Thursday 31 March 2022

Partingdale Lane Electricity planning application - Councillor admits in Council that they only listen to residents on planning issues 'before an election'

 Last night I attended the Barnet Council planning committee, who were deciding on the application concerning a National Grid application for a battery back up supply station on green belt land in Partingdale Lane. This blog first drew attention to the application, when it was initially submitted. We worked with local ornithologist Samuel Levy to publicise the application. As a result, there were over 900 objections. Last night, the committee listened to presentation. The Mill Hill Preservation Society and a local residents group spoke at the meeting.

We recorded Roger Selby of the Preservation Society outline the societies objections. 

Several councillors, including former council leader Richard Cornelius and retiring veteran Mill Hill Councillor John Hart also made decent speeches opposing the scheme. The opposition to the scheme was cross party and well thought out. The developers agent stated several times that the scheme was part of the "Conservative governments energy strategy". Several Tory councillor winced as this (You can listen to the whole meeting by clicking THIS LINK and clicking on the audio feed). Given that there is no argument that we need such facilities, only whether they should be put in green belt areas of special scientific interest bordering nature reserves, he was very badly prepared and addressed none of the planning concerns. 

When he finished his speech, he was questioned by the committee, one of the most crass, stupid things I've ever heard at a council meeting was uttered by one of the Conservative Councillors on the committee. (I'll spare his blushes and not name and shame). He was almost immediately dressed down by veteran councillor Melvin Cohen, who realised exactly what he'd done. He started his questioning, by asking the planning consultant how long he'd been doing his job. The consultant immediately replied he'd been in the game twenty odd years. The councillor then said he was "incredibly foolish to submit this just before an election". \(You can listen  to this at 34.22 to the recording in the link above). Every councillor looked horrified. A Councillor had not only given the game away that the planning committee only listen to residents just before an election, he'd possibly invalidated the commitee's decision. Councillors are not allowed to take decisions to ensure they don't get booted out. I actually wondered if maybe he'd taken a bung to say that, as it could do the developer a big favour. It would certainly feature in any half competent appeal by the developer. If you listen at 37.43, Melvin Cohen made it clear that any decision would be taken purely on planning grounds, clearly trying to mitigate the damage. Given that the committee was unanimous in their rejection and none of the councillors voting had a vested interest in the wards affected, hopefully the damage was mitigated by Cllr Cohen, but I simply couldn't believe that all the good work done by the residents, councillors and campaign groups could be undermined by such idiocy. Clearly the young councillor thought he was jolly clever scoring points in such a way, but in truth he's a blithering idiot. 

If he only listens to public concerns and would only consider genuine planning objections, as were clearly demonstrated in this case, with an election looming, he is not fit to be a councillor. I do hope that Mill Hill senior Tory Val Duschinsky and Richard Cornelius take action to ensure he's never allowed near another Council committee again. 

I was pleased that the committee was unanimous in its rejection. This was a bad plan. If you want to find out why, watch Samuel Levy explain

Wednesday 30 March 2022

A useful money saving tip for all drivers

 If you drive a car, this little tip may save you a fair few pennies. The nearest garage to me is the Esso Garage on the A41. Diesel is £1.82 a litre. My van takes 80 litres. If I shop around, the cheapest locally is Morrisons in Borehamwood, it is £1.67 there. That is 15p a litre cheaper, which translates to £12 a tank. But how do you find the cheapest fuel locally?

I use to find the best deal. You have to register, but it is free. It gives an interactive map and the cheapest local outlets and looks like this

I'm sure there are other apps, but this one works for me. If it saves you money have a tea/coffee/beer on me.  As that horrible TV advertising campaign says, every little helps

Tuesday 29 March 2022

Thameslink Special - Why is the government letting GTR (Govia) trains carry on mismanaging our railway?

I've used the Thameslink service since it was inaugurated. I was working for BT at the time in Blackfriars and travelling from Mill Hill. I was rather fond of the service, as it took me from door to door in just under half an hour on a good day. There were eight trains an hour in the rush hour, four of which were fast from Mill Hill to St Pancras. Prior to the line opening, I'd have to walk from Farringdon and it cut 15 minutes each way from my journey. The service opened in May 1988. 

When British Rail was privatised, Govia took over. It took them a couple of years to work out how to run the network properly. The early years were a nightmare of cancellations and delays, but it eventually settled down. In 2006 (to my disgust as I thought it should have been renationalised), it was handed over to First Capital Connect. Another period of two years of chaos and debacle as they worked out how to run the network resulted. They also cut the number of trains an hour to four slow ones, which as a result were always packed in rush hour. There was a mini rebellion and eventually they were restored to six an hour in rush hour, with couple of semi fast services.

In 2015 Govia returned in the form of GTR, once again there was a period of chaos as the new operator worked out how to manage the network. In 2018 a chaotic new timetable was introduced, which caused chaos. It ended with the managing director of Govia resigning. The service had just about recovered when the pandemic hit. Over the course of the pandemic, it emerged that Go-Ahead trains, the majority owner of GTR had performed £25 million fraud on the taxpayer and were stripped of the Southern Railways franchise.

