Wednesday 31 July 2013

Barnet Council Planning Rules - One rule for the rich & powerful, another for the rest of us

There is a rather interesting article on the front page of the Council website. It appears that a Mrs Anne Clark is being ordered to knock down an "illegal extension" - -  The Council press release says the following -

A couple who built a two storey extension at the rear of their house without planning permission have been ordered to knock it down. 
Ann Clark was prosecuted by Barnet Council after it emerged she had failed to demolish her extension as required by an enforcement notice.

The hearing at Willesden Magistrates Court heard that Mrs Clark and her husband built the two-storey rear extension including a mansard roof to create a third story at their property on Park Road, Barnet,  in 2010  without seeking planning permission from the council.

The extension was subdivided into flats and rented out by the couple.

In 2011 Barnet Council’s planning enforcement team ordered the couple to demolish the extension citing it constituted an ‘incongruous and overbearing addition in stark contrast to the original house.’

Mrs Clark made an appeal against the council’s enforcement notice to the Planning Inspectorate but her appeal was dismissed in October 2011. However the couple carried on renting out the property.
The council pursued prosecution and on 26 July 2013 Mrs Clark pleaded guilty to failing to comply with the planning enforcement notice which required the extension to be demolished. Mrs Clark was fined £14,000 and ordered to pay the council’s costs. In her defence Mrs Clark stated she had been badly advised by their original architects, who failed to tell her that planning permission was required. She also stated they would make a significant loss from demolishing the extension, even after taking into account the rental income they had gained.

The magistrates found that Mrs Clark had three to four years in which to apply for planning permission, and over two years to comply with the enforcement notice. No plans had been submitted, and she continued to benefit from the rental income from the illegal development. 

They also found that the extension was built for gain with the enlargement of the first floor flat and the addition of a second floor flat. The financial loss of demolition was a risk that she took when the extension was built. It was her responsibility to ensure that it complied with the law. They concluded there was a complete disregard of the enforcement notice, as Mrs Clark knew of the enforcement notice in January 2011 yet proceeded to rent out the flats and benefit from an increased property value and rental income.

Councillor Joanna Tambourides, Cabinet Member for Planning, said: “This was a high fine for a planning enforcement case which reflects its seriousness.

Mr and Mrs Clark have paid a heavy price for failing to abide by the rules, but planning regulations are there for a reason.
“I hope this serves as a warning to anyone undertaking building work that they need to check first if planning permission is required.”

Now I'm all for planning rules being followed, but it seems that in the London Borough of Barnet, we have one law for the rich & poweful and another for poor plebs like Mrs Clark. Those of us who live in Mill Hill will know that there is a rather wealthy local landowner who has built a petting zoo in the green belt / conservation area without planning permission. Despite repeated visits from the Council, nothing has been done to get him to comply with the law and the zoo still keeps welcoming the public for business. It strikes me as odd that the zoo has been around far longer than Mrs Clarks extension, but the owner has not been subject to the same treatment. Before anyone starts saying that they like the petting zoo or the waffle cafe and that they are good for Mill Hill, I don't necessarily disagree. I just think that the law should be enforced and the rules followed for everyone. If the zoo is good for the locality, then the case should be made and the council should ensure that it conforms to the rules.

I also note with interest that the justification for the enforcement action was as follows ‘incongruous and overbearing addition in stark contrast to the original house.’
clearly wheover took this decision was not around when the plans for the new building on the site of the Hartley Hall were passed. A huge concrete monstrosity is taking shape, towering above the rather elegant St Michael and all Angels church and dominating the skyline in Mill Hill Broadway. Clearly a developer with deep pockets will be making a packet from the site. Why is it that such ugly blots on the landscape are allowed when a big developer is involved, but when a local resident wants to put a relatively minor extension on their property, they are refused and dragged through the courts. 

I quite liked Mill Hill the way it was before the developers cut loose. I like the fields and the open green belt spaces. I liked the old Church Hall on the site of the new monstrosity. I believe that developments should be sympathetic to the area. Developers are in it to make a quick buck. They don't care about the consequences of their plans, they just move on to the next project. That is why we elect a council and why we expect councillors to enforce the rules. They are the one protection we have. Sadly I think they are failing us.  

