Sunday 29 July 2018

Brexit and the NHS

Here’s a few questions for you? What is the largest employer in Western Europe? What organisation has the most buying power when dealing with pharmaceutical companies? What organisation delivers healthcare most economically and fairly? I suppose you’ve guessed the answer. For decades those on the right in the USA have despised the NHS. They hate the fact that there is no potential for profit. They see it as a monopoly that stifles the market (ie their  profits). The big US pharma companies hate its ability to leverage deals. The US health insurers hate that it does a better and fairer job at around half the cost.

Who is the champion of #Brexit in the USA? Donald Trump. He is on record as hating the NHS. Who is the new foreign secretary? None other than Jeremy Hunt, former health secretary. His record at the NHS speaks for itself. It is clear to anyone with any knowledge of what the USA is seeking from a post #Brexit trade deal that access to UK health markets is top of the list, there is fortune to be made. Hunts appointment is no coincidence.

Saturday 28 July 2018

The Saturday List #181 - My ten rather naughty childhood joys of Mill Hill

As regular readers of the blog will know, I've lived in Mill Hill all my life (apart from Six months in Stockholm and a year in a flat Mollison Way).   I was sorting out some old family albums and it got me thinking of the "Old Mill Hill" of my youth. I've done a similar list before, but this one is looking at the social side of Mill Hill. This is what "our gang" used to do as kids. The term "gang" has developed a very negative connotation in relation to young people, but we were the Millway gang of Kids. We used to do all manner of activities, none of which I suspect the kids of today (and their parents) would ever dream of doing. Who were the Millway gang? There was me at 29 Millway, my mates Ricky and Luke at no 31a, Jonny and Frank over the road, the Malone boys at no 65, the Cooneys at no 59. We were all born between 1960 and 64. I was somewhere in the middle. These memories were largely from between around 1969 and 1973.

There wasn't much on telly then, only three channels and no kids watched BBC2. So what did the Millway Gang do.

1. Football matches in the street. When was the last time you saw a bunch of kids on a middle class suburban street in Mill Hill kicking a ball around. I don't really recall there being so many parked cars. The match would usually take place between the Cooneys and The Malones house. The eldest Malone boys were twins and good footballers, so they would usually be captains. I'd usually be the last pick being rubbish! We would also play football on our lawns. My house was not popular as there were too many rosebushes. My mum hated this.

2. Collecting Conkers in Russell Grove. Russell Grove is a sidestreet off Millway. It used to have a fine array of Conkers that in autumn would supply local kids from all over Mill Hill with the finest conkers. For me the fun was always collecting the conkers, didn't really enjoy the game. One of the ways we'd get the conkers would be to throw sticks and stones at them. This used to rile the residents, especially when they landed on the residents cars. I recall one incident where the police were called. Accusations were made, and met with a "not us guv". One of the Malone boys, being a little more savvy and streetwise came up with a brilliant excuse "There were some boys from Burnt Oak doing it, they chased us off". It became clear that if you lived in Burnt Oak, you could be blamed for anything by Mill Hill residents and the police would always fall for it. There were all manner of petty crimes and acts of vandalism in Mill Hill allegedly committed by "kids from Burnt Oak". Generally they ventured no further than Lyndhurst Park.

3. Scrumping Apples from Mrs Grovers garden (at no 27). Mrs Grover had two fine apple trees at the bottom of her garden. She also grew the most amazing raspberries. She was a kindly old dear, who cared for her sister, who was also a kindly old dear but had special needs. I doubt she minded too much, but we'd plan the raids. If we saw her and her sister going down to the Broadway, we'd  hastily gather a raiding party. I was always pretty good at climbing trees, this was one area where being smaller and lighter than average was a great advantage.  There was the added complication of making sure my parents did not see us, as they'd make us give all of the loot back. On occasion the apples would become missiles in impromptue battles, usually started by one of the Malone boys hurling a rotten apple at the back of some poor unsuspecting sap's head. This was a good life lesson. I always make sure to look behind me, when I am in a dodgy situation! Perhaps the worst of these missions happened when I was at the top of the apple tree and all of a sudden about six kids launched an unrelenting volley of rotten apples at me. I realised that when you make it to the top, you are also the no. 1 target for everyone else.

4. Football at Woodcroft Park. During the heady summer days, the gang would head down to Woodcroft Park for a kickabout. Kids would congregate from all over Mill Hill and the Watling Estate for this kickabout, mostly from St Vincents school. Games could go on all day. Sometimes groups from other schools would come down and challenge us to a match. Often these would end up with a punch up. The main sign that it was going to turn nasty was the arrival of older brothers, who would demand to play and then start kicking lumps out of the smaller kids. When this became a bit too frequent, we moved to Mill Hill Park.

5. Frisbee across the street. One of our more popular Sunday passtimes was games of Frisbee. The Lewis boys lived across the road, so it would be Jonny and Frank against myself, Ricky and Luke. Frank was a bit older and his Dad bought him a couple of frisbees, which we found to be great fun. As I said, there weren't the number of parked cars. This came to a halt when Frank broke a neighbours window, and she told his Dad off. Franks Dad was a lovely chap, who took it all very much in his stride, paid the bill and simply said "Better not play that anymore boys, go to the park".

6. Cricket in Mill Hill Park. In the mid 1960's the Dua family moved into no 1 Millway. They were of Indian origin and were cricket mad. They would organise cricket knockabouts at the park. As my Dad loved cricket and hated football, this meant that he had some kids playing a game he enjoyed, so he'd take us to the park, give us some tips and coach us. He'd been a semi pro cricketer in Australia before the war, so was a very good player. Sadly for him, I had none of his aptitude, but a couple of the Dua boys did and would listen intently to his tips. He'd take them to the nets at Hendon and Edgware cricket club and advise them on their bowling.  I recall my Dad having a row with someone from the club, who objected to him using the nets. My Dad was having none of it, saying that as they weren't in use they should be pleased that kids were getting some practice in. After that, this chap would always chase us away if my Dad wasn't around. I wasn't that interested in cricket, but did enjoy our games with tennis balls. My Dad would leave us to it, then return with ice lollies, sweets and cans of coke. It was great fun. Years later, I met up with one of the Dua's for a beer. He told me that him and his brothers had great memories of my Dad turning up.

