Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Invasion of the bodysnatchers: Coleman and the Hendon Cemetery sell off

Hendon Cemetery Gatehouse: a more attractive deal with vacant possession - see below

Here is a press release just issued by Labour's GLA candidate, Andrew Dismore. If, like Mrs Angry, you have close family members buried, interred or commemorated at Hendon Cemetery, you should be deeply concerned about this shameless marketing of this amenity, a sale which as discussed in earlier posts, was included in the One Barnet tender package as an extra 'enticement' to profit hungry outsourcing companies - in other words, quite literally enabling them to make money out of my dead grandmother, and maybe yours too. To be expanded later.

Update: see below

Barnet set to repeat Westminster sale of cemeteries scandal

Andrew Dismore, Labour London Assembly candidate for Barnet and Camden has today released papers (attached) which he has just received in response to a freedom of information request to Barnet Council concerning Hendon Crematorium and Cemetery.

Mr Dismore, prior to becoming MP for Hendon, was a Westminster City councillor at the time of the infamous Westminster Council cemeteries scandal in the 1980’s when the notorious Lady Porter, the then Council leader, sold three cemeteries, including two in Barnet ( East Finchley and Mill Hill) for 15p, and then had to buy them back after they were asset stripped and neglected, causing untold distress to relatives of those buried there, and costing the council taxpayer millions to repurchase them.

Mr Dismore said:

“History is in danger of repeating itself with Barnet’s politically ideologically dogmatic approach to the Hendon cemetery and crematorium. They don’t even have the excuse that they are losing money, as they actually make a handsome profit, which they want to hand over to the private sector.

I well remember the distress and final financial cost of the ill-thought out and heartless decision of Westminster to sell their cemeteries, and Barnet is risking the same outcome.

The email trail suggests that Cllr Coleman is behind the decisions.

And what on earth was an officer doing, to agree to amend a report to the dictate of an elected member? This is an unprofessional approach at the least, if the consequence was to reverse the officer recommendations.

And why have the council failed to disclose the earlier draft reports, before Cllr Coleman’s amendments?

And just how do the council propose to comply with the law to protect the public from dangerous emissions, which is their legal duty by the end of 2012, when the lead in time for the work is 2 years, as officers have repeatedly pointed out, when they reminded the Conservative ruling Councillors of their recommendation for the investment to be done in house?

The Conservative ruling group haven’t even had the common sense to go to Westminster Council to ask their advice in the light of what happened there.

Needless to say, as we have come to expect from Conservative Barnet, there has been no consultation with the public, let alone with those who have relatives interred or commemorated at the cemetery and crematorium, and I am sure they would have something to say about the council’s scheme!

The arrogance of Barnet Conservatives is staggering, as they plough on regardless, with their Titanic policy about to hit the iceberg of the law, risking fines as well as the safety of the public.

This is potentially a scandal of epic proportions and the inadequate FoI response raises as many questions as it provides answers.

Cllr Coleman and his colleagues must now come clean about just what has been, and is, going on.”


Going through the documents sent with the press release is making Mrs Angry very angry. She will read the rest later, when in a better mood. In the meanwhile, cop a load of this.

Andrew Dismore is right to question the action of an officer in amending a report to the satisfaction of a councillor: look at this email sent from Ms Pam Wharfe on 23rd January 2009, to Councillor Brian Coleman, on the subject of re Hendon Cemetery and Crematorium - Future Operational Arrangements:

"I am keen to change the report as you think appropriate ..."

What does that mean?

Pam Wharfe: keen

Ms Wharfe is now in the post of 'interim' Director of Environment, Planning and Regeneration, and beautifully fulfilling the role of Councillor Coleman's little helper.

On the 17th of February 2009, an email shows from Pam Wharfe mentions that the then Tory leader, now local MP Mike Freer has, rather extraordinarily, proposed using the Gatehouse of the Cemetery as a base for the Mill Hill and Finchley police Central Safer Neighbourhood Teams.

On the 23rd of February, Ms Wharfe asks Freer:

"In terms of the gatehouse, our concern was that the deal may be more attractive if the premises was (sic) not occupied? ..."

Good to know that there is an attractive way of marketing the dead residents of Broken Barnet, isn't it?

Mrs Angry will stop there for now.

*Update 2 - Mrs Angry has taken another look at the documents accompanying Andrew Dismore's press release.

Last year, when the matter of Hendon Cemetery was considered by the council as part of the outsourcing programme, Mrs Angry wrote two posts about the issue:



A report was submitted to Cabinet in September which Unison commented on at some length, pointing out that the last appraisal had concluded that the in house option for the cemetery was the best way forward. This recommendation was of course ignored by Brian Coleman and his Cabinet colleagues, who agreed a whopping grant to the cemetery to be spent on tarting it up in order to make it more appealing to the prospective buyers.

The options appraisal document considered in 2009, included amongst Dismore's FOI response. was described as 'Soft Marketing Testing Emerging Options'. This really is a piece of work to be proud of, reducing as it does, the issue of the last resting place of so many people to the status of a commercial commodity.

This theme was continued in the report submitted to CRC last September, which contained the memorable lines:

9.13 Renovation and improvement to the buildings and site generally will provide an enhanced and more appealing customer experience for the bereaved.

An enhanced and more appealing customer experience for the bereaved. A customer experience. Enhanced.

Rereading this now, Mrs Angry is reminded of a novel by Evelyn Waugh - ' The Loved One', a satirical presentation of the Californian funeral business, with the unforgettable 'Whispering Glades' cemetery, and the celebrity mortician, Mr Joyboy. Here we are, yet again, life mimicking fiction, with our own Mr Joyboy presiding over the beautification of Hendon Cemetery, in order to lure the right punter, one with a foul odour of exploitation and a discernible layer of sweat forming on his brow, thinking of the pleasures to come from the profits so easily taken from an unstoppable supply of unprotesting residents.

Just in case it is not absolutely clear, Mrs Angry is utterly disgusted by the actions of this shameless council in selling Hendon Cemetery to a private company. Her mother, grandmother, grandfather, a great uncle, an aunt, an uncle, and several cousins are all interred there. She does not go there to have a 'customer experience', enhanced or otherwise.

Surely no one who does visit the cemetery could fail to be upset by the thought that the care of this place is being given away to the private sector as bait in a cynical marketing strategy? But that is exactly what is happening.

In his position as Cabinet member for the Environment, Brian Coleman has seized on every conceivable part of our lives as an opportunity for extracting revenue: now he wants to make money out of the dead and their bereaved relatives too. This is the logical conclusion of outsourcing, and the guiding principle of our Tory councillors, and this is Broken Barnet, where everything is a commodity, and everything has a price.


Mr Mustard said...

What a pity that those 26 trees for Chipping Barnet were not planted at Hendon Cemetery where they could have been left to grow to their full height without costing a £1000 each, local maintenance staff would have planted them as part of normal duties, where they would not have been in the way on the pavement and where they wouldn't cause pavements to buckle and buildings to develop cracks

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Pam Wharfe once upon a time a Labour councillor in Hounslow - I think she may have been deputy leader.

Mrs Angry said...

Anon: there certainly does appear to have been a Labour councillor with that name at one time: I cannot imagine that it is the same person, can you? Of course, like Ms Wharfe, I am keen to amend my report in any way you think appropriate, should this not be the case.

I would think Councillor Coleman would disapprove, if he knew.

Oh dear.