Guest Blog - Councillor Robert Rams - The clown in the Court of King Boris? - by John Sullivan

By John Sullivan,

I found the Barnet Eye blog about Cllr Robert Rams very interesting, and the link to his blog showed he was making a considered and thoughtful contribution based on his own experiences towards Theresa May, and I agree wholeheartedly with his claim at tip number three " don't ever go private the best diabetes care is on the NHS- and my doctor is proof of that "

He was offering support and sound advice to Theresa May ( for what I am sure are honourable and genuine reasons, he had no need to ask questions on the subject because he has a number of years of experience  dealing with this illness on a daily basis. My family is riddled with this illness it took the sight of my father who finished up completely blind, so Mr Rams and Theresa May have my sympathy, in fact my eldest son has just been diagnosed borderline diabetic, so the contribution of Mr Rams is useful to many people and most welcome. However whilst I hate to spoil a good story   there was a slight whiff of brown nosing as Ms May is such an important figure in the Conservative party and the current coalition government, I am sure he will be expecting a few brownie points in return for proffering his experiences in a good cause.

However it is a crying shame Mr Rams does not afford Disabled Barnet residents and their family carers the same right to provide a considered and balanced opinion, based like his on years of experience. Sadly instead he supports the race to the bottom in disability support services at Your Choice Barnet, the demolition of staff morale and the replacement of skilled staff that provide long term stability for service users, with unskilled agency staff that will not provide that vital long term stability and comradeship, along with the refusal to meaningfully and openly consult with parents carers and service users.  As he says he supports the YCB proposals , then he supports all of these things because they are what is proposed.
Several parents and family carers of disabled people under threat from YCB changes that have been concerned with the direction of YCB from its conception just over a year ago, have been refused consultation on the proposed changes to services and basically lied to. They have been dishonestly told by YCB the changes to the services will have no impact on the service users or they will result in no change, whilst highlighting in their own YCB report to the board, the negative impacts they are contemplating, in other words they have been hiding the truth from us.

We decided as a group under the umbrella of CADDSS, to instruct Professor Dexter Whitfield a specialist in this field to look into the real performance of YCB in its first year and not the fantasy claims of Cllr Rajput Kate Kennally and Tracey Lees, and his opinions on the proposed changes to the services . The three highly paid  individuals mentioned above have access to all the experts they need funded by Barnet taxpayers, so they can in effect blind the parents family carers and service users with science. They also have the ear of " The Most Influential Tory in Barnet " none other than our beloved helpful caring Cllr Robert Rams, who has rushed to the aid and support of Theresa May like a knight in shining armour. Let's not forget Cllr Rams is not only  the elected Conservative councillor for East Barnet, he is also a member of the cabinet of Barnet council, one of the selected few councillors that make all the decisions, rather than doing what they are told and rubber stamping anything the cabinet comes up with, as is the case with the remainder of the Conservative Councillors. But he also has a very important taxpayer funded job working for the GLA, that gives him access to the likes of Boris Johnson.

He was until recently an ardent supporter of everything Brian Coleman and can be seen on film nodding his head and laughing as Brian Coleman  launched a sexist attacks on concerned female Barnet residents , calling them  hags among other things. He also if my memory serves me correctly sat in silence when Coleman launched an unwarranted abusive attack on disabled people with regard to the provision of transport for them, " why should we provide transport for "THESE PEOPLE " cried bully boy Coleman, and Cllr Rams sat in silence and allowed him to continue with his abuse of the disabled. This man Coleman that was spending thousands of pounds on taxis and mini cabs to convey him from  A to B, and not a word from Cllr Rams . Whether the argument of Coleman had substance or not there was no need for the abuse, and no attempt to temper the language of Coleman was made by Cllr Rams or anyone else. Sensibly after years of supporting Brian Coleman who is now a convicted criminal after attacking a female Barnet resident in the street, Cllr Rams appears to have cut himself adrift from his old mate, mucker and mentor Brian, and if he has not it is time he did.

You would think that a man of Councillor Rams talents, who immerses himself in the detail of politics, living and breathing it on a daily basis, would be something of an expert on the policies of Barnet Council. You would think with  his back office job at the GLA, where he organises policy  briefs etc for all other Conservative GLA members, he would be informed enough and courteous enough to explain and defend a Barnet council policy to a Barnet council resident, concerned with the proposals for YCB and the future quality of care and well being of his disabled daughter and for disabled people in general in Barnet, sadly that is not the case.

