Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Blue Barnet: Mrs Angry sees the light - but the joke's on you

You know what they say, don't you, about a woman's prerogative, changing her mind and all that? The lady bloggers, bless'em: don't you just love their funny little ways? Of course we all know they should be spending their time on more constructive things: cleaning behind the fridge, rearranging the larder, and so on, but Mrs Angry is hopeless at all that sort of thing and is best kept occupied on her little hobby, writing about what passes for political life in Broken Barnet.

And there comes a time in a woman's life, in respectable middle age, when really she ought to  stop thinking about politics, and - what was that other thing? There was something else. Knitting? Being kind to small animals? Swinging? Anyway: yes - time to settle down, calm down, and grow up, at last.

With maturity comes reflection. 

And, as we approach the election in a few weeks time,  Mrs Angry has been reflecting on the course of events covered by this blog in the last four years. And she has come to a startling conclusion. 

As you know, Mrs Angry prides herself on always being right about, well, everything. Everything. But sometimes, in the long, dark hours of the night, a horrible thought occurs. What if she was not right about everything, but sometimes ... wrong?

What if she was not just sometimes wrong, but deeply, fundamentally wrong, most - or even all - of the time?

Frankly, in her review of the story of the current Tory administration, Mrs Angry has been forced to confront some unpalatable truths.

Look at the facts. 

As soon as our Conservative councillors were returned to power in 2010, they asked, not unreasonably, for a modest increase in the meagre allowances we, the taxpayers of Barnet owe them, as well as a debt of eternal gratitude, for their ceasless efforts on our behalf. They carefully explained that they deserved this pay rise, as they would be even busier than normal in the new term of office, cutting jobs, salaries, services, and grants in response to the demands of the rule of austerity. Was this too much to ask?

One could only admire the tactful and discreet way in which they went about this, slipping the proposals into the agenda at the dead of night, as an 'emergency' motion, not wishing to upset those of us in less fortunate positions, as we contemplated the years of self denial ahead of us.

The rightful public vilification and humiliation of the only Tory member choosing not to support this payrise was a brilliantly orchestrated piece of what Councillor Brian Coleman described as 'discipline'. 

And one must admire the complete lack of remorse, and staunch loyalty to the principle of self reward before fairness, that drove this perfectly reasonable act of punishment. 

 True Blue (former) Tory Brian Coleman, in full rant

At the time, Mrs Angry was rather unkind, and suggested that the self awarded payrise was merely an exercise in rampant hypocrisy and the worst possible example of Tory troughing. Perhaps she was misguided. What do you think, readers?

Another acute example of political acumen presented itself to us within a short time, after the budget meeting, primed with austerity measures for everyone except our councillors, was held under the watchful eye of Metpro, the council's private security contractors,  filming bloggers and activists as they attempted to enter the public gallery and witness the meeting.

Oops: did we say contractors? We meant of course a bunch of blackshirted, jackbooted muscle bound eejits acting without licenses, unchecked by Barnet Council, who omitted to employ them through any formal arrangement, simply handing over cash when asked for: an admirable system which myself and fellow bloggers found was in place throughout the authority's procurement and payment strucure, with thousands of non-compliant 'contracts' in place, wasting untold millions of taxpayers' money, unnoted, unmonitored, and unscrutinised. 

An outstandingly good example, in short of a true blue Tory commitment to limiting the unspeakable horrors of unwarranted bureacracy, and red tape.

Hoorah for the blackshirts, as the Daily Mail would say. We want none of that democracy nonsense in Broken Barnet, now do we? See: wrong again, Mrs Angry.

And so then, of course, our Tory councillors, inspired by the example of dictators everywhere, stamped on the danger of dissent from residents, and changed the constitution so as to ban discussion of any of its policies in local Forums, while avoiding any consultation over the plans, which were not part of its electoral campaign, to launch a mass privatisation of council services. 

Firm, but fair. 

Well, firm, but unfair, as the High Court judge ruled in 2013, but too late, so what did it matter? Why so harsh, Mrs Angry? 

Let he/she who is without sin, throw the first stone, as the good book says. No need to mention this sort of thing, poised as we are, on the brink of an election. 

Say nothing, and move on.

Because we live in Capitaville now, of course: and really there is nothing more to say, anyway. Too late, isn't it? Is it? 

Every public service has now been pimped for private profit, and every resident, the living and the dead, have been set on the Capita treadmill, to deliver dividends for its shareholders, at out own expense. In return we are promised, what was it ... ah, yes ...  savings. Lots of savings.

These savings will be £275 million, or £320 million, or £160 million, or £165 million, or almost any sum you care to name: hard to say - it depends entirely on the whim of whoever wrote the latest press release, and can never been measured, of course, as there is already a postively badger-like tendency to move the goalposts when any Crapitorial target is questioned. 

Oh, and of course you will have to deduct the £82 million we have already spent on preparing for the 'change programme' that will (aspires to) deliver these er ... efficiencies. 

Still: who cares? 

Not Mrs Angry, whose early scepticism has so easily been bought off with the kind offer from the nice men at Crapita of her blogger discounted pre-used grave, in their new Easy Crem post-life eternal leisure facility at the former Hendon Crematorium. She is comforted by the thought that in death, if not in life, she can benefit from the profits of privatisation.

