Tuesday 28 December 2010

Separated at birth?

Has anyone else noticed the remarkable similarity between LibDem Vince Cable, beleaguered Secretary of State for Business, and Conservative Brian Coleman, Barnet Cabinet Member for canap├ęs?

Both have a highly inflated ego and sense of self importance.

Both have a reputation for indiscretion and opening mouth before engaging brain.

Both allow their prejudices to interfere with the smooth running of their departments. Coleman’s contempt of the Fire Brigades Union held up negotiations over revised working practices, whilst Cable’s undisguised hatred of Rupert Murdoch was incompatible with his quasi-judicial role to rule on the proposed News International/BSkyB merger.

Neither men allow principles to stand in the way of holding down a public position carrying a high salary. Coleman opposes high density housing but has consistently voted for it in Council. Cable opposes university tuition fees but actually introduced the Bill which will treble them to £9,000.

Perhaps this is a coalition of equals after all?

Children's book funding fiasco

Read all about it here.

Sunday 19 December 2010

Another bloody repeat!

Don’t Call Me Dave extends the compliments of the season to all of his readers.

Not The Barnet Times is now closing down for the festive season, although DCMD will continue posting on his other blog, Verbum Sapienti.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Christmas Repeats

Every Christmas it’s the same - nothing but repeats on the telly. In honour of this festive tradition, Don’t Call Me Dave is proud to repeat one of his most popular video clips from last year.

Friday 17 December 2010

Mr Bumble in a pickle

A key aspect of the Government’s new Localism Bill is to transfer power from the centre back to the people. In theory, a welcome and long overdue proposal. In reality, all that will happen is that power is devolved from Westminster bureaucrats to Town Hall bureaucrats. We, the people, won’t get a look in. As Mr Reasonable points out today, Barnet Council will try every trick in the book to avoid any democratic scrutiny by the electorate.

The Localism Bill is being promoted by Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Local Government. For him to allow inept local authorities to have even greater powers without making them more accountable to the people they are supposed to serve, proves that politicians care more about platitudes and sound bites than real genuine democracy.

Thursday 16 December 2010

£100 million. The real cost of BT Vital Vision?

As astute readers will have noticed, Don’t Call Me Dave has been blogging more frequently of late, despite having retired several times. He previously stated that he did not wish to comment about Barnet Council any further; partly because of his studies, partly because he felt there was nothing more he could usefully add to the debate, but also because the Borough is more than adequately represented in the blogosphere. Mr Reasonable, for example, has recently exposed some breathtaking incompetence by the council in its reporting of the costs of the Future Shape project (or whatever it is called this week).

But DCMD has been alerted to a report in The Grauniad regarding a matter he has written about previously which is of material concern to local taxpayers. It has been alleged that Suffolk County Council overspent by £100 million on its outsourcing contract with British Telecom and ignored repeated warnings from its former head of supplier relationship management, Michael Gower.

In 2009, Suffolk’s Chief Executive Andrea Hill twice accepted hospitality from BT to attend their Vital Vision ‘conference’ in America and Gower alleges that she personally blocked his attempt to change the contract as costs spiralled out of control.

Readers will recall that former Barnet Council leader Mike Freer also flew off to America with BT at a cost of over £5,000 to taxpayers. Freer, who is now the MP for Finchley & Golders Green, cheekily tried to claim that he had been awarded an MBA for attending this junket conference. Not wishing to be left out, Leo Boland, Barnet’s former Chief Executive now running the shop at the GLA for a mere £215,000 a year, also treated himself to this little jolly at our expense.

The decision to spend Barnet taxpayers’ money attending Vital Vision was never scrutinised by councillors. Freer was given ‘permission’ to go by the unelected Chief Executive. Boland, who went the year after Freer, didn’t need permission from anyone because nobody in the council had the cojones to question any of his decisions. Neither Freer nor Boland produced any public report explaining what, if anything, they learnt from these conferences, why it was necessary for both of them to attend or how their attendance benefited taxpayers.

In a further twist to the tale, Suffolk council currently employs Max Wide as director of organisational change, on secondment from BT. Wide was previously working at Barnet in a similar role, also on secondment from BT. It begs the question just how much time he spends working for his employer and how much in councils which just happen to have high value BT contracts?

DCMD wonders if Mr Wide has ever worked on secondment at Liverpool City Council who would, according to the Gruaniad article, be £23 million a year better off if they scrapped their £70 million per annum contract with BT.

All Barnet’s contracts with BT must now be independently scrutinised to ensure that everything is above board and that the council is receiving best value for money. As the council professes to believe in openness and accountability, DCMD trusts that his forthcoming FOI request for details of its BT contracts will be answered swiftly and fully. Anything less will simply increase speculation that the process for awarding high value contracts is rotten to the core.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Can we have the one with the banana?

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Stupid Boy Ed Miliband explained why he thinks David Cameron does not understand the views of ordinary voters: “Because he’s a Tory.”

Well that’s a really mature and constructive comment from the leader of the only major political party to officially have no policies.

Is it too late to have the more sensible Miliband at the helm?

MPs know what they are talking about

MPs have criticised as “unacceptable” the salary package for Andy Duncan, Chief Executive of Channel Four, which last year amounted to £1.5 million.

These are the same MPs who, for years, robbed the taxpayer blind for completely fictitious allowance claims.

