Monday 26 December 2011

Mrs Angry's Jubilee Celebration

MetPro, the musical: a work in progress

* Updated below

Mrs Angry has been trying hard to resist the temptation to write anything over the Christmas break, and indeed is rather indisposed so the temptation has been minimal: but oh dear - this has made her temperature shoot up again ... well: take a trip over to Mr Mustard's blog, why don't you, and see what has made her so flipping cross?

Mr Mustard keeps a vigilant eye on the delegated powers reports (DPRs) published online by Barnet Council: these documents are often a source of much interesting material, being important decisions signed off by officers or Cabinet members.

All the Barnet bloggers have learnt by now that any contentious or sensitive freedom of information request responses submitted to Barnet will be delayed as long as possible, and then sent out late on a Friday, when the impact of the release of information, or so they hope, will be limited.

Mr Mustard decided this principle may well extend to the publication of DPRs and on checking the latest releases found this treasure: 1494, Queen's Diamond Jubilee Music, published on the 23rd of December, the last council working day of course, before the break.

This is an 'approval to contract with a musical composer to write an anthem to be performed in Barnet during celebrations of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee in 2012'.

So another contract being awarded without any other competition, of course, in the tradition of procurement in Broken Barnet. In fact, this is not procurement at all, arguably more a transaction in the tradition of Tudor patronage, as in the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I.

Because look here: the award, a very generous sum of £1,000, is being given to a composer called Tim Benjamin. Go on, you must have heard of him. No? Well, you might be familiar with his dad then. You know: the Reverend Adrian Benjamin, the banner snatching Tory vicar who is great pals with Brian Coleman, and bailed out his Friern Barnet Summer Show for him?

The decision to endow Mr Benjamin with this award was made by the 'Diamond Jubilee Steering Group'. Guess who sits on this group? Councillors Melvin Cohen, David 'Goldenarse' Longstaff and oh dear: Brian Coleman. Goldenarse, as Cabinet member for Community Safety and Engagement has agreed the action, which will be paid for out of public money, our money, of course, via the Civic Events budget.

Why has Mr Benjamin been given this contract with no competitive process? Er, we are told because he has 'local roots' - yeah, we know - and can write it quickly. Good. Mrs Angry has local roots and for £1,000 could probably rustle up a tune pretty quickly too. Didn't get a look in, though, and more to the point, nor did any other individual who actually lives in the borough.

I'm not sure that residents of Barnet, if they had been consulted, would actually have wanted £1,000 spent on this vanity commission. If we have £1,000 to spare, why not use it to buy some equipment for Barnet General, or holidays for disadvantaged children, or gift hampers for elderly citizens? You know Brian: 'these people' ...

Even if we agreed that it was necessary to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee by creating a musical composition, (and I'll bet she would think it was an idiotic waste of money) why on earth was this not made an opportunity for the many talented musicians living in our borough to engage in a competition, or for schools or music societies to work together to produce some piece of work? And would it not be appropriate for the rich diversity of our borough's population to be represented by a project that explored the musical traditions of different cultural heritages?

Mrs Angry is always keen to promote our local artistic talent and has therefore decided to run an alternative award, to mark the Broken Barnet celebration of the dear old Queen's Diamond Jubilee. She is willing to commission an opera, musical or ballet, on one of the following themes:

MetPro, and a continuing culture of incompetence in the procurement, tendering and contract procedures of our beloved council,

One Barnet: a tale of greed, duplicity and undeclared interests,

Brian Coleman: a tragic story of parking contracts, self love, delusions of grandeur and the loss of his seat in the GLA elections.

All may apply, except anyone who with links to any Tory councillors. Winning choice to be performed at Hendon Town Hall, at the next Full Council Meeting.

Oh: hang on. Already booked. Panto season. All year round.



Mrs Angry has decided to make her own musical contribution to the Jubilee celebration and has emailed Cllr Longstaff with a suggestion:

"Dear Councillor Longstaff,

I understand that in your capacity as a member of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Celebration Steering Group, you are looking for someone to compose a piece of music to mark what is, of course, a moment of huge significance in our country's long history.

By coincidence, I have been composing my own tribute in honour of this occasion, and I would therefore like to submit it to your group for your perusal. It is a short piece, to be played on a tin whistle, hopefully by someone of Irish descent with a keen sense of historical irony, and an impertinent expression, and is entitled: 'Jobs for the boys, Ma'am: another golden example of bare arsed cheek by the Tory councillors of Broken Barnet, this time on the occasion of Your Majesty's Jubilee'.

