Friday, 17 October 2008

Money For Nothing - Barnet’s in Dire Straits


Just over a week has passed since Black Thursday - the day the news broke that nearly £28 million of our money was at risk in the Icelandic banking collapse. It’s a sad, sad situation but still no apology or words of comfort to put residents at ease.

If the council could turn back time, I am sure they would, and nobody is accusing them of deliberately losing our money. So is it really asking too much for Mike Freer to say: “We're very sorry about this. We are working around the clock to try and get your money back.” But sorry seems to be the hardest word.

Next week, a report on this crisis will be discussed by the Cabinet. You can download it from the council’s web site.

Paragraph 6.2 states: "The 2007/08 Statement of Accounts, which have been signed off by the Council’s external auditors, includes £1.037m of interest which has not yet been received and therefore the accounts are potentially overstated by that amount should the interest not be paid."

Isn't this what Enron was doing - overstating profits by including revenue which had not actually been received? Has the council been trying to massage the figures to help get an improved rating from the Audit Commission? Can anyone explain what’s going on?

The council would have you believe they were acting prudently, but paragraph 9.3.2. of the report contains an admission that they were playing the money markets. The council borrowed heavily in 2006 because they thought the rates of interest would be higher in 2008 when the cash was actually required. You can dress that up as much as you like, but borrowing money you don't yet need because you think the rates will go up in the future is speculation, pure and simple!

Council chiefs are patting themselves on the back because their interest rate prediction was initially correct. But they got lucky. Lucky, lucky, lucky. Only a few weeks ago, Mystic Mike said that the credit crunch could not have been foreseen. It is one thing for the council to invest its spare cash on a short term basis, but to deliberately borrow long term and lend short term is gambling. Northern Rock tried something similar and look what happened to them.

Paragraph 9.9.4 details possible courses of action the council will have to consider if we don't get our money back. It does not mention putting up council tax. Are they burying bad news, or giving a guaranteed undertaking not to put up our taxes? They should tell us the truth.

Cllr Freer says that Barnet acted responsibly. The crucial point, which applies to all local authorities, is that councils should not have a low risk policy, but a no risk policy - especially in the current climate when money is too tight to mention.

Let us hope that the funds and missing interest will soon be returned otherwise some heads are gonna have to roll.

38 comments:

Sparkled_pixie said...

Are you going to apologise for costing the taxpayers of barnet £1million?

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Was I the one who broke the law? Suggest you go back to the Group Room pixie and do the job you are paid for.

Rog T said...

Dear Sparkled_pixie

Are you going to ask Mike Freer the same question. He voted to bring in the auditors so he clearly agreed with David?

Or is it just another example of you blaming everyone apart from yourself.

Mind you if Mike Freer started apologising for all the millions he's lost recently, he'd have no time left for any banking (or whatever he does with his time now).

Adam said...

Dave

Surely the heads are going to have to roll whether or not the money comes back. This is negligence on a grand scale and the punishment should be public hanging or, in the alternative, resignation. Apart from that, pls don't mention songs by simply red and dire straits in the same post. One is a supergroup and the other is fronted by a ponce.

Adam

Don't Call Me Dave said...

You only found two song references Adam? Only ten more to go!

I doubt that any heads will roll. If the money comes back, no doubt it will all be due to Mike Freer's brilliance.

Adam said...

Dave

I wasn't concentrating. Was trying not to spill chicken soup on the computer.

Anyway, back to Barnet Council, the purpose of blogs such as yours is to ensure that mismanagement of council funds is brought out into the open. You can't get all pessimistic about the thing now you've started it.

This is direct action de nos jours.

The problem with modern day politicians and journos is that most are so intellectually weak that they are afraid of the debate. That is the beauty of the blog. For my part, I would applaud Freer if he posted on here in his own name. Instead, it looks as if he sends his attack poodles to snipe anonymously.

So, what do you say Mikey?

Nighty night

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Adam,

Mike Freer and his ilk suffer from hubris, but on a scale unprecedented in modern times. One of his senior cabinet colleagues told me last year that he (Freer) was suffering from Leaderitis - although clearly the councillor in question is happy to remain a loyal lieutenant and receive a generous allowance at our expense.