As the railway system recovevered from the pandemic and numbers started to return, GTR have imposed an emergency timetable on commuters. This has resulted in a return to four slow trains in the morning rush hour, with a long gap between trains

08:23 from Mill Hill Broadway(MIL) arriving at London St Pancras(STP) at 08:47. This service takes 24 minutes, is Direct. and is currently On time. click for more info

This has created a situation where there is overcrowding and at a time when there is a pandemic, additional risks to commuters of infection. Many are voting with their feet and shunning train travel, just at a time when we should be trying to reduce our usage of fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel.

As the service is supported by the taxpayer, we need a service that serves taxpayers properly, not dodgy train companies that have a very shady record of dealing with public money. Why is the government allowing this mess to continue? If we are serious about sorting out our emissions, we need a reliable transport service. The sorry tale of the Thameslink franchise is anything but that. It should be brought under public control ASAP. 

Monday 28 March 2022

Why Will Smith should consider anger management counselling

The Oscars were the last thing I thought I'd be blogging about this morning, but I really couldn't let the Will Smith/Chris Rock incident pass without comment. I've watched the footage of his slap on Chris Rock several times. First off, lets deal with Chris Rock.  It just isn't funny to humiliate someone who has a condition that they clearly find devastating and embarrassing. To do it on stage at an awads ceremony is even worse. Back in the mid 1980's my big sister Valerie had a terrible accident that required eight hours of brain surgery, that required the shaving of half of her head. Previously she'd had long flowing locks and and was devasated when she emerged from the coma and looked in the mirror. That was a temporary condition, but she found it hard to go out with half of her head shaved and a big scar. I can only imaging how much worse it is for someone who knows the hair isn't coming back. Imagine having your nose rubbed in it at what is meant to be a celebration? The argument is that comedians are meant to be controversial is a very out of date one. We no longer tolerate racist comedians, why should we tolerate mocking people with aolopecia and other such conditions that cause embarrassment at awards ceremonies. It wasn't a comedy club, where you choose to go and you know you are in the firing line.

As to Will Smith, he needs to take a long hard look at himself. If he'd controlled his anger, walked on stage, taken the mic and said "Many women have alopecia and for them it is a very difficult matter. We should not be humiliating them. The academy should not tolerate this and if Chris is a man he'll apologise" it would have been far more powerful. As it was, he just seemed like a bloke with anger issues who can't behave himself and doesn't know how to deal with issues like an adult. The talk is not about the real issue but about badly behaved men.

Would Will Smith have slapped Chris Rock if he'd been twice his size as opposed to physically smaller. All of the people who say "Will Smith was right to hit him, he was out of order" may want to consider the bigger picture. Men don't start fights if they think they will lose and get a good beating. Intelligent people use words to resolve disputes. If we accept that violence is the best way to settle disputes, we accept that the frail and weak have no recourse.  When I was younger, I had issues with anger. I'd overreact. I'm not a violent person, but I'd behave in a very stupid manner when I believed I was right. As a result I had anger management counselling thirty years ago, as I realised I was not dealing with situations properly.  This made me realise that over reacting was not a sign of strength but weakness and you can transform a situation where you are in the right to one where you are very much in the wrong by letting anger cloud your judgement. This is exactly what Smith did last night.

Will Smith should consider anger management counselling. For many he is an iconic figure. He has a platform, what he chose to do was make his point in the worst possible way and totally waste the opportunity to make a very valid point. In this world, we need icons who are calm and deal with issues in a rational way and set an example. I think the Oscar organising committee should take a long, hard look at themselves and consider how they organise their awards. You would think that "Don't belittle people or draw attention to any conditions they may find embarrassing" would be part of the contract for the host presenter. It ain't rocket science.

Sunday 27 March 2022

The tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 27th March 2022

 So how has your week been? Mine has been Ok. Saw a couple of friends in town for a pleasant curry at Est India on Union St on Tuesday, five a side on Thursday was fun, nice meal in Berkehampstead with friends on Friday and saw a good second half performance yesterday at Hadley FC vs Broadfields FC in the sun. Here is the mighty Jordan Edwards scoring the third. First time I've captured a goal from open play for a tweet so most pleased.

Anyway enough of all that, what have our local tweeters been up to?

1. This is a good cause. Please support Lisa

2. What were you doing 50 years ago? If you were in Edgware, maybe you were at the Premier of the Steptoe and Son film!

3. Live in Cricklewood? Got a few old books to spare? What batter thing to do than share the love!

4. Blimey, if you thought Barnet Council now was not interested in the less well off, check out this tweet

5. Simon Atkinson posted some great pictures of the Borough this week. This may not be the prettiest, but it is probably the best one to start a conversation and I rather like it. What do you think. Check out his other work

6. A date for your diary

7. I imagine a few readers might enjoy this

8. The Venice of the North London

9. Whilst on the subject of local waterways, a celebration of the newest water feature in the Borough of Barnet

10. Some nice, moody rock and roll photography in Mill Hill

That's all folks!

Saturday 26 March 2022

The Saturday List #341 - The 14 essential blogs of the Barnet Eye

 This has been our 'Greatest Hits' week. I wanted to make the case that local bloggers can make a difference. I listed four subjects where I felt this blog has made a unique and very important difference to our community. Please have a look at the four blogs we featured. Each looks at a very different subject, but each has made a real and important difference. If you have something to say, a blog is an excellent way to say it. This blog has never been advertised, it has built its readership up from scratch. I've always worked on the philosophy that if I'm interested in a topic, someone else, somewhere must be. Some of the blogs I've least  expected to get a reaction have got the best engagement. It doesn't always work and it is hard work, but ultimately, and putting this series together has reminded me why I do it, it is worthwhile. 

