Friday 31 May 2013

Thought for the day - Legal aid

The Tories despise legal aid. Could this be anything to do with the fact that it is because legal aid levels the playing field between the weak and the powerful? Just asking

Thursday 30 May 2013

Time to scrap this scandalous tax on education

There are so many things I should be blogging about in Barnet, but I witnessed a conversation between my daughter and some friends recently on the subject of University fees which brought home to me what a scandalous, unjust and stupid tax this really is. Now as a rule I don't talk about my kids on my blog. It really is not something I want to share, but I couldn't help listen with rising despair to the conversation. She was chatting with several friends about the subject of going to University. She is a very bright girl and I'd say the same is true of her friends. Two, five or ten years ago, they'd all be planning to go to Uni. Now the conversation was all about "Why should I when it will leave me with debts of £30-50,000. They are not stupid. They've done the maths. If these punitive fees are having this effect on our brightest youngsters, what will this do to our economy in 10, 20 or 50 years. Great Britain is a hot house of ingenuity and invention, yet this government of intellectual muppets seems hell bent on forcing us back into the dark ages.

The simple truth is a University education makes you better able to get a job and contribute to the economy. You will more than pay back the taxes with the higher wages you earn. As ever this government wants your slice of the cake as well as theirs. Before the last general election I quit the Labour Party and joined the Lib Dems precisely because every candidate signed a pledge saying they would resist rises in tuition fees. When they got elected, every one of them renaged on that promise and I tore up my party membership. Now I have all the proof I need that the policy is even more damaging than I feared.

The time has come for an urgent rethink. This government rules by stealth tax. They never look beyond the end of their nose.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Your Choice Barnet Board Meeting

The Barnet Eye would just like to take this opportunity to remind the board of Your Choice Barnet who pays your wages and who baled you out when you ran out of cash. Don't take your customers for granted.
Here are a few facts about Your Choice Barnet


Your Choice is claiming that the proposed changes to staff terms & conditions are not going to have an impact on service quality.

Currently Support Workers are paid £12.40-£13.56/ hr and Assistant Support Workers are paid £9.49-£10.07/ hr

M As & When hours: Your Choice rely heavily on As & When hours. We learnt that staff now working As & When have already had their rate cut by 25% before the consultation began.

M 28 support workers posts to be reduced to 8 support workers posts.

M Creation of 20.5 assistant support worker posts

M Enhancements for working evenings to be stopped

M Enhancements for working weekends to be stopped  (these are paid at time and a half)

M Staff working a 5 day week to be moved to a 7 working week with no extra pay.

M Up to a sixth of the workforce have requested and been granted voluntary redundancy.  This will have a massive impact on a client group who have built long term relationships with workers in which ‘trust’ is a critical feature of this relationship.

M Your Choice has commissioned a consultant to carry out a benchmarking exercise with the market competitors.

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Your Choice Barnet Lobby

Help us lobby the board meeting of Your Choice Barnet Ltd on Wednesday, 29 May.   
Meet at Barnet House,1255 High Road, Whetstone N20 0EJ at 5.30 pm.
 If you believe that the care and wellbeing of vulnerable people comes before profits and political dogma, make your voice heard tomorrow.  Your Choice Barnet is a private company, with directors, lawyers, accountants, etc set up by Barnet Council to look after the most vulnerable people in the Borough. In less than a year it needed a £2 million taxpayer bale out. It is cutting frontline staff. Have the directors, lawyers & accountants had a pay cut? Why not ask them at their board meeting tomorrow !

Monday 27 May 2013

Helen Michael threats - New development

Helen Michael arrived at work to find this note pinned to her premises. One has to wonder at the type of character that pins such notes on the wall of a business. We all make mistakes, but one has to wonder why the apology was not made in person. One can only speculate, but there are CCTV cameras in the locality and the police were engaged in an investigation.

Rather oddly, the note claims Brian Coleman has resigned. To the best of our knowledge, Mr Coleman has not resigned and has not even given the slightest admission of contrition.

Over the course of the past year Helen Michael has been interviewed by the Police, been assaulted, had vcious smears printed in the press, been the victim of anonymous letters pinned on her door making veiled threats, all as a result of upsetting Brian Coleman. Far from being the perpetrator of any campaign of harrassment, she hs been on the receiving end of a concerted campaign of intimidation, the likes of which would be more in keeping with a banana republic. On Thursday she buried her mum.

It is time, once and for all, for this campaign of harrassment, bullying and threats to stop. Maybe this note is a sign that the penny has dropped in certain quarters. The only "crime" Helen Michael has committed to warrant this campaign of intimidation was to campaign against the unfair parking regime which Brian Coleman introduced and which his successor, Dean Cohen has spent a year trying to sort out. In short, even Colemans ex council colleagues have admitted Helen Michael was right.

