Friday 27 November 2009

Democracy requires an election

Don’t Call Me Dave has received several e-mails today expressing surprise at his support for Cllr Fiona Bulmer in the leadership contest to succeed Mike Freer. DCMD would like to clarify that he is not endorsing any particular candidate at this time, notwithstanding that he believes Cllr Lynne Hillan would be an unmitigated disaster for Barnet.

The most important issue is that after 3½ years of an unelected dictatorship, there must now be a free and fair contest for the top job, where the candidates set out their vision for the future of Barnet, forcing them to engage in a debate with backbench councillors who have hitherto been ruthlessly silenced on pain of losing their allowances.

Speaking to the Barnet Times yesterday, Freer said: “If there is no contest because there is only one nominee then that means the group are happy to have one nominee, that's democracy” which is a definition of democracy most of us would struggle to recognise.

But Freer’s contempt for the democratic process is hardly surprising given that only 21 people out of an electorate of 216,717 actually voted for him to be leader of the council - a mere 0.0097%.

Without any public mandate, Freer spent the best part of £2 million on consultants for his widely ridiculed Future Shape project, which was not even debated by his backbench councillors. They were, however, forced to vote for the proposals using tactics that would have put Stalin to shame.

Similarly, Lynne Hillan did not seek the Conservative Group’s approval for axing the warden service for vulnerable residents living in sheltered accommodation. She just went ahead and did it.

When deciding who to elect as their new leader, Conservative councillors need to ask themselves whether they want more of the same, or whether they are going to finally stand up and be counted, to represent the voters who put them in office - and who can just as easily remove them in 161 days time.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Bulmer to challenge Hillan for top job

Another Not The Barnet Times Exclusive!

Despite Mike Freer’s astonishing demand for Lynne Hillan to be anointed his successor unchallenged, Don't Call Me Dave has learnt that Cllr Fiona Bulmer, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, has decided that the interests of democracy are best served by a contested election, and will challenge Hillan for the leadership of the council.

This will avoid the nightmare scenario of a second successive leader being imposed on the residents of Barnet without a public mandate. The contest will take place at a special Group meeting on 10th December when both candidates will set out their vision for the future of Barnet.

Cllr Bulmer has gained a reputation amongst her fellow councillors for being a hard worker and a safe pair of hands who believes in consensus politics. She does not court bad publicity, unlike Lynne Hillan who controversially decided to axe the warden service for those living in sheltered accommodation (but not before her own mother was moved to a new home not threatened by the cuts).

Cllr Hillan has also gained a reputation. Not for hard work but for rampant snout-in-the-troughism, having forced her colleagues to vote for a special motion allowing her to be paid an increased allowance as the Group whip, despite the recession which has caused so much hardship to so many residents.

Barnet’s standing amongst Conservative councils has been severely sullied under the Freer administration, of which Lynne Hillan was a chief protagonist. The borough is in desperate need a new leader untainted by scandal and controversy, who recognises and embraces the inviolable supremacy of the ballot box, but most of all cares about making Barnet a better place, where the rights of the individual are not trampled on by an arrogant and overbearing Executive.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Hillan’s Leadership Headache

The battle for the leadership of the Conservative Group - and Barnet Council - has officially started with the news this evening that Mike Freer has resigned, following his altercation earlier in the week with "cack-handed" Chief Executive Nick Walkley.

Cllr Lynne Hillan, who will be making her third attempt to secure the leadership (having previously lost to Victor Lyon and Brian Salinger in previous contests) has been working behind the scenes for months trying to persuade colleagues not to challenge her, but sources within the Conservative Group have told Not The Barnet Times that many councillors are unhappy at the prospect of having a second consecutive leader imposed on them without an election.

Gordon Brown’s faltering Premiership is a classic example of what can go wrong when someone is appointed on the basis of Buggin’s turn, and senior Tory councillors are being urged to mount a challenge to avoid the party suffering a similar fate.

