Sunday 29 April 2018

The Tweets of The Week in The London Borough of Barnet - 29/04/2018

It's Sunday, so it's time for the Tweets of the Week!

1. We start with a great picture of Mill Hill observatory

2. Some great pics of Mill Hill Park!

3. A date for your diary

4. Great work for the community in Finchley

5. The ducks are coming! Lovely pics from Totteridge

6. Can you help Barnet Council tell the story of the RAF in Hendon

7. What could I possibly say about this?

 8. Fancy some live Jazz on the eve of the local elections?br />

9. Wildlife Pic of the week

10. Need a badge for your band, event or promotion. Mill Hill has it's own badgemaker!


That's all folks!

Saturday 28 April 2018

Barnet Council Election Countdown - 5 days to go

As we count down to the May 3rd Barnet Council Election We will be bringing you some of the 'achievements' of the Barnet Conservatives from the last four years.  There are the ones that are not on the expensive full page adverts that they are buying on the local paper.

Last year we saw perhaps the most shocking story of the last few years. OFSTED inspected Barnet Councils childrens services and rated them as having serious failings putting young people at risk.

To quote the Ham & High
"The damning report, published yesterday, reveals: “There are widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children and their families in Barnet. Inspectors identified a legacy of widespread poor practice and ongoing systemic failures and services that neither adequately ensure the safety nor promote the welfare of children and young people."

"Children’s Social Services will continue to receive special attention so that we will be graded as ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted. All councillors are corporate parents to Children in Care and it is our job to make sure they get a decent life. All children and young people need protection from all kinds of danger and the Council will make sure that they get that safety. "

What they don't mention is that the improvement has been brought about by Essex County Council being brought in to turn things around. The Barnet Times reported
"through the implementation of an improvement board and a partnership with Essex County Council, the services have seen "consistent" progress and is showing improvements in some areas, according to inspectors in a recent monitoring visit."
I would urge all of the Barnet electorate to consider whether the an administration that has been proven to have failed are worthy of receiving a vote. 

Friday 27 April 2018

Barnet Council Election Countdown - Six Days to Go

Today we start our countdown to the Council Election - We will be bringing you some of the 'achievements' of the Barnet Conservatives from the last four years.  There are the ones that are not on the expensive full page adverts that they are buying on the local paper.

Here is a Conservative election leaflet, which I handily photocopied a few years ago.

As you can see, one of the boasts was about extending the Freedom Pass. Sadly since the bright, sunny days when Boris was Mayor and Brian Coleman was his envoy to the London Borough of Barnet, the Barnet Conservatives have not managed to run the scheme very well.

Back on the 4th April 2016, I got a rather worrying email from a young man who I knew well as he'd done work experience at my studios. He rather worryingly told me that his Freedom Pass seemed to have been cancelled by Barnet Council without warning, leaving him in a very difficult situation at Finchley Central Tube Station. As he has the pass due to special needs, I was worried. I posted a blog. It transpired that hundreds of disabled people had suffered the same problems. Due to the Barnet Eye exposing this and the stirling work of my fellow bloggers, we established that Barnet Council had not behaved in accordance with the law and the passes were returned.

What sort of an administration picks on disabled young people to bear the burden of savings, especially when the policy is not legal?

The young man who initiated the investigation has come forward and asked me too make a video, so he could explain what happened. He feels strongly that people in Barnet should know. Given his situation, I ensured that his parents were happy for him to speak publicly. They insisted that he should be heard. Please watch this video. He has summoned considerable courage to make it.

I rather hope this helps you make your choice on 3rd May.

Thursday 26 April 2018

Finchley deserve better - If Amber Rudd can apologise for Windrush scandal why can't Mike Freer

This morning, I was surprised to see that Amber Rudd has made a public act of contrition for her mismanagement of the Windrush Scandal. As my father was a Commonwealth citizen, who came to the UK to fly warplanes for the RAF in WWII, I can understand how it must feel to be told you or your parents are not wanted in the UK. If someone had wanted to send my Dad back because his paperwork had been destroyed in a bureacratic blunder, I would have been outraged, and I would have not sat back and would have been on the streets demanding the sacking of those responsible.

I have a friend who is caught up in all this. He has been posting on Facebook detailing his feelings. Here is just one of his comments
"As I sit here in the Caribbean I find myself still in shock at the injustice of a practice that has been on-going for years. I ask again, why didn’t the church leaders speak up before now, same question to the MPs and other civil leaders. Why too have the heads of the commonwealth countries been quiet about a practice that must have been known to them before now!!! My anger and disappointment is showing no signs of abating"

He is absolutely livid that hard working people who have lived here for decades have been demonised by an official policy. That even the Daily Express has realised that it is unacceptable shows just how disgusting the whole matter is.

