Saturday 30 November 2013

Your Choice Barnet - The Whitewash in words and pictures

I thought I'd collate all of the evidence to demonstrate just how much contempt Barnet Council and the Board of Your Choice Barnet have for the people they are meant to provide services for.

Firstly look at conclusion 6.5 from the task and finish report

6.5 The Task and Finish Group Review of YCB was initiated partly in response to public concern around its long-term financial sustainability. Ultimately, beyond the issues explored above, the Your Choice Barnet Task and Finish Group review found no evidence to support the call for services provided by YCB to be returned in-house. The Group recognise that the May 2011 Business Case had projected net losses for Year 1 and Year 2 (5.1.5 Table 1 above) and that the projections were revised by The Barnet Group Ltd. in the November 2011 Business Plan (5.1.7 Table 2) to state that a surplus would be achieved. The subsequently reported losses for 2012/13 (5.1.9 Table 3) have not given confidence in the financial planning or understanding of the business. However, the Group did not support the notion put forward by UNISON and CADDSS that the rationale for transferring services to a Local Authority Trading Company arrangement was in itself flawed.  (the full report is embedded below).

My question is this. What sort of idiot sets up a company with a business plan that involves running at a loss? If I went to the bank with a plan for a new business venture, which was set up to run at a loss, they'd laugh me off the premises. I cannot contain my disgust at what has happened with regards to Your Choice Barnet. I believe that Councillors from both Parties have badly let down the vulnerable people of Barnet. It would be easy to make excuses for them allowing themselves to be duped into applying the whitewash, but it would be dishonest to absolve them of blame.

For the record, the Councillors who put this report together and reached this conclusion were

The membership of the Group (as appointed by the Conservative and Labour Group Secretaries) was as follows:

Councillor Maureen Braun (Chairman)
Councillor Brian Salinger
Councillor Sury Khatri
Councillor Barry Rawlings
Councillor Arjun Mittra

Substitutes were:

Councillor John Hart
Councillor Rowan Quigley Turner
Councillor Kathy McGuirk
Councillor Gill Sargeant

You may wish to note that none of the members of the committee dissented from the views expressed in the report or issued a minority report on the paper contradicting the findings. We must therefore conclude that all members of the committee are fully supportive of the findings. We must also conclude that the Labour members of the committee did not support the view of UNISON or CADDSS that there was a compelling case for returing Your Choice Barnet to being run in house, despite the wealth of evidence available. Just for the absence of doubt, let us remind ourselves that prior to Your Choice Barnet Ltd being set up, these services were provided to budget by the in house teams and achieved high ratings according to external auditors.

You may also want to see the videos of the public question time. There are some rather interesting exchanges.

Friday 29 November 2013

Rog T's Dyslexia Blog - Getting our priorities wrong

For those of you who have read my dyslexia blogs before, you may wish to skip this paragraph as it is just the background. If you haven't read my dyslexia blogs before, here is a little preamble and introduction, so you know who I am and what I do and why I write this stuff. For those of you who know the story, skip to the end of the paragraph for todays installment. Let me give you a bit of Background so you know who I am and what I do. I was born in 1962. I didn't start talking until I was 4 years old (at all, not a single word). My parents thought I was deaf. My reading age at eleven was 5. When I was fifteen I started a rock and roll band called the False Dots, the band is still going strong. When I was 16 I started a business called Mill Hill Music Complex (although then it was simply called the studio), a rehearsal studio, as we had nowhere to rehearse. The business has grown into a very successful enterprise, one of Londons biggest and most well respected independent studios. We now have 16 studios and a music shop and also have a photography/video studio and a dance studio. I also have done IT work, mostly on a freelance basis since 1983. In 2012 I also moved into film production, producing two highly acclaimed documentary films, both of which had screenings at the House of Commons. When I was 31, a friend suggested I had a dyslexia test. To my surprise I was told I was moderately dyslexic. This made me interested in the subject. To my amazement, what I have learned over the years is that my lack of educational aptitude, my feelings of anger and injustice and the core of my personality have been formed by the fact I cannot read words in a linear fashion.

So during the week I got a Facebook message from an old school friend. Her son is dyslexic and he is struggling as he approaches his GCSE exams. She wanted to express her frustrations with the system. This is what she had to say.

I read your blog. I see your point and at the moment my son is going through hell. As you know I taught in the state system but and probably because i did i have ploughed my money into independent schooling. Which one is best? Being dyslexia means the individual never gets to enjoy school life. Education is geared round the core subjects...actually practical subjects are a necessity for life as well but I met too many parents and teachers that would judge a child on their science, maths English ability only. Now every half term kids are tested...test after test in every is exhausting for anyone. My son is a high IQ dyslexic boy so he knows his first draft is poor...he spends hours and hours perfecting his work...hands it in gets an A but has used all the strategies available to him to achieve this mark. In exams he gets C. Time is an issue, spelling, writing etc. in today's world we all use computers and spell check...exams test us using techniques that we do not need and don't use. Now GCSEs are here my son can't cope...having worked hard and never been in any trouble at all, never shouted or screamed at his frustration he will end up with a few passes that don't show his ability. Biology teacher has never had a student who knows as much as my son. Constant testing has worn him out, GCSEs that don't accommodate 'special needs' are not fit for purpose. Use a scribe they say for English..that is a very difficult skill to acquire especially one week before the exam. Would it be the same for state and private? I think if you are clever yes you do rise to the top, regardless. No, he hasn't had tutors I learnt about it myself to help him whilst I held down a full time job. Education wherever you are does not accept different capabilities and does not test appropriately - it's one way for everyone. Why does the state system child suffer more??? Because its inclusion for everyone - teaching a bottom set with those who couldn't and those who wouldn't does not work. Inclusion is not right - separate and teach the way the child can learn. Parents play a huge part, many don't know their rights and accept that their kids can't be helped. It's not true. Government relies on the fact that parents don't know. This is all a bit jumbled but I am passionate about it...state or independent the kid feels stupid..the kid feels worthless and the kid ultimately fails regardless of can't pass an exam to your full potential when it is set against you from the moment you walk in the room. My son can't eat or sleep with the anxiety because he knows that years of hardwork and dedication will result in very little to officially show for it. Blah blah ..

It sort of sums up many of the things I have been picking up from parents of dyslexic children. Five years ago when I started this blog, I thought I may be able to change things. Maybe I can, but not in the way I thought. I niavely thought people may read the blog and realise the error of their ways, in many matters. I thought people may widen their understanding of important issues. I realise that this is a complete pipedream All that I can do is chronicle things and make people feel less alone. If enough of us speak out, we can get some traction, but all this blog can do is facilitate that process. I believe every person alive on the planet has something to offer the world. Maybe sometimes those things are hard to see. Maybe it is just a bit of companionship. Maybe they will cure cancer. Who knows. My friends son has his life in front of him. Maybe he has the spark that could invent the cure for cancer? Wouldn't it be a shame if that spark was extinguished because his dyslexia got him a D instead of an A at biology. Maybe biology isn't his thing, but someone somewhere may be cast aside because of a bad school grade.

