Tuesday 6 December 2011

Mrs Angry helps Councillor Rams to be Transparent

... and Mrs Angry gives Humpty a helping hand too: oh, whoops ...

Brian Coleman sat on a wall,
Brian Coleman had a great fall.
Poor Lynton Crosby, and all of his men,
Couldn't put Brian together again.

A few days ago, Mrs Angry informed her readers of some unexpected Good News in Broken Barnet: the miraculous conversion of Tory Councillor and cabinet member Robert Rams to the joy of transparency and accountability in local government. In a blogpost, Rams had spoken eloquently, if somewhat surprisingly, of his newly found love of armchair auditors, and his deep desire to help them in their endeavours:

"... the redevelopment of Barnet Online will allow the council to focus on becoming more open and transparent.

As has been discussed elsewhere, the council receives a large number of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and responding to them takes up a lot of officer time, time that would be better spent on the core activities of their jobs. We can greatly reduce this burden on council time and resources by publishing more council data and making it easier to find.

We may also encourage more residents to actively engage with the council. At the moment, being an armchair auditor requires a dogged determination. There aren’t many people who would want to spend their social hours trolling* through committee papers and expense reports looking for anomalies. (*darling, did you mean trawling? Trolling is something quite different: see my comment on your blog ... I wouldn't say we are dogged though: that's more of a Tory councillor pastime).

By making more information – previous FOI requests, details of allowances and expenses, copies of contract and tender documents, committee minutes and decisions, performance data etc – more freely available we will allow those residents with less free time to find out more about how the council, councillors and council run services are performing ..."

Robert continued:

"Barnet has nothing to hide, so I’m very keen that we make as much information about the council as easy to access as possible and the new website is the ideal vehicle to deliver on this transparent."

Well, of course Mrs Angry felt moved to respond in kind to Robert's interesting statement, and support him in his act of repentance. She left a comment, as she has done before - and to his credit he has published previous contributions. For some reason, however, he has refused to do so with this one, so Mrs Angry will assist him by publishing it here:

Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet says:

"Robert: are you starting your list of new year resolutions so early in the season?

As Eric Pickles’ favourite armchair auditor (remember: “Mrs Angry, who has every right to be”?) allow me to comment.

Although the council’s apparent new committment to transparency is commendable, I find it hard, if not impossible, to believe. Your group has been in power now since May 2010 and in that time you have worked in completely the opposite direction to the intended movement of the localism agenda. You have, for example, ‘amended’ the constitution in order to minimise consultation, and have turned residents forums into an absolute farce, censoring the issues which may be raised by the very people your are supposed to represent, the tax payers who also pay for your councillors’ allowances.

Time and again, FOIs submitted by Barnet’s much loved armchair auditors have been obstructed, delayed, answered dishonestly or simply refused, in full defiance of the FOIA regulations. The online expenditure data which is available, thanks to Mr Pickles, is heavily redacted for no reason other than political sensitivity, and a good example of where a seemingly open process is in fact cleverly controlled so as to minimise real scrutiny.

It is however, the season of goodwill, so let us see how sincere the newly contrite Tory councillors of Broken Barnet will be in their newly found love of localism and true accountability."

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Not any more.

Yesterday saw another peculiar phenomenon in the world of social media, here in Broken Barnet: a public row on twitter between Rams and Mr John Baldy, a constituent of his. Evidently the two had had words over a local planning issue some time ago, in which Rams' erstwhile mentor Coleman made some pathetic if predictable remarks allegedly smearing local objectors to a road proposal associated with a Jewish school development. You can see the row on twitter, or over on the Barnet Eye blog. The significant point here is the public act of disassociation from Coleman by the previously loyal Rams.

The last few weeks have seen a growing sense of panic amongst the ranks of our Tory councillors here in Broken Barnet: the unprecedented hostility from the public and the business community over the parking disaster, presided over with such impotent 'leadership' by Richard Cornelius, has at last energised the back benchers into some sort of mutinous thought process. The ultimate unthinkable thought is now slowly emerging like a rusty coiled spring from their clockwork brains: is it time to get rid of Brian Coleman?

Yes, trembling Tory councillors of Broken Barnet, Mrs Angry is happy to confirm that it is indeed time.

Mind your back, Brian.


Oh no. The curse of Mrs Angry strikes again ... A reliable source has told a reliable source - or maybe made it up, but I really don't care - that Brian is in real trouble, and rumours abound about a real plot to dump him before the GLA elections. This simply must not happen. Brian is Andrew Dismore's no 1 election asset, and can't be allowed to stand down now, in the middle of the campaign. We must all rally behind Brian Coleman in his hour of need, I say.

Who needs Lynton Crosby? Let Mrs Angry run your campaign, Brian.

Can we have a word about my expenses, first, though? Book a corner table at the Haven, and we'll talk.

*Update Weds: courtesy of the Barnet Eye, here is a wonderful clip from last night's committee meeting in which Mrs Angry's secret admirer, Cllr John Marshall, berates the absent Brian Coleman for ignoring a summons to appear before the committee, and costing the borough money by his actions. Note the shambling performance of 'leader' Cornelius, with his back to the camera ... goodness me, more public displays of rebellion amongst the Tory ranks: where will it all end?


baarnett said...

Is that a bleached-out real picture of our Brian on the egg, Mrs A?

That's very impressive - is it Master or Miss Angry's work, or your own masterful use of graphics software?

What a talented Angry household!

Mrs Angry said...

yes, baarnett, do keep up ... Master A, after a great deal of pleading, threats etc.
Actually, this is a touchy subject: when I was small I was terrified of Humpty Dumpty pictures,& going to sleep, & nursery rhymes,& almost everything really, due to a terrible nightmare I had one night, in which he jumped down from the wall & pinched me. I wonder if it was a vision of the future ..?

Pannusf10 said...

That picture is the creepiest thing ever like Leigh Bowery come back from the dead with a scrubbed Barnet (geddit?).

Mrs Angry said...

the more I watch the clip from the meeting, the more amazed I am by the embarrassed, passive reaction of Cornelius. Marshall is right to demand that he do something about it: will he?