Politicians forget that you do not need to have a professional qualification to become a councillor or MP. I’m sure if I looked hard enough, I would find a policy of Mike Freer’s which I could actually support - but his thin skinned intolerance of anyone who has the temerity to disagree with him is simply outrageous, and it is not in the interest of democracy that he should hold public office.

As you have correctly identified, neither Cllr Freer, nor any of his dwindling number of supporters, have ever posted a message on this blog debating the issues I raise. They might think their pithy remarks are clever, but they just prove themselves to be ignorami (or should that be ignoramuses?)

Rog T said...

Adam,

Labour had "Two Jags Prescott". The Barnet Tories now have Mike "Two Blogs" Freer.

He has the one on the Times which he gets for free and uses to attack the landed gentry and other core Tory votes. This one is so he can have "more opportunities for two-way communication with the borough’s residents. "

He updated that last on October the 7th. Shame he hasn't used it to have a bit of two way communication about the Icelandic Bank debacle.

Then there is his leader listens one which we pay for, courtesy of Barnet Council. On this he says "So go on – get involved. I’d love to hear from you.". He last updated this on 3rd October.

I followed his advice and left a comment a week ago, but he still hasn't posted it.

Mind you, we do here from him via his friends "The FoF's" (Friends of Freer. A remarkable number of them have a rather similar use of the English language. They show a rather similar regard for detail and accuracy as well. Maybe there is a cloning department under the town hall turning out mini Mike's or maybe they just all met at the same remedial English class.

They all think he's doing a remarkable job and should be the next prime minister. Dave and Gordon are clearly rattled, to the extent that they have united to beat the credit crunch.

As for me, I don't know if Freer is a Thatcherite, a Brownite, a Stalinist or just Barnet's very own lovable version of Mr Bean. He says he's the first, his policies are like the second, the way he runs the Barnet Council Cabinet is like the third and the effect it has had on the borough finances is like the fourth. Take your pick.

Anonymous said...

Cllr Freer emailed me as follows (relating to loans taken out by the council):-

" Having drawn down a tranche due to the favourable rates - 3.5% or thereabouts, the money was reinvested pending drawn down for the capital projects. The monies invested in the Icelandic Banks were made some 2 years ago or more long before the current economic problems became apparent. The investments are fixed term fixed rates and were awaiting maturity."

However, Freer attempts to dress that up, the council borrowed money at the very least 2 years before it was needed, apparently in order to make a turn between the interest payable by the council and the interest receivable from the bank. It does not appear to have crossed his mind that that interest differential was there because of risk.

The man was so clearly out of his depth in this transaction that he did not even realise it. He is clearly incompetent and he should resign.

Anonymous said...

Again it is a shame that Miller refuses to speak with Freer in person and instead chooses to air his dirty linen in public, sad really given that at one time I had great respect for David as my Chairman of Chipping Barnet, now I hand my head in shame for ever supporting him!

Anonymous said...

In reply to anonymous, perhaps he hasn't realised that there shouldn't be any dirty linen to air. And what's more, Cllr Freer should not want private discussions but should welcome open discussions by people whom he hopes wil vote for him as MP.

Rog T said...

The suggestion that the subjects discussed on this blog be smoothed over in private is quiet amazing. If David had criticised Freer for his choice of MC at the Conservative club dinner, I'd agree. The subjects covered in this blog are serious and the suggestion that they are squared off behind closed doors is shocking.

I'd have thought truly libertarian Conservatives would believe in honest, open government.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

To Anonymous (timed at 20:40). At some point in the future, there will have to be an investigation into the processes that allowed Barnet Council to put £28 million of our money at risk. The e-mail you have received from Cllr Freer should form part of the evidence. His comments are consistent with paragraph 9.3.2. of the report to Cabinet which states:

“This is exactly why £40m long-term borrowing for PSCIP was undertaken in 2006, to take advantage of the very low market rate loan available at that time.”

“…action was taken to protect the council from higher borrowing rates expected in 2008 and onwards.”


