Saturday 31 August 2013

The Saturday List #41 - Places which have lost a direct service from Mill Hill Broadway

I recently sent an emai to Robert Elms, which he read out, discussing long lost bus destinations from Mill Hill. I thought it might be interesting to expand this and include train services. I am using as a baseline the late 1960's so the criteria is that it is in my time as a user of public transport. I don't know if anyone has any nostalgia for these routes other than me.

1. Moorgate on Thameslink. As part of the Thameslink upgrade program, the Moorgate branch of the service has been closed, to allow a longer platform at Farringdon.

2. Victoria on the 52 bus. The 52 no longer serves Mill Hill. This was replaced by the 302.

3. Heathrow Airport on the 140. The 140 now doesn't reach Mill Hill, it was replaced by the 114 to Harrow.

4. Oxford Circus. The 113 Bus now goes to Marble Arch. instead.

5. Stanmore. The 251 bus now stops at Edgware.

6. Aylesbury / Oxted. The 707 Green Line bus ran from Oxted to Brent Cross via Mill Hill, with a stop on the Watford Way.

7. Kings Cross. The 221 bus used to go to Kings Cross, now it only reaches Turnpike Lane.

Although the passenger service stopped long before, the rail line from Mill Hill East to Edgware, which was used for freight, also closed in the mid 1960's. There are plans to reopen a section of this as part of the Brent Cross Light Railway.

As I mused over these routes, one has to conclude that for most of these routes, this hasn't caused too many problems. For many of these destinations, there are better ways of getting there. The exceptions are the 707 and the 140. If you wanted to get to Aylesbury it would be a fairly lengthy process by public transport. The 140 bus to Heathrow was a bit of a time consuming journey, but probably less hassle than the 2/3 changes you'd make by tube, which isn't ideal.

What drives me mad about transport planning in Barnet is just how hard it is to get around the Borough by bus. One destination that most people need at some point is Barnet General hospital. This takes 10 minutes by car from Mill Hill but well over an hour by bus usually.

I was making a list of places which should have good transport links in Barnet, how can you get from your house to them by public transport.

Saracens RFC (Barnet Copthall), Mill Hill
Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon
Barnet General Hospital, Barnet
Arts Depot, Finchley
National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill
Middlesex University, Hendon
The Welsh Harp, West Hendon

Here's a little game - put the destination the TFL journey planner and see how long it takes and how many changes -
then put the same route in the AA car route planner

See the difference in terms of hassle and time. That is why the roads are clogged with cars.

Friday 30 August 2013

How to write a popular and entertaining blog

Much to my amazement, the Barnet Eye blog has had well over a million hits since we started. That is more hits than the number of people who will watch Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur this weekend. By any measure that means that this is a popular blog. If  you had asked me how many hits I would have been happy to have seen after five years, I'd have optimistically said "Maybe 100,000". So how has this phenomenal success been achieved?

There are several aspects to the answer, but it can be summed up with "find themes you care passionately about and work extremely hard". This blog has several themes which we regularly cover. The main ones are

Barnet Council Politics
Barnet and the locality

These are pretty much in order of precedence.  Had I known how successful the blog would be, I would probably used the Wordpress platform, rather than blogspot, as it is easier to sort things within headings. There is nothing I would like more than to have the various headings and themes easily accessible in their own sections. This would make it far easier for people who have a specific interest to find articles they are interested in. I put keywords in to allow searches, but for many people unfamiliar with Blogspot, this is not an easy way to find anything. So the first piece of advice I would give is to think about the themes you wish to develop and if they are diverse, make sure people can easily find the related blogs.

The next piece of advice I would give is to use the sidebar effectively. Put interesting information in it and use the facility to display other similar blogs. Sharing mutual links is a good way to build a readership. Contact other blog authors and inform them that you have linked to them, suggest they do the same thing.

The next piece of advice is to be innovative. Don't simply do what everyone else seems to be doing. Think what you would like to see on a blog. Think of what you think other people are not covering.

If possible use pictures, these help. Build up a library. I neglect this, but my stats show that blogs with pictures get more pageviews. Videos can be equally effective, but edit them so that you get the point across.

There are a few classic fails to avoid. When I first started the Barnet Eye, people complained that the blog was hard to read, with a black background and white writing. I thought it looked cool, but if people can't read it what is the point. Another mistake some people make is to have music on their blog, which plays when the blog opens. Many people read blogs at work. If they are having a sly peek and the 1812 overture starts blaring out, they won't be back.

Thus far, all of the hints have been about "technicalities". The main secret is to make people regularly return to the blog, tell their friends about it and to build a profile. This is done by content. It is hard work. When I started blogging, I made a personal commitment to spend 30 minutes every day writing the blog. In truth, I have failed miserably, spending 3-4 hours a day writing. I also have a policy of encouraging guest bloggers. These bring a different perspective to the blog and expertise outside of my own personal experience. They also bring new readers to the blog as their friends and acquaintances. All of these things help to build a readership.

One rule I have is to never insult the intelligence of my readers. If I make a claim, I put a link to back it up. If I am expressing and opinion, I say "this is my opinion" - I don not claim it as a fact. In mu view, the biggest mistake a blogger can make is to present their opinion as a fact. I believe in presenting the evidence and allowing the reader to make up their own mind. Try and present facts in an interesting and informative manner.

