Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Living in the real world, with Brian Coleman

Champagne Charlie is my name ... Councillor Brian Coleman, AM FRSA: the charity flat tenant who wants single mother Sharada Osman to live in the 'real world' ...

The Sisters of Charity want a word with you, Brian ...

Updates: see below including Wednesday 1 & 2:

An interesting story appeared on our local Times paper website yesterday. Sharada Osman, a woman living in Finchley, recently made the mistake of writing to her local councillor to ask his help with problems regarding her accommodation. She is a single mother, with a six year old son, and her private landlord has just demanded a large increase in rent, which she cannot pay.

What did kind hearted Tory councillor Brian Coleman have to say to this unfortunate woman? Not much: he told her to turn to the private sector for housing (which she already relies on) rather than expect council housing 'because there will never be enough council houses available'.

And then, as reported in the Times:

"Ms Osman replied calling his statement thoughtless and lacking in empathy to which he responded:

“Lack of empathy?????? Councillors simply cannot conjure housing out of thin air and the private sector is your only option. That is a fact.

“I am afraid you have to live in the real world where the country has no money and residents will have to deal with their own issues rather than expecting ‘the system’ to sort their lives out. This correspondence is now closed.”

Ms Osman said: “He made me feel awful. I just wanted to make him aware of my situation and ask him if there was anything I could be doing. He was really rude and really spoke down to me – no one should be spoken to like that.”"

Here we have yet another example of the rudeness and arrogance which Coleman so frequently displays in response to residents who dare to contact him over issues of concern to them. This lack of courtesy and respect is completely unnecessary in anyone, but from an elected representative approached in the context of responsibilties to a consituent or indeed any resident, it is particularly unacceptable.

Brian Coleman collects a six figure income from his public sector posts, and is also in receipt of generous expense arrangements in regard to most of these appointments.

This is the same man who recently objected at a Barnet council committee meeting to the obligation that the authority has to provide transport for children with special needs, and disabled and vulnerable adults - 'these people' - yet is happy to accept public money to pay for his own taxi bills. Can he really not understand the disgust that residents feel when they read about such indulgence, coupled with such outrageous insensitivity to the needs of disadvantaged residents requiring support - and perhaps some compassion - for their difficulties? Where is the sense of charity, that quality of the Christianity that he claims, as an 'active' Methodist to follow?

Coleman told Ms Osman to live in the 'real world' and not to expect the 'system' to sort out her life. Her needs, and those of her child, are her responsibility alone.

What a shame it is that Ms Osman is not in a position to apply for active help from, say, a local charity, such as, oh - Finchley Methodist Church, which just happens to own Councillor Coleman's two bedroomed flat. Councillor Coleman does not rely on the system to sort him out, Ms Osman: no, no - he prefers to be sorted out by the Reverend Michael Giles and his fellow parishioners.

Whereas Ms Osman and her son, living on income support, are struggling to pay a new rent of £1,100 a month on their two bedroomed home, Coleman, who earns around £130,000 per annum, is fortunate enough to have secured a fixed rent on the flat he has provided by the charity - of only £546.

Surprised? Don't be. This is how we live, some of us, here in the real world of Broken Barnet.


Ms Osman's story has been featured on the BBC Radio 4 website in the last week, and you can find an article about her here ... the article considers the plight of tenants like Ms Osman who are at the mercy of private landlords, and finding it increasingly impossible to secure affordable accommodation. This difficulty is particularly hard in London, and in boroughs like Tory Barnet where there is a deliberate lack of provision for social housing, and so many disadvantaged people are forced into private rental arrangement; a situation made even more complicated thanks to the new housing benefit rules. The effects on tenants, and in particular the children of such tenants, is something that Mrs Angry imagines Councillor Coleman, secure in his charity owned flat, finds of little interest.

Update 2: 6.00pm

Labour spokesman for housing in Barnet Ross Houston has given his angry reaction to Coleman's remarks in an article in the local Times: take a look - here ... oh, and Mrs Angry notes that there is a national newspaper interested in Ms Osman's story ...


In the last day or so, several national papers, press agencies, and other media sources have been landing here in Broken Barnet, ferreting around this story: the Standard has an article today, and it looks like more will follow. Twitter is buzzing with outrage, too, although nothing much new in that, of course.

Coleman's monstrous ego is his driving force - Mrs Angry predicts it will also be his undoing, in partnership with an increasing inability to keep his fecking mouth shut, in all the wrong circumstances - a kind of political Tourettes syndrome, with all sorts of interesting consequences, as we tumble down the steep descent to the GLA May elections.

Bring it on.

Wednesday 2nd update:

Goodness me: Mrs Angry has just seen the accounts for Finchley Methodist Church, for the financial years ending August 2009, and 2010: information in the public domain and available on the Charity Commission website:

Under entries for 'Investment Income' we find that the Church made £32,331 from flat rental in 2009, but this income dropped in 2010 to £26,408.

Of course we do not know why the rental dropped, or indeed how many flats the church owns, but clearly, one would think, the church has a moral duty to maximise all sources of income in order to support its many charitable functions.

In the financial statement, published by the trustees, for example, there is a list of other charities to which the Church gives donations:

"The following organisations were assisted financially during the year ended 31 August 2010.
15 FMC Toddler 500
TOTAL 11,996

Mrs Angry is particularly pleased to see that a local charity, 'Homeless Action Barnet' is one of the fortunate recipients of the generosity of the Church, and hopes that a future increase in rental income will enable the parish to increase its donation to this good cause, and help support the increasing number of disadvantaged residents in the borough who, unlike Councillor Brian Coleman, do not have the privilege of a protected rent to safeguard the security of their homes, and their families.