Whilst this looks like a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, when it comes to ‘unacceptable’ pay, perhaps we should bow to ‘honourable’ members' superior knowledge and expertise?

We are all Thatcher’s children

Two weeks ago, the leader of the Opposition, Teddy Miliband, accused the Prime Minister of being a child of Thatcher. David Cameron replied that he would rather be a child of Thatcher than a son of Brown.

According to the annual British Social Attitudes report, Britain is now a more Thatcherite nation than when the Blessed Margaret was Prime Minister. After 13 years under Labour rule, many adults now believe that economic inequality is down to “individual laziness on the one hand and hard work on the other.”

Interestingly, and perhaps surprisingly in light of the above, the research also showed strong support for increased public spending on health and education - the latter about to be slashed the new Government.

Cue the usual anti-Thatcher Socialist drivel from the usual suspects.

Sunday 12 December 2010

F.A. no better than F.I.F.A.

At the risk of upsetting patriotic readers, Don’t Call Me Dave was pleased that England did not win the right to host the World Cup in 2018. It is not that he thinks we couldn’t do a good job, because patently we could. Nor does it have anything to do with cost, because the support for football in this country almost ensures we would run the contest at a profit.

It is simply that we had no business taking part in the bidding process. Panorama and the Sunday Times both exposed corruption within F.I.F.A. but the F.A. is no paragon of virtue. It is neither democratic nor accountable in any shape or form to the hundreds of thousands of ordinary football fans who fund this archaic organisation from the money they pay week in and week out to watch their favourite team.

It has been reported that England have now cancelled a friendly game in Thailand which had been agreed in order to secure the vote of the Thai F.A. Boris Johnson has withdrawn hospitality previously offered to Sebb Blatter for the Olympics. How can we complain about corruption within F.I.F.A. when we are not averse to making grubby deals of our own?

The simple truth is that the F.A. is stuffed full of crusty old farts who seem to be rather partial to all the corporate hospitality that goes with the job. Football is of secondary importance to them. They knew full well what F.I.F.A. was like and yet they were willing to play them at their game - until it all went tits up. It is far too late for the F.A. to now adopt the moral high ground and we should never even considered submitting a bid knowing that the system was rotten.

We blew £15 million on a bid which had absolutely no chance of winning. Just think what a difference that amount of money could have made to schools football?

Our country has been humiliated through the deluded vanity of a bunch of self-serving troglodytes. If we want to reclaim the game for its real supporters, fans should boycott International games until all the ruling bodies get their houses in order. Until then, it is time to say F.O. to the F.A.

Saturday 11 December 2010

War & Peace

Don’t Call Me Dave has received an e-mail suggesting that his support for the students in their campaign against the increase in tuition fees is support for the violence which has accompanied the demonstrations. Such a suggestion is completely unfounded. DCMD does not condone violence in any shape or form and has written previously to that effect.

It was deeply depressing to see pictures of Charlie Gilmour climbing the Cenotaph and the Royal car being attacked. Such scenes only serve to demonise all students, notwithstanding that the majority were intent only on peaceful protest. Thanks to the actions of a few mindless idiots, the Government now occupies the moral high ground in the eyes of many of the public.

Under the last Labour Government, the rules relating to demonstrations were drastically altered to the detriment of peaceful protestors and recent events are likely to see them tightened further.

Organisers need to plan better in future to minimise the likelihood of trouble makers hijacking demonstrations for their own nefarious aims. Likewise, the Police need to develop better tactics so that miscreants can be swiftly identified and removed from the scene without affecting peaceful demonstrators and innocent bystanders. The process of containment known as kettling herds and confines the innocent and guilty together with no means of escape. Such a tactic causes panic and increases the risk of innocent people being hurt.

This country has a proud history of peaceful protest and the Police are, more often than not, able to control proceedings without interfering with the demonstrators’ rights. That a small minority break the law is not a reason to curb the rights of the majority. The Police simply have to improve their intelligence and tactics. It is not in anyone’s interest if the younger generation grows up resenting the Police instead of respecting and trusting them.

We don't need no education

The Government’s argument for increasing tuition fees and reducing the education budget has been made entirely on economic grounds. The budget deficit has to be reduced and nothing else matters. But despite the perilous state of the nation’s finances, the health budget has been ring-fenced, as well as the overseas aid budget. Clearly education is not considered as important.

This is the root cause of the problem with higher education in this country, in that society does not value it as being as beneficial as other countries do.

Americans see education as a life-long journey and, indeed, DCMD’s American friends are always interested in knowing how he is getting on with his university course and want to know what texts he is studying. The response of his British friends has generally been along the lines of “What do you want to do that for?”

As many readers know, DCMD runs a successful business. He won’t be able to use his degree (assuming he graduates!) to try and gain promotion, but the idea of improving himself just for the sake of it seems to be a concept lost on many of his contemporaries. DCMD’s late grandfather read history books into his 90s and his mother graduated only last year with a Masters degree at the age of….well it would be rude to say! The day we stop learning is the day we stop living.

DCMD is a huge fan of the journalist Simon Heffer, both of his masterful style of writing and his incisive political wit. But on the subject of tuition fees, Heffer is completely wrong. He talks of education being a privilege, whereas DCMD considers it to be a right. It is true that you do not need a degree to operate the checkout tills at Tesco, but if the checkout operators wish to improve themselves through higher education, we should welcome their decision and encourage their aspirations. To suggest that only certain people should go to university is a type of educational apartheid that we should consign to the history books.