What frustrates me most is the fact that the educational establishment is focused totally on grades and not on delivering human beings who can make the planet a better place. Of course ignornant, unenlighted idiots may not "get it". They may not realise that every child doing their GCSE, who fails due to issues with dyslexia, has been failed by the system. Such ignorant fools smugly say things such as "failures always blame the system". To me that is the most crass statement in the world. When the system fails, we all suffer.  Who knows where we might be if we took seriously the issues of getting the best out of every child. I often read about how those on the right want to "hothouse the gifted". I overheard a conversation on the train recently where a father was proudly boasting about how his son had graduated from a top University and walked into a legal position with a top bank. He recounted proudly how he'd always been top of his class, gone to the best private school and it had all paid off now. I couldn't help but feel it was a little bit sad. Is that really what we want our brightest children to end up doing? Maybe he could have been the person who'd developed a cure for cancer if his family wasn't so fixated on cash and career. I don't blame anyone for wanting to earn a good living. I do however feel that when it comes to education, we've got our priorities wrong. If we can't get them right for our brightest kids, what hope have those with Dyslexia got?

The Friday Joke - The wit and charm of Mike "Numbnutz" Freer MP

For your enjoyment, the Barnet Eye publishes in full the exchange of emails between Mike Freer MP and the Bohemia protestors who were occupying the courtyard of his offices in protest at Freers role in making tens of thousands of people homeless, passing legislation to protect wealthy absentee landlords such as Colonel Gaddafi RIP.

Freer is well known for his charm and wit, having described the author of this blog as someone "coddled by family wealth" in a blog referring to the fact that I'd written a blog in memory of my mother who had passed away several days earlier. The reference was a reference to Freer's expactation that my Mum would be leaving me a nice little nestegg. As it happened, she'd already told the family that she'd left the cash to various charities, such as the Noah's Ark Childrens hospice, the Red Cross and the local Catholic Church. Personally I was proud of my mum for recognising that her offspring were financially secure and other people needed the money more. When challenged, Freer claimed his comments were "aimed at no one in particular". He later described the author of this blog as a "One Handed blogger" stating "you know what he's doing  with his other hand whilst he's writing it". He made this comment in an interview as Leader of Barnet Council. At the time I found the comment quite amusing. Our computer is in the front room and I don't think my wife and kids would be too impressed if Freers observation was true, but I suppose it did give some insight into his own nocturnal habits on the internet maybe? I mean usually we base our views on how other people behave on what we ourselves do?

Anyway for your enjoyment, here is the exchange of emails. It appears Mr Freer replied to "The Bohemians" rather than some mysterious character, perhaps in his office team.

From: FREER, Mike
Date: Wed, Nov 27, 2013 at 7:20 AM 
Subject: Re: Invitation for direct democratic 
To: Bohemian 

err no 
email told them to phone and we would follow our usual procedures. which they seem unable to do. 

I am mightily peed off at the Police. I feel like sending the BIll to the Commissioner saying your daft advice landed us with this Bill. 

of course this will inhibit every other demo as we will simply refuse to allow anyone onto our property. 

so tempting to say - you are all numb-nuts as i am not the owner of the property and it is they you should be dealing with about your presence!

Mike Freer MP Conservative Member of Parliament for Finchley & Golders Green
020 7219 7071 (Westminster) 020 8445 5875 (Finchley)
Sent from my iPad, working in the move On 26 Nov 2013, at 23:47,

"Bohemian" > wrote: 

Dear Mike 
We appreciate you taking the time to communicate with us, thank you for the permission from you and your office to conduct our peacefull protest on the front yard piece of land at 212 Ballards lane N12. The protest at your constituency office is a result of us trying to engage with the parliamentary democratic process in which we followed your procedures,for a public consultation. Lobbying campaigning and raising awareness,whereby 96% of the replies to the public Consultation said do not criminalise squatting. Including Judges, police and lawyers associations as well as homeless charities and housing NGOs requesting the law not be enacted. However your government chose to ignore their own public consultation and press ahead undemocratically to criminalise sheltering (squatting) in empty buildings. 

 We are further concerned greatly by Chris Grayling the justice minister saying he may once again undemocratically criminalise non residential squatting.Which is one of the last safety nets for many homeless and landless people who are not helped by the housing system. Part of serving your constituents is to represent all constituents including rich and poor this includes some of your homeless constituents currently evicted onto your front yard from a community centre around the corner the Bohemia. We have many points of importance to raise with you around the issues of the Housing crisis,the rise in street homeless,the bedroom tax,the further criminalisation of non residential squatting etc . The law you co sponsored sec 144 Laspo act is unfair, unjust, undemocratic, unlawful, unaffordable and unworkable,and is causing great misery by removing an ancient and basic human right to shelter. Also leading to an increased number of people freezing to death over winter.Many of your constituents are facing urgent housing/homeless and medical issues,which we hope you are willing to address.  

We have had numerous liaisons with the inspectors from Colindale police of the past days (which we have filmed recorded and logged ) who are happy for our protest to continue. Acknowledging that we are not breaking any laws and that we have rights to peacefully protest and assemble under ECHR articles 10 and 11. That at all times we are endeavouring to be polite, courteous,co-operative with police requests through regular Liason. We are keeping the area clean and tidy and are aiming to install some plants and window boxes to make the area more beautifull and attractive. We are keeping the main access way very clear to your doorstep all times. 

We have trained health and safety managers who are monitoring the situation. We politely ask you to meet with us to discuss matters of great national importance such as the housing crisis which we feel your sec144 is exacerbating. We would like to invite you to spend a few nights camped out with some of your homeless constituents to discuss these and many other issues,over a cup of tea, in an atmosphere of co-operative democratic discussion. Having been ignored by your so called democratic public consultation, we have taken this act of peacefull protest to facilitate direct discussion and to stimulate the debate in the national media. 

 We are, having met with you and shared our views with each other,and some of our conditions met, happy to discuss an end date to our protest in a reasonable and proportionate manner without recourse to the law. We hope to avoid unnecessary court time and expense. We shall be advised in all the matters by our good friends Bindmans solicitors. Looking forward to a discussion of solutions to the housing crisis that we can all work towards together. 

Yours sincerely 
Bohemia Caretakers

Thursday 28 November 2013

The Your Choice Barnet whitewash scandal

Last night Barnet Council held a meeting to review a task and finish report into the financial failure of Your Choice Barnet. This private company was set up with taxpayers money to provide social care. It needed a million pound bale out after less than a year. Any other private company would be placed into administration and the people responsible sacked. Of course this didnt happen. The only logical conclusion is that the report is a whitewash and the people who siggned up to it are imbeciles. And that really is all there is to say.

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Bunns Lane Mill Hill travellers removed by police

A large police operation yesterday evening saw a group of travellers removed from a site in Bunns Lane, Mill Hill.The site was then secured by workmen and large concrete blocks have been placed at the entrance to block vehicle access. Local MP Matthew Offord told the Barnet Eye on Friday that he considered travellers to be a major nuisance and that he would work with Police to evict them from any illegal site in his constituency. It is unclear whether Mr Offord participated in the Police Operation.

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Your invitation to join the Our Barnet Community Choir - Join us for a day in the recording studio

Do you love singing? Do you love your community? Do you want to make a difference?

