Thursday 30 July 2009

We’re all going on a summer holiday!

As dishonourable MPs start their 83 day recess to refill their troughs recharge their batteries, Not The Barnet Times will also be taking a short break.

Don’t Call Me Dave is currently working on a new web site which he hopes to launch in the autumn and will be taking some time out from reporting the shenanigans of the Trougher-in-Chief and his taxi riding lackey.

Be sure to subscribe to Not The Barnet Times using your usual RSS reader to ensure that you don’t miss an edition when we return.

Don’t Call Me Dave would like to remind those of his self employed readers not cosseted by family money, that their next instalment of tax is due by the end of this week. Your hard earned money is needed to help pay for the new allowances these shameless b******s have just awarded themselves on the sly.

Monday 27 July 2009

Happy Anniversary Not The Barnet Times

Not The Barnet Times celebrates its first anniversary today. At the time of its launch, Don’t Call Dave had no idea that an innocent article written in defence of Rog T’s right to free speech would develop into of one Barnet’s premier web sites for political commentary.

DCMD is grateful to his readers for all their e-mails and messages of support over the last twelve months, and in particular would like thank Councillors Mike Freer and Brian Coleman, without whom none of this would have been necessary.

Sunday 26 July 2009

Crime & Punishment

Don’t Call Me Dave assisted the Police with their enquiries this afternoon. He was witness to a sickening racist attack. As this matter might go to Court, you will appreciate that it would not be appropriate to divulge more than the basic details.

DCMD had taken his friend’s daughter to the park to play on the swings. When he arrived there were two youths arguing with an Asian man. One of the youths attacked the man before realising that he had picked on someone stronger than himself and they both beat a hasty retreat.

The reason for the argument? A friend of these two youths, who was now standing a safe distance away, had gone into the play area with a rather ferocious looking dog, despite a very clear warning sign that dogs were prohibited. The Asian man had simply asked the youth to take the dog outside because it was scaring his two young daughters. Hardly an unreasonable request.

These youths obviously resented being told what to do. DCMD saw the youth with the dog speaking to someone on his mobile phone. It is now clear that he was calling up reinforcements because, within minutes, what can only be described as a feral gang appeared and were threatening the man using the most vile language, which included taunts of “f***ing Paki”.

The leader of this gang was wielding a large thick stick, with which he attacked the man. DCMD attempted to calm the gang down but to no avail. Unfortunately, DCMD was neither young enough, fit enough or brave enough to offer any greater assistance than to call the Police and remove his friend’s daughter to a place of safety.

It must be stated, for the record, that the Police response was fantastic. Within three minutes, two patrol cars had arrived plus the Parks Police. Two of the gang were apprehended but the leader escaped. Hopefully, he and the others will be identified by the CCTV images.

Fortunately, the victim was not too badly injured apart from a nasty cut to his body. His young daughters were unsurprisingly frightened, but thankfully safe and unharmed.

What made this assault all the more shocking was that the gang members were no more than 13 or 14 years old. The leader’s face was contorted with rage as he launched his unprovoked attack. If DCMD had used such vile language at that age, let alone threatened someone, he would have been dealt with in the severest manner possible. And rightly so.

In the past, it has been suggested that the way to deal with such youths is to punish their parents on the basis that this will force them into disciplining into their children. DCMD is willing to bet that many of these children come from broken homes and their parents have a similar disregard to the rule of law and order. In any event, what purpose does it serve fining parents who can’t or won’t pay?

DCMD believes that unless the offenders themselves are punished, and punished severely, they will never learn the consequences of their actions. It is quite clear that ASBOs have proved to be a complete waste of time. Some of these youths actually consider an ASBO to be a badge of honour.

DCMD calls on the government to introduce harsh boot camps as a measure to instil some long overdue discipline into these uncontrollable youths. For many of them, it will be the only language they understand.

Friday 24 July 2009

Smeared by Freer

Last week, Mike Freer gave a statement to the press claiming that the cost of the Auditor’s investigation into the council’s purchase of audio visual equipment and television sets for chief officers was £9,000.

Don’t Call Me Dave subsequently e-mailed the Auditor to ask for confirmation of this figure. He replied:
“The cost of this has yet to be finalised and agreed.”

So there we have it. Mike Freer gives a statement to the press without any basis of fact, simply to discredit a member of the public who had the temerity to question why council chiefs needed expensive flat screen televisions.