There is enormous snobbery attached to the education system. Former polytechnics are considered to be inferior to “real” universities and people with “real” degrees are always complaining about the proliferation of so-called “Mickey Mouse” degrees. An arts degree does not qualify a student to carry out brain surgery but if it turns students into better people, who is to say that that is not a socially desirable outcome?

We do need more doctors, engineers and scientists, but that should not be to the exclusion of everything else. DCMD acknowledges that society will not benefit from him gaining an English degree - he will be far too old to do anything with it - and there is a case to be made that he should pay more of the cost, notwithstanding that he would have been entitled to a fully taxpayer funded education when he left school 30 years ago. But the majority of younger students will be able to use their degrees, even if not directly, and there is a quantifiable benefit to society in that.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has developed a well earned reputation for buffoonery, but on the matter of restoring Latin education he is 100% correct. DCMD studied Latin to ‘O’ Level standard and can still recite the whole of “Show me the way to go home” in Latin which he was once able to put to practical use!

In its leader column yesterday, the Daily Telegraph suggested that the alternative to raising tuition fees was to load the cost on to taxpayers who do not benefit from a university education. This was an entirely false premise because society as a whole benefits from a highly educated workforce. Given that we don’t manufacture very much any more, we will be dependent upon a knowledge based economy for our future prosperity.

Nobody disputes the need to reduce the deficit but students did not cause this recession, yet they are being asked to suffer the consequences and pay for the profligacy of others. The government should cut waste and bureaucracy before mortgaging our children’s future without their consent.

DCMD despairs of the politicians and bean counters who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Students are right to be fearful for the future of higher education, but it is the whole of society which will lose out.

Friday 10 December 2010

Lies, damned lies and politicians

Don’t Call Me Dave has just watched Boy Wonder Ed Miliband on the news criticising the Liberal Democrats for breaking their election pledge over tuition fees. He said that this kind of action damages trust in politics.

Is this the same Ed Miliband whose party promised not to introduce tuition fees in their 2001 manifesto only to do so three years later? Or promised a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in the 2005 campaign only to renege on that pledge as well?

The simple truth is this: politicians are all just opportunistic hypocrites, and nothing short of a revolution will rid us of the cancer which is destroying our country.

Maggie & The Knights of the Round Table

A 14th century painting of Margaret Thatcher, known as the Rochefoucauld Grail, sold for £2.4 million at Sotheby’s this week. Click to enlarge image.

Thursday 9 December 2010

The Party's Over

Today marks the end of the Liberal Democrats as a serious political party - assuming that they were ever thus.

In the Commons vote on tuition fees this evening, some LibDems will vote for the increase, some will vote against and some will abstain. All things to all people.

You cannot be considered a credible political party if you cannot make up your mind on a matter of such national importance.

The problem for the LibDems is that they are so used to being in opposition, they never actually considered the possibility that they might have to honour their promises.

If Nick Clegg had any principles, he would resign. But the way he reneged on his personal manifesto pledge proves that he has none. He sold his soul for a ministerial car and a red box.

It is hard to imagine anything other than total electoral wipe-out for the LibDems at the next election and that can only benefit the Labour Party.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Happy December!

As posted on Verbum Sapienti blog

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all … and a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2011, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make England great, (not to imply that England is necessarily greater than any other), and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform, or sexual preference of the wishee.


(By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.)

Saturday 4 December 2010

Gordon is a moron!

Brian Gordon, Tory councillor for Hale Ward, has exceeded DCMD’s low expectations of him with a typically ignorant letter to the Barnet Times criticising the student protests against the increase in tuition fees.

Perhaps Cllr Gordon was hoping that his letter would detract attention from the hypocrisy of the Conservative Party which bitterly opposed tuition fees when introduced by former Prime Minister Tony B Liar, only to triple them once in office.

Nobody disputes that the country is almost bankrupt thanks to Gordon Brown’s insane financial mismanagement of the economy but, as Whitney Houston put it so eloquently, children are our future. We should teach them well and let them lead the way out of recession.

Education is a right, not a privilege, and to save money by putting up tuition fees or reducing the education budget is a false economy. Given that we don’t actually make anything in this country anymore, our future prosperity lies in a skills based economy. Perhaps this is a concept that Cllr Gordon, who receives £25,930 per annum in allowances from the taxpayer, is unable to grasp.

One thing can be said with 100% certainty. Students did not cause this recession, yet they are being asked to suffer the consequences and pay for the profligacy of others. It is their futures we have mortgaged without seeking their consent. In a free and democratic society, we should welcome peaceful protest and it is to the students’ credit that they recognise the iniquity of the Government’s policy. There is not a shred of evidence that any of the recent troubles were caused by Barnet Sixth Formers.

Brian Gordon complains about “a lack of natural respect for authority.” Given that the council, of which he is a member, lost £30 million of taxpayers’ money in dodgy Icelandic investments, overspent £11 million on the Aerodrome Road bridge project, and brought ridicule on the Borough with the recent Allowancegate scandal, it is not entirely clear on what basis Cllr Gordon thinks he is entitled to any respect from students, or anyone else.

Saturday 27 November 2010

Poacher turned Gamekeeper

Don’t Call Me Dave hears that Barnet Press reporter Nick Griffin is to join the council’s press department. Whereas real Conservative councils across the country are cutting unnecessary jobs, in Barnet we can’t get enough of them.