The facts speak for themselves. The council borrowed in 2006 because they thought rates would rise. Whilst rates did initially rise, this does not justify the risk taken. Of course, it was great that for two years the council made a ‘profit’ on the deposits, but you do not need to be a banker to know that reward is commensurate with risk. The greater the reward, the higher the risk.

What kind of risk assessment was carried out? If it was this easy to make money, then we would all be doing it!

Note also the precise words above: “…higher borrowing rates expected in 2008 and onwards.” Well rates have now dropped substantially with predictions of more to follow soon. Even if we get back all of our money from Iceland, what are the council's potential losses as the interest rate differential shrinks?

And who does the Cabinet report recommend should have the authority to make amendments to the council’s Treasury Management Strategy in the future? Why Mike Freer of course. It beggars belief. Not that we mere mortals could possibly be expected to understand the complexities of local authority finances.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

To Anonymous (timed at 21:03). Your comments might carry some weight if you had the guts to reveal your identity. I am not airing my dirty linen in public. I am exposing the council’s.

Have you forgotten that I was elected your Chairman after a democratic contest at which approx 1,000 Party Members were eligible to vote. Who voted for Mike Freer to be Leader of the Council? Certainly not the public - or even members of his own party. Mr Freer speaks only for 37 Conservative councillors, none of whom have publicly uttered one word of remorse for the Icelandic situation.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

To Anonymous (timed at 22:33). What makes you think the person who posted that message is a he?

Whether you love or loathe America, you have to admire their affinity with open democratic government. Witness the passionate debate in the House of Representatives over the recent $700 billion rescue package. The Members of that House did what it said on the tin - they represented the people who elected them.

In America, the idea that you can keep secrets from the people is an anathema to those who hold office, and those who aspire to hold office.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous (21:03) complains about airing "dirty linen in public".

Does he seriously suggest that the Council's dirty linen should be swept under the carpet?

I used to support Freer said...

Again it is a shame that Miller refuses to speak with Freer in person and instead chooses to air his dirty linen in public, sad really given that at one time I had great respect for David as my Chairman of Chipping Barnet, now I hand my head in shame for ever supporting him!

18 October 2008 21:03


It's a funny old world. Like you 'say' that you used to support David, I used to support Mike Freer. I was really energised by Mike as he tore strips off of Brian Salinger accusing him of allowing Officers to run the Council, for letting spending rip, Council Tax not be pegged to zero % rise and blaming him for concreting over the Borough.

I guess above all he seemed to represent a new style of politics. He seemed to stand for the end of the fuddy duddy 'gentlemen's club' of the 1980s in Barnet Council.

However since his bloody coup against Salinger, he has singly failed to impress. Perhaps his most dangerous trait has been jointly centralising political power whilst abdicating responsibility, for far too much, to the Council's overpaid Officers. It is I who now hangs my head in shame.

Prior to Mike's stealing of Salinger's crown, there were three Cabinet members heavily involved in the Council's finances (just as in Central Govt). The Leader (Prime Minister), the Cabinet Member for Resources (Chancellor of the Exchequer) and the Cabinet Member for Improvement / Best Value etc (Chief Secretary to the Treasury). Three people holding the bureacracy to check. Three pairs of eyes looking over the Council's finances and keeping Council Taxpayer's money safe.

Freer's first move upon becoming Leader (without any consultation with the Conservative Group) was to make himself Prime Minister AND Chancellor of the Exchequer. If this were bad enough, he also cut down his involvment in two further ways. One he started to campaign to become Finchley and Golders Green MP and two started making pronouncements that he was going to take a back seat to and not interfere with Barnet's Chief Executive (and then Assistant CE and now Director of Resources).

So we have a part time and distracted Leader covering pretty much three vitally important Cabinet finance posts. But it's MORE serious than that. The absence of a Cabinet Member for Resources removes a vitally important internal check and balance to the Administration. Think of Nigel Lawson and Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Their relationships defined those goverments. A strong Chancellor is essential for good governance and protection of public funds. Who else can stand up to an overpowerful PM?

Still it gets worse. Not only does Mike Freer become PM and Chancellor but he takes the Chairmanship of the powerful Cabinet Resources Committee. The centralisation is complete.

This would be bad enough, but the story is only partially told.