Mike Freer officially stands down as Group Leader on 10th December. Three days later, Hillan will be facing another tough challenge as she faces a re-selection meeting in Brunswick Park ward. Many ward members are deeply unhappy at Hillan’s performance on the council, in particular her decision to scrap the warden service for those living in sheltered accommodation (but not before her own mother was moved to a new home not threatened by the cuts).

Hillan could therefore find herself being anointed leader of the Group, only to be de-selected as a councillor less than 72 hours later.

With the council failing to recover a single penny of the money lost deposited in the collapsed Icelandic banks, next year’s budget is going to be one of the toughest ever - especially if Barnet wishes to emulate real Conservative councils like Hammersmith & Fulham who have cut their council tax by 3% a year for the last 3 years. Barnet therefore requires a new dedicated leader with a proven track record of success in making sound business decisions.

Not The Barnet Times is sure that Lynne Hillan’s planned two week absence from the council in January when she goes on holiday to America will not count against her when other councillors are expected to be working 24/7 to secure victory in May's elections.

Monday 23 November 2009

“Dishonest and incompetent”

Readers of the Barnet Times may have wondered what was going on last week. As bloggers Rog T and Vicki M have reported, articles appeared on the Barnet Times website about Mike Freer’s Future Shape project which disappeared just as quickly as they had been posted.

First to go was an article in which Chief Executive Nick Walkley admitted that the council doesn’t really want to have to take away our rubbish.

Now it simply won’t do for the local papers to accurately report what is said by public officials, so cue Barnet Council’s ravishing spin doctor, Dame Dr Vanessa Gearson (pictured right), who had the article pulled and the journalist despatched to the Gulag Archipelago. Well maybe not the last part.

The next day, another article appeared in which Mike Freer admitted that his Chief Executive’s comments were “cack-handed”. Better than one-handed we suppose, but clearly the Barnet Times had not learnt its lesson and within minutes of the article being published, it too had disappeared.

Fortunately, Not The Barnet Times was able to save both for posterity, here and here.

Vanessa Gearson costs Barnet Taxpayers about £80,000 a year. She is a close personal friend of Mike Freer and was previously the Conservative councillor for Garden Suburb ward. But of course none of this had any bearing whatsoever on her job application, for which her PhD in Spanish clearly made her eminently suitable.

Tim Montgomerie, who runs the highly respected Conservative Home website, once said of Dr Gearson: “I am a first hand witness of her dishonesty and incompetence”. An endorsement which obviously made her the ideal candidate for the position of Freer’s spin doctor.

Thursday 19 November 2009

If I Were A Rich Mayor

Update: Coleman the Musical has now been remixed and digitally enhanced for an improved viewing experience!

With thanks to Statler & Waldorf, Rog T, Mr Toad, Tory Troll, Vicki M, Doug, FBU and Topol!

Monday 16 November 2009

Freedom Of Information

Two weeks ago, Barnet Council announced plans to publish details of all expenditure over £500. Cllr Richard Cornelius, Cabinet Member for Community Services, told the Barnet Times that the decision would see “bloggers and leakers on their way to their P45s” which was a tacit admission that despite former leader Victor Lyon’s promise in 2002 of “an open and honest Administration”, the council is still obsessively secretive about the way it spends the public’s money.

Whilst Don’t Call Me Dave welcomes the council’s decision, it should be noted that they are not doing the public any special favours by publishing these details on-line. Barnet has actually been required to make this information available since January 2009 when the Information Commissioner’s model publication scheme came into force.

The obvious benefit of the new rules is that if councils publish more information without being asked, there will be far fewer FOI requests made, saving time for both the council and members of the public exercising their legal rights (however much this may annoy those councillors and chief officers who seem to forget that the council exists to serve the public and not the other way around).

When the Westminster expenses scandal broke, David Cameron was quick to realise the damage to Parliament’s reputation and immediately ordered his shadow cabinet members to publish full details of their allowance claims on the Conservative Party web site.

Speaking to Not The Barnet Times, Richard Cornelius said: “If one has transparency then there should be nothing to hide” which is absolutely true but begs the question as to why Barnet is delaying implementation of the new procedures until next May - some 17 months late! The technology already exists for the council to publish full details of its expenditure. But whilst the technology exists, clearly the will does not.