Local newspapers have not done a very good job in recent years in holding the council to account, but it did appear as if there was a turning point with the Allowancegate scandal. Mr Griffin wrote several excellent pieces highlighting the shameless behaviour of his new employers. What better way to silence your critics than to give them lots of public money?

It is surely only a matter of time before Mrs Angry is put on the payroll as Brian Coleman’s personal masseuse.

Easy as ABC!

Politicians are preparing for the referendum next May to decide whether to change our voting system from ‘first past the post’ to the alternative vote system, which redistributes votes from losing candidates to ensure the winner has more than 50% of the votes cast.

The referendum will be a complete waste of time and money because the problem is not with the electoral system but with the calibre of people who stand for election. Changing to AV, AV Plus or indeed any other system will not make the slightest bit of difference.

If MPs were genuinely interested in improving democratic accountability, they should allow for positive abstentions to be recorded and to include a write-in box on the ballot paper so that we the people can decide who we want, rather than having a brainless party apparatchik foisted upon us.

Politicians talk of reforming the electoral system so that your vote counts. DCMD believes we would be better off with a return to the feudal system where your Count votes!

In the mean time remember the simple rule of ABC. Anyone But Coleman.

Monday 22 November 2010

Mitzvah Meshugass

The Barnet Times reports that Mike Freer and his former Barnet Council comrades painted a lounge and hallway at one of Norwood’s Supported Living homes yesterday as part of Mitzvah Day.

There is something quite distasteful when politicians publicise their good deeds through the media. By all means, do the Mitzvah but if you are sincere, you will just get on with it without the need to tell the whole world.

Of course, politicians will argue that what they are trying to do is gain publicity for the charity rather than themselves (perish the thought) but if Barnet councillors really wanted to help Norwood, they would stop trying to slash its funding.

Thursday 4 November 2010

University Fees Scandal

It was Rog T who once wrote that Don’t Call Me Dave has made more comebacks than Status Quo. This is not a comeback! As regular readers will recall, DCMD decided to quit the blogosphere in preparation for his new life as a part-time University student. Over the course of 422 postings, he said pretty much everything there was to say about the greedy self serving parasites who run the Town Hall and the equally useless and ineffective Labour opposition.

Indeed, there is nothing that Barnet’s discredited Tories could ever do that would either surprise DCMD or induce him to resume writing about the council. Rather, this one-off posting has been prompted by the coalition Government’s announcement to hike University tuition fees to between £6,000 and £9,000 per annum.

The decision exposes the Liberal Democrats as the shameful two-faced hypocrites and liars that most of us already knew them to be. Perhaps they had simply become accustomed to making populist pledges in opposition without actually considering that one day they would have their grubby mitts on the reigns of power. They do not need to worry about voters making the same mistake again.

But worst of all, there is something deeply unpleasant about a group of privileged MPs, many of whom have benefited from a taxpayer funded University education, removing the very same privilege from future generations.

Now DCMD is well aware that the nation’s finances are in a perilous state thanks to Pa Broon’s near destruction of the economy, but when Tony Blair introduced University fees (having explicitly promised not to) the Conservatives bitterly opposed the plans - and for good reason. Put simply, it is surely better to have students in higher education than languishing on the dole with no prospects?

Of course, even in good economic times, not every degree leads to an automatic job, but it is certainly true that when times are hard, job applicants need every bit of assistance available and a degree gives students a far better chance than having no qualifications whatsoever.

In the run up to the last General Election, David Cameron said, correctly, that the country was living beyond its means and borrowing had to be brought under control. A generation has been raised on the concept of cheap and seemingly endless credit. Yet the very same person who was preaching financial prudence, is now telling students they have to rack up bills of tens of thousands of Pounds, to be paid back at a rate of interest above inflation.

Is it really wise or desirable to allow students to start out their working lives already up to their eye-balls in debt? Furthermore, students with the temerity to pay their loans off early will now have to pay punitive mortgage style redemption fees. Apparently, this proposal is a sop to the LibDems but it is hardly likely to encourage financial responsibility in later life.

A Government spokesman on the radio explained that during the review carried out by Lord Browne (he who lied during a court case a few years ago) it was discovered that when fees were first introduced, it had no noticeable effect on admissions. Well no shit Sherlock! School leavers have no concept of money or debt. They haven't had to pay a proper bill in their lives. But by the time they have to start repaying their student loans, it will be too late.

Many young students will be unable to pay the higher fees. These are the same people the country desperately needs to generate the future wealth necessary to pay the gold plated pensions for MPs and civil servants. It will be nothing less than a scandal of incalculable proportions if our best talent is excluded from higher education for short term financial savings.

The Education Minister, David Willetts, told the Commons that the proposals are in the best interest of Universities. It is not immediately clear how it can be of any benefit to society if only the richest students can afford to attend in future.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Labour celebrate as Hillan wins by one vote!

There were astonishing scenes at the Town Hall last night as Lynne Hillan narrowly beat off a challenge for her crown from new boy councillor Mark Shooter. Labour councillors were visibly and audibly delighted at the news because they know that the longer Hillan remains leader, the greater their chances of electoral success in 2014.

Don’t Call Me Dave has received reports that many Conservative councillors were physically intimidated by Hillan’s Henchmen who stood at their shoulders to make sure they voted the right way. Robert Mugabe would have been proud of such tactics.