7. Tadpoling at Angel Pond. Another activity that we used to enjoy was to walking up to Angel Pond with small nets and catching Tadpoles. If you were really lucky you'd catch a Stickleback. We'd all be quite competetive, so if one caught a stickleback, we'd all have to. We'd bring them back in jamjars with bits of string on. I well remember bring some back and my mum saying "What are you going to do with them?" I said "Put them in the bird bath", which I duly did. Within a couple of hours a blackbird had scoffed the lot. I decided to build a pond (without knowing how). I didn't want my mum to know, so we dug a hole and covered it with sticks as we figured out how to get a liner. My mum was walking around the garden and fell in it, breaking her ankle. She blamed my Dad as he'd told us that this was how you built bear traps. These days you need a certificate from the enviroment agency to remove tadpoles from ponds, no doubt. My finest memory of it though, was when one of the gang was pushed in and emerged looking like Swamp thing. You really could never turn your back.

8. Making Molotov cocktails in the garden. My parents had a rather lax attitude to health and safety. We had a petrol driven lawnmower. Most of our road still had milk deliveries. One of the gang explained that he'd read that you could make a bomb out of a Milk Bottle, a bit of rag and a can of petrol. We were fascinated. I foolishly said "My Dad's got a can of petrol in the shed for the lawnmower". Within minutes, seven or eight kids were in the shed, as the Molotov Cocktail was made. At the time I had no idea what would happen. Another of the gang was despatched to get a lighter. We then had to select a target. At no 35, one of our neighbours had two little girls and he'd just bought them a "Wendy House", where they could play with their dolls. After sensibly checking that they weren't in the garden, the Molotov cocktail was despatched. What happened next was shocking and horrific. Within seconds the whole thing was completely incinerated. It hadn't occurred to me that the bloody thing would work. Within ten millionths of a second, every kid had scarpered. I went and hid in the shed, playing with my action man. A couple of minutes later, the police and fire service arrived. On inspection, they concluded that the work was probably the work of "kids from Burnt Oak". The owner of no 35 was a Headmaster of a secondary school in the area and they concluded that the job was probably some teenager he'd expelled on a well planned grudge mission. We were all quite happy to let them believe this, we never, ever mentioned it again. It had occurred to me that we could all have killed ourselves.

9. Go Kart Races down the road. Another thing you never see these days are go karts. Often these were made from wheels reclaimed from redundant prams. As Millway is a fairly steep hill, you could havc the most amazing races down the road. These invariably ended in scuffed knees, crashes, pain and blood. But wow were they fun. This mini Monte Carlo festival ended when one crashed into a parked car. My Dad fixed it for the owner free of charge, as he told a porkie and said I was driving the cart. The best of the go carts was owned by Michael Sheridan, who was older than the rest of us and generally refrained from joining in. As there was high kudos to be had as the King of Go Carts in Millway, he made an exception for Go Cart races. Last time I saw Michael, he was the Jerusalem correspondent for the Times.

10. Playing chicken on the M1. At the bottom of my Garden (and the vast majority of the gang) was the M1. Young boys and cars do not mix well. The Ministry of Transport erected a six footwire  fence between the houses and the road. For us, this was a challenge. The area between the Motorway and the fence was like a mythical zone. All manner of detritus would turn up. Discarded tyres, cans of petrol. porn mags, household items. It was a treasure trove. Once this was explored, then there another five foot high wooden fence and then the road. This was just too tempting. It is quite strange, as on the other side of this fence you had another, dangerous and very exciting world. Beyond the M1, we had the Midland mainline railway. The game was to run across the motorway, put a penny on the railway line then run back. I have to conclude that there was far less traffic on the Motorway then. That was when I learned just how dangerous peer pressure really was. I was quite cautious by nature and knew it was dangerous. I also knew I was worse at climbing and slower at running than my mates. But it was made clear that to be in the gang, this had to be done. I did it without any bother, but I was then informed that I had to retrieve the penny after the train went over it. For reasons I can't quite figure out, I was terrified the second time. I was scared that I wouldn't find the penny and a train would squash me. As it was, I found it straight away. The trip back was really scary, there seemed to be no break in the traffic for hours. Eventually, the north bound lane cleared and I got across to the middle section. As I was standing between the crash barriers,  a police car passed. I realised that I was in big trouble as it screeched to a halt. I had no choice but to make a dash for it. I managed to vault the fence and scramble the next fence, other kids had also seen the police and scarpered. I ended up in the garden of an elderly couple who were out, sprinted up the side alley and down to my house.

The police worked out which garden was the likely source of the kids (footballs etc) and hopped over the fence. A stern lecture was issued. As the older boys knew that it would look bad on them if it came out they'd forced me to do it, they took the blame and the telling off. The police told them that if there were further motorway incursions, they would be in "big, big trouble". I lay low for a couple of days and then found myself ostracised for a few months. Apparently it was all my fault.

I sometimes wonder about all of these things. Some were mildly naughty, some were scary and some were incredibly dangerous. Some of these memories I recall with happiness, some I recall with trepidation. Society has moved on. I never really see gangs of kids on the streets at all in Mill Hill. I am not entirely sure whether that is  a good or bad thing, when I recall what we used to do.

Thursday 26 July 2018

Pentavia Park redevelopment scheme rejected by Barnet Council

Image result for pentavia park development
Pentavia Park - Architects impression
Last night I attended the planning committee of Barnet Council. I was asked by a group of residents and the Barnet Cycling Campaign to represent them. Yesterday I published the presentation I gave to the committee. The developer has achieved a feat almost unheard of in Barnet, he has united the Mill Hill Residents Association, The Barnet Cycling Campaign, The Mill Hill Preservation Society, Matthew Offord MP, Andrew Dismore AM, the three Mill Hill Conservative Councillors, The three Mill Hill Lib Dem candidates, the three Mill Hill Labour candidates and even the coordinator of the Mill Hill Churches homeless shelter scheme. I found myself in the unusual position of being warmly congratulated by Mill Hill Conservative Councillor Val Duschinsky for my presentation to the committee. I returned the compliment as Val gave an excellent speech following mine, as did John Gillett from the Neighbourhood forum and Andrew Dismore, the Labour assembly member.