I've always done my best to promote other blogs, there's a list of great blogs in the sidebar (on the desktop version of the blog), sadly not all do the same thing, . The latest in the Barnet family of blogs is the Mr Limitless blog. Have a look. 

Anyway, on to the matter in hand. I thought I'd put a list together of what I consider 'essential blogs' of the Barnet Eye. I've not included the topics that were featured earlier in the week. You can view these by CLICKING HERE.

I've chosen one for every year of the blog.

2008 -  Barnet Council's incompetance puts Nazi propoganda on YouTube

This was the blog that started the Barnet Eye. I wrote this blog exposing how Barnet Council had placed an anti semitic video on their website for the Barnet Times. You may think that the Barnet Tories, who give lip service to supporting our local Jewish community would be horrified and thank me for this awful slip up? Not a bit of it. They made such a fuss to the Barnet Times editor that he sacked me as a contributor, stating that the "tone of the blog was too incendiary". Ironically, the Jewish Chronicle saw the blog and when they picked up the story, the blog was removed. Many local Tories, including David Miller, former chair of the Chipping Barnet Tories staunchly supported my stance. I've never quite understood how the Tories got away with it. It is worth a read.

2009 - I'm resigning from the Labour Party

This was a big moment for me. I'd been a member since the 1980's. I'd always thought of politics in tribal terms and I'd always thought that the Labour party stood for equality and compassion. When I saw the then Labour Home Secretary Alan Johnson congratulating French Riot Police for their brutal closure of the Sangatte refugee camp, as images of riot police attacking women and children were shown, I realised that I couldn't remain a member. In truth I'd been in denial for a decade. The Blair regime had a huge majority when it was elected. They could have transformed the UK for the better. What did Blair do? Lied to Parliament, started illegal wars, pandered to the multinational companies, kept regressive taxes, allowed private rail companies to run riot. I also realised that grown ups shouldn't be tribal about politics. We should not give any politician a free pass. Thirteen years later, I think it was one of the best decisions I've made. If I was still a member I'd have spent the last thirteen years either shutting my eyes and ears to what the party really is or I'd be a hypocrite and a liar.

I really wanted to pick a blog in 2010 about the Barnet Tories Future Shape/EasyCouncil/One Barnet project. This was the year that it really swung into life. There were plenty to choose from. But I chose this one, a very short blog indeed. When I read this, I thought "12 years later, every word of this is still true" - This is the key detail
Barnet Council auditors Grant Thornton issued a report which highlighted the following :-

No project plan
No Business Case
No Project Milestones
No effective control of the project

All project details are discussed in secret, there is no openness or transparency whatsoever
To this day, the Barnet Tories refuse to share the key financial details. Only last month Mr Reasonable made just this point at the Barnet Council Finance, Performance and Contracts committee, which we rather conveniently videod for posterity. Nothing has changed. The truth is that if it had worked, they would publish the figures, cut the secrecy and be putting it on their election brochures.

This was a day I was proud of Barnet. 1,000 people marched in the snow from Finchley Central, ending up at the Arts Depot, for a gig I'd organised, featuring The Foundations, my band and a host of others, as well as speeches froma whole bevvy of people campaigning against austerity. It made the BBC news. As a campaigner, what more could you do or ask for. This event was very much the brainchild of myself and Barnet Unison secretary John Burgess, who did most of the heavy lifting. 

In 2012, we made a film. Working with John Burgess of Unison and the Barnet Trades Council, we commissioned USA film maker Charles Honderick to make a film about Barnet. We organised a viewing at The Phoenix cinema, it was so well attended that we had to organise two showings. It was featured on ITV News, BBC News and BBC local radio. How proud was I as producer? Immensely. It was a really difficult film to make, as the day approached, new things kept happening requiring re-edits. Charles Honderick, the director did about ten times more work than he thought, we got great value for money. Technically the production was not what I'd wanted, because we simply ran out of time, but in terms of content it is spot on. It did the job, hundreds of people walked out saying "I had no idea this was going on". It was a great day. The film was shown at The House of Commons and at the Unison conference. Proud? You bet.

One of the things I'm most proud of, is giving a platform to other members of the public in Barnet. I could have chosen any but I've chosen Linda Edwards blog as it is very powerful and is still relevant. It is a difficult read for anyone who cares about how the Borough of Barnet deals with vulnerable adults. I spoke to Linda recently and nine years later, she is still struggling. Nothing changes.

Of all the sorry stories we've covered in Barnet, this was perhaps the most revolting, but for once the Barnet Tories had a rebellion in the ranks and common sense prevailed. I wish I could claim this as a victory for the Barnet Eye, but to be honest, I think that the sight of all the parents of disabled children was just too much for the Tory councillors who rebelled. In truth, I was just glad I was there to see the moment.  I wrote
Then, from a rather unexpected source, the final blow. Councillor Maureen Braun, not a friend of this blog asked Rubes "Who is more vulnerable than disabled children". Rubes tried to string a sentence together, but failed. Braun had summed up the general feeling in the room. Rayner had sensed early on that the Torie were on a loser. He had spent the evening trying to figure out how to extract his reputation from this situation. He clearly didn't want to shaft Mapledown, but couldn't work out how to protect his Tory friend. He moved to a vote and to the amazement of all, Salinger and Braun, to their great credit voted to send the report back to the cabinet. In short a Tory Committee had agreed that the Mapledown cut was unfair and unjust and needed review.
I have never been more pleased to have been at a meeting. No one thought this would happen before the meeting. I'm glad I preserved that moment for posterity.