But whilst Hillan may have won the battle, she has clearly lost the war. That a councillor who has only been in the job for five minutes can come within one vote of victory proves how loathed and despised Hillan is within her own ranks. By rights she should have thrashed Shooter into oblivion. Instead, she scraped home by 19 votes to 18.

Older readers will recall when Michael Heseltine challenged Margaret Thatcher for the party leadership in 1990. Although Thatcher won in the first round, her margin of victory was so small that two days after the ballot she was forced to resign because it became clear to her that she did not have the confidence of her MPs to continue. But Heseltine was not some new kid on the block. He had been a senior member of her Cabinet for many years. Let nobody be in any doubt that the result last night was nothing less than a catastrophic and humiliating verdict on Lynne Hillan and her discredited policies.

Next week Hillan faces a vote of no confidence tabled by LibDem Leader Jack Cohen. It requires just 8 Conservative councillors to support this motion for her political career to be consigned to history. No doubt Brian Coleman will employ his usual bully boy tactics to threaten any Tory councillor minded to support the motion, but there is no reason at all why Conservatives should not support a motion which has been tabled by their LibDem coalition partners.

This is the last chance for the Tories to do the right thing by the people of Barnet who elected them to office. Hillan and Coleman must realise that with 18 councillors voting against them, they would be unable to invoke group rules to try and discipline any councillors who continue to oppose their rule.

A delegation of dissenting councillors should demand a meeting with Hillan later today to declare that they will support Jack Cohen’s motion unless she resigns immediately. This will give her a final opportunity to leave office with dignity. If she refuses, she should be dragged out, kicking and screaming if necessary. To allow Lynne Hillan to remain in office will consign the Conservatives to electoral defeat in Barnet in 2014.

Thursday 22 July 2010

Reward for Failure?

In December 2008, long before Don’t Call Me Dave retired from blogging, Barnet Council did something quite remarkable. They sacked an officer - Mike Freestone - for his incompetence in the Aerodrome Road Bridge project which ran £11 million over budget.

A few days after this momentous event, DCMD received an anonymous brown envelope with details of a reported £250,000 payoff for the hapless Mr Freestone. If true, this would represent an astonishing reward for failure.

According to the figures, he allegedly received:
  • £61,000 severance payment
  • £75,000 in lieu of notice and holidays
  • £106,000 lump sum pension
  • £36,700 annual pension
And for good measure the council apparently wrote off a car loan of £7,000.

DCMD does not know if these figures are genuine or whether he was sent them by someone trying to cause trouble. A spokesman for the council refused to confirm or deny whether the figures were accurate, citing sections 40(5) and 41(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which exempts certain categories of personal and confidential information from publication.

However, the Information Commissioner’s Guidance Notes relating to exemptions states:
“It may also be relevant to think about the seniority of staff: the more senior a person is the less likely it will be that to disclose information about him or her acting in an official capacity would be unfair.”
In a case three years ago, the Commissioner added:
“The Commissioner recognises that there may be circumstances where it would be legitimate to release information of this nature relating to the unexpected retirement of a senior official at a public authority.”
Despite this, the Information Commissioner has now decided that Barnet Council does not have to confirm or deny whether Mr Freestone received this payoff, or indeed any payoff. In a similar ruling, the Commissioner also stated that the council does not have to reveal how much former Chief Financial Officer Clive Medlam received, if anything, when he walked the plank.

Readers will recall that Mr Medlam was the officer who borrowed millions of Pounds from the Public Works Loan Board for the schools rebuilding programme and then deposited the money in Iceland at a higher rate of interest. Money that the taxpayer is unlikely to ever see again.

The Commissioner argues that to disclose the details of any payoffs made to these officers would infringe their right to privacy under the Data Protection Act. DCMD believes that the public’s right to know how much is being paid to senior council officers who are sacked because of work related issues should take precedence.

DCMD can appeal the Information Commissioner’s decision, but he does not believe that it is worth the time or effort. He has never yet met a government body which reviewed its own decision and then changed its mind.

Like Barnet’s greedy councillors, our Chief Officers seemingly treat residents as their personal cash machines. We exist for no other reason than to stuff their faces with our hard earned money. But whereas councillors are grudgingly obliged to tell us how much they cost us, officers do not have to reveal the size of their trough and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.

Friday 16 July 2010

The computer says no!

In 2002, when the last Labour Administration controversially sold land at Underhill, the council failed to publish the Delegated Powers Report which would have alerted the then opposition Conservative councillors as to what was going on.

The reason given for the failure to publish the report was a fault with the council’s computer system. “Very sorry” the council said, “it won’t happen again”.

In 2006, when the Conservative Administration controversially awarded legal indemnities to certain councillors and officers at a cost which eventually reached £250,000, the report which was supposed to have been presented to the Cabinet Resources Committee for approval, was not published on time.

The reason given for the failure to publish the report was a fault with the council’s computer system. “Very sorry” the council said, “it won’t happen again”.

In 2010, when the Conservative Administration controversially awarded themselves massive hikes of up to 100% in their allowances, the report with details of the increases which was supposed to have been made public three days before the meeting, was not published on time.

The reason given for the failure to publish the report was a fault with the council’s computer system. “Very sorry” the council said, “it won’t happen again”.

