Tuesday 12 July 2011

How to be literate, Broken Barnet style: Councillor Rams shows the way

Today Mrs Angry launches the first in a new series of blogposts, a sort of personal audit, not so much from the armchair, as from the languid recline of the Angry sofa, much more relaxed and informal, which she hopes will help the citizens of Broken Barnet learn to love their much misunderstood Tory councillors, and bring about a new era of peace, love and understanding in our beloved borough. A tall order, she acknowledges.

Talking of tall orders: well - let's start at the other end of the scale, and begin with a closer look at small but perfectly formed Councillor Robert Ramsbottom. Robert has earned himself the honour of starring in the first feature as a result of some particularly idiotic remarks made recently (see below) - and this is on the standard scale of measurement of idiotic remarks by Barnet Tories, so do bear in mind where this particular benchmark is placed, and don't get a crick in your neck bending down.

Councillor Rams is, like Eric Pickles, an enormous admirer of the Barnet blogs and he has started his own one in competition. He is rather lazy though, and only publishes one every now and then, which is just as well, as Mrs Angry doesn't think she could take the excitement otherwise.

To be fair to Robert: he censors comments left on his blog, but exhibits a remarkable instinct for sound judgement in allowing Mrs Angry's comments to make it through to publication. I'm not sure why: I can only imagine that, like so many other Barnet Tories, he has a picture of Mrs Angry on his bedside table, and well, you know ... next best thing to Mrs Thatcher, I suppose. Sorry Rob: now that Eric and me have a bit of a thing going on, it's just not going to happen.

Part of Mrs Angry's personal audit process - armchair and sofa - involves a consultation of the online register of interest, gifts and hospitality. Be warned, Tory councillors of Broken Barnet. What do we find in Robert Ram's entries?

Well: again, to his credit, and in stark contrast to some of his Tory colleagues, Robert has not opted out of the online register, and has apparently addressed the requirements of the declaration with goodness me, openness and transparency. He tells us about his post at the GLA, where he helps the Tory members - standing by when Brian Coleman needs his pencil sharpened, and making him comfy in his chair for his post luncheon snooze at the desk (see photo on 'Dismore v Coleman ...'). He has also been known to shine Roger Evans' shoes from time to time, with a well practised technique of spit and polish. (I think it's that way round, anyway.)

Councillor Ramsbottom has outed himself as a 'member of the lodge of fraternal unity'/trouser roller upper, and he is also a member of International Rescue (see above, right, in full regalia, and no, that is not Mrs Angry next to him, although admittedly there are similarities). He also - but don't tell anyone - is a ssh - a member of an important think tank. In order to keep this quiet, and keep people completely off the trail of his secret activities in this sensitive area, Robert is very careful not to do anything which might give the game away, such as, well - thinking - hence the blog.

Ah: the blog. This is what Councillor Rams had to say recently about the £750 million tender notice for a tranche of council services which was rushed out last month, incredibly, the day after the devastating MetPro report was presented to the audit committee. Rams told us Barnet residents will approve of the council facilitating such a gigantic business opportunity for the drooling, profit hungry private sector, because Barnet residents don't care who provides their services:

"The private sector is well placed to provide support services at a lower cost than the council ever could. Specialist suppliers provide these services as their core business; they have access to industry expertise, they can take advantage of economies of scale, and they can access the latest and best technology to help them deliver better services."

Mrs Angry left the following comment:

"How on earth can you dare to publish this? Did you not read the MetPro Audit Report? Are you not aware of the government’s change in position on the issue of mass outsourcing? Residents do not trust you to give any more services to the private sector: to rush the £750 million package out the day after the MetPro meeting is madness, and you know it. These services need to remain in house, and run competently – and to benefit residents, not for the profit of some external provider. Clearly the Tory administration is incapable of runnning anything with competence and probity, so admittedly that may be a problem. Oh, and why are you and your Tory colleagues so silent on the issues raised by MetPro?"

In his reply, Rams says that 'the MetPro situation' (just a situation, not a scandal) was 'not acceptable':

"... the report that went to audit committee made it clear that our contract management needs to be tightened up and plans are in place to do that. The One Barnet team however grew out of the major projects team that has delivered many education buildings over the last few years – all on time and all within budget."

Hmm, tightened up. Good idea: that should do it. Only thing is, Robert, that I think you are referring to a 'team' which includes - and do correct me if I am wrong, 'Captain' Craig Cooper, who is now, er: just remind me ... oh yes, Director of Commerce, you know, in charge of well, procurement contracts, and stuff - yes, that's right, wasn't that him staring hard at the table during the MetPro audit committee? Next to the outstandingly gifted financial strategist Andrew 'Black Hole' Travers?

Rams' next post is a cracker. He tells us with breathless excitement about a keynote address he had given last week to 'Barnet Market Day'. This event is not to be confused with 'Barnet Fair', the centuries old meeting and horse trading market of gypsy and travelling people - a group of people barred, incidently, from stopping in our borough by our council's blatantly racist refusal to provide even the smallest, most basic provision for their needs, even in the many years when there was a statutury obligation to do so. No: the horse trading last Friday was between our Tory council and the visiting representatives of big fat cat companies like Capita, oh, and BT, who want to feast on the services which their friends in Barnet are throwing their way, with reckless abandon and remarkable generosity. Perhaps a better analogy would be a slave market, in fact: seeing workers as commodities, expendable, not worthy of respect in a 'culture' which puts profit before compassion.