The developer also gave a presentation in support of the application. It has to be said that he really didn't cover himself in glory. He claimed that the proposal had received over 1,000 letters of support. A member of the committee checked and found only three (his mum, dad and auntie Peggy maybe?). He explained that the support was for a previous scheme that was so bad he withdrew it and resubmitted it. He was sure that all of the thousand would be even more chuffed with this scheme, but were probably too busy to write another letter. Committee member Gabriel Rosenberg, perhaps the brightest of the young crop of Tory Councillors, proceeded to give the developer an extremely hard time, much to the satisfaction of all gathered (perhaps apart from the developers mum, dad and auntie Peggy?). He pointed out that the lack of genuinely affordable flats was justified because the site used to be a thriving retail centre. He made the rather obvious point that it is now a bunch of derelict sheds as various former tenants had gone bust, downsized and generally knocked the concept of retailing on the head. The developer explained that he was being quite generous, as by his calculations the scheme needed no affordable element. Councillor Rozebberg was having none of it, telling the developer that such a scheme would have zero chance of success and he knew it.  Burnt Oak Labour councillor, Claire Farrier was worried about air quality, picking up on the theme that Councillor Duschinsky had so eloquently made.

Veteran Tory Councillor John Marshall started to get rather irritated by the whole thing. He stated that it was clear the committee would be rejecting the scheme, for the reasons that the Council officers outlined. He saw no point wasting any more time talking about it. Several other councillors suggested that other reasons for rejection needed to be added to the list. Jon Klaff from the Barnet Cycling Campaign provided a live twitter feed for the meeting. He noted what happened as these were put forward.

 The affordability issue was raised by Councillor Rozenberg and easily secured the support of the committee. The other proposals split more or less along party lines, with the Tories using their majority and casting vote to vote down the other rejection reasons. What rather puzzled me was why Councillors Cohen and Shooter seemed far keener on the proposal than any other committee member. They did not ask any questions and offered no real support, but were the first hands up to reject the additional refusal reasons. It also appeared that Councillor Prentice, the chair did not really understand that as chair she had the casting vote, when one of the votes split 5-5. She voted to reject the amendment. It appeared to me that this was because it was proposed by a Labour member. She did not give any justification for her vote.

As I left, I discussed what had happened with Andrew Dismore. He was livid with the committee. Dismore is a former Westminster City Councillor and he stated that it was time that councillors in Barnet woke up to the fact that it was their job to direct officers, not the other way around. He stated that the more reasons for rejection, the harder it would be for the Mayor to reverse the decision.

After the meeting, a few of us adjourned to the Greyhound for a pint. It is clear that this is only round one. It is over to the Mayor of London now to decide. It is quite interesting to note that a local developer has been on social media trolling residents. One of his parting shots was
"so you’ll all be fully supportive of a high rise development in another part of Mill Hill, where there isn’t a pollution issue? Brilliant! Watch this space....."
I suspect that this is just the beginning of a huge battle which will determine the shape of Mill Hill for the future generations. I suspect that these developers are just a tad deluded. In the week when we've seen Brexit do for the Brent Cross redevelopment scheme, I suspect that maybe the planning committee have done the developers a massive favour. There is a high probability that with the government completely unable to sort out any sort of a Brexit deal, the economy is in for a massive shock. The developers may well find that this has spared them the cost of putting up a huge white elephant that no one would touch with a barge pole. If I was a developer, I'd certainly think twice about spending a couple of hundred million on such a development at the moment. 

From my perspective, I think that the first priority of the council and the mayor should be to get the existing housing stock full occupied, up to scratch and affordable for key workers. Proposals such as this, where the vast majority of flats are for transient workers at sky high prices will do nothing for London.  I will finish by saying that the developer seemed to think he was doing us all a favour by having any social housing element at all in the scheme. I get that developers want to make the most money possible. What I don't always get is the fact that they don't seem to realise that if they don't act in a socially responsible manner, their schemes will always be far harder to bring to fruition.

Wednesday 25 July 2018

My speech to the Barnet Council Planning Committee on behalf of Mill Hill Residents.

Architects view of new Pentavia Park develoment and M1
Tonight, I will be addressing the Barnet Council Planning Committee on behalf of over 20 local residents. I am allowed three minutes. My speech has taken input from many of those residents and I've also been given permission to speak on behalf of the the Barnet Cycling Campaign.

Here is the text of my speech.

I have been asked by a group of over 20 independent Mill Hill Residents, all of whom asked permission to speak tonight,  to represent them and put across their objections. The Barnet Cycling Campaign have also allowed me to speak on their behalf.

It is recognised in the Council report, and all residents are of the opinion that the scheme is not in keeping with the existing nature of Mill Hill and does not meet the councils planning brief requirements.  The Barnet Cycling Campaign believe that the proposal is against the planning brief and Mayor’s Transport Stragey.
As a business owner, it is clear that the scheme will do nothing to increase provision of low cost housing for local people on the wages typical in Milll Hill’s health, social care, industrial and service sectors, meaning a key aim of the London plan is not fulfilled
The number of households this scheme adds to the area, over 700, in excess of  2,000 residents, will put severe strain on already overstretched local facilities such as Schools, medical centres and local green space. Parking in surrounding streets will all be affected negatively, along with congestion caused by large numbers of residents having to drive to and from the already overly congested Mill Hill Circus/Fiveways corner to turn around for access to the site largely during rush hour.
The increased building area and hardstanding will increase water run-off and therefore worsen drainage issues and surface water problems, with no proposed mitigation. These are already evidenced by frequently seen large and dangerous pools of water by Bunns Lane Bridge creating traffic hazards during times of heavy rainfall.
The application gives scant regards to the realities of the situation regarding local schools. The site will not be in the catchment area for Mill Hill County High, the nearest co-ed secondary school, which is heavily oversubscribed.
Of the local buses, the 221, as my son who attended school in Finchley found, is overloaded during rush hour as is the 113. The stated aim of increasing cycling will not be achieved, noted by the Barnet cycling campaign who said
“that the development in Pentavia Park does not fulfil either the planning brief or the wider aims of Barnet Council and the Mayor of London in terms of cycling. In particular, we can see little
evidence of paragraphs 1.2, 1.3, 5.12 and 6.6 being met;”

They added that no routes from the site are suitable for disabled riders and that the scheme
“…is not likely to help the borough achieve any modal shift towards cycling and might
indeed send it the other way.”

It is also likely that residents will be regularly exposed to extremely poor air quality on entering and leaving the buildings.

In summary, we urge the committee to reject this scheme and send a strong message to the developer that Mill Hill Residents will keep objecting until such time as they put forward a scheme that is in keeping with the localilty and works for Mill Hill, not just for their narrow financial interests. If developers are not prepared to respect the views of residents, then the council or London mayor should use CPO powers to safeguard residents interests, as happened with a South London football club site, and build homes for key workers at an appropriate density
At the top is an artists visualisation of the M1 traffic with the buildings next to it. This tweet is how the M1 in Mill Hill actually looked in rush hour. It's funny how roads never look like this in architects drawings

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Email Scam Alert! - Don't fall for this scam

On Saturday, I received a rather alarming email. Contained within the title was my name and an old password I used on a social media site. It was pretty clear that someone had, to some extent, hacked my private details. When I read the first paragraph, I was quite alarmed.

