Saturday 10 March 2012

A week in Broken Barnet

Clearing the roads of Broken Barnet for Councillor Coleman

Time for a brief catch up on recent news, here in Broken Barnet.

A week in politics is a very long time: a week in politics in Broken Barnet, you might say, is like an eternity sitting on Einstein's stove (ask Councillor Jack Cohen).

First of all, on Monday, we had the Standards hearing which found Cabinet member Brian Coleman in breach of the code of conduct, on two counts of failing to show respect to residents, and indeed treating them in a way that the investigator described as 'personally offensive, abusive, demeaning, and designed to cause hurt and distress to the recipient'.

Councillor Coleman remains as a Cabinet member, as indeed his Tory colleague Councillor Andreas Tambourides remains a member of the Standards Committee itself, even though he was found to have breached the code as well, at a hearing last year. Both members are appealing against the decision of the committee. Whether or not they will retain their positions should their appeals fail is not known. If the leader Cornelius or indeed any other councillor has made any comment on the Coleman case, Mrs Angry has yet to see it. You might hope that some view would be expressed, perhaps.

On with the other news of the week, then.

On Wednesday a story appeared in the Barnet Press featuring the young Tory deputy leader, Councillor Daniel 'John' Thomas, who has been forced into making an embarrassing apology for misleading statements he made in regard to the future of staff who are about to be outsourced. the article tells us:

"Staff from the Barnet Council's housing department could be handed at risk of redundancy notices the moment their contracts are transferred to arms-length management organisation Barnet Homes, as part of the council's controversial One Barnet outsourcing programme - despite the insistence in February from deputy leader and cabinet member for policy and performance Daniel Thomas that their jobs would be safe for at least a year.

Branch secretary for Unison John Burgess, told The Press that in meetings with Barnet Homes he had learned that an unspecified number of the 76 front-line and back-room staff could be issued with compulsory redundancy notices as soon as they move to the ALMO on April 2. He added that existing Barnet Homes staff were also facing redundancy as a result of the transfer.

The transfer of housing services to Barnet Homes is one of the first in a raft of council services due to be outsourced during the One Barnet programme, which the council claims will deliver better services for less money.

On February 9 Mr Thomas was quoted in The Press criticising staff striking over the plans, and denied claims that jobs were at risk.

He originally said: "Any staff who move as part of the restructure will remain in local government pension scheme, keep the same level of pay and have a job guaranteed for 12 months at the very least from their move."

Mr Burgess said that many staff no longer felt they could trust the council's promises on One Barnet.

"People are very uneasy that the council is making all these commitments that apparently mean nothing," he said.

"A lot will be said before you are outsourced and then the moment before you're outsourced it will change."

Daniel Thomas said: "I have to apologise to staff, the statement was prepared quickly and officers did not check with HR before issuing it.

"Although pension rights are protected and terms and conditions are protected for one year, there is no guarantee that there will be no redundancies - just as there can be no such guarantee for staff remaining within the council."

As it happens, Mrs Angry was at the meeting recently where Thomas was speaking rather impatiently about staff objections to the transfer, and the risks of redundancy. A carefully prepared report by the union on the issue was simply ignored, and fears dismissed by Daniel Thomas with a remark to the effect that staff should be grateful for what was a great deal for them. At the time Mrs Angry was appalled by his attitude: to witness such a lack of concern for staff would be unacceptable in any councillors is bad enough, but to see such arrogance in someone of his relative youth and evident immaturity is particularly infuriating.

And what on earth does this apology tell us about the the Tory leadership here in Barnet? How could the deputy leader make such a huge error, and stand uncorrected for so long? If they do not understand the processes of the One Barnet programme, and the consequences for staff and residents, why should they be trusted to continue with its implementation?

Much of what is going so badly wrong here in Broken Barnet is directly attributable to the Cabinet system of leadership. This system has given power to a cabal of domineering, right wing dunderheads: a fatal combination of cynical, self serving old timers and naive, inexperienced young members who spout the most idiotic neo Thatcherite drivel, the absolute inversion of compassionate conservatism. It is a curiously male dominated, even misogynistic cabinet - women in the Tory group are kept in their place, and are expected to keep quiet unless spoken to - and one markedly lacking in any understanding of the challenges faced by ordinary families or the more vulnerable residents of our borough.

Another of the younger, hard line Tory cabinet members is Tom Davey. This twenty five year old, who works for a tobacco company, believes that public sector workers do not have 'real jobs'. Well - as his chum John Thomas can tell him now - quite a few of them in Barnet will soon have no jobs at all.

A story appeared in the local Times on Friday telling us that Cllr Davey had had a burglary, and his car had been stolen. Not very nice. He was not a happy councillor.

"The cabinet member said his own experience and burglary figures across the borough highlight the growing problem of domestic break-ins in Barnet and potential officer shortages during major events this summer.

He said: “There has been a spike recently and with the Olympics coming up there is a real concern that police officers will be taken away from the borough."

Hmm. Mrs Angry was at her local Safer Neighbourhood police panel meeting, last week, and can confirm that burglary figures are indeed a huge issue for this borough, and police coverage during the Olympic period is causing deep concern too.