Now is your chance. We are looking to start the "Our Barnet Community Choir". Who says the devil has all of the best tunes. We will be holding a rehearsal and recording session on Saturday 30th November at Mill Hill Music Complex (Click Here for Directions)

Local Disabled rights campaigner John Sullivan has written a reworked version of the song Sixteen Tons by Tenessee Earl Ford

Have a listen to this. If you think you could handle the melody and learn the lyrics, then come on down on Saturday at 2pm. If you fancy yourself as a bit of a singer, why not come down and take part. To cover the cost of the studio and to pay for some refreshments, we are asking for a £5 donation (although this is not compulsory). It is a great chance to experience a commercial recording studio in operation. We are especially keen to have choir members who have been affected by the cuts and have a story to tell, so members from the disabled community and other affected residents are more than welcome.

If you are a male Bass voice or a female soprano, you will be welcome. We are particularly looking for singers to join in on the Chorus. If you are a budding choirmaster get in touch as we are looking for someone to take the Our Barnet Community Choir forward. It will be a lot of fun and we are videoing the recording session. Who knows, we may even get the choir to do an Xmas performance outside the Town Hall.

The 16 Mill

In Barnet Capita have taken control,
 They now control the residents body and soul
For many of us it's been  a bitter pill,
 To be forced out of  Barnet into Capitaville

They hand over 16mil an what do you get.
Silence from  Tories and deeper in debt
St Peter don't you call us cos we can't go
They sold our soul  to the Capita Store.

Before the contract signing Capita were going to pay
But after the signing its gone the other way.
Capita were supposed to invest the mils
But now Barnet residents, are footing the bills.

They hand over 16 mil an what do you get
Silence from Tories, and deeper in debt
St Peter don't you call us cos we can't go
They sold our soul to the Capita store.

The contract was hidden where the sun doesn't shine
Not read by Cornelius before he chose to sign
Now councillors are silent about our 16mil
They have recently  invested in Capitaville.

They hand over 16 mil an what do you get
Silence from the Tories and deeper in debt
St Peter don't you call us cos we can't go
They sold our soul to the Capita store.

No consultation with Barnet residents
Has led to wide spread discontent.
And now we have to swallow another bitter pill
Cos their aint no questions allowed  in Capitaville


They hand over 16 mil an what do you get
Silence from the Tories and deeper in debt
St Peter don't you call us cos we can't go
They sold our soul, to the Capita store

If you see Capita coming better step aside.
A lot of services didn't and those services died
They have fists of iron to enforce their deal
And if the right one don't deprive you then the left one will


They hand over 16mil an what do you get
Silence from Tories,  and deeper in debt
St Peter dont you call us cos we can't go

They so-----ld  our so----ul to the Capita store.

Exposed - The abject failure of Mike Freer MP's One Barnet folly

Back in 2008, Mike Freer MP was the Leader of Barnet Council. He believed that he could transform Barnet Council into a flagship of right wing ideology, by bringing in a large team of management consultants and by flogging off all of the services provided to private contractors. The logic for this was never financial. It was primarily designed as an exercise in Union bashing, with your money. Freer believed that Unions by definition kept wages and conditions good for staff, resulting in higher taxation for local people. His reasoning was that by bringing in private contractors, Unions could by and large be castrated and costs could be forced down. So millions (which have never properly been revealed) were spent on £1,000 a day consultants to design ways to pay people on low wages even less. After five years, we now see the results of their work

Parking - NSL Now run parking control. This has been a disaster. Fines are now seen as a cash cow and parking wardens buzz around like flies, looking for motorists to fine, rather than to do the traditional role of parking wardens, which was to ensure good flow of traffic. The special parking account has also not met the targets set.

Your Choice Barnet - Adult Social Care. Needed a £1 Million + bailout. This week the council issue a report on how to clean up the mess. It aint pretty, despite their attempts to apply a whitewash to the debacle. Huge cuts to services have been made to shore up the system.

Capita - Responsible for revs and bens and customer services. Current Leader Richard Cornelius announced in December that Capita would make a huge investment in systems for Barnet. He didn't mention the fact that the Barnet taxpayer would bung them the £16.1 million to invest. Hundreds of jobs have been exported and reports reach the Barnet Eye of multiple issues with the new systems, with taxpayers being unable to access services properly.

The truth is that tens of millions of our money has been spent on One Barnet. Barnet used to be rated as a three star council when it had in house services. Freer's folly has cost millions, that money has been flushed down the loo. Services have got worse and the local eonomy is suffering. When will its architect be held to account?

Monday 25 November 2013

Guest Blog - Open Letter from John Sullivan to Councillor Hugh Rayner

From Mr John J Sullivan
Father of Susan Tracey Sullivan, along with my wife a combined 100 years of 24/7 coal face experience in this field.

Dear Sir,
I have now read the so called review and as expected it is a complete farce , a complete whitewash, a complete cover up. There is absolutely no intention  get to the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, the route to the truth is via the parents and family carers of the Your Choice Barnet      ( YCB ) clients, and absolutely no attempt has been made to consult with any of us that have demonstrated concerns from the outset. it is shameful and totally undemocratic, it highlights the justification for people referring to Barnet as a democracy free zone. The constant refusal of the council that you are a prominent member of to engage in open and honest consultation with local residents. It is more representative of a Stalinist Polit  Bureau strategy than that of a supposed democracy. You are all deaf dumb and blind to the concerns fears and opinions of Barnet residents, driven by ideology and dogma, and what you think is best rather than seeking to establish the truth, and what is really best. This so -called task and finish review is an opportunity missed, why are you Tory councillors so afraid to face the truth, to face the opinions of the family carers and parents, people who collectively have hundreds of years of 24/7 experience in this field, far more than any YCB board member or biased councillor. " WHY ".

My Overall comments on this farcical review.
1, The Review is myopic and is a classic example of how Barnet council considers evidence then completely ignores it.
2, The five-part terms of reference were obviously written in a way to ensure the scope of the so-called  "task & finish " review was restricted from the start, these terms of reference allow not for the exposure of the whole truth, but a cover up of the reality, which is sadly the Barnet councils way of doing business, so comes as no surprise.
3, The CADDSS reports prime focus  was on two issues-service user/carer engagement and the YCB financial crisis. the review completely ignored the evidence on user carer engagement and made no recommendations on this important issue. So it is business as usual at YCB.
4, The key finding ( Para 4.1) that the " high quality " is permanent and therefore the only matter of concern  is the long term viability of YCB is financial and will be resolved by cost saving measures and growth. What are these proposed cost savings ?. This is a damning indictment of Elected members and YCB management, it is short sighted and narrow-minded, and  potentially a danger to the long term well being of disabled people in Barnet.
5, The Group indentified " customer engagement " as one of the " challenging areas of performance facing challenges ", and then listed how the Operational  Plan 2013-2014 would address several "challenging areas ". However , the action list completely ignores " customer engagement ". Which is the standard double speak many people including myself have grown to expect from Barnet councillors.

