.

Have a great Friday

The Holocaust victims who no one remembers

There is one group which the Nazi persecuted and no one raised an eyebrow. They were the first group to be on the receiving end of euthanasia. There were no groups offering them refuge abroad. The persection was virtually 100%. Sadly even today they are the one group who are discriminated against without fear of criticism. Even last year councillor Brian Coleman decried them, describing them as these people in the council chamber. Was he drummed out for attacking their rights? Hardly anyone batted an eyelid.

Sadly, the disabled are still seen as fair game. I suspect they are the one group who you could talk openly about euthanasing, aborting or deny human rights without fear of rebuke.

I have one thing to say.. Until we have zero tolerance for disabled discrimination, in my opinion we have no moral right to think us any better than the NAZI's. That was where their murderous regime started.

Thursday 26 July 2012

Thinking of moving to T-Mobile? beware of international roaming charges

I recently switched my mobile phone supplier to T-Mobile. As I am going abroad in a few weeks, I decided to make sure that roaming was set up for abroad today. I've been with various other suppliers over the years and this has never been a problem. The package I have is a business package and when I took it on, I was promised the earth by the salesman. This is the first time I've had reason to use the helpdesk to get my service reconfigured.

On calling I was informed that they require a £250 deposit for the international roaming service to be switched on. I think that this is totally outrageous. If I could, I would cancel my contract immediately, but that would cost me £292.

Although I have no proof or record of this, I am sure that I was assurred this could be done without cost. I travel abroad regulalrly enough to make this an issue.

So my message to you the customer is this. If you are being offered a package, make sure you ask how much it costs to have roaming switched on before you sign. My message to T-Mobile is this. You have just lost a customer, because at the first opportunity I possibly have, I will be cancelling my contract. Be warned  !!!!

Wednesday 25 July 2012

What is the story behind the Theresa Villiers sexy pics?

Us Barnet bloggers are a competive bunch. Today Mrs Angry reported a huge number of blog hits from people seeking details of the Olympic Torch procession in Finchley. As this was the only story in town today, we decided to check our own blog stats and see what our most popular search phrase was. Imagine my surprise to find that it wasn't anything to do with the Olympics. It wasn't anything I've ever seen searched for before. Nope the most popular google search phrase today for people stumbling upon the Barnet Eye by accident was "Theresa Villiers Sexy pics" Sure enough, if you do a Google search on this phrase, the Barnet Eye is the third most popular search item. I decided to see if there were actually some naughty piccies of Big Tess on the net (purely as reasearch for this blog I hasten to add), so I did the same search as an image search. Not a single piccie was returned. I removed the quotation marks and this was the top of the pile of  pictures I got.

I got pictures of Nick Clegg, planes,bikes and cars. I didn't however get a single sexy shot of big Tess. One wonders why all of a sudden this has become a hot google search item? I must admit that I was rather pleased that there weren't a load of embarrassing pictures of the Chipping Barnet MP on the net.

We can only guess as to who was searching and why. I suspect they were rather disappointed. with the blog they landed on at the Barnet Eye. It seems that Theresa has lead a very pure and wholesome life as far as the net is concerned. And there is no shame in that !

As ever, this blog must also mention that the rumours (started by a scurrilous blogger) that Ms Villiers used to sing backing vocals in my band - The False Dots are completely untrue. One wonders what Ms Villiers has done to deserve these rumours. She's always been very pleasant when we've met her.

Is Hendon MP Matthew Offord considering joining the Labour Party?

A rather interesting tweet from Hendon Conservative MP Matthew Offord

HendonMP: Great night at Keith Vaz's party in Soho. Good speech from Blair and Livingstone said how disappointed he was with the GLA result in Barnet

 I hadn't realised what a fan of Ken Livingstone and Tony Blair Matthew was. One can only wonder if matthew doesn't do irony. I am sure Ken Livingstone is absolutely gutted that Brian Coleman lost his seat. At least he seems to have got through the night without thumping anyone. Maybe he feels more comfortable in the company of Labour members?

Don't let self doubt destroy you

Pep talk time.

I've spent four years writing blogs about Barnet Council. Four years trying to make the people who run the council see sense. What do I want them to do? It is quite simple. Provide decent services for the people who live in Barnet who need them. I also want to see the council run as efficiently as possible, so that the money we pay in taxes is used wisely. Some people subscribe to the "No Cuts" mantra. I am the opposite. I'd love to see Barnet Council make lots of cuts. Here are a list of some of the cuts

1. Cut the pay of senior council officers.

2. Cut all of the consultants (current cost £10 million) working on the One Barnet project.

3. Cut the allowances of Barnet Council cabinet, to show that we really are all in this together.

The Barnet Conservatives also talk about a relentless drive for efficiency. I would also like to see this. Whilst they take this to mean providing worse services by outsourcing contracts to private firms, exporting jobs in the process and lowering wages of retained staff, I would achieve this by actually making sure the council was run properly. I would beef up the audit department, so that it had the staff to do it's job properly. Barnet bloggers have exposed numerous cases where Barnet Council have given contractors work without following the rules. This has resulted in the taxpayer being overcharged. Sadly, the relentless drive for efficiency never talks about dealing with this.

Over  a thousand people a day read this blog. One has to assume at least some of these people agree with what I write. If you are one of those people, please will you do me a favour today. I have spent four years writing this blog. I'm a dyslexic punk rock musician, who had a comprehensive education, so if I can do something, anyone can. Please can you do at least one of the following today :-

1. Write an email to your local councillor and tell them that you want them to do the things I mentioned above. You can find there email address out at this link - http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx?bcr=1

2. Leave comments on news stories on the Hendon Times website. This is easy, takes five minutes and costs nothing.

3. Email or write to the local press. The details are on the papers websites.

4. Join the Barnet Alliance for Public Services. They meet at the Greek Cypriot Centre in Brittania Road on a Wednesday night at 7pm. Go along tonight.

5. We are making a follow up to the film "A Tale of  Two Barnets" -  We are asking for contributions to help us make it. The first film cost approx £3,000 to make. Most of these costs were to cover director Charles Hondericks expenses. Charles interviewed 43 people on various days. His tube and bus fares alone were over £500. Whether you could give us £5, £50 or £500, every little will help. Thus far we've received £750.

Email me with your details by clicking the link at the side.

We are planning another gala screening at the Phoenix cinema. We hope this will be in October. The follow up will feature details of what has happened since we made the original film.

But most of all do something ! Anything !

