Thursday, 31 March 2011

Breaking news: MetPro story leads in Ham & High: updated

So anyway, now I am officially approved by the Guardian, ha (not Vicki M, though, it seems, which is quite ridiculous) I must write a proper lady's blog ... and do you know, Julia, I've just come back from Hampstead - some really nice shoes in Hobbs, by the way, and, oh, while I was there, I picked up a copy of the Ham & High and there was a really interesting looking lead story,

'Council spies paid to secretly film you at open meetings'

right there on the front page, and all over page two as well, which I didn't quite understand, so I went into Waterstone's and asked a man to explain it to me, in words of one syllable.

It seems some foolish woman blogger, who is a mother too, which is more to the point, of course, has been moaning about the MetPro security company and their use by our beloved Barnet Council. Just imagine! I hope she didn't neglect her housework in the course of such activities: those bannisters won't get polished on their own, Mrs Angry!

Will update with more details later, but in the meanwhile, here is the link, for anyone at NLBP trying to find it:

*Update: so - according to this exclusive story by Georgia Graham, MetPro's Kevin Sharkey has confirmed that his employees regularly used hidden body-worn CCTV cameras. Mr Sharkey tells us that the use of the cameras, like all CCTV, is for the purpose of 'assisting crime prevention'.

I have to tell you, Mr Sharkey, and Tory Leader Lynne Hillan, and Chief Executive Nick Walkley, that as a resident - and as a 'citizen journalist' - I deeply object to being treated like a potential criminal, just by the very act of exercising my lawful right to attend a council meeting.

In fact, I don't just object, I am outraged at this invasion of my privacy by what amounts to a private, unaccountable secret police force with more authority over the conduct of a council meeting than, well, the real police. Something wrong there, isn't there, Neil?

How can an elected council treat its residents in this way? What sort of administration are you running? Why do you fear the presence of your electors so much that you have to use blackshirted bouncers to keep a few union leaders, heads of voluntary bodies, sixth formers and middle aged accountants out of a council budget meeting?

Why have you not answered the questions put to you by me and others in regard to the way in which this company has been contracted to the council? Questions about the number of licences held by employees of this company, as required by law, and why, if they are held, they are apparently not displayed at all times? Questions about CRB checks? Questions about claims made in publicity material by this company? What footage and personal data is this company keeping on me and other residents attending this meeting? Why are they claiming to monitor our blogs, tweets, and God knows what else? Oh, and why are my emails to opposition councillors apparently being blocked? *second update 17.30pm: just received this email response to the question made to a residents' forum which Barnet magically transformed into a twenty day delayed FOI:

"Unfortunately we are unable to respond at present to your enquiry regarding the company providing security cover at the Town Hall. I am still collating this information. I apologise on behalf of the council for not meeting the 20 working day statutory period. I hope to be able to respond tomorrow to this part of your request. "

Mrs Angry feels a little uncertain about the likelihood of this information seeing the light of day tomorrow, but if it does not appear, there will be a complaint to the ICO.

I think Lynne Hillan owes me and several other residents an explanation, and an apology. I'm waiting, but not for very long.


Don't Call Me Dave said...

Mrs Angry

Perhaps you have already done so, but you should ask the Liquidator what has happened to the CCTV recordings. He will be in charge of all of Metpro’s assets. Does he hold the film? Does the council have them, or has Mr Sharkey got them stored in a cardboard box under his bed?

Frankly, I think the matter should be referred to the Rozzers because it is not entirely clear if there was proper legal authority to film residents without their knowledge.

And when you have sorted that out, put Mr Angry’s tea on, there’s a good love.

Mrs Angry said...

updated, DCMD, sorry, must get back to the ironing ...

Jaybird said...

Many congratulations on getting official approval and on getting this story picked up (again).

Rog T said...

Mrs Angry,

It is not an apology Lynne Hillan owes us. It's a letter of resignation. The council have :-

a) Broken their own rules regarding videoing council meetings

b) Possibly breached the data protection act

c) Breached the European convention on Human Rights

The people of Barnet should call for a public enquiry into the following:_

a) The procurement process
b) The way video data has been used
c) The way information has been collect by Metpro (re claims that blogs etc are monitored)
d) Whether individuals have been targetted
e) How the information has been used
f) Who has access to video footage and how access has been logged

Mrs Angry said...

I have already asked for an enquiry, directly and via Labour councillors - not easy when your emails are mysteriously lost, btw. We must all insist that such an investigation is held immediately, openly and thoroughly.