"Lets get straight to the point. No one has compensated me to investigate about you. You may not know me and you are most likely thinking why you are getting this e-mail?"
So someone has been investigating me, they know an old password and they are talking about compensation. Furthermore, the email was sent to the email account I exclusively use for my blogging. I've had a few threats over the years, but none with a valid social media password. Then I read the second paragraph.
"Let me tell you, I actually setup a malware on the xxx streaming (porn material) website and do you know what, you visited this web site to experience fun (you know what I mean). When you were viewing videos, your internet browser started out working as a Remote Desktop having a keylogger which provided me with accessibility to your display screen as well as webcam. Right after that, my software gathered all your contacts from your Messenger, FB, as well as e-mail . After that I made a double-screen video. First part displays the video you were watching (you've got a good taste omg), and next part shows the recording of your cam, and it is u."
At this point I rather relaxed. As I don't subscribe to any xxx porn streaming websites, I realised that this was a rather silly and crude attempt to extract some cash. What followed were some threats to send the video to all of my contacts and the second was to ask for a large sum of money. It also advised me not to contact the Police.

So of course I immediately reported it to the police. I did not respond to the email, I was further relieved that this morning, I saw that the Daily Express had picked up on the scam. They have some useful information on where to report it (

The article interviewed Detective Constable Mark Agnew from Kent's cyber crime unit who said
"The people responsible for these scams email large numbers of people at a time, including those who do not visit pornographic websites. It is therefore doubtful they have the evidence they claim they have.  It is understandable that some people will be concerned about receiving this type of email, but paying only highlights that you are vulnerable and can be targeted again.  The internet is an incredible resource but comes with its own set of unique dangers that we all need to be aware of.  By following just a few simple measures we can protect ourselves from those who misuse technology in order to benefit from the misery of others."
So if you are unlucky enough to get such an email, don't worry. It is a load of cobblers. I would also suggest that if you do receive an email from anyone claiming that there is a video of me that you should watch, then they have already stated that they can download Trojans and Malware, so be extremely careful. The article states that the scammers have bought old lists of emails and passwords from the Dark Web.

Monday 23 July 2018

Thameslink - This is not a service, it is a complete joke - Barneteye comment

This morning I had a very lucky result. I was due to have a business meeting in Farringdon at 9.15. When the alarm clock went off at 7am, I did a quick check on the service from Mill Hill Broadway into town. I've not been commuting regularly since November, so I've missed the worst of the disruption, but what I saw shocked me. I first started regularly using the service back in 1981, when it was run by British Rail and operated by clapped out diesel railcars. The line was known as the Bedpan (Bedford to St Pancras) line. Shortly after, new trains were introduced when the line was electrified. In the mid 1980's, it was further improved with the introduction of the cross London Thameslink service. At the time, there were eight trains an hour in rush hour, from Mill Hill to Central London. In 2004, First Capital Connect had taken over and brought in the first of many "timetable improvements" Mill Hill has seen. The frequency was slashed from eight to four trains an hour. All of the fast trains were abolished. The result was overcrowding and chaos.

After much lobbying, some fast trains were re-introduced over a period of years, with 5-6 trains an hour. The line has had huge disruption, first with the construction of the International terminal at St Pancras, which resulted in a six month blocade of the central London service. For this period, the "Bedpan" service was reintroduced, with a very regular stopping shuttle between Bedford and St Pancras. Then all manner of disruption as the line was overhauled for the Thameslink program. We were promised that when the work was finished, we'd get an amazing new timetable with a metro frequency timetable.  In May, the new timetable was introduced. It collapsed. There were more cancellations than trains running. A new emergency timetable was hastily drawn up.

This new timetable was introduced last week. So what sort of service are we now getting at Mill Hill. As I mentioned, I saw the effects first hand today. I was shocked. 
There are now only three trains at the height of the rush hour between 8am and 9am. This is the worst service I've ever seen for a morning rush hour. Worse than when British Rail ran a diesel service, worse than the dark days of the First Capital Connect mismanagement.

This is not a joke. People have to get to work. People have appointments. This chaos is not down to accidents, war, plague or famine. It is completely down to a failed system of privatised management. The only people I know who support the current arrangements are either ideologically obsessed Conservative MP's, who never use the service. The transport secretary, Chris Grayling is completely out of his depth. After years of sticking up for Govia, even our local MP Matthew Offord has been forced to mildly criticise Thameslink. He asked the Transport secretary to give Govia a deadline to sort the service out and sack them if they didn't meet it. The response sums up just how completely out of his depth the transport secretary is
I am very clear that I expect GTR to deliver an improvement to the current situation as a matter of real urgency. If it does not do so, it will lack the credibility to continue as operator.
Matthew at Mill Hill Broadway Station
Mr Matthew Offord at Mill Hill Broadway Station
That will have them quaking in their boots. Sadly Mr Offord really doesn't seem to have a grip on the situation. I suggest you read the full text of his latest blog post. I am really rather disappointed that he had nothing to say about the abysmal response from the secretary of state. Mr Offord seems to think that bunging commuters a few quid in exchange for the misery they've suffered is something to brag about. Most people I know can't be bothered to waste the time claiming, they just want a good service. If you look carefully, you will see Mr Offord has a picture on the blog of himself at Mill Hill Broadway (see right). He seems to have achieved the almost impossible feat of going to the station when there were no disgruntled passengers waiting for non existent trains. I'd rather like to see Mr Offord visit the station between 8am and 9am to see what real users, the daily commuters have to say to him.

Anyone who has had to suffer the service in all its incarnations since British Rail will know that none of the operators have improved the offering. Railways need joined up management. Mr Offord admits as much in his blog where he says
I appreciate that some issues such as signalling are the responsibility of Network Rail and I have raised - and continue to do so - the high number of signal failures.
The answer is obvious, bring back a unified operation. I am under no illusions that BR was perfect, but as with many things in life, I'd settle for the least worst option. There is no way that we'd have had a cock up like this under BR. I took a Thameslink train on it's first day of operation and regularly used it ever since. I remember the BR excuses and the strikes. It was the original Thameslink 319 trains that failed with the excuse "the wrong type of snow". We'd have periods of bad service, but not for months on end. What is worse is that it shows no signs of actually improving. It is nearly two months since the original "new timetable" was introduced, yet here we are down to three trains in rush hour.