After this Mike Freer then takes on further roles. He takes on the Chairmanship of the Pension Fund Committee (paid), he takes on a role in advising the Shadow Cabinet, he Chairs a Committee of London Councils (paid), he becomes a member of the Executive of London Councils (paid), he starts an initiative called Leader Listens, becomes a member of the LDA board (paid) and more....

How much time attention can this one person, who almost singly has charge of Barnet's finances, possibly give to these vital positions of trust?

Just as this dangerous(?) jigsaw comes together the Council's Director of Resources is sent off on a secondment to central government.

With the credit crunch and banking crisis developing, with the Council responsible for £350m in banks around the world, the Council has a very part time and distracted merged PM and Chancellor and is deprived of it's top Council Finance Officer.

It is in this environment that the Council fails to take action that some other authorities took to divest itself of it's huge multi million pound investments in Iceland.

We need to see all the 'workings out' on this crisis. What discussions did you LEAD after the March 22 Fitch report? Release the emails. Blow away the cobwebs, let the public in.

This is where Mike Freer has really disappointed me. Mike Freer always put himself out to be the guru on finance. But it is in this very area that he has disappointed me most. Be it soaring Councillor expenses, extravagent Plasma TVs, £millions on over specced laptops, Council Tax rises year after year or taking his eye off of the ball on Icelandic investments Mike Freer has just not lived up to the hype or the description.

Mike, I know you are reading this. From a big supporter of yours in the past, do yourself a favour. Ask those close to you on a one to one basis if you should not now immediately stand down as Leader and a Councillor and concentrate fully on your Parliamentary campaign. It is a full time commitment, you are struggling with all of this and letting yourself down and worst of all the Party. We cannot afford to lose this seat but your association with the Council is the only thing that can lose us Finchley.

Quit whilst you are still ahead, let Lynne have a go as Leader. She'll do ok, maybe, trust her.

Anonymous said...

When the Tories won in 2002 Victor Lyons said they would run an open and honest administration. Seriously he said that.

Anonymous said...

In the good old days of East European Communism, if you wanted to discredit or get rid of someone you had two choices.

Either one night, their car would swerve off the road and there would be a quiet funeral or they would discredit or malign that that person and they fell from grace.

The first method is not so easy in Barnet, but as for the second, Barnet Conservative Group Leaders are past masters at this one. So Pixie, we know where you learnt your grounding to write a few lines on this blog.

The same goes for those who refer to dirty linen in public. Again, this is what our old Eastern European friends would do, threaten people about washing linen in public.

As for democracy, well as someone once said Democracy is a wonderful thing, as long as you are well and truly in control. Cllr Freer keeps telling us that it was all beyond his control – how could he have known what was going to happen two years ago? Well, Cllr Freer, you were a Banker, it was your job to know. Had he not noticed that that housing market in the US has been falling for two years? But of course, you are no longer a banker, you now give advice on Transport matters to Ms Villiers. God help her, if the walls do come tumbling down on the Leader of our Council!

Another bloggster reminds us that Victor Lyon said when he took control in 2002 that he would run an open and honest administration – and so he did. But the likes of Freer and Hillan could not wait to get their grubby hands on the reins. Mrs Hillan or Mrs Howard or whatever name she wants to use this week stood against Victor Lyon and lost. She was due to be Deputy Leader under dear old Mike Freer, but under a surprise move she lost to Cllr Matthew Offord. Now her company has gone bust, she had lost that too. Good job my Council Tax pays for her cabinet position, or the poor lady would be destitute.

As for me, yes I keep anonymous too, otherwise, I would be the next one to fall by the wayside and join the ranks of other ex councillors.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

To “I used to support Freer”.

I do not think the leader of the Council should be allowed to simultaneously hold the resources portfolio. This is not an anti-Freer comment. It should apply to whoever is the leader. Perhaps the Constitution Committee should look into this?

Similarly, the Chairman of Cabinet Overview & Scrutiny (COSC) should be an opposition councillor. In Westminster, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee is always an opposition Member. The current holder of that post is Edward Leigh, an avowed Thatcherite. He is widely acknowledged by all parties as being highly effective and has exposed numerous government blunders. If an opposition councillor chaired COSC, this would not prevent the ruling party from getting their business through, but it would ensure far greater scrutiny and debate.