Sadly, Finchley MP Mike Freer takes a different view. To quote the Times
The Windrush scandal “is absolutely nothing to do with immigration reforms introduced under the Cameron government”. Mike Freer made the claim, at odds with public apologies from Amber Rudd and Theresa May, in an email to a constituent yesterday. 
The home secretary and prime minister have acknowledged that recently introduced policies to tighten entitlements have had unintended consequences for Caribbean-born long-term British residents. Replying to a constituent’s complaint about the “impact of the hostile environment policy introduced by Theresa May”, Mr Freer, the MP for Finchley and Golders Green, wrote: “The policy was to make it harder for ILLEGAL immigrants to settle in the UK. The Windrush people were and are legal. Wholly separate and unconnected. So it really is the height of opportunism and hypocrisy for the opposition to take some moral high ground”
Why can't Mike Freer stand up for hard working residents, rather than trying to spin his way out of the situation. If Amber Rudd, who is clearly a more successful, clever and competent politician than Freer,  can own up and apologise for the appalling behaviour of her government, why is Freer unable to show the same humility?

When it comes to morality and treating people fairly, you cannot pick and choose. I joined the Lib Dems as I believe they are the party most committed to fairness and equality. As a grown up, I recognise that our party is not perfect, has issues and has made bad decisions. Having said that, I passionately believe that we need a strong third party in UK politics. What has happened in the country since 2015 has shown this. In Barnet the Lib Dem/Lab coalition 1994/2002 was a stable period of administration, where decency was the norm in the council chamber. Since then, we've seen numerous cases of councillors being reported to the standards committee for breaches of the councils code of conduct. We've seen Conservative councillors banned from driving and even one found gulity of assaulting a member of the public. Mike Freer has form in the lack of respect, in many way his adminstration set the sorry tone. Whilst leader of the Council, he described both myself and David Miller, who had been the Chair of the Chipping Barnet Conservatives as "One Handed Bloggers", He said:
“I have a group of followers what I call the ‘one handed bloggers’. I’ll leave it to your own imagination what the other hand is doing."
I am not surprised by Mike Freer's response to Windrush. His reaction to David Miller is indicative of his attitude to criticism. He is thin skinned and gets nasty. For those of you who don't know David Miller, he was a long standing Tory stalwart. His mother was Baroness Hendon, a highly respected Conservative peer. Despite all of the insults, David never stopped being a Conservative. 

I could never really understand why Freer was allowed to get away with such rudeness by his party. I was even more shocked when he was selected as a Parliamentary candidate. As I'm not a member of the Conservative Party, I cannot answer why they didn't seem bothered.  But what I can say is that Mike Freer's behaviour towards the Windrush scandal is likely to have exactly the same impact on all decent people as the prevarification in the Labour Party in regards to anti semitism. When it comes to equality and anti racism, you cannot pick and choose. 

My views on Racism have not changed, it is wrong full stop. 41 years ago, I bought a Rock Against Racism badge. The first gig I ever organised was at Harwood Hall. It breaks my heart that Racism is still rife in society. After the gig, I received a letter from the council stating that I'd organised an illegal event and it was packed with undesirables  (I wonder why) and I would be prosecuted if I arranged another one.

It seems that the attitude of the Finchley MP towards certain members of our community has not moved on in 38 years. In fact, Mr Freer's attitude is at odds in some ways with that of his predecessor Lady Thatcher. One of the more amusing anecdotes I tell is that when we received the letter, my mum (bearing in mind I was 16 at the time), rang Thatcher, who she knew from the Hendon Overseas Friendship Association. She explained that the Council were trying to stop young people from organising events to keep kids off the street. She explained that "my son and his friends, who he met as Alter Servers at The Sacred Heart (true! but not the whole story), were organising a music night at the Church Hall and the Council were trying to ban it". Thatcher called the then leader of the Council, who clearly scared by a call from the Prime Minister, immediately wrote a letter of apology to my mother and stated the Council were more than happy for the gigs to continue. Maybe Theresa May should take a leaf out of Lady Thatchers book and ring Mike Freer to explain why he's got this totally wrong.  We organised three more there.

In a fair and just society, both Amber Rudd and Theresa May would be sacked for this. As for Mike Freer, I sincerely hope the people of his constituency in Finchley and Golders Green send him a strong message in the local elections next week. 

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Local MP Mathew Offord defends Capita in the House of Commons rather than sticking up for residents

Sometimes you really couldn't make it up. It seems to me that the local Conservatives have an electoral deathwish. What other possible explanation could there be for the rather bizarre intervention by our local MP for Hendon in the Houses of Parliament today. Liberal Democrat Leader, Vince Cable, at the request of the Barnet Lib Dems, had asked the minister responsible to make a statement regarding the financial position of Capita. As Barnet has a massive outsourcing contract with Capita, it is clear that residents and taxpayers should be sure that the situation regarding Capitas finances is being monitored at the highest levels. As a member of the Barnet Lib Dems and a candidate in Mill Hill, I'd like to thank Vince for raising the topic.

This intervention has rather rattled the local Tories, who it seems are now seeing the local Lib Dems as the main challengers in the London Borough of Barnet. What other possible explanation can their be for the local Tory MP, Mr Matthew Offord to use a precious parliamentary question to try and smear the Lib Dems. Quite bizarrely, he actually attacked the policies of the coalition government, of which he was a member.