6,The group made absolutely no attempt whatsoever to examine the potential consequences and impact of the changes in staffing levels and skills/experience on the quality of service, that will be further impacted upon with the proposed introduction of the benchmarking decisions due in the near future. The Group accept YCBs policy and do not even raise concerns or questions about the impacts, it is absolutely unbelievable. This area coupled with the long term provision and viability of service provision  for our loved ones is one of the main concerns of parents and carers repeatedly raised by both us and CADDSS, yet this farcical review just took the word of YCB ignored the opinions of family carers and moved on, it beggars belief.
7,The financial analysis of YCB merely identifies the changes in YCBs financial forecast and financial reality once it was operational, but does not identify the lessons learned. UNISONS reports on the business case and LATC business plan spelt out the non- sustainability of the financial forecasts, but these were ignored by Elected members and officers of the Council at the time. Failure to learn lessons through rigorous and honest assessment, "which this so-called review does not even attempt" means the sorry saga will be repeated elsewhere in the council, and at some later date expose this whitewash of a review as an important opportunity missed.
 This review was an opportunity to get to the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, to ensure the long term viability of service provision for all YCB clients, and I firmly believe that truth was ignored. Because it would have established the only serious way forward for secure  long term provision would be to take all YCB  services back in-house, which was the original undertaking in the event of business failure.
Had this review looked into the financial circumstances of YCB in greater depth, I believe it would have been established clearly and without any doubt which is a reality this review was determined to avoid at all costs. The only way forward to ensure the long term viability and provision of "high quality support services " for all YCB clients, is for all YCB services to be brought back in-house The long term future viability of the provisions of "high Quality " support services for YCB clients is highly questionable, and therefore represents a real worry for parents and family carers worried what will happen to their loved ones when they die.This review could have provided us family carers with the peace of mind we crave, but yet again right wing  ideology and dogma has won the day.
8, The financial analysis is , in effect, a standstill analysis that does not consider financial issues beyond the current year. It does not attempt to identify how the £1million loan will be repaid and other forecasts. My concern and that of other parents and areas I repeated is regarding the long term future provision of "high Quality " support services for my daughter that were secure when service were provided in house. The  question is, if the long term future is so sound so secure, why is no reference made to the vital issue of the financial stability of YCB beyond this year.

Councillor Rayner , I am going to ask the Barnet Eye to post this letter as an open letter on the Barnet Eye blog, in order I hope to wake the residents of Barnet up to the fact, that transparency and honesty along with democracy no longer exist in Barnet. Most of all to alert people of the whitewash meeting this Wednesday the 27th November, in the hope they will attend the meeting to defend the disabled folk of Barnet , that this ideological and dogmatic council have no real intention of doing.

Councillor Rayner you chastised me for condemning this review before the report was made public, sadly  my fears have been confirmed, this review was never meant to seek the truth, because the truth is that in-house provision of services for all YCB clients, is the only secure way forward, subjecting these vulnerable folk to the vagaries of the market place on a highly questionable and risky business plan,  is immoral and plain wrong.

I appeal to the people of Barnet to attend the so called Safeguarding Committee meeting at the Town hall this Wednesday 27th ,before we experience our own Winterbourne View in Barnet.

Sunday 24 November 2013

Sand in my joints

Many apologies to my readers. I do try and post to this blog regularly and keep you up to speed with the news in Barnet. Sadly I also have work and a family to look after and I am hellishly busy at the moment.

Last Friday I went to see Matthew Offord at the meet the MP session he'd arranged at the Eversfield Community Centre. I was disappointed that the turnout was low. The audience was in good spirits. There were a few questions from "Colin". He's  a local character and a  barrister. He's a Tory and he wanted to know what Matthew could do to thwart UKIP. Matthew had a great solution. "Vote for me! That will thwart UKIP". He said that if you vote UKIP in Hendon, then you will get Labour. I am not sure how that is supposed to work. I always thought that if you got the most votes you won? I think Matthew thinks that there are only a couple of hundred UKIP voters and given that he won by 105 votes he needs them all to see off Andrew Dismore. I suspect that he is probably right. I suspect he'll need every UKIP vote plus most of the Lib Dem vote next time.

I made a few suggestions to him. Strangely he agreed with me and said they were far more sensible than anything on my blog. I suggested a disabled access at Mill Hill Broadway Station on Platform 4. He agreed that this was a good idea.

George Jones, a local resident asked him why he'd ignored the huge local campaign against the Etz Chaim school. Matthew said he'd ignored it because the campaigners used horrible tactics and there was an urgent need for the school. George wasn't too impressed.

Colin asked why Tories couldn't have their own Tory MP in Labour seats. Even Matthew was perplexed by this idea.

A nice Lib Dem council candidate asked him why he was so beastly to charities who wanted to do political lobbying. Matthew replied that he though charities should do charity work, not political lobbying.

A couple of other locals asked a few questions about other local issues and we all went home happy.

Whatever you think of Matthew Offord, I applaud him for making himself available. He did a pretty good job of answering questions and didnt' duck the hard ones. Sadly there weren't enough of them, but that ain't his fault, is it?

Saturday 23 November 2013

The Saturday list - One Barnet special - The list of shame

Just for the record, here is the list of shame for the key players in the One Barnet debacle These mens actions are causing the loss of hundreds of jobs in Barnet. 1. Mike Freer Mp - Council Leader who Championed One Barnet now Finchley MP 2. Matthew Offord Mp - Freers loyal deputy and now Hendon Mp 3. Max Wide - BT employee who set up One Barnet project 4. Nick Walkley - ceo brought in by Freer to do the dirty work. Now ceo at Harringey 5. Jeff Lustig - Barnet Head of Legal. Oversaw prohect. Retired 6. Andrew Harper - effectively Freers replacement and One Barnet Evangelist. Sidelined and leaving council. 7. Richard Cornelius - Leader of Council who signed contract despite 'doubts' 8. Andrew Travers. Walkleys replacement and One Barnet Evangelist. 9. Daniel Thomas. Deputy Leader of Council 10. Paul Pindar. Ceo Capita. Announced retirement recently

Friday 22 November 2013

The Friday Joke -

A teenage boy had just passed his driving test and inquired of his father as to when they could discuss his use of the car.

His father said he'd make a deal with his son: 'You bring your grades up from a C to a B average, study your Bible a little, and get your hair cut. Then we'll talk about the car.'

The boy thought about that for a moment, decided he'd settle for the offer, and they agreed on it.

After about six weeks, his father said, 'Son, you've brought your grades up and I've observed that you have been studying your Bible, but I'm disappointed you haven't had your hair cut.

The boy said, 'You know, Dad, I've been thinking about that, and I've noticed in my studies of the Bible that Samson had long hair, John the Baptist had long hair, Moses had long hair ... and there's even strong evidence that the Lord Jesus had long hair.'

The Dad replied:

'Did you also notice they all walked everywhere they went?'

Thursday 21 November 2013

Doomsday for London Underground

************ Note - On Thursday Morning the Lead story on BBC London was that TFL would be announcing driverless trains and closure of all London station ticket offices. This blog was written in good faith based on the fact that this was lead story. The announcement didn't mention driverless trains. We therefore assume that someone was feeding TFL misinformation. Now there have been comments that we should await formal confirmation. Now yes we should, as this was presented as a fact, so apologies for that, but hey ho, if you can't trust the BBC news..... *************

Mark the 21st November 2013 in your diary. Today is the day that Mayor Boris Johnson declared war on the people of London. Today is the day that he announced plans to devastate safety on the London Underground network. Today is the day that he abandoned all pretence of caring for ordinary Londoners who daily use the system. Today is the day that he decided to sacrifice the network to Tory dogma.