I also run themes. I run a Friday joke (unless I haven't heard or seen one worth repeating). I often do a Saturday List. For series of blogs, such as my series on Cancer and dyslexia, I put a preamble paragraph so that people can understand the full context. These also have a tag, so people can find them. At some point I need to "tidy up" all of the labels on the blog. People sometimes don't understand the function of tags in Blogger. Some bloggers use them as a way of making a witty comment. In fact these are simply your index. If you mention a specific topic or person, tag it. That way it is easier to find related posts. Many people don't realise that if you click the tag, you get all related posts. It is worth mentioning this so people unfamiliar with blogger can find related stories by searching on labels or by simply clicking on them.

One last thing. It is worth periodically reviewing your format, as I have done. I hope that you find it more readable and easier to find your way around. If you don't like it, please let me know.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Rog T's Cancer Blog - Is it possible to reverse ageing simply by lifestyle changes?

Rog T blogging on Monday
For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts on Cancer, you can skip this first paragraph.This is the latest installment in my occasional series about how I'm adjusting to living with a big C in my life.  For those of you who aren't, here's a quick summary. I'm 50 years old and I last year had a prostate biopsy following two "slightly high" PSA tests - 2.8 & 4.1. The biopsy took ten tissue samples and one of these showed a "low grade cancer" which gives me a 3+3 on the Gleason scale. I'm now on a program of active monitoring.  In early February, I got the results of the latest PSA test - down to 3.5 and an MRI scan which found absolutely nothing. My latest PSA test in August was not quite so promising, back up to 3.9, in other words the downward trend has stopped. I've no symptoms and sadly for a few people, if I'm gonna die soon, it won't be from Prostate cancer. Got the picture? 

OK, before I start, lets get down to the serious business. I had a PSA test two weeks ago. I got the results yesterday. The news is, well its the news. My PSA was 4.0. This is higher by 0.1 than last time, but still lower than it was when I embarked on my change of lifestyle. For two years, I've been lower than the level when I had the prostate biopsy which confirmed my cancer status.That has to be some sort of result. On the 14th September, I have a follow up biopsy and to be completely honest I am dreading it. The first one was horrible and the side effects last for weeks and are extremely unpleasant. The upside is that allows me to take charge of my life and make proactive decisions. They may not be nice ones, but they can be made based on evidence.

So that is the news. No onto the discussion. Many friends and family read this blog. Many think I am on deaths door and being very brave (slight exaggeration but the big C is not to be messed with). Recently there has been a recurrent theme when I bump into friends and family. They comment on how well I am looking. In fact a few have said I look better than I have done for years. How can this be? Most people diagnosed with Cancer are meant to get worse and age quickly? Well two years ago, when I was given my diagnosis, I realised that I needed to make some serious lifestyle changes. I am 6'1" and my weight was over 17 stone. Although I thought I was eating a healthy diet, a little research soon demonstrated I was completely wrong.

I started to research foods which had been demonstrated as being related to low cancer rates and cancer fighting properties. I took a conscious decision to avoid suppliments and dodgy claims of snake oil salesmen, but to see what scientifically backed evidence there was for various foods, diets and lifestyles. I soon realised that much of what we believe is completely wrong. For example, we think we need to eat five potions of fruit and veg a day. This nonsense, the actual evidence says that we should have nine portions and avoid processed foods.

Then there is the arguments to "eat organic". I never really got this, but research shows links between pesticide residues and cancer. Then there are the Omega oils. I was vaguely aware that these were "good for you". This is true for Omega 3 oils, but the opposite is true for Omega six oils.

Then there was tea. I'd heard that tea had antoxidant properties and was helpful in preventing cancer. I drunk buckets of it. Again what I didn't realise was that milk in tea counteracts this and that green tea contains them in far greater quantities. The processing of tea to make black tea removes much of the usefulness.

The list could go on. I am not a scientist or a doctor, but my reading convinced me that a diet based on foods which have properties which retard the growth of cancer and tumours and boost the bodies immune system are likely to give you a body where cancer spreads at a far slower rate. I am not advocating diet as a cure, the graveyards are full of foolish people who turned their back on modern, scientific medicine in favour of quackary and died for their trouble. I see it as a complimentary approach. It makes me feel as though I am actively taking control of my life and my body.

The changes in diet have resulted in a loss of nearly three stone. There have been other, more surprising side effects. I had my eyes checked and the optician said that my eyes had improved. He noted that degeneration of eyesight was often a product of blood flow. Could it be that my diet had improved the blood flow around my body?

Another interesting side effect was my reaction to alcohol (perhaps my greatest vice). I do not drink every day or to excess that regularly, but when I do I have suffered awful hangovers. In the last two years, despite some extremely heavy sessions, I don't really get hangovers any more. Could my liver be coping better, with less fat in my diet?