The cost of this investigation might ultimately cost more than £9,000. Equally, it might cost a lot less. The truth is we simply don’t yet know. But Mike Freer is not one to let facts get in the way of a good smear.

The indisputable fact is that if the council has answered a very simply question a year ago as to who authorised the purchase of these televisions, there would have been no need for any formal complaint.

The Auditor’s investigation actually revealed a number of significant failings in the council’s processes and he has made four recommendations to improve the accountability of officers acting under delegated powers and to protect taxpayers' money.

Don’t Call Me Dave detests waste, but if the council implements the Auditor’s recommendations in full, then the cost of the inquiry will prove to be entirely worthwhile.

In making his comments to the press, Cllr Freer strangely omitted to mention that the Auditor had stated in his report:
“As for any breakdown of the actual expenditure was concerned, this does not appear to have been reported back against the overall budget. We should add that we do not believe that members requested more detailed reporting from officers, who used their delegated powers to make the spending decisions.”
In short, councillors approved a total budget but paid no attention as to how the money was actually spent.

Don’t Call Me Dave asked the Auditor which council committee had approved the budget but then failed to monitor the expenditure? He replied that it was the Cabinet Resources Committee.

And who was the Chairman of the Cabinet Resources Committee when the TVs were purchased?

Er, that would be Mike Freer.

Thursday 23 July 2009

Now you see it, now you don't!

Last week, our friends at the Barnet Times published an article about a business breakfast held by the leader of the council, Mike Freer. Labour and LibDem councillors accused Cllr Freer of using his council position to further his political career because other councillors were excluded from the meeting.

Cllr Freer rejected the accusations saying: “I suggest if Mr Palmer wants to meet local businesses, he arranges it himself.”

Cllr Palmer can, of course, do so. But unlike Cllr Freer, he can’t use taxpayers’ money for the privilege.

For some strange reason, this critical article about Mike Freer disappeared soon after it was published, but thanks to those nice people at Google, it is still available for viewing if you know where to look!

Will Brian Reynolds be next?

As regular readers know, Brian Reynolds ran up the largest expenses bill for any council officer in 2007/08.

Yesterday, Chief Executive Nick Walkley announced that Clive Medlam was leaving the council. Mr Medlam was the statutory Section 151 Officer which every council must have.

Mr Medlam’s role will be taken by Julie Oldale. No, we have never heard of her before either.

In his e-mail to councillors announcing a restructure, Mr Walkley said: “One aspect of these proposals is to create a Deputy Chief Executive post with this post having responsibility for the statutory Section 151 finance functions.”

But hold on a minute, Nicky! Brian Reynolds is already the Deputy Chief Executive. Unless there has been a change in the definition of the word ‘deputy’ you can only have one. So is Mr Reynolds being demoted or is he joining the ever increasing ranks of Barnet’s gardeners?

Will the last officer remaining please remember to switch off the lights?

Clive Medlam to walk the plank

Another Not The Barnet Times Exclusive!

Word reaches us that Mr Clive Medlam, Barnet’s Chief Financial Officer, is leaving the council for pastures new. Unfortunately, at the time of publication, there was nobody in Barnet’s press office available to confirm or deny the story. Update: This has now been confirmed.

This news will come as quite a surprise to many, as he only recently had his new photograph uploaded to the council’s web site.

As regular readers will know, Don’t Call Me Dave has previously called for Mr Medlam to get the chop. He is the officer who escaped with nothing more than a mild warning when it was discovered that he had buried £60,000 of legal indemnity expenses in a report to the Cabinet Resources Committee in 2005.

It was the same Clive Medlam who signed off several reports in 2006 authorising the council to borrow a massive £70 million. Some of this money was intended for the schools rebuilding programme, but the money was not immediately needed and we now know that £27.4 million was deposited in Icelandic banks, contrary to the council’s own investment policy. Not that Mike Freer knew anything about it. No siree!

As recently as May, we reported how Mr Medlam spent £31,000 of taxpayers' money on a room booking system which could have been purchased for £1,000. At the time we asked: “How much more of this do we have to put up with before he is shown the door?” Not much, it seems.

Chief Executive Nick Walkley has announced Mr Medlam’s departure (see left) as being part of a restructuring. The only problem is, Mr Medlam is Barnet’s Section 151 Officer, so called because the council is legally required under s.151 Local Government Act 1972 to have such an officer.