He has announced plans to

a) Shut every ticket office on the London Underground
b) Make all trains driverless.

I am sure that I'll have a few right wing pundits who never use the service leaving stupid comments. I use the network on an almost daily basis and it is clear to me that the plans are wrong headed.

Ticket offices.
1. How will elderly/disabled people who have difficulties using machines manage?
2. How will tourists with difficulties manage?
3. What will happen if your Oyster card packs up?
4. How will you renew your season ticket?
5. What will happen if you have a problem?
6. Who will you ask for travel guidance & assistance?

Driverless trains.
1. What will happen if there is a safety issue in the tunnel, such as the 7/7 bomb?
2. What will happen if there is an incident on the train or an ambulance needs calling?
3. What will  happen if the emergency chord is pulled?
4. Who will report intruders on the line or in tunnels?
5. Who will inform passengers if there are delays/problems?
6. Who will clear doors etc of obstructions?

The above are just a few points I thought of. I rarely see a ticket office without a large queue, especially at busy times. On journeys, it is rare for there to be no interaction with the driver. Usually because people are blocking doors, but I've seen drivers calling ambulances when people have had heart attacks. I shudder to think what would have happened on 7/7, a day I used the tube, without the drivers and the station staff. 

This plan has clearly been dreamed up by a management team who hold the needs and safety of passengers in total contempt. I have one question. If as George Osborne says, the economy is in rude good health, how come London needs to cut £80 million from the budget of London Underground. Doesn't George and Boris realise that London is the engine of the London Economy. If these savage cuts occur, people will get injured and killed. Boris and George clearly couldn't give a toss (or is that ATOS). 

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Pavillion Way Sports ground redevelopment - Update

I have received confirmation from Barnet Council regarding the contents of secret papers discussed by the Barnet Council Cabinet Resources committee. Whilst the member in question is not prepared to go on record, they have confirmed that the Committee were fully briefed on the details of the restrictive covenants regarding the site. They have also confirmed that the Council DO NOT intend to share this information with the residents affected.

The covenant on the land allows for any resident on the estate to the South and East of the playing fields to have the right to enforce the covenant, which would require the council to properly maintain the sports ground and to prevent sale and redevelopment of the ground.

The Barnet Eye believes that the Council has failed in its statuatory duties by not publishing the covenant in the "Legal Issues" section of the cabinet papers, that would be visible for all to see. The Barnet Eye accepts the point that legal advice concerning the covenant can be withheld (as opposed to should be).

The decision to refer the decision back to Cabinet by the Scrutiny committee was made on Tuesday Night

We note that Chair of the Committee, Hugh Rayner, who has interests in property development, voted against referal. Good to see Tories John Hart and Brian Gordon standing up for the residents of Burnt Oak though.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Hendon Constituency Special - Meet your local MP Matthew Offord

Are you a resident of the Hendon Constituency? If you are, your local MP Matthew Offord would love to meet you. He wants to hear your concerns. He has organised a meeting on Friday and the Barnet Eye is keen to ensure that he gets a full house. Please come down if you have not made other arrangements.

Topics which I'd suggest people may want to discuss with Matthew.

1. Gay marriage. Mr Offord is a staunch opponent. I'm sure that if you support his opposition he'd love to hear from you. Then again, if you don't agree with Matthew, I am sure he'd be interested to hear from you.

2. One Barnet. Matthew was the deputy leader of the council when One Barnet was dreamed up.  As your MP and a senior member of the Conservative Party, I am sure he'd love to hear your views.

3.  Human rights for dogs. Matthew has been on National TV proposing a human rights charter for dogs, following a ban on his faithful friend Maximus the Jack Russell. We hope Max will be joining him on Friday. The Barnet Eye is a keen fan of doggies.

4. Cheese shops. The one pledge Matthew Offord made to residents prior to his election was that he'd love to see Mill Hill Broadway become the type of place where ambitious businessmen would open cheese shops. Three years after his election, we still have no cheese shops. If you like cheese, come along and ask Matthew where his cheese shop is.

5. First Capital Connect. Matthew is chair of the Parliamentary Transport committee responsible for First Capital Connect. Do you think FCC are providing a good service? Tell Matthew what you think.

6. Soup recommendations. Matthew was famously mistaken for a soup waiter at the House of Commons by David Cameron shortly after he arrived. Matthew was so proud of this that he tweeted it! Come along and ask him which soup he'd recommend.

7. Responsible Drinking. Matthew is a big advocate of responsible drinking. Drunks can be a public hazard and we are keen to hear what Matthew is doing to address this problem in Hendon.

8. Assaults on women. One of Matthews former party colleagues and mentor was convicted earlier this year for assualting a woman in North Finchley. We'd be keen to hear from Matthew what he plans to do to help eradicate such awful behaviour.

Of course, we are sure that Hendon residents have a whole range of issues that they may want to discuss with Matthew. He doesn't come out to play very often (except when there is an election in the offing) so don't waste the chance.

Monday 18 November 2013

Barnet Council refusing to answer the questions regarding £16.1 million bung to Capita

Barnet Council have recently started claiming that they have a commitment to openness and transparency. Last week we saw various exchanges with Council officers regarding the £16.1 million of your cash given to Capita to fund investments. What we haven't seen is any proper answers from the Councillors. Let us remind ourselves what the job of Councillors is. They are supposed to provide democratic oversight of the executive and make sure that democratic processes are properly followed when decisions are made. They are meant to listen to our concerns and investigate if there are real issues. In this case, we've been met with a wall of silence.

Councillors receive huge allowances for belonging to the cabinet and being the chair of committees. In return for this, they are expected to do a job. They are not meant simply to be yes men for the officers. They are not meant to be a fig leaf, hiding the privacy of the officers. They are meant to shine a light on their actions and hold them to account when they get it wrong.

So once more, the Barnet Eye appeals to the Conservative cabinet and the committee chairs. Do the job you are paid for.

Sunday 17 November 2013

Bohemia Eviction - Update

Yesterday I mentioned comments regarding the Bohemia eviction made off the record by a friend who is an officer in the Met Police. He asked me to clarify a couple of points. Please note that he is speaking in a personal capacity and does not wish to be identified.

1. The occupiers had a county court judgement against them. They were therefore illegally occupying the building.

2. The occupiers were members of Occupy, which is an organisation with a track record for large demonstrations and has many affiliates. They had been circulating calls for a mass protest to protect the occupation.

3. The riots two years ago started following a small local demonstration at a police station getting out of hand. The Metropolitan Police learned lessons from dealing with such demonstrations. Whilst there is no suggestion that the Occupiers were looking to cause a riot, as with the 2011 riots, situations can spiral out of control if not properly managed.

4. There was no suggestion of "police brutality" in the operation. There was plenty of aggressive shouting and posturing, but no one was beaten up or taken to hospital. The Occupiers had been asked to leave and were defying a court order. When an operation is underway, the safest way for Police to behave is to be in total control of the situation.

It was pointed out that when the riots of 2011 occurred there was huge loss caused across London. It is a top priority of the Police to ensure that such situations do not occur.

This is what actually happened

We are awaiting more footage.