As for the amount of time Cllr Freer devotes to council duties, let us not forget that when Vanessa Gearson stood at the General Election in 2005, she resigned her council seat so as to dedicate her time to being a PPC. Similarly, Jane Ellison resigned her council seat when she was selected as PPC for Battersea. Arguably, the Finchley seat is far more important to the Tories and it would be arrogant for the Conservatives to assume that their candidate will be a shoe-in. The seat needs to be worked hard with someone who has the time to do the job properly. I am sure we would have won the seat last time if the candidate (a sitting Camden councillor) had been able to devote just a bit more time to the campaign.

I used to support Freer said...

re: Don't call me Dave

I agree with your comments, very much.

Who is going to have the courage to tell Mike Freer it is time to go? He seems to never be prepared to let anything go. I really hope that he has it in him to release his lock-jaw grip on the Council responsibilities or I can see real tragedy ahead of him.

If events at Barnet Council take an even bigger nosedive it is not inconceivable for him to have to resign from the Council and as PPC. Can he not see that danger coming?

Gordon Brown could well be preparing a snap election that would make F&GG far from a certain bet.

Why are his 'friends' not urging him to stand down now for his own good? Are they worried that another Leader won't see their 'talent' as he does and boot them from the Cabinet, just as happened before?

Mike, come on mate, do the right thing. Clear the decks, let Lynne have a go she deserves a fair run. She's carried your bags for long enough and has much improved in recent years

Statler and Waldorf said...

Is young Michael Whitney Freer still leading Barnet Council after all this hullabaloo and tomfoolery? Gosh. What happened to honourable resignation?

We still remember good old Lord Carrington.

Friends of Mike Freer said...

My dear David,

As you are surely aware there is an unseemly campaign to denigrate Council Leader Mike Freer, being staged by swivel eyed Trots such as self styled pundit "Rog T". Mike has done his very best for the Borough of Barnet. He may have worked for a bank but many people working for banks haven't seen problems on the horizon, otherwise the likes of Barings and BCCI would still be around.

I suggest you take up Lynne Hillans offer and have a nice cup of tea with Mike and iron out your differences in private. After all that will be much better for him in his efforts to win the Finchley constituency.

Mike has a big job to do sorting out the council finances, with out the distraction of having to read what uninformed bloggers have to say. Do you really think that blogs such as yours or "Rog T's" help Mike with his difficult job.

Even you must realise that now is "No Time for an Apprentice" to take over. We need an experienced Council Leader. One who has proven himself as a banker over a period of many years.

You don't complain when Mike's finance policies deliver tax cuts do you?

All the best,

The Friends of Mike Freer

Don't Call Me Dave said...

To Anonymous (timed at 08:59). I assume your comment relates to the “open” aspect only. Regrettably I am forced to concur that this administration is not as open as it should be. Sadly, Victor’s comment did not have the same impact as the Gettysburg address. Too many decisions are taken in secret or without adequate scrutiny or consultation. The council sees nothing wrong in keeping information from the public which we are entitled to know – for example the overspend on Aerodrome Road (rumoured to be £4million).

Urgent matters are exempt from scrutiny provided that the Chairman of COSC agrees. I would be interested to know how many times requests for exemption have been refused.

Adam said...

Dave

I have just read the post from friends of Mike Freer.

Either they consider it mature political comment to refer to another blogger as swivel eyed Trot and believe that, by losing GBP 27/28m of residents' money, MF has done his best for the Borough (thereby drawing a nice parallel with Barings-bankrupted by senior management's failure to supervise a rogue trader-and BCCI-a tangled and fraudulent web from the outset)or the phrase:

QUOTE

One who has proven himself as a banker over a period of many years.

UNQUOTE

has a subliminal meaning, in which case,...LOL.

BTW, thanks to S & W for reminding us about Carrington, surely the last Cabinet minister to resign for getting it wrong. As leader of a council that has potentially lost so much money (and, if so, removed any chance of giving a council tax cut to residents), Freer's only option is to do a "Carrington", both as leader and as ppc for F & GG.