The Section 151 officer has a number of statutory duties, including the duty to report any unlawful financial activity involving the council (past, present or proposed) or any failure to set or keep to a balanced budget.

Clearly, the council cannot make the Section 151 officer redundant, so it rather suggests that Mr Medlam has been given the order of the boot, and possibly with a very large cheque.

Don’t Call Me Dave won’t shed too many tears over his departure, but with his number two, Jonathan Bunt, away from the council on “extended leave”, it does rather beg the question as to whether there is anyone at all left in charge of our money?

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Barnet’s elderly residents still under threat

ITV’s London Tonight reported yesterday on the plight of Barnet’s elderly residents living in sheltered accommodation, who are facing the loss of their warden service.

Not The Barnet Times understands that Panorama will also be broadcasting a program about the warden service in August.

As well as talking to affected residents, perhaps the BBC would like to interview the Cabinet Member too frit to meet with residents, or the Councillor who twice voted against the LibDem motion to refer the proposed cuts back to Cabinet for reconsideration.

What a big coq!

The London SE1 Community Website has reported on a demonstration outside City Hall organised by Unison in protest at Mayor BoJo’s latest gaffe when he described his £250,000 fee for writing his Daily Telegraph column as “chicken feed”.

Boris has refused to apologise for his remarks, insisting that they were “frivolous”. Don’t Call Me Dave accepts that the Mayor said these words in jest, but as an experienced politician he should have known that such remarks are crass and insensitive, especially when GLA staff members are facing redundancy. It really wouldn’t damage his credibility if Boris simply apologised for the offence caused.

Unison regional officer Shirley Mills told London SE1: “Leo Boland, the GLA Chief Executive, is also earning over £205,000, £10,000 more than the Prime Minister. It is disgusting that these two wallow in their huge wages while low paid staff face the axe.”

Don’t Call Me Dave sympathises with staff losing their jobs, although it is not fair on taxpayers that public sector employees should be immune from the pain experienced by the private sector. But it is indeed quite disgusting to pay such an obscene salary to the man who was in charge at Barnet when Underhill was sold unlawfully, and who subsequently told the PwC Inquiry: “I have no professional qualifications. I have an MBA from the Open Business School. I am a manager, in short.”

Don’t Call Me Dave believes the private sector rate for a manager is quite a bit less than £205,000.

Monday 20 July 2009

I'm Mandy - Vote For Me

One of Don’t Call Me Dave’s favourite blogs is Archbishop Cranmer. His Grace has posted an article today asking whether Peter Mandleson is preparing to become Prime Minister.

Labour’s Constitutional Destruction Reform Bill would certainly pave the way for such a nightmare glorious scenario.

Don’t Call Me Dave finds it hard to believe that Lord Rumba of Rio would be willing to give up his Peerage to fight for a seat in the House of Commons. Even he must realise that Labour will get a damn good thrashing at the next election - and not the type that his Lordship prefers! Why would this vermin in ermine risk giving up his robes and the fancy title that goes with them?

As always with Labour, the devil is in the detail. We should check the small print of the Government’s proposals to see if Peers who renounce their Peerages can automatically reclaim them at a later date - perhaps after they have been thrown out of the Commons by a public sick to death of being treated as fools?

Or perhaps Labour will simply change the law so that Peers can stand for election to the Commons without renouncing their Peerage, thereby allowing Mandy to sit in both Houses at the same time? Sitting in two houses is a skill which many parliamentarians have already acquired through their profligate use of the expenses system.

Labour has previously shown its contemptuous disregard for our constitutional heritage, so we should not be surprised if they take a chain saw to it once again for the benefit of one of their own.

Friday 17 July 2009

Don’t say you weren’t warned!

In February 2007, Don’t Call Me Dave had a frank exchange of views with Cllr John Marshall through the letters pages of the Barnet Press. Don’t Call Me Dave had written to the paper complaining about Labour’s education policies which were forcing councils to sell off playing fields.

For some reason, Cllr Marshall misconstrued this attack on Labour as an attack on Mike Freer’s administration. How could anyone ever confuse the two?

In defending an indefensible policy, Cllr Marshall explained that the playing fields at Whitings Hill school had to be sold because they were waterlogged in winter, whilst the playing fields at Broadfields school were infested with brambles. Two problems that could easily be rectified for very little cost.