Whilst many of these blogs concern really important things, I often blog about life. My father was a wise man and nothing makes me happier than sharing the knowledge he passed on. Every time I re-read this blog, it brings a tear to my eye. My Dad was a great man, a WW2 bomber pilot, successful businessman, great cricketer. But the best thing he gave me was wisdom and generosity of spirit. The lesson of this blog is probably more important than anything. I sometimes wish that the people who run our Borough had a Dad like him, as there would be no way they'd be so mean spirited. My Dad was a Conservative, which is why I've never subscribed to the 'all Tories are bad' view. 

I couldn't resist including this. How wrong can you possibly be? It just shows how you don't really appreciate what you've got until it's gone. I do think it's time that we give serious thought to the question I posed 
 What exactly do you think we've done to piss the big fella up there off? 2016 - We are only half way through the year. I am not going to tempt fate and say "How much worse can it get" because I think we all know a couple of very good examples of the that. 
Clearly we didn't get the message in 2016.

We haven't done the Barnet Eye Community Awards for a couple of years, for obvious reasons. I used to love the evening. Every year we'd ask for nominations and then give the winner a certificate and a round of applause. It was our way of saying thank you to people who do great things. I just hope that we can do it again this year. It is always fun and it gives local people a chance to show some appreciation of those who do good things. Barnet Council has followed our lead and is recognising community champions now, so I count that as a small victory. I discussed this with former Leader Richard Cornelius on many occasions and credit to him for listening. 

When I posted this blog, there were no objections to the proposal. Within a few days, there were hundreds. The battle is not won, but the pub is still standing and this version of the proposal was slung out. This is the sort of thing local blogs do well. I'm particularly proud of this one.

I had to include a Saturday List, as this is one of our favourite regular features. I chose this one as it sums up a good Saturday list, evocative and at the same time absurd. I hope you enjoy these.

Blimey, this was eighteen months ago! Where did the time go. I wanted to include a mention of The Robert Elms show on this list, as to me it is the bedrock of London's culture. I won't discuss the appalling changes to the BBC London schedule that has almost destroyed the station and put Robert on at very inconvenient times. I loved doing this. I'd love to do another pick sometime

Music is my life. I've run a studio for 43 years. Of all the people to pass through, and there have been tens of thousands, the most iconic was Amy. She was loved by us. I never sought to make a big thing of it, but after her passing and several documentaries that I felt didn't really tell the full story, I had to put the record straight. This was my attempt. I'm a believer and I look forward to the big gig in the sky where I'll hear that amazing voice again,

We finish, almost where we started, mismanagement and embarrassment for the Barnet Tories. In 2010 we detailed how the Council Auditors stated that the project was being run chaotically and they were not being open about it. Twelve years later, they've reaped what they have sown. A sorry tale.

I hope you've enjoyed this round up and the selection of blogs. I'll leave you with some music. Please have a listen.

Friday 25 March 2022

The Greatest hits of the Barnet Eye week - Day 4 - The Rog T Cancer Blogs

This week, I'm telling the story of some of the blogs I'm most proud of in the 14 years that I've been writing this blog. Never let anyone tell you that writing a blog is a waste of time. I know of at least three people who have had successful treatment for prostate cancer, which was caught at an early stage, as a direct result of this blog. I don't know what would have happened if they hadn't read the blog, but it would not have been good. Let me explain.

When I started writing the Barnet Eye in 2008, I had no intention at all of blogging about health issues. I have no qualifications in health and I was in pretty good health. I was going to the gym regularly and playing football twice a week. As we had a dog, I was also exercising every day on a nice walkies. What could possibly go wrong? Well sometime in the early summer of 2011, I hurt my knee playing football. It didn't get better. I went to the doctor and they suggested that as I was 49, a "health MOT" would be in order. So I was booked in and a swathe of blood tests and other checks were done. All were fine, apart from a slightly raised PSA. I wasn't worried, by my doctor suggested a course of anti biotics and a follow up. An infection could raise the PSA level. A few weeks later, I went for a follow up. It had gone up. I was not concerned. I was referred to Barnet General urology. A biopsy was recommended. I had it and was supremely confident that they'd find nothing. Sadly I was wrong. I had prostate cancer. On 8th November 2011, I was told and I wrote THIS BLOG DETAILING MY FEELINGS. My wife was not chuffed with me. She felt such things should not be talked about, but I took the view that maybe I could extract something good from the episode. on the 2oth November, I started the ROG T CANCER BLOG series. Reading it back, it is rather preachy, very worthy and if someone else had written it, I'd have found it incrfedibly irritating. It reminds me of the sort of things people write when they've first discovered Christianity and are in the full thrall of evangelism. I like to think that I started to get it right as I went along.