As for Barnet's attempt to pimp itself to the highest bidders, Mrs Angry is still waiting, for some reason, for the response to her FOI request of some weeks ago asking how many senior officers of the London Borough of Broken Barnet, past and present, have attended events organised by BT. You know: Vital Vision and all that. Last week she had to complain that the response had not been answered within the time limit. She is still waiting. Why is that, do you suppose?

But back on the sofa with Robert Rams. Are you sitting comfortably?

In his address to our would be private sector seducers, Councillor Rams said that 'the ruling group' of Barnet Council (did you think you lived in a democracy? ) would have certain expectations of their new partners. A big fat wallet, for one thing, and lots of big promises to show us all a good time.

Robert then went on to boast about the spectacular success of the Tories' new housing policy. This has, at a stroke, reduced the longest housing waiting list in the country - a whopping 17,000 applicants - to only 2,000. Mrs Angry, you are wondering: how on earth did they manage that? Well, they obviously gave 15,000 applicants a new home, didn't they? Oh: hold on, no: they what? Changed the rules, chucked a load of people off the list, and engaged in a spot of old school social engineering, rewarding the deserving poor. Oh yes they did. Says Robert, bursting with paternalistic pride:

"We also score applicants higher if they are working, involved in a voluntary activity or a former member of the armed forces. This has proved to be very popular with existing social housing occupiers who want people who are committed to the community to become their neighbours."

If you are unfortunate enough to be say, the young child of parents who failed to open up a soup kitchen, or join the SAS: tough shit, be more careful what sort of parents you choose - or clear off out of Broken Barnet. Oh and any disruptive families - please see Mrs Angry's early blogs if you want a taste of this - will be decanted into private accommodation, coming soon to a house near you - enjoy.

Robert had something else to show off about. He is the saviour of the library service (the Tories were too scared to push through mass closures of libraries because of the outrage that erupted when this was a possibility) a gentleman and a scholar. He shares his latest thoughts on our library provision:

'Why should we be running a reference collection when half the borough can access Google on their phones?'

Yes, really ... and then:

' ...the very presence of Google on people’s phones indicates that literacy is more important than ever.'

Yes, really.

Thankfully a reader has already said what needs to be said.

Richard Logue has posed an interesting question:

'What kind of idiot wants to remove reference books from libraries?'

Speaking on behalf of the aforesaid kind of idiots, ie the Barnet Tory 'ruling group', Rams is now trying to backtrack and and undo the damage - too late, Robert. The truth is that here in Broken Barnet, culture, art, literature, knowledge are all decadent, subversive activities and must be stopped at all costs. They encourage thinking, but of the wrong sort - not the correct type of One Barnet thinking that Councillor Rams has been storing up in a tank at a secret location somewhere in central London, but dangerous thoughts: dissent, and alternative models for local government: democracy, community and engagement, that kind of thing. In this school of thought, people matter more than profit, and local authorities are run for the benefit of residents, rather than the self gratification of councillors, and to satisfy the slavering appetites of fat cat companies.

Try googling that thought, Robert, and see how many hits you get.


Mr Mustard said...

Yesterday evening it was 9.07pm by Mr Mustard's Timex ( more frugality - what, I should just look at the angle of the sun in the sky ) when the unavoidably detained Cllr Rams managed to show his face at the Business Management Overview & Scrutiny Committee ( Bumoscrute for short ) and it was only 5 minutes later before he was invited to step forward to be fed to the lions, sorry talk to the residents.
Evidently Cllr Rayner was getting bored of chairing and was enjoying himself by putting elephant traps in his questions as he asked Cllr Rams if he "would carefully consider proposals from residents" to which the only possible was "Yes, of course". Somehow Rams even sounded convincing.

Then on the question of closing Friern Barnet library Cllr Rams had evidently been talking to Craig Tommy Cooper as a whole string of one liners came out.

- The right thing for Barnet ( to close libraries )
- In an ideal world would keep everything
- Travers said No.
- There may be a short time before ArtsDepot gets going ( weeks/months/years/never ? )
- Friern Barnet has 2 libraries ( so shut up )
- We will carry on with the mobile service.
- The service based on LoveFilm should start ( will it be called LoveRams ? )
- He will have other ideas later which he would tell us about at the earliest opportunity ( i.e. when someone tells him what they are )
- He has looked at what people want ( and then ignored it )
and the final one liner that brought the house down
- Two people have told him how great the plan is for every one against.

The tears were rolling down the face of Mr Mustard at this point and he also had to be careful not to fall over the other 30 people in the public gallery who were rolling in the aisles at this point.

That is the best one liner Mr Mustard has heard in years.

The sad thing is that Rams is the straight man. He doesn't even know he is telling them.

Mr Mustard said...

Marks out of ten for Cllr Rams yesterday evening.

1 for showing up 2 hours late.
1 for the joke
1 for bare faced cheek

Total 3/10