In addition to Whitings Hill and Broadfields, Cllr Marshall also decided to sell off land at Chalgrove, Fairway, Northway, Hampden Way and Summerside schools.

Roll the clock forward to July 2009, and the council publishes a report authorising the purchase of three modular buildings to provide additional spaces at three Barnet schools, due to the demand for places exceeding supply. This is a national problem, but many of the other affected councils planned in advance which meant that they were able to buy their buildings for a lower cost than Barnet which had left everything until the last minute and consequently didn’t have time to run a proper tendering process.

To those of us who can think further ahead than the next election, it is self evident that if the demand for primary school places is rising, demand at secondary schools will soon follow. And just as sure as night follows day, if more children go to secondary schools, more playing fields will be required.

So when the day comes that the council suddenly realises that we do not have enough sports fields for our children, they cannot pretend that this problem could not have been foreseen.

For eight years, Don’t Call Me Dave has been calling for an end to the destruction of Barnet’s precious green spaces which are the lungs of the capital. For the sake of future generations, we must stop this insane policy of selling off “surplus” fields. It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that they won’t be surplus forever, but once you concrete over a playing field it is gone forever.

Thursday 16 July 2009

This is not just arrogance. This is Brian Coleman arrogance.

Most of us are familiar with the advertising slogan for Marks & Spencer: “This is not just food. This is M&S food.”

Older readers might also recall the M&S sales philosophy: “The customer is always right, even when he’s wrong.”

Don’t Call Me Dave was reminded of this after the council meeting on Tuesday where there was a procedural issue as to whether a councillor could ask a supplementary question.

Mayor of Barnet, Brian Coleman, resolved the matter by declaring: “The Mayor is always right, even when he’s wrong”.

Journalist Adam Bienkov has written an article suggesting that Brian Coleman is not only wrong, but he may have acted unlawfully in Chairing a meeting of the London & Fire Emergency Planning Authority.

Wednesday 15 July 2009

Brownite Freer: The Evidence

It has been suggested many times, by Rog T and others, that Mike Freer is a Brownite.

Last year, in a typically intemperate outburst, he sneeringly called his opponents “armchair critics cosseted by family money.” It is only in the ranks of Old Labour that a class war still rages.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Geof Cooke proposed a motion to put a cap on the obscene allowances now paid to some councillors - a cap which was removed at Freer’s insistence in 2007, contrary to the guidelines of the Association of London Government (now called London Councils) who, ironically, pay Freer an allowance of £10,248 a year for attending a strenuous one meeting per month.

At a time when ordinary members of the public are suffering because of the recession, Freer has proved himself once again to be the arch proponent of snout-in-the-troughism, which is rampant in Barnet.

Speaking to the Barnet Times after the council meeting, Freer said: “The Government have made it abundantly clear that councillors should be recompensed for the duties they take on.”

So there we have it. Freer is doing what the Labour Government has told him to do. Of course, he doesn’t really want to draw over £70,000 a year in allowances, but Gordon’s told him that he must.

Freer added: “The alternative is we return to the bad old days of having only those who could afford to be councillors standing for election: the retired, the independently wealthy and trade unionists, who were given paid time to attend council.”

In an instant, Freer has insulted a generation of hard working councillors of all political persuasions who gave up their time to serve their local communities out of a sense of civic duty - not because of what they could get out of it personally.

But we should expect nothing less of the man who recently suggested that his critics masturbate whilst writing about him. Has there ever been a more crass and vulgar politician than Mike Freer?

MEPs. The next great scandal?

A reader of Not The Barnet Times has written to Don’t Call Me Dave following an unsuccessful attempt to obtain details of an apparent overpayment of allowances to his MEP.

He received the following reply to his request for information:

Dear Sir,

I refer to your message on the subject of MEP allowances.

Please be advised that the European Parliament does not provide financial details on individual MEPs.

The financial services of the European Parliament verify whether claims are justified and ask for reimbursement when necessary.

We thank you for your interest in the activity of the European Parliament.

Best regards

Gianmarco Addimando
Principal Administrator
European Parliament

Well, that’s OK then because we all know that the EU is very good at looking after taxpayers' money!

Don’t Call Me Dave does not know if there is a European equivalent of the Freedom of Information Act and would be grateful if any readers could enlighten him.