Photo of Matthew OffordMatthew Offord Conservative, Hendon

Barnet Council has a significant contract with Capita. It also has a business continuity planning framework that monitors liquidity and indebtedness. It reviewed the situation twice last year, and again after the recent profit warning, and the company was shown to be far from reaching the relevant threshold for triggering any action, but in the local elections, the Liberal Democrats are using the issue to scaremonger. I urge the Minister not to take advice or direction from someone who undersold Royal Mail by £1 billion and then called the loss “froth”.

So lets have a look at Mr Offords charges. He claims that the Local Lib Dems are scaremongering about Capita. So is he correct? Is it scaremongering, or should Barnet residents be worried. Well lets have a look at Capita's share price. The One Barnet contract was signed in 2013. If I'd invested my savings in Capita shares then, I'd be sitting on an enormous loss.  I actually used to be a Capita shareholder. I sold my shares when the One Barnet deal was being mooted, as I thought it was going to be bad for the company. I've seen nothing to change my mind since.

Mr Offord also stated that Barnet Council reviewed the situation twice last year and once this year. I seem to recall that Mr Offord was Deputy Leader of Barnet Council when Icelandic banks went bust. At the time, the response of Mr Offord and his Leader Mike Freer was that "no one could have foreseen the situation". This was in spite of numerous warnings that Offord and Freer chose to ignore. As I said at the time, when dealing with public money, politicians should not be gambling. Let me remind you of what Mike Freer said on his blog at the time and my response in bold

Nobody foresaw the collapse of the entire banking sector either in the United Kingdom or Iceland. Claims that Council’s saw this collapse coming are spurious, and after contacting a number of authorities including Brighton & Hove they have advised that they were lucky, and that their deposits simply matured and were paid back on the due date originally agreed with the banks. They did not make the conscious decision to withdraw and indeed, Icelandic banks remained on their approved list of banks for use well into 2008. 

The independent article makes it quite clear that Councils using Butlers, were far more likely to be affected by the problems. It seems that Councils not advised by Butlers were much luckier than those which were. Who rates the ratings agencies.
It is worth reading the article from the Independent in full. It is clear that Mr Offord has form for missing warning signs and only listening to information that is what he wants to hear. Of course the Capita situation is different to Icelandic banks, but to claim that all is rosy is quite ludicrous. Mr Offord has past form for mismanaging contractors whilst at Barnet Council, in 2008 Mr Offord announced  a £12 million redevelopment of Aerodrome Road rail Bridge. By 2009 the costs had spiralled to £23 Million. It seems that Mr Offord hasn't learned that contractors need to be properly managed. As an MP, he should be making sure his constituents concerns are addressed.

The Barnet Eye is quite shocked that Mr Offord seems to be more interested in sticking up for Capita than making them do their job. The hub of the matter is that Capita are not serving the interests of Barnet residents.  As Wednesday is my day off, I decided to visit my parents grave and pay my respects. Like parents of thousands of other residents, they are buried in Hendon Cemetery, in the heart of Mr Offords constituency. The cemetery is managed by Capita. Prior to Capita taking on management, the cemetery was well maintained and it was always consoling to visit. Now I hardly ever go, because it is heartbreaking to see the state of disrepair. I thought I'd respectfully make a short film to illustrate the lack of maintenance we are seeing from Mr Offords favourite contractor. We'd like to ask Mr Offord why he isn't berating Capita to sort the mess out, rather than indulging in silly point scoring in the Commons.

Have a look at this short film and tell me what you think.

It breaks my heart. My Father flew Wellington bombers for the RAF, was shot down, taken POW, escaped and went on to become a senior air accident investigation officer in the RAF before starting a business in Mill Hill and employing dozens of local people. I believe his memory deserves better.

We have an MP and a council who have no interest in the people they are meant to serve. The state of Hendon Cemetery tells you everything you need to know about what happens when you let private contractors loose on public services without proper monitoring.

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Barnet Council website not working properly for voting information - Another #CapitaFail

I have been contacted by an elderly Barnet resident who is confused about the process for postal voting. She rang me and said that she was most confused as she's been sent two return envelopes, one labelled "A" and one labelled "B".  I asked if she there was a leaflet, but she said it was hard to read and understand. Of course I will be going around later to sort the problem out, but it seems to me to be a poor system, especially when many postal voters are elderly with poor eyesight etc.

I thought I'd see if there was any guidance on the council website. I went to the "Useful forms" page on the website. Many pages are not working properly and the menus take voters to the wrong pages or even ones that don't exist. The Barnet Council website is a vital resource for voters needing help and it is unacceptable that it is not working. It is just the latest example of the One Barnet Capita outsourcing contract failing to deliver.

It is scandalous that Capita and Barnet Council cannot get their website working for voters in the fortnight before an election. It appears that they've made changes and not even bothered to test them. When I tried to access the "Postal votes" page from the useful forms page I was sent to the results page for the 2017 General election.

When I tried the "Proxy Votes" page, I got "Page Not Found", it is simply unacceptable and exemplifies the slapdash approach to the public.
Yesterday the Tories  Deputy Leader Dan Thomas told the Barnet Times that Capita's share price had gone up 13% when queried about the companies problems. He should stop being a cheerleader for a private company and start getting them to do their job. It is well known in IT companies that the quickest way to save money is to cut testing and QA. It is clear that Capita's troubles are impacting Barnet.

