The Sisters of Charity want a word with you, Brian ...
Updates: see below including Wednesday 1 & 2:
An interesting story appeared on our local Times paper website yesterday. Sharada Osman, a woman living in Finchley, recently made the mistake of writing to her local councillor to ask his help with problems regarding her accommodation. She is a single mother, with a six year old son, and her private landlord has just demanded a large increase in rent, which she cannot pay.
What did kind hearted Tory councillor Brian Coleman have to say to this unfortunate woman? Not much: he told her to turn to the private sector for housing (which she already relies on) rather than expect council housing 'because there will never be enough council houses available'.
And then, as reported in the Times:
"Ms Osman replied calling his statement thoughtless and lacking in empathy to which he responded:
“Lack of empathy?????? Councillors simply cannot conjure housing out of thin air and the private sector is your only option. That is a fact.
“I am afraid you have to live in the real world where the country has no money and residents will have to deal with their own issues rather than expecting ‘the system’ to sort their lives out. This correspondence is now closed.”
Ms Osman said: “He made me feel awful. I just wanted to make him aware of my situation and ask him if there was anything I could be doing. He was really rude and really spoke down to me – no one should be spoken to like that.”"Here we have yet another example of the rudeness and arrogance which Coleman so frequently displays in response to residents who dare to contact him over issues of concern to them. This lack of courtesy and respect is completely unnecessary in anyone, but from an elected representative approached in the context of responsibilties to a consituent or indeed any resident, it is particularly unacceptable.
Brian Coleman collects a six figure income from his public sector posts, and is also in receipt of generous expense arrangements in regard to most of these appointments.
This is the same man who recently objected at a Barnet council committee meeting to the obligation that the authority has to provide transport for children with special needs, and disabled and vulnerable adults - 'these people' - yet is happy to accept public money to pay for his own taxi bills. Can he really not understand the disgust that residents feel when they read about such indulgence, coupled with such outrageous insensitivity to the needs of disadvantaged residents requiring support - and perhaps some compassion - for their difficulties? Where is the sense of charity, that quality of the Christianity that he claims, as an 'active' Methodist to follow?
Coleman told Ms Osman to live in the 'real world' and not to expect the 'system' to sort out her life. Her needs, and those of her child, are her responsibility alone.
What a shame it is that Ms Osman is not in a position to apply for active help from, say, a local charity, such as, oh - Finchley Methodist Church, which just happens to own Councillor Coleman's two bedroomed flat. Councillor Coleman does not rely on the system to sort him out, Ms Osman: no, no - he prefers to be sorted out by the Reverend Michael Giles and his fellow parishioners.
Whereas Ms Osman and her son, living on income support, are struggling to pay a new rent of £1,100 a month on their two bedroomed home, Coleman, who earns around £130,000 per annum, is fortunate enough to have secured a fixed rent on the flat he has provided by the charity - of only £546.
Surprised? Don't be. This is how we live, some of us, here in the real world of Broken Barnet.
Ms Osman's story has been featured on the BBC Radio 4 website in the last week, and you can find an article about her here ... the article considers the plight of tenants like Ms Osman who are at the mercy of private landlords, and finding it increasingly impossible to secure affordable accommodation. This difficulty is particularly hard in London, and in boroughs like Tory Barnet where there is a deliberate lack of provision for social housing, and so many disadvantaged people are forced into private rental arrangement; a situation made even more complicated thanks to the new housing benefit rules. The effects on tenants, and in particular the children of such tenants, is something that Mrs Angry imagines Councillor Coleman, secure in his charity owned flat, finds of little interest.
Update 2: 6.00pm
Labour spokesman for housing in Barnet Ross Houston has given his angry reaction to Coleman's remarks in an article in the local Times: take a look - here ... oh, and Mrs Angry notes that there is a national newspaper interested in Ms Osman's story ...
In the last day or so, several national papers, press agencies, and other media sources have been landing here in Broken Barnet, ferreting around this story: the Standard has an article today, and it looks like more will follow. Twitter is buzzing with outrage, too, although nothing much new in that, of course.
Coleman's monstrous ego is his driving force - Mrs Angry predicts it will also be his undoing, in partnership with an increasing inability to keep his fecking mouth shut, in all the wrong circumstances - a kind of political Tourettes syndrome, with all sorts of interesting consequences, as we tumble down the steep descent to the GLA May elections.
Bring it on.
Wednesday 2nd update:
Goodness me: Mrs Angry has just seen the accounts for Finchley Methodist Church, for the financial years ending August 2009, and 2010: information in the public domain and available on the Charity Commission website:
Under entries for 'Investment Income' we find that the Church made £32,331 from flat rental in 2009, but this income dropped in 2010 to £26,408.
Of course we do not know why the rental dropped, or indeed how many flats the church owns, but clearly, one would think, the church has a moral duty to maximise all sources of income in order to support its many charitable functions.
In the financial statement, published by the trustees, for example, there is a list of other charities to which the Church gives donations:
"The following organisations were assisted financially during the year ended 31 August 2010.
1 NORTH LONDON HOSPICE 855
2 METHODIST RELIEF &DEV 1,723
3 M/C WORLD MISSION FUND 748
4 BARNET REFUGEE 70
5 M/C FUND FOR HOMELESS 333
6 GHANIAN METHODIST FELL 2,593
7 MAYOR CHARITY 333
8 INST. FOR INDIAN MOTHER & CHILD 405
9 HAITI APPEAL 671
10 HOMELESS ACTION BARNET 1,455
11 CTIF BIBLELANDS 526
12 CHRISTIAN AID 778
13 CANCER RESEARCH 32
14 NATIONAL CHILDREN HOME 524
15 FMC Toddler 500
16 LYMPHOMA ASSOCIATION 450
Mrs Angry is particularly pleased to see that a local charity, 'Homeless Action Barnet' is one of the fortunate recipients of the generosity of the Church, and hopes that a future increase in rental income will enable the parish to increase its donation to this good cause, and help support the increasing number of disadvantaged residents in the borough who, unlike Councillor Brian Coleman, do not have the privilege of a protected rent to safeguard the security of their homes, and their families.