The time has come for Govia to Go! Bring back a unified operator and bring some sanity back to public transport.

Sunday 22 July 2018

The Tweets of The Week in the London Borough of Barnet - 22/07/18

Hi Y'all. I hope you are enjoying the warm weather. What an odd year it has been? It is strange to think that back in March we were shivering under the chill of the beast from the east! I was looking back at some of my favourite tweets of the year and it seems bizarre that this was a mere four months ago! Do you remember that feeling that summer would never come!

Anyway, this is the tweets of the week, not the tweets from four months ago, so I hope you'll forgive that little diversion! It's full on Summer madness here! Don't forget to follow any of these marvellous tweeters who tickle your fancy.

1. One of the less appreciated traditions in Mill Hill is the spectacle of Mill Hill County High School leavers trashing the park and causing mayhem. With the snow gone, Arrendene has become bone dry. What sort of an idiot would do this? It could have set the whole place on fire. I really hope that the parents of these kids read them the riot act

2. Another sorry sign of summer in Mill Hill. Angel pond dried out and looking terrible

3. We were told that the summer would see an end to Potholes in the Borough. Sadly not

4. On a happier note, canine frolics in Chandos Park. We love a good dog show!

5. Looking for something to do with the kids tomorrow. This looks absolutely brilliant. I quite fancy going myself!

6. Finchley filmmakers are predicting a chilly September!

7. Some good friends of ours getting some well deserved recognition in the Barnet First magazine

8. Talking of friends of ours, The Chandos Arms is launching an Open mic night in September, be there or be square!

9. And if you like amazing Jazz in a brilliant setting, checkout the Mill Hill Jazz Club. There is loads of parking, drinks are very reasonably priced and the music is top notch

10. Amazing young people all over the UK are participating in the National Citizenship Scheme (NCS). A very lucky group in Mill Hill got a studio tour at Londons Leading Independent studios. We hear to many negatives about young people. It was a pleasure for me to meet them, do a Q&A and advise them on their Dragons Den pitch!

That's all folks!

Saturday 21 July 2018

The Saturday List #180 - Five reasons why the Mill Hill Property bubble may have burst

I live in Mill Hill and own property in Mill Hill. So from a financial perspective, anything that is bad for property prices is bad for my bank balance. There have recently been several posts on the Mill Hill related social media websites reporting a glut of rental properties in Mill Hill along with a stagnating sales market.  The Barnet Eye has been doing some research and discussing the matter with various people, including local estate agents, potential buyers and sellers, as well as people letting property and people looking to rent. We have been trying to work out whether the current situation represents an opportunity or whether it is something more fundamental. From this research, I've compiled a list of the reasons why I believe we are currently seeing a downturn in the Mill Hill property market.

The list we've compiled is purely based on the anecdotal evidence of those we've spoken to, but I am sure anyone with property will be interested. There are several big national issues that have an impact (Brexit, Tax on second properties, etc) but these are national or cross London issues and so I've not included them. I have tried to identify whether Mill Hill is worse than other similar suburban towns and what may make it so.

1. Thameslink. For decades, the fast and reasonably reliable Thameslink service from Mill Hill into central London has been a huge attraction for potential residents. Young professionals renting flats have seen it as an ideal base, with the opportunity to be in central London in 20 minutes. Over the last eighteen months, the service has virtually disintegrated.The new timetable in May has for many proven to be the last straw. Commuters have lost confidence in the service. Many firms do not view continued lateness favourably and it can affect promotion prospects as well as employment prospects. In short, until Thameslink has sorted itself out, no sane commuter would consider moving to Mill Hill. Couple this with all of those who have simply had enough and you have a situation where there are far more sellers than buyers and far more empty flats than renters. As the situation simply cannot stay as it is, this theoretically presents buyers with a great investment opportunity (assuming you believe that sooner or later the service will start working and people will start to trust it again).

2. Traffic issues with private, selective and religious schools. Mill Hill has quite a high number of private and religious schools, including Mill Hill School, Mill Hill County, Goodwyn, Belmont, St Martins, St Vincents, St Pauls, Etz Chaim and Hasmonean. Whilst all of these provide an excellent education, due to the higher than average percentage of non local children, they also all see higher traffic flows than non denominational, non selective and non fee paying schools. Roads like the Ridgeway and Page St have seen massive issues with congestion and parking during school hours and especially around the time of the school run. Whilst canvassing for the local elections, this was an issue that came up time after time. Several residents who were looking to move and lived on roads affected, told me that canny estate agents had advised them not to arrange viewings during the school run. Perhaps the biggest bugbear are the selfish parents who block drives, often telling home owners "It's only for five minutes". I was surprised how many residents said "I've had enough of this, I'm moving out". I guess that if you don't have a car or don't, it means that there are real bargains to be had in such roads.

3. Massive development schemes. Another refrain I've heard recently is "Mill Hill is getting overdeveloped, we are selling up whilst we still can". On the Ridgeway we've seen the National Institute for Medical Research scheme. There is also the humongous Pentavia scheme. Many residents in roads affected said they were considering moving, as they believe that the traffic issues will make things impossible and were looking to get out before this started to blight their property. There are real worries that if roads such as Bunns Lane become an access for the Pentavia scheme, it could become even more gridlocked. I've yet to speak to anyone (who isn't a developer) with a good word to say about either scheme. There are real concerns around the NIMR scheme and the lack of parking and with the proposed Watchtower development, this is only likely to get worse.

4. Crime. You may well say that Crime is a cross London issue. A year ago, no one was saying to me "Mill Hill is unsafe". A very unfortunate series of events has changed that perception. The saddest and most shocking was the killing of shopkeeper Vijay Patel in Mill Hill Broadway. Such an event rightly unsettles many. What made matters a hundred times worse was the hastily arranged and very badly run meeting at Hartley Hall, where our local MP, Mr Matthew Offord and the local chief of police sought to reassure locals, but only succeeded in scaring them to death. We heard tales from the floor of brutal attacks at home, which were met with a response from the panel of "Mill Hill has RELATIVELY LOW CRIME" which convinced the audience that the panel was a bit clueless. Many left the meeting in a state of shock and I know two people who have moved since directly as a result.