Tuesday 24 July 2012

The Saracens at Barnet Copthall - Who's naming rights?

Lets get this right. Barnet Council granted Saracens a long lease on a peppercorn rent to "regenerate Barnet Copthall". It now appears that Saracens have sold the naming rights to the Stadium for £8 million to Allianz - a German finacial services group. The deal is for six years. The money will pay towards the £20 million redevelopment of Copthall.

On the face of it, this is a good deal for Barnet isn't it? A new stadium and new facilities a no cost to the taxpayer? Erm hang on a second, lets think this through. Saracens have a budget of £20 million for redevelopment, but presumable they are financing this with a loan? Assuming Saracens stay for 99 years, the term of their lease, they will (at todays prices) receive £99 million pounds over the term of the lease for the naming rights, in return for spending £20 million doing the stadium up. Barnet council received a sum of £1.8 million in respect of the site. All of this takes no account of ticket sales, merchandising and other hires etc.

This blog has no objections to the Saracens Rugby Club, but they are a private company and have in effect been given a huge amount of taxpayer sponsored help with this deal. As a football fan, I m dismayed at the double standard applied to a Rugby club as opposed to a football club. Barnet FC are the local club, but have been driven out of the Borough. The Council attached no value to the benefit of having a leage club with the name of the Borough. Every time the football scores are read out, the profile of Barnet is raised. What does Saracens playing at the Allianz Arena do for Barnet? Nothing. Local people objected to Barnet FC because they perceived traffic and congestion. They see no difference at all between football traffic and rugby traffic. They feel betrayed by Barnet Council.

As far as I'm concerned the Barnet taxpayer has been taken to the cleaners in this deal. They have in effect given the ground away, the Rugby club are getting someone else to pay for the work, the local people will bear the brunt of the traffic (unlike Barnet FC, most Saracens fans live outside the Borough) and we've lost our local football cflub to Harrow Council. In a splendid irony, it doesn't seem to have occurred to the Borough planners that fans attending Barnet FC games in Harrow (most of whom will be driving from the East of the Borough) will collide with Saracens fans traffic (most of whom are currently based in Watford and Hertfordshire) in Mill Hill at Apex Corner on match days.

Like most things involved with Barnet Council, there is no forethought and we look as if we've got the usual mix of financial ineptitude and incovenience for the general public.

The Guardian reported on the deal today - http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2012/jul/24/saracens-allianz-park-stadium - sadly they seem to have missed the nuances of the deal.

Monday 23 July 2012

Hendon Crematorium reorganisation - hiking up the charges

Stand by to read something rather shocking about how your Council regard your deceased relatives and friends. There is a rather odd delegated powers report on Barnet Council website. As ever with Barnet Council, the devil is in the detail. The document deals with the reorganisation of staff at Hendon Crematorium. This is is of special interest to me as this is where my deceased parents live.

The document can be viewed here


The first rat can be smelled in paragraph 2.4. It says :-

2.4 The proposals provide ‘more choice, improved convenience and better value for money for the bereaved and recommend creating additional posts, funded by efficiency savings and additional income generation. The cost to the Council is neutral, but with potential for increased income.  
Then we look at the costs created by the restructure. This is what it says

So as you can see, they are adding extra management and other staff and are planning to charge the customers (people who have just lost loved ones) more money. At least I assume that is the plan, as I doubt that they will be renting out the crematorium for parties or bahmitzvahs.

Perhaps the most interesting phrase is in the Risks section

3.1 I do not consider the issues involved are likely to raise significant levels of public concern or give rise to policy considerations as they are about improving our ability to address existing compliance requirements, service improvement and developing business opportunities. 

So there you have it. Barnet Council think that there won't be any public concern at the concept of turning your dead parents, babies and grannies into a business opportunity.

We'll see about that. I think that the proposal to turn tragedy into "a nice little earner" by the council stinks and is sick.What do you think?

Sunday 22 July 2012

Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour de France

There is no sporting event that is harder than the Tour de France. Today Bradley Wiggins became the first Briton to win it, although the result is was a foregone conclusion. At the moment of his crowning, did Mr Wiggins milk the moment for the cameras and posterity? Nope, he was thanking and respecting his fans. A lesson for us all. He deserves a knighthood. I am not a big fan of the honours system, as it rewards time serving politicians in the main who have never achieved anything. When someone such as Bradley Wiggins wins, it gives us all a lift. Let's give the man the honour he deserves and give us all the chance to appreciate what he has done. Well done dude.

Barnet Council Special - A free lesson in public relations

A very successful PR exercise, as demonstrated by the Barnet Alliance of Public Services yesterday
One of the things I do as part of my business is to give musicians advice on public relations. There is an old adage that all publicity is good publicity. Whilst to a certain extent this is true for musicians (unless you are Gary Glitter and you are exposed as a paedophile), it is most certainly not true for large organisations such as Barnet Council.

What amazes me is that Barnet Council never seem to learn the most basic lessons of PR. Let me give you a simple example. Yesterday various groups opposed to the policies of Barnet Council held a march through the Borough, culminating in a rally in Victoria Park, North Finchley. Some bright spark at the Council decided that banning childrens face painting, music and cup cakes from the finale would be a clever trick. They doubtless hoped that it would so demoralise the people marching that they would give up and have a lie in.

Lets think this through logically. A bunch of people are really annoyed at the policies of the council which seem to them to not take account of the views of the people of Barnet. Consultations have been ignored, people have been lied to and attempts to engage in discussion have been spurned. So how will these people feel when the council chooses to behave in a petty minded manner? Will they decide to stay in bed or will they be even more motivated to show up for the protest?

If the people protesting have their own very efficient PR machine, in the form of bloggers, with excellent press contacts, what are they likely to do at such unreasonable behaviour? Will they say "The council are being unreasonable, we'd better be very quiet" or will they ring everyone in their press contacts file and say there is yet another story?

I wonder who handles Barnet Council PR. When they have these meetings, don't they ever say "Well, if we do that, what will the other lot do and how will we look?". It seems not. The first rule of PR is that you don't do things which make you look pathetic. Sadly no one seems to have read "PR for dummies" at Barnet Council.

Given that the CEO is on £200,000 a year, maybe he could nip down to the library (not Friern Barnet because he's shut it) and read up on the principles of building a successful brand image. But then again, I don't think Nick Walkley really believes in homework, do you?

