Thursday, 26 January 2012
Crawling naked up the Edgware Road: full council, part two
Good news: some Olympic events are to be held in Broken Barnet after all - read on
*Update June 2012: Brian's naked crawl, see below:
*Update on the park hire scheme, see below:
When a full council meeting begins in Broken Barnet, apart from a lot of jiggery pokery with golden maces and velvet robes, bowing, and standing up, or not standing up, for the Mayor, we are then expected to stand again, and listen to a prayer from the Mayor's chaplain.
At this point on Tuesday's meeting, Mrs Angry stood in amusement watching Councillor Coleman as the Greek Orthodox priest gave the usual address, asking for God's blessing, and entreating the blackhearted councillors of Broken Barnet to come together in peace, love and understanding. Brian, who is of course a devout Methodist, bowed his head in touching reverence and spiritual reflection as the priest spoke. AMEN, he barked at the end of the prayer.
Yes: amen to all that.
Straight to councillors' questions and answers: 67 of them, in twenty five pages. There were so many, in fact that the time limit allowed only about half of the supplementary questions to be raised.
Now here is an interesting thing: of the 67 questions, 39 of them were answered by Brian Coleman, and only 6 by the alleged leader of Barnet Council, Richard Cornelius. A small number of other queries were addressed by one or two Cabinet members.
Why is it, Mrs Angry, you may be asking, that so many answers were provided by one Cabinet member?
It is because Brian Coleman, effectively, is the de facto leader of the council. All the contentious issues which are currently dominating the scene here in Broken Barnet - parking, the hire of our parks, and so on, are under his cabinet portfolio for environment, and therefore provoke the most questions, but he also exerts a domineering influence on the control of the council, and does exactly as he pleases, and he has taken over almost every function of the leadership. Leadership without reponsibility, or accountability.
As we have seen in recent weeks, if Coleman is asked to attend a committee meeting or a Forum, to answer questions from colleagues or residents, he does not. If he does not agree with a statement the leader makes in public, he over rules him and says with a shrug 'the leader can say what he likes'.
Nestling amongst the genuine queries are the usual nauseating dummy questions by helpful councillors. Brian Gordon is a master of these: this time it was the turn of Coleman's no 1 fan Rowan Turner:
'Will the Cabinet Member thank the many staff based at Mill Hill depot who worked normally on November 30th and ignored calls to strike?'
Answer: ( I must tell you, Brian, btw, that you do not need spaces before and after every punctuation mark, and Inappropriate Capital Letters are just a form of Shouting and Look a Bit Mad, to be quite honest ...)
'Yes , I am delighted that the Refuse service operated as normal and that street cleaning also took place despite intimidation on the picket line from the GMB Union . The vast majority of Barnet Council staff worked normally and ignored the premature and pointless action of certain Trade Unions in striking whilst in the middle of negotiations with the Government . I am sure Councillors and residents will not forget the actions of the staff '
Yes. Mrs Angry is confident that councillors will be lined up with Cheery Words and a Warm Handshake when waving goodbye to all loyal staff as they pick up their Redundancy notices, or shove off to a private company with a loss of Job Security beyond twelve months, thanks to the One Barnet outsourcing scam.
Incidentally, Mrs Angry is interested in Cllr Coleman's allegation of intimidation on the picket line, and imagines he must have proof of this which he will be presenting to the GMB?
Another statement which needs challenging is in response to Q38 from Labour's Pauline Coakley Webb:
'Before imposing the cashless parking service, did the Cabinet Member seek advice from the Police on personal security implications for users and potential users of the new system?'
Answer: 'No, this was not necessary as the system is inherently safer . It has operated in many other Boroughs ( with higher street crime rates than Barnet for a number of years '
Another typical Coleman reply, delivered with complete certainty and absolutely no evidence: worse still, this reply directly contradicts what we were told at last November's Forum by our friend, the senior officer in charge of parking, Mr John McArdle.
Mr McArdle appears to be operating on a different wavelength to the rest of the council, and his responses to Forums are very interesting: earlier this week he told Mrs Angry that she may not raise an issue of boroughwide significance at a Forum, even if dealing with 'public works', which appears to be a new decision and not sanctioned by constitutional change, and now we have his Cabinet member telling us the police were not consulted over the new parking scheme, when we were previously told by McArdle that Commander Basu himself was in approval of the change, a statement which Mrs Angry challenged, as she did not believe it at the time.
Which statement is the truth? Another email on its way to you, Mr Mc Ardle: two for you now to answer, when you get round to it. Thanks.
Oh: hang on. Make that three emails.
Question 42, from Labour's Alan Schneiderman:
'How many pay and display machinese have been completely removed to date and at what cost? When will the removal programme be completed?'