If like me, you are disgusted at what has happened, then I ask you to do one small thing. Pop into Cafe Buzz and have a tea,. coffee, sandwich, breakfast, lunch or even a piece of cake. It is a great little cafe and the food and drink is good quality. I believe Helen has earned our respect and support, by standing up to this bullying, at a very difficult time for her personally. Whilst she was having to deal with the stress of the Coleman case, she also had to watch her mum suffer a terrible ordeal with cancer. She has been through the mill. She lead the campaign to sort out the parking charges in the borough. If you drive and park in Barnet, she has saved you money. The least you should consider doing is showing your support by popping into her cafe and letting her do her job. That is all she ever wanted to do.

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday! - Your Choice Barnet Rally

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!       
This is a real distress call on behalf of adult Barnet residents with severe disabilities, who can never be left on their own.  
  Service users and their families, whose services are now provided by the private company, Your Choice Barnet Ltd., are in real distress.

v Because Your Choice Barnet Ltd. is in financial difficulties they are making changes to staffing and virtually doubling charges for some services.

Help us lobby the board meeting of Your Choice Barnet Ltd on Wednesday, 29 May.   

Meet at Barnet House,1255 High Road, Whetstone N20 0EJ at 5.30 pm.

Come to our campaign meetings.  

 The next one will be on Thursday, 6 June at 7.00 pm at The Greek Cypriot Centre, Britannia Road, London N12 9RU.

Barnet Council outsourced these services so that it could wash its hands of its responsibility for the care of adults with severe disabilities.

Barnet Council created Your Choice Barnet Ltd.  to make a profit for the council.

Barnet Council cannot outsource its “duty of care” to vulnerable
Barnet  residents.

Our campaign group, the Campaign Against the Destruction of Disabled Support Services (CADDSS) , is sending out this urgent distress call. Please join the lobby on Wednesday, 29 May.

Sunday 26 May 2013

Bad Apples

I guess all organisations have them somewhere. Bad Apples. There are several genres of bad apples, that I've come across over the years.

People who see any situation purely from the perspective of what they can take out, rather than what they put in. Some people thrive on negativity and discord and cause trouble for fun. Some are simply greedy and see any situation as one to be exploited purely for their own ends. Then there are people who simply enjoy the ability to exercise power and control, with a view to making other people miserable. Generally these people bring discord and unhappiness to those unfortunate enough to fall into their sphere of influence. The history of the human race is littered with the havoc and mayhem caused by such people.

I believe all of these people have a common trait. They lack empathy with other people. They are essentially loners. That is not to say they don't form relationships with people, of course they do. Sadly for the people who fall under their spell, the effects are not very pleasant. Perhaps the best example of this is Adolf Hitler. The two major "loves" of his life both met awful ends. The first killed herself, unable to cope with the stress of loving a deranged psychopath. The second, Eva Braun met an even more horrible ending in a bunker in Berlin. I doubt anyone shed a tear for Braun, but her mistake was falling under the spell of a very evil man. I suspect that even during "the good times" she was as miserable as sin. Hitler refused to commit to her and kept her hanging around, like a chattel to be used when it suited him. There is a cautionarly tale to be had from the likes of Braun. When we throw our lot in with such people, we become tainted, then we become corrupted and finally we are destroyed.

On the streets of London this week we saw the awful sight of two men slaughtering a fellow citizen, in broad daylight in perhaps the most savage murder in recent history. From what we can ascertain about the two characters involved, the journey to become callous killers started with them seeking spiritual enlightenment. I refuse to believe that anyone converts to any of the major religions for anything other than the highest reasons. Sadly for them, they fell in with a group of radicals who have taken the teachings and perverted and twisted them to become a force for darkness and evil. Whilst the two butchers who committed the murder will rightly serve long sentences and hopefully will die in prison, I believe that the real culprits are getting away scott free. The Mullahs who radicalised these two vulnerable,stupid and gullible young men are the true villains of the piece. They are still walking the streets. As I write this, they are probably preaching to other such simple souls that the two butchers were the finest examples of Jihad.

Many years ago, I read a book written by a German soldier. He was part of Rommels Afrika Corps. He was taken prisoner in North Africa and was taken to the USA as a prisoner of war. His book tells of his awe at arriving in the USA. He'd believed Hitler was a messaih. He believed Germany was the most advanced and powerful nation on earth. As he saw the Skyscrapers of the USA loom into view and the wealth and prosperity, he realised he'd been conned. Worse than that, he recognised that all of the bravery, sacrifice and effort of his comrades, in what he believed was the worlds greatest fighting force had been perverted and subverted in a hopeless war that would always be doomed to failure. He spent several years as a POW watching as Germany was systematically destroyed. He also realised that democracy and rule of law would always deliver a better life than dictatorship and facism. His realisation was only possible because he was removed from the influence of a malign and evil state.

These events happened 60 years ago, but the message and lessons are exactly the same today. The tragedy is that we haven't learned anything. It is absolutely clear what the bad apples in our society are doing. It is completely clear what their goals and aims are. It is completely clear what sort of society they want us to live in.

