Sunday 30 August 2009
Last week’s shock announcement that Barnet Council intends to transform itself into a no-frills easyCouncil now has a possible explanation. The less money the council spends on front line services, the more money councillors can spend stuffing their pockets with extra allowances.
Quick off the mark is Councillor Melvin Cohen (pictured left) who is set to be awarded an allowance of £7,480.50 for chairing the Constitutional Review Committee - a task which had previously been performed at no cost to taxpayers. This committee meets just four times a year, meaning that Cllr Cohen will receive an eye watering £1,870 per meeting.
The award is subject to a formal vote at the next council meeting, but with the Tory councillors being whipped, that will be a mere rubber stamping exercise.
Last year, Melvin Cohen received allowances of £26,771. With this new payment, plus the increase councillors awarded themselves in March, he will now receive £34,909 a year - a rise of more than 30%.
Meanwhile, council staff are expected to settle for a pay rise of around 1%, and in the private sector many workers will receive no increase at all.
At a time when hard pressed taxpayers are really struggling to cope with the effects of recession, and Barnet residents are losing their jobs at an alarming rate, there really is no justification for this wanton greed.
Regular readers of Not The Barnet Times will recall our recent report that Melvin Cohen’s son, Cllr Dean Cohen, voted to approve the decision taken by his father and the rest of the Cabinet to slash the warden service.
The reason given for sacking the wardens was purportedly to save money. The council can’t find the money to protect the elderly and vulnerable, but they can find it for Melvin Cohen to have a wage rise. Trebles all round!
Friday 28 August 2009
The Guardian and the Daily Telegraph both report that Barnet Council has decided to adopt the business model of budget airlines easyJet and Ryanair. The proposal is to charge residents extra for improved services. Chief Executive Nick Walkley has described the policy as “easyCouncil”.
However, David Cameron's aides have disassociated themselves from Freer's proposals, which do not reflect national Conservative policy. A senior Tory source told the Telegraph: “This is not seen as a blueprint. Barnet have gone their way and that's fine but there is no wider significance as far as David is concerned.”
Modelling the council on easyJet is undoubtedly a very risky option. Whilst budget airlines are popular for their seemingly cheap no frills service, passengers are not stupid. Ryanair is as well known for all its “extra” charges as it is for its cheap tickets, and once you have added all those additional charges to the basic price, the ticket isn’t quite as cheap as you had first hoped.
Residents will undoubtedly be concerned that the council is proposing an 'easyJet' service but still charging a 'Concorde' rate of council tax. Before the coup which installed Freer as the unelected leader of the council, he repeatedly called for a zero increase in council tax, but once he got his hands on the reins of power, his demands were quietly forgotten. Indeed, this year the increase in council tax was substantially above the rate of inflation.
At the same time, Freer has overseen a massive hike in the allowances paid to councillors, with Barnet’s elected representatives now costing ratepayers more than £1 million a year, and chief officers also stuffing their boots to overflowing.
The Conservatives have no mandate to introduce 'easyCouncil' which seems to be nothing more than an elaborate publicity stunt by Freer to try and improve his chances at the General Election where he is standing for Margaret Thatcher’s old seat.
Without their consent, taxpayers have been charged hundreds of thousands of pounds on expensive consultants, but this is of no concern to Mike Freer. As with Leader Listens, the cost to taxpayers is entirely irrelevant. All that matters is the election of our glorious leader to his rightful place in Parliament.
Wednesday 26 August 2009
It has been widely reported that the Video Recordings Act 1984, introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s government to regulate the classification and sale of videos, was never enacted due to a monumental blunder by civil servants.
An Act of Parliament, which was passed by the democratically elected government of the day, did not come into force because Home Office officials failed to notify the unelected and unaccountable European Commission.
That we cannot pass our own laws without permission from Eurocrats will come as no surprise to many. Nor will the fact that it took 25 years for this cock-up to come to light. But the government’s response to this news is more shocking than the news itself.
Despite the fact that the Act never came into force, the Department for Culture Media and Sport has announced that previous convictions will stand. Yes, you read that correctly. In Brown’s Britain, someone who has been convicted for breaking a non existent law, remains convicted.