Isn’t it amazing how the computer system always seems to break down when there is something controversial to report. Don’t Call Me Dave is sure that it is just a coincidence.

DCMD thanks all his readers for their kind e-mails, phone calls and text messages this week. Given that the allowances scandal is now fully covered by the local and national media, he is returning to his previous state of hibernation.

Rog T Declares War!

The Barnet Eye has declared war on the “parasites and spongers” who run Barnet Council.

Whatever your political affiliation - even if you have no affiliation - please join the campaign to have these odious reprobates removed from office as soon as possible.

Enlist here!

Thursday 15 July 2010

A sinner repents!

Not The Barnet Times salutes “Saint” Michael Freer who has condemned his former council colleagues for their rampant snout-in-the-troughism which has brought Barnet Council and the Conservative Party into disrepute.

Freer said: “It is not justifiable for hikes in councillor allowances when public sector workers are facing a two-year pay freeze. We're all in this together, and those who hold public office need to lead by example.”

When Leader of the Council, Mike Freer was responsible for changing the rules allowing all the greedy piggies to stack up multiple Special Responsibility Allowances in direct contravention of the recommendations of the Independent Remuneration Panel.

But, as it says in the New Testament, Luke 15:7
“There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

Wednesday 14 July 2010

The measure of Lynne Hillan

In an interview on Radio 4 this afternoon, Grant Shapps, Government Minister for Local Government said of Barnet’s decision to award councillors obscene rises in their allowances:
“They've just got it wrong. I mean which planet are they living on?”
He then added that Lynne Hillan was insane!

Writing in the Jewish Chronicle, former Hendon Times reporter Marcus Dysch said the decision was: “…surely one of the most disgraceful episodes in the proud history of the borough…” before adding “Absolutely nothing, nothing that those councillors do could ever possibly justify pay rises of such a nauseating level.”

Describing Hillan's abilities, Marcus said:
“Since taking over from Mr Freer last December she has proved herself wholly incapable of running an authority of Barnet’s size.”

Patience is a virtue

After hearing the news last night that the Tory councillors had all, bar one, voted to fill Hillan’s and Coleman’s trough to overflowing, Don’t Call Me Dave was tempted to post a blog expressing his disgust at their contemptuous behaviour.

However, it is always best to pause and reflect in such situations in case you say something you might later regret.

Having now given the matter careful consideration, DCMD’s opinion is this. What a bunch of greedy cunts.

Apologies to Mrs Angry for that slight vocabulary malfunction.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Self-Serving Money-Grabbing Parasites

On 19th May 2010, Don’t Call Me Dave wrote what was supposed to be his final ever blogpost, in which he described Barnet’s greedy councillors as self-serving money-grabbing parasites. A number of senior Conservative Party members told DCMD privately that they thought his words were a bit harsh. Judging by a report in the Barnet Bugle yesterday, it seems that actually they were a gross understatement.

Lynne Hillan is trying to force through a policy change which would see her allowance as leader of the council increase by nearly £20,000 from £34,909 to an obscene £54,227 - a rise of 55%. Other Cabinet members would see their allowances rise by almost 100% from £17,454.50 to £34,780.

This is in addition to the basic allowance which will rise to £10,597.

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Local Government, and Grant Shapps, Minister of State, have both said that in these austere times, councillors must not award themselves any increases in their allowances. Given that public sector workers have been told that their pay will be frozen for two years, this was not an unreasonable request. Lynne Hillan, however, has decided to stick two fingers up at senior members of the Government.

Leaving aside the morality of her wanton greed, there is also a question as to the legality of the proposed changes because, as The Bugle reports, the papers announcing the increase were only published by the council yesterday, one day before the meeting. Local Government law requires three full days prior notice.

But Lynne Hillan is not the only councillor to hit the jackpot. Last week, Rog T and Mr Toad both reported that shy and retiring Brian Coleman’s allowances were £113,735. This is a stonking increase from the paltry £102,965.50 he received in 2008/09. If Hillan’s proposals are passed tonight, Coleman will see his total pay packet rise yet again to more than £130,000 - a 27% increase in just two years.

Other big winners are the husband and wife team of Andreas and Joanna Tambourgreedy who will see their combined taxpayer funded income rise from £56,000 to £70,500 - a massive hike of nearly 26%.

Residents living in sheltered accommodation who are facing the loss of their warden service because Lynne Hillan wants to save money will no doubt be jumping for joy at this news.

In addition to her council allowances, Hillan used to receive an allowance from the London Councils quango - as did former leader Mike Freer before her. Freer used to receive £10,248 for attending just one meeting a month until Hillan replaced him. After the elections in May, Labour took control of London Councils and, needless to say, awarded themselves all the best paid positions! Lynne Hillan no longer receives any allowance from them. No wonder she wants to push up her Barnet allowance to help make up for this terrible loss.

Many people have contacted DCMD over the last two months to ask him to return to blogging and, indeed, there are still 200+ people a day who visit this site to read archived articles. Such attention is very flattering, but one of the frustrations and limitations of writing previously was the self imposed requirement to use moderate language when, more often than not, something stronger was justified. DCMD fears that if the ruling Tory cabal on Barnet Council votes through these unjustified and unjustifiable increases in their allowances, another vocabulary malfunction might ensue. Councillors must therefore throw out this report and return DCMD to peaceful hibernation.

