Thursday 21 July 2011

Brian Coleman and the Rev: Private Arrangements, and A Private Function

Tea - and sympathy for his landlord: Brian Coleman entertains at Broken Barnet Town Hall

photo: Sierra Express Media

Take a look at today's Ham & High. Hurry through, no, no, ignore page two ... go to page 14, where Mrs Angry is yet again mouthing off about being filmed by MetPro, and Mr Reasonable is, well, his usual lovely, reasonable self. Oh and where Barnet Tory leader Mr Richard Cornelius tells us that, in addition to the bloggers of Barnet providing a full Pickles approved armchair audit service for him, we must now film his council meetings for him for free, with no thanks, and still no apology for his council's own secret filming of us, in order that he can 'share the workings of local democracy with the general public', because he won't pay for the sort of official filming that all respectable councils already have in place.

Not only that, but according to the Ham & High, Mrs Angry is now officially in charge of Broken Barnet, rather than Mr Cornelius, and do you know, readers, this is a heavy burden to carry. I'm not sure I can take the strain. Another trip to Champneys could be on the cards. What? Barred? Mrs Angry? Don't you know who I am?

Anyway: turn to page 2 of the Ham & High now. Oh look: 'Cllr Coleman disputes low rent claim' ... the story tells us:

'One of London's highest paid councillors has hit back at claims that he lives in cut price church housing in Finchley. Barnet Councillor Brian Coleman has lived in a flat owned by the Finchley Methodist Church for at least two decades, paying rent well below the commercial market values for the area ...'

This is of course not a new story, and last year veteran journalist and aspiring Barnet blogger David Hencke somehow acquired a copy of documents suggesting the rent may be as low as £546 a month, for a five room flat, which is, as Mrs Angry can confirm, around half the going rate in this area.

Brian Coleman has often expressed his views about those good for nothing London firefighters who dare to supplement their income by part time work: apparently these rascals are now all modelling for Armani (please send Mrs Angry a photo if you have one - for research purposes, you understand) and they are all such divas, that they will only fit in a bit of firefighting in their spare time. Brian, in contrast, has selflessly turned down many offers of work from Models 1 and Select to concentrate on the four publicly funded posts he has accrued, and which bring in total annual salary of around £130,000.

Last week you may recall Mrs Angry reported the council meeting where Brian Coleman was rolling about in trouser splitting fits of laughter while a younger Tory councillor ranted about union leaders whom he claimed lived in subsidised housing. Hmm.

The property in which Coleman lives is owned by the local Methodist Church. Brian is of course widely recognised as a devout Methodist and is, we must all agree, a truly humbling example of the Christian faith in action.

According to the Ham & High, Brian told them that the rent figure was 'incorrect' but that he did not wish to discuss his living arrangements. He refused to say how much he was paying for the flat.

The church's minister, Reverend Michael Giles, is also tight lipped about his tenant's rental agreement. He told the Ham & High that the church had a 'private arrangement' with Councillor Coleman. Reverend Giles confirmed that the Totteridge councillor paid less than other church tenants, but blamed this lower rate on the restrictions of long standing tenancy agreements and housing laws.

Finchley Methodist Church is now a registered charity. If you look at the Charities Commission website, you will be able to look at the church's details, and in theory, you might be able to look at information relating to accounts, so as, say, to establish how much income the church derives from property rentals. But, oh dear: unfortunately, according to the website, surrounded by a big red outline, we find a note stating that certain key documents are overdue: the annual return is already twenty two days late.

This is not acceptable from any charity, but for a church to be so remiss seems particularly naughty. Mrs Angry would remind the Reverend Giles of the admonition we find in Matthew, 22.21: 'Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's ...' and while Mrs Angry is feeling moved to reflect on matters of spirituality, she would like to draw the attention of Councillor Coleman to the words of the founding father of Methodism, John Wesley: 'When I have money, I get rid of it quickly, lest it find a way into my heart.' Or indeed, Matthew, 19.24: 'It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God ....'

The picture above shows Brian - or His Worship the Mayor, as he was then - (no wonder he cried when he had to hand over to the new one shortly afterwards: can you imagine how he must have enjoyed being worshipped for a whole year?) - entertaining his landlord, the Reverend Giles, to a nice cup of tea at a reception in the Mayor's parlour, in April last year. This reception was held to welcome a visit by Eddie Turay, the High Commissioner of Sierra Leone. One of Brian's other guests - get a load of this - was, bizarrely, Raine, Countess Spencer, stepmother of Diana, Princess of Wales, and the daughter of the redoubtable romantic novelist Barbara Cartland.

The gentleman in the middle of the picture, incidentally, was the Reverend Emmanuel Samuel Ndanema, Senior Pastor and Founder of All Nations Pentecostal Church UK, in West Hendon, who is also CEO of Solid Rock TNV International Limited. The Reverend is to be commended for combining the duties of Christian ministry with the heavy burden of responsibility for his company which has a wide range of interests in Sierra Leone, but deals primarily with the buying, selling, and exporting of uncut diamonds, gold, and gold dust.

To be fair (yes, we must, even in Broken Barnet) to the Rev and His Worship, there is no reason to believe that they were well acquainted with this individual, but it is an unfortunate fact that Mr Ndanema's church, which has links with some interesting countries, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, appears, according to the Charities Commission website, to have an irregular accounting history, with accounts overdue since June 2009. Perhaps the pastor is now devoting more time to his business interests.

At the reception, we are told, the High Commissioner urged those present to visit Sierra Leone, helpfully informing the gathering that corruption and trafficking of money were now serious criminal offences in his country, which is reassuring. No doubt His Excellency was impressed on his visit by the equally high standards of probity and transparency that recent audit reports have shown to be the hall mark of the current Tory MetPro friendly administration here in Broken Barnet.


Don't Call Me Dave said...

Details of the rent paid by Cllr Coleman are freely accessible on line because rents set by the Rent Officer are a matter of public record. Details are available via the Electronic Rent Register Search on the Valuation Office Agency web site. No phone hacking is required.

If you check the following site:

you will see that the rent registered on 17th July 2008 was £546 per calendar month.

Mrs Angry said...

Well where's the fun in that, DCMD? Too easy. I am very glad though, that the Rent Officer is on hand to assist those in need of affordable housing, especially in this case, as I am sure you will agree.

Friern Barnet said...

I am confused. If cllr Coleman said the figure of £546 was "incorrect" but DCMD says it is a matter of public record from the Rent Officer. Could cllr Coleman be, well, how can I put this...mistaken, or should the Rent Officer be made aware of the error in the public record?

Mrs Angry said...

'Friern Barnet', I imagine that Councillor Coleman meant that he voluntarily tops up his rent, above the low level secured by a rent officer. I am certain that, as a practising Christian, and a member of the Methodist church which owns his accommodation, he would want to do this because he would not want a charity to lose out by not being able to maximise the rental income from its properties.