Now I believe in democracy and I believe in free speech. I believe that what you do and say in your own house is your business. When you start persuading other people to go onto the streets and start killing fellow citizens, then that is when you cross the line. That is when it becomes the responsibility of the state to protect the rest of us. To me the solution could not be more simple. We need to apply the same sentences for insitement as we do for the actual murderers. If you inspire someone to commit a murder, which they would otherwise not have committed, then you can rot in jail with them. The police and the security services know exactly who is responsible for spreading this poison in our society. They know what these people want and how they achieve their aims. They know that they will be sitting back, quietly satisfied at the damage they have caused.

What has happened has caused me to reflect on the issue of "bad apples" in society. In some ways we are all responsible. Every time we cross the road when we see someone being bullied, we are culpable. Every time we see injustice, but we do nothing we are culpable. Every time we see someone at work, making a co workers life miserable and we say nothing, we are culpable. Whether you are a worshipper in a Mosque, listening to someone pervert the word of God or you are an employee of Barnet Council and your management are involved in bad practice which will affect the most vulnerable people in society, you have a moral obligation to blow the whistle on what you are witnessing.

I sincerely hope that this awful murder is the start and finish of such activities. I hope that the revulsion makes people wake up and do the right thing. Sadly I think it is far less likely that those people who are turning a blind eye in our local government, to changes which will cause misery for hundreds of disabled and other vulnerable people have not got the message that if they sit idly by, they are just as responsible.

And what about the rest of us? What can we do? Well we can make our views known. One such opportunity is by attending the lobby of the Your Choice Barnet Ltd board on Wednesday, 29 May.  Meet at Barnet House,1255 High Road, Whetstone N20 0EJ at 5.30 pm. This is a private company set up by Barnet Council to oversee the downgrading of provision of services to vulnerable adults. It has, in less than a year, become virtually bankrupt, requiring a taxpayer funded baleout of £2 million. All of this whilst taking services away from local people. As far as I am concerned any local authority which can countenance such actions clearly has a few bad apples in it's organisation. What disturbs me is the fact that Barnet Council had over 40 people earning over £100,000 last year, whilst chopping budgets for the most vulnerable people in society. The more I look, the more I see a society that is coming apart at the seams.

It is time that we had a government that cared about the people it governs. Whilst the terror attacks and the dismantling of the provision of care for vulnerable people may on the face of it seem a million miles apart, I believe that the root cause is common. A lack of respect for other people. As soon as we accept that some people are different and can be treated with less respect, we end up with such issues. I firmly believe that the fairer society is, the less chance there is for bad apples to spread poison amongst the rest of us.

Rant over.

Saturday 25 May 2013

What Nick Walkley did next - Haringey Special

Whilst this blog concentrates on Barnet, we are intrigued to hear what our former CEO, Mr Nick Walkley is getting up to in Haringey. We have a friend who works for the council and it seems a familiar theme is developing. Mr Walkley has started his policy of weekly emails. This has caused much mirth with my friend and her colleagues, as it has included such pearls of wisdom as congratulating colleagues for having the tidiest desk. My friend also tells how his "relentless drive for efficiency" has involved recruiting some "new executive posts" with staff on £73,000 a year. My friend wonders how this will affect the budget, when these new roles sit on top of teams who's budgets are already under pressure. Apparently Mr Walkley has a different style to the previous CEO, who had a reputation for turning up unexpectedly at all manner of far flung council operations and spending time getting an in depth understanding of how the operation is run. This earned much respect amongst loyal hard working staff. Let's just say that at the moment, Mr Walkley has not quite reached the same level of esteem amongst long standing staff.

It will come as no surprise to Barnet residents to hear that the champion and author of the One Barnet scheme is spreading peace, love and understanding whereever he goes. Perhaps the oddest thing in all of the things I read whilst researching this little blog was this story.

It seems Mr Walkley has ordered an independent inquiry into the way accounts were prepared. What is interesting is that Mr Walkley strenuously resisted such an independent inquiry for the Metpro scandal at Barnet Council. Has he learned that in house stitch ups dont' work? Or is it more likely that as the inquiry will merely prove embarrassing for his predecessor, he sees a use for it in this circumstance.

One thing is clear from a quick google of Walkleys reign at Haringey is the fact that they don't have the vigorous blogging community we have here in Barnet yet. One wonders if Mr Walkley will change that as his reign unfolds. I wonder if he misses all the fun he used to have at Barnet.

Friday 24 May 2013

Guest Blog - Your Choice Barnet Price hike - by John Sullivan

By John Sullivan,

I thought I would update you on the massive hike in Community Space day rates without notification to the carer for the service users at Community Space, although it appears not to be a matter of much interest to many it is thank God  of interest to some.

I just spoke with Ms A who is the sister and carer for Ms B, a service user that my daughter Susan spends a couple of days per week with, and just to re-cap Ms A normally receives a monthly bill from YCB for £672 per month , and this month for the month of April received a bill for £1,120-0+ for the same days per month that Ms B attends Community Space, without having been told the rates were increasing on 1st April.
Ms A called YCB and was told by Simon Meredith that she was sent a letter advising her of the increase a letter she never received, a letter that was almost definitely not sent because (a)  she is not alone and ( b) this is standard response for YCB and I have  experienced the same situation on many occasions. Ms A said getting a letter would have made little difference any way because the amount she receives from social services is lower that the amount of the demand without adding BMRC attendances for the month , so what is happening. He passed her on to another person at YCB who said you should have received a letter and by the way you are not alone this has happened to other people as well, the problem is I cannot help you because I do not know what is happening anyway, so she has been left in limbo not knowing what the future holds.

