Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Mrs Angry, mystery shopper: Barnet Council, mystery shopper

Mrs Angry likes shopping. She is very good at it, having had years of practice. This is why, when she sometimes enters a shop and the assistant immediately asks her a. how she is today, and b. if she needs any help, she is likely to respond, with full confidence, and in no uncertain terms, that she is very well, and able to proceed without assistance.

Mrs Angry likes Mary Portas, too. Mary, Queen of Shops is a very sensible woman, who sees clearly what is wrong with the state of retail in the UK, and has a clear vision of the route we should follow to take our high streets out of the terminal decline in which so many find themselves.

Mary Portas has today published her government sponsored report on this very subject, with 28 recommendations, in an action plan to address the problems they face. Funnily enough, high on her list of suggestions was this:

9. Local areas should implement free controlled parking schemes that work for their town centres and we should have a new parking league table.

Oh dear. Here in Broken Barnet, Mary, we do things differently.

Here in a borough controlled by a Conservative administration, one which you might expect to be sympathetic to the needs of small businesses and retailers, at a time of recession, we are seeing a reported further loss of 40% trade in our local town centres, as a direct result of recently introduced parking policy. Not only do we not have free parking, Mary, we have seen charges shamelessly hiked up to a ridiculous level - and cash payment for parking is no longer possible.

At one stroke, just before Christmas, when every local retail outlet and local business has been hoping for extra trade to help them through the economic crisis, a life threatening assault on trade has been launched by the local council. The cowardly leader of this council has said that he doesn't see what he can do about it, and the idiotic councillor responsible for the new scheme doesn't give a shit.

There is a Barnet Cabinet Resources Committee meeting tomorrow night. On the agenda are several interesting items. In accordance with the tradition of Broken Barnet, two of them have mysteriously had their reports exempted from publication. *(Although some material regarding these items is not exempt, in both cases further reports are being withheld).

One of them, Item X2, is the award of a contract for Corporate Buildings Security.

The award of this contract, hello, in case you have been living on Mars for the last few months, or are a back bench Tory councillor, is only necessary because Barnet bloggers, earlier this year, exposed the council's long term use of MetPro, an illegally operating security company, without a contract, and the authority has only now got round to arranging its security requirements in what we can only imagine is a more compliant arrangement. Mrs Angry emphasises the use of the word 'imagine': why this is being done in secret, in a process without transparency or accountability is, you might think, in the circumstances, pretty obvious - and utterly disgraceful.

Item X6 is 'Parking Enforcement and Related Services'.

Again, the question must be asked: why is another politically sensitive matter being exempted from public scrutiny?

Do we not have the right to know what the shiftless bunch of incompetents that comprise the Cabinet and senior management team of Broken Barnet are up to?

What have they got to hide?

Some very interesting rumours have reached Mrs Angry in regard to this touchy subject - watch this space - but really, the whole issue of parking in this borough is an absolute scandal, a malodorous, stinking scandal, and it will very probably prove to be the ultimate undoing of the Tory administration of Broken Barnet, not to mention the end of the inglorious career of certain widely loathed local politicians.

Here is a press release from the Labour group today. More to update later.

Labour calls for special council meeting on parking

Labour councillors have requested that the Mayor convene an extra-ordinary council meeting urgently to discuss a Christmas and New Year parking amnesty to help residents and struggling local traders in Barnet’s town centres.

Under the council’s constitution five councillors can request the Mayor to call a special meeting of Full Council. The Mayor can accept or refuse the request. The meeting must be called within 7 days of the notice being presented to the Mayor, although there is no time limit by which the meeting must take place. If the Mayor refuses, or does not call the meeting within the 7 days, any five members may themselves call an extra-ordinary meeting.

The Labour motion is:

"Council notes the eye-watering parking charge increases that have been introduced this year, the proposal to increase parking charges by a further 5% next year, and the introduction of cashless parking which has resulted in fewer people shopping in our town centres and more and more local traders and businesses suffering as a consequence.

Council asks Cabinet to urgently introduce a Christmas and New Year parking amnesty in our town centres with immediate effect, to run until the 16th January 2012 in order to help local traders and businesses in our town centres over the Christmas and New Year sales period.

Council also asks that Cabinet review the introduction of last year’s parking charge increases, and the proposal to increase parking charges in the borough by 5% next year."

Labour councillors have been calling for a Christmas parking amnesty for several weeks including at Business Management Scrutiny on 16 November.

Labour’s Environment spokesperson, Cllr Kath McGuirk said:

“The parking charge increases this year and the move to cashless parking has really depressed footfall in our local town centres, and many traders are suffering.

We need to do all we can to try and give local traders and businesses a boost in the final few shopping days until Christmas, and during the New Year sales – this is a real chance for the Tories to listen to what businesses are saying and do something to help them.”

Mrs Angry has criticised the opposition party for failing to show a fighting spirit in recent times: Kath McGuirk is an honourable exception to this regrettable tendency. Let's see now if the Tories are capable of responding to this initiative, admitting that they have messed up, and are willing at last to put the best interests of the borough's business community before their own party political game playing, and the dangerous profiteering strategies of the One Barnet programme.

1 comment:

baarnett said...

I say! Isn't that Brian's Mum, buying him his Frosties in one of those new 'superMarkets' we hear about?

I've heard the Continentals aren't talking to us about Europe, our industry is terribly uncompetitive, and well, we might even change over to a decimal currency. Can't see THAT myself.

Anyway, must go to buy my 'Private Eye' - although I can't see it lasting. There's never going to be enough sleaze, corruption and scandals to keep it going, is there?