Our Barnet - Barnet unites to reject an uncaring council

NSL traffic warden tickets car whilst parked on yellow line
What a day it was. It started for me at Cafe Buzz in Finchley. I had the role of organising the music side of the days entertainment. I had arranged to meet the bands and finalise arrangement at Cafe Buzz. I had barely rolled up when an NSL parking warden arrived, parked on a yellow line and proceeded to ticket a car (whilst still wearing his helmet which is a contravention of the rules). You can see Barnet blogger Mrs Angry watching with disbelief in the foreground. Amazing that the outsourced parking firm seem to think they are above the law, which applies to the rest of us.

The death of trust in Barnet Council

Outside Santander Bank on Finchley High Road, traders had set up a symbolic display to mourn the death of the High Street. A coffin adorned with posters explaining the effects of Barnet Council policies on local trade and adorned with the number plate "DEATH" greeted shoppers. The band HAMPTONS, serenaded the parade from this location as it passed. Rather bizarrely, someone asked me if the coffin was a PR stunt for the new Batman film as the bus rolled past?? Clearly there is more work to be done getting the message across.
The protest bus rolls up to victoria park

The bus was adorned with messages and slogans
Having watched the parade and the bus pass through North Finchley, myself and Charles Honderick, who was filming the parade for the follow up to"A Tale of Two Barnets" jumped in the car and made our way to the entrance of Victoria Park to await the arrival of the parade and the bus. The sight was magnificent. The one thing you cannot ignore is an open topped double decker bus, resplendent with balloons and posters. Especially when it is lead by a march of hundreds of people. Barnet Council may lead the way in stupid unpopular people, but they are losing the battle to win the populations trust.

The parade arriving
Hamptons entertain the crowd at Cafe Buzz afterwards

The bus was decorated with all manner of placards, posters and slogans. The entire back of the bus was covered with a Save Friern Barnet Library banner. This was a graphic demonstration that the protest was not simply about protecting the jobs of Union members, but rather a rally of the whole community against a sustained attack. A whole host of speakers addressed the crowd. We had Rabbi Newman, explaining that as a community we have to ensure the council supports the weaker members. We had Stan Davison, a Barnet pensioner, explaining how the council are making life impossible for local pensioners.

GLA rep Andrew Dismore explained how his election and the removal of Brian Coleman had allowed the London Fire Authority to reverse 
Colemans ban on the public addressing the authority and how he is working for the people of Barnet and Camden. Youth Parliament member Elliot Forlan explained how young people are bearing the brunt of the policies of the government.  I also spoke and explained how Barnet bloggers were cooperating with the Parliamentary committee to end the practice of highly paid executives working as consultants to dodge tax at Barnet Council. Afterwards one disabled old lady told me she thought this was disgusting at a time of cuts. Quite true !

After the rally finished, many of those in attendence made their way to Cafe Buzz in Finchley High Street, for music, food, drink and entertainment. Music from Hamptons, Radfax and Keith Martin and delicious food from the Cafe (with Councillor Andreas Ionnedies jumping in to assist with the cooking as crowds grew) was a suitable end to a tumultuous day.

After everyone had gone home, I was left in Cafe Buzz finishing my beer with Helen Michael, the owner. Helen told me she was off to dinner with Tirza Weisel, the BAPS organiser of the rally. As I looked at Helen mopping the floor of her cafe, a strange thought occurred.

It is only a year since Barnet bloggers found out that Councillor Brian Coleman was about to abolish pay and display parking in Barnet. I wrote a blog detailing Colemans sneaky plans to nobble the local High Streets. Just suppose I was Dr Who and I had a Tardis? If I went back exactly one year and had walked into Cafe Buzz and said "Helen Michael, how will you be voting in the GLA elections next year", she would have replied "Conservative of course, I've always voted Conservative".

If I had then said "Helen, exactly one year from now, you'll be a hero of the anti Conservative movement in Barnet, you will have appeared on national TV (ITV Tonight) denouncing the policies of the local Council, you will have been interviewed by the anti terrorists police for your activities against the local Conservative GLA representative, your business will have been nearly brought to it's knees by their policies, you will have featured in countless press and blog atricles, your will have had a coffin displayed outside your cafe, with a picture of the local Conservative Candidate on it and in One year's time you will be speaking from the top of a bus, adorned with slogans supporting Trades Unions, addressing a large crowd of members of the Labour Party, the Green Party, Trades Unions as well as hundreds of local residents, to tumultuous applause", I'm sure she would have kicked me out of the cafe and called me a lunatic. That is what the policies of Barnet Council have done to Helen and many other local traders. 

In fact the story is so completely bonkers, that I wouldn't believe it myself if I read it in a book or saw a film of it. Maybe Helen Michael should ring her cousin George (you know the one who likes a bit of a sing song and sometimes falls asleep in his car when he's tired) and see if he fancies backing the production of a film about it? I think it's a great story (unless you happen to be Helen who simply wants to run her business).

Saturday 21 July 2012

Brian Coleman saves Helen Michael's bacon ! (or perhaps not)

Read all about the March on the BBC  Website here !

A rumour is doing the rounds (and I'm sure it is untrue) that the reason Barnet Council refused to allow the BAPS alternative Torch procession into Victoria Park is because Brian Coleman likes to have a cup of coffee in the cafe in the park on a Saturday morning.  Sure enough as the march rolled into town, Brian was spotted in the cafe having a cup of coffee. An excited Barnet Council worker reported this to me and suggested that I might like to drag Charles Honderick, who was filming the march of the sequel to a tale of two Barnets, to run round and ambush Mr Coleman as he slurped his cappucino. Much to the dismay of the activist, I said "Sorry we came to support the march not harass Mr Coleman".  Back in 2009, when I took Mr Coleman to the standards board, he suggested that I travelled the length and breadth of the Borough harrassing him. I stated that I had only ever been in his company twice outside of the council chamber. Once in 2007 when I served him a glass of wine at a Mill Hill Music Festival concert and once in 2008, when he attended the Watling Festival. I was organising a youth 5 a side football festival. I don't ever harass people. It is not what I do. If they are doing their job at the council chamber, I will give them the benefit of my opinion, which is a different thing. I believe that even the Brian Colemans of this world deserve a private life, without harassment.
Helen Michael in the grim dark days of winter with Barnet Traders
I will write up a full blog on the rally, but as I came back, I wanted to make a point about the Councils clumsy attempt to shaft the rally and their equally clumsy attempt to shaft Helen Michael. The march had a fantastic turnout. God smiled on us, we had a lovely day, in beautiful sunshine. Because the council had banned music, childrens activities and cake selling from the event finale, frantic phonecalls were had last night. Helen Michael called me at 10pm with a suggestion. "The bands can play at Cafe Buzz after the rally". So I moved the music to her cafe. She has a music license, so there was no issue at all. As a result, we announced to the crowd that if they wanted to party, go to Cafe Buzz. As the speeches finished, we went back to Buzz to set up. As we were setting up, the crowds started to arrive. Helen Michael was inundated and struggling to cope with the rush. She said "I've never been this busy". Every table was taken, and many people were on the street enjoying the atmosphere and the coffee and food. As she said this a large group of labour councillors turned up. One asked for a sandwich and Helen said "Ok but it will be a few minutes". At this, the new Brunswick Park Councillor, Andreas Ioniddes said "I am a chef", rolled up his sleeves, wahsed his hands and started helping Helen. he was there making sandwiches, serving tables and cooking breakfasts for a good hour until the rush died down. He looked as if he was part of the furniture. When the rush finally abated, he simply took off his apron and rejoined the Labour councillors and had a coffee. There is no way you can fail to like such a man.