DCMD does not believe the rumour that the delay is a deliberate attempt to prevent the automatic disclosure of Mike Freer’s expenses before he stands down from the council in 6 month’s time to run for Parliament. It is surely just a mere coincidence that no council leader in Barnet’s history has ever claimed as much from the taxpayer as Freebie Freer.

Friday 13 November 2009

Keep wearing your poppies with pride

This Sunday, the 75th AJEX annual remembrance ceremony and parade takes place at the Cenotaph, starting at 2pm.

Following on from the Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day services, this is another opportunity for the public to show their appreciation to those who fought for this country and especially to those who did not return.

We must never forget their sacrifice, for those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

Thursday 12 November 2009

The End Of The World

It is being widely reported that Peter Mandelson, aka Baron Mandelson of Foy in the County of Herefordshire and of Hartlepool in the County of Durham, is to be appointed Minister of DisInformation.

May God have mercy on our souls.

Monday 9 November 2009

Don't Call Me Dave Does Dallas!

Fans of TV soap Dallas will recall that one of the leading characters, Bobby Ewing, was killed off in a car crash, only to return to the show a year later. The explanation turned out to be simple: there was no car crash. Bobby’s wife Pam Ewing, played by the gorgeous Victoria Principal, had simply had a bad dream!

Readers of Not The Barnet Times may have had a similar nightmare recently. They may have dreamt that this blog had changed into The Citizens Chronicle only to wake up and find that, in fact, nothing had changed.

For those who prefer a more realistic explanation of the events of the last few days, it appears that Blogger does not allow for two separate blogs to merge into one. Whilst it was possible to copy all of the old blog posts into the new one, it wasn’t possible to copy over the code that allows readers to search the old blog’s archive.

Don’t Call Me Dave is aware that many readers regularly read older postings, and he did not want to loose that facility. The choice available to him was to either run two separate blogs, or simply wind the clock back a week. The latter was the simpler option!

DCMD would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to his readers / fellow bloggers who changed their RSS subscriptions / blog links. He will now go and lie down in a darkened room.

Friday 6 November 2009

Lest We Forget

Remembrance Sunday is one of the most poignant days of the year. A day to remember with gratitude all those who fought and, in many cases, made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

This year the occasion will be even more sombre following the steep rise in casualties in Afghanistan. We can only hope that the many religious and civic services which take place across the UK and beyond will bring comfort not just to those injured in the line of duty, but also to the families of the bereaved.

For those of us born after 1945, we too often take our freedom for granted. But for the sacrifices made by others, the free press as we know it would simply not exist; bloggers would be permanently silenced and our politicians would not be in the privileged position that they are today.

Given the heavy price that we have paid for our freedom, it was simply unforgivable for our unelected Prime Minister Gordon Brown, without any mandate from the British people, to have signed away to an unelected bureaucracy in Brussels, our hard fought right to self determination.

To compound the insult, our troops are regularly sent into battle woefully ill equipped for the task at hand. 14 military personnel were killed in 2006 when an RAF Nimrod crashed because, according to the independent report, a culture of penny-pinching introduced while Gordon Brown was Chancellor, had replaced an emphasis on safety.

So when Mr Brown steps forward at the Cenotaph on Sunday morning to lay a wreath, the entire nation will be justifiably repulsed by the image. His presence on this most solemn occasion is an insult to the living and the dead.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

You know when you’ve been quango’d!

As our national debt heads towards a staggering £1 trillion (that’s £1,000,000,000,000 in real money), it is worth considering how much taxpayers’ money is wasted each year.

Last May, the Taxpayers’ Alliance estimated that there were 1,162 quangos in the UK employing 700,000 bureaucrats with an annual running cost of £64 billion (£64,000,000,000). It doesn’t take a genius to realise that eliminating or reducing the cost of quangos will go some way to restoring the country to good financial health.

The main problem with quangos is that they are completely unaccountable to the public. Their chief officers receive eye watering salaries and bonuses which are not performance related. A recent investigation by Channel 4 News revealed that the expenses bill from the board of just 24 quangos came to almost £1 million for the last 3 years.