5. The departure of the Jehovahs Witnesses from Mill Hill. The Watchtower  Society owns a large number of properties in Mill Hill. They have signposted their intention to move, which means that these properties will be divested and there will potentially be a glut of properties on the market. Of course this is likely to be a short term issue, with many canny investors snapping them up on the cheap, but for anyone looking to invest now, for refurbishment and development projects, it may well mean that when the projects are nearing completion, the marked has dropped and a loss will occur. An estate agent I spoke to told me that this is starting to become a topic of conversation when homes are coming on the market in the areas where the JW's have large property interests. Although this is in some ways a hyper local issue, combined with other factors affecting the local property market, this is likely to become an ever more looming issue for sellers.

So is Mill Hill still a good place to rent or buy? I was speaking to a Mill Hill renter earlier today, who told me that they were paying £830 a month for a small single person studio flat and they moved here because it was close to a certain well known music studio and as a non driver was ideal for getting in and out of town. They also said that they had friends who had moved here, who previously would not have been able to afford Mill Hill a couple of years ago. As for buyers, if I was looking, I'd take a chance on Mill Hill if I wanted to move hear for the medium to long term, but not at the moment as an investment to turn a quick profit. The Thameslink services will sort themselves out sooner or later and there are good alternatives with the Northern Line and buses. I walk down Mill Hill Broadway every night between 10pm and midnight, as I have to exercise my dogs. I feel it is safe. As to the school run issues, this offers cyclists, people who don't need to drive around school run time and non drivers great opportunities to live in a great place at a rather knock down rate. I live on west side of Millway, which is traditionally one of the cheapest roads in Mill Hill, due to the M1 and the Railway. It is a great location and I paid 75% of what my neighbours across the road paid for a similar sized house, so you can make these issues work for you. We have parking issues, with a nursery over the road, which is a bit of a pain, but generally I walk or take the train when I need to travel at busy times. As I bought my home to live in it has worked well. It has also increased fifteen fold in value since 1987, so I've done OK. When I bought it, the big attraction was that I didn't drive and there were great transport links. It amazes me that estate agents so rarely big up the potential for non drivers in blighted roads.

The one spot I personally would avoid like the plague for the time being is the Ridgeway, especially at the easterly end, where the NIMR is located. The parking will be a nightmare, it is already getting gridlocked and as for walking or cycling, Bittacy Hill is not a cycling challenge for the faint hearted, the 240 bus is already rammed at rush hour, there will not be enough parking spaces and the departure of the JW's is likely to cause even more disturbance and depress the property prices even more. My guess is that ultimately the property prices will see a market correction to price all of that in, but for the time being, I don't see it.

Finally a word about the more London wide issues such as Brexit removing well paid jobs in the City, punitive taxes on second properties and all manner of legislation deterring buy to let investors. None of this will help Mill Hill property prices. As not even the cabinet knows what Brexit means, it would take a brave person to invest in property in London at the moment until the situation becomes clearerr and we know the effect on London's finance and service industries. There is a big debate as to whether buy to let investment is a good or bad thing for the economy. The Conservative government certainly thinks it is bad and has done everything it reasonably can to make such investments difficult. When the market sentiment was bullish this was probably a sensible move, as first time buyers were getting priced out of the market. If Brexit leads to a property price collapse, then they may well need to have a rethink, just to get some homes back on the market. Most of the buy to let landlords I know have actually found themselves in the position out of necessity, being unable to sell existing properties and needing to move. I am not sure punitive taxes is the best solution (but I have to disclose a bias and an interest).

So has the Mill Hill Property bubble burst? I'm not mystic Meg, I have no crystal ball, but right now if I had spare cash, for the first time ever I would not invest in property in Mill Hill, unless it was at an absolute basement price. That may sound gloomy, but I certainly wouldn't sell right now either. Mill Hill is one of the best districts of London and sooner or later, anyone who holds their nerve for the white knuckle ride will do very well. I feel sorry for those who have decided to move and are finding their property prices falling through the floor.

Of course all of this is my opinion based on informal conversations as mentioned above. I have no qualifications to advise anyone on any sort of investment, so please just treat this as entertainment!

Friday 20 July 2018

Policing in London - The chickens come home to roost

I have great respect for the uniformed services. The Police, Fire Service, Ambulance Service, Army, Navy and The RAF. My father was an officer in the RAF during the second world war and he explained to me why we should respect people in uniforms, in very simple terms "When you see a person in a uniform, you see someone who is highly trained and is prepared to put their life at risk for the good of our society". He went on to explain that without people in uniforms, we would have no such thing as society.

Policing is in the spotlight at the moment. This morning I listened to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan discussing policing on the Vanessa Feltz show. I have to say that what I heard was alarming. I have no confidence at all in this Mayor to sort the problems out, having heard what he had to say. It is not just the Mayor. We have had a succession of Home secretaries, starting with the now Prime Minister Theresa May, who have been completely useless when it comes to policing. Police budgets have been cut, community engagement stopped, support staff sacked and officers drowned in paperwork and administration.

Today we've had a London man taking the Mayor to court over police station closures. We used to have a visible police presence on our High Street. If we had a worry, we could nip in and talk to a human being. If we found an old ladies purse we could drop it in. When I was a child, there was an old lady down the road, who I now recognise as having dementia. The police would find her wandering the streets of Mill Hill in her nighty at 3am in the morning. They'd take her to the station, give her a cup of tea and call her daughter to come and get her. She once told me "The chief constable is always sending his car to collect me so he can have a cup of tea with me!". Her daughter gave me a pained look and told me the whole story. She said that the police were lovely.

I remember my first brush with the Police aged 14. I was caught writing graffiti on a poster at Mill Hill Broadway Station, with a pencil. I was frogmarched home, he waited outside, whilst I got a rubber and then frogmarched back to rub it out. The copper in question was a mate of my Dad's. He used to frequent the Mill Hill Services club. He put the fear of God into me. He didn't tell my father though. He said "You owe me one now!".  About five years later, my Dad was buying me a pint in the Services club and playing me at snooker. The copper came over and said "How's the career in graffiti coming on?" I was mortified, he told my Dad the story, who found it hilarious. He then bought me a pint. No paperwork and a lesson learned. It also made me realise that the police are simply members of our community, trying their hardest to make it a decent place to live in.

Fast forward to 2018. I believe in citizenship and community. I have supported through my business, a charity called NCS - The Challenge for quite a few years. This gives 17-18 year olds the opportunity to do  National Citizenship Service. Each year, groups of youngsters come to Mill Hill  Music Complex studios and I give them a tour, answer questions and then advise them on a pitch they are preparing for a team of Dragons, who will fund the winners in a venture they are putting together.