One other thing I've noticed is that my sleep patterns have changed drastically. I don't need anywhere near as much sleep, I often wake up very early and find myself getting up and working. In fact the only time I've felt the urge to sleep in is a couple of times after very long nights and copious amounts of booze. As I said I don't regularly drink to excess, Monday night was an exception. We went out for a Russian meal in Victoria and I had four shots of Vodka, nearly a bottle and a half of red wine, three pints of Guinness and two bottles of Stella when I got home. On Monday, I felt a bit groggy when I woke up, but that was about the extent of the after effects. I didn't drink on Tuesday and had two pints of the weakest bitter at the Adam and Eve last night, during our 3.5 mile evening dog walk. Today I was up at 6am to go to Victoria to do my shift at a homeless daycentre.  No ill effects at all.

I have also been exercising regularly and taking regular saunas at the gym I use. This coupled with drinking large amounts of water in the process, I find myself far fitter than I have been for years. Earlier this year, I ran 10K in a time just over 1 hour. Although this is not a great time for anyone, three years ago, my knees and back were too painful to contemplate running 1 mile, let alone 10K.

Tonight I will play five a side football for an hour and although this isn't a great standard, I can hold my own physically.

Yesterday I was having a chat with Chica, who blogs and tweets about Yoga and is into nutrition. She is a studio customer. We were discussing the benefits of healthy lifestyle. I used to regularly do Yoga, but stopped at the Gym I used closed down. I wrote a blog for the Londonist on the subject,  I was explaining the benefits of the lifestyle and diet changes I've enacted over the last few years. I have always been active and never consciously eaten badly, but by proactively managing what I eat, I have noticed a huge personal benefit.

I have developed a theory about lifestyle and diet, which I wish to share with you. I am not a scientist and I am not advancing any scientific evidence for anything I say here, I am simply sharing my thoughts, based on the research I have done and my own personal experience. For the record, my scientific qualification in this field is limited to an A level in Biology.

Research has shown that cancer is caused by genetic mutation. This occurs naturally all the time in the body. We can speed the process up by exposing ourselves to carcinogens that increase the rate of mutations, leading to a statistically increased chance of cells suffering the mutations required to become cancerous. Cells mutate because carcinogens put them under stress. This affects cell division and the way DNA is replicated, causing errors in the duplication process. As I understand it, this is the scientifically accepted explanation for how cancers start. It has been shown that certain substances have an anti-carcinogenic effect, most notably antoxidants. These reduce the stress on cells. This doesn't mean that they cure cancer, they just reduce the likelyhood of cells mutating into cancerous ones. It has also recently been shown that certain fats etc have a serious effect on the function of liver and kidneys. These are the organs which remove unwanted materials from the body. Certain types of diabetes have been reversed by starvation diets with low fat. reading about these lead me to speculate that if we have a poorly functioning liver and kidneys, it is quite reasonable to assume the cells withing our body will be at greater risk of stress. Presumably this is why alcoholic excess can make you more susceptible to certain forms of cancer. Therefore, it must follow that a healthy liver/kidney function would reduce the risk of dangerous cell mutation. Furthermore, the healthier the liver and kidney function, the easier for the body to heal itself.

Combine this with regular exercise and relaxation and your body has an even greater opportunity to "heal itself". Now does this mean that we can naturally reverse the ageing process? I think everyone would agree that drink, drugs, bad diet and stress can age us. The question I have is whether we can to some extent reverse this process, by changing these things. What I wonder is to what extent we can undo the damage we have done ourselves? In my case, I cannot undo the arthritic problems in my knees or the issues with my back caused by being hit by a car in 1988. I had assumed that my days of running were over. However by careful management of diet, weight loss and sensible exercise, I have managed to get myself to a position where I can run 10k at a fairly relaxed pace with ease. I have found my mental function has also improved. This is harder to quantify, but I notice that I can do maths far more easily in my head than I have ever done before and my dyslexia is less noticable when writing blogs. I also feel that I am looking in better shape than I have done for years. I would guess that I am actually metabolically younger than I was in 2004 when I weighed over 17 stone.

Unlike many "lifestyle" blogs, I am not trying to sell a book, a course or a food suppliment. I am just sharing my own experience and how I feel about myself. I thought long and hard about writing this blog. My worry is that people may misinterpret what I say as a non scientifically trained person as being proven fact. It is nothing of the sort, it is just an individual sharing their own experience. I have read all manner of books, articles and web pages about cancer. There are only two that I would recommend. These are

Anti Cancer A new way of life by David Servan. The author is medically trained and gives reasoned and scientifically backed up advice on strategies to live longer if you are a member of the Cancer club. It has advice on diet, relaxation and attitude. The diet advice contains scientific background and results of studies

The second book is called the Emperor of all maladies and it is a history of the medical understanding of cancer, by a well respected oncologist - Siddhartha Mukherjee. It doesn't give health tips, it simply explains how we got to where we are with the medical understanding of cancer and how far we have to go.

I honestly believe that if you read these two books, you will have all the information you need to start making informed decisions about how to ensure you have the best possible outcome with your prognosis. I would also recommend these books for anyone who doesn't have cancer and doesn't want to get it. The best place to combat the disease is before it starts.

The title of this blog poses the question "Is it possible to reverse ageing simply by lifestyle changes?" I believe the answer is yes, if we are leading a lifestyle that is destructive to our health. We may not be able to get back all of the years we've taken off our lifespan and undo all of the damage, but we can most certainly make ourselves look and feel younger by changing our lifestyle, improving our diet, exercising and relaxing more and by generally taking care of ourselves.