I am not personally acquainted with any Tory councillors, or members of the Chipping Barnet Conservative Asssociation, but I did once meet Councillor Marshall in the nut section of Waitrose, North Finchley, so please write me a cheque for £1,000 and send it on at your earliest convenience,

Happy New Year,

Mrs Angry"

*Just fancy that: another pointless footnote

The Diamond Jubilee Steering Group which has awarded the lucky Mr Benjamin his £1,000 commission is a mysterious entity, and includes, we are told in the background information of the DPR, 'representatives from the business, education, faith and community organisations. In the interest of transparency, Mrs Angry has requested a full list of members. The group is chaired by a Mr Martin H C Russell, who is the borough's Deputy Lieutenant. Oh, Mrs Angry, I hear you ask, what is a Deputy Lieutenant, and what does he do? Let us explain.

A Deputy Lieutenant is an anachronistic municipal role fulfilled by the sort of person who likes dressing up in uniform and stomping about looking very important, even though he is not. If a member of the Royal Family dares to visit Broken Barnet, the Deputy Lieutenant has to be on hand to greet him or her, bow nicely, and keep the malodorous citizens at bay. I think Mr Russell once came to my children's then primary school, and seemed a nice enough chap, if somewhat overdressed. My son thought he was the Queen's husband.

Yes, you are right, Deputy Lieutenant sounds just the job for Brian Coleman, but sadly Mr Russell got there before him. Funnily enough, Mr Russell and Mr Coleman have quite a few things in common. Some more unexpected than others, perhaps. Apart from dressing up in costume and turning up at lots of functions, apparently they share a love of shoeing horses, and checking horses hooves for disease - yes: they are both 'Liverymen of the Worshipful Company of Farriers'. Brian Coleman is of course often to be found of a weekend with his apron on, sweating away, tap tapping away at his forge, shaping and twisting a molten form with a sledge hammer. Didn't you know?

Mrs Angry, you cry, again, we do not have your wordly experience of secret societies and archaic ceremonial roles: please tell us more ... well, as it happens, Mrs Angry's father worked in the city, and was a member of the Baltic Exchange. His career was based on hard work, and merit, but he would often come home, sit the infant Mrs Angry on his knee and tell her with wry amusement tales of colleagues keen to get on by becoming freemasons of the right lodges, freemen of the City of London, and members of the City guilds and livery companies. These latter bodies, although raising a certain amount of money for charity, largely exist to give social climbing members a sense of belonging and an introduction to a wide range of social contacts. Many livery companies have their own masonic lodges too. Mrs Angry has often wondered why Brian is not a mason: he cannot be because he does not declare it in his interests, yet it would be something he really would enjoy. More aprons, dressing up and lovely dinners too. You boys. Go on, Brian: why not see if someone can get you in? You need to get out more, as we know. Unless of course they won't have you, in which case the Rotary Club might suit.


Mr Mustard said...

Good toi see you getting the poison out of your system Mrs A

Mrs Angry said...

hmmmph. I AM IN A VERY BAD MOOD, Mr Mustard. But I hope you had a nice xmas.

baarnett said...

And let us remember that the Rev Benjamin is on the staff of St Pauls Cathedral, and Mrs Angry has a picture of him preaching to the Tent City outside the front entrance:

where the protesters are asking questions about how society is run. They seem to want reform rather than being called simplistically "anti-capitalist", and the Reverend would have heard them state, "The current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives; this is where we work towards them."

Sound rather like a festive Christmas message for the London Borough of Broken Barnet, and the Famous Five bloggers who are exposing what goes on. Each scandal is more interesting than the last one. Is there no end?

Mrs Angry said...

mmmm.In the godless landscape of Broken Barnet, baarnett, we are in world without end, stuffed full of corporate sin. The interesting thing is the gross stupidity of the culprits in thinking no one will notice what they get up to. Those days are gone, naughty councillors of Broken Barnet, God, and Eric Pickles, has his beady eye on you, and so do we.

Shafique Choudhary said...

You make me laugh!

Mrs Angry said...

well thank you Shafique: I can think of no higher compliment. I keep trying to be serious, but it doesn't always come out right.

baarnett said...

I sometimes catch the 326 bus to Hendon Town Hall, and I get off in the 1950s.

I say that because 1960 was the year in which a young back-bench MP named M. Thatcher pushed a bill through Parliament, which forced council meetings to be held in public. (Whatever happened to her, by the way?) I bet Barnet had to be forced to comply with the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960.

The whole behaviour of the council leadership reflects an earlier time, when the men smoked pipes, and called each other "old man", and the ladies were barely tolerated. The officers were quietly told to relax parking restrictions as a "favour", the streets of councillors were gritted before streets of the common people.