All those attending the information meetings at Community Space in March will confirm that Social Services got the blame for everything , they were blamed for refusing to fund this that and the other, but it seems strange that we are at  a carers information meeting on the 26th or 27th March just days from 1st April and nobody at YCB thought to mention that the fees were going to be virtually doubled on 1st April.

The reality is if social services were unable to fund what YCB then considered to be reasonable demands how can they possibly fund an approximately 80% rise in the daily fees. The answer is they cannot, they will have to reduce the days per weeks for the service users either now or in the not to distant future, a claim supported I think by the exchange between Mr A  & Troy Henshall at the Rosa Morrison information meeting a few days ago.

YCB claim the proposed changes will result in no change for Rosa Morrison a claim incidentally disputed by the care staff, and Mr A asked Troy how long he could guarantee no change and Troy replied 6 months. So in essence they are pushing through these changes dumping the skilled staff in favour of as and when staff and cannot see beyond a period of six months when it could all change again, which begs the question what sort of a business plan is that when you are dealing with changes that impact upon  the health and well being of vulnerable people.

Furthermore Ms B attends BMRC one day per week on a Friday at a cost including transport of £50 per day, so what possible incentive would LBB social service have to pay £130 per day exclusive of transport at YCB,  how would they justify the cost, and why if BMRC can show a profit at £50 per day why could YCB not show a profit at £70 per day instead of hiking it up to nearer £130 per day. Which does not sit with their claim in the 1st March document that the proposed changes are to make YCB " more competitive in the market place "

Ms A like all parents & carers needs the respite from Ms B and Ms B needs the stimulation of her peers and her community hub ( and remember they are not alone ), we have to ensure we challenge this what appears to be back door route to reducing the five day week support for service users leaving them dumped at home to waste away both physically and mentally this is really zero hour.

My theory for what it's worth .

YCB are up to their necks in debt they know that community hub is vital to the service users so they know they will retain the majority for at least one or two days per week no matter what, so they double the fees in the knowledge they will be able to cut staff numbers by 50% because the fee hike will result in a reduced attendance by service user by at least 50%, thereby maximising the profit per service user which will result in the service users being dumped at home putting profit before people.

Ms A is attending the Carer Information Meeting at Community Space on Tuesday morning the 28th, please try to come along and give her some moral support. Just a reminder we need as many people as possible to attend the lobby of the YCB board meeting on Wednesday FBL, CPZ, One Barnet included and  no excuses , this is one occasion where we all have to make an effort. Phillip and Janet have doggedly supported all campaigns and are now  looking for support in the campaign nearest to their hearts, and they have earned the right to expect the support of all.
John Sullivan is a Barnet resident, parent, campaigner and regular blogger at the Barnet Eye. Guest blogs are always welcome.

Open Letter to the Leader of Barnet Council

Cc: ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Sent: Friday, May 24, 2013 9:35 AM
Subject: One Barnet - Plato or Aristotle

Dear Councillor Cornelius,
Those of us lucky enough to have had the benefit of a decent Comprehensive education in the 1970's will be familiar with the two opposing philosophical approaches to the issue of government. The first of these was developed by Plato who stated that ninety percent of men were brutish animals and to stop them destroying everything, society needed an elite - one in ten - to lord it over the savages.
Aristotle on the other hand developed the philosophy that ninety percent of men are decent and honest. The one in ten who were criminals needed locking up, to prevent them corrupting the rest of society.
In this week, when we have seen savagery and brutality on the streets of London, as well as a decision to outsource the vast majority of Barnet Council services to Capita. A decision taken by a curiously small number of people, with no consultation and no mandate (the proposal was not in the last Conservative manifesto), I would be extremely interested to find out whether your administration subscribes to the view of Plato or Aristotle or whether you have developed a political philosophy of your own.
Roger Tichborne

Thursday 23 May 2013

Barnets biggest joke - The Barnet Press

Do you want to see something funny, perhaps the biggest joke in the whole of Barnet. Well the letter above on the right was written by me to the Barnet Times, in response to them giving Brian Coleman, a convicted criminal, an interview in which he did his best to trash the reputation of the victim of his assault, Helen Michael. A few days before they published the article, Helen lost her mum to cancer. She is an avid tweeter, as was the journalist who wrote the article, so there is no way the journo in question could claim they didn't know. Perhaps he thought it was a jolly jape to stick the boot into Helen at such a time? Who knows, they didn't bother to ask her for her side of the story before printing Colemans attack.

Anyway, I sent them the above letter to tell them what I think of them. How did they take the criticism? Erm, rather sadly, they seem far better at dishing it out than they are at taking it. Here is there response

It seems that I am now considered a hysterical, knee jerk reactionary because I believe in sticking up for my friends in difficult times, when bullys have a go at them.