TTFN

Adam

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Adam

I suspect the message from ‘Friends of Mike Freer’ might be a wind up. The give away is the final line "You don't complain when Mike's finance policies deliver tax cuts do you?"

If he ever delivered one, I wouldn’t complain at all.

I used to support Freer said...

Dear Mike Freer's friend,

Your energies would best be spent pursuading him to give 100% on his Parliamentary campaign. Leader of the Council is an honorous full time position, he's just got to give it up.

And really I won't have you slagging off Lynne Hillan like that. She's not 'an apprentice'. Crikey, you sound like Gordon Brown! And the undertone that because her company Ashurst Direct Marketing went bankrupt that she couldn't run the Council's finances frankly odious.

Isn't it time we had a woman Leader of Barnet Council?

Don't Call Me Dave said...

To Anonymous (timed at 10:27)

Fortunately, we live in a borough where the concept of free speech and independent thought is respected by our political lords and masters. Mike Freer has said so several times so it can’t possibly be him authorising these snide attacks on me.

The point Rog T made above is most pertinent. If I had divulged the private discussions of a group meeting, I could understand Conservative Councillors getting upset. But I am writing about important topics which demand public debate. Whether Cllr Freer wishes to listen or not is a matter for him, but we are allowed to speak and blogging is one of the most effective way for members of the public to be heard. If they don’t like what they read here, I recommend the Barnet Times.

The Conservative Party has always tolerated ideological differences between its members. Indeed, the only way to ensure that we have the best policies for the country is by having an open and honest debate.

Some people are taking the concept of “one man, one vote” too literally!

Rog T said...

David & the rest of our friends,

I don't think that the debate here is anything other than healthy. I don't think Mike Freer has done a good job, I don't agree with his policies or his politics, but I don't think he's deliberately done a bad job either.

I think the whole system of how the council is run is the real problem. The cabinet system is, in my opinion, anti democratic. The huge allowances for cabinet members amplify the problem. This makes "staying in with the leader" a financial as well as a moral issue. I was asked last night by a Tory friend over dinner, how I could justify my Stalinist comment about the cabinet. Well to clarify, I don't think there is a torture chambre or a gallows under Barnet Town Hall. I do think that too much power is concentrated in the hands of too many individuals (the cabinet). I think that the related allowances gives the leader enormous influence over the cabinet. I think that the concentration of roles in the hands of Mr Freer cannot be a good thing. I think this has lead to policies being implemented that are not in the interest of the people of Barnet. It seems to me that the level of scrutiny of important decisions can only be damaged by this.

I don't think Mike Freer is a strong enough leader to stand up to his council officers and implement policies they disagree with. It seems that there is a culture where no one ever gets blamed for anything.

What I'd really like to see is Mike Freer himself come on here and have a proper discussion. He actually used to occasionally when I had the blog on the Times and I thought all the more of him for it.

He has the whole council machine behind him, so he really should be able to make his case properly. If he wants a proper career in parliament it might be good pratice. Gordon Brown is called far worse every day than Freer's been called here. My Stalinist Beanite jibe about Freer was a direct pun on Vince Cable's comments about Brown. I made it because David had called Freer a Brownite.

The Friends of Mike Freer said...

My dear David,

As you surely are well aware the last Barnet Council tax rise was well below the rate of inflation. This means that it was in effect a Tax cut and it was delivered by Mike Freer.

A Tory Tax cut !!!

By a Barnet Tory Council !!!!

I'd have thought you would be trumpeting that on your blog.

I suppose you'd prefer to see Agnes Slocombe running the council !!!

Yours Sincerely,

The Friends of Mike Freer

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Dear ‘Friends of Mike Freer’

I salute your indefatigability and thank you for introducing some levity to this thread (my attempt to hide song titles in the blog seems to have been overlooked!) However, you are clearly extracting the urine with your latest message.

I really would like some genuine Mike Freer supporters to contribute to the public debate about this serious matter, or even the great Freermeister himself. What are you all afraid of?

Rog T said...

David,

Are you suggesting that Mike Freer's friends couldn't possibly have a sense of humour?