Answer from Coleman:
'At the time of writing 234 machines have been completely removed and the footway reinstated at a total cost of £29,952. the programme will be completed within a month.'
Hmm. Compare that answer with this, from Mr McArdle a few days ago:
'... I can confirm that RM Countryside has been paid only for those machines actually removed and that the payment is far less than £80,000. I had planned to use this contractor for the entire job, but the Council’s procedures prevent this so another is being found. This will take time to organise.'
If you recall, after local bloggers caught Barnet yet again using a DPR to award business to a company with whom it had one of the many non compliant 'contracts' that have been exposed after the MetPro scandal, they were shamed into halting the deal, and instead of all machines being removed by the end of November, most of them are still there. Don't believe them when they say they cannot bring them back into service: they can, but they won't, because saving face for Brian Coleman is more important than saving the livelihoods of Barnet's shopkeepers.
So are Barnet going through the correct procurement process of tendering for the work of the meters' removal, and will this really be done in the space of a month?
Question 16 was from Libdem Jack Cohen to our Brian:
'Why didn't you attend the Finchley and Golders Green Residents Forum on the 23rd of November?'
Coleman: 'Because my Ward ... ' (again, no need for a capital letter, Brian, even though it is Your ward) ' ... is in the Chipping Barnet Constituency.'
Oh dear, the poor old boy has temporarily, and uncharacteristically, forgotten that he is Cabinet Member for Environment for the WHOLE borough, and had been asked to attend on that basis. Jack Cohen reminded him of this fact, and asked again why he had refused to come.
Because, heckled Mrs Angry, he is TOO SCARED ... CHICKEN!
Coleman stood up in a fury. He blurted out that he had not attended BECAUSE OF THE APPALLING BEHAVIOUR OF RESIDENTS ... There was much raucous laughter at this point in in the public gallery, where sat not only Mrs Angry, who is one of these RESIDENTS, but also Mr P, who provides so much entertainment, and some spectacular displays of disrespect to his elected representatives, at these otherwise inflexibly controlled council events.
Coleman is right to fear what might happen if he attended one of these Forums: he would never survive. Like any specimen under scientific scrutiny, the Cabinet Member for the Environment can only thrive in a properly controlled Environment - as Cllr Tierney described later in the evening, one that is hermetically sealed, and removed as far as possible from reality.
Mrs Angry's fellow SMOG, (St Michael's Old Girls) Kath McGuirk had submitted the most important question of the evening. One of the significant and lasting legacies of our convent education is, of course, an uncompromising intolerance to matters of morality in public life, and a becoming maidenly aversion to unneccessary displays of nudity by short fat Tory councillors, and so:
'Would the leader confirm what he is doing to lobby and ensure that the Olympics are delivered on budget and on time so that Councillor Coleman's pledge to crawl naked up the Edgware Road does not come to pass?'
Cornelius' response, sadly, revealed no visible signs of a sense of humour, which is in itself rather amusing, as usually he is guilty of grinning at the most inappropriate moments in council meetings, and takes everything in the most lighthearted, whimsical way, in order to pretend it is not really happening. His written answer here said: 'we lobby hard to maintain robust controls'. Hold on, was that a joke? Is the thought of our beloved councillor doing a spot of naked grovelling on a public highway a bit of a turn on for some Tories? Probably. In Broken Barnet, especially. In this case, however, Mrs Angry suspects he was too scared a. to think about Brian Coleman with no clothes on, and b. to make a joke about it.
In fact, Cllr McGuirk had to retract the scurillous suggestion in her question.
It was not the Edgware Road: apparently the route of Councillor Coleman's naked crawl will be along the Finchley Road, which is much more respectable. Whether or not this event will take place at the same time as the Olympic Torch procession is unclear, but don't say you haven't been warned. *see below for an awful update, and a warning for all residents in the Golders Green/Childs Hill areas:
Councillor Mc Guirk had another very important item on the agenda at this meeting, and many of the residents in the public gallery had come to see this issue, ha ha 'debated' by councillors.
Item 3.2: Barnet's Parks are not for sale.
Kath described the overwhelming opposition of residents to the indefensible proposal by Coleman to hire out a number of our parks and openspaces to anyone willing to pay the council for a private event. She listed the number of serious concerns over the withdrawal of access to residents, the potential damage, the litter, the noise. She pointed out that the projected fee cost were prohibitively expensive for ordinary families, thus giving the lie that the scheme was for family events, rather than corporate hospitality or for those privileged few wealthy enough to afford it. Yet again, she said, the Tories were helping those with means to get a better deal from services meant for all.
She pointed out that Victoria Park, created to mark the Diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria by providing grounds for the people of Finchley, will, in the year celebrating the Diamond jubilee of our present queen, be snatched away from the local community to be used as a commercial enterprise by the council.
