Monday, 1 December 2008

We're Doomed!


The disgraceful arrest of Conservative MP Damien Green by counter terrorism police has sent shock waves through Westminster and the whole country. Forget comparing Gordon Brown to Mr Bean. Try Robert Mugabe.

In 1642, King Charles I demanded that the Speaker of the House of Commons, William Lenthal, hand over five troublesome MPs. The Speaker stood firm and refused to tell the King of their whereabouts, arguing that he was answerable only to Parliament. Compare that to the shameful behaviour of the current incumbent, Gorballs Mick, who allowed Police to enter Parliament during a recess and ransack the office of an MP whose only crime has been to embarrass the Government by exposing their failings.

Since Tony Blair came to power in 1997 and anointed himself President, the authority of Parliament has been continuously undermined and our rights and liberties gradually eroded. David Cameron described Green’s arrest as a watershed moment and he is right.

But it is not just Parliament which Blair neutered. By virtue of the Local Government Act 2000, Town Halls are no longer run by their councillors, but by unelected officers who are unaccountable and, in many cases, simply out of control.

In Barnet, a council spokesman told the Hendon Times newspaper “there was no need to inform councillors” that Chief Executive Leo Boland had spent £1,500 of taxpayers money attending a meaningless conference in Boston.

Nor did chief officers tell councillors they were spending £14,000 of our money buying flat screen televisions for their offices.

Deputy Chief Executive Brian Reynolds took it upon himself to fly to Edinburgh for almost ten times the cost of an Easy Jet ticket. Then he flew off to the South of France on a junket.

When the council was found to have sold land illegally, the Borough Solicitor Jeff Lustig was not fired but promoted to Head of Corporate Governance.

The Borough Surveyor David Stephens was reportedly disciplined over this incident, but files uncovered by the External Auditor reveal that one month later he was quietly promoted, such is the contempt that the officers have for the councillors and public they are supposed to serve.

Worst of all, Borough Treasurer Clive Medlam, took out loans of £70 million in 2006 without the prior knowledge or approval of the council. £28 million of that money was last seen sinking somewhere off Iceland. Has he been sacked?

Far from it. Mike Freer describes Medlam in his blog as “our excellent acting Director of Resources.”


Medlam is the council officer who, in 2005, deceived Mike Freer and the Cabinet Resources Committee by producing a report seeking approval for a £60,000 increase in expenditure to cover the External Auditor’s statutory fees. This was, however, a complete fabrication. The £60,000 was actually for the legal costs of those under investigation by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which included Medlam. It seems that our most excellent Clive also forgot to mention to the committee that he was one of the beneficiaries of this money.

For failing to declare his personal and pecuniary interest, Medlam was “spoken to” by Brian Reynolds and that was deemed sufficient punishment, even though it is arguable he should have faced a criminal investigation on suspicion of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception. I still have the e-mails from Cllrs Freer and Offord confirming that they would never have approved this expenditure had they known the truth.

Why did Freer not insist that Medlam be sacked over such a serious matter?

The answer is really rather simple. The councillors are not running the council. They only do what the officers allow them to do. Boland and his chums must go home pissing themselves laughing every night. They run the council as their personal fiefdom, pay themselves a fortune and don’t have to bother with that trifling inconvenience of standing for election every four years.

If Boland was the Chief Executive of a private company, the shareholders would have chucked him out years ago. Instead, Bonkers Boris has given him the top job at the GLA with a massive £205,000 salary.

Democracy has gone out of the window. Accountability is a long forgotten word. As Private Frazier put it so succinctly: "We're doomed, I tell ye!"

14 comments:

do call me dave said...

Dave, why not get a proper job instead of writing this claptrap day in and day out.

manswell said...

do you really believe that senior councillors didn't know about all the expenditures you detail?

I think that is naive.

As long as there is no official record of the officers in these cases informing the council, freer and co can conveniently pretend they knwe nothing about it.

The leadership of the council are VERY chummy with the chief exec and other senior officers. They spend enough time together that the suggestion one of them could fly to the other side of the world, or get a major office revamp without the others knowing is laughable.

There's no doubt that the structure of local athority governance gives elected politicians an all too easy mechanism for passing the buck on abuses of taxpayers' money.

And Barnet's leadership have abused this repeatedly.

They all piss themselves laughing every night, the councillors just as much as the council officers, and it's the taxpayer they are laughing at.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Dear Manswell

Mike Freer says he had no prior knowledge of the £28 million invested in Iceland. The question he needs to concern himself with is whether the voters believe him? Some will ask how it was possible for an officer to take out loans of £70 million without the leader knowing what the money was to be used for. And if Freer genuinely didn’t know, doesn’t that prove how ineffectual he is as Leader?

Cllr Tony Finn (then Cabinet Member for Resources) had advance knowledge of the legal fees which Clive Medlam sneaked into his report referred to above. When subsequently questioned as to why he didn’t say anything at the meeting, Finn said he had forgotten all about it. Is that credible?

Did senior councillors know about the flat screen televisions? It will probably be impossible to prove one way or the other. The point is that the public don’t believe anything politicians say anymore - even if they are telling the truth - and that is incredibly damaging for democracy.