For those of you who are interested, here is a fairly typical couple of days of my life, in terms of diet and exercise. I do eat meat, but restrict it and don't eat it every day. Generally this would be chicken, although I will allow myself a good steak no more than once a week and often much less.
Tuesday. (Awoke feeling groggy at 9am)

Glass of Pomegranite juice (high in antoxidants)
Small bowl of fresh fruit
Tomatoes fried in coconut oil (with some onions, garlic, turmeric & pepper)
Cup of  Green Tea

Mid morning
2 cups of Green tea

Exercise - 30 minutes on cross trainer followed by 15 mins in sauna. 1/2 litre water
Cup of Green tea
Portion of tuna/sald

Cup of Green tea.

Cup of Green tea
Cod with fresh vegetables.

1 pint of water

Wednesday (awoke 7am feeling great)

Glass of Orange juice
Small bowl of fresh fruit
Tomatoes fried in coconut oil (with some onions, garlic, turmeric & pepper) (tomatoes contain chemicals shown to fight cancer. These are more effective after cooking. Garlic & Tumeric have anti inflammatory properties and other health benefits. Coconut oil is also more beneficial than other cooking oils)
Cup of  Green Tea

Mid morning
2 cups of Green tea


Cup of Green tea
Portion of tuna/sald (tuna is high in Omega 3)

Cup of Green tea.
Apple from garden. 

Cup of Green tea
.Exercise - Walk to pub with dogs & back 3.5 miles.
2 Pints of IPA
Vegetable Pasta inc Brocolli - high nutritional value ( and a few chips from my daughters leftover dinner (not recommended).

Brunch bar

1 pint of water

As I say, it works for me. I see so many people who give no thought to their lifestyle, their stress levels and their diet. I needed a wake up call, do you?

Open Letter to the Leader of Barnet Council regarding misuse of DPR process for £16.1 transfer of assets to Capita

The following text is an open letter sent this morning the the Leader of Barnet Council outlining my objection to the use of the Delegated Powers Report process to circumvent democratic oversight of the One Barnet project.


----- Original Message -----
From: Roger Tichborne
Cc: ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Travers, Andrew
Sent: Thursday, August 29, 2013 11:13 AM
Subject: Open Letter to the Leader of the Council - Objection to the misuse of the DPR mechanism to approve One Barnet transfer

Dear Councillor Cornelius,
I was appalled to find a DPR signed by yourself, authorising an investment of £16.1 million with Capita, to underwrite the NSCSO project, signed on the 5th August. The text of the DPR makes it clear that this DPR was necessary as a result of the the failure of your administration to properly consider the issues associated with the One Barnet project and the work necessary to implement it. It is simply unimaginable that an organisation such as Barnet Council can forget, for a period of eight months, to properly account for £16.1 million worth of assets in a major transformation project (I refer to this DPR ).
The Delegated Power Report mechanism was introduced to ensure the smooth running of the council to implement minor, non contentious issues. It was not devised as a means for the administration to hide major cock ups or to transfer huge sums of money to private contractors. All along the official line taken by Barnet Council is that the One Barnet project has been properly scrutinised and the army of highly payed lawyers have ensured all paperwork is watertight. To find out that this supposedly professionally run project has failed to properly account for a £16.1 million transfer of assets is shocking to say the least.
The question one has to ask is that if the council can overlook the need to properly account for and sign off the transfer of £16.1 million worth of assets, what else has been missed? Perhaps the most shocking revelation in this sorry piece of underhand chicanery is the revelation in the event of the failure of Capita to deliver the required services to the appropriate standard, the mitigation is for the council to carry on using the Capita service. This is made entirely clear from the risks register section. This is the text contained. As the signatory of this report, are you seriously trying to convince us that continuing to use a failed supplier is a mitigation?
3.2 There is a risk that, on termination, the Council has invested in assets, particularly in respect of IT, that, given they are located in shared services locations offsite from Barnet, the Council cannot continue to use in the future. This risk is mitigated by obligations on the contractor to provide licences for the continued use of these applications following termination of the agreement
I am not in the least surprised to see that such a DPR was snuck through at the height of the holiday season, when the council officers would assume no one is looking. I am however most surprised that you would participate in this ruse bysigning it.
This issue clearly needs to be discussed at full council I have copied the councillors of Barnet into this correspondence in the hope that some of your colleagues are as troubled by this as I am. As I am sure you are well aware, I have had fundamental issues all along with the One Barnet process. This failure and the exposition of the risks and mitigations has simply confirmed my belief that this officer lead initiative is fundamentally undemocratic and dangerous.
Please not my full objections have been voiced in this blog -
Yours sincerely
Roger Tichborne

PS Please note that as I believe this to be a matter of public interest, I have copied Barnet CEO, Press, Barnet Bloggers and trades Unions into this correspondence.  I have also published this correspondence on my blog.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

£16.1 million investment transferred to Capita with no democratic scrutiny

Those of us who watch Barnet Council, know that in the summer, when no one is looking, they sneak all manner of dodgy measures through. This year is no exception. They have "transferred" £16.1 worth of systems to Capita. It seems that the Council "forgot" to include this transfer in the papers passed in December 2012. No worries, the council just waited until everyone was on holiday and the Leader, Richard Cornelius, snuck through the transfer on a DPR, with no debate and no democratic oversight. For those not familiar with local Government, Delegated Powers Reports are designed to enable the Council to make small, non controversial decisions, without a full council meeting to approve them. They were not designed to facilitate the transfer of £16.1 millions worth of council infratsructure to Private contractors.