I had to stay until the bitter end to take the musical equipment back. At the end, Helen was shattered. A few BAPS people helped her tidy up. I was the last one there and had a quiet beer with her. She was cashing up and said "I don't believe how much I've taken today. It's well over a normal weeks money!". What was amazing about this was Helen doled out free bowls of chips to customers as they waited.

Although I don't believe the rumours that Coleman had a vendetta against BAPS and Helen, I will say this. In the unlikely event that a grown man who alienated the population of Barnet by imposing ill thought out parking policies, without consultation, across the Borough, is actually stupid enough to blame anyone else (and I don't actually think Brian Coleman is stupid), then it has spectacularly backfired, because she has generated enough cash today to revamp and refurbish the cafe. She has been planning this for a while and hasn't had the necessary wonga. Helen said to me that since the visit by S015 officers, people have been popping in from far and wide to have a coffee and a cake in solidarity with her. Whilst business isn't booming, she can now see light at the end of the tunnel.

As to the rally. I'd suggest that the fact that Nick Walkley's council banned the event at the end could not have backfired more spectacularly. We had a massive turnout and it was truly spectacular. Not only that but the Barnet Council ban brought the BBC down (see above). Has there ever been a more stupid and inept council than Barnet when it comes to PR. If they'd ignored the march, then a bunch of people would have had a nioce day out and then gone home. As it is, the whole of the country will know the council is run by mean spirited idiots who clearly worship at the Joseph Stalin alter of megalomania.

I don't know who does the PR for the council, but I'm glad they don't work for me.

The Saturday List #7 - Ten reasons why I write this blog

Today is the day that Jolly Roger exposes himself to the public of Barnet. No not in that way, I'm not wearing a dirty mac to the BAPS torch procession rally with nothing on under it !

Have you ever wondered why I write the Barnet Eye. There are ten reasons, they may shock you. Here they are

1. Because my psychiatrist tells me that it is good to express my anger in a positive manner.

2. Because it's a great way to meet girls

3. Because I'm an egomaniac

4. Because I have nothing better to do with my time

5. Because I'm ultra left Trotskyite nutter who loves spouting bollocks

6. Because I'm a fantasist who lives at home with my mother and I don't have a life

7. Because I'm jealous of all the councillors and no one likes me

8. Because I'm a desperate attention seeker

9. Because the trades Unions pay me large amounts of money to do it

10. Because I'm a failed musician and it's the only way anyone will take any notice of me
Does this list surprise you? Well it surprises me in some ways, but these are some of the things that I've been accused of as being my motivation over the last four years of blogging. I expect that as things hot up with One Barnet and the council get ever more edgy, I'll get a good few more porkies chucked around.

For the record, my reposte to them is as follows

1. Because my psychiatrist tells me that it is good to express my anger in a positive manner.
Actually I don't have a shrink (although maybe I should). I do get angry about the impact council policies have on vulnerable people in Barnet and I think that the One Barnet program will be a costly waste of time that will ultimately deliver worse services for the people of Barnet. I don't write the blog to express my anger though, I write it to try and prevent bad things from happening.

2. Because it's a great way to meet girls
(I'm actually married and blogging really isn't a great way to pull) It is true that I've met some lovely women through writing the blog. I've also met some lovely men. In fact some of the people I've met through the blog are people I would never have met otherwise and I'm often humbled by the actions they take and the selfless sacrifices they make. People such as Linda Evans and John Sullivan who devote their lives to caring for their adult children with learning difficulties. Meeting them has enhanced my life. So yes this accusation is possibly true, but not in the way it was meant.

3. Because I'm an egomaniac
I'll have to let you be the judge of that one

4. Because I have nothing better to do with my time
I run a successful music business, I work as a volunteer for a charity and I have three children at home, so actually I have plenty of other things to do. I write the blog because I think the issues I cover are important and before I started blogging no one was talking about them (it is true that there are now four other great Barnet bloggers).

5. Because I'm ultra left Trotskyite nutter who loves spouting bollocks
I actually stood as a Lib Dem candidate at the last Council election, I didn't realise they were a hotbed of Trots. As to talking bollocks, you'll have to judge that for yourself. If you were to ask me if I thought there were any Trotskyite's in Barnet I'd suggest that the actions of the CEO of Barnet Council and his team may be. They have wrecked the credibility of the Tory administration and I believe they will wreck the credibility of public sector outsourcing with the ill thought out and badly implemented One Barnet Program.

6. Because I'm a fantasist who lives at home with my mother and I don't have a life
I wish I did live with my mum at times as I miss her dreadfully since she died, but sadly I moved out from home over 30 years ago, although she did stay with me in 1987 for a few months when my Dad died. This charge was quite insulting on another level. I know a few people who do live with elderly parents, because they act as carers for them. To use this as a sly insult was actually quite repulsive. I find it interesting that people make lies up about me. What does that say?

7. Because I'm jealous of all the councillors and no one likes me
I'm not at all jealous of them. Watching Jack Cohen speak common sense and get completely ignored, I am quite grateful I was spared that fate. I often wonder what I'd have done, had I succeeded in getting elected as a Lib Dem Councillor. I am no longer a party member as a result of the coalition. I think I would do what Jack Cohen does and have tried to be as effective as possible. I would also probably have remained a member until 2014, out of respect to the hard working local activists who campaigned for me. I would never insult any of them. As to no one liking me, again you be the judge of that.

8. Because I'm a desperate attention seeker
I'll have to let you be the judge of that one. I don't see too many pictures of myself on the blog waving my willy around though.