Taxpayers have an absolute right to know how their money is spent and if there has been an overpayment, we are entitled to be told the full details. Have our Lords and Masters in Brussels not taken any notice of the damage inflicted on Westminster by the expenses scandal? Perhaps they are too arrogant to care?

It is interesting to note that the EU official neither confirmed nor denied the suggestion that an overpayment had been made to the MEP in question. If there had been no overpayment, why not just say so?

Tuesday 14 July 2009

£4.8 million lost forever

Whilst Mike Freer continues to play this rather tiresome game of burying his head in the sand and hoping that the Icelandic banking scandal will just go away until after the General Election (when it will be someone else’s problem to sort out), Not The Barnet Times has analysed the figures and we estimate that the minimum loss to the taxpayers of Barnet will be a staggering £4.8 million.

Hertfordshire County Council, which deposited £9 million with Landsbanki Bank, has had the good grace to admit that some of that money is now lost forever. They expect to receive back just £8.3 million - 87.37% of the original deposit.

Barnet has £15 million deposited with Landsbanki, and applying the Hertfordshire rate, we will have to write off almost £1,895,000.

Then we have added on the lost interest. The report to Cabinet in October 2008 revealed these losses to be £1,037,000 for 2007/08 and £1,513,000 for 2008/09.

Based on these figures, the council is losing around £125,000 a month in interest receipts so we can add on £375,00 for the first three months of 2009/10.

All in all, we conservatively estimate that Barnet taxpayers have so far kissed goodbye to £4,819,736.84 and the figure is rising daily.

Perhaps it would be helpful to express these figures more succinctly:

Monday 13 July 2009

Freer’s problem that just won’t go away

The London Evening Standard has today reported on Mike Freer’s continuing problem in trying to blame the council’s decision to invest £27.4 million in failing Icelandic banks on anyone but himself.

According to the report:

More from Barnet, the council that blew £27.4 million of taxpayers' money on Icelandic banks. Council leader Mike Freer is hell-bent on a glittering career as a Tory MP, and is running for Lady Thatcher's old seat of Finchley and Golders Green, currently a Labour marginal.

But this niggling problem with Iceland just won't go away. Freer, a former banker at Barclays, squarely blames the council's treasury department for the howler. Deloitte has just completed a report broadly agreeing, but strongly arguing that the lack of monitoring of its work represented “a significant deficiency in internal control”. Barnet treasury had not been internally audited for years and had ignored a recommendation to appoint a monitoring officer. And Freer, as council leader, is blameless in all this?

Sunday 12 July 2009

All Hands To The Pump!

Cllr Monroe Palmer, OBE, has joined the illustrious ranks of Barnet’s Bloggers.

You can view his blog here.

Unlike Mike Freer’s Leader Doesn’t Listen, Monroe’s blog won’t cost the taxpayer a penny.

Another new blog to have launched last week is called Brain Coleman (aka Mr Toad) has got to go! You can find it here.

Not The Barnet Times welcomes these new bloggers to the ranks of the mad, the bad and the sad.

Saturday 11 July 2009

Bak 2 Skul

This article has been updated. See below.

The Council has just published a report authorising the urgent purchase of three modular buildings (that’s Portakabins to you and me) to provide additional spaces at three Barnet schools. This is due to the demand for school places exceeding supply.

The total cost is £183,705 - £61,235 per school.

The council is using urgency powers to purchase these structures because they have to be installed by September. However, as any fule no, parents applied for school places last February.

So the council has known for nearly 5 months that there was a capacity problem, but did absolutely nothing about it. Instead of organising a formal tender process to ensure that the council obtained a competitive price - and hence best value for taxpayers - they have left everything to the last minute and we are now forced into buying units costing more than £41,000 each, with another £20,000 per school for electrical works.

In the current economic climate, with contractors fighting over each other for business, there are countless suppliers who would have been able to tender for the contract to provide these glorified huts at a much lower cost. But, as usual, the council doesn’t care because we’re the ones who pick up the bill.

Needless to say, none of this elementary cock-up could possibly be the fault of any of our councillors, so perhaps the Director of Children’s Services, Mr Robert McCulloch-Graham (pictured right), could do the honourable thing and resign?