The one thing that no one has explained thus far is why the administrators for the Antic took such an aggressive stance in regards to the Occupiers, given that they had said they would vacate when a new tenant was identified. They have incurred large costs and I cannot see any great financial gain for them (unless there is a tenant lined up who they suspect will not be to the liking of the local community).

It is clear that there is a need for a community space in North Finchley. It seems sad that all of the positive energy and activities lined up for the Bohemia have simply been crushed. As I said in my blog yesterday, I don't think anyone has come out of this as a winner. If the administrators had engaged with the Occupiers and come to an amicable arrangement, we'd not have any blogs or any debates about Police and their priorities. I am sure some people see what happened on Friday night as good, as it fits some sort of authoritarian political agenda. I just think it is all rather sad. Yesteday there was a mental health roadshow outside the locked building, in the freezing cold. Sad really when there was a perfectly usable space on the other side of the ramparts.

Saturday 16 November 2013

Bohemia - A sad debacle with no winners

Last night, High Court bailiffs, supported by the police, evicted members of the Occupy movement who had been in residence for the last six weeks, operating a community centre on the premises. According to the claim made to the High Court, the eviction has cost the leaseholder £23,000 in costs. As far as I understand, the occupiers had been cooperating with Landlords and showing tenants around. There was no suggestion that damage had been caused by the occupiers, in fact they have made improvements and as anyone with property will know, it is better to have someone in a building. The Occupiers had also offered to peacefully vacate if a tenant was found.

Many texts and messages I received showed a degree of anger at Police for a very heavy handed approach.I find it quite interesting to read about the huge resources invested by the police in the operation. I wish they had mounted a similar operation when an elderly neighbour of mine was burgled last year. I don't blame the police for enforcing the law. When it comes down to it, that is there job. I do question the priority they put on this operation. In effect the taxpayer subsides an operation to close down a community project, for the benefit of a private Landlord. I wonder how many other private Landlords will be receiving such police help when they want awkward tenants evicted.

A senior Police officer I know informed me that the cost of the operation at the Bohemia yesterday was likely to have cost in excess of £5,000 in planning and execution. His view was that the operation was necessary to send a message that the law will be enforced in Barnet. When the occupiers told the press that they believed in Civil Disobediance, the operation and scale became inevitable. In effect the statement was a challenge to the forces of law and order and to the jurisdiction of the High Court. In his view, any such statement, in the face of High Court judgement, will always receive such a response. He also made a comment which I found interesting to say the least. He said the local Police would have seen the operation as an excellent opportunity to test their procedures and operational readiness. They would have been fully aware that the occupiers were unlikely to be violent or aggressive. As such it is a great chance to make sure things work properly, so if there is a situation where a "hard" response is required, everyone knows what they are doing. I suggested that most Barnet residents would prefer a training exercise against Burglars, human traffickers or local gangs. His response was that the Bohemia was a far more useful operation as it was "unusual" and had considerations unlike most police operations, not least local interest and anticipation. So if you were in anyway involved with the Bohemia, you can sleep soundly knowing you've helped the Barnet Police maintain their operational readyness against the forces of anarchy and public disorder.

Then lest consider the Landlords - Mitchells and Butler. This is what is somewhat disengeniously known as a "Pubco". You would think that with such a name, they would be interested to explore the concept of a community pub and may have considered it worthwhile working with the community to explore options to do this. Sadly the plonkers who run Mitchells and Butlers have no concept of what a community pub really is. I spend much of my life in pubs. I love them. Mitchells and Butlers own many pubs in the London Borough of Barnet. Examples that are successful are The Orange Tree and The Arkley. When we say successful, we of course mean financially as opposed to as pubs. The M&B model is not actually a pub. It is a food outlet that sells beer as a sideline. The last thing they want is someone like me to turn up with my mates and drink ten pints of guinness and talking football all night. They certainly don't understand the concept of the community pub. When M&B took over my local, the Three Hammers, they did sseveral things. They removed Sky Sports and the Darts Board. They banned children. They banned dogs from the premises. They also evicted the Mill Hill Jazz Club. Those of you who don't know the Hammers, it was a thriving community pub prior to M&B. It is next door to the Retail trust, which is an establishment for the elderly. Many families would come to bring their elderly relatives for a meal. As children were banned, this trade virtually stopped. The Hammers is on a popular walking route, being adjacent to Totteridge Valley. Dog walkers were banished. The Mill Hill Jazz club, which had been successfully running on a Wednesday night for years was kicked out, as it didn't "fit the profile of the pub". The Darts players were evicted, many who had been patrons for decades. People who would meet to watch football were also evicted. The Pool table disappeared. In short, whole local communities of friends were effectively abandoned. The pub were chasing a new market. One who wanted to eat bog standard pub food, have a half of lager and then drive home. I drink in the Hammers every Thursday with my football team. It has been styled as a bad hotel lounge. The staff are mainly teenagers (some are children of friends) on minimum wage, working with minimum motivation.

Contrast that with the vibrant social scene which was developing at the Bohemia. If I was a director of M&B, I'd have come down and checked out the Open mic nights and other activities being organised. If that had been incorporated into an establishment with cheap, healthy food and inexpesive beer, they would have been onto a winner. Although many pubs around the country are failing, there are plenty that are bucking the trend. They do this by catering for their community. The M&B model is a "one size fits all solution". They have put the postcode of the Hammers into their "demographic profiling" system and it's popped out a solution. It takes no account of the local walkers, elderly, darts and pool players, who used the pub for years. The Bohemia under the Antic Brand had the potential to be a superb pub. It was however suffering from massive under investment. It was an ideal venue for music, but there was no soundproofing, so this was impossible without alterations and upsetting neighbours. A small investment could have fixed this. There was also huge amounts of space which were totally unused. Any company which has aspirations to succeed must continulaly think of new ways to regenerate their business model and stay ahead of the game. It is clear that M&B have run out of ideas. Last Wednesday, I did a pub crawl around the London Bridge area. The pubs we visited were all proper pubs and all busy. We started at the Market Porter in Borough Market. This is how a pub should be. There is a place for the M&B model, it works well at The Orange Tree, but please can we have our proper pubs back?

So as I survey the fallout of the Bohemia debacle, it is clear that we've all lost. The taxpayer has had to fork out £5,000+ for a Police operation. The Police have wasted a day on achieving nothing, whilst burglary, human trafficking, Cannabis Farms, Brothels and Gangs run riot. Mitchell and Butlers have missed a golden opportunity to develop a new model that may have made them millions and if it hadn't would have cost them virtually nothing. The High Court have come out of the debacle also looking unduly harsh. I don't understand why they didn't give the Occupiers a week to make an orderly departure and saved us the cost of a Police operation. The occupiers who were living at the Bohemia have been kicked out onto the streets in the middle of a very chilly spell. The local community has lost the chance to have a great resource.

I am also saddened to read some of the comments left on twitter and newspaper websites. I run a successful business. I employ people and I have done this by looking and learning and talking to my customers. Sadly many of the gloaters have no experience of this and no understanding of what a fantastic opportunity has been missed. The Friern Barnet Community Library showed what can be achieved when people work together. Sadly that was a lesson which seems to have completely passed Mitchells and Butlers by.