The Press is delivered to tens of thousands of homes in Barnet, and whilst many use it to line their budgie cage poo tray, some people do read it.

They try and make out that the article was simply giving a politician a chance to talk about his next job. What a complete load of old baloney. He made all sorts of outrageous statements against Ms Michael in the article, implying she was a malicious stalker who would stop at nothing to harass Coleman.  This despite clear CCTV footage of him charging at her and attacking her. To the best of my knowledge Helen has never spoken to Coleman and had only ever been in the same room as him at Council and other public meeting prior to the court appearance. She has never followed him around as he implies. She doesn't write a blog either, so the claims of cyber stalking are nonsense. At the last GLA election Coleman turned a 20,000 majority into a 20,000 loss. That was not the result of cyber stalking it was the result of band and unpopular policies.

I have no objection to the Barnet Press becoming part of the Brian Coleman PR machine. I find it highly amusing when they come up with such laughable and clearly flawed excuses for their behaviour. They imply that their article was simply giving Coleman enough rope to hang himself.

All I can conclude is that as hangmen, they are extraordinarily useless as they've managed to hang themselves and their own reputation at the same time. I suppose it is fairly clear that whichever idiot at the paper wrote the article knew it was a bit dodgy, given that they didn't want to put their name to it.

I believe that local papers are vital to the wellbeing of our area. The Barnet Press, until recently, had been a decent read and rather independently minded, giving excellent coverage of many local stories. When the original article about Helen was printed I was enraged at this attack on a good friend, who was vulnerable. I was severely tempted to try and organise a boycott of advertising by local business. Then I realised that however bad the paper is at the moment, it is infinitley better than the alternative, ie no paper at all.

When it comes down to it, I don't really give a s**t what sort of names the Barnet Press choose to call me, or what sort of sanctimonious guff they want to write about themselves. That is what a free press is all about. If they have no self respect or morals, that's up to them.  I guess that at the end of the day, we just have to be a little bit grown up about it all and accept that some of the people who work at the Press are simply not very good at their job and don't really see the bigger picture. I sincerely hope that whoever is responsible for putting the Barnet Press together reads this and thinks "hang on, we've got this a bit wrong, lets learn from our mistakes". Is that really too much to ask?


Mr Hysterical Knee Jerk Reactionary AKA Roger Tichborne

BTW The Evening Standard has today picked up the Barnet Press story, reprinting a few of Colemans rather stupid distortions about Helen Michael. It is a well known fact that Brian Coleman has a few mates at the newspaper, which soundly backed his mate Boris Johnson for Mayor. It is just as well I'm not a conspiracy theorist as if I were I'd conclude that the Brian called in a favour or two to have a pop at Helen the day before her mums funeral. But as I'm not a conspiracy theorist, I think it's just an unfortunate coincidence

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Woolwich Terror attack

Like may people, I have been shocked by the brutal attack in Woolwich today. Firstly my condolences go out to the family of the victim. It seems that this brutal attack was a rather cowardly and despicable operation, where a man minding his own business was cut down without even the slightest care for children in a school nearby.

I doubt that many Jihadists read the Barnet Eye for inspiration. Just in case they do, I have a stark message for them. You will never succeed. You will never be anything more than a turd on the shoe of history. What you stand for is abhorrent to the vast majority of people in all communities in the UK. Even more stark is the fact that history shows that whatever violence, terror or outrage is thrown at Londoners, we pull together and rise above it. If the full might of the Nazi war machine in its prime and in its pomp could not destroy the spirit of London, conducting bombing raids, night and day for months on end, then however horrible todays attack may be, it is just a sad, pathetic footnote on a sad pathetic campaign.

What do Islamic Jihadists want? They want the non muslim population of London to turn on decent upstanding muslim residents and force them into their  bed, adopting their sick ideology. Anyone who falls for such provocation is simply giving these butchers what they want. London has a large muslim community, the vast majority of whom have chosen London as a home, because they love freedom and tolerance. A tiny minority of this community, hate and despise the fact that muslims in London are happier and healthier than in the many countries with an Islamic constitution. Rather than accept the right of every human being to make their own decisions, they seek to sow division and hatred.

Tonights news showed pictures of the EDL rioting in response to the attack. Whilst I understand the revulsion that drives the EDL to demonstrate, I reject their solutions. They are reacting in exactly the way these butchers want us to react. The rational response is to allow the Police to do their job and justice to take its course. All of the muslims I know are horrified by these barbaric acts, they reject the mindset that perpetrates them. If we all stand together against this tiny,deranged minority, we will win. I have no doubt that Londoners will rise once again to this challenge.

Helen Michael at the Houses of Parliament

Earlier this evening, I attended a session at the Houses of Parliament, where Helen Michael (Owner of Cafe Buzz in North Finchley) addressed a session of politicians and business people. The session was organised by by the Federation of Small Business and also featured "dragon" Theo Paphites, Chuka Umunna MP and Lors Parry Mitchell.