The full details are available here.

So how did the situation come about where this "Dodgy DPR" was required?

Section 8 explains

8.1 Further details in respect of the NSCSO contract are contained within the NSCSO full business case which was agreed by Cabinet on the 6 December 2012. This report set out details in respect of the investment in the NSCSO services, but it did not formally request approval for this investment to be added into the Council’s capital programme.

This report requests this approval.
I must confess I was incredulous to find out that after five years, the Council had forgotten to actually sanction the transfer of these services in the decision made in December 2012 to proceed with the NSCSO outsourcing. If they can forget to authorise the transfer of £16.1 million worth of assets, what else have they overlooked? As the Barnet Eye has consistently said, this project is risky and has not been properly thought through. Council Leader Richard Cornelius assurred us that the "contract is watertight and everything has been properly scrutinised". How on earth can this be true, if they forgot to actually sanction the transfer of the services when they made the decision. It is a pretty fundamental cock up.

More worryingly the report contradicts itself. Section 6 says

6.1 There are no specific legal issues in respect of this decision. Legal consideration was identified with the report to Cabinet report on 6 December 2012.
 As section 8 categorically states that the transfer was not formally requested or agreed. In other words, the legal issues cannot have been given due consideration, as they were not discussed or requested. I believe that this decision is open to legal challenge.

We ask what are the risks? Section 3.2 hits the nail on the head, sadly the mitigation seems wholly inadequate
3.2 There is a risk that, on termination, the Council has invested in assets, particularly in respect of IT, that, given they are located in shared services locations offsite from Barnet, the Council cannot continue to use in the future. This risk is mitigated by obligations on the contractor to provide licences for the continued use of these applications following termination of the agreement

In other words, the Barnet taxpayer is making a huge investment, creating jobs outside of Barnet and if it all goes wrong, we have no choice but to carry on using these. Capita have not agreed to refund the investment. All they have kindly agreed to do is to say that if the agreement is terminated, we can continue to use their services. This is quite clearly bonkers. What sort of mitigation is that?

The Barnet Eye has consistently claimed that One Barnet has not been thought through. We have consistently claimed that it is undemocratic and officer driven. It is clear to us that the Officers cocked up and have dealt with it by sticking this DPR on Richard Cornelius desk saying "Sign this or else !". The fact they waited until the middle of summer to do it is even more suspicious. Barnet Councillors should be shouting from the rooftops that this is wrong. I doubt any of them are even aware it has happened. 

The final question I ask. If they can forget to sanction a £16.1 million transfer what else have they forgotten.

Guest Blog - A response to Mike Freer MP regarding One Barnet - by Linda Edwards MBE

By Linda Edwards,
"I think most people agree that it’s what is delivered, not who delivers it, which matters." Mike Freer MP for Finchley and Golders Green. (Hendon and Finchley Times 20th August 2013).

Linda Edwards MBE offers an open plea on behalf of people with learning disabilities and family carers in response to the recently published statement from Mike Freer MP.  

I would welcome dialogue from Mike Freer MP, all Barnet Councillors, regardless of their political party and the community.  Unless we have dialogue with integrity and true intention to understand how to best serve vulnerable people and their family carers, we will continue to be thought of as if a refuse service is being delivered!   
“If rubbish blows into my street from takeaways, I want the street sweepers to clear it up as quickly as possible. If I call the council because someone has fly-tipped, I want it taken away within 24 hours” Mike Freer MP

Mr Freer MP, whilst you explain your priorities:
“Due to my current job and my previous job, I pay a lot of attention to what happens at North London Business Park. Importantly, however, what happens at council headquarters affects me as well."  It might serve you well to pay more heed to the needs of residents, including disabled and elderly people and their family carers and people who work in LBB in Barnet?  They have much knowledge and experience to share that would highlight the hierarchical views that pay attention only to what happens at ‘North London Business Park and council headquarters’.   Learning some things of value that might be taken back to Kate Kennally, Director of Social Care and Health, another architect of One Barnet Programme (OBP) could serve us all. 

Mr Freer MP, I will try to explain how misguided is your view that “….most people agree that it’s what is delivered, not who delivers it, which matters."  Mike Freer MP

Most people can deliver a ‘service’, including a private company.  I am sure that I could become a post person, a bus driver or a refuse collector whether working for the Council or a private company.  Providing a robustly caring, respectful and valuing service to vulnerable people takes far more than merely “commissioning a service that will be delivered by any Tom, Dick or Harriet” (John Sullivan, family carer).

"No local authority should be run in the interests of the staff unions. The council is there to deliver the best services possible." Mr Freer MP I absolutely agree with this. No one was more critical than me when the outcry against OBP begun after staff redundancies rather than during the shoddy service it was becoming. I had become extremely concerned to learn that disabled people were being bussed to shopping centres over an hour away, walking aimlessly around in inclement weather under the guise of “Being in the Community”.  I heard many stories from family carers that their disabled child had become unwell because of being outside all day in snow, rain and cold weather.  The outcry happened too late for me!   Whilst mentioning unions I declare that I am not a member of a union, although had been ‘encouraged’ to join the NUT in the ‘80’s and until 2010 believed unions were a group of lazy, selfish, and ‘jobs worth’ people.  Like many people in LB Barnet’s three political parties, the union people I have met are passionate, committed and caring individuals who want a better Barnet and better society for all. 