I'd have thought they must all have a superb one.

His political allies, I'm not so sure about !

I used to support Freer said...

"As you surely are well aware the last Barnet Council tax rise was well below the rate of inflation. This means that it was in effect a Tax cut and it was delivered by Mike Freer."

Firstly Council Tax going up, is Council Tax going up. Before Mike Freer was Leader he demanded Council Tax be frozen or even reduced. He even put a paper to his colleagues, against the then Leader's proposal, and forced a vote on a zero % increase.

I'm hugely in favour of the Westminster, Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham REAL Conservative approach.

This needs very hands on Cabinet Members, it needs a Chief Executive and Directors with experience in the private sector not steeped in hard left Councils, and a full time Leader.

Mike has disappointed me on all of these fronts. He has 'talked the talk' but not 'walked the walk'.

Mike has never been a banker, he's never worked with large sums of cash, he's a marketeer. Hence the good PR but poor performance.

Mike, come on, take up RogT's offer.. come here and debate.

Anonymous said...

I am the anonymous who quoted Cllr Freer's email to me. I cheked his website, and he says:
"Outside of politics Mike is a Relationship Director for Barclays Bank plc and before that he has held numerous positions within the world of banking and finance, including running his own financial service business. Mike has also worked in retail catering and retail gaming."

This is not the experience needed for the sort of high finance he has been engaging in. He has been totally out of his depth. It's a disgrace.

I do not know Mr Freer personally, and I have nothing against him other than his clearly-displayed incompetence in this matter. He has lost £27 mill, and he ought to take the honourable course and bow out of politics.

Rog T said...

Pardon my ignorance? what is retail gaming? is it slot machine arcades?

Genuine question.

To be a relationship manager at Barclays do you have to take the banking exams?

If he's worked in retail banking for a while, he'd know all about compliance, risk, credit ratings etc. If he recommended products to unsuitable custmers he'd get rather embarrassed when they failed to meet the lending criteria.

He may not have been directly involved in Public sector borrowing/lending but he'd hopefully be at a huge advantage to the rest of us and know what questions to ask and what the terms mean.

Rog T said...

I've just looked at Mike Freer's profile on the Conservatives website. I thought the retail gaming post was a wind up, but no, it's there.

They also say the following, I wonder if they'll be updating it anytime soon. Click link for full profile or look below line for what I found amusing in light of recent events.

http://www.conservatives.com/People/Prospective_Parliamentary_Candidates/Freer_Mike.aspx

---------

Mike is widely respected as someone who 'gets things done' with a keen eye for improving service and value for money in our public services.

Tireless work by Cllr. Freer and others on a winning manifesto in 2002 led to the Conservatives being swept back to power in Barnet Council after a gap of eight years. His reward for this unstinting show of energy was the Value and Effectiveness Portfolio, which gave him the chance to tackle the colossal waste and mismanagement seen under the Labour/Liberal administrations of 1994-2002. The task was a challenging one: a black hole of £11 million was revealed in the Council Budget, and Reserves were just £3 million. Some Council departments were even at risk of Government takeover.

Rog T said...

Dear all,

Sorry for the bombardment of posts but I find this truly unbelievable.

This is what retail gaming is. I'd never heard the term before tonight (what a sheltered life I've lead). I pass no comment other than to say that the mental jigsaw I am currently doing has a few more pieces in place.

If like me you are a bit naive, this link may help

http://www.betbullplc.com/cgi-bin/show.ssp?id=1311&companyName=betbull&language=English

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Thank you to everyone who has posted on this thread. I appreciate that some of the messages have been tongue in cheek but, equally, some very important points have been raised which need to be addressed further in a public forum.

There is compelling evidence that the council played the money markets. I do not for one minute accuse them of deliberately playing to loose, but that might prove to be the outcome. Such a risky operation should not have ever been allowed.

Barnet is supposed to be a 4 star authority. Did the council deliberately undertake a high risk strategy to improve its rating with the Audit Commission? We need to know who decided to embark on this reckless policy, who authorised it and what kind of risk assessment was undertaken.

Given that interest rates are now falling fast, we also need to know the full extent of the council’s exposure to the money markets.