9. Because the trades Unions pay me large amounts of money to do it
I've never actually belong to a Trades Union. They have their own blogs etc and they give that sort of work to their members (I suppose). It is odd that some people can't understand that I do this because I feel strongly about the issues. It has also been said that I don't write much of the content and it is written for me by "the Unions". This is complete bollocks. If any trades unionist wants to write a blog they are welcome. It will have the words "guest blog" in the title. The same offer is open to anyone else. I'd love to see guest blogs from Tory Councillors. My business is doing pretty well. Recently a BNP sympathiser started posting comments on the Times website stating that he'd downloaded my company accounts and I'm "No Richard Branson". Well, no shit Sherlock, but I easily earn enough to live the lifestyle I want, feed my kids and enjoy myself. I also run a business which brings a lot of happiness to hundreds of local musicians every week. That is more than enough for me.

10. Because I'm a failed musician and it's the only way anyone will take any notice of me

I guess people say things like this because they think it may upset me. I'm a punk rock musician who loves what I do musically and never started playing to make money. I think I've got a great band and I'm proud of my achievements musically. I don't care whether anyone takes any notice of me or not. I do however rather hope they take notice of the issues I raise here. I should say that music is my first love. Sadly the time spent writing this blog has severely impacted the time I spend on it. I do resent that.

If there are any BNP members, Tory Councillors (or backroom staff) or Barnet Council officers out there who have any more reasons, please email them to me or leave a comment. I quite enjoy reading them.

Friday 20 July 2012

Barnet Council ban cup cakes, music and childrens activities from Our Barnet Torch procession finale

Is Barnet Council really run by idiots? The Barnet Alliance for Public Services have organised an alternative torch relay through the streets of Finchley tomorrow. The metropolitan Police are happy with the arrangements. That should be the end of the matter. Sadly as this march does not support the political ideology of Joseph Stalin Richard Cornelius with regard to Kremlin Council politics, the council have decided to be rather spiteful and try and knobble the plans. Given that they can't actually stop it, they have written to the organisers to say that they are not allowed to have cup cakes, music and childrens face painting at the culminating point in Finchley's Victoria Park.

So rather ingeniously, the muppets Council have managed to ensure that everyone attending will be really pissed off and inspired to fight even harder against the One Barnet program than they were before. All they've managed to do is remove the pleasant activities, which help build a bit of community cohesion.

The letter was sent at 6pm, allowing no time for discussion or to challenge the legality of the decision. This is not without precedent. I received a legal warning about a leaked document a while back. It arrived at 6pm on a Friday. Interestingly the paper copy was posted at 4pm. I have emails from the council claiming that the timing was "purely coincidental and was not designed to be intimdatory".

The net result of this stupid ban will be more bad publicity for the council and more lies and deceit on their part. They assume the public are stupid and believe the old crap they get told. Sadly, every lie, every bit of intimidation and every distortion simply helps build the Barnet Spring movement.

Just ask yourself this. What sort of council feels threatened by fce painting for children?

The Friday Joke 20/7/2012




Barnet Council One Barnet Document states that In House Staff provide better value for money !

There is an interesting report on the council website. Barnet have spent a kings ransom on legal fees with Trowers and Hamlins LLP to support the One Barnet program. It was revealed yesterday that they've also had two solicitors in Barnets legal team working on the project. They are now creating a dedicated post of "One Barnet Legal Officer" to oversee the work performed by Trowers and Hamlins

Perhaps the biggest irony for a post created to outsource the council, is the admission that in house resources are cheaper. In section 5.3 is says

Performance and Value for Money:  the use of its own Legal staff to provide legal advice and assistance to its One Barnet Programme provides the council with value for money. 

Need I say more. The report carries on with some other rather interesting information.


8.1 In 2009, external lawyers, Trowers and Hamlins, were appointed as the Council’s legal advisors to the One Barnet Programme.  However, from the outset, it was identified that a level of internal legal resource would be required to support the legal work being carried out by Trowers and Hamlins. 

8.2 Two permanent members of staff from the Legal Service are, presently, ‘seconded’ to the One Barnet Programme, whilst further, internal, legal support is being provided by an ‘As and When’ member of staff. 

8.3 The use of internal legal resources to support the One Barnet Programme provides good value for money.   

8.4 The Development and Regulatory Service and the New Support Customer Services  Organisation One Barnet Programme projects are, presently, in dialogue and are due to go live in April/May 2013.  The current level of internal legal support for the One Barnet programme will, therefore, be required in the period close to when   these two projects go live.  Consequently, the fixed term post is being created to 
continue until 31 March 2013.

8.5 As it is anticipated that the Council’s Legal Service will transfer to the London Borough of Harrow with effect from July 2012, or such later date if appropriate, to become a shared legal service with the London Borough of Harrow, the new post and post-holder would transfer to the London Borough of Harrow  if the service transfer takes place on July 2012 or such later date at which the fixed term post is 
still continuing.

Thursday 19 July 2012

Off-payroll public sector pay arrangements - Joint statement

The subject of Town Hall Tax Dodging (a phrase coined by the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) is one of enormous interest to the Barnet bloggers, and we applaud the attention paid to this issue by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (chaired by the Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP) which took place on Monday 16 July 2012.

This investigation of the issue of tax avoidance by individuals in publicly funded posts came about following the disclosure by Westminster journalist David Hencke that Ed Lester, the head of the Student Loan Company, was being paid through a service company, and that there are similar arrangements on a very significant scale throughout the civil service and the wider public sector.

One witness before the committee was Carolyn Downs, the Chief Executive of the Local Government Association (LGA). She stated that the LGA had found only 13 examples of off-payroll public sector pay.

We know that this national figure of 13 is an understatement since the draft (i.e. unaudited) Annual Accounts of Barnet Council for 2011-2012 show that there are 14 such arrangements recorded as having been in place during the year for senior officers.

Far from being a practice that is diminishing it is noted that in the previous year's accounts there were only 8 such arrangements.

The evidence to the committee was that these arrangements were used in the short-term. We can show that this is not true and that, on the contrary, these arrangements are used routinely for long term appointments.

In Barnet, one ‘interim’ post paid through a private company has lasted for more than three years. An appointment lasting over 3 years cannot be described as short-term. In addition, a Freedom of Information request has revealed that there have been no efforts to replace this individual with a permanent staff member.

