Two meetings, last night, Cabinet, and Cabinet Resources. Councillors were late in attending the first: tut tut. Councillor Rajput, we were told, was stuck in traffic. Good, replied Mrs Angry, rather too loudly, thinking we might be spared one of his interminably boring speeches. In rushed leader Richard Cornelius, announcing his own arrival: 'Here comes slightly out of breath Richard'. Mmm. (Tempted, very tempted, but I'll stop there.)
Don't about you, but Mrs Angry always finds it slightly odd when people refer to themselves in the third person. Mind you, the Barnet Bugle refers to himself not only in the third person, but as a multiple entity. (Mrs Angry noted in the pub last night, btw, Barnet Bugle, that Frank was absent, yet again ...)
Anyway. Public question time. Long question from Barnet Eye blogger Roger Tichborne re NEETS, young people who are not in employment or education. The council has a new initiative, and Rog feels that Barnet should be engaging more with local businesses as part of their approach. Obvious, you might think: ha, ha: this is Broken Barnet, remember. Richard Cornelius came out with one of his classic disingenuous remarks: he found local businesses were a 'very difficult group to engage with'.
Hmm. Possibly, Richard, their experience with your recent attempt to ruin the local economy with the disastrous parking scheme, and your administration's total refusal to listen to the opinions of local businesses and traders who objected to the inevitable result might just have contributed to a sense of grievance and lack of interest in engagement.
Ron Cohen asked about cyclists' needs and green policies if and when the One Barnet programme is in place. Cornelius wittered on about the roads of Barnet being intended for a horse and cart, and we all thought about that for a moment, and then he was on to Boris and how keen he is on cycling, did you know? Mrs Angry remembered a tweet she saw the other day, 19th June, in fact, from Londonneur, in which he alleged Boris had a less than sympathetic view of cyclists objecting to the rather dangerous ( from the point of view of cyclists, anyway) new layout at Henley's Corner, funded by him:
@mayoroflondon at lights. Mentioned that local cyclists v.unhappy with Henlys corner. His response, "fuck em" I kid you not. Pls RT
Helena Hart, who is a matronly, awfully serious councillor with a rather starchy manner and headmistressy tone of voice expressed her concern about something she clearly feels very strongly about. She sought the assurance of Councillor Dean Cohen that 'we will continue to be a no hump administration' ...
Yes, of course we naughty bloggers tittered, in time honoured fashion. And yes, I saw you, Councillor Cornelius, grinning across the room at me.
Councillor Hugh Rayner sat down to address the committee and present his report about NEETS. Cllr Rayner is an ex military man, no nonsense, blustering. Well, some nonsense, let's be honest: he announced that One Barnet was a great idea, because it erm, what was it now? Because it centralised things. Yep. It centralises control of all council services in the hands of predatory outsourcing companies, Hugh, and hands them a billion pounds of our hard earned cash in the process.
Ah, but even Cllr Rayner has found something to criticise about this marvellous plan. He thinks that it is perhaps, in some ways, a teeny weeny bit at odds with the interest of keeping jobs in the borough. Yes, yes, we know, we've been telling you this for a couple of years now. Still, he didn't really have much sympathies for these layabout youths. They must learn not to lay about, in fact, in bed, doing, as he told us, 'whatever they do in bed', but to get up & go to work; they must learn what it is to have 'a life of toil' like 'all of us' ... the Tory councillors nodded sternly.
More sniggering from the bloggers' seats. We are not aware of any Tory councillors who are particularly well known for their dedication to hard work, at least as regards their council duties, although they expect to be rewarded hansomely, and secretly, for it.
And there are some Tory councillors who would appear, from their interesting declarations of interests, not to know what it is at all to have a life of toil.
What time do you get out of bed, btw, Councillor Harper? Mrs Angry is no hurry to find out, mind you: don't get the wrong idea. No offence.
It did not seem to occur to our Tory councillors, of course, that these NEETS might just be unemployed and not in education through no fault of their own, but due to lack of opportunity in a time of recession.
Still, Hugh Rayner had some ideas to put forward. Church groups could help them. Brilliant. No charge to the council, no involvement, Big Society in action, savings all round.
We have already handed over Barnet Innovation Bank money, tax payers money, to an evangelical church, supposedly to help this very section of the community. You might feel that this is slightly worrying: do such schemes properly address the demands of equal opportunity considerations? Will gay youths be excluded from such schemes if they are open about their sexuality? Will any youths be subject to proselytising from church workers? This is a very serious issue, in many areas, not just here in Barnet - see the blogposts by Y Cneifiwr and Caebrwyn, for example - and it appears to have been overlooked in the rush to offload the burden of social care to voluntary groups.
Finally, the committee approved the findings of a report 'Finchley Church End Town Centre Strategy. Mrs Angry was amused by some of the contents of this report, for example the objection to the 'detrimental clutter' of advertising and street signage. Erm: who installed the advertising and signage, by the way? Yes, you, London Borough of Barnet. And now you want us to pay for its removal.
One Barnet: a relentless drive for efficiency.
Except the removal might not happen anyway. Councillor John Thomas, whilst welcoming the report, smoothly reminded us that we need to be 'realistic about how this will be funded' ...
How will this be funded, by the way?
Or ... will it not be funded at all?
What do you think?
To be continued.