Monday 25 July 2011

Taking the biscuit: another councillor on the sofa with Mrs Angry

Barry Evangeli and a civic award - photo: London Daily News

Some of our councillors here in Broken Barnet are, as we know, rather shy. It is a charming attribute, of course, and wholly in line with their self deprecating modesty, and humble dedication to the principle of public service.

When the time came, last year, for our elected representatives to put their declarations of interest, gifts and hospitality into the public domain, in an online register, several Tory councillors - and only Tory councillors - refused to comply, and were allowed to opt out. Transparency is optional, in Broken Barnet. Mrs Angry imagines that these bashful councillors were worried that an intimate acquaintance with the details of their priviliged lives might cause envy and unrest amongst the downtrodden masses of Broken Barnet. In the case of Brian Coleman, this must certainly be true. Funnily enough, Brian is compelled to reveal his details online for the GLA and the London fire authority, so his refusal to comply in Barnet must be purely on a point of principle, the principle being, presumably, that he does not think we have a right to easy access to such information.

Now as it happens, Mrs Angry has seen the withheld declarations. This private view was arranged in conditions more secure than a covert operations room at MI5 (uh oh: more interesting visits for Mrs Angry's blog ...) or a council meeting facilitated by MetPro. Yes: Mrs Angry sat in a room at North London Business Park, watched over by an anxious council officer ready to pounce should she, as frankly she was tempted, naughtily attempt to liberate one of the pieces of paper, fold it up and stick it down the front of her blouse, where it would be lost for all time. Or until she was frisked by the Director of Corporate Governance - every Barnet blogger's fantasy, of course.

Mrs Angry is not going to publish any really sensitive private information about anyone seen in these records: unlike Barnet Council, she knows the difference between what is personal information and what should be a matter of public knowledge. On the other hand, the citizens of Broken Barnet are entitled to know any facts about their elected representatives which are relevant to the work they do as councillors.

As a result of her visit, Mrs Angry acquired some useful intelligence, but in fact, citizens, what the dim witted councillors don't realise is that most of the information they guard so jealously is freely available - or can be checked out - on the web.

Who is next on our list then? Let's continue our showbiz theme, and select one of the councillors who refuses to share his details online: Councillor Barry Evangeli.

What do we know so far? Well, not very much. We cannot even be sure what his real name is, in fact, as we will see. Where does he live? We don't know. On the council website he gives no address, other than the Conservative group members' room.

Barry is yet another Chipping Barnet area councillor, representing East Barnet ward, along with Robert Rams and Joanna Tambourides. Barry is also now the Deputy Mayor, a remarkable compliment to a new boy who only joined the council last May.

Of course Barry has clearly been interested in local issues for some time: the photo above shows him collecting a civic award, in February 2009, for services to the Greek Cypriot community. That was nice, wasn't it? Ten months later Barry himself was a councillor: another twelve months and bingo: deputy to Mayor Lisa Rutter, who also has a Cypriot background. Barnet has a large Cypriot community, and this community is strongly represented on the council - although to Mrs Angry's knowledge there are no Turkish Cypriot councillors.

A favourite destination for Barnet councillors is Morphou, in Cyprus, which they regularly visit, as guests of the municipality, to protest against the Turkish invasion.They do this by attending various lunches and dinners, and staying in a nice hotel. If only all conflict in the world could be resolved so easily, eh, citizens?

Mrs Angry often wonders why no councillors visit some of our other twinned towns, such as Jinja in Uganda: Mrs Angry can think of very few Tory councillors who show any informed interest in the issues of poverty and urban destitution in the developing world - and almost none of them are known to have taken part in any Ugandan discussions. Unsurprisingly.

Giving the award is Mrs Angry's friend and admirer, veteran Tory Councillor John Marshall. No, he wasn't Mayor at the time: John always dresses like this, a habit from his younger days as Speaker of the house of Commons, during the regency of George IV, and serving in the administration of William Pitt the Younger. Oh, and in the same photo, you will notice Brian Coleman to the left, master of ceremonies, but sulking because he has been outflounced.

Barry is one of those Tory councillors Mrs Angry has never heard speak. He turns up to meetings, sits there, keeps stum, and goes home with a doggy bag as a reward. Normal for Barnet, of course. Is he a Cabinet member? No. Does he sit on any committees? Well he is vice chair of the Appeals Committee, but really his only claim to fame is in relation to his post as vice chair of the Chipping Barnet Residents' Forum. Last year, when our greedy little Tory councillors were trying to grab themselves a big fat pay rise, Councillor Evangeli took it upon himself to dictate to the residents at this Forum that they would not be allowed to discuss the issue - and this was before the recent outrageous constitutional changes which he and his colleagues have used to prevent any subjects they don't like from being raised at such meetings.

According to the Barnet Bugle blog of 20th July 2010, after forbidding mention of the allowance issue by the plebs, Councillor Evangeli gave them a well deserved lecture :

"Local residents present at the meeting of Chipping Barnet Residents Forum tonight were in uproar after East Barnet Ward Councillor, Barry Evangeli, banned all discussion of Councillor allowances.

Councillor Evangeli, who admitted he personally benefitted from the hike, submitted the crowd of people present to a 'politburo' style speech and defence of the rises that would have made Brian Coleman blush."