Evidence to the committee also suggested that there was virtually no difference between the tax paid under PAYE or via a service company. That is to ignore two factors. If a service company is used certain expenses, such as travelling, can be reclaimed whereas an employee does not get tax relief for home to work travel costs. In addition, service companies are able to pay out their profits as dividends and National Insurance Contributions are not paid on those. The overall contribution to the Exchequer will be less if a service company is employed.

We look forward to the day when Barnet Council ensures that all its officers (employees) are treated equally and that all those people who receive their pay from the public purse recognise what Mrs Hodge referred to as a ‘moral duty’ to make their fair contribution to the taxes which contribute to the good of society.

We call on Nick Walkley, the Chief Executive of Barnet Council, to negotiate the return to the payroll of the officers concerned as this will reduce the penalties that will have to be paid as a consequence of the inevitable HM Revenue & Customs PAYE compliance visit.

We also look forward to following the evolution of this story in front of the Public Accounts Committee once the summer recess is over.

Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne

Are you pro life or pro choice?

As a general rule, I tend to steer clear of subjects which involve decisions I would never have to make in any circumstances. There is nothing in the world worse than people pontificating about the difficult decisions other people make, safe in the knowledge that it isn't a bridge they would ever have to cross. Sometimes however you have to look at the people making arguments and question their motives and what they are trying to say.

It is a peculiarity of English culture that when there is a slightly delicate subject, we completely avoid using the  correct words to describe what is going on. A simple example is when we say "Terry is married to Judy, but he's sleeping with June". In actual fact what we should probably be saying is "Terry is sleeping with Judy but having sex with June". The issue which to me which seems to have the most contradictory set of terms is the debate about abortion. I was talking to a customer who is rather young and pregnant recently. She's made the decision that she wants the baby. She is also rather responsible in her attitude, has made and informed choice and is under no illusion about what she is letting herself in for, raising a child without a partner. She isn't a religious person, she just wants a baby. We got talking and she asked a rather interesting question "Where is the best place to find out about healthy lifestyles for pregnancy?". I suggested she tried the National Childbirth Trust (NCT). I explained that when my wife was pregnant, we attended sessions run by NCT and they were helpful. She then said a very interesting thing. She'd rung up the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and was surprised to find that they don't actually advise on pregnancy, they advise on abortions. She asked me "Why aren't they called the British Abortion Advisery Service, it would be much less confusing?". The honest answer is that I don't really know. It would certainly make sense to me. I suspect that when BPAS was set up, in the aftermath of the legalisation of abortion in 1968, it was because there was a stigma attached to abortion. I would suggest that in the year 2012, maybe we have moved on enough to call such a service by it's proper name. 

Then I gave some consideration to the other terms involved in the abortion debate. People don't say "I'm pro abortion rights", they say "I'm pro choice". People who believe they are against legal abortion say "I am pro life". I was discussing education with a good friend recently who is an ardent pro abortion campaigner and an ardent socialist. We were discussing academies, free schools and faith schools. She stated that it should be illegal to attend any school apart from the nearest one which the local authority allocates to you. She said that  this would force all schools to give decent educations and ensure that middle class parents didn't manipulate the system to get their children into schools perceived as better. She is also an opponent of faith schools. In an attempt to wind her up, I said "oh, I thought you were Pro Choice" in response to her statement. I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams and she became extremely cross. The truth is that we are all Pro Choice in matters we believe we should have a choice in. I suspect that the people who are pro choice for faith schools are anti choice for a legal abortion. 

Then there are the people who are "anti legal abortion". Rather sadly, many of these are anything but "Pro Life". If we look at the USA, the many of the people who stand outside abortion clinics waiving placards and harrassing customers and staff are also big supporters of the death penalty. Most of them are members of faith communities, but don't subscribe to "Thou Shalt not Kill" or "Turn the other cheek" when it comes to convicted felons. Many actually go way beyond the death penalty for convicted felons and actually have attempted to kill and maim workers in abortion clinics. How people with murderous intent can claim to be pro life is beyond me. 

As I said at the start of this piece, I don't ever pontificate about the decisions people make, when I won't be in that position. That does not mean that I don't have opinions about the issue. Being raised as a Roman Catholic, I have a deeply ingrained cultural sense that abortion is not a good thing. I do however take a rather different view to the church on the subject. Perhaps the first crack in my opinion of how it should be dealt with happened when I was about 13 years old. My parents were stalwart members of the local church. The most prominent anti abortion group is "Life". My parents agreed to host a fund raising party at our house for the organisation. At the time, the Sacred Heart parish in Mill Hill was 90% Irish. Such events were usually raucous events where everyone got as pissed as a newt and went home at 3 am. 

This event was no exception. My parents also allowed us to drink at such events, so I got completely sloshed and had a great time. The next day, I was with my Father driving in a car somewhere. I commented that the previous evening was a great success. I can only guess that maybe he was a bit hung over, but I wasn't expecting his response "They all make me sick, they are such a bunch of hypocrites. If any of that lots 13 year old daughter got pregnant, they'd be the first to take her down for an abortion. They all turn their noses up at single mothers, yet they will stick their hands in their pockets and suck up to the priests at doo's like that". I was stunned by his comment. I then asked "so do you believe abortion should be legal?". His response framed my thinking on the subject "listen, whilst you have a society where people look down their noses on single mums, kids born bastards are disadvantaged and having a kid when you are skint means that you will have a rotten life, people will have abortions. Let's fix those problems and then have the debate as to whether it should be legal or not.". 

The more I think about it, the more I realise he was spot on. When it comes to abortion, people don't make the choice. They generally feel they have no choice. They have an abortion because they feel that there isn't an alternative. The pro life lobby say "give the baby up for adoption if you don't want it". This doesn't address the social stigma many women would have, the impact on their lives, the psychological problems they may have coping with giving up a baby. In short it is a lovely idea but one few would ever take up. The other alternative they offer is that you shouldn't have sex if you don't want a baby. Is there anyone who is heterosexual who has only had sex, purely with the intention of getting pregnant? Unless you fit into that category, STFU - you are being a hypocrite. Many anti legal abortion supporters believe abortion is wrong in all cases, even if the mother will die or is pregnant due to incest or rape. I cannot see how anyone could condemn someone who makes such a decision, but there are people who do.