All three made excellent speeches, but Helen stole the show, explaining how Cafe Buzz has reinvented itself as a key part of the community, in the face of a relentless onslaught from the great and good at Barnet Council and the multi national tax dodging coffee chains, who run parking. Having "been there" for the whole story, it almost sounded fantasistic, hearing recount the last two years. It is beyond comprehension that two years ago, pay and display was still running, Brian Coleman was well repected (in certain quarters) and Cafe Buzz was just one of thousands of cafes serving up tasty breakfasts to the hungry local populace. The concept that its owener Helen Michael would bring down Londons highest paid politician was not even a fantasy.

Helen talked about the role Cafe Buzz plays in the community. How it has become the centre of all manner activities, a place where activists met to plan the campaign to save Friern Barnet library as well as knitting circles and the FSB networking events. Helen said how the large chains had moved in. Starbucks, Costa, Tesco coffee, Coffee republic have all pitched up. She said how Tesco Coffee had stood outside her cafe, giving out free coffee leaflets in a direct attack on her business. She explained how the one advantage her business had was that she didn't have to refer back to head office when she needed to change something.

I wondered what those FSB members who don't know Helen or the story would have thought? They certainly gave her a good reception. Whilst Theo Paphites and Chuka Umanna gave great speeches, Helen Michael gave us a taste of what it is like to run a business in a Borough which has lost the plot. She has been described as both Inspirational and a Troublemaker. I guess those of us who know Barnet are rather proud of our "Inspirational Troublemakers". I know I am.

Please support your local businesses such as Cafe Buzz. Buy a tea, coffee or meal there. I promise you won't be disappointed

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Capita complete takeover of Barnet Council

Yesterday Barnet Council announced that Capita had completed the takeover of DRS services *(subject to the court of appeal decision). This means that up to a billion pounds of our money will be given to Capita, in return for them moving hundreds of Barnet jobs to other parts of the country. This momentus decision seems to have passed many people by. This is no surprise. A judge recently decided that Barnet had not properly consulted on the project. The local Conservatives did not even mention this in their manifesto in 2010 elections.

The Barnet Eye has campaigned tirelessly to prevent this risky project. Now our focus must change. We will now tirelessly fight to ensure that Capita are held to account and that any problems are not swept under the carpet. We will also do everything in our power to hold the current administration to account at the next Council election.

Monday 20 May 2013

One Barnet, DRS contract award and the Zombie Council

Today sees the award of the One Barnet DRS contract. This is a ten year, multi million pound contract that will effectively mean that 70-80% of council business is in the hands of multi national companies. The council refers to this model as a "commissioning council". It means that the council does virtually nothing apart from become an organisation handing your cash out to large multinational organisations. In house teams, located locally with years of experience are split up and the work exported elsewhere around the country or around the world. The DRS contract will presumably involve large numbers of people living locally losing their jobs.

If all goes well, the council hope to save several million pounds a year. They believe that large multi nationals offer economies of scale and access to the latest technology. They believe that this more than compensates for the need to dividends to shareholders and by achieving these savings means that services can be protected, whilst keeping council tax down.

Opponents of the scheme have questioned the track record of organisations such as Capita in actually delivering these promised efficiencies and savings. There are dozens of cases of failed outsourcing experiments and even more where savings didn't match promises or services failed to live up to the promises. Organisations such as Capita rightly pride themselves on protecting the interests of their own shareholders. They employ the finest lawyers to ensure contracts are as beneficial to them as possible.

What sort of record does Barnet have managing contractors? Sadly it is awful. Local bloggers are aware of many examples of such projects, where the earth has been promises and Barnet taxpayers have ended up being taken to the cleaners. A couple of examples are the Care homes outsourcing with Catalyst, where the council was sued and ended up having to pay out nearly ten million pounds of extra fees, to cover the fact that the contractor wasn't making as much profits as the contract stipulated. Then there was the SAP procurement system. First mooted in 2006, it was meant to cost £6 million. Last estimate was it was four times this at £24 million. Then there are all manner of small contracts, where cash has literally been doled out with no control at all. The best known examples of this are Metpro and RM Countrysides.

The whole concept of one Barnet has been labelled a Billion Pound Gamble. I produced a film with US director Charles Honderick called Barnet - The Billion Pound Gamble. This highlighted the problems. The BBC and ITV covered the premier and over 200 people turned up to watch it at the Phoenix cinema.

None of the concerns raised have ever been adequately addressed. The whole One Barnet process is currently in the appeal court. A judge found that Barnet Council had failed to consult local people properly, but rejected the case on a minor technicality. Whoever the council award the contract to tomorrow, could well find that the court of appeal pull the carpet from under their feet.

The whole outsourcing argument has seen the community on both the left and right question the competence of Barnet Council and the business case on which it is based. Whilst those on the left are concerned with the effects of the new arrangements on vulnerable people, those on the right have been more concerned with the risks to council tax and business rates, if the whole thing collapses and requires a taxpayer funded bale out.