Cllr Davey complains about having to have police officers from Harrow attend his burglary, and worries about the risk from lower policing levels here. He ought to know that police officers are already being taken from the borough, on a regular basis, and have been for some time: it's called abstraction, and it prevents the police in Barnet from carrying out all of the actions they would like to undertake. It is necessary because of inadequate policing levels in London as a whole, thanks to Tory policy, and a refusal to provide the right resources.

In Barnet we have also lost SNT police, thanks to Tory Mayor Boris Johnson demanding that cuts be made - five sergeants, to be exact. It is rumoured that more cuts are on their way. This may inconvenience any Tory councillors subject to burglaries, but Mrs Angry is sure that they will not be able to see their own experiences connected in anyway to the policies they support.

It would appear that Cllr Davey lives comfortably with his mum and dad, and is lucky not to have had to face the challenges that the less comfortably off residents of Broken Barnet have to face when they find themselves in need of social housing. Which is interesting, as, God help us and save us, Cabinet member Cllr Davey is in charge of housing in this borough.

As a key policy of his new remit, Davey is happy to have introduced the new morally judgemental housing priority criteria: fast tracking for needy families with parents who can offer proof of their 'positive contribution' to the community, and he is also imposing a five year limit for new tenancies, which will stop the undeserving poor from getting too comfortable in their subsidised social housing, put down roots, or maintain continuity for their no doubt equally feckless children. If only these lazy residents would try to aspire to the values followed by our Tory councillors, and learn from the remarkably positive contribution to the community they undoubtedly make.

On Thursday, another Barnet story, also in the Times. This made Mrs Angry laugh quite a lot, in fact. The headline was as follows:

"Suffering trading community needs council support', says Conservative councillors in East Barnet."

This heart-rending story told us that Mrs Angry's blushing new admirer, small but deadly Councillor Robert Rams, is setting up, allegedly with his fellow ward councillors, a 'consultation' with his constituents over plans to charge for parking in a previously free car park in his East Barnet ward. (I say allegedly with his fellow councillors: Cllr Barry Evangeli has said nothing, as far as I can see, presumably because his mouth is stuffed full of biscuits, and we hear nothing in the article from Cllr Joanna Tambourides who is of course another Cabinet member, and must have also endorsed the original plans. )

Let me put that another way.

Councillor Rams, the Cabinet member, supported and voted for the plans by fellow Cabinet member Brian Coleman to introduce the new parking scheme, including the decision to introduce charges where none had previously been made.

Councillor Rams then receives an outburst of indignation from local traders and residents already infuriated at the impact of the crazy scheme which has seen a 40% loss of business in most town centres. They point out to him, in no uncertain terms, the consequences of a further parking disaster on the local shopping centre. Tick, tick, tick, and the clockwork movements of what passes for a brain inside the head of our Tory councillors slowly produce an interesting thought. People might be so upset they won't vote for Robert Rams in future. This would be a tragic loss for the people of East Barnet, of course. What can Robert Rams do?

Ah. He can offer council support to the 'suffering trading community' which is suffering because of erm, the council.

He can fight the plans he supported by, erm not supporting them anymore. Well, no - supporting them a bit, introducing charges, but lower than first thought. And he will do this by consulting local residents, after he has already supported the original plans, and which he will not dump, even though people will tell the consultation they don't want them. Got that?

We hear that the Tory councillors are sick to the back teeth of the fall out from Coleman's idiotic parking scheme, and are counting the days to the GLA election. If he loses, the trembling Tories in Barnet are plotting to turn on him at last. Will they really dare? Nothing much to lose then, is there? What a bunch of cowards they are.

Let's move on now to the story from BBC London, reported locally too this week, that Barnet Council has sold off more public land than any other London borough.

This is very interesting, isn't it? As we know, with unseemly haste, our Tory council is flogging off anything they can lay their sweaty little hands on in a car boot sale of our heritage and property assets: museums, libraries, playing fields.

The sale of Hendon Football Club is one of those sales listed. This is a curious affair. Members of the local Jewish community wanted to buy it for a much needed girls school, and made an offer higher than that accepted by the council, yet their offer was rejected. Odd, very odd, especially usually our Tory councillors are very keen to encourage new schools, and are always supportive of similar schemes. Mrs Angry was at the meeting where this was approved, and noted with admiration the way our deputy leader eased us all through the legal issues raised by this strange decision - with another lubricious dollop of unseemly haste. Aah. Hardly felt a thing, John Thomas.

The meeting was attended by hundreds of supporters of the school proposal, whose perfectly understandable silent fury at the rejection of their offer was intense, and caused notable unease amongst the equally, albeit uncharacteristically, silent Tory councillors. Campaigners against the sale to Montclare Developments Ltd were alleged to be reporting the matter to the Serious Fraud Office for investigation.

Last of all the interesting stories this week, and here we are again with our favourite councillor, Brian Coleman: news has spread of his latest lunatic policy proposal. First the parking scheme, then the park hire scheme: now the master strategist has produced an outstandingly brilliant plan, one which overshadows all his other cockeyed ideas.