The  Professor Dexter Whitfield Review on behalf of CADDSS  that I mention above , was a serious attempt to provide a platform for a constructive debate on the proposed changes at YCB, that are in effect a race to the bottom in quality of care and quality of life of all YCB service users , to help pay off the debts they have accumulated in their first year of trading. They are nothing to do with improving quality of care or quality of life , they are simply a tool to be more competitive in the market place as they refer to it, and to pay down the huge debts they have accumulated.

When we released the Professor Whitfield review our intelligent councillor Rams tweeted the following 
, which to be honest I thought was a childish and immature response to what was a serious attempt by parents carers and service users to get to the truth, and as a consequence I wrote to Cllr Rams and told him in very blunt terms what I thought of his childish outburst and discourteous comments regarding Professor Whitfield. Just to make the point if you don't know how Professor Whitfield came on the scene in the first place. The former Conservative leader of the council, now MP Mike Freer wanted the unions to give a considered and intelligent response to the outsourcing proposals, and as a consequence he gave them funding to bring the professor on board. Mike Freer told the Barnet Unison branch secretary that it was of critical importance for the unions to properly understand the process. So his old boss saw the contribution of Professor Whitfield as being a constructive way forward, and Cllr Rams sees it as an opportunity to try to besmirch the good name of the professor, and all the parents family carers service users and Barnet residents that engaged him.

I had a number of exchanges with Cllr Rams on this subject that he has warned me off making public, I suppose you could say  I have been indirectly threatened not to make them public. But what I can do is tell you what he did not do, this man this most important Tory in Barnet with access to policy information at Barnet council at his finger tips, he did not in any way attempt to justify his unnecessary and childish comments about Professor Whitfield after two request. He did not outline why he felt that the proposed race to the bottom in service provision was in his opinion a good thing as I requested twice, and he did not again as I requested twice outline what is positive in the proposals for YCB that will improve the quality of care of service users. He also from my own interpretation of his remarks , appears to think that he is better qualified to comment on this subjects than parents with  nearly 50 years coal face experience 24/7 x 365 days per years, or a family with 40 years at the coal face 365 days per year x 40 years, or other concerned family carers and parents that collectively have hundreds of years of experience in this field. At the very least he was not prepared in any way shape of form to enter into a debate on the subject, except to say we would have to agree to disagree because it is only politics anyway. Which implies he thinks that the future long term well being and quality of life of severely disabled people in Barnet is somehow or other a political game, a sport of some kind.

Even though he claims to have read the Caddss report that is highly critical of what is being proposed and actually happening as I write at YCB where staff morale is at rock bottom, and the whole concept of YCB its failed business plan and its risky future a disaster waiting to happen.  Councillor Rams has nothing to contribute, he simply implies that he knows best and we parents family carers and service users are wrong and he is right. Just to put a bit of spin on it "end of discussion enough said, now get back into your box where Barnet residents should be  seen and not heard ".
I genuinely thought that Councillors were elected to engage with the concerns of the residents  , seek a way forward that is acceptable to all parties then go on to represent the concerns fears and worries of residents, so I obviously got that wrong.  What the cabinet at Barnet council decides has absolutely nothing to do with the residents, and only the opinion of officers and consultants  with a vested interest, and Councillors according to Brian Coleman recently, being whipped at every turn to support cabinet decisions are considered valid contributions.

I hope at some stage to be able to make public my exchanges with councillor Rams  which I genuinely believe will expose how completely out of touch he is with the realities of families and parents caring and catering for adults with severe disabilities. I believe they expose he is not competent to make decisions regarding the future well being of these folk, but that will have to wait for another day.
Like Councillor Rams I do not believe in the privatisation of diabetes services and many of us parents and family carers along with Barnet residents do not believe that adult services should be outsourced  which is privatisation by another name,  we also support his claim do not go private the NHS is best. We believe that in-house services are best for our children and our wards and not the privatisation failures of YCB to date, with a plan for full privatisation at some later date. We are prepared to support councillor Rams in his anti privatisation stance, so why does he refuse to even discuss our concerns over privatisation of adult services, that are a potential Winterbourne View waiting to happen.

You know the most fundamentally important thing for a parent of a severely disabled adult child is what will happen when I die, what provision will be in place, who will be there to care for my loved one or loved ones. Those views fears and concerns are treated with such abject contempt by Cllr Rams he is not even prepared to discuss them, because he thinks he knows best. It is apparently in his opinion nothing to do with us parents and family carers, which I truly believe appears to expose a level of self opinionated uninformed arrogance that beggars belief.