To start with I was on what was called active surveillence. This is when there is a cancer but it is not deemed dangerous, but needs to be kept an eye on. I was having quarterly PSA tests and annual MRI or prostate biopsies. In 2015, the news was not good. It had started to 'develop'. This meant treatment was an required. In January 2016, I had an experimental HIFU treatment. Thus far, it has kept the problem at bay. I don't have any medication or ongoing problems.

So that is the story of the cancer, but more importantly from my perspective, is the effect writing the blog had. The thing that heartened me most was the reaction of many male friends, acquantances and casual readers of the blog. I've had a whole host of emails from people thanking me for the blogs. Friends who I've never discussed health issues with have opened up. I've pointed one or two at better (for them) treatment options, explained that my plumbing still works post HiFu and generally supported them. Three people told me that the blog inspired them to get a PSA test and as a result had treatment because an undetected and non symptomatic cancer was growing. As they caught it early, the problem was resolved. The thought that at least three people will not succumb to prostate cancer. 

If I've done nothing else in my life, that is a good thing. As I said at the start of this blog, don't let anyone ever tell you that writing blogs is a waste of time.  Oh, and if you are over 50 and haven't had a PSA get one, if you have any symptoms of Prostate cancer, such as difficulty wee'ing or blood when you pee, please see your doctor. I don't want your thanks, I just want you to be OK.

Thursday 24 March 2022

The Greatest hits of the Barnet Eye week - Day 3 - The practical guide to watching someone die

I guess the true measure of whether I will ultimately judge my blogging efforts to have been a worthwhile use of my time, is if I can say that I've actually made a small difference to someone's  life when they needed help and didn't know where to turn. When I started writing the blog I had few expectations that this would really be possible. I mean, who reads a local blog about the Barnet and actually learns anything useful? The moment I realised that I'd completely underestimated what you could achieve what can be done with a few words happened about six months after I first published a blog entitled "The practical guide to watching someone die" on the 24th April 2012. I wrote the blog a few days after watching one of my best mates die of cancer. Although both my parents passed away when I was an adult, I was not around in either case, as they died unexpectedly. When Paul died, we were there with him through the process. 

The hospital told us he'd pass in a matter of hours. In the emotional devastation of the aftermath, I realised I'd been completely unprepared for the whole experience, both emotionally and practically. I wrote a blog, whilst it was still fresh in my mind, detailing what I should have done to prepare for the experience. No blog has had the same pattern of views. Every day it gets 10-20 and has risen to be the third most viewed blog on the Barnet Eye. The only two more viewed went viral and have humungous amounts of views, but have probably not had a view since the month after they were published.

About six months after I wrote the blog, I received a letter from someone I'd never met, on the other side of the country. She sent me a cheque for £500 and said "buy yourself a holiday or donate it to charity as you please. Your blog got me through an impossible experience. Just knowing someone else felt like that and felt so powerless was something that made it just about manageable and the information was invaluable. I have passed it on to all of my friend. Please acknowledge that you received the cheque" and gave a phone number. As I always do at such times, I felt like a fraud and a charlotan. The last thing I wanted was for someone to send me some money. I thought "Christ, if they knew what an idiot I was they'd be embarrassed". But as it was a kind gesture, I thought I'd better ring up and say thank you. 

When I rang, I introduced myself and was greeted by a Lady who could hardly talk. She was in floods of tears. I asked if it was a bad time, she said "Every time is a bad time, please talk to me if you can manage it". So I did, well I didn't really. I just listened to her talking for an hour. She was clearly quite distraught and rambling away. After an hour, she said "Someone is at the door, I better go". It really troubled me. I genuinely didn't know what to do. After about a week, I was feeling horrible about the whole thing. I thought I'd better ring just to see how she was. I was very tempted to return the cheque. 

I rang and it was like speaking to a different person. She was polite and friendly and very apologetic for being so upset the previous week. There was a good reason, it had been the anniversary of a key date with the person who had passed and she'd been drinking. She said that she was very touched that I called back. I said that I really appreciated that she'd sent the cheque, but it was totally unnecessary. She replied "Well if you feel better, give it to a charity, but it would make me happier if you spent the money on a treat, as I really wanted to thank you for your efforts. If you were local I'd buy you and your wife dinner". So I said "Well ok, I'll take her out to dinner on you and the rest I'll give to MacMillan.". Which is exactloy what I did.

She then told me that she'd been distraught when she read the blog and had found it by googling. It had been the only article that she could really associate with and that it was a massive help. She then reassured me she was OK. It hadn't really occurred to me that a few words would be so important to someone. Over the next few years, I'd get emails every six or so months from people saying that they'd really been helped (no others contained chaques, something I am quite pleased about). In 2018, I got an email from someone else, who worked with a bereavement charity. She asked if I could speak to her. I rang and she explained that someone had pointed her at the blog and she wanted permission to use parts of it in material they were sending out. I said "use it as you see fit, I'd appreciate a credit". She then asked if I wanted any sort of payment. I didn't. She then said "There are a few things you might want to consider adding". I asked her to send an email, which she did.  In September 2018, I did just that. 

It was suggested that I may like to write a book on the subject, but I declined. I'd have loved to do it, but I wrote the blog when it was raw. Try as I may, I couldn't really think of anything to expand it. I was just pleased that I did something and it made a difference to a few people. I think that often such blogs are actually better than 'proper books and guides' as they are often more raw and immediate.  