And what is all this for? Only £30,000 a year, by the council's own estimate. So much upheaval, for so little return - and without even considering the hidden costs of implementing the changes.
Coleman stood to respond. Mr P heckled from the public gallery: Coleman addressed him by name and told him to listen to 'the facts'. These facts, in fact, were somewhat incoherent, and hard to follow.
He said we can do this already, if we want to, we are just 'formalising' our ability to do so .... er yeah ... we should remember that residents with small gardens need somewhere to hold events (could they afford to?) we should 'wake up and smell the coffee', he is 'listening to residents' who want this scheme, and he has a 'duty of care' to such residents - er, what?
DECEIVER AND SCOUNDREL! shouted a member of the public.
IDIOT! shouted another, amongst outrage in the gallery.
The Mayor intervened: May we remind members of the public that in this chamber we respect councillors ...'
WE DON'T RESPECT HIM!
Jack Cohen spoke next. He also questioned the projected revenue being unaccompanied by details of the hidden costs. He remarked that Coleman's references to large venues in other boroughs and the royal parks were ridiculous comparisons: he then observed, tellingly, that he had observed that Councillor Coleman had a curious habit of promoting such grandiose ideas. Hmm.
Councillor Jim Tierney politely thanked residents for their correspondence, including those who had sent him some very interesting information about the history of ours parks (yes, you can tell he is a Labour councillor).
These parks, he said, to cheers from the gallery, belong to the community. There is unanimous opposition to Coleman's proposals. He remarked that, as in the words of dear Oscar, the Barnet Tories could be said to know the price of everything, and the value of nothing - but in fact the truth is that they know the price of nothing, and the value of nothing. This hare brained schemed is not worth the £30,00o we are told it will generate, and he doubts if such a total ever materialises anyway. The Tories were unfeeling, uncaring and unconcerned, but it is the wish of residents that our parks must remain free for all.
There was a prolonged outburst of applause from the public gallery. That's enough, said the Mayor. No it isn't, said one of the residents, and another prolonged outburst ensued.
None of the Tories would speak up in defence of our parks and open spaces. Like the parking issue, another betrayal of their constituents, despite the boroughwide opposition to the proposals. Why do they close ranks on these issues? What are they afraid of? There is no explanation other than that they put their own self interest and ambitions for petty political success within their party group, and the possibility of reward by a nice committee chair appointment, before the duty they have to the people they have been elected to represent. The shamelessness, cowardice and their lack of integrity is truly quite disgusting to observe.
Which leaves us with the item about Barnet Football Club. Now, as you know, not only is Mrs Angry a fully qualified accountant and globally renowned auditor, she is a famous football pundit. Her enthusiasm for all forms of sport is boundless, in fact. Yawn.
But she does sympathise with the fans of Barnet FC in the awful predicament the local club now finds itself.
By the way, Mrs Angry was once persuaded to attend Underhill to sit through a women's football final. Her male companion had shown an unhealthy, and, as it turned out, misguided interest in this event. Sadly, the teamplayers all appeared to be very cross PE teachers who spat a lot and fouled more often than, you know that famous player who fouls a lot, what's his name, can't be bothered to look it up.
Anyway, she hasn't been back since. But she feels that all those blokes who should be a. at home doing the ironing, b. fixing the leaking tap in the bathrooom, or c. out shopping with their wives, girlfriends, or mistresses on a Saturday afternoon, in Brent Cross, (where there is free parking), but prefer to be sat in the cold watching the Bees, should be able to continue to do so.
It is clear that between the lack of interest from Barnet Council, and the decisions of the owner, the fate of the football ground is falling nicely into the lap of would be developers, and in the finest tradition of sports, leisure, and cultural facilities in Broken Barnet, will be sold to the highest bidder as soon as possible.
Labour leader Alison Moore's spoke to her item on the future of the club. She reminded the Tory councillors looking on blankly that it should be a source of pride to the borough, and mentioned the wider benefits to the community, the outreach schemes that are so vital in providing positive activities for disadvantaged young people, and she urged members from all parties to come together to support the club. She was wasting her breath, of course.
Tory Brian Salinger also wanted all members to come together over this. Fat chance. He talked about the pointlessness of megaphone diplomacy and the threat of development - something which is usually denied by Tory councillors.
Aha, local Underhill Tory councillor Andrew Strongolou stood to make a rare speech: long, pointless and tedious. Strongolou appears to have been trying to assume a disguise since his appearance in Mrs Angry's post the other day, in regard to councillors' interests -(he was one of several councillors featured who spent the evening eyeing Mrs Angry with sulky expressions, for some reason). He has a new hairdo which, unfortunately, makes him look like Borat, but perhaps he is growing it for an acting role. Mrs Angry hopes so, anyway. Good luck to him. Maybe avoid a moustache, though, Andrew, and don't give in to the temptation of wearing a mankini, if you can help it.