Tuesday 30 July 2013

"Don't ever go private" - A good blog from Councillor Robert Rams

Home Secretary Theresa May has announced that she is suffering from type 1 diabetes. I had an inkling that she was ill. A friend of mine lives in her constituency and she sees her regularly at civic functions. She'd commented on the recent weight loss and asked if I'd picked up any hints. Strangely enough, I had heard one thing. A reasonably influential Tory, who I know had been at lunch with Ms May and had commented that she "seemed to be on a faddy diet". He had drawn all of the wrong conclusions. Interestingly enough, when he told me of how she was seemingly avoiding random items on the menu and being fussy, I too had drawn the wrong conclusion.

My own experience of diabetes is limited to my mum's ex partner. He has suffered with the disease for many years. He has managed it reasonably successfully most of the time, but his desire to keep his blood sugar low, caused many scares when he'd  simply keel over. He broke his neck on one such occasion. On another occasion, my mum frantically called me. He'd gone to get fish and chips and disappeared. I found him outside the King Neptune, in the car with the Engine running, completely gaga. A bit of lucozade and he was right as rain. I couldn't understand why he took such risks, keeping his blood sugar on the very minimum it could safely be. He explained the long term risks of letting it get out of hand, and I realised that he wasn't simply being awkward.

I also hadn't realised that Councillor Robert Rams is a diabetic. He has published an open letter to Theresa May on his blog. If you are a diabetic, or live with one, it is well worth a read - - I believe that the more we discuss our health issues and strategies for dealing with them, the better we can deal with them. There is much I disagree with Cllr Rams about, but this is an insightful and useful blog on his part.

Perhaps the most interesting line in the blog is this - "Don’t ever go private! The best diabetes care is on the NHS – and my doctor is proof of this!" - like many people Councillor Rams has recognised the true value of the NHS when the chips were down. I think that ultimately the reason why rabid rightism will never truly destroy our society is because like Councillor Rams, we realise that if we need medical treatment, the NHS is the best option.

I hope that Cllr Rams takes a step back and considers an interesting point. As he concedes that the NHS delivers a better quality of care for his diabetes than the private sector, giving him peace of mind, maybe he should also consider the peace of mind of the many people in Barnet struggling with the effects of outsourcing on their lives and the lives of disabled and special needs relatives. The Your Choice Barnet fiasco has thrown into sharp focus the effects of the outsourcing on vulnerable people in Barnet. Councillor Rams is more than happy to have the peace of mind that the publicly funded and delivered NHS gives him. I thank the Lord that they do. All I ask Councillor Rams, who has shown that he can see the wood from the trees, when it suits him, that he afford other people in Barnet the same respect. I don't believe that a civilised society should force anyone to lose sleep over the care of them or their loved ones. When Robert Rams implores us "Don't ever go private" on his blog, for once I thoroughly agree with him. I sincerely hope the Home Secretary takes his advice and I would be even happier if the rest of the coalition heeded it as well.

Last week, one of our local Tories was teasing me. They know that Councillor Rams and myself share a degree of antipathy, perhaps only matched by Brian Coleman. They said "What would you do if Robert Rams had something sensible and useful to say". They suggested that hell would freeze over before I would commend him. Well how wrong they were. The Barnet Eye is always prepared to praise people when they say sensible things. In fact  it is far more powerful when someone like Robert Rams states that the NHS is superior to a private health service, because he is clearly being honest and pragmatic. Lets hope that he gets lots of praise for his intervention and that he realises that if you are honest and talk sense, people will respect you and listen to what you have to say.

Sunday 28 July 2013

See flowers and kiss babies - It's coming up to the time when politicians pretend they care about us

Be warned, if like Princess Kate, you've recently been up the duff and out has popped your little treasure, your pride and joy, then he or she may be in for a nasty shock. The poor little darling might just get a great big kiss from a politician doing the rounds. You see its coming up to that time in the electoral cycle where they come out and meet the stinky old public. There was a tweet on Councillor Robert Rams feed with a nice picture of some Tories doing the rounds in Chipping Barnet. If you click here, you'll see a nice picture of aspiring chinless wonders and wizened old councillors about to do the rounds - - in the middle is Big tess Velliers, the local MP and Northern Ireland secretary. With the Council elections under a year away, all three Parties are marshalling their resources, trying to persuade you they really do care and have been slaving away on your behalf.

