Tuesday 29 July 2008

Frequent Flyer Freer

Last year, Barnet Council Leader Mike Freer attended two conferences in America organised by British Telecom as part of the “Vital Vision Programme.” According to the council, the programme’s aim was “to build relationships between leading government decision makers, research partners and BT to develop and test respective visions of the future, focussing specifically on technological, social and business changes. It seeks to enable the shaping of policy, inform new thinking, and suggest practical solutions relevant to the unique complexities of the public sector.”

Sir Humphrey couldn’t have said it better!

Cllr Freer was given permission to attend the conferences by Chief Executive Leo Boland in a Delegated Powers Report dated 30th January 2007. It just goes to prove who is really running the council.

The report stated that the cost would not exceed £5,000, but receipts provided by the council show that the total cost was actually a fraction higher at £5,105.69.

Mike Freer told the Barnet Press on 8th February 2007 that he did not anticipate the first trip to Boston costing more than £1,000. However, the travel agent’s invoice showing the actual cost of £1,227.10 is dated 16th January 2007 and is personally addressed to him, so he must have seen it. It seems, therefore, as if Cllr Freer made a false statement knowing it to be untrue.

The balance of the money was spent on his trip to San Francisco in October/November 2007. The air ticket alone cost £2,993.20 because Cllr Freer decided to fly club class. Is that really an appropriate use of public money by someone claiming Thatcherite credentials? Most people would expect the Prime Minister to fly premium class when travelling abroad representing the UK. But the leader of a council on a meaningless junket?

Cllr Freer promised to plant trees to offset his carbon emissions. Does anyone know where they are, how much they cost and who paid for them?

Former LibDem leader Monroe Palmer said at the time that Mike Freer’s decision to spend five grand going to America left him almost speechless. Perhaps if Cllr Freer had spent a bit more, it would have silenced Monroe completely!

But there is a serious side to this. Leo Boland’s report says “It is anticipated that all of Barnet’s residents will benefit from the Leader’s participation in this programme.” How exactly? Did the Chief Executive debrief Cllr Freer upon his return? Did Cllr Freer hand over his conference notes?

When Mike Freer was selected as Conservative candidate for Finchley & Golders Green, he was challenged as to whether he would have the time to run the council properly. In response he said “The chief executive runs the council on a day-to-day basis. The leader of the council is not there to manage the nitty gritty.” Given that Cllr Freer is a "here today, gone tomorrow" councillor, what benefit was there to the taxpayer of him going on this management course? If there was any value to this conference, which I seriously doubt, the Chief Executive should have been the person to go as he's the guy in charge!

What a waste of our money!


Anonymous said...

There was a time when councils just got on with providing a local service without the need for a high paid non-elected 'Chief Executive' or Councillors going off on fact-finding junkets.

Our roads are full of pot-holes, yet there seems to plenty of dosh for traffic calming schemes and speed humps. Councils now have far too much power, but apparently not enough statutory obligations.

The function of a local authority should be to collect and recycle rubbish (once a week!!!), repair roads and maintain streetlights. Nothing more, nothing less.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Dear Anon

What makes this matter worse than just the wasteful expenditure, is the shameful way it was carried out. If Mike Freer had produced a cabinet report, it could have been called in for scrutiny. Instead, authorisation was given via an officer’s report. Unbelievably, under the council’s constitution, officer reports cannot be called in for scrutiny. So much for democratic accountability!

Anonymous said...

David Miller .. sorry I mean dont call me dave ... why as a Tory are you openly attacking another Tory?

Are you and Mr Hope having fun with this blog?

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Dear Anon

Why does poor Mr Hope always get blamed for things that have nothing to with him?

There is nothing I want more than a proper right of centre Conservative council (and government). Unfortunately, thanks to Labour’s Local Government Act 2000, there is now an appalling lack of scrutiny of the decision making process within the council. Too many decisions are taken in secret without democratic debate and, as a Conservative who believes in open and accountable government, I find that totally unacceptable.

Mike Freer’s housing plans could lead to the first ever recorded incidence of reverse gerrymandering. He is entitled to his opinion, but the public have been denied theirs. He has no mandate to pursue these policies which, if enacted, will permanently alter the fabric of the borough for the worse. Having lived in Barnet for 40 years, I cannot stand idly by while he and his cohorts bulldoze our leafy suburb to create a soulless concrete utopia.

Anonymous said...

It has been brought to my attention that some coward, who doesn't have the cohones display their name, has had a pop at me here :(

So who are you? Which one of the five names in my mind match yours!

It's bloody obvious that this has nothing to do with me as the copy isn't littered with typos and gramatical faux pas's.

Whoever you are do rest assured that there are tens of thousands in this borough who sympathise with Mr Miller and just tens (probably 63) who think you're worth the money you vote to pay yourself.

Anonymous said...

Because where ever David Miller is on a blog so is Daniel Hope .. oh and he tells people he has registered the website .. but never mind, careless talk and all that ...

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Dear Anon

It would take about 10 seconds to do a “whois” lookup to establish the owner of this domain name. It is not a secret!! I find it very interesting that you and your friends seem only to want to talk about who is behind the blog rather than deal with the substance of the messages.

All the best to you and Mrs T.

Anonymous said...

Mr Miller, you are not suggesting that the spineless coward behind the anonymous postings are the Conservative's computationally challenged 'website guru', Cllr Andreas Thirtygrandbourides?

Surely not? Surely he's too busy with all of his daytime meetings and forensic overview of the Licencing Authority's work?

Maybe I have misinterpreted. It be another Mr and Mrs T....

I can't believe that ol' cashbags would have the time or inclination. People shouldn't make such scurrolous accusations!

When will one of these 'whisperers in the shadows' come and debate these issues in public before an audience and the cameras? David Cameron has the balls to take all comers and tough questions on the big policies. Brown skulks around in the dark smiling and avoiding debate. Who do they aspire to follow Brown or Cameron?

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Mr Hope

I fear you have indeed misinterpreted my comment. I had assumed that the person who left a message on here last night was a loyal Tory who had never voted the wrong way on any issue at any time and, as such, was bound to be a personal friend of the illustrious former Member for Finchley.

Anonymous said...

you are so easy to wind up ...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for clearing that one up, Mr Miller.

I was clearly right that it could not be Mr "Hatchet Man" Thirtygrandbourides.

He is clearly too busy, doing something for his half MP salary.