As we know, Brian Coleman is a busy man. He is a very important man. Or rather he thinks he is a very important man. Places to go, canapes to scoff, people to upset. He must be allowed to travel at top speed through the streets of London without impediment. He must not be slowed down, or kept waiting. Such obstacles are an affront to his sense of self esteem.

What can be done? He could demand a flashing blue light to stick on the top of his Avensis, and a siren. (Shall I ask Mr Seabridge for you, Brian? Still waiting for him to sign a warrant for my arrest, by the way, for daring to send you an email ... ) Or a special lane could be designated, like for the Olympics, all the way round Broken Barnet: or ... here's an idea, let's get rid of everything that annoys Brian Coleman - anything that slows him down when driving, that is -old people, young children, the disabled, the laws of gravity, aerodynamics, relativity and the speed of light.

Traffic calming measures were bad enough: they are almost all gone now, but what else can be removed?

A few months ago, at a council meeting, when residents were complaining at the withdrawal of funding for school lollipop crossings, Brian Coleman went off on a Grade 1 rant about the appalling inconvenience of temporary traffic lights, and he vowed to ban them in the borough, forcing companies to replace such arrangements with hat doffing labourers holding stop and go signs, bowing when the Coleman saloon approached, and waving him through with a cheery smile and an obedient salute.

To Mrs Angry's amazement, this lunatic idea actually resurfaced at a recent meeting. Sadly, Brian's plan to reintroduce sign waving workmen was blocked, in unusually frank terms in the accompanying officer's report, which pointed out such a decision would be considered 'irrational'.

Yes. And then, underlined, was a remark that it would also expose the authority to 'potentially massive liability'. This was, by Barnet standards, a remarkably blunt refusal to comply with a frankly idiotic proposal by a cabinet member. So what now? He is still insisting on a review of all traffic light controlled crossings in the borough, with a view to removing any that might be considered 'unnecessary'. This simply defies belief, or it would, anywhere else but in Broken Barnet.

The last recorded annual statistics show that Barnet has had the highest number of deaths of any London borough from road accidents, and the second highest number of injuries.

You might think that priority would be given to addressing this shameful record, rather than facilitating the unimpeded travelling arrangements of impatient Tory councillors, some of whom, funnily enough, have in the past lost their licence for speeding.

Apparently the police will not be consulted over their views on the proposals, and no equality impact assessement of the scheme has yet been made.

Pelican crossings are an absolute necessity for elderly residents, sight impaired residents, residents with disabilities, children. You know: 'these people', who, when they are not being ferried around in transport subsidised so grudgingly by Councillor Coleman, might occasionally have to get out into the real world, to the shops, if they can get there without having to use the new parking system, or to the local park, if it isn't closed while BT host a corporate event there, or maybe get to school and cross the road on their own, now that the lollipop lady has been made redundant.

If you wish to protest about the possible removal of traffic controlled crossings, please sign this petition:


Mr Mustard said...

No Mrs Angry I think Robert has got it absolutely correct. Implement the policy and then carry out a consultation and take as much notice of that as one as one carried out ebforehand.

Wobert's bottom lip is qwivering though at the thought of people remembering about parking charges and methods in 2014 and this administration has made enemies even of its own supporters.

baarnett said...

"the accompanying officer's report, which pointed out such a decision would be considered 'irrational'."

A brave remark. Perhaps officers could add that word, by default, to ALL policy decisions emanating from the cabinet.

What, incidentally, does the cabinet think would be their workload, if the oneBarnet scams, sorry schemes, actually happen?

The new Barnet administration of 2014, elected in a landslide by grateful citizens, is led by Master Tom Davey. As a sign of his increasing maturity, he gives up his pedal car, and the piece of string on his gloves that passes through his coat so he doesn't lose them.

He arranges cabinet meetings to be held outdoors, in one of the empty East Barnet car parks, so that everyone can smoke. Meetings go down to only two a year, merely to provide a little "supervision" to the long-term contracts that smoothly and efficiently provide the best council services in London.

Such masterful success at such a young age!

baarnett said...

Since it's Bash Tom Davey Day, my attention is drawn to comments by Professor of Gerontology Sarah Harper:

"In the 1980s, 11,000 men in their early 60s were dying each year from heart disease. By 2000 this had halved. Furthermore, male deaths in these ages from cancer had gone down by one-third. With stroke it was two-thirds. What was behind these dramatic changes? Simply, the arrival of the first generation of male non-smokers at old age. In 1971, half the UK male population was dead by their mid-70s; now nearly half are still alive in their mid-80s."

The ship may be on the rocks, but Tom the Cabinet Boy hopes for success in his day job, since his efforts will reduce the pressure from the elderly on council finances, since there will not be so many of them.

Mrs Angry said...

hmm, well Tom the cabin boy will be assisted by Master you know whose fabulous new plan to remove pelican crossings is likely to decrease the population even faster, and help us to sustain our place at the top of the fatal accident charts. Perhaps cars could be fitted with cow catcher type scoops, like trains, to pick up any lazy old ladies or silly children trying to make it across the road in the absence of a safe crossing?