You will at some point get a knock. They will ask whether they can count on your vote. If you get a visit from the Blue Rosette Brigade in Barnet you may wish to ask them a few questions. I'd suggest that even if you love them and would never vote for another party, you do. Why? Because you won't see them again for four years and regardless of how much you love them, they have done a lot of things which they never mentioned in the manifesto last time. So here's the questions I'd suggest you put to them.

1. In the last manifesto, no mention was made of the abolition of Pay and Display parking. Why did you not tell us about this policy? Why was there never any consultation?

2. In the last manifesto, no mention was made of the plans to increase the cost of CPZ parking vouchers from £40 to £100 a year and a similar rise in the cost of day permits. There was no consultation. Why was this policy concealed and not mentioned in your manifesto?

3. The High Court has ruled that the unpopular parking charges are illegal. Do you believe that the the Council should break the law to raise revenue from residents?

4. In the last manifesto, no mention was made of the One Barnet Outsourcing program. Over £12 million has been spent on this and it is held up in court. The judge deemed that the council had breached its statuatory duty to consult. If the program has the benefits that the Council claims, why has it all been done in secret?

5. In the last manifesto, no mention was made of the One Barnet Program. The Council has awarded nearly a billion pounds worth of business to Capita, despite a string fo high profile outsourcing failures by the company. No Barnet Councillor has satisfactorily explained how the Council can have any faith in the process. Why should we?

6. Conservative Councillors have spent years criticising the previous Labour regime for awarding an aoutsourcing contract to Catalyst. The company sued Barnet and won £8 to cover profits it didn't make. The company is being taken to court following the death of a vulnerable resident. Despite all this, the council has re-awarded the contract to Catalyst. How could this have happened?

7.  In the last manifesto, no mention was made of the Councils hostility to Barnet Football Club. The council has driven the team out of Barnet and to Harrow. Why does the Council not value a successful team?

8. In the last manifesto, no mention was made of plans to build a 10,000 seat Rugby stadium at Copthall. The Conservatives claimed the Lib Dems planned a football stand on the site for 50 fans of Kentish Town FC, claiming this was a major development. How come they think a stand for 10,000 fans is not a problem, whilst a stand for 50 is?

9. In the last manifesto, the Conservative Party claimed it would bring prudent financial management to Barnet. When bloggers exposed the Metpro scandal, costing Barnet hundreds of thousands of pounds, and asking for an independent investigation, the local Conservative Party closed ranks and blocked the proposal. Why?

10. Councillor Brian Coleman, violently assaulted a woman in broad daylight, outside her business in Finchley. The Local Conservative party prevaricated to such a degree about his suspension, that the national party had to step in. No one from the Barnet Conservatives has yet apologised to Helen Michael for this awful lapse of judgement or the subsequent whispering campaign against her by certain Conservative Councillors. Why?

11. In the last manifesto, no mention was made of plans for Tory Councillors to award themselves a pay hike. This was their first action after the 2010 election. How could they do such a thing, in a time of economic hardship?

 If I were a Conservative, I would find it hard to see any future for the local party until this sort of behaviour is sorted out. Sadly they seem to be getting worse, not better. It is all very well to come knocking on the door, but when it comes down to it, can you believe a word they will tell you?