The fact that this was a well intentioned piece of legislation designed to protect our children from viewing inappropriate material is irrelevant and should not cloud our judgment. In a civilised democracy, how can a conviction for a non existent crime possibly be considered safe or satisfactory?
This blunder was not of Labour’s making, but it is symptomatic of Gordon Brown’s undemocratic and totalitarian regime that enemies of the state must continue to bear a criminal record simply to spare the blushes of incompetent public officials.
Tuesday 25 August 2009
Last night’s Panorama programme on BBC1 featured the plight of elderly residents living in sheltered accommodation, who are now facing the loss of their warden service.
Not The Barnet Times has reported on this shameful treatment of our elderly residents many times - enter the keyword ‘Wardens’ into the search box above right for the full listing.
Don’t Call Me Dave simply cannot comprehend how a Conservative Administration can act in such a cold, callous and calculating manner, especially when the public consultation found overwhelmingly in favour of retaining the existing service.
Barnet Council claims that changes need to be made to save £400,000. Leader Mike Freer and his sidekick Brian Coleman receive almost £200,000 a year between them in allowances from the public purse. As the Americans say: “You do the math.”
Many of the residents now facing the loss of their wardens fought for this country so that little twerps like Freer and Coleman could play at being grown up politicians. Churchill must be spinning in his grave.
Barnet is facing a legal challenge to the proposed cuts, and all decent right minded people will be hoping that it is successful. If not, rest assured that at the next election, Not The Barnet Times will remind the public precisely who voted to axe the warden service.
Thursday 20 August 2009
Earlier this year, Not The Barnet Times revealed that in 2008/09, Cllr Brian Coleman was paid almost £103,000 in allowances for his roles on Barnet Council, the Greater London Authority (GLA) and the London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA).
Now for most people, £103,000 a year would be quite sufficient. But not for our Brian.
The Local Government Chronicle reports that Mr Coleman has just been appointed chairman of the Local Government Association Fire Service Management Committee, Fire Services Forum, and National Joint Council for Local Authority Fire and Rescue Services.
For his role as chairman of the Fire Service Management Committee, he will receive an allowance of £10,266. As chairman of the National Joint Council for Local Authority Fire & Rescue Services, he will receive £5,130.
All in all, Brian Coleman - who earlier this year raised infant burial charges by 6.25% - has filled his trough with another £15,396 of our money. And this is before you add in the cost of all his taxis and free dinners.
These new allowances are paid by the Local Government Association (LGA), which is a quango funded by local authorities. Barnet’s current subscription is £103,732 - nice to see that nearly 15% of our annual sub is finding its way back to such a deserving cause.
For those interested in the archaic concept of democratic accountability, you may be wondering when Mr Coleman was elected to these new roles. Well, of course, he wasn’t elected. He was appointed by fellow Tory, Cllr David Shakespeare, leader of the LGA Conservative Group.
It is somewhat ironic that in the same week as Coleman trousered these new allowances, David Cameron announced that a Conservative Government would cut Ministers’ pay. Further proof of how detached from Conservative thinking Coleman and his fellow Tory troughers on Barnet Council have become.
Thanks to Mr Toad for his Bumble / Mayor picture.
Wednesday 19 August 2009
Perhaps Don’t Call Me Dave is turning into a grumpy
In 2001, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was convicted of the Lockerbie bombing in which 270 innocent civilians perished, and sentenced to life imprisonment. What part of ‘life’ doesn’t he understand? How about some compassion for the victims and their families?
Terrorists must piss themselves laughing at our judicial system in the knowledge that a good sob story will get them early release, even from the most heinous of crimes.
The prospect of al-Megrahi’s early release follows that of Train Robber Ronnie Biggs who was granted his freedom last week by Injustice Secretary Jack Straw. If Biggs had not escaped from custody, he would have been released decades ago. Instead he spent 36 years on the run sticking two fingers up at the British establishment and its law abiding citizens.
His sentence was 30 years and he should have served 30 years. If he died before the end of his sentence, may God have mercy on his soul, but let that be a deterrent to other criminals.