**** Update - It appears that the press interest in this story has resulted in the issue being fixed in record time. It is funny how an election focuses minds at Barnet Council. The Barnet Borough Times reported "Barnet Council denied there was an issue with a link.  A council spokesman said: “The website pages displaying information on applying for postal and proxy vote are working and there have been no problem with these.  The issue identified was as a result of an old link directing to the elections pages and this has been refreshed."

This seems like a rather contradictory statement to us!

Monday 23 April 2018

Many thanks for your continued support of the Barnet Eye blog!

Roger Tichborne
A quick note to all readers of the Barnet Eye blog. As of now. we've had 2,368,026 page views, since we started keeping stats. That is an incredible number. It will have probably have gone up a few more by the time you read this. There is a counter in the bar at the side of the page, if not viewed on a mobile phone.

I am especially pleased to say that March 2018 was our best ever month for page views. When I started the blog back in 2008, I thought that there was a lack of proper coverage of local Barnet issues in the local press. I never expected the blog to last nine and a half years of get over two million views. As the first two years views are not counted, it is actually far more.
Blog views 2010-2018

This blog saw the launch of a series of blogs in Barnet, such as Mr Reasonable, Mr Mustard and Mrs Angry's blogs. All are excellent in their own way. It takes a huge amount of effort and energy to keep writing it. I've written over 4.5 million words in that time. We've broken many news stories locally and we've helped raise a huge amount of money for local charities.

We always welcome guest blogs, so if you have a topic you want to blog about, get in touch. If you want to raise money for a charity or publicise an event tell us. The second most read blog ever on this site is a guest blog from 2010. I don't edit them (unless there are typo's etc). I don't publish slander or swear words or  personal attacks on individuals. I try and keep it all positive, not easy when writing a local blog.

Since I started, I've also written many blogs about my ongoing struggle against Prostate cancer and my life with dyslexia. Both are issue close to my heart. Many people have said just how much this has helped them. The seventh most read blog on this site is "The practical guide to watching someone die". It is important that we speak about these issues. I think that even if I gave up writing about local politics, I'd still want to cover these topics.

Music is a passion, as anyone who knows me will testify to. My one biggest failure with this blog is that I don't cover the local music scene properly. If there is anyone out there who wants to become the music blogger for the Barnet Eye please get in touch!

As we approach the local elections next week, I can make one promise. That win, loose or draw (if such thing is possible), the Barnet Eye will still be here. If we win, then we will use the blog to keep you informed of the workings of the council from an insider perspective. We will try and ensure an unsurpassed level of transparency. If we lose, we will simply carry on as normal. Whatever happens, I will still be writing music, running Mill Hill Music Complex Studios, organising Mill Hill Music Festival, volunteering at the Mill Hill Churches homeless project, acting as chair of a local educational charity, playing football and all the other things that call on my time. They say if you want something doing, ask a busy man.

But mostly I just wanted to thank the readers of this blog for their continued support, through good times and bad, through the highs and lows of the last 9 1/2 years. Here's to the next 9/12 years!

Barnet Council on the precipice as Capita posts monster losses

This morning, the strategic partner of Barnet Council - Capita (silent "R") posted absolutely enormous losses.  The BBC is reporting that they are doing a cash call of £700 million to prop the business up, after a series of disasterous mistakes. To help pay the bills, the company is also disposing of £300 million worth of businesses. Even more worrying is that Barnet Council has used taxpayers funds to make advance payments to the company, despite it being clear that the company has massive financial difficulties. Respected Barnet commentator, John Dix recently wrote

"While payments to Capita and Re look relatively modest that is because of the large advance payments paid last year which you can see more clearly in the chart below:

Comensura is still receiving large sums of money and while this month that was "only" £1.15 million, to date we have paid Comensura £16 million with one month of the financial year remaining as you can see in the chart below:

As we reported last week, the Barnet Conservatives deselected Councillor Sury Khatri for the forthcoming elections as he was keen to call time on this financial mismanagement. Watch what Councillor Khatri said here

The Barnet Conservative party have tried to sweep this under the carpet, with candidates and councillors posting a series of ever more personal and childish tweets about Councillor Khatri.

As the Hale Candidate Mr Jajeh seems to be under the illusiuon that Sury Khatri has been happy with the Tory administration, let me remind him of his discontent about Capita back in September 2013. These are the words of Former local Tory Bigwig Brian Coleman.
"Councillor Sury Khatri (Mill Hill Ward) Elected in 2010 when 16 years of Liberal dominance in Mill Hill ended. Heavy smoker who dislikes virtually every aspect of Conservative Group policy . Made a speech once in the Conservative Group in which he attacked privatisation , parking policy , One Barnet , Library closures , cuts etc and which colleagues thought was a resignation  speech but still he hangs on . Quite happy to tell anyone who asks that "One Barnet" is crazy (as he did at the Audit Committee a couple of months ago ) . Many Tory Councillors think he is barking and wonder if he will sign up to the 2014 Manifesto . Will cause problems if the Tory Administration is reelected next year with a slim majority. The Tory Councillor most likely to defect to Labour . "
As you can see, since September 2013, Cllr Khatri, as deputy chair of the Audit committee has been sceptical about the One Barnet/Capita project. I have spoken to Sury on many occasions privately about One Barnet. He has always said that he felt it was his civic duty to act as a critic in his role in the Audit committee. On Saturday, he confirmed my suspicions that as the Deputy Leader of Barnet Council, Dan Thomas, sees the One Barnet/Capita project as his own, he was determined to silence Sury Khatri.