One "worst case" scenario I have seen shows Barnet Council having the highest council tax in London to cover the costs of a catastrophic failure of the project. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this projection was that whilst it was deemed statistically unlikely, the probability of it arising was deemed as likely as Barnet fully meeting or exceeding its savings expectations for the project. This projection was based on the success of Barnet and similar councils ability to implement and achieve savings from outsourcing. In short, if you use Barnet councils past form, there is little chance of them succeeding.

The analysis stated that the council was highly likely to have understated the hidden costs of the project and counted many savings that would have been achieved anyway, as attributable to outsourcing the project. In fact, the report stated that the council was far more likely to achieve real savings and cost cuttings by keeping services in house and using best practice to run them.What was disturbing was the fact that the council never even considered this report, despite the proven track record of the organisation which produced it.

No one can pretend that Barnet Council doesn't have a massive challenge on it's hands as it tries to deal with funding cuts from central government. What is open to discussion is whether embarking on such a risky way to address the issue is really very sensible. What worries me most is the fact that once the services are outsourced and the jobs lost, we will be left with a zombie council, that if outsourcing fails will be left completely stripped of any means to get its act together. No one at Barnet Council has addressed this issue. At the Olympics, when G4S failed, the army rode in. Barnet Council will not have the luxury of such a well equipped saviour

Saturday 18 May 2013

Time to take down the picture celebrating convicted Coleman

Earlier this month Councillor Brian Coleman pleaded guilty to assault be beating of local Cafe owner Helen Michael. Many people are disgusted and appalled at men who physically assault women. Many people are of the opinion that such crimes are repulsive and would not want a man guilty of such offenses to be publicly celebrated by the London Borough in which they live. As an ex Mayor of Barnet, the disgraced Councillor has the honour of having his portrait hung in the Town Hall. The Barnet Eye believes it is totally inappropriate to celebrate the career of such a man. We suggest that Barnet Council should immediately remove the poster of Coleman as a message to anyone else who thinks that assaulting women is trivial.

Don't you cry when you see her going by?

I was chatting to a pretty good friend who has just turned 50 recently. I'd say she's had a pretty rough time over the years, although she'd probably smack me in the face for saying it. She asked me a question. How did I feel about being 50? (I passed this milestone last year). I said it didn't really affect me at all. I don't feel like an old man. I still play football (badly), I still play punk rock records and I still go and see Rock and Roll bands. This week I went to the 100 club to see The Strypes, a teenage RnB (in the Dr Feelgood context) who were awesome. I finished work at 5:30 pm, met up with a few mates, had six or seven pints and saw some ass kicking rock and roll. When I arrived at Mill Hill, I grabbed a big greasy box of chicken, ribs and chips from the Red Rooster. Not exactly the perfect diet for my anti cancer lifestyle, but what the hell, it was glorious. The Strypes are a simply awesome band. Perhaps one of the most exciting live acts I've seen since the Ramones, and that really is saying something. I had almost given up hope that such bands were coming through any more.

So here I am writing this blog as "Whips and Furs" by the Vibrators plays on the record player. I contemplated the question, what would I change in my life? What decisions have I made that I'd undo? What perhaps disturbs me is just how few I'd actually change. It has been a hoot. The things I'd change are probably small things. I wish I'd been a bit calmer, a bit less angry at times. I wish I'd been a little bit nicer to some people when I could have been. Perhaps since I had children I've calmed down a tad. I no longer feel the need to win every argument and I can let things go. I've learned to apologise, rather than to try and justify the unjustifyable. There is a counter side to this though. All the energy I've saved from not persuing silly arguments has had to be redirected somewhere. I suppose that is where I find the energy to write this blog.

Then I look at the wider picture. What could I have done, had I been minded to be less lazy, less self indulgent and less hedonistic?  It is 4 1/2 years since I started writing this blog. The blogosphere has given illiterate, dyslexic fools such as myself a platform. This blog has had nearly a million hits. More people have read my blog than many well respected authors. I've truly no idea why the blog has been so successful. I don't think I am a good writer. I don't think my view of the world is representative. The only thing I can possibly come up with is that this blog says things that need to be said and aren't being said anywhere else.

We had an example this week, where a disgraced and discredited local politician was given nearly a full page in one of our local papers. What did he do? He spouted bile against the very person he'd been convicted of assaulting. Now in this blog, I've printed dozens of guest blogs, given lots of people a platform. People such as John Sullivan, who is fighting for the rights of his disabled daughter, Linda Edwards who fights for the rights of disabled carers and Julia Hines who is the chair of Age UK Barnet. These guest blogs are extraordinarily well read. Why can I see that these stories need telling but the local press doesn't and instead indulges petty criminal politicians who care for no one but themselves.

As I mentioned at the start of this blog, I was listening to the album "Puremania" by the Vibrators. There is a line in the song, "She's bringing you down" which says "Don't you cry, when you see her going by". As I listened to this, I thought of Mr Coleman and Helen Michael. As I pondered the lyrics and the manner of Mr Colemans downfall, I thought it was quite an appropriate anthem for Mr Coleman. I suspect that any tears Mr Coleman may shed, should he see her going by, are purely ones for his own loss.