Let us not dwell on the record of the past four years of Tory misdeeds. 

We all make mistakes, after all. 

We need not mention, for example:

  • the millions of pounds of taxpayers' money thrown at, and still being thrown at, private consultants like Agilisys/iMPOWER so that they could foist the privatisation on us
  • the £16 million of capital investment that was, we were told, the reason we could not possibly consider an in-house alternative to privatisation, which would have retained all savings, and jobs, yet which was revealed to have been paid not by Capita, but by ... us
  • the number of senior officers who have passed to and from companies and consultants involved in the privatisation bidding process
  • the £12 million of taxpayers money wasted on lorries and bins for a recycling scheme that may well be non compliant with looming legislation
  • the disastrous parking scheme which has driven many high street businesses into terminal decline and made life impossible for the majority of drivers in the borough
  • the closure of Church Farmhouse Museum, ransacked, its collection sold off, left empty and deteriorating
  • the attempted closure of Barnet Museum,
  • the attempted closure of two libraries, the eager subsidisation of the branch in the super wealthy Tory ward of Hampstead Garden Suburb, and the refusal to save one in Friern Barnet, until occupied by community squatters
  • a housing policy directed at encouraging only the 'well off' who are not 'dependent' on council services, and  the gerrymandering  'regeneration' of housing estates that excludes the poorest residents of the borough and replaces affordable housing or council tenants with private schemes
  • the catastrophic business model by One Barnet consultants that created Your Choice Barnet, Barnet's 'trading company' which seeks to make profit from the provision of care to our most vulnerable residents, and has found that ... it can't, so is cutting the wages of already poorly paid staff by up to 26%

Oh, do stop there, Mrs Angry. Rather tactless. Concentrate on the positive.


Dum di dum.

Sure there was something. Ah:

  • Let us not forget #benchgate: an award winning scoop in the local Times, the story of a much loved public seat in a marginal ward that mysteriously disappeared, and after strenuous efforts by Tory councillors reappeared - only for it to be revealed that it was the Tory councillors who had it removed in the first place ...
  • And then there was the courageous campaign by East Barnet Tory councillors Robert Rams, Joanna Tambourides and Barry Evangeli against the iniquitous new parking charges imposed on their residents, after being voted for by ... councillors Robert Rams, Joanna Tambourides and Barry Evangeli.
  • Oh, and the touching tale of that library in Friern Barnet, closed by Tories, occupied by squatters, re-opened by squatters, run by campaigners, but now, in a breathtaking re-writing of history, saved by ... Tory councillors.

And, last but not least,  let us not forget the greatest achievement of the past four years. 

No, not the council tax 'gesture' of 23 pence a week for residents. 

  • The extraction of the money for this pointless pre election bribe from those who are hardly in a position to oppose it: the severely disabled pupils and their parents attending Mapledown School, in Brent Cross.

Instead of depending on taxpayers to subsidise their after school clubs and half term schemes, our Tory councillors have wisely decided to show a bit of tough love, help them become more self reliant, and withdrawn funding. 

After all, as Councillor Reuben Thompstone suggested:

“I would encourage the school to be more creative in some of the ways it raises money."

Remember the creative way in which Reuben Thompstone, Richard Cornelius and all our Tory councillors raised their own allowances?  Still: so much more worthy recipients of taxpayers money than a disabled child at Mapledown, don't you agree?

And Tory leader Richard Cornelius is quite right: as he stated: 

 “I think the average person in the street thinks this is fair.”  

Of course in the street where Richard Cornelius lives, in a parallel universe far away, residents may well think taking grants from disabled children to pay for a pre-election 'gesture' is fair, so Mrs Angry cannot comment.

Plenty of fools, here in Broken Barnet, this April. 

It's up to you, citizens, as to how many will still be in office, this May.


Anonymous said...

Who could forget the statesman-like and regal arrival of His Worship The Mayor of Barnet, Councillor Finn, when he was driven into Friary Park to open Brian Coleman's Summer Show?

What a wonderful sight it was, with the council's official limo closely escorted by a convoy of shiny MetPro Security vehicles!

How small-minded it was of you, Mrs Angry, to mention the lack of any Metpro contracts to work for the council, the invoices paid by the council at perhaps a 50% markup over the going rate, and the effective way the 'non-contract' was moved to another non-contract with a replacement company, when the first one met with 'difficulties' in paying taxes and national insurance.

Mrs Angry said...

Yes, tactless of me. And do you know, we never did get to the bottom of that story: who really was responsible for taking them on, and keeping them there. Or the real safeguarding issues raised by the use of the company in social care cases.

Equally no senior officer carried the can for the complete cockup over procurement and the non compliant 'contracts'. But then: this is Barnet, what do you expect?

Mrs Angry said...

Perhaps we should add, of course, that the current company is very good, and staff exemplary - polite,friendly, and very good at returning all my lost umbrellas. Sadly, they show no interest in secretly filming me in meetings, or stomping about in jackboots looking hard. Boring, but professional.