Normally internal squabbles in the local Conservative Party have little bearing on the public. However the potential collapse of Capita is a totally different matter. They are involved in almost every aspect of the council. Back in January the Barnet Eye sent a Freedom of Information request to Barnet Council asking about contingency plans for a Capita failure. This followed the collapse of Carillion. As we detailed last week, no such plans existed, beyond a few clauses in the contract with Capita, which by definition would have collapsed if a contingency plan was needed.

The biggest threat to Barnet is that the expertise has been lost to the Borough. For Barnet to extract itself from a collapse of Capita would be like the proverbial attempts to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

As a  long term Barnet resident, I cannot believe that what used to be a well run council has got itself into such a mess. This is what happens when we let political ideology rule over common sense.

Sunday 22 April 2018

The Tweets of the Week in the London Borough of Barnet - 22/04/2018

It's Sunday, so it's that time of the week again for our most popular regular article.

Don't forget to follow any tweeters who tickle your fancy!

1. Lets start with a rather nice tweet from Mill Hill

2. Always good to see the 2nd Edgware scouts out and about! A great way for youngsters to have fun and learn great skills

3. Big shout out to Jade Ward Nurses at Edgware Hospital

4. Tragic news. Another violent death in our Borough

5. A new arrival at one of the jewels in our Borough's crown

6. Got Green fingers? A date for your diary!

7. One of our esteemed former residents had an important anniversary this week!

8. Another date for your diary. This time one for sports and cricket lovers

9. Great work from our amazing local Rugby team

10. What could be better, music and sunshine in Mill Hill!

That's all Folks!

Saturday 21 April 2018

The Saturday List #173 - The Top Ten Football Managers of all Time

Image result for brian clough
Brian Clough - the all time greatest manager in England
Yesterday Arsene Wenger announced he was leaving Arsenal after 22 years. For many that is a lifetime. With three League Trophies and seven FA Cups, Wenger will go down as one of the greats. I thought I'd compile my Top Ten English Team Managers of all time. I've not included any current managers, apart from Wenger as he is in the departure lounge. I doubt that he'll do anything to enhance his legacy in English football from here on in.

1. Brian Clough (Derby, Nottingham Forest)

2.  Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United)

3. Bill Shankly (Liverpool)

4. Bob Paisley (Liverpool)

5. Sir Matt Busby (Manchester United)

6. Herbert Chapman (Huddersfield,Arsenal)

7.. Arsene Wenger (Arsenal)

8. Bill Nicholson (Spurs)

9. Joe Mercer (Manchester City)

10.  Don Revie (Leeds)

When I started to pull this list together, I thought it would be quite easy. It was anything but. How can you possibly say whether Herbert Chapman was a better manager than Arsene Wenger, given that both managed in different era's? Chapman won the league twice with two different clubs. He was the first English supermanager and died at his peak.

How could Alex Ferguson possibly lose out to Brian Clough? If it was a simple count of trophies, then of course Sir Alex Ferguson would be no 1. However, you also have to look at the club, the resources and the time. Clough won the league with two small town clubs and won the European Cup twice, taking both teams from the Second Division. In short he had a far steeper mountain to climb with far fewer resources. How could Shankly finish above Paisley, when Paisley won far more for the same club? That is perhaps easier, as Shankly built the team and put the structures in place for Paisley. No Shankly, no Paisley success.  How could Don Revie make the list and Kenny Dalglish not? Dalglish won three league titles with Liverpool and one with unfashionable Blackburn, wheras Revie only one one league title and one FA cup with Leeds? That was a very hard one, I omitted Dalglish as his reign really brought the golden years of Liverpool domination to an end. Whilst his achievements with Blackburn were impressive, the success was built on sand and evaporated as quickly as it appeared.

To make the list, the manager had to not only win things but transform the club. All of the managers on the list took the clubs to a higher level and built a legacy. Joe Mercer at Manchester City took a club languishing in the Second division won a league title, the FA Cup, the League cup and the European cup winners cup in short succession. The club threw his legacy away in the following decade with mismanagement, bad appointments and bad buys. Bill Nicholson was the first manager in the modern era to win the double, at a time when it was seen as nigh on impossible.

As I said, it was a hard list to put together, but I think it is just about right. If I put another one together, it will be interesting to see who of the current crop makes it. Will Pepe, Jose and Jurgen make it? I think that in the Premiership era, when it is almost impossible to "do a Leicester", the managers of the big clubs have to do far more than Revie to qualify for a place in the greats. Maybe if Sean Dysche wins the Premiership with Burnley, that would guarantee a place. I thought about Ranieri, his achievement with Leicester was awesome, but there was no legacy and to be a great you need more than one fantastic season. I suspect that Pepe needs a Champions League or two and a couple more league titles to get near Joe Mercer.