What was it Tony Blair said? Tough on crime? Don’t make me
Monday 17 August 2009
The NHS has been the main political story in recent days following comments made by Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan.
It seems that we cannot have an intelligent debate in the UK about the state of the NHS for fear of being attacked by the usual suspects on the left. “The nasty Tories want to close the NHS” is their battle cry. It was exactly the same in the 1980s and 1990s when people wanted to debate immigration. To even suggest that there should be a limit had you labelled as xenophobic or even racist.
The reality is that the NHS, as an institution, is bloated, wasteful and hugely inefficient. Nobody doubts the dedication of the doctors, nurses and other front line workers, but under this Government, billions has been poured into the ‘system’ for little or no benefit to patients and taxpayers.
Tens of thousands of managers have been employed in pointless and worthless non jobs. Billions have been spent on a computer system which doesn’t work. The public are not stupid – they know that the NHS does not deliver the quality services that they are paying for.
Don’t Call Me Dave wrote an article about NHS reform in August 2001 when Tony Blair was Prime Minster and a row had erupted over patients being sent abroad for treatment. He reprints it below:
The National Health Service (NHS) is not free. It never has been. Patients on waiting lists rightly bemoan "I pay my bloody taxes…." which is a tacit acceptance by the public that it never will be.
It is not strictly accurate to say that the NHS is free at the point of delivery either. The best we can claim is that no further charges are made at the point of delivery (although for some treatments this is also not true).
The public require a first class health service and are not fooled by a Government which cuts waiting lists by creating waiting lists for the waiting lists or cheap headline grabbing statements by the Secretary of State for Health that using overseas hospitals will be the panacea for the NHS's ills.
Successive Governments have failed to deliver on election promises to improve the NHS despite spending huge sums of public money. Advances in medicine and the corresponding rising cost of treatment and new equipment mean that resources will continuously be stretched irrespective of the state of the economy or which political party is in power. But although most people accept that the Treasury is not a bottomless pit of money, it would be a very brave person to suggest the NHS be privatised, despite even the Labour Prime Minister now accepting that the State funded system cannot cope on its own.
Likewise, even the most hardened advocates of a fully funded state system would have to agree that private hospitals are generally better managed and more efficient, and the simple solution therefore is not to send people abroad, but for the private sector to treat national health patients at public expense, effectively running a parallel service to the NHS.
Patients would be given health vouchers worth between, say, 50% - 100% of the cost of the treatment required, which could be redeemed in any private hospital on the Government's register. The need for a public register of approved hospitals is necessary to maintain the highest standards of treatment and patient care, and also to ensure that the cost of treatment is not artificially inflated simply because the state is picking up the tab.
The value of the voucher would be varied to take into account the seriousness of the condition, the patient's age and the waiting list for equivalent treatment on the NHS.
As a hypothetical example, a middle aged person with a non life threatening injury facing an 18 month waiting list for treatment on the NHS could be given a voucher worth 75% of the cost in a private hospital. The patient could then decide whether to wait for "free" treatment, or pay the balance of 25% and be treated straight away.
If the patient chose to go private, the public waiting list for those who are unable or unwilling to pay for such treatment would be reduced and the Government would make a financial saving as well, which could then be reinvested back into the NHS.
A voucher system would ease the pressure on the NHS thereby improving the morale of doctors, nurses and other health workers as well as providing extra resources within existing budgets.
It would also provide substantial economic benefit to the country. As the demand for health care continues to rise, new hospitals would need to be built creating and maintaining construction jobs and long term permanent health care employment, with a corresponding rise in income and corporation tax revenues, and a reduction in social security payments.
By sending patients abroad, public money would be lost forever, whereas if the same funds were spent treating patients in the UK, the money would remain within the economy creating further employment and tax revenues.
A voucher system would also provide a boost to the private medical insurance industry who would be able to offer a wider range of products to a much larger audience. Low cost policies would undoubtedly be developed to insure against the percentage cost of private treatment not covered by the Government voucher.
Many employers who balk at the cost of providing private health insurance for staff might now consider this to be an affordable and popular perk.