The anti legal abortion lobby will come back and say "ah, but most abortions in the UK are not had be people in such circumstances, they are choices made by women who use abortion as an alternative to contraception, what about them? I don't personally believe that this is anything more than a gross oversimplification of the position. If we had a government that wanted to stop abortion, they could do it tomorrow, without making abortion illegal. If you simply gave every woman who booked in for an abortion a  million pounds if they had the baby, then hey presto, no abortions. Of course, members of faith communities wouldn't receive the money, as they don't have abortions, do they? Now I daresay that you are all scoffing at this idea "where would we find the money?". I quite agree that this is a problem, but how much have we spent on the arms industry since 1968? I'd hazard a guess that if we'd spent that on grants for women wanting abortions, it wouldn't be far off a million pounds each. Which begs another question. If the "pro life" movement is really "pro life" why do they stand outside abortion clinics and not arms factories? Why do they not turn out en-masse for anti war demonstrations? Why don't they lobby parliament to end poverty and disease in the third world, which causes more death and destruction than legal abortion in the UK?

I love my kids, if my wife told me tomorrow that she was pregnant again, I'd be over the moon (she wouldn't be). The thought of destroying a baby in a womb horrifies me. I cannot, however I look at it, reconcile the action with what I believe. I do however also think that I don't have arbitration over other peoples bodies. I want to work to make a society where people choose not to have abortions because there are better options for them, not because they are legally prevented from having them. These are

a) Better sex education, so that pregnancy is avoided when not wanted.
b) More financial help for mothers and young families as raising children is expensive
c) Abolition of all social stigma associated with single parenthood
d) Better general education and opportunities for young people generally

One anti legal abortion campaigner I spoke to, told me that it didn't matter if there was one of seven million legal abortions, they were all wrong, whatever the circumstances and the law should ban all of them. He told me that if any daughter of his had an abortion, he would "disown" her and he had made this clear to his children. I suggested that this probably meant they simply wouldn't tell him, should such a thing happen. His solution seemed to be cruel and certainly wouldn't help his children get through what may be a very difficult time.  I however think that if people are genuinely Pro Life, they should stop trying to dictate other peoples life choices and start campaigning to build a society which cherishes and values life rather than trying to put a legal blanket ban on abortion, which will simply send people abroad or to dodgy back street clinics. They should stop campaigning for changes to the law and start campaigning for social justice and fairness. Their efforts should be directed at the following, not at people in difficult situations

a) The Arms industry
b) Global corporations who exploit the third world
c) Pharm companies who price life enhancing drugs out of the reach of the third world
d) The policies of the coalition government which place intolerable strain on family budgets

As to the Pro Choice lobby, I'd suggest that they campaign for the same things. I believe that many people (not all) have abortions, not because they have a choice, but because they have no choice at all. They are compelled to have them by partners, family, economic circumstance and society in general. It strikes me that in the battle to protect rights, these issues are sometimes overlooked.

In short, I passionately believe that if our society is better educated, fairer and less judgemental, we will have less abortions as a society. Whether you are Pro Life or Pro Choice, surely that has to be a good thing and a better way to address the issue?
Over the course of this existence of this blog, many people on both sides of the abortion debate have noted the fact that I refer to my religion. I have repeatedly been challenged to state what my views are and what side of the "choice" argument I sit on. I hope that this answers the question. I don't expect that too many people will agree with what I say here, but it would be dishonest to do anything other than explain my personal views.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

The smell of a huge rat in Barnet - Councillor Jack Cohen exposes the sale of Hendon FC ground as sham

From last night's Cabinet resourses committee, we have details of the latest legal cock up to hit Barnet in regards to a land sale. Barnet Council spent £1 million on the inquiry into the cock up of Barnet FC's Underhill ground. It looks like they haven't learned. Councillor Daniel Thomas starts by explaining why the council are seeking to exempt the process from scrutiny. Jack Cohen makes a compelling case for completely re-examing the decision and exposes some highly dodgy sound shenanigans. Jack also explains that the preferred bid is not the highest and the company making it is not legally allowed to.

I suspect that the lawyers will be rubbing their the hands together (yet again). I should imagine that all connected with the Jewish community will be especially interested in why the Council has snubbed their offer for the site, for a lower offer from a property developer. Note must also be made of the intervention of Hugh Rayner, who quite correctly expressed his displeasure at the way the Cabinet resources committee were seeking to bully the scrutiny committee into backing off.

The Barnet Eye commends both councillors for their good work.

The Barnet Eye covered this subject back in February, full details here -


The more I hear about this case, the stranger it sounds. I fully support the efforts of the efforts of the London Jewish Girls High School to get to the bottom of the issue. Whilst I do not support the loss of the site to football, if the council is intent on selling it, then they should take the highest offer, especially since there is a clear community benefit to doing so.

G4S - A lesson for BT and Capita

This morning it was announced that G4S's share price has continued to plummet. The companies share price has lost £700 million as a result of the Olympics fiasco. There is an important lesson for the bidders involved in the One Barnet program from all of this. G4S will not loose £700 million as a result of the Olympics cock up. As I understand it, they will still get their £50 million management fee. The reason the share price has dropped through the floor is because they now have a national reputation of non delivery.

If you are working for any organisation and G4S are bidding for the contract, would you hire them now? It may well be that they would do a fine job, are far cheaper than the competition and have put the best bid in, but they have lost trust. If we analyse why, the reasons are fairly obvious. They were blinded by the glow of a large contract and didn't think through whether they had the skills or resources to meet the needs of it.

You may ask, where are the similarities between the Olympic security and the One Barnet program. They are clear to see. Barnet is now the largest London Borough. The CEO Nick Walkley has committed the Council to be the first to become "a commissioning council". In other words the scale of what is being attempted in Barnet is way beyond any other outsourcing. The complexity of the contract is such that they've already spent £9 million on consultants reports and want another £10 million to finish the work. That is £19 million pounds just to figure out how to do it. The project has ground on for four years, delivering nothing,.

The money spent so far could have saved every shut library, day care centre and paid for the continuation of sheltered housing wardens. In short, all of the cuts in Barnet have simply paid the fees for One Barnet consultants. What have they produced? Reports recommending more reports, done by themselves. The fact that this wasteful project has gobbled up £9 million so far is a scandal in itself, but merely shows the difficulty of what is being attempted. Mr Walkley and Conservative cabinet member such as Councillor Robert Rams claim there is "no alternative", but their quiet clearly is. The Association of Public Service Excellence have demonstrated this. Mr Rams tried to describe  APSE as a "left wing organisation", without actually bothering to check what they are and who they work for. They have delivered real savings to councils of all political flavours up and down the country.

Anyone who has bothered to look (and trust me, Barnet bloggers have), know that Barnet Council is riddled with inefficiency. Yesterday, three Barnet bloggers went to see the Borough auditor to discuss concerns regarding the procurement process in Barnet and to discuss specific contracts. The response of the auditor? He sent one home, because he could only cope with two people at a time.