I am always highly impressed by the young people who turn up. They are very switched on. Amongst the presenations I saw this year (I have no idea what it will be until they perform it), one was about long hours NHS workers suffer, one was to arrange a fundraiser for Friern Barnet Library and one to support a mental health charity. All groups were eloquent and well presented.

Breakdancing Policeman
This year, one of the Q&A sessions became a very interesting debate about trust, respect and young people's perceptions of living in London in 2018. I was giving examples of the difference between the music scene in 1979 when I started the studios and now. This became a wider subject. One of the team then told me that in a survey, they had voted the Police as the "least trusted organisation" in their opinion. I was actually quite taken aback by this. Between 2000 and 2010, the Metropolitan Police put a huge amount of energy into building trust and community initiatives.

My studios participated in many events, providing PA systems for Harrow against knives festivals, participating in videos to promote awareness of the dangers of knife crime and all manner of other initiatives. Most of these were either organised or supported by the local Police community officers.  We even saw a breakdancing Policeman at an event organised by the excellent Nutmeg organisation.

Most of these programs were cut in 2010 to save money in response to the call for austerity. At the time when the cuts were first being announced, I interviewed the then chief constable of Barnet. He told me that the Police had been told to stop such community engagement and concentrate on "core policing". I suggested that this was short sighted and was storing up trouble for the future. His response was "Well if we don't have such programs for a year or two, it might not cause too much damage, but if we stop completely, then yes, we run the very real risk of losing the trust of young people".

So here we are in 2018. We are seeing an epidemic of knife crime. We are seeing decent young people, who want to be good citizens, saying they have trust issues with the police. From talking to these young people, I don't think they are the type of people who will commit crime. The reason that trust is so important is that amongst their peer groups and their families, there will be people who are drifiting into trouble. If they have no trust of the Police, they are far less likely to take any action that may help get their friends back on the right track. When I was 18 years old, a friend of mine with family issues, drug problems and mental health issues tried to commit suicide. He did this by taking 18 methodone suppositories. He turned up on our doorstep. I called the police immediately. My father had told me that if someone is in a critical situation, the police will take them to hospital quicker than an ambulance (there was no such thing as paramedics then). I did this in the full knowledge that the police may ask some difficult questions. As it happened they were great. They sorted him out, got him to hospital and he's still alive today. They then came back and asked a few questions. They were interested in how he'd come by the drugs. I explained that he'd simply turned up in a terrible state and I knew I had to call the emergency services. I had no idea where he'd got them or why he was in such a state. They asked if I knew who may have provided them. As I've never been a junkie and we moved in different circles, I couldn't help to much. The officer then said "You did the right thing. Never be afraid to call the police if there is a life and death matter". As I mulled over this, I recall hearing a radio report stating that stabbing victims do not go to hospital for fear of police. This really does make the issue a matter of life or death.

The austerity cuts are killing our society. We urgently need the Met to rebuild its community operations. We need breakdancing policemen. We need discretion. We need back office staff to do the paperwork, so highly trained and well paid officers can get back on the beat. But most of all we need politicians who can actually act like adults and sort things out. Both the Home Secretary and the Mayor of London are sons of bus drivers of Pakistani descent. I call on both of them to reboot their relationship. The time has come for policing to be sorted out. Sorting out gangs and knife crime can be done. It needs sensible policing and it needs money. But most of all it needs leadership. If Sajid and Sadiq could work together and sort this out, both of them could demonstrate that they are of suitable calibre to do the top job (as to my mind there are not exactly a huge number of candidates).

We've had cuts to police budgets for the best part of a decade. The chickens have come home to roost. Now it is time to try something different. It is time to recognise that a tragic mistake has been made and that we need to have trust between police and teenagers. We need a visible police presence in the High Street. Times change, maybe the High St Police station is outdated. I'd like to see a national network of community centres, with activities suitable for teenagers, which house an office for community police teams to work in the community. I'd make sure that community police spent a couple of hours each week working with the teenagers, coaching football, giving breakdancing, table tennis or guitar lessons, and building up a degree of trust. I'd like to see more young people doing outdoor activities and I I'd like to see police officers encouraged to organise these. That is how trust can be rebuilt. You can't start at the margins, you have to start in the mainstream and it is clear to me from what I heard that the mainstream is a problem.

Thursday 19 July 2018

Open Letter to the Barnet Council Policy and Resources Committee

The Barnet Eye has today sent the following open letter to all members of the Barnet Council Policy and Resources committee, ahead of tonights meeting, where the future of Barnet Council's relationship with Capita will be discussed. This communication is being sent to the following Councillors. 

Councillor Richard CorneliusChairmanExpected
Councillor Daniel Thomas BA (Hons)Vice-ChairmanExpected
Councillor Dean Cohen BSc (Hons)Committee MemberExpected
Councillor Anthony Finn BSc (Econ) FCACommittee MemberExpected
Councillor Ross HoustonCommittee MemberExpected
Councillor David LongstaffCommittee MemberExpected
Councillor Kath McGuirkCommittee MemberExpected
Councillor Arjun MittraCommittee MemberExpected
Councillor Alison MooreCommittee MemberExpected
Councillor Sachin RajputCommittee MemberExpected
Councillor Barry RawlingsCommittee MemberExpected
Councillor Peter ZinkinCommittee MemberExpected

It covers three rather different items on the agenda, all of which have huge implications for the Council and Barnet residents. Whilst the three items are seemingly unrelated, they well demonstrate the lack of joined up thinking within Barnet Council

Dear Councillor, 

I am emailing you in relation to your role as a member of the Barnet Council Policy and Resources committee. Having read the papers, there are three issues of major concern to me, that I urgently request you consider prior to the meeting and ensure that any vote you may cast is made in the best interests of Barnet residents.

1. Loan to Saracens
The Summary states the following:
"The report seeks agreement in principle to make a loan of £22.9 million to Saracens at a commercial rate for a period of 30 years to enable the construction of a new West Stand as part of their Allianz Park stadium at Copthall. It outlines the benefits of the project for the council and the wider Barnet community, and summarises the findings of a preliminary due diligence exercise. The report sets out the further due diligence and assurances required in order for the council to satisfy itself that it is prudent to make the loan. It seeks authority for the Deputy Chief Executive to oversee this work and subject to its satisfactory conclusion to enter, in consultation with Members, into a loan agreement with Saracens Ltd."