Wednesday 23 March 2022

The Greatest hits of the Barnet Eye week - Day 2 - The Freedom pass scandal

 In day two of our series, I look at something that clearly shouldn't have happened. One of the things I'm proud about is that people trust me. People tell me things. Sometimes, I see something and I don't know what to say about it. I don't know what to do. On April 4th 2016, I got a message from a young man I know quite well. I consider him a friend. I've not read this blog since it was posted and it is just as shocking today. The young man lives with autism, he had worked at my business as part our work experience programme and he felt I was someone he could trust.

The message he sent me told of how he'd been trying to get the tube and found that his Freedom Pass had been cancelled. This was a stressful situation, he had no idea what was going on. When I received his message, I made some enquiries and checked that he was happy with me publishing it. Please read this, it is the full, unedited transcript of his message. So what had happened? Barnet Council had illegally cancelled hundreds of vulnerable people's Freedom Passes and not all had been told. A fellow blogger saw a similar thing happen on a bus. They did not realise what was going on until they read my blog. I had made enquiries and it immediately became clear what had happened. I then received another email, from a mum who was the parent of friend of one of my kids, who again was vulnerable and had suffered a similar humiliating experience

After discussions with my young friend and his mum, we agreed that he'd go public and share his story in a Youtube video. Within hours, hundreds of people had watched his video. It was a brave thing to do and I was reticent about publishing it, but it was his idea and he insisted. It is worth watching to understand just how a stroke of a pen at a Council meeting can have such awful consequences. 

The local and national press got involved and by May 15th, Barnet Council had apologised and reinsatted the Freedom passes for all involved. I proudly posted this blog celebrating

There is a little subtext that I've not revealed before. A few days later I was at a Council meeting and I collared one of the Tory Councillors responsible for the fiasco. I said that I was pleased that they'd acknowledged their mistake and reinstated the passes. His response shocked me, I was speechless for a few seconds. He said "I can't stand your holier than thou pontificating, everyone knows you only publish these stories to further your own political career". I was stunned. Not least because at the time I didn't belong to a Political party at the time and had no interest in standing. His comment was pretty much the inspiration to rejoin the Lib Dems and stand again in Mill Hill, but at the time it was the last thing on my mind. I was infuriated by the comment, I replied "You do realise that the young man who exposed this is a friend and did work experience and the girl who I featured was at school with my daughter. Please don't judge me by your own standards". That was met with "We all know what this is really about".  I'd expected a bit of contrition, but there was no such thing.  I have to be fair to the Barnet Tories, then Leader Richard Cornelius caught up with me and said "We got that wrong and we are sorry" and former leader Brian Salinger said to me that he was horrified by the situation and it would never have happened on his watch, but there genuinely were members of the administration who were totally unrepentent. Sadly they are in abundance in the current regime running the council.

The final blog in that series was rather full of pathos. It  was a sort of sad postcript, where the young man who started the story came to say thanks for getting it sorted. 

As with the Friern Barnet story, I'm incredibly proud of the role this blog played in getting this sorted out. We broke the story and we made sure it had legs. Other local people, bloggers and the press made it impossible for the council to maintain it's inhuman stance. I am proud that people trust me. I am proud that I've helped a few people. I had a small tear in my eye as I put this together, I sometimes wonder why people trust me and why I have to do these stories. Surely, with 63 Councillors, getting paid a minimum of £10K a year, I shouldn't need to do this as the adminstration councillors should not pass such rules and the opposition should properly scrutinise these changes. But it is left to me, a dyslexic punk rock guitarist to do this. Something is not right, is it?

Tuesday 22 March 2022

Council Environment Strategy Q: When do the Barnet Tories listen to The Barnet Eye? A: When there is a Council election around the corner!

 This morning is one where I have to say something positive about Barnet Council. They have announced an initiative to improve energy efficiency in the Council. I would hope that every resident in Barnet will applaud this. It helps on one of the main things that this blog has been campaigning about for well over a decade. In December 2018, we launched our environment Monday series of blogs. I felt that it warranted a dedicated feature. I'd been talking about the issue since the blog started, but felt it would be better to cover it in a specific feature on a specific day of the week. The first blog in the series detailed our aims. On energy efficiency I stated.

Energy management. Back in 2010, I proposed that all libraries and public buildings in Barnet be fitted with solar panels. I made the case that this would have paid for itself in five years and then made a huge profit. Had they done this then, the council would have been £2 million better off and used an untold amount less CO2. Sadly the generous tariffs that applied then have long gone, but there is no reason why the Council should not still invest. The payback would be 8-9 years, but as the recent Saracens deal has shown, money can be borrowed from the public works board at low rates. If this was done over 20 years, the council would see  profit next year on its budget. It is a win-win and one that there is no sane reason not to persue. Every school, library and other public building should do this. When you consider that schools use energy during the day when the sun shines, they would end up paying almost nothing in energy costs for most of the year.

I find the timing interesting. There is an election in six weeks time. The Barnet Tories who run the council know that I've been campaigning on this subject. So what does their rather conveniently times press release say? 

Barnet Council has completed the first phase of its plan to increase the energy efficiency of a number of council-owned buildings. The £1.38million upgrade is part of the council’s wider commitment to becoming ‘carbon net zero’ by 2030 as an organisation.