Yesterday evening, at the Cabinet resources committee, Councillor Jack Cohen gave an impressive speech detailing how Barnet Council had rejected a bid for Hendon Football Club's old ground of £3.5 million in favour of a lower £2.8 million bid from a property developer. Councillor Cohen rightly asked why the council, in a time of desperate financial need, was not trying toa chieve the highest price?  He also detailed all manner of shenanigans going on with the property company which is buying the ground.

This is yet another example of waste in Barnet, which the council clearly lacks the organisational abilities to deal with. So lets sum up the situation. BT and Capita are bidding (as G4S) did, for huge contracts, of great complexity, on a previously unprecedented scale. Barnet Council (as it is now clear with the London Olympics) do not have the track record or the management skills to successfully administer the project. This has been demonstrated in Barnet by Metpro, Aerodrome Road, the SAP fiasco, RM Countrysides to name but a few. Perhaps the one thing which BT and Capita think may be different is the level of public interest in Barnet Council compared to the Olympics. If this is the premise they are working under, they should think again. The list of national, regional and local TV, Radio and press coverage of various Barnet issues is endless. I have personally been involved with the following over the last few months, the BBC One Show interview, ITV Tonight used my film footage, I wrote an article for th Gaurdian, I was interviewed by the Evening Standard, and have been featured in a weekly basis in the local press (so much so that when I wasn't in the paper a few weeks ago, my aunty rang to see if I was alright).

If BT and Capita think "well that's only a few stroppy local bloggers", think again. Every major news organisation has offices in London, as well as hundreds of independent documentary makers and other freelance journalists. More live in Barnet than anywhere else in the UK. The power of such people can be demonstrated by the Stephen Lawrence case. Stephen's father Neville knew the editor of the Daily Mail. As a  result Stephens case was kept in the public eye until justice was done. If BT and Capita think that a massive story on the doorstep of the worlds media will be ignored, think again. The first cock up which hits a major news producer or editor in the pocket, or affects their parents, children or friends, will result in a media frenzy, which will make G4S look tame.

I produced this graph to help illustrate the possible effect on the shareprice of BT and Capita if OneBarnet goes TU.

Having seen £700 million wiped off G4S shares as a result of the Olympics cock up, I do wonder if I was a tad optimistic? Still I don't own shares in BT or Capita anymore, so what do I care?

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Council Cabinet Member Sachin Rajput declares One Barnet outsourcing flawed !

I have just returned from the Barnet Council Cabinet meeting. During a long answer about closure of day centres, Councillor Sachin Rajput took time out to have a swipe at the former Labour adminstration of Barnet, who signed a ten year contract with Freemantle for provision of day centres and care homes. He stated that long ten year contracts are inflexible and not suited to the fast changing modern world.

Hello, earth calling councillor Rajput. You are a member of the Conservative cabinet that is hoping to sign up for the ten year long, one billion pound One Barnet Contract. That is TWENTY times bigger than the Freemantle contract.

After the meeting, the Council Leader rushed around to engage Councillor Rajput in conversation. One can only ponder what they were discussing.

I agree with Councillor Rajput. Ten year contracts are too long, too restrictive and are not suited to the modern, changing world. We will have some footage to show you of this in the not too distant future. This blog has been criticised for saying that Rajput seems to be one of the saner and more competent members of the cabinet. Whilst he is not Mother Theresa, he certainly seems able to see the basic problems with the council.

Now we only have the other ten of them to go and we'll get the whole fiasco dropped.

Later on at Cabinet Resources, we had the sight of Jack Cohen reducing the committee to silence, as he pointed out why the sale of Hendon Football Club had proceeded. Jack did something almost unique for a Barnet Councillor. He did his homework. The Leader looked deeply troubled. When faced with compelling evidence that they were going to make a lousy decision, the Cabinet ground to a halt. I have never seen anything like it. Jeff Lustig and Nick Walkley looked like they'd had their testicles slammed in a cupboard door. They were not happy at all. It is quite clear that if Barnet Council proceed with the sale of the football club, there will be a huge legal case and Barnet will lose. It is also clear that they will alienate the local Jewish community who are backing a a bid, which offered more money and didn't breach any rules. There is a clear need for more school places and the school backers have a solid plan. I don't support the closure or moving of any football club from the Borough, but if we are to sell off the ground, then lets at least get the best deal for the taxpayer and if it can improve the quality of local education, even better.

Nobody who witnessed Jack Cohens interjection will be left in any doubt as to the problems with the current preferred bid. We will post a video of it tomorrow. Councillor Hugh Rayner also interjected as head of the committee responsible for reviewing the bid. He stated that he was most unhappy at the attempts to bounce his committee into rubber stamping the bid.

It is fair to say that Cllr's Cohen, Rayner and Rajput tonight all spoke with a degree of common sense, which I have not seen for a long time in Barnet Council. I hope that this is infectious.

Exclusive : The stress of working for Barnet Council

Have you ever wondered how stressfull life is at Barnet Council? Well all of your questions can be answered. Here are the results of a "stress survey" conducted within Barnet Council. The results are quite shocking
EPR Stress Survey - Staff

Here are a few comments

"Management support is very poor and there is a lack of direction within our team"

"Since all the changes taken/taking place in Barnet the managers are too busy trying to sell off the services. Staff are not a priority and any staff related issues are ignored".

"Some staff are treated better than others. One rule for some, another rule for others"

"Staff are always informed about change at work, not consulted"

"The main issue at work is not being given the tools to do your job properly"

"The main issue is lack of staffing. We have too much work to do with too few people. This means we have to sacrifice quality of work". 

This report is an official Barnet Council document. It makes shocking reading. The people who completed this survey provide some of the most important services in Barnet. This week we reported that Barnet Council have abolished posts in the audit department, due to being unable to find anyone willing to work for Barnet. Now we have proof that the organisation is a stressful workplace. Mr Nick Walkley, Barnet Council CEO states in the film, "A Tale of Two Barnets" that "staff are my second priority". Mr Walkley fails to recognise that without staff, all of his other priorities will fail.

Here is the entire Nick Walkley Interview, from "A Tale of Two Barnets" - unedited.

Mr Walkley says that the job is "getting the balance right between being supportive, whilst at the same time having to give really tough messages". I would suggest that this survey suggests that Mr Walkley is not doing the job very well. What do you think?

You can see more of the interviews from A Tale of Two Barnets at the films website.