And did the Tories drop their party politics in favour of supporting the local football team, or did they yet again, do as they were told and put 'loyalty' to each other before the best interests of the community?
This is Broken Barnet: what do you think?
*Update - a response to questions about the park hire scheme:
Mrs Angry submitted the following questions to this week's Finchley & Golders Green Residents Forum, but despite the fact that they clearly do refer to 'public works' issues, as defined by the ridiculously restrictive new rules enforced by an 'amendment' to the constitution, these questions were banned. She was kindly allowed to have the issues referred to an officer, who has replied as follows: Mrs Angry's comments in green.
a. Please confirm that the consultation exercise carried out in relation to the park hire scheme is not, as many residents falsely believe, over the principle of hiring the parks out, but to 'consult' users about the variation of uses that the scheme may involve.
The Events in Parks consultation was to formally categorise existing types of events that are held in the parks and to consult on the potential of extending this service to include private events.
Why on earth would the council need help from residents to 'categorise' existing types of events? This is just the council's attempt to obtain endorsement for a policy of commercialisation that no one wants.
b. Please confirm exactly when the decision to hire parks out in his way was made, and by whom.
In relation to the hiring of parks for private events no decision has been taken at this time, we are awaiting confirmation as to which decision making body a report containing the results of the consultation and recommendations with regards to the events in parks policy should be presented to, where any decisions will be taken.
So the decision has not been authorised, and no one knows who will authorise it, because no one in Corporate Governance can remember how the council works anymore. Dear me. How standards have fallen.
c. Please confirm that the total estimated revenue from the park hire scheme will be in the region of £30,000.
The total estimated revenue from the park hire scheme is not estimated to be in the region of £30,000. The figure of £30,000 as noted within the councils recent budget relates to an increase on the target for income from all events in Parks and Open Spaces.
Yes ... which will be coming from the estimated revenue from the park hire scheme. Even the Cabinet Member does not dispute this figure. Please do not insult Mrs Angry's intelligence by making such a ridiculous statement.
d. What are the estimated extra budget costs required in order to implement and maintain this scheme, for example in the use of extra supervisory staff, litter removal, insurance?
Should the decision be taken to permit Private Events in parks this will be administered by the existing team and procedures in place for Greenspaces so no additional costs are anticipated. The particular items you raised above are borne by the event hirer as per the current procedures.
Absolute codswallop: 'no additional costs are anticipated'? There should be a clear business plan which has already calculated the budget necessary for implementing such a scheme, and it is complete nonsense to say that the existing team and procedures will be sufficient to cover an unknown number of potential events of varying sizes.
The 'consultation' exercise has taken place, and the response from residents is that they are universally opposed to any commercialisation of our parks and open spaces. If this were not Broken Barnet, that would be the end of the matter, and the proposals would be dropped. Only a fool would continue to push this idiotic plan through in the face of such animosity. I think we all know who that fool is, and what he will do next.
*Update: 13th June 2012 -
Oh dear me.
According to a story on the BBC news website, the government has just announced that in fact the Olympic costs WILL be under budget by a whopping £476 million ... Mrs Angry must warn readers that this means Councillor Coleman's naked crawl along the Finchley Road must now take place. We are hoping that this event may be combined with the arrival of the Olympic Torch in Broken Barnet: our local firefighters have promised to attend with extended hoses and buckets of cold water to prevent any unfortunate consequences.
Sometime Barnet blogger David Miller, 'Don't Call me Dave', of 'Not the Barnet Times', also the former chair of Chipping Barnet Conservatives, has been moved by today's news to write to Councillor Coleman with a question:
I am sure you will be delighted as I am at the news that the Olympics will come in at £476 million under budget. Details are on the BBC website here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18421211
You will no doubt recall your previous pledge to walk naked down the Finchley Road in such an eventuality. Please could you announce the date that you will be honouring your pledge as I am sure that the great and good of the Borough would wish to come out to cheer you along.
Let us hope that the weather warms up a little, otherwise the Barnet Bugle might have to invest in a zoom lens.
And miracle of miracles: look - Brian has already replied - speedily, and with no rudeness:
"But this ignores the hundreds of millions of hidden costs within other public budgets."
Dear me. Mrs Angry imagines that Brian hasn't got much else to do but answer emails these days, but really ... one might almost wish for the days when his response would have been rather more spirited. Blimey.
Come back, Brian, all is forgiven.
I miss you.
x Mrs Angry.
PS. Joking, joking. Save me a seat near the finishing line.