Phase one of the project has delivered a variety of energy-efficiency measures across Barnet Council buildings, including heat pumps, solar panels, battery storage and building management systems, installed in council offices, libraries, children’s centres and two primary schools.

The Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) works have been funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and administered through Salix Finance. The Scheme offers grant funding for capital energy saving projects such as making public buildings more energy efficient and installing low carbon heating measures.

The next phase, which starts this year and is expected to be completed by March 2023, will see the council investing a further £4.9million to retrofit up to 19 of Barnet’s schools to make them more energy efficient.

Leader of the Council, Cllr Dan Thomas, said:

“We are delighted to have secured this funding, and with the progress being made towards building a greener, more sustainable council and borough. The installation of energy efficient measures throughout our building stock means a significant reduction in the reliance on gas, reducing our dependence on fossil fuel.

“More energy efficient buildings will also benefit our communities by reducing carbon emissions. This is a huge step in reducing our carbon footprint, becoming a net zero organisation by 2030 and a more sustainable Barnet that is fit for the future.”

In December 2021, councillors approved Barnet Council’s targets to be carbon net zero as an organisation by 2030, and for Barnet as a place to be net zero as soon as possible after that and by 2050 at the latest.

The council’s forthcoming Sustainability Strategy will set out the actions Barnet Council will continue to take to create a green, clean, and safe place to live now and for generations to come.

Focus groups with residents, businesses, and community and interest groups are underway already, and there will be an opportunity for everyone to help shape the council’s Sustainability Strategy via a full public consultation later in the year.

Find out more about the council’s sustainability initiatives and support available to residents at:

So yes, The Barnet Eye congratulates the Council for doing this. It is just a shame that they didn't do it over a decade ago, when we first proposed it. If they had, we'd have had a massive payback by now and we'd all be paying less council tax. The question for every resident when they vote is whether they want to vote for a party that is a decade late to the party or whether they want to consider voting for candidates who have been saying this all along, and who would have saved you money if anyone in charge has listened. It is 100% clear to me that this announcement has been rushed out before the election. How do I know? Because there are no details of the cost savings this will deliver and the timescale. Presumably the costs are covered by a long term loan at low interest from the Public works board and we will see a payback immediately. The fact that they can't quantify any projected savings in this press release show that it is rushed out and they have reacted to what people who spoke to us have said on the doorstep.

The Greatest hits of the Barnet Eye week - Day 1 - Friern Barnet People's Library

 Last week we announced that this was Greatest hits week at the Barnet Eye. As it is 15 years since the blog was conceived (like many people when they are in the act of conception, I didn't have a clue that this was what I'd done). I'd alwaysconsidered myself as pretty illiterate and dyslexic. My old English teacher is probably spinning in her grave at the the size of what I've achieved. As a dyslexic, it is quite unbelieveable to me that it should have reached the corners it has. For the rest of the week, I'll be featuring the stories I'm most proud of. There is a long list and many will be surprised by what I don't list. For instance, I won't be listing the Barnet Council Metpro scandal. Although this was the one of the biggest stories in the Borough relating to bloggers, it was a shared effort with the other bloggers, so it would be wrong to claim too much credit. 

Ten years ago, on the 4th April 2012, Barnet Council Tories voted to shut Friern Barnet Library.  This happened the very next day, giving locals almost no time to organise a response. None the less a small protest and a sit in was staged. Like many bad management teams (P&O take note) what seemed like a clever wheeze turned into a PR disaster. As I sat in the Bridge Tavern, crying in my beer, I realised that I couldn't possibly allow the B******rds to get away with it. But what could I do? I only had one weapon. My blog. I could write a million words, but what good would that do? Then I had a brainwave. There's a large green outside the Library, the weather was good. Why not hold our own library on the green outside? I wrote a blog announcing that the Barnet Eye was opening a 'People's Library' on the green outside the Library on the following Saturday Saturday. Bring your books to swap, bring cakes, teas, music. 

In truth, I immediately regretted it. I was terrified that I'd be standing on the grass on my own. I'd be exposed for the fraud and charlotan than I always feel I am deep inside. But having said I'd do it, there was no way out. To my delight, the local paper swang behind us. The other bloggers such as Mr Mustard a supported us. On the day, over 400 people turned up. Blogger Mr Reasonable noted the success of the event. The event was such a success that the People's Library became a weekly event and was even featured on The One Show.

A stock of books was buiilt up, the Occupy movement got involved and in September the Library was reopened by the people. The Council launched eviction proceedings, when the council realised that it was unlikely to win the appeal they relented and the library was handed over to the Community. I can't claim responsibility for saving the Library, there were too many people involved, most who did far more than me, but I will go to my grave proud that it was me who planted the seed for what happened. 

I was recently asked to speak about what happened by the Campaign group Liberty as part of their campaign opposing the new policing bill, which would have sent me to prison for ten years for organising the People's Library. Would I do it now, if I knew I'd end up in clink for ten years. I like to think so, but I'd be 70 when I came out, if I served my full sentence. Then again, if you stand by and do nothing, what is the point of being alive?

Please watch this video. It's rather good, IMHO

Monday 21 March 2022

Environment Monday - Darwin was wrong, it's not the fittest who survive!

 I did an A Level in biology back in the day. It may shock you to know the reason why? I didn't really have much of an interest in the subject when I made the choice and I failed my O level in it at the first attempt, but there was method in my madness. My sister had done Biology and she told me that if you did the A Level, you got a week away in Millport in Scotland on a field trip. That was reason enough to go. 