There are many honourable councillors and MPs in all parties, and they need to stand up and be counted to prove that there are people willing to hold the Executive to account. But ultimately it is up to us, the electorate, to throw out the bad apples at the next election.

Anonymous said...

Dave, you are libelling people on this blog. you need to get yourself a lawyer. If I was Mr Medlam I would sue.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Mr Medlam is welcome to sue, but he won’t get very far. I have the documentary evidence to support all of the allegations. There was an independent investigation by the Monitoring Officer of Enfield Council into the way the legal costs of £60,000 were reported and the conclusion was clear and unequivocal - it should not have happened. The council accepts this and Nick Walkley sent me a written apology.

Medlam was spoken to about his conduct. When I complained that this was insufficient, the response from the council was that it was sufficient because Mr Medlam had not done it again!

Whether Medlam deliberately deceived the Cabinet Resources Committee or not is a matter for the appropriate authorities to determine. That the committee was deceived is not in question.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Update to previous comment. I have re-read the report of the investigation carried out by the council’s external auditors, Grant Thornton. I previously stated that Clive Medlam had been “spoken to” about this matter. This was based on an e-mail sent to the Conservative councillors by the then leader of the council. In actual fact, the auditor reported that Medlam had received a written warning regarding his conduct.

Now, some people may feel that this was sufficient punishment, and that is their right. However, I think he should have been sacked and it was fair comment to say so.

You need to take into account that this was not an isolated incident. Prior to the report going to the Committee, officers had been exchanging e-mails to decide where the money was to be found to pay these legal costs. Brian Reynolds, who was the lead officer, included Mr Medlam in the correspondence even though he (Reynolds) must have known that Medlam was under investigation and therefore a recipient of the indemnity.

Medlam’s involvement in those discussions was a blatant conflict of interest. Even if Mr Reynolds had somehow forgotten that Medlam was one of the individuals under investigation, Medlam himself would have known! The e-mails show that he took part in the correspondence, and made no attempt to withdraw.

In the private sector, if a company’s chief financial officer presented a budget without declaring that he had a personal interest in an item of expenditure not previously budgeted for, that person could expect to be sacked on the spot.

danfhope said...

re: do call me dave...

"Dave, why not get a proper job instead of writing this claptrap day in and day out."

You're the only one to wants to be called Dave, so I can only assume you are talking to yourself.

That conveniently is also the first sign of madness.

How appropriate.

Rog T said...

Dan,

If you'd smoked as much Crack as "Do call me Dave" you'd probably think his comment was clever as well.

Anonymous said...

i thought this was a serious site for intelligent discourse. Sadly, it seems not, its just a barnet bashing forum. Yawn yawn. at least with private eye you get jokes. here its just unremiting vitriol.

Anonymous said...

my dad works for barnet and he will kill me if he knows i have emialed you so i am going anonymous.he saw this website and told my mum about it and i looked at it.its not true that people working at the council are good friends with counsellors there. they are dead scaed of them. they do wwhat they are told cos if they dont they get sacked and with the credit crunch and there being no jobs theyre scared they wont get a good reference or another job. my dad says he would leave if he could but heres no jobs and he hates work cos his boss gets shouted at by counsellr coleman and then makes them do all sorts of stuff but noone dares say anything cos he will have them sacked. my headteached would sort him out cos hes a bully but grown up stuff is weierd. i think you should be nicer to some barnet people cos they work reelly long hours and get crap pay and shouted at by their boss.thanks.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

I know this is a spoof message as the spelling and grammar is so bad! Barnet skools teach kidz how to speek propper like.

Anonymous said...

re : anon 22.21

No one working for Barnet Council is on crap pay. Have a look through the Barnet Times this week and compare salaries with the private sector - then try and tell us council taxpayers that Barnet Council staff are on crap pay. Finally, who gets the gold line pensions - Barnet Council staff.

Rog T said...

David,

I suppose that having watched the news recently Barnet isn't the only Council with problems. I've been following the Haringey story, which is truly awful.

Then today we have the news that a Croydon Tory is an IRA terrorist.

It seems that rubbish councils come in all shapes, colours and sizes.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

To Anon 23:14
I rather suspect the message left at 22:21 is a wind up. If any council officers believe they are underpaid for the job that they do, they are very welcome to post messages here anonymously and share the details with those of us who pay their wages.

Barnet employs 13 officers earning more than £100,000 a year, but the issue is not just about pay. Earlier this year the council advertised for an Internal Communications Manager on a salary of £41,790. The council are now looking for an Internal Communications Officer to work with this manager. Salary range £28,434 - £30,591. Who is approving all of these non jobs? David Cameron has rightly criticised Gordon Brown for presiding over a vast expansion of the client state. You would think that in a Tory controlled borough, we wouldn’t put up with this nonsense.

If these appointments were not sanctioned by councillors, it rather proves my previous point as to who really runs the council.

Rog, the news about the Croydon councillor was a bit of a shock. The BBC has quoted her as saying that she was young and idealistic at the time. Some people will argue that as she has seen the error of her ways, she should be forgiven. Victims of IRA atrocities, and their families, may be less forgiving. What is disturbing, however, is that this chapter in her history was not picked up during the candidate selection process. The voters are entitled to know who they are voting for.