Recently, I have taken over the management of my father’s 24/7 care.  This was because the Agency who had been delivering the service with the appropriate carer, decided without any consultation to remove the carer and insert another carer who could not relate to my father.  He had formed a relationship of trust, mutual respect and ‘friendship’ with the original carer and became distressed when this sudden change was made without any preparation or involvement with the family.  My father would have been greatly reassured had I been able to spend time with him explaining a new carer was coming to be with him but, in their arrogance, the Agency did not think it necessary to work in partnership with the family. It has now become my responsibility to ensure that my father’s carers are qualified and experienced in working with people with dementia, knowledgeable in my father’s needs and that they deliver his service with respect and dignity, valuing that he is a human being in his ‘winter’ years who no longer has mental capacity and cannot make decisions or look after his own personal care.  Oh! If only this were not the situation and my father could be the independent family, business and community minded man he once was.  But in order to ensure my father has the best quality of life in his last years, I have to ensure that his service is not only “delivered” but provided by people who have the skills, commitment and respect and who will honour my father for the person he was and the person he has now become.  The way in which they listen, speak, hear and when providing personal care, touch my father, is of paramount importance to me.  Their relationship together is so crucial to my father’s well being. This is all so much more than merely delivering the service.

Our learning disabled children have very little to give them value and quality in their lives.  Probably the most important, essential and crucial thing in their lives is the relationships they have with their family and staff. My integrity would be challenged if I pretended most people with learning disabilities have friends; they don’t!  Can you imagine not having a friend to share your hobbies, outings, thoughts, problems, joys with?  I cannot!  I challenge you to acknowledge how empty and alone you might feel without having the connection and intimacy of friendship!

There is the ‘politically correct’ debate that staff are not friends but let’s leave this aside as I am only concerned with the effects that friendship and being human gives us.

Kate Kennally, Director of LBB Social Care and Health is continually asking for "experts by experience" and now, once again by establishing The Peoples Bank in LB Barnet.  This is not a genuine and sincere desire to seek the experience of family carers as her practice is to exclude anyone who confronts her many contradictions of not putting into practice what is spoken and written.  Involving "experts by experience" is a Government recommendation but gets so diluted at the point of LBB Adult Social Care and Health delivery when those “experts by experience” dare to challenge and confront the current dogma. Let me share the contrast of real quality of service and how it affects disabled people. Hopefully this will outline why the misguided opinion …..”It’s what is delivered, not who delivers it, which matters." Mike Freer MP please replace this with the following:

“In Social Care and Health, the quality of service delivered is determined by WHO delivers the service; the quality of the relationship they develop with the people receiving the service, their values and HOW the service is delivered, including How staff are supported and encouraged by their management.”

“Spiritual relationship is far more precious than physical.  Physical relationship divorced from spiritual is body without soul.”  Mahatma Gandhi

For many years I battled with LBB Adult Social Care and Health to remove the ‘cowboy’ service provider they had commissioned for my learning disabled daughter Rachel.  Kate Kennally refused to remove them and instead delayed the complaints process at every stage, forcing me to instruct solicitors to represent my daughter on many occasions.  Because of Kate Kennally’s obfuscation and determination to continue her vindictive battle against my disabled daughter and me, we were forced to go the Ombudsman, costing London Borough of Barnet thousands of pounds in ‘independent’ inspectors, officers and solicitors time.  Well done Kate Kennally!  Now here is some of the evidence to demonstrate how wrong you were: 

When my daughter was in her flat with the ‘cowboys’ commissioned by Kate Kennally’s team, including the In House Supported Living Service (February 2007 – September 2012, whilst Mike Freer MP was Leader of Barnet Council, most of my daughter’s staff ignored her for long periods of time; sat in her flat chatting to their friends and family with their mobile and watching her television which resulted in my daughter often going to bed very early because she was bored.  She did not learn to cook for herself or clean her flat and as a result of her being hungry and unable to prepare anything, many of her main ‘meals’ were a jam sandwich.  Some ‘cowboy’ staff did their family shopping with my daughter trailing behind and they often arrived late causing her great anxiety and distress.  Arriving late is absolutely the worst thing you can do to someone on the autistic spectrum! My daughter’s bed sheets were not changed for 10 months and only one support person spoke to her as a human being.    In between this kind person, she was plagued by staff who made it quite obvious they didn’t want to be with her.  My daughter was put at risk on many occasions and the staff always lied when I reported the incidents to LBB Adult Social Care and the complaints department.  My daughter lived in fear and unhappiness in her own home and her only pleasure was to see me at the weekends.  The service delivery had made my daughter depressed, withdrawn and compliant! 

