MetPro, the musical: a work in progress
* Updated below
Mrs Angry has been trying hard to resist the temptation to write anything over the Christmas break, and indeed is rather indisposed so the temptation has been minimal: but oh dear - this has made her temperature shoot up again ... well: take a trip over to Mr Mustard's blog, why don't you, and see what has made her so flipping cross?
All the Barnet bloggers have learnt by now that any contentious or sensitive freedom of information request responses submitted to Barnet will be delayed as long as possible, and then sent out late on a Friday, when the impact of the release of information, or so they hope, will be limited.
Mr Mustard decided this principle may well extend to the publication of DPRs and on checking the latest releases found this treasure: 1494, Queen's Diamond Jubilee Music, published on the 23rd of December, the last council working day of course, before the break.
This is an 'approval to contract with a musical composer to write an anthem to be performed in Barnet during celebrations of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee in 2012'.
So another contract being awarded without any other competition, of course, in the tradition of procurement in Broken Barnet. In fact, this is not procurement at all, arguably more a transaction in the tradition of Tudor patronage, as in the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I.
Because look here: the award, a very generous sum of £1,000, is being given to a composer called Tim Benjamin. Go on, you must have heard of him. No? Well, you might be familiar with his dad then. You know: the Reverend Adrian Benjamin, the banner snatching Tory vicar who is great pals with Brian Coleman, and bailed out his Friern Barnet Summer Show for him?
Why has Mr Benjamin been given this contract with no competitive process? Er, we are told because he has 'local roots' - yeah, we know - and can write it quickly. Good. Mrs Angry has local roots and for £1,000 could probably rustle up a tune pretty quickly too. Didn't get a look in, though, and more to the point, nor did any other individual who actually lives in the borough.
I'm not sure that residents of Barnet, if they had been consulted, would actually have wanted £1,000 spent on this vanity commission. If we have £1,000 to spare, why not use it to buy some equipment for Barnet General, or holidays for disadvantaged children, or gift hampers for elderly citizens? You know Brian: 'these people' ...
Even if we agreed that it was necessary to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee by creating a musical composition, (and I'll bet she would think it was an idiotic waste of money) why on earth was this not made an opportunity for the many talented musicians living in our borough to engage in a competition, or for schools or music societies to work together to produce some piece of work? And would it not be appropriate for the rich diversity of our borough's population to be represented by a project that explored the musical traditions of different cultural heritages?
Mrs Angry is always keen to promote our local artistic talent and has therefore decided to run an alternative award, to mark the Broken Barnet celebration of the dear old Queen's Diamond Jubilee. She is willing to commission an opera, musical or ballet, on one of the following themes:
MetPro, and a continuing culture of incompetence in the procurement, tendering and contract procedures of our beloved council,
One Barnet: a tale of greed, duplicity and undeclared interests,
Brian Coleman: a tragic story of parking contracts, self love, delusions of grandeur and the loss of his seat in the GLA elections.
All may apply, except anyone who with links to any Tory councillors. Winning choice to be performed at Hendon Town Hall, at the next Full Council Meeting.
Oh: hang on. Already booked. Panto season. All year round.
Mrs Angry has decided to make her own musical contribution to the Jubilee celebration and has emailed Cllr Longstaff with a suggestion:
"Dear Councillor Longstaff,
I understand that in your capacity as a member of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Celebration Steering Group, you are looking for someone to compose a piece of music to mark what is, of course, a moment of huge significance in our country's long history.
By coincidence, I have been composing my own tribute in honour of this occasion, and I would therefore like to submit it to your group for your perusal. It is a short piece, to be played on a tin whistle, hopefully by someone of Irish descent with a keen sense of historical irony, and an impertinent expression, and is entitled: 'Jobs for the boys, Ma'am: another golden example of bare arsed cheek by the Tory councillors of Broken Barnet, this time on the occasion of Your Majesty's Jubilee'.
I am not personally acquainted with any Tory councillors, or members of the Chipping Barnet Conservative Asssociation, but I did once meet Councillor Marshall in the nut section of Waitrose, North Finchley, so please write me a cheque for £1,000 and send it on at your earliest convenience,
Happy New Year,
*Just fancy that: another pointless footnote
The Diamond Jubilee Steering Group which has awarded the lucky Mr Benjamin his £1,000 commission is a mysterious entity, and includes, we are told in the background information of the DPR, 'representatives from the business, education, faith and community organisations. In the interest of transparency, Mrs Angry has requested a full list of members. The group is chaired by a Mr Martin H C Russell, who is the borough's Deputy Lieutenant. Oh, Mrs Angry, I hear you ask, what is a Deputy Lieutenant, and what does he do? Let us explain.
A Deputy Lieutenant is an anachronistic municipal role fulfilled by the sort of person who likes dressing up in uniform and stomping about looking very important, even though he is not. If a member of the Royal Family dares to visit Broken Barnet, the Deputy Lieutenant has to be on hand to greet him or her, bow nicely, and keep the malodorous citizens at bay. I think Mr Russell once came to my children's then primary school, and seemed a nice enough chap, if somewhat overdressed. My son thought he was the Queen's husband.
Yes, you are right, Deputy Lieutenant sounds just the job for Brian Coleman, but sadly Mr Russell got there before him. Funnily enough, Mr Russell and Mr Coleman have quite a few things in common. Some more unexpected than others, perhaps. Apart from dressing up in costume and turning up at lots of functions, apparently they share a love of shoeing horses, and checking horses hooves for disease - yes: they are both 'Liverymen of the Worshipful Company of Farriers'. Brian Coleman is of course often to be found of a weekend with his apron on, sweating away, tap tapping away at his forge, shaping and twisting a molten form with a sledge hammer. Didn't you know?
Mrs Angry, you cry, again, we do not have your wordly experience of secret societies and archaic ceremonial roles: please tell us more ... well, as it happens, Mrs Angry's father worked in the city, and was a member of the Baltic Exchange. His career was based on hard work, and merit, but he would often come home, sit the infant Mrs Angry on his knee and tell her with wry amusement tales of colleagues keen to get on by becoming freemasons of the right lodges, freemen of the City of London, and members of the City guilds and livery companies. These latter bodies, although raising a certain amount of money for charity, largely exist to give social climbing members a sense of belonging and an introduction to a wide range of social contacts. Many livery companies have their own masonic lodges too. Mrs Angry has often wondered why Brian is not a mason: he cannot be because he does not declare it in his interests, yet it would be something he really would enjoy. More aprons, dressing up and lovely dinners too. You boys. Go on, Brian: why not see if someone can get you in? You need to get out more, as we know. Unless of course they won't have you, in which case the Rotary Club might suit.