People who had previously paid substantial sums for their health insurance might now instead be offered enhanced policies providing, for example, chauffeured transport to and from hospital and private nursing at home during convalescence and recuperation.
But for all these knock on commercial benefits, the public will still be primarily concerned about receiving prompt medical treatment of the highest standard. Being treated abroad might sound like a good idea, but unless the patient is fluent in the language of the local hospital, or the doctors, anaesthetists, nurses and ancillary staff are all fluent in English, then the opportunity for confusion arises. It is one thing for a tourist to struggle with a phrase book in seeking directions to the post office, but if a patient cannot understand instructions regarding medication or is unable to describe symptoms, then there is a serious risk to health.
Furthermore, a patient is entitled to be treated by the consultant with whom they are familiar, not someone who has only read the notes immediately prior to an operation. Will the Government be willing to pay for immediate family to travel with the patient or are they proposing to send patients abroad and leave them all alone until they are well enough to come home? Does the Government seriously believe that once travelling expenses are taken into consideration, the cost of treatment will be the same as on the NHS?
Nobody is suggesting that overseas doctors are less qualified than their British counterparts, but sending people abroad is a typical knee-jerk quick fix solution which will fail to bring about long term reforms and improvements to the NHS. Health vouchers would give patients greater choice and control allowing the Government to provide faster and better hospital treatment. The patients will benefit. The Government will benefit. And just for good measure, the economy will benefit.
Friday 14 August 2009
As regular readers are aware, Don’t Call Me Dave is supposed to be on a blog break during the parliamentary summer recess. He decided to allow Hijacker to keep the blog warm in his absence.
However, it has now become painfully clear that he simply isn’t up to the job!
Unlike public authorities, where incompetence is not a hindrance to promotion, DCMD does not suffer fools gladly. So, with regret, he has no alternative but to say: “Hijacker. You’re fired!”
Monday 10 August 2009
According to a survey, Chinese people trust prostitutes more than politicians. No shit Sherlock!
Both prostitutes and politicians screw the public for their money, but only one group actually admits it.
And only one group goes to prison for it as well.
Saturday 8 August 2009
Friday 7 August 2009
Thursday 6 August 2009
Don’t Call Me Dave is delighted to interrupt his blog break for a second time to bring you the excellent news reported in this week’s Barnet Press that Mike Freer has given in to pressure and agreed to provide public funds for the restoration of the War Memorial at St Peter-le-Poer Church in Albion Avenue, Muswell Hill.
Given the current debate about the government’s scandalous treatment of soldiers injured fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was frankly shameful that Barnet had adopted a similarly callous attitude towards those who made the supreme sacrifice for their country.
The story of the War Memorial was first featured by Not The Barnet Times in November 2008 and prompted Councillors Kate Salinger and Mukesh Depala to take up the cause. We are delighted for Father Bruce Bridgewood, pictured above with the Memorial, his congregation and the local community that common sense finally prevailed.
Tuesday 4 August 2009
Don’t Call Me Dave thanks Hijacker for holding the fort for a few days, but feels compelled to interrupt his well deserved break to report on Milton Keynes council which imposed a £68 penalty on grieving mother Terrie Rouse, who spent an extra ten minutes at the side of her dead baby Zane’s coffin.
The Daily Telegraph reports a council spokesman saying: "We understand this has been a distressing time for this family but we are willing to listen if there are difficulties and extenuating circumstances that need to be considered."
What kind of moron doesn’t realise that the death of a five week old child represents an extenuating circumstance?
DCMD understands that when recruiting staff, councils cannot discriminate on grounds of race, gender or sexual orientation. But surely they are allowed to discriminate on the grounds of ability?
The council has now agreed to refund the charges, but they should never have been imposed in the first place.
DCMD is disturbed to note that it is not just in Barnet where heartless public officials extort payments from grieving parents.
Monday 3 August 2009
Two recordings by B A Robertson of the same song. The first is a standard pop video.
This second recording was made for Top Of The Pops which contains a gesture at 28 seconds which could be construed as offensive to Jewish people.
Some people think this song was itself a knock off of Ian Dury’s “Reasons To Be Cheerful (Part 3)”