And in answer to the question I was posed at the start of this blog, I will start feeling old when there is no more work to do for me. As John Lydon said in the lyrics of "Rise" - "Anger is an Energy". There is plenty to be angry about and whilst there is I'll have more than enough energy to get by.

Friday 17 May 2013

Exclusive - Barnet Council management schedule meetings to discuss Capita winning One Barnet DRS contract

The Barnet Eye has just been informed that in an apparent breach of Council confidentiality, a senior Barnet figure has entered a scheduled item on the Barnet Council electronic diary system, to discuss the award of the DRS contract to Capita on Monday. What a plonker !

I guess that I should go and put a fiver on the decision at William Hills now. Watch this space.

The Friday Joke - 18/5/2013

Specially for all our friends in the local Cypriot community. A sneak preview of the new Vorsprung Durch Techniq ATM software being trialled in Cyprus

Roger Tichborne - A personal statement

I was informed by a friend that people have been spreading unfounded rumours concerning myself that are totally untrue. As such I am prompted to issue a personal statement clarifying the position.

1. I am not a member of any political party at present.
2. I am not seeking nomination for any political party to stand as a councillor in 2014.
3. I have not joined the Conservative Party and have no intention of doing so.
4. I have not been interviewed to be a candidate for the Conservative Party in 2014.
5. I have had no discussions at all with any member of the Conservative Party regarding standing as a councillor.

I am amazed that anyone should spread such rumours. One can only wonder at the motivation of people who make such things up.

Thursday 16 May 2013

Brian Coleman - bitter, twisted and utterly pathetic

The Barnet Press have printed a large exclusive interview with woman beating, misogynist, self confessed criminal Brian Coleman. Coleman smugly boasted that he "only pleaded guilty to save his license". He launched a rather odd rant at Helen Michael accusing her of being a "virtual stalker" despite the fact that he attacked her outside her own business premises. Surely this can only be a rather worrying sign of the kangaroos getting loose in the top paddock as they used to say in Townsville. I suppose Coleman is only the latest in a long line of men who have beaten up a woman half their size and strength, to claim "She made me do it guv'nor".

As ever with Coleman, it's all everyone else's fault. What puzzles me is why the Barnet Press chose to indulge him. I will be following them up over the weekend.

What is shocking is the news that a threatening letter has been left on the wall of Helen's Cafe. Helen is grieving the death of her mother a week ago. This is widely known in Barnet. It is clear that Colemans timing is well chosen to kick her when she is down. It is all completely obnoxious as I am concerned.

Who placed the rather odd notice?  Lets assume it was "a friend of Brian Coleman". If you are a friend of Mr Coleman, surely you'd be better advised telling him to stay well away and to concentrate on getting on with his life.

I have no idea what Coleman hoped to achieve. He has simply ended up looking bitter, twisted and utterly pathetic. Was that his intention? Mr Coleman needs a holiday. I would suggest somewhere a very long way away, because if he allows himself to be totally consumed with rage and resentment it will probably end up involving her majesty and I don't mean a cruise on the QEII.

Guest blog - The Silence of the Lambs - by Dr Julia Hines

Yesterday I had a twitter spat with local MP Mike Freer and today the Barnet Press published this

I ought to declare at this point that I count Helen Michael as a friend and currently have a complaint pending with the Standards Committee against Brian Coleman relating to separate issues.

I think that it is extraordinary that no local Conservative politicians have made any comments whatsoever on the conviction of Councillor Brian Coleman for assaulting a woman. I want to say that although I directed my comments yesterday to Mike Freer, it is only because he at least has the courage to engage on Twitter.

The fact that it is undeniably difficult to condemn the actions of a friend or colleague does not make it unnecessary. It is necessary, because it violence against women is always unacceptable. This is particularly true given that Coleman made no expression of remorse and offered no apologies, something which is extremely unusual in the context of a guilty plea.

Men who abuse women try to persuade them and others that the woman was to blame, that she instigated the attack. That is exactly what Coleman said in his plea for mitigation. It was not true. It is what he has repeated in the Barnet Press today.

In my opinion it is important to highlight this, if for no other reason than to encourage women in much more serious situations than Helen found herself in, to come forward. If they see men like Coleman being convicted without any word of condemnation from close associates, how much harder will it make it for them? The message should be, no matter how powerful the perpetrator is, violence is unacceptable. No matter how close their relationship to the perpetrator, people will acknowledge the experience of the victim and condemn the act.

I am also a firm believer in rehabilitation, but that involves an acknowledgement on the part of the criminal of both their actions and the impact they have had. I have seen no evidence of that from Coleman.

The silence from our three local MPs and every single Conservative councillor has been genuinely shocking to me. The fact that it may be politically or personally difficult makes it all the more important, and all the more powerful if they were to speak out.

I do not buy the conflict of interest for one moment. Given the fact that Coleman pleaded guilty it cannot be an interference in due process. It is perfectly possible to condemn the act without commenting on his future career.  Every single Conservative politician should hang their head in shame.
Guest blogs are always welcome at the Barnet Eye