Where the mayor would turn up at summer fetes in the official limo, with convoys of suspect private security vehicles, with whom the council had no contracts. At all. Ever. Where deputy leaders were more concerned about their rise to the House of Commons than in approving railway bridge contracts that didn't overshoot by millions of our money. Where town halls could be refurbished by more gross over-budget spending (because we're worth it.) Where "bankers" were in charge, but were too incompetent to notice that council's reserves had been lent to dodgy banks offering unsustainable interest rates.

Where councillors protected themselves by sacking senior officers, with generous payoffs and water-tight gagging clauses.

And where anyone (like the bloggers) who queried anything was treated to threats of the law, with potential £5,000 fines.

baarnett said...

The more pedantic would point out the formation of Barnet was not until 1965. But you know what I mean.

Mrs Angry said...

indeed, baarnett, you have it spot on ... the Barnet Tories are as archaic as the fusty old committee rooms in the Town Hall, and the useless sound system used at meetings which has never worked is beautifully symbolic of the lack of desire for communication,either amongst themselves or with the public.

Anonymous said...

At least when Caligula made his horse a consul no money changed hands. Don't the usual rules on council procurement apply to commissions of occasional music?

Citizen Barnet said...

This story is gob-smacking. Must get into the papers, no?

Mrs Angry said...

hello vicki: yes, just extraordinary, isn't it? Just when you think you have come to the bottom of the barrel of impossibly stupid acts by our Tory councillors, they confound you by pulling out yet another stunt.

Tom: belated merry xmas, in fact procurement rules do and do not apply - if you look at the DPR as published on Mr Mustard's blog you will see that there are several requirements which would appear to have been 'overlooked' ... rather amusingly it now transpires that Mr Benjamin was not as claimed a Young Musician of the Year, but won some associated composing prize.
Mrs Angry has already submitted some FOI questions on this interesting subject.

Mrs Angry said...

and goodness me, Mrs Angry has just noted that on the great composer's website he has already come up with a piece, or at least the title:

"Common Wealth

Commissioned by the UK's largest local authority, the London Borough of Barnet, to celebrate HM's Diamond Jubilee. To be performed by massed ensembles and choirs of Barnet schools, on Sunday February 5th, Golders Green, London."

Wasn't that quick, citizens? When was the decision made, according to the DPR? And already we have at least a title: marvellous. Common wealth. Hmmm. Tory hymn to the spirit of free enterprise, or dangerous communist propaganda? Could go either way.

Anonymous said...

The dates involved all seem rather 'odd'.

If, as proclaimed on the composers website, Common Wealth is "to be performed by massed ensembles and choirs of Barnet schools, on Sunday February 5th" then they must surely be having to rehearse the piece during January. This would seem to suggest that it has probably already been composed.

Who or where did the idea for special Barnet anthem originally come from? When was it first suggested? Did they already have a composer in mind who might have something suitable?

Mr Mustard said...

Benjamin Junior learnt from his dad to over-egg the pudding Mrs A. Remember that broom cupboard in which we had such an enjoyable tete-a-tete at the so-called Arts Centre. Well, Ben junior says that Barnet is the UK's largest local authority. Not the largest in UK population, or in area, or in spending, except maybe the largest wasters of money?

baarnett said...

Doesn't the news of a performance imply more expenditure and interesting emails by the borough. Maybe you could FoI facts about that as well.

Citizen Barnet said...

To judge, for example, by the ongoing traders' rage against the parking charges, I think the Council will struggle to find "massed ensembles" for anything they do this year, Mrs A, however patriotic people are feeling. Mass boycott might be more like it!

Mrs Angry said...

ha, Vicki: the 'massed ensembles' bit is the funniest thing ever. No Barnet Tory councillor should risk being in any gathering of more than two people at the moment, unless they want to be lynched. Evidently Mr Benjamin fils takes after Benjamin pere in many ways, and has an ambitiously creative imagination. The whole business, let's be frank, is an excuse for Brian Coleman to swan around at yet another civic event with lots of bowing and scraping and vague royal associations. He must be gutted that her maj has never given him the award he must think he deserves, CBE, MBE, OBE, knighthood, canonisation. Shame.

Yes, baarnett, so many interesting questions ... and Lucy-furr, I think you are right, those massed ensembles will take weeks of rehearsal, won't they? But surely the piece could not have been written before the DPR had been signed? No.I cannot believe it.

Mr Mustard: as far as I recall, I have never been in a broom cupboard with you, or any other sort of cupboard. Yes, the claim about Barnet being the largest authority is again, I fear, another example of Benjamin exaggeration. Barnet is the most populous London borough, to be sure.

APML said...

Masons!, You have to be a man of good repute to be in the brotherhood..