Guest Blog - Rotten to the core - By John Sullivan

By John Sullivan,
Just for a change I am writing this guest blog on a different subject to the ongoing race to the bottom in quality of care and of life for Your Choice Barnet service users and families, and the need to bring the services back in-house, and raising the issue of the incompetent administration at Barnet General Hospital.
I am an ardent supporter of the NHS and oppose the current privatisation of the NHS that is being scurrilously introduced by Dishonest Dave and his motley crew of millionaires and of course Pinocchio Clegg, that have no need for the NHS as they are all wealthy and can afford private health care.
Constantly we attend clinics at Barnet General Hospital ( BGH) with our disabled daughter Susan, and repeatedly we are told , your appointment is not today it was last week, or it is next week or it is next month, admin staff have obviously changed the date and time of the appointment but not advised the patient, because on every occasion and there have been many many occasions we have had the letter to prove we had arrived at the right time and on the right date.
Recently my wife Ida had to revisit a clinic for a scan on a very serious subject, she had the scan on  time and then was told she needed to wait to see the doctor, five hours Yes 5 Bloody hours later she was still waiting to see the doctor. The fact she was prepared to sit and wait for five long hours will give you some indication of the serious nature of the reason for her visit, and all because of an admin cock up.
I like my wife I am a recovering cancer sufferer and have had reason to attend my GP as a matter of urgency recently, the end result being I have to attend BGH to have an Ultrasound scan and an internal examination. On Monday of this week I received a phone call advising me there had been a cancellation for today Sunday 28th July and would I like to take the appointment , as mine was a problem of a potentially urgent nature and I naturally agreed. You can I am sure imagine that my stress levels have built up by the day in anticipation of what they might find and what they might tell me, so I was glad this morning to be on my way to find out whether I had a problem of a minor or sinister nature, my time in limbo was nearly at an end.
Don't you believe it this is BGH the admin disaster centre of the universe, an administration system that is simply not fit for purpose, and the overpaid chief executive and all his or her overpaid lackeys should be sacked for overseeing this ongoing and constant incompetence.. The appointment letter says I have to be at the day care unit at the appointed time of 11-15am, but the accompanying letter of what and what not to do advises, that I have to have an ultrasound before I attend the day care unit, or let us say it is written in a very ambiguous format that leads to confusion. Because there were two other patients at the ultrasound that was closed doing exactly what I was doing, arriving early so I could sit and wait for the ultrasound , and get it done in time to be at stage two as instructed the day care unit by the appointed time of 11-15am, or at least that was our interpretation of the instructions. I had called the urology department earlier in the week to try to qualify the procedure as there e was constantly no answer at the number I was given to contact if I had any queries, but they appeared not to know.

When we arrived the ultrasound department was locked and bolted so we walked to the day care unit that I had already telephoned earlier in the week, due to the ambiguity contained in the instructions, to find out what the procedure actually was. Only to be told I was not on the list for today, however I was on the list for today but the Muppet that called me to take the cancellation had failed to change the patient name on the appointment  , and I thought what a cock up , I said to Ida the admin in this hospital beggars belief it is crass incompetence.
But as the famous Irish comedian used to say " and there is more ". We had now realised we did not have to get to the hospital until 11-15am and they would then escort me to the ultrasound department, and bring me back to the day care unit for my internal examination. Realising we were now very early and we had our daughter Susan with us as we always do, I asked my wife Ida to ask the receptionist if we could go to the canteen get some food and coffee for Susan and come back a bit nearer our appointed time, and she suggested we wait until the nurse comes out to speak to us which we did.
Then came the punch line the absolute exposure of the chaotic dysfunctional administration that runs BGH, a level of incompetence that absolutely beggars belief. Myself and another patient were told we could not be seen this morning and would have to come back this afternoon, the poor nurse with enough to worry about . Was having to cover for the incompetent useless admin staff who were probably  having a Sunday morning lay in, whilst this poor nurse was attempting to pacify irate patients over errors  she had no input in or control over.
Is BGH a good hospital I think Yes, but the administration is a disaster area,  it is pathetically incompetent and until somebody like me seeks to expose the incompetence of the administration staff the problem will never go away. It is absolutely outrageous that skilled nursing & medical staff with a myriad of things to deal with should be constantly dealing with admin cock ups, and taking the stick for those having a Sunday lay in. I am sure I am not on my own so let's here from others that are up to their necks with this incompetent BGH administration, and make the first steps to forcing them to get their act together or go . Because I am sure there are many more competent admin staff sitting idle of the unemployment register, that would do a bloody sight better job than the Muppets engaged to do it at this present moment in time.
The punch line being I have just had a phone call to ask me to be there at 12 noon, you could not make it up could you. So please make known your admin cock ups so we can start a campaign to improve the efficiency of BGH admin, and hopefully bring it up to the level of medical  treatment we get from our local hospital . By doing so you will make the lives of Nurses, Drs and consultants much easier and less stressful, it is time the patients took a stand and dealt with this incompetence once and for all.

Tell your story to Barnet Eye 
Guest Blogs are always welcome

Saturday 27 July 2013

The Saturday List #40 - The five most crass statements I've ever heard

#1 Yesterday I bumped into an old friend. They told me that they had received an email from an unnamed Barnet Councillor. The person had written to the Councillor about the mess at Your Choice Barnet. According to my friend, the councillor responded equating going on holiday with the boys brigade to looking after an adult with learning difficulties & special needs. I was shocked that such a statement could possibly have been made. It got me thinking. Was this the most crass statement I've ever heard?

I sat up all night pondering this issue. Here is my list. If that is number one, maybe you could tell me whether it is the worst

#2. A friend once broke down at the end of a party and started telling myself and a few friends of her horrific experience of being brutally raped by a stranger on the way home from work. As we sat in shocked silence, one of the group piped up "It must have been awful, I was taking my dog to the park and she got humped by a randy Labrador, now she is scared to go out".