UPDATE: A reader of Not The Barnet Times has e-mailed Don’t Call Me Dave to say that he is a governor at a school in another London Borough. They had the same problem of over subscription that required the purchase of a Portakabin, but because they planned ahead, they were able to conduct a proper tender exercise with several contractors bidding. The cost of the electric works was £15,000 - £5,000 cheaper than Barnet is paying. Multiply by three and Barnet could have saved £15,000 of taxpayers’ money without even breaking into a sweat.

It might not be a huge amount in terms of the council's overall budget, but as the saying goes, every little helps!

Friday 10 July 2009

Televisions: The Real Scandal

The Barnet Times has reported a row between Don’t Call Me Dave and Mike Freer over the investigation into the council’s £90,000 purchase of flat screen televisions and audio visual equipment.

Predictably, Freer is trying to divert attention from the real scandal by concentrating instead on the cost of the investigation - reported to be £9,000. This is undoubtedly a significant amount of money, but the investigation could have been entirely avoided if the council had simply told the truth from the start.

Don’t Call Me Dave repeatedly asked officers to show him the documentation authorising the purchase of flat screen television sets for Leo Boland, Emer Coleman and three other officers, yet they refused to do so. Thanks to the auditor’s investigation, we now know why. Councillors had not bothered to ask for details as to how the money earmarked for the refurbishment of North London Business Park was being spent. They just gave them a pot of money and told them to get on with it.

Freer claims that buying the audio visual equipment: “actually saved money as it meant the council no longer had to hire in specialist equipment.” What nonsense! Anyone with even just a modicum of business acumen knows that spending £90,000 to save £4,400 in annual hire charges is nothing short of stupid. No private business would ever make a capital purchase with a twenty year payback period when the equipment only has a lifespan of perhaps five years at best. On top of this, taxpayers will now have to pick up the bill for maintenance, repairs and insurance which were previously paid for by the hire company.

The council seems keener on defending its wasteful bureaucrats than looking for real savings. Whilst council tax and waste are being cut by many good Conservative authorities across London, in Barnet both are on the rise.

For the £70,000+ a year Mike Freer receives from the public purse, he should roll up his sleeves, cut out the business class air fares and tackle the culture that leads to council staff thinking that it is ok to spend £90,000 without making any effort to ensure value for money or check prices with others. If it was their own money, officers would scour the internet for the best price - why don't they do that when it is our money?

Elderly residents facing the demise of their warden service will not be impressed that Freer thinks spending £14,000 on televisions is a good use of public resources. If he attacked waste with the same gusto as he attacks Don’t Call Me Dave, our Council Tax would be going down not up.

Thursday 9 July 2009

I Know Nothing!

Mike Freer, Leader of Barnet Council, has often been compared to Gordon Brown. Rog T was dropped by the Barnet Times after referring to Cllr Freer as “Stalinist Mr Bean” on his original blog with them.

Not The Barnet Times thinks that a better comparison would be with Manuel, the character played by Andrew Sachs in Faulty Towers, famous for his catchphrase “I know nothing” because, if Freer is to be believed, he was completely oblivious to the council’s investment policy which resulted in £27.4 million of taxpayers' money being deposited in failing Icelandic banks.

According to the investigation carried out by Deloitte’s, Freer told them that he had “minimal technical knowledge” despite the fact that he had previously been happy to boast to all and sundry that he was a hot shot banker.

It is scandalous that Freer can profess ignorance whilst claiming a special responsibility allowance for chairing the resources committee. How can you claim a responsibility allowance if you refuse to take any responsibility?

Wednesday 8 July 2009

Memo to Nick Walkley: You work for us

Not The Barnet Times is alarmed to have received word that a reporter for the London Daily News website was apparently instructed by Barnet’s Chief Executive Nick Walkley (pictured hard left) to turn off his recording device at tonight’s meeting of the Ad Hoc Overview & Scrutiny Committee, which was considering the report into the council’s Icelandic investments.

Whilst there are signs outside the meeting rooms in the Town Hall advising that the recording of meetings is not permitted, council officials have clearly forgotten that we live in a democracy and the public have a right to know what is going on - especially in this instance where £27.4 million of our money was recklessly deposited in failing banks.

Other councils are happy to embrace modern technology and broadcast meetings live on the internet and also make podcasts available for download. But in Barnet, we are treated like mushrooms and kept in the dark. As a result of the journalist being required to turn off his equipment, he was unable to accurately report the details of the meeting because his article suggests that Deloitte’s exonerated Mike Freer and the other Members of the Cabinet Resources Committee, which they did not. Not by a long shot.