Amongst his more preposterous claims were that the allowance rises would merely enable councillors to afford the price of the odd ice cream. Hmm. Barry has a sweet tooth, as we know. After the infamous MetPro guarded budget cuts meeting of March 1st, Barry was caught running out of the Town Hall with great excitement, clutching a big box stuffed full of biscuits and goodies from the buffet spread which our councillors lay on for themselves, at our expense, in the ten minute break at such meetings. There may be cutbacks, citizens, but our esteemed councillors must not do without their traditional troughing opportunities.

Talking of making Brian Coleman blush: Barry Evangeli, it seems, is a big, big fan of our Brian. Look at this shamelessly brown nosing letter published in the local Times newspaper in December 2009:

"I applaud Brian Coleman for speaking his mind.

I was present in the public gallery recently during Mayor’s Question Time when Labour Assembly Member John Biggs was continuously berating the mayor.

His constant interruptions were both irritating and obnoxious and nothing short of a feeble attempt at political point-scoring.

Perhaps Brian Coleman’s description of him as an “odious toad” should be regarded as a compliment, as I would have described him more akin to something a little more primate.

Barry Evangeli"

Charming, don't you think?

At the beginning of the post I mentioned that we cannot be certain who exactly Barry Evangeli is. What is his background? Well, in regard to the award he won in 2009, it is stated that he is a music producer and dj.

Barry Evangeli, it seems, was a music producer in the eighties, running a label called Proto records. His name was not familiar to Mrs Angry, but then she spent most of the eighties with her fingers in her ears, not being a big fan of new romantics (apart from the look sported by John Marshall, seen above). Barry also produced some stuff by Divine, the actor, singer & drag queen who starred in some of the films of cult director John Waters. Hold on: we are in danger of making Councillor Evangeli sound interesting - so let's move on.

Dj, then? Aha. Mrs Angry happens to live up the road from the London Greek Radio offices ... could it be? She looked at their website, searched for any dj named Barry and, no, no Barry Evangeli, but, oh look: someone called Barry Leventis, who bears an uncanny resemblance to our man. Barry Leventis presents a drivetime show, and has worked both here and at Spectrum Radio. Hmm. I think we have our man.

If you want a laugh, take a look at youtube: there are several clips of Barry Leventis in action, including a ha ha ever so funny film of him running around in folk costume and welllies, pushing women off chairs.

Which came first, then, the chicken or the egg? Leventis or Evangeli? Who knows. We ought to know, though, don't you think, citizens? In the interests of transparency and all that.

After all, there are strict rules, for one thing, in regard to broadcasting and the participation of candidates in UK elections. How can residents be confident that these are observed, if there is a lack of clarity over a presenter's identity?

In 2006, Councillor Evangeli's Tory colleague Andreas Tambourides - yes, husband of Joanna - got into a spot of hot water with OFCOM over his newsreading at London Greek Radio. Mrs Angry is sure that Barry Leventis/Evangeli has always observed the protocols regarding this issue, and that there has not been any complaint in regard to his broadcasting during an election period. On the other hand, if he insists on keeping his broadcasting career private, and using an alias, and withholding his declarations of interest from online access, this might reasonably be seen as unhelpful to the process of public scrutiny.

Mrs Angry therefore urges Councillor Evangeli - and his Tory friends - to bite the bullet, do the right thing, and put their interests on the online register. If you do, Barry, Mrs Angry might even buy you an ice cream. Or Mr Mustard might let you have a lick of his cornetto (although I hear Barry prefers a Magnum).

Failing that, I am afraid your performance appraisal score is going to be low. Any councillor who withholds their declarations automatically gains a negative rating, and your Coleman letter is another grave error. On the other hand ... I do like John Waters movies, and I have a sweet tooth too. Minus one is the best we can do, I think, in the circumstances.

Who will be next on the sofa, I wonder?


MickeyN said...

Both Barries (Evangeli and Leventis) have pages on Facebook. Evangeli shows Robert Rams as a Facebook Friend but Leventis is wearing the deputy mayor's gown and medal in his profile picture - spot the Councillor! On your scoring system does that mean Bazza gets a double score?

Mrs Angry said...

oh dear, MickeyN, no, I don't think so, one audit will suffice - in fact reading through the post again (always have to because there are always at least 23 errors) I see that I forgot to deduct a point for the allowance rise speech at the Forum, so he has got off lightly, really.

MickeyN said...

Fair play - a richly deserved score for a Councillor that literally takes the biscuit!

Mrs Angry said...

Perhaps I should make it clear that Mr Mustard not only does not hit people with a handbag, he does not own a handbag: he also does not share his ice creams with Tory councillors, or indeed any councillors, or - as far as I know - with any Barnet bloggers.

Mr Mustard said...

Mr Mustard does note that the imaginery person Barry Leventis has more friends than the sadly real Barry Evangeli. Not very imaginative with his made up names is he?
So we have a bare bottomed actor and a DJ in charge of £900m! WTF. We're all doomed. Cllr Thomas runs a branch of a building society and Captain Mannering was a bank manager; don't panic.

Mrs Angry said...

hmm, they are all rather Dad's Army, aren't they: incompetent, amateur, objects of ridicule. Only difference is that Mainwaring & co were loveable and amusing.

As for imaginary friends, to be fair, we bloggers have our share, don't we? In fact: ssh: I'm not sure I actually exist, or you ...