I was rather lucky, the biology teacher at Orange Hill was a bloke called Bob Wright, who I got on very well with. I think Bob liked me for reasons that were nothing to do with my acedemic abilities, he'd chat about music and politics and I after I left, I got the odd invite around for a scotch and a chat with him and his wife. As I liked him, I tried marginally harder than I might have otherwise and secured an A Level. I also realised that I found the subject extremely interesting. I never really excelled at tasks that required memorising lots of numbers etc, but I found many of the things we covered fascinating. The one that most intrigued me was Charles Darwin. I'd have loved his job. Sadly by the time I was doing my A levels things had moved on. What fascinated me most was that if you ask anyone who hasn't studied Darwin what he is famous for, they will tell you "He came up with concept of survival of the fittest". 

When we were first introduced to the subject, it was in the text books and I'd heard it mentioned, so I accepted it on face value. But as I delved deeper, I realised that this wasn't really what Darwin was saying at all. Survival of the fittest sounds as if the biggest strongest and toughest should survive. However if we have a nuclear nightmare, I'd put my money on the cockroaches instead of just about anything else. My Dad, being a serving World War 2 pilot and a Roman Catholic, had an alternative theory. He believed in survival of the luckiest. He said in the war, the first to die were the bravest, then the strongest and biggest, with the RAF, the pilots were madly superstitious. Those that survived believed it was their superstitions that saw them through, those that didn't. Who knows?

Flying a bomber over enemy territory was a dangerous business and in many ways it was pot luck as to who survived. As my Dad was shot down on the 40th mission, the last of his tour of duty, it sort of supported the theory that it was pretty random when your turn came.

But what's this all got to do with the Environment? Well I've heard some arguments recently that the 'planet will evolve' to deal with climate change. There is a school of thought that super, carbon  guzzling life forms will evolve that will simply gobble up the CO2 and save our bacon. If this were to happen, it would give crfedence to my Dad's theory that the lucky survive. It may happen, but what will we lose in the process? As new life forms evolve, others are pushed out. Maybe it will be us who suffer? Life forms evolve all the time. That is why we have antibiotic resistant diseases. That is why We went from Covid, to Delta Variant to Omicron. Sometimes these forms develop to our advantage and sometimes they don't. It seems to me a tad stupid to bank on being lucky and hope evolution deals us a good hand

Sunday 20 March 2022

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 20th March 2022

If you've not read this item before, I always start with a litte round up of my week, if anythin g exciting has happened, then give you the pick of the best tweets I've seen during the week. If you see a great tweet please tag me. I don't do politicians holding leaflets or overtly political tweets, although I do sometimes highlight problems that Barnet Council should be dealing with and do feature tweets  by councillors if they are non politcal. If you want to appear, it must be related in some way to the Borough of Barnet. I prefer tweets with great pictures and if they make me laugh or feature sporting or music history they are ones I particularly like. I always try and picka  couple of dates for the diary as well. I try and feature all corners of the Borough, but that is not always possible. And although I know terrible things are happening in the world, we do sometimes need relief from it. 

I've had a wonderful week. Saw a brilliant game of football at Hadley on Tuesday, had a great band rehearsal on Wednesday, enjoyed five a side on Thursday (and had a nice chicken vindaloo from the Mill Hill Tandoori after), had a quiet night on Friday, as we were getting up at 5am to have a belated (by two years) celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary. For this we took a luxury vintage train to Chester for the day. It was a beautiful day, we walked the city walls and visited the Cathedral, which is wonderful. Thoroughly recommended, got back for the St Patricks day bash at the Mill Hill Services club,  Here's our pics of Chester.

But that's enough of my week, how was your week? This is what our local tweeters have been up to

1. Lets start in Burnt Oak with a date for your diary. Not everything Barnet Council does I disagree with, this is great work

2. Sadly there are other things they are not doing quite as well

3. This looks great, just wish we'd had more warning to plug it!

4. And whilst in Cricklewood, they were celebrating Paddies day properly down there!

5. Well. Can you guess? Great pic

6. And whilst in Hendon, a rather wonderful post from one of our fave accounts!

7. Always nice to wish a retiring fireman well for the future and to say thanks

8. We love a bit of local wildlife. Nice pics

9. Nive pic from a new (to us) account.

10. Who are we to disagree!

That's all folks!

Friday 18 March 2022

Barnet Council website is not working - another Capita failure

 IF you need to do anything on the Barnet Council website today, which involves entering a postcode, you will be out of luck. Their website is unable to process postcodes. Needless to say, this means that the switchboard is probably also overloaded. Once again a system run by Capita is not working. 

I suggest that if you are trying to pay a bill, you take a screen shot of this page. If you cannot because they can't take your payment, then this may come in rather useful if they try and impose penalties or take court action. It is beyond me why Barnet Council simply can't admit that their relationship with Capita hasn't worked and has delivered appalling service to the Barnet Council taxpayer. 

Fellow blogger Mr Reasonable has exposed just how expensive this failure has been. I've almost run out of ways to describe how rubbish the whole One Barnet outsourcing project has been. Sadly Capita have not run out of ways to demonstrate that the Barnet Bloggers were right about Capita all along.