#3 I was in Lourdes with a group of disabled people, as volunteer for HCPT. I was pushing a person in a Wheelchair through the main sanctury when an American tourist stopped and asked if he could take our picture as he wanted a "picture of a  cripple at the grotto". Sadly my response was less than suitable for such a holy place.

#4 I was at the Green Man pub (now the Harvester in Mill Hill) when a group of people in Wheelchairs entered. The Landlord asked them to leave as "we don't serve vegetables". There was also a journalist present, and the story made the Sunday newspapers. The pub closed down shortly after.

#5 I was at a Status Quo concert, again with a friend in a wheelchair. He was a approached by a prostitute who asked if he would like a good time. My friend was semi paralysed. He playfully replied "I'd love to, but I'm afraid it hasn't worked for years". The girl laughed and had a chat with him, before wandering off. After she left, someone who was standing next to me said "Thats disgusting, how could she do THAT, even for money". My friend who was a very articulate Kerryman, immediately responded "Because even in a wheelchair, she saw I was twice the man you'll ever be".

Anyway, have a nice weekend.

Friday 26 July 2013

Guest Blog from CPZ Campaign

We've got two pieces of important news: 

Council spent money fighting parking challenge that it considered "likely" it would it would lose.  Meanwhile it raked in millions it believed would likely to be declared unlawful.

Council reports show that Barnet Council considered it likely that it would lose the legal challenge brought by resident David Attfield over its unfair residents' parking charges.  Yet it chose in our opinion:  

  • To waste over £100,000 in legal costs
  • To carry on claiming unlawful parking charges for nearly two years
  • And exposed David Attfield to enormous personal financial risk and stress
The reports, described as Corporate Performance Indicators, highlight major risks that the Council faces in its delivery of Environment, Planning and Regeneration services. In most reports (including the earliest and most recent reports), the Council acknowledges that it is "likely" to lose the judicial review action (see for example page 15 of the Environment, Planning and Regeneration report for Quarter 1, 2011/2012).

Amazingly, according to the Council Leader, the Council "has no alternative but to look to appeal the decision".  This opinion is totally against what the trial Judge, Mrs Justice Lang DBE stated in her conclusions, that an appeal would have "no real prospect of success".

There is an 'alternative', Barnet - accept you got these charges wrong, give up your hopeless resistance, refund the money, find a fairer way to fund the road maintenance budget and let us all move on! 

Petition launched urging Council to accept High Court Ruling 

If you think that it's time the council refunded the money it unlawfully claimed from you these past two years.

And if you think that the Council will simply waste more public money by appealing against the ruling and that this will unjustly expose David Attfield to further legal costs and stress.

Then please sign our petition urging the Council to do the right thing and accept the emphatic High Court ruling that has been made against it. 

You can sign the petition using this link:

You can tell Richard Cornelius, the Council Leader what you think at at 
You can contact Dean Cohen,the Cabinet Member responsible for parking at
Please also tell your MP what you think
Mike Freer (Finchley and Golders green)
Matthew Offard (Hendon)
Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet)

Please sign.  Please write.  It will send a powerful message to the council to end this madness.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Guest Blog - Exposing the Your Choice Barnet myths, lies and distortions by John Sullivan

By John Sullivan, 
Hi it's me again on the same topic I have been writing guest blogs on for so long, the  "Campaign Against Destruction of Disability Services " in Barnet " Caddss"  for short, and the need to return adult services back in-house and rescue  the disabled people of Barnet from the incompetence of the Local Authority Trading Company called Your Choice Barnet ( YCB ), who in conjunction with our local councillor Rajput and 150k per annum LBB officer Kate Kennally, are in a race to the bottom in the quality of care and therefore quality of life of disabled people and those with a disability in Barnet.

On March 1st of this year YCB launched a new way forward that leads to the bottom of the gutter in quality of care for disabled people, the directors and Kate Kennally the 150 k plus officer that is supposed to care for disabled people support this race to the bottom as does, I presume, the forever silent councillor Rajput.  This way forward is borne not of a desire to improve the quality of life of service users, but to get out of debt, debt that they have accumulated over just one year of trading, based on a business plan that was an accident waiting to happen. Now there rescue plan launched on March 1st has about as much chance of success as the first failed car crash of a business plan, yet they press on regardless. Over more than 40 years in-house services never got into debt never had to replace skilled staff  with any unskilled Tom Dick or Harriet agency workers, so why after promising they would bring service back in house if the business plan failed are they refusing to do so, and launching a plan B instead without  meaningful consultation with interested parties, no doubt with their fingers and toes firmly crossed.