I am sure that there will be all manner of fans of all manner of clubs calling me an idiot as they read this. If you disagree, make your own list!

Friday 20 April 2018

Hugh Rayner, chair of Barnet Audit, slams his own committee for poor training and skirting over issues

Last night Long serving Barnet Councillor and chair of Audit, Hugh Rayner, chaired his final meeting of the committee. As is the way when a councillor retires, Cllr Rayner said a few words about the committee and the insights he'd gained in his time as chair. Normally these speeches are an exercise in backslapping. Last nights meeting was perhaps the most explosive end of term meeting in the history of the council. As we reported earlier, the Deputy Chair of the Committee, Sury Khatri blasted his own (former) party and stated that residents were being fleeced. In all the excitement of this explosive revealation, many will have forgotten the fact that Councillor Rayner also blasted (albiet in a more calm and measured way) the workings of his own committee. Councillor Rayner claimed that the committee wasn't properly trained for the job, that the committee had skirted over issues. Watch this clip. Here is what Councillor Rayner said.

"The Audit Committee is an important committee. It is important  that members get involved in the process and are able to ask the deep questions that are necessary. I sometimes get the impression that we skirt over a little bit, possibly by lack of knowledge, but good training will lead to better auditing"


In short, last night we saw the chair of the Audit committee saying that the committee members lacked proper training and had skirted over issues. When you then consider that his vice chair stated that residents are being fleeced by Capita and other contractors and that the leadership doesn't like difficult questions, there can be no doubt that the administration is out of its depth, badly run and not capable of making sure that anything is being done properly.

The complete mess that the council have made, with a top heavy structure of contractors monitoring contractors and no one being properly accountable was exposed by local blogger John Dix (AKA Mr Reasonable) who asked a question of the committee that reveals why it is almost impossible to get anything done properly in Barnet. Just watch this short clip. Near the end, Hugh Rayner asks whether the structure could be better. The non answer sums up just why we need a new broom.


The Barnet Eye believes that John Dix should be co-opted onto the Audit committee as an independent peoples representative to ask these robust and difficult questions. I am quite frankly in awe of what John has done. He is constantly denied access to documents and fobbed off, yet he asks harder and more searching questions than the rest of the committee.

I applaud Hugh Rayner for telling the truth. Sadly, like Sury Khatri, it seems that the more capable and independent minded members of the Tory party are surpluss to requirements. As Sury Khatri said "As Cllr Dan Thomas (Deputy Leader of the Barnet Conservatives) lays the ground for his right wing and hard Brexit based leadership coup, he only wants yes men in the Conservative group"

 The Barnet Eye was the first blog to film a meeting in the council chamber, before it was officially allowed. Rather amusingly, it was Hugh Rayner who we chose to film. Hugh was not best pleased at the time, but we won the day and I think it is quite appropriate that we were there to film what is perhaps the finest moment from Hugh in the Council Chamber. As a candidate for the Lib Dems in Mill Hill in the elections in May, I absolutely guarantee that I will ensure that Hugh's suggestions are taken up. Like Hugh, I believe good scrutiny is the key to success. I suspect that I will be having quite a few friendly cups of tea with Hugh to pick his brains on how to ensure Barnet residents get good service. I will make this vow to Hugh and every other Barnet resident. If I get in, I will not wait until my final council meeting to make important points that are vital to ensure value for money for residents. I will ask these questions from day one.

Blistering farewell speech from retiring Mill Hill Councillor says Barnet Residents getting fleeced

Last night, respected and well liked Mill Hill Councillor, Sury Khatri made a farewell speech at the Barnet Council Audit Committee.  . Sury was the vice chair of this committee, a role recognising his status as one of the most capable members of the Conservative administration. The committee is one of the most important in Barnet as it has ultimately responsibility for the oversight of the business of Barnet Council. What Sury said was devastating. Watch this video.