As a resident, a Council Tax payer, a Business rates payer, a local business owner and a resident of Mill Hill, I am truly alarmed at this proposal. This is not because I do not wish Saracens to build a new stand, which is a proposal I fully support, but because I do not believe that the function of a Council is to act as a bank. As a businessman, I have sought and would expect other businesses to seek loans on a commercial basis from traditional lenders.

I must ask why Saracens have not been able to secure such a loan for their project? Interest rates are competitive and I would have assumed that if there was a secure business case, then such a loan would not be difficult to obtain. This begs the question as to whether the business case is sound? Have Saracens sought finance and been refused elsewhere? Such decisions are based on the risk profile of the proposal. 

The papers give some clue as to why a commercial loan has not been forthcoming. They note:

 Saracens made an operating loss of £2.73m in 2016/17.
 The loss has been declining over recent years, and the club has a clear business plan to move to a profit position. The assumptions in the business plan are reasonable.
 At the time of writing the due diligence report, the club had total net liabilities of £45.1m in the form of intercompany loans. The club has since confirmed that these were restructured as at 30 June 2018 to leave the club in a position of having net positive assets. This will be verified during the next stage of due diligence.
 The security offered is independent of the success of the club but the council should test further its robustness through due diligence, and should consider asking for additional security.

A business which lost £2.73 million in the last accounting period, has net liabilities of £45.1 million, which seems to have magically disappeared due to an unverified restructuring surely is not something which taxpayers money should be used to back. In the event of the "business plan" not turning the business around, Barnet Council will be left with a huge stadium and no club to house. Given the problems with The Olympics stadium in Stratford, is it really wise to take the Barnet taxpayer on such a journey. 

I have no issue at all with all of the good work Saracens are doing in the Borough. This is to be encouraged and to be supported, but I do not believe that the way to support any business is for local authorities to step in and offer commercial loans. I am quite surprised that a Conservative lead administration is following such a course.

If it is now council policy to give generous loans to local businesses that do "good work", as a local the owner of a local business doing such things, I would like to have some clarification of the criteria for applying for such funding. I run Mill Hill Music Complex Studios, We have been based in Mill Hill since 1979 and we see approx 1,400 artists a week using our facilities many of whom are youths and teenagers, who have no other facilities for miles for such creative activities. We currently are seeking to construct a new building to increase our provision, but due to the inordinate amount of time it took the council to approve the planning permission, we have had to put plans on hold, due to the withdrawal of our partners, who found alternative accommodation in Brookmans Park. If the council is actively subsidising such schemes, then I would like some documentation to see what are the criteria for applying for such finance. I would be more than happy to host the committee and give them a tour of our facilities. If there is no such criteria and this is just being done as a one off favour to Saracens, a commercial company, then I worry about the legality of the scheme and whether it is actually discriminatory against businesses such as mine, which do not have the opportunity for taxpayer funded finance in a transparent manner.

2. Members Item on Copthall Diving Club.

I note that Councillor Arjun Mittra has raised a members item on North London Aquatics Diving Club. The papers note:

Diving Pool
I request that P&R Committee receives a report on the situation with the proposed diving pool in Copthall, and what action the Council is taking to support the work of North London Aquatics to establish a diving centre.
As part of this, I would like the below answered:
1. Why hasn’t the GLL contract been published? When will it be? Can we have a copy of it please?
2. Why have North London Aquatics been banned from publicising their charitable activities at Copthall leisure centre?
3. What rationale and legal advice was obtained before advising North London Aquatics that they could not film activities at Copthall leisure centre with Middlesex University due to “Purdah rules?”
4. Will the Council now undertake to do the works to link the diving pool electrical, mechanical and plant work to the rest of the Copthall leisure centre?”

It seems to me beyond comprehension that a council facility is preventing a local diving club, helping young people to become fit, confident and healthy. It has been treated so appallingly. It is truly bizarre that the Council seems to have one set of rules for a commercial sports organisation such as Saracens Ltd, whilst treating a long standing local charity so atrociously. As it seems that there is a magic money tree in Barnet, can I suggest that the same tree that has provided Saracens with a £22 million loan, be tapped to sort out the issues with the diving pool. 

3. Capita restructuring.
Tonight the committee will debate the three options on the table for a restructuring of the Capita contracts. At the time that the contracts were let, myself, other bloggers and a whole host of experts on the subject of outsourcing asked for a "public sector comparator" to be provided so we could ensure we are comparing like with like when discussing savings. As this was not done, we really have no idea of what the true savings are. 

Option three (ending relationship with Capita) marks the "value for money" of this as low. It states

"Low – Capita has delivered significant economies of scale across transactional services, including by delivering them outside of London. The council would not be able to replicate these savings."
It also states that the quality of services would be affected

"Medium/Low – wholesale in-sourcing or reprocurement is likely to divert management and staff time from service improvement. Many staff based outside of London may choose not to relocate to Barnet. Low unemployment locally is likely to make it hard to recruit to consequent vacancies" 

All of these services were previously provided inhouse. Clearly people have found other jobs and whilst there is "low unemployment" locally, there is not zero unemployment. Clearly whatever happens, there will have to be a transitional period and transitional arrangements. If the words "We have performed a public sector comparator and have found that an in house option is not viable" had been written (with accompanying report transparently published), I would have no issue agreeing with these statements. As it is, the report simply looks to have chosen a form of words to try and justify a decision to try and address the worst aspects of the Capita deal, without taking the risk that a proper study would expose some rather embarrassing facts about the way the deal has been put together and the way Capita have managed it.

I was present outside the recent Capita AGM. Shareholders told me that the management of Capita had said that Barnet Council were not capable of managing the contract and this was the root of the problems. If a vendor is saying this about the management of one of their largest clients, what level of assurance can we possibly have that these contracts will ever deliver value for money.

John Dix has comprehensively proven, using information release by Barnet Council, that the One Barnet Capita contracts are not delivering value for money or savings. Despite all of the work John has done, no one from the administration has ever sat down with him and worked through his findings. I urge the committee to arrange a workshop with Mr Dix and get a proper, independent report into how best to manage Barnet before committing the council to any further contracts with Capita. I would support the ending of the arrangements outlined in Option 2, if this was accompanied by a commitment to perform a proper, independent review of the ones remaining with Capita, to assess whether Capita really is the best provider. I would urge that this review be lead by John Dix.

In summary, it is time that Barnet Council started working for the people of the Borough, people such as the volunteers that run North London Aquaatics, rather than large commercial businesses such as  Saracens Ltd and Capita. 

Roger Tichborne