Guest Blog - Kicked in the stomach - By A.M Poppy

By A.M Poppy,

It’s a clear November night. It’s pitch dark, the temperature is  plummeting, and I walk home as if I’ve been kicked in the stomach.  I've discovered what it means to be gutted. I’m returning from a  squalid car-park where a small crowd of young people who have become  friends were assembled forlorn, alongside their motley belongings. Hi-viz jacketed bailiffs were silhouetted in the double doors that give  out onto the car park of the Bohemia pub from which the occupiers are  being evicted.

Under a lamppost my friends are holding an impromptu meeting deciding  what to do, where to go, how to proceed. I can’t help. I’m helpless.  The police had arrived after dark, in riot gear, with dogs and  bailiffs and broken the door down, apparently. Phoenix has never known  such haste in enforcing an eviction order. The ferocity of the entry  was captured on a local journalist’s phone. Danny takes comfort in the  fact that a neutral reporter will be able to bear independent witness  to what has occurred. The journalist as the eyes and ears of the  community, yes.

But can he be the heart and stomach of our community? Can he fathom  the significance of this expulsion to us who live near this  unglamorous, suburban high street? He needs to know that the fact  these young people had opened the space up for reading groups, yoga,  socialising, and entertainments including some daring burlesque was  just the outward surface things.

I am going to make a bold claim: That occupied Bohemia’s main  significance was immanent and symbolic, and all the more powerful for  that. Occupied Bohemia gave us a stake in the high street, a space  that we could invest with a wish, witting or unwitting. Its space  represented potential, and in potential anything is possible. Not  until I saw the gutted Bohemia – its vital organs, the occupiers,  spilled on the car-park tarmac – did I realise that a part of me had  died. A part I hadn’t known was there. A part that had invested in  that space a sense that as soon as I needed to, or wanted to, I could  make something happen in the Bohemia. That feeling has been called  many names: empowerment, self-actualisation, hope.

In a time of austerity, when options for most of us are shrinking,  when laws are tightening around us and the social safety nets are torn  apart, occupied Bohemia offered a chink of the prospect of being  agents in our own lives, of shaping our destiny at least a little bit.

With screaming riot police and dogs, the establishment has made clear  what it will do to such an impudent feeling. I’m not weeping. I’m  stunned, kicked, gutted.
Poppy was the Green Party candidate for the GLA Elections in 2012. Guest Blogs are always welcome

Friday 15 November 2013

The Friday Joke 15/11/2013

A mother is driving her little girl to her friend's house for a play date.

'Mummy ,' the little girl asks, 'how old are you?' 

'Honey, you are not supposed to ask a lady her age,' the mother replied. 'It's not polite.' 

'OK', the little girl says, 
'What colour was you hair 2 years ago? 

'Now really,' the mother says, 'those are personal questions and are really none of your business.' 

Undaunted, the little girl asks, 'Why did you and Daddy get a divorce?' 

'That's enough questions, young lady! Honestly!' 

The exasperated mother walks away as the two friends begin to play. 
'My Mum won't tell me anything about her,' the little girl says to her friend. 

'Well,' says the friend, 'all you need to do is look at her driver's licence. It's like a report card, it has everything on it.' 

Later that night the little girl says to her mother, 'I know how old you are. You are 32.'

The mother is surprised and asks, 'How did you find that out?' 

'I also know that you used to have brown hair.' 

The mother is past surprised and shocked now. 
'How in Heaven's name did you find that out?' 

'And,' the little girl says triumphantly,
 'I know why you and daddy got a divorce.' 

'Oh really?' the mother asks. 'Why?'

'Because you got an F in

Thursday 14 November 2013

Barnet disability charity’s future secured with move to Friary House

14 November 2013: Barnet charity Community Focus will move from its current location within artsdepot to Friary House in July 2014.

Community Focus has been serving vulnerable sections of the local community for over 30 years. It runs a wide range of arts courses and projects for over 1500 local adults and children. Projects include a multi-arts programme for over 600 adults, many of which have learning or physical disabilities, or mental health issues. In 2010, the charity set up GoldDust Arts, a social enterprise that has worked with hundreds of disadvantaged young Londoners.

“We are delighted to announce our move to Friary House, which means our long-term future is secure,” Tim Balogun, Director of Community Focus. “Friary House is a lovely building for an arts organisation with interesting architectural features and plenty of light. The building is fully accessible and is on local bus routes, so will be easy for our clients to reach. Friary House is nestled in the grounds of Friary Park, which will enable us to make use of the beautiful gardens for various arts activities.”

Friary House, on Friary Road, Barnet, is owned by Barnet Council, which will be helping Community Focus adapt the accommodation for its use.

“We are grateful for Barnet Council’s support,” said Tudor Spencer, the Charity’s Chair of Trustees. “Staff at the Council suggested the building and have agreed to assist us financially with adapting the accommodation.”

Community Focus has had one of its busiest years ever running more projects and reaching more people of all ages.

Some of the projects run over the last year include an animation film project for young people, the results of which were screened at the Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley; a circus project for young people where they learnt a range of skills such as plate spinning, devil sticks and clowning; and a printmaking project for adults with disabilities. The charity has continued running its in-house multi-arts programme and outreach programme for adults, many of which have disabilities or mental health issues. Courses have been run on a wide range of topics, from watercolour and drumming to dance and jewellery making.

For more information on Community Focus’ projects and courses, visit

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Why the Barnet Eye will not be printing the response from the Chief Operating Officer of Barnet Council to the Barnet Bloggers

Today I received an email from Chris Naylor, chief operating officer of Barnet Council

He starts his response by saying

"I don't think I have a huge amount to add to the answer I have already given about the decision making process, the relationship between the deal, cabinet decision and payment profile and the Council's constitution. "

Mr Naylor then waffles about various things unrelated to the letter sent (as far as I can make out), ignoring all of the substantive points raised.

He ends by saying

"Again, given that your respective blog comments and correspondence with Councillors are generating a lot of enquires for my team, I would ask that you publish this response. I will be sending a copy of this email to
Members due course."

To put it bluntly, in my humble opinion, Chris Naylor is taking the piss. Our blogs have not generated any enquiries, the actions of the council have. If and when Mr Naylor chooses to address the points properly, we will publish his response in full. Mr Naylor clearly thinks that myself and my fellow bloggers are complete idiots and by waffling he can pull the wool over our eyes.

I consider Mr Naylors letter to be a smokescreen. Our letter raised specific points and Mr Naylor has chosen to simply ignore them. Given the seriousness of the issue and the large sums of cash involved, I personally find his attitude and his response insulting. Whilst I am quite prepared for Mr Naylor to insult me personally in this manner ( I expected it) I am not prepared to dignify his response by giving him a platform on this blog to peddle such twaddle. When I first read Mr Naylors response, it was clear to me that it was a crude attempt to shift the discussion away from the serious points raised by the Barnet bloggers and onto nice safe territory for him and his political masters. I for one see no reason why I should collude with him in sweeping the awkward questions under the carpet.

We can tell you that Mr Naylor does not address the facts quoted in our letter in any way shape or form. You can read our response here -  and we are quite specific, using evidence from papers published by the council to back up our assertations. Mr Naylor just ignores all of this - If the council wants to use this blog to simply spout the opinions of what we consider to be overpaid officers, who cannot back up any of their assertions with substantive facts, then they should not be surprised when they get told to go forth and multiply.