Mrs Angry said...

I should point out that these are the order of nuns who had the tender care of the infant Mrs Angry, and yes, they really did dress like that until forced into the twentieth century about seven decades behind everyone else.
Give these formidable women five minutes in locked room with Brian Coleman, and he would be reduced to a quivering mess. It's a happy thought, isn't it, citizens?

MickeyN said...

The arrogance and lack of basic courtesy is breathtaking.

It is surely a source of humiliation, embarrassment and disappointment to ALL the citizens of Barnet that this man is one of our "representatives".

Mr Mustard said...

Some light reading for Mr Coleman courtesy of www.beacouncillor.org.uk

What do councillors do?

Councillors are people who are elected to the local council to represent their local community. They must either live or work in the area.

Becoming a councillor is both a rewarding and privileged form of public service. You will be in a position to make a difference to the quality of other people’s daily lives and prospects. However, being an effective councillor requires both commitment and hard work.

Every day, councillors have to balance the needs and interests of residents, their political party (if any) and the council. These will all make legitimate demands on a councillor’s time - on top of the demands and needs of a councillor’s personal and professional lives. Your role as a councillor often depends on your experience and commitment.

Before you consider becoming a councillor you may want to discuss it with your family and friends to ensure that they understand that you will need their support and understanding. You may be spending a lot of your spare time on council business.

Well worth reading Mr C and taking note of.

baarnett said...

Presumably they didn't go out in a strong wind.

Mrs Angry said...

MickeyN: I think Coleman is also a source of humiliation, embarrassment and disappointment to the Conservative party, locally, London wide, and nationally, and it is high time they sorted him out. On the other hand, every time he opens his mouth he creates another 500 Labour voters, so perhaps we should just sit back and let him carry on until next May.

Mr M: I'm not sure Coleman sees the reward and privilige of public service in the same way that everyone else does, do you?

Mrs Angry said...

... oh and baarnett: the nuns in Mill Hill still wore those starched veil things when my brother was at school, and I can remember once my father giving the headteacher a life back to the convent, & getting into big trouble for laughing when she had difficulty getting her head in the car.

Looking at the picture, I can see why so many of the sisters decided to become a bride of Christ rather than sit about waiting in vain for Mr Right to come along. On the other hand they may well have made the right decision and had a very happy life.

Mrs Angry is thinking about entering a convent.

Mrs Angry said...

Mrs Angry has entered a convent, and will not be blogging anymore, as it is a mortal sin, apparently. Goodbye: and God bless you all.

Mrs Angry said...

Mr Mustard (pictured above, in white wig) when not busy growing a beard to try and thrill the matrons of Chipping Barnet, has been casting doubt on the integrity of my vocation. In fact the order has now moved me to our nursing home in Portsmouth, where I am offering assistance and support to senior citizens. There are placements available to any elderly gentlemen in need of respite care.

Anonymous said...

Chastity, poverty and obedience? Your chastity is beyond doubt, and you are know to eschew luxurious display of wealth, but, with the greatest respect, obedient is not an epithet often applied to you

APML said...

Says he who lives next to nothing in a church owned house .....!!!

baarnett said...

It's a wig?

Mrs Angry said...

er, Mr Roper:
1.can you be a little less keen to assume proof of my chastity? Some doubt might be more appropriate, and flattering.

2.I am in fact, as clearly I must remind you, a champagne socialist.

Might be right about no 3 though.

Mrs Angry said...

yes, button: and isn't it marvellous how living next door to a church has had such a beneficial influence on Councillor Coleman's spirtual development?

baarnett: what about those tights, eh? He has told us he wears them on the bike in winter, but it would seem this is a feeble excuse. Useful for storing an extra pair of socks,though, by the looks of it.

Anonymous said...

Sorry; I was writing in the medieval tradition of courtly love, in which the poet praises his lady's chastity, even though he rather hopes that she will prove less chaste than claimed.
In these economically difficult times, we're cava socialists chez Roper.

Mrs Angry said...

Hmm. The stages of courtly love - just looked them up:

-Attraction to the lady, usually via eyes/glance
-Worship of the lady from afar
-Declaration of passionate devotion
-Virtuous rejection by the lady
-Renewed wooing with oaths of virtue and eternal fealty
-Moans of approaching death from unsatisfied desire (and other physical manifestations of lovesickness)
-Heroic deeds of valor which win the lady's heart
-Consummation of the secret love
-Endless adventures and subterfuges avoiding detection.

Shame real life is rather less exciting.

Mr Mustard said...

Tights are OK Mrs A but silk is the best insulator so I may have to move into stockings on the bike when out late. Better not crash as it would be embarrassing.

I think you didn't quite get Brian's diagnosis correct. Isn't it Toryettes that he has a rather peculiar case of?

Must go and dash off 50 Freedom of Information requests before bedtime.

Mrs Angry said...

I don't think you've been able to buy silk stockings since about 1927, Mr Mustard, but I bow to your superior knowledge of ladies hosiery. If you enjoy wearing ladies clothing underneath your leathers, well, why not? Each to his own. Bet you get some funny looks down the Legion, though.

I am not sure what a full diagnosis of Brian Coleman would conclude, but I think we can all guess that it would be an interesting read.

APML said...

It will certainaly be welcome to the real world for our Brian after next May me thinks..

Mrs Angry said...

that is our most earnest wish, button55. Good job his charity landlords are unable to hike the rent up like Ms Osman's, isn't it?