Thanks to Mr Toad for the picture.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

The End

After 1 year, 9 months, 23 days and 412 entries, this is my final ever posting.

Top blogger Rog T has generously described me as Barnet’s most sensible Tory, but I can now reveal that I am a Tory no longer. I resigned my membership earlier this year, deeply unhappy at the direction in which David Cameron was leading the party. I made no public announcement at the time, in the hope that a new Conservative government would prove my suspicions unfounded.

Sadly, events have merely demonstrated that Mr Cameron is as much a Conservative as Tony Blair was a Socialist. He has hijacked the party that I was once proud to support and serve, for his own ends.

Confirmation, if indeed confirmation was needed, was the undue haste in which Cameron got into bed with Euro Federalist Nick Clegg and then ditched many of the party’s key manifesto pledges. To join together with a party which has refused to remove the whip from the repulsive Baroness Jenny Tonge is something which I cannot ignore or forgive.

As I have written previously, the new government has no democratic legitimacy. The public did not vote for coalition government. Indeed, throughout the election campaign, whenever any of the party leaders were specifically asked what they would do in the event of a hung parliament, they refused to say.

Cameron is now proposing a major Constitutional change (the 55% rule) which was not included in either party’s manifesto, and the public are to be denied their right to vote on this change in a referendum. The only purpose of the new rule is to prevent the coalition government from falling within a five year term. Not even Stalin had the audacity to try something as undemocratic as this!

Cameron and Clegg say the coalition government represents a new type of politics but it looks and smells very much like the same sleazy politics that we have endured for the last 13 years under Labour.

And if Cameron is successful in his attempt, reported today, to change the rules of the 1922 Committee of back bench Conservative MPs, allowing him and his favoured ministers to have a vote in its proceedings, his lust for power will be complete.

In 1887, Lord Acton famously remarked: “And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that. All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” His words remain as true today as they did then.

I am instinctively a liberal in the traditional meaning of the word. I believe in individual liberty, personal responsibility, and freedom from government. It saddens me greatly that Cameron’s Conservatives no longer share these values.

I have devoted a large part of my life to political activism. But, like so many members of the public who refuse to vote at elections, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that the political system in this country is rotten to the core. The choice, therefore, is either to spend the rest of my life fighting it, or simply ignoring it as best as possible. I have chosen the latter.

As for Barnet Council and our beloved councillors, there is nothing more that I can add that has not already been said about the self-serving money-grabbing parasites who run the Town Hall and I shall waste no more time on them save than to say that I fear it will take the death or serious injury to an elderly resident in sheltered accommodation before voters realise the consequence of re-electing the Tories to office.

I am hugely grateful to all those who sent me information for publication and to the tens of thousands of people - friends and foes alike - who have read this blog since its inception and contributed to the discussions. I hope it has proved entertaining as well as informative.

There is nothing worse than long drawn out farewells, so I shall simply end by saying thank you and goodbye!

Sunday 16 May 2010

Barnet Councillors claim for personal telephone calls

Well surprise surprise! On the day after the elections, Barnet Council finally released details of the expenses claimed by councillors. The figures show that LibDem Leader Jack Cohen and Tory councillor Joan Scannell have both repaid money to the council for personal telephone calls which they had previously claimed from taxpayers.

As regular readers will recall, Don’t Call Me Dave first requested details of expense claims over a year ago. Since then, the council produced an ever more imaginative list of excuses for not providing the information before first claiming that the details would be provided by 30th April and then, after an e-mail from Brian Coleman, moving the date to 7th May - the day after voters went to the polls.

Click the image below to enlarge or here to download the complete spreadsheet showing all the claims from 2006 to 2009.

The amount repaid by Jack Cohen was £60 and by Joan Scannell £44.10 - not quite on the same scale as the MPs expenses scandal, but taxpayers' money all the same.

Three questions arise from this:

1. Would it have made any difference at the polls if voters had known that their candidates had claimed for personal telephone calls?

2. Does anyone believe that these sums would have been repaid had DCMD not made his Freedom of Information request?

3. Does anyone believe that Jack Cohen and Joan Scannell are the only two councillors in Barnet who have used their taxpayer funded expense accounts to erroneously claim for personal items?

Barnet’s Chief Executive Nick Walkley is paid £200,000 a year. For that money he needs to explain to the public precisely why it took so long for this information to be released, why there was an abject failure by the council to properly scrutinise the claims made by councillors, and what steps he is taking to prevent any future absues of the system?

Sunday 9 May 2010

I don’t agree with Nick

If you need a good reason why PR is unsuitable for this country, look no further than the rather unedifying spectacle of the political parties horse trading behind closed doors.

The Conservatives spent the election campaign explaining why they, and they alone, should govern. LibDem policies were routinely trashed by senior Tories. Yet now, David Cameron is looking to get into bed with them.

Gordon Brown stood on the steps of Downing Street begging Nick Clegg to phone him, and yesterday the perma-tanned former bank robbery suspect Peter Hain was on his knees pleading: “Oh please don’t form an alliance with the evil Tories. Please, oh pretty please, form an alliance with Labour instead. We’ve always wanted electoral reform. We just forgot to mention it before.”

The public did not vote for coalition government. Indeed, whenever any of the party leaders were specifically asked what they would do in the event of a hung parliament, they refused to say. The public were entitled to know that if they voted for Clegg, they might get Cameron. Or Brown.