In September 2012 (thanks to her very caring LBB social worker who was then made redundant in April 2013, and her Advocate and Solicitor) we managed to get a new service provider commissioned.  In only 11 months my daughter is almost unrecognisable to how most people knew her previously.  Her new staff listen, hear, involve, respect, value, chat, consult with her in decisions, explain consequences, encourage her to solve problems, appropriately share their personal life events and so much more. She has become the unofficial office ‘assistant’ to the manager of the supported living service who leads her team by taking her lead from Rachel herself.  As a result of HOW she is being treated by her new service provider, with the focus on the How? the service is being delivered and Who? is delivering the service, Rachel has become feisty, assertive, determined and appropriately outspoken.  She is so much more confident and problem solving for herself and for others.  What more can I ask for so that I can withdraw from being fully responsible for her daily life as I watch my daughter soar to heights most believed impossible. Rachel is safely encouraged to take risks and has a quality of life never experienced previously.  Rachel’s new Service Provider is still delivering the service they had been commissioned to deliver, but it is being delivered by people who are encouraged and supported to work with integrity, warmth and humanity and a far cry from the same skills needed to deliver the service of emptying bins! 

Life really has begun for Rachel at 40 years of age!  Having spent most of my adult life as a family carer, this is the first time that I have been able to enjoy hobbies and activities for myself.  Adult life really has begun for me as a pensioner!

People with learning disabilities usually have low expectations of themselves. In educational terms this is the 'self-fulfilling prophecy' from years of life experiences of society having low expectations of their ability and for their potential; they in turn learn to live by others low expectations of themselves and achieve much less than they are capable of. If London Borough of Barnet commission services for vulnerable people without considering WHO is delivering the service or HOW services are being delivered, vulnerable people will continue to be thought of in the same way as a refuse removal service.

Some words of warning…………..
When people are feeling threatened and insecure by redundancy, having their already low salaries reduced and wondering if they will have employment to be able to feed their children next week, the quality of relationships they previously had with our disabled children becomes so difficult to maintain, even for the most committed and dedicated people. Staff will still arrive for work and go through the motions of delivering the service as per Mr Freer's ‘rubbish and fly-tipping being removed within 24 hours’, but the staff would need to be super human to disregard ***Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and connect with humanity on anything but a survival state when they are still striving to feel safe in their jobs and daily lives.   If basic needs of food, warmth security and safety are disregarded, staff will not have reserves and not be able to be motivated to give our vulnerable children the quality of service they need to have a life that increases their friendships, self-esteem, confidence and achievement and develops the quality of their relationships.   It is so simple.  If staff do not fee valued, they will not be able to value the vulnerable people they are supporting.

We should be united in our aims that disabled people be given the same opportunity to soar to the same heights that my daughter is now experiencing. This has been achieved because of the quality of the people (WHO?), their motivation in the way they deliver the service, their own sense of value and self-worth, their positive communication, partnership, affection towards each other, their encouragement for personal growth and fulfilment and the support they are given by their management (HOW?).

People with learning disabilities are not an industry, they are our beloved children who are disadvantaged throughout their lives and sadly, now even more so by people in power believing that services for vulnerable disabled people can be delivered in the same way as delivering a refuse service. 

***”Hierarchy of Needs - A Theory of Human Motivation” 1954
Abraham Maslow  
Abraham Maslow (USA) developed the Hierarchy of Needs model in 1940-50s, and the Hierarchy of Needs theory remains valid today for understanding human motivation, management training, and personal development. Maslow's ideas surrounding the Hierarchy of Needs concerning the responsibility of employers to provide a workplace environment that encourages and enables employees to fulfil their own unique potential (self-actualization) are today more relevant than ever.

Linda Edwards MBE
August 2013
Linda Edwards MBE is a parent/carer and CEO of a charity involved with care for people with learning disabilities. Linda was recently awarded an MBE for her charity work. Guest blogs are always welcome. 

Tuesday 27 August 2013

What the Barnet Tories forget about local trades union members

It seems that the Barnet Conservative Party are going to use the line that the only people who oppose One Barnet are "the unions". I was recently having a chat with a local Tory who suggested that all of the anti One Barnet campaign is being coordinated by the Trades Unions in an attempt to "keep hold of their cushy terms and conditions". It may not surprise you to hear I nearly wet myself laughing at this. I asked if they were seriously suggesting that the Barnet Eye is under the control of the Barnet Trades Unions. The response I received astounded me, if for no other reason than the sheer stupidity of what was said "it is no secret that they feed you most of your information". This would be laughable if it wasn't for the fact that some people may really believe it.

In actual fact it is more often than not the other way round. I often talk with all manner of activist in Barnet and the general feeling is that, Barnet Unison aside, there has been very contact between bloggers and Trades Unions. Unison has been more active, but in truth Union branch secretary hasn't enough time to deal with his own members issues, let alone co-ordinate a bunch of bloggers.

What the Barnet Conservatives seem to forget is that the Trades Union members they insult by such statements are often simply Barnet residents who are concerned for their jobs and their families livelyhoods. They are ordinary voters who happen to work for Barnet Council and belong to a Trades Union in the hope that the Union will protect them against the worst excesses of the management at the Council.

The vast majority of stories in the Barnet Eye are simply the result of painstaking research. I don't get paid to write blogs, I have never written a word because someone has asked me to. At times, I've reprinted information sent to me by members of the Trades Unions, but this is purely because it was verifiable and in the public interest.