Channel 4, which is a state owned corporation, was itself in the spotlight in this week’s episode of Tonight on ITV which revealed that Kevin Lygo, C4's director of programmes, was paid £1,136,000 last year - five times more than the Prime Minister.

The programme also revealed that Network Rail’s chief executive, Iain Coucher, earned £830,000 and Joanna Killian, chief executive of Essex County Council and Brentwood District Council was Britain’s highest paid town hall boss with a total salary of £247,164.

The usual justification for paying these ridiculous salaries is that you have to pay the best to get the best. But nobody ever tests the theory. Are we really supposed to believe that you can’t find someone suitably qualified to run Channel 4 for “only” half a million quid a year?

There are many thousands of unemployed, but highly skilled, executives who would willingly and competently do these jobs for a fraction of the cost.

David Cameron says that there will be a bonfire of the quangos if the Conservatives win the election. Hopefully he won't renege on this promise, but he may well face fierce opposition from within his own party, because politicians are not averse to sitting on a few quangos themselves.

Barnet Council leader Mike Freer, who hopes to be MP for Finchley, receives £14,000 a year from the London Development Agency for attending a strenuous 8 meetings, and a further £10,248 a year from London Councils for just 1 meeting a month. Adding his council allowances of £55,487, brings his total taxpayer funded income to £79,735 a year. Kerr-ching!

Of course Freer’s package pales into insignificance when compared to the daddy of all troughers, Brian Coleman. Last year, Not The Barnet Times reported that Coleman had amassed allowances totalling almost £103,000. For most people, this would be quite enough. But not for our Brian.

In August, Coleman was appointed chairman of the Fire Service Management Committee with an allowance of £10,266, and chairman of the National Joint Council for Local Authority Fire & Rescue Services, paying £5,130. Kerr-ching, Kerr-ching!!

When Don’t Call Me Dave last attended a meeting of the Chipping Barnet Conservatives’ Executive Council, Coleman told party members that if we want the best people applying to be councillors, we have to pay good money.

The problem with that argument is that we are already paying good money, but we are getting crap rubbish politicians in return. And if we have to suffer crap rubbish politicians, we should only have to pay them crap rubbish allowances.

Monday 2 November 2009

Tory MP in Nazi slur shame

Don’t Call Me Dave was not planning on writing a blog today, but feels compelled to put digit to keyboard after reading in the Daily Telegraph that disgraced Conservative MP David Wilshire has compared the public treatment of MPs to the plight of Jews under the Nazis.

Wilshire was heavily criticised for paying £100,000 in expenses to a company he owned with his partner. Consequently he “decided” to stand down at the next election. However, in response to a letter sent to his constituents (at taxpayers’ expense of course) one resident, Mr Christopher Frazer - who stood as a Conservative candidate in 1992 - wrote to Mr Wilshire suggesting that he stand down immediately.

The MP responded: “The witch hunt against MPs in general will undermine democracy. It will weaken parliament - handing yet more power to governments. Branding a whole group of people as undesirables led to Hitler's gas chambers.”

The public are entitled to be angry at the rampant troughism of MPs, but to suggest that our anger is even remotely comparable to the Nazi atrocities where six million Jews were brutally murdered proves that people like David Wilshire are totally detached from reality. His deluded sense of entitlement makes DCMD nauseous.

Whilst many people will be glad that he is stepping down, it is regrettable that our system of government does not allow voters the opportunity to properly express their dissatisfaction by throwing this greedy self serving parasite out of office immediately.

11:00 PM UPDATE: The Daily Telegraph now reports that David Wilshire has apologised for his revolting comments, having been ordered to do so by David Cameron. However, a forced apology is frankly not worth the paper it is written on.

The Telegraph has further revealed that Mr Wilshire also compared the plight of MPs to black Americans murdered by the Klu Klux Klan. As Conservative candidate Louise Bagshawe said: “David Wilshire's remarks are grossly offensive. We're well shot of him.” Quite.