Yesterday, it was widely reported that the former Cabinet Member for canap├ęs, Brian Coleman, was refusing to publish details of his GLA expenses. The London Evening Standard quoted Coleman as saying: “I won't do it voluntarily. It's none of the public's business.”

Coleman’s comments are symptomatic of the unhealthy culture of secrecy which permeates through every fibre of the council’s being. It goes without saying that dinosaurs like Coleman should not be allowed to run for public office again. But if the Chief Executive believes that residents are only entitled to read the council’s sanitised version of proceedings then he, too, should forfeit his place at the public trough.

POST SCRIPT: If you need just one good reason as to why council meetings should be recorded, it is this. When the Cabinet was discussing indemnities for officers during the Underhill investigation, they agreed to provide the money on condition that it was repaid if any wrongdoing was found. When the minutes of the meeting were published, the wording had been altered so that the indemnity would only have to be repaid if the people involved were found guilty of wilful misconduct - which was something quitte different.

For months the council denied that the minutes had been altered, but in the end it acknowledged that the wording had been changed. This council simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth, and in the interest of democratic accountability here should be audio/visual recordings of every council meeting.

Tuesday 7 July 2009

Freer resigns….

…himself to staying on as leader of the council!

Not The Barnet Times has learned that Mike Freer plans to ignore colleagues calling for him to stand down as leader of the council in September in order to give his successor time to form a cabinet and devise policies to lead the party into the local elections in May 2010. Instead Freer wishes to go “on and on”.

As a serial trougher, Mike Freer would not only lose his Leaders Special Responsibility Allowance of £34,909 a year if he stood down, he would also have to resign from two quangos which rake in another £24,248 p.a.

But Freer’s decision is not just about money. Displaying the classic signs of hubris - or Leaderitis as Brian Coleman once called it behind Mike’s back - Freer simply does not believe that there is anyone in the cabinet capable of doing the job as well as him. Mind you, with Peer of the Realm Cabinet Member Richard Cornelius admitting that after three years he still doesn’t understand what is going on, perhaps he has a point?

Freer wants to leave his legacy and is worried that a new leader will reverse the wardens decision and scrap Future Shape in order to help secure a Conservative victory (just as John Major had to scrap Maggie’s Poll Tax). The problem with this strategy is that with Freer standing in the General Election, it will leave the Conservatives fighting the council elections leaderless, which is totally unacceptable.

In 2006, the public voted Conservative on a manifesto produced under the leadership of Brian Salinger. Shamefully, Brian Coleman secretly proposed a motion of no confidence in Mr Salinger during the midst of the election campaign, when councillors should have been looking outward rather than trying to secure themselves a big fat juicy allowance.

The public will not forgive the Conservatives if they try to deprive voters of their democratic rights for a second time.

Sunday 5 July 2009

One law for us. One law for them.

The picture below was taken on Saturday outside the venue of the East Barnet Festival. The car parked on the pavement belongs to Cllrs Andreas & Joanna Tambourides who were both in attendance.

Joanna Tambourides is the Assistant Cabinet Member for Transport. What a good example she is setting!

Saturday 4 July 2009

Icelandic Investigation Report

Another Not The Barnet Times Exclusive!

On Wednesday 8th July, the Ad Hoc Overview & Scrutiny Committee will be considering the external report commissioned by Barnet Council to clear Mike Freer of any wrong doing impartially investigate the council’s investments in Icelandic banks.

Not The Barnet Times has obtained an advance copy of the whitewash report which we reprint below. Click on the image for a larger version.

The committee meeting will be chaired by Councillor Thirtygrandbourides and we are sure that he will allow a full and frank debate before proposing that Richard Cornelius Mike Freer be recommended for a Peerage.

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Mrs Slocombe's Pussy

Mollie Sugden, famed for her portrayal of Mrs Slocombe in the classic British comedy Are You Being Served? has sadly died aged 86.

Don’t Call Me Dave’s claim to fame is that he once worked in a recording studio as an assistant sound engineer (OK tea boy) where Mike Berry, who played the role of Mr Spooner, recorded an album.

Thanks to the PC brigade, we don’t make sitcoms like this any more, so enjoy this brief tribute to Mollie Sugden and Mrs Slocombe’s pussy while you can. We shall not see her like again.