As we move nearer to an election, we will see more such nonsense, spewing out of the sewers of the Barnet political machines. As it happens, I've never belonged to a Trades Union. I actually run my own business and so I suppose I sit on the other side of the fence.

It would be great to see a grown up, sensible debate about One Barnet, where the local leaders of the Conservative Party engaged in a proper debate with local residents. Instead all we have is innuendo, said behind peoples backs. Anyone who actually knows me and what motivates me, knows full well that the contents of this blog are written with one purpose. That is to try and make sure that the residents of Barnet get the best from their local council and other authorities. I've lived in the London Borough of Barnet all of my life and I love the area. It really is as simple as that.

A quick guide to Middle East Politics

For those of you who may be interested in the background to the conflict in Syria, which the UK government seems to be keen to poke its nose into, there was a very useful letter printed in one of the national papers recently. The Barnet Eye reprints this as a public education service
I hope this helps you understand what we are doing.

Mike Winters, Bernie Winters and Paul Hircombe RIP

Back in 1990, I had just finished rehearsing with my band, The False Dots. It was 11pm, I can't remember what night of the week it was. I'd was walking back home with the bassplayer in my band, Paul Hircombe, who was also a  great friend. Pauls flat was on the way back for mine. He said "Rog, hang on a second and I'll get Reg, he needs a walk". Reg was Pauls Jack Russell dog. He was a bit of a character, to say the least. After picking up Reg, we walked up Mill Hill Broadway, towards Mill Hill Circus. As we approached  the Day of the Raj restaurant, Mike and Bernie Winters emerged. They'd just finished a meal and were in good spirits. At the time, Bernie was well known for his comedy partnership with a large St Bernards dog Shnorbitz. It was a time when comedy was gentler and I think everyone loved Bernie and Shnorbitz. As we pased each other, Bernie commented to Paul "Nice little dog, of course I've got a VERY LARGE DOG", with a sense of heavy innuendo. Paul shot back "we'll it's like cars, men with big cars have....". Bernie shot back "You've been talking to my wife!" At this we all had a good chuckle. What followed was perhaps one of the most hilarious exchanges of stand up comedy I've ever witnessed. Paul was a master of the quick one liner comeback. Bernie clearly loved this and Mike joined in. After maybe 10 minutes, Mike commented to Paul "You should be writing our material!". We then discussed music and comedy and the state of the business. After about 20 minutes, Mike said "We'd better get home, my wife will be getting suspicious". I've met quite a few celebrities and well known people. I can honestly say I can't remember any who were quite as nice or as funny as Mike and Bernie that evening.

After that I'd see them occasionally in Mill Hill. Sadly Bernie died of Stomach cancer not too long after that aged 59. We'd always have a nod and a quick chat. It was announced yesterday that Mike had died aged 82. Sadly Paul Hircombe passed away last year aged 47 of oesophagal cancer. Reg the Jack Russell also passed away in the mid 1990's. Sadly the only witness left to that hilarious twenty minutes of banter is me. Although I can only really claim to have ever been on nodding terms with the Winters, I felt an extreme pang of sadness at the news about Mike. As I read the obituaries, I was reminded that he had a period of estrangement from Bernie during the 1980's. When we had our little chat they were on absolute top form and it was clear to me that there was genuine warmth and affection. Whereever Mike, Bernie, Paul, Reg and Shnorbitz are now, I hope that they can get a good curry, have a bit of banter and a good laugh.

May they all rest in peace and know that in their own way they all brought a lot of happiness and joy to those who knew and loved them. Maybe I will have a memorial curry in their honour on Saturday, after I've walked the dogs of course !

Sunday 25 August 2013

A mega weekend of music on your doorstep !

I am just about to set off to the Adam & Eve pub in Mill Hill for an evening with legendary guitarist Alan Warner. Alan has played with legendary soul outfit "The Foundations" since the 1960's. Admission is free and it will be a great night. This will be the fourth gig I've been to in three days. On Friday night, we went to Kenwood House to watch Suede and British Sea Power. It was a fantastic setting and a great show. Brett Anderson was on top form. There can be few nicer ways to spend an evening than listening to music in the grounds of such a beautiful place with the one you love. It is rather magical.

On Saturday night, I played host to two excellent up and coming local bands at Mill Hill Music Complex. Hamptons are an excellent rock/pop band, headed by documentary film director Charles Honderick. Checkout their track "Peace" - I believe it is a classic

He is an excellent singer and frontman.  On friday, the band will open the Brownstock festival. I predict great things. The other band are Mill Hill Rockers "The Rock and Roll Sons" lead by Fil Ross. They are a heavy but melodic rock band, again picking up widespread interest. They were featured in a radio show on Friday in Newcastle and took over the show for 40 minutes ! If you like your rock and roll they are a band to keep an eye out for. They have a string of local dates booked.

This lunchtime, I went to the Highgate Jazz Festival to see the Scott Hamilton/Alan Barnes Quintet. This festival is staged by Bradely Allen,  a talented Sax player and customer of mys studio. We were official sponsors. The show was at Lauderdale House on Highgate Hill, another excellent venue. It was a most pleasant way to spend Sunday afternoon and the fun continues tomorrow.

People sometimes say that nothing much happens round here. I beg to differ. I have seen some excellent music on my doorstep. You just have to know where to look !