When Mr Naylor actually bothers to respond to the points we made and stops treating the people of Barnet like idiots, we'll print his blatherings. Until such time as he does, I suggest that any readers who want to read Mr Naylors version of the truth should keep an eye on the as they seem far less fussy about what they print than we are and they seem to be the "organ of choice" that the local Tory administration use when they want to get something into the public domain.

To end with, I make yet another request for a formal independent and public enquiry into this matter. If as Mr Naylor claims, this is all entirely ship shape and above board, then that will be conclusively proven and the matter put to bed in short order. Surely if Mr Naylor is so sure of his case, then he has no grounds to refuse such a request.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Barnet Council - Response to letter regarding £16.1 million bung to Capita

Yesterday, at 18:35, I received the email detailed below on my blog email account
Dear Mr. Dishman, Mr. Dix, Ms. Musgrove and Mr. Tichborne

Cllr. Thomas and Cllr. Rams have asked me to respond to your open letter of Friday 8 November 2013. 
Please find attached

Chris Naylor
Chief Operating Officer

Management Suite, Building 2, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP
D/L: 020 8359 5193 Mobile: 07825 351801
Barnet Online:
Contents of attachment


I was not surprised by the timing of the email. It had been sent so that it would make the print deadline for the local papers, whilst giving bloggers the minimum possible time to get a sensible response back before the press went to print. I was also unsurprised to be informed that promenant local Conservative Blogger, Mr Dan Hope (who blogs and tweets under the name BarnetBugle) was leaked a copy of the letter and was tweeting about it in time for the press deadlines.

Clearly someone, somewhere at the council wanted to try and get us to rush out an ill considered response. Whilst the Barnet Eye has no objection to other bloggers writing what they like, we have to question why someone with no association with the original email was used in such a way to break the news.

Of course the Barnet Bloggers are not surprised at anything in Barnet anymore. I had speculated yesterday that just such a thing would happen, so we immediately set about mustering all of the resources available to pull together a response. Normally when we jointly draft a response, we work on it for a couple of days, but with looming press deadlines, we had to work really hard to agree a joint response, especially given the lengthy nature of the email.

The Barnet Eye found it intriguing that the Leader of the Council was not included on the list of people who Mr Naylor said were keen for him to respond. We have to ask if Councillors Thomas and Rams were actually the only ones who were happy with it. Did Mr Naylor even bother to show the semi detatched leader, Richard Cornelius? I will be monitoring the Barnet Bugle Twitter feed intently to see the next response from the Council

Here is the text agreed by the four Barnet Bloggers in response to Mr Naylor

In December 2012 the Cabinet report which authorised this contract was quite clear when it said:

Capita’s proposal also includes (within the financial offer described above) approximately £15.3m revenue investment in areas such as information technology (computer hardware and software), and customer services. This investment not only enables Capita to deliver the transformation it is proposing, but also avoids the Council having to find money in the future to fund replacement technology for systems that are at or nearing the end of their useful life”.

It went on to say:

“if the Council chose not to complete this procurement, it would have to:

• attempt to replicate the investment, technology and other solutions being proposed by  Capita in order to drive out the future savings required

In September 2013 Barnet paid Capita £15.2 million which Mr Naylor described as follows:

Of the total £320m, £16m of this is paid up-front for the capital investment. The remainder of the service charges are paid quarterly in advance. The reason for making an up-front payment to Capita for capital investment, and for payment of service charges quarterly in advance is that the Council’s “cost of money” – i.e. the amount that it pays for access to cash, is considerably cheaper than Capita’s. The Council has internal reserves, and access to the Public Works Loan Board funding which is closely aligned to the Bank of England base rate. So the up-front capital contribution and quarterly in advance payment reduce the overall cost of the contract to the taxpayer.

In August, the Council made £10.5m payment to Capita which represented the balance of the capital contribution for investment in the services, and £4.7m in respect of the service charge.”

The council have made a decision to fund the investment instead of Capita and from Mr Naylor’s response in October there is a very clear inference that this would come from reserves or borrowing. 

At the audit Committee of 23rd October the council stated:

The council agreed to fund the capital costs up front because the council benefits from a lower interest rates which keeps the overall cost of funding CSG as low as possible. The assets are Capita’s, but Capita is obligated to provide them back to the council upon contract termination for at no further cost” - again implying borrowing or lost interest on reserves.

Mr Naylor says in his letter of 11 November 2013 that:

 “there has been no change in policy, and no radical change to the terms of the business model agreed by Cabinet on 6th December 2012”.

Based on the above this would appear to be untrue.

The Cabinet report of December 2012 was very clear when it said that:

 “As dialogue has now closed, the Regulations permit that the Council may only request a bidder to clarify, specify or fine tune a tender, but further detailed negotiation is no longer permitted.”

Relieving Capita of the obligation to fund £16.1 million of capital investment which impacts the cost of the contract by £800,000 does not appear to fit these criteria.

Clarification is needed over the specific issue of the origin of the funding source used by the authority to support the £16.1 million. Mr Naylor asserts in his response that this was not from reserves, yet in his earlier statement he refers to ‘internal reserves’ and the ‘Public Works Loan Board funding’. Was the funding from reserves, or not? Was the funding borrowed, and if so, how much, and does not such an action contradict the position taken by Cabinet member Robert Rams in criticising opposition proposals to borrow money for capital investment?

Was the £16.1 million from internal reserves, contrary to Mr Naylor’s statement, or if not, why did Councillor Thomas think so?  If some of the money was obtained by a loan from the Public Works Loan Board, how much did the sum comprise, and does the use of borrowed funding not contradict Councillor Robert Ram’s stated criticism of Labour proposals to fund investment this way?

Why have our councillors remained so reluctant to address the questions publicly, and why has the Leader of the Council remained silent on an issue of such public concern?

Why was the belated statement about the £16.1 million at the behest of Councillors Thomas and Rams, rather than the Leader?

There are further unanswered questions about the authorisation signed by Leader Richard Cornelius on August 5th.

Why is a decision, which is not a decision, listed as a ‘non key decision’?

Why are there no background papers listed for this document?

What exactly are the ‘international financial reporting standards’ to which the document refers?

If this authorisation was merely a technicality, why was it necessary for the Leader to approve it, rather than a senior officer acting under delegated powers?

Were the backbench Conservative members aware that the funding of the capital investment was not in fact an ‘upfront’ payment from Capita, but to be undertaken by the council? If they were, why have so many statements been made seeming to imply the contrary?

Is the truth that although the method of funding the investment this way was arranged between Barnet and Capita, for reasons of political sensitivity the Conservative administration has failed properly to explain this to backbench members or the residents of this borough?

Is it fair to suggest, as the Labour leader Alison Moore commented at last week’s Cabinet meeting, that the way in which the funding has been arranged would appear to involve a ‘sleight of hand’, and is this really compliant with the principles of transparency, accountability and open government, and the duty to protect the best interests of the residents and tax payers of this borough?

It is clear that there are still many serious outstanding questions left unresolved and for this reason we repeat our call for an immediate investigation into the issue so as to ensure that our elected representatives are fulfilling their roles in the proper scrutiny of the actions of this council.

Derek Dishman
John Dix
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne