Monday 11 April 2011

Mrs Angry writes a letter to Lynne Hillan

Mrs Angry is having trouble accessing her email account this evening, for some strange reason, so she is taking the precaution of copying the following letter to her blog:

Dear Ms Hillan,

As you may know, as part of my own small contribution to the challenge of the Big Society, and in the true spirit of localism, I write the 'Broken Barnet' blog, endeavouring to bring an account of the endless machinations and absurd manoeuvres of our local authority to the broader attention of the residents of this borough - and beyond.

In one short year, this blog has swiftly become very widely read, not just locally but nationally - and even internationally - and indeed, is now listed as a Guardian top London blog. Our borough has of course become widely known, not to say notorious, for our 'pulsating blogosphere', but in fairness, we Barnet bloggers should pay credit where credit is due: without you, Councillor Coleman, and all your Tory colleagues providing us with such a rich supply of material, we would not have reached such heights of fame, and we must thank you all. The slapstick comedy, and endless variety of lunatic fringe politics produced by the Conservative administration here in Broken Barnet is truly unmatched by any other local authority in London, if not the country, and this is no little acheivement. Mr Cameron must be speechless with admiration.

On the first of March, Ms Hillan, I attended the now infamous last full council meeting at Hendon Town Hall. I was there as a resident, and also in my capacity as one of the citizen journalists supported with such enthusiasm by minister Eric Pickles. If you recall, you had made statements rejecting Mr Pickles' new guidelines on filming, photographing or tweeting the council meeting, which was happily disregarded by residents who feel that as elected representatives, you are accountable to the public while acting in your official capacities.

I was one of the privileged few residents wanting to witness the meeting who managed to get a seat in the public gallery. As you may remember, despite the gallery becoming half empty, your council officers and highly intimidating, black shirted security employees, openly ignored the decision of the police officer in charge to allow residents to take these places, and physically barred seventeen members of the public from moving from the overflow room to the gallery, for absolutely no good reason, thus depriving them of their lawful right to attend the meeting.

Worse still, it later emerged that the security company in question had been filming me and other bloggers and residents present at the meeting, monitoring our blogs and tweets, and generally behaving in a way that is totally unacceptable in any civilised society, and was in fact a serious intrusion into our right to privacy and the right to engage freely in the democratic process. After an initial denial of such activity, and arguments between your council and MetPro as to whether or not there was any authorisation to carry out filming, last week we read in astonishment that Barnet has obtained and then destroyed the footage, without informing any of the individuals concerned.

After investigating the background to the security company used by you at this meeting, it quickly became apparent that there were very serious questions to be addressed. For weeks I have been writing about this and trying to get the council to acknowlege the issues: enquiries have been ignored and FOI requests left unanswered, in blatant breach of the statutory time limits. Only now, after wider media interest and embarrassment, and pressure from Labour councillors informed by me and other bloggers and residents, is some sort of limited internal inquiry taking place.

An internal 'audit' or any kind of internal inquiry into the relationship between your council and MetPro is simply not good enough, and I suggest that you must know that the gravity of the situation, the lack of clarity over the placing of this contract, and the very serious allegations regarding the company's lack of qualifications, as detailed in tonight's Standard, demand that an independent, open, honest and thorough investigation be made as soon as possible, in order to reassure the residents of this borough that your administration is capable of arranging and monitoring outsourced service contracts with any reasonable level of competence.

One lesson you might take from this experience is the importance, after all, of citizen journalism, 'respectable' or not: without our efforts this matter, the use by your council of a company whose licensing and CRB accreditation you seem to have left unchecked, would have gone unreported, and that would have been truly scandalous.

I would also suggest that you owe me, my fellow Barnet bloggers, and a number of Barnet residents, a full explanation for the events of the council meeting - and an apology.

Yours sincerely,

Mrs Angry

1 comment:

baarnett said...

"monitoring our blogs and tweets..."

Sorry, I missed that.

Who? What? When?