I along with two other families instructed solicitors to challenge the implementation of this March 1st document because we parents carers and service users had not been consulted and there was no intention to consult with us. In order to stop the legal action proceeding to judicial review YCB undertook to consult with parents carers and service users, sadly they have now reneged on that promise and are refusing to consult on the main issue which is the restructuring of Staff, because the quality of the care is determined by the quality and skills of the staff and nothing else. Our concerns were demonstrated at information meetings arranged by YCB that they have now conveniently re-named consultations. We are concerned with the demolition of staff morale, staff working conditions, the removal of skilled workers  being replaced by unskilled agency workers , and the reduction in staff numbers, yet they refuse to consult with us about changes to the staffing restructure. We are supposed to take no interest in what Tom Dick or Harriet looks after our children and wards, we are told that replacing long term skilled staff with part time unskilled agency workers will have no impact on services, a claim that is already being seen to have no foundation in fact.
I am a founder member of CADDSS and as a consequence I approached my fellow CADDSS members and suggested that we consider instructing a professional person to review this March 1st disaster waiting to happen, in order that we could get a balanced and professional overview of YCB from its launch  to today. As a consequence we instructed Professor Dexter Whitfield a specialist in this field to review the March 1st proposals, and as he had undertaken a review of the original business model and condemned it and has been proven absolutely correct, we felt he was the right man for the job.

That review has now been completed and I attach it in the hope you will take the time to read it, and when you read it try to put yourself in the shoes of the parents and family carers of the service users and ask yourself a couple of questions. 1, How can the replacement of skilled staff with unskilled agency workers not have an impact on the quality of the service and therefore quality of life of service users, ( let me remind you Winterbourne View occurred because they went down the rush to the bottom standard of care and quality with unskilled staff to provide services on the cheap ) . 2, How can that impact on service users not have anything to do with the family carers or the service users, how can that possibly be none of our business. We have a bunch of failed directors who have made a complete car crash of the first business model, demanding that they know best and plan B the  March 1st document is the answer which  I hasten to add it is not . 3, If it were your loved one or family member would you place your faith or trust in these known failed directors without being afforded the opportunity to question them in an open and transparent forum. 4, If you were a parent or a family carer and your family member was involved , would you expect to be consulted on staff changes , because at the risk of repeating myself, the reality is and there is no question about it, the quality of care for these vulnerable folk is dependent solely on the quality and skills of the staff and nothing else.
I have many other questions I could go on forever but let me ask you this simple question, If what is proposed and is currently being implemented by YCB/LBB is in the interests as they claim of service users , parents and family carers, why are they refusing to meaningfully consult with us in an open and transparent way, which leads to me to the question what are they trying to hide.
Please read the CADDSS review by Professor Whitfield

I ask you to do this before the LBB lie machine goes into overdrive and condemns every person  supporting bringing adult services back in-house to ensure the safety and quality of life of service users parents and carers, who they will brand  left wing loonies that are just trying to stir up trouble with no justification which is completely untrue.

This balanced report by Professor Whitfield nips that lie machine in the bud, it provides a myriad of reasons why YCB has failed and will continue to fail, and affords substantial reasoning for bringing adult services back in-house both financial and moral reasons. When you have read it and if you agree we have genuine cause for concern, then please offer us your support by contacting CADDSS and telling us what you think and feel.

My final question is , if you were in my place with a nearly fifty year old daughter with Down's Syndrome and the  Grim Reaper hanging his axe over your head, would you like me be concerned to know " what will happen to her when I die ", that is all I am asking " what will happen to her when I die ", and apparently according to YCB/LBB that is none of my business, and I have no right to be meaningfully consulted in an open forum where all interested parties are invited, I repeat  what worries me the most is why will they not meaningfully consult, what is it they are hiding from us.

What is happening now whist I am alive to protect my daughter is bad enough in this democracy free zone more commonly known as Broken Barnet, that avoids meaningful consultation as if it were a strain of leprosy. But the question remains  nagging in my brain twisting my mind destroying my peace of mind " what will happen to her when I die ", not I would suggest an unreasonable question.
Guest Blogs are always welcome at the Barnet Eye.