The LibDems won the lowest percentage share of the vote of the major parties, yet they now hold a disproportionate influence over the shape of the next Government. Conservatives and LibDems are holding secret back room talks, yet none of the parties have consulted with their members. This is an affront to democracy.

Most Conservatives would rather walk barefoot over hot coals than get into bed with the LibDems. The feeling is likely to be mutual. Whilst it is true that all political parties can always find some policy areas where they are in agreement (the Conservatives voted for Tony Blair’s education reforms for example) the reality is that real Conservatives and real LibDems are poles apart ideologically.

The LibDems are much closer to Labour, given that both are left of centre parties. It has taken a huge leap of faith for many natural Conservatives to support Cameron as he shifted the party away from the right, but a coalition with the enemy would be a step too far. The public have rightly condemned Gordon Brown as he bankrupted the country in his desperate attempt to hang on to power. They will take a similar dim view of Cameron if he does a grubby deal with the LibDems to win power. LibDems are unlikely to forgive Clegg either.

If the Conservatives cannot form a minority government on their own, then let the LibDems form a coalition with Labour. Frankly, given the state of the economy, it is better to be out of government right now as whoever starts making the necessary cuts in public expenditure risks incurring the wrath of the state dependent classes who rely on the taxpayer for their non-jobs and benefits.

A Lib/Lab pact would probably last no more than 6-9 months and a second election would more likely deliver a majority Conservative government with Cleggmania and Gordon Brown finally being consigned to history and the Tories winning those few extra seats necessary to cross the finishing line.

Saturday 8 May 2010

Less is Moore

Barnet Labour leader Alison Moore is quoted in the Barnet Times saying: “This is a dismal result for the Barnet Conservatives…”

Actually Councillor Moore, this was a dismal result for Labour and an astonishing result for the Conservatives given the incompetence of the previous Administration.

At the General Election, Labour was well beaten, losing a record 91 seats but, amazingly, in the local elections Labour took control of 37 councils with a net gain of 414 councillors whereas the Conservatives lost control of 8 councils with a net loss of 121 councillors.

In neighbouring Enfield, Labour won 9 seats to take control from the Conservatives. In Harrow, Labour added 10 seats to oust the Tories. Labour also won control of nearby Brent, Camden and Ealing.

Barnet Council was ripe for the taking but due to the completely ineffectual campaign mustered by Labour, they took just 1 seat from the Conservatives who actually increased their majority by taking 3 seats from the LibDems.

Don’t Call Me Dave lives in Underhill which is a split Labour / Conservative ward. Given the national trend, this should have been a bread and butter win for Labour, but the Conservatives held on to their two seats. The Labour Party leaflet mentioned the axing of the warden cuts in just one sentence. The loss of the Icelandic deposits and the £12 million overspend on the Aerodrome Road bridge project accounted for a further one sentence.

This was sheer incompetence on the part of Barnet’s Labour Party. They have nobody to blame apart from themselves. They have let down the people they are supposed to represent and care for. If Labour could do no better than win back just one seat which they lost in 2006, then they are not fit to hold office in this Borough.

And the person who must shoulder the blame is their leader Alison Moore. She was too busy trying to get herself elected to Westminster to care about her council duties. When Mike Freer was under fire in the council chamber over the Icelandic scandal, it was Wayne Casey and the LibDems which led the debate for the opposition. Alison Moore was simply out of her depth.

DCMD has been told that, on a personal level, Alison Moore is a very nice person. There is no reason to doubt this. But being nice doesn’t make someone a good politician and democracy requires strong and effective opposition. Elderly residents living in sheltered accommodation now face the loss of their warden service because you, Alison Moore, were too feeble in leading a campaign against the axing.

This was not a dismal result for the Conservatives. Quite the opposite in fact. It was, however, a dismal result for Labour and Alison Moore. You have let down the whole borough with your gross ineptitude. You must resign.

Voting reform can wait

If you believe everything that politicians tell you, you could be excused for thinking that the result of Thursday’s General Election was bad news for the country. “We must have strong government,” the party leaders tell us “to deal with the economic crisis facing the country.”

Oh really? And who was it precisely that created the economic crisis? Well that would be the very same politicians, of course.

If, however, you believe in liberty and freedom, then you believe in a small state with as little power as possible. The less power a government has, the less damage it can do. As American lawyer, newspaper editor and politician Gideon J Tucker wrote in 1866: “No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session”

Governments should protect us from terrorists, murderers, rapists and thieves, but they have no business trying to run the economy because, frankly, most of them haven’t got a clue what to do. If they had, they would be out working in commerce or industry.

The political classes have the reverse Midas touch. Anything the state interferes with usually goes wrong.

We have witnessed first hand what happens when Government gets too strong. Thirteen years of Labour profligacy and the country is on its knees facing bankruptcy. The state pokes its noise into every aspect of our private lives. We are living under an elective dictatorship.

The result of the General Election proves that the public is fed up with Government. We certainly do need electoral reform to do away with some of the gross inequalities of the system - for example the huge disparity in constituency sizes which means that votes are not of equal value across the country.

But what we do not need is a change to a PR system which would allow political parties to form post-election coalitions effectively ignoring the will of the people. As Guido Fawkes puts it so succinctly: “A system where deals are stitched up in backrooms by politicians without reference to voters is not much of a democracy.”

A recipe for fraud

One of the most shocking aspects of Thursday’s elections was the sight of