Chair, it is usual for the vice chair of a committee to thank the chair at the end of the municipal year. As this is my last meeting as a Barnet councillor, perhaps you will permit me a few final valedictory words too?
It has been an honour to serve as their community champion for the residents of Mill Hill for 8 years. In that time I have tried my best to take up their issues and concerns, and deliver real positive changes, such as the diving club, the future of the library and with the many planning applications we have received. I fear though that my zealous advocacy for the residents of Mill Hill may have cost me the selection.  As Cllr Dan Thomas (Deputy Leader of the Barnet Conservatives) lays the ground for his right wing and hard Brexit based leadership coup, he only wants yes men in the Conservative group, and thus I have been discarded. Astonishing that after 8 years of serving the community, without a blemish on my record and more than a decade serving the party amounted to zero.
I have had residents contacting me expressing shock and disgust – a Conservative councillor telling me among other things that when joined the Conservative party it was not this party – a nasty party. Isn’t it telling that of the 31 other councillors only a handful had the decency to contact me expressing also shock and disgust. Today have the party group chairman sitting alongside here but not even a squeak - silence is deafening. We have been hearing for some time that deselection was discussed last summer and that the exercise should be prolonged to the 11th hour – damage limitation was on mind. Momentum has arrived in the Conservative party. however, my time at the council has been overshadowed by the disastrous Capita contracts, which is falling apart at the seams. 4 years on issues still keep crawling out the woodwork. This contract represents poor value for money, and the residents are being fleeced. I believe my deselection by Daniel Thomas is motivated by my scepticism of the Capita contracts. Today’s public questions and current media reports vividly illustrates the complete incompetence of capita. The contracts are a shambles and a disaster and performing badly and council taxpayers are being fleeced by Capita .
Some examples:
The new depot – this has been badly mismanaged but Cllr Thomas should be more worried about his own dire performance. The disaster we have seen with bin collections these last two weeks are because of his disastrous management of the move from the Mill Hill depot to the Abbots depot and having to pay over the odds, He is the chair of ARG (assets, regeneration & Growth) committee, and it is now apparent that there is not enough room for the repair of vehicles, and I understand there are serious problems with the structures. one cannot put such important projects in the hands of such a useless person. who is going to pick up the tab, not Capita but Barnet taxpayers?
Another example - take the millions paid to Capita and which are lost and irrecoverable due to their incompetence on the design of the site in north london – not been made public, why? next estates. The list is long but time is against me. I want to thank all the officers connected with this committee and those of the other committees, governance officers with whom I have the pleasure to work with and for the support they extended me in carrying out my councillor duties – very much appreciated.
But returning to my thanks to the chair - although I am finding it difficult I will say only this on behalf of the committee members to thank the chairman for the neutral and inclusive manner he has conducted the meetings during the last 12 months. This is your last meeting too, as you have stood down from hale. All I can say is that the people of Hale will get a significant upgrade in the quality of their representation if they vote for the labour candidates - Ernest, Rachel and Liron. They deserve better.  I hope the residents deliver the right result on 3rd May – Conservatives losing control. Thank you"

Roger Tichborne, Lib Dem candidate for Mill Hill commented "Councillor Khatri is one of the most respected politicians in the Borough. This was recognised by the administration in his appointment as the vice chair of the audit committee. It is disgraceful that he appears to have been deselected because he was asking too many difficult questions. If Councillor Khatri says that residents are being fleeced, then he is someone who knows. He has said that he hopes residents deliver the right result on May 3rd. In Mill Hill, this means voting Lib Dems. Only the Lib Dems will curb the excesses of both the hard right and the loony left in Barnet. Our candidates have solid experience of running businesses and a long record of working for the community, rather than for vested interests. Last nights events in the council chamber show just how desperately the council needs people with common sense and common decency. The Lib Dems were the majority party in Mill Hill from 1994 to 2010. Mill Hill residents voted for Sury because they recognised he was a sensible and decent Conservative in 2010. Sadly for Sury and for Mill Hill, it is clear that these values have been abandoned by the Conservative Party. We hope that all Mill Hill residents recognise that it is time to return to these values with a vote for the Liberal Democrats".

Thursday 19 April 2018

Summer arrives in Mill Hill - Some views around town

Summer has really arrived in Mill Hill. It seems hard to believe that a month ago we were shivering in snowy conditions and wearing ten layers.
Walking around Mill Hill park, it was great to see so many people in the cafe, playing football, sunbathing. Shame about the full bins and litter, but lets not dwell on that today, lets celebrate our community.

So come on everybody, lets see your tweets of our fantastic neighbourhood.

Here's a couple of mine.

And here's a few that caught my eye.

I think I am blessed to live in Mill Hill. It is worth fighting to keep it like these.

P.S. I've signed up to support the Pesticide Free Barnet Campaign. All those lovely blooms need bees. Lets do our bit to protect them.

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Getting a Good Deal for Barnet residents?

This week the Barnet Conservatives published their manifesto, claiming they will be "Getting a Good Deal". This is what their manifesto says

Click on image for more readable version
Given that the Barnet Conservatives have been running the council since 2002, we have a record to judge them against. As such it is fairly simple to see if we can trust them to get a good deal. Lets look at what they say in the first paragraph
"It is no good us paying more into the Metropolitan Police budget than any other borough while getting the fewest police officers per head in return"
To my eyes, this says that the Barnet Conservatives have managed to bungle their way to getting us the worst deal from The Mayor of any Borough in London. I was quite staggered to read that they think boasting about how bad they are at getting a deal would win votes. In the second paragraph they state
"Barnet will not spend more of your money on extra police when you have already paid for them. Labour’s Mayor owes you those officers and we will fight to see that they are delivered"
For some reason, the Barnet Conservatives have an obsession with the Mayor of London. They even passed a motion in Council labelling him an "enemy of the people". In my business career, I've done several courses, including one on negotiating. The first rule when trying to get a good deal is to build a relationship with the other party. Calling them names is guaranteed to make it as hard as possible to get a good deal. As I said at the start, we have to judge the manifesto against the record. The record shows that the Barnet Conservatives do not have the common sense to work constructively with the Mayor.

Then there is funding from the Conservative government (which has been running the country since 2010 in one form or another). How good a deal have the Barnet Conservatives been getting?
"Where a Barnet voice is required in negotiating with Government or City Hall, a
Conservative Council will not sit quietly. As it stands, direct Government funding to the boroughs is unfair; Barnet gets £200 per head whilst Camden receives £505 per head"
Sadly for the Barnet Conservatives, they can't blame the Mayor for this one. They've had eight years to get a better deal. There own manifesto demonstrates that they can't.

Then they move onto how they manage contractors. They say
"We will continue to seek good value for money and will work with
our staff and contractors to make sure Barnet gets the services it deserves."
The figures tell a different story, with huge overspending on contracts with Capita and Re.

Over £116 million in overspending since 2013. Does that demonstrate that they can get a good deal? They go on to say
"Contractors will be robustly monitored to ensure continued value for money. 
This is at odds with reality. In 2014, they sacked the staff who monitored highway repairs. The result is a plague of potholes in the Borough. Anyone who has ever employed builders will know that if you don't check the work they do, then it isn't done properly. They go on to claim
"Contingency plans will be maintained to ensure that, whatever happens in our borough, the emergency will not catch Barnet Council out."
On January 15th, following the collapse of Carillion, I sent an FOI request to Barnet Council asking whether a contingency plan existed for the collapse of Capita.  I am rather surprised to see that the page on the council website, does not note that I appealed against the response from Barnet Council and that my appeal was upheld. The response pointed to documents released on 27th February, which were over a month after my request.

It was clear from my discussions with Barnet Council that no  propercontingency plan existed on 15th January, apart from some contract provisions (that would be very hard to enforce against a bankrupt company). This email states

 Dear Mr Tichborne
I write further to our email acknowledging your request for an internal review into the handling of your request for information.

You have requested an internal review of the Council's response in relation to your request.  I have undertaken the internal review and uphold your complaint, the outcome of my review is set out below.  Your complaint is upheld in part.
The request was overlooked and not logged until 23 February 2018 for which I apologise.  The failure to log caused a delay in getting the information to you, but we did agree to backdate the date of the request to when you originally sent it as the fault was on our side so to the extent that the statutory due date was not met I uphold your complaint.

Therefore at the time the Council started processing your request, the information was held by the Council.  I can further advise that the report to PCMC summarises the contingency arrangements, as set out in the relevant contracts.  The report also describes how those arrangements would be exercised, in the event of an insolvency event.  So, in terms of the information held as at 15 th January, it would be the contracts themselves, which are already published on the council's website.
There was an undocumented, internal discussion about how the arrangements would be exercised on Monday 15 th January.  The arrangements were also discussed in June 2017, as part of the consideration of a contract pre-payment, and in December 2016, for the same reason.
Thank you for your interest in Barnet Council.
Your Rights

If you remain dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have a right to appeal to the Information Commissioner at:
The Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF

Telephone: 0303 123 1113
I was of the opinion that this response was still insufficient.  Barnet supplied a further clarification, as you can see, getting a response is like getting blood from a stone. 

Dear Mr Tichborne
Further to your email requesting clarification on the points you have raised about the attached respone sent I can advise the following:
1) You state that there were discussions on the subject in Dec 2016 and June 2017. Are you seriously trying to suggest that there was no documented output from these meetings and that there were no preliminary measures put into place? Surely that would be negligent.
The documented output from those meetings was appended to the relevant Committee reports, which were published at the time.  Links are:
Performance and Contract Management Committee, 15 th November 2016 '  agenda item 8.
Policy and Resources Committee, 27 th June 2017 '  agenda item 15.
The 'preliminary measures' are those documented in the contracts and set out in the report to the Performance and Contract Management Committee on 27 th February 2018.
2) Why on earth would you have an "undocumented" meeting on January 15th? This is not credible given the issues.
Our original response refers to an 'undocumented, internal discussion', rather than to a 'meeting', i.e. it was an informal discussion between officers about arrangements that were already in place and, as such, a record of the discussion was not made.
Yours sincerely
R***** C*****
Information Management Officer
Commissioning Group
London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP
Barnet Online:
As you can quite clearly see, claiming that "contingency plans" were in place is quite misleading. The Conservative administration has been forced into action after five years (the contracts started in 2013). As far as I am concerned, not having a contingency plan for five years, to run the Borough if your main contractors goes bust, was negligent. They now have a plan in place, but it was only because bloggers etc such as myself forced them to.

We finish with the claim from the manifesto that they spend money prudently
"Above all, we will always remember that it is your money we are spending, and will do so prudently. " 
As you can see, they spend it very prudently on their allowances and top execs

Of course Barnet Council should pay competitive salaries at market rates to attract the best talents, but if this was the case, surely we wouldn't be seeing huge overspends on contracts, Childrens services failing, the IT resilience infrastructure being rated as inadequate and we wouldn't be seeing children excluded from libraries and potholes all over our roads. As for councillor allowances, some councillors get the basic £10,000 and do nothing at all. I would like to see all councillors required to publish a monthly timesheet detailing the work they've done for their allowances. I have no issue paying allowances to councillors of any party who work hard. If they can prove it fine. It seems to me that they are not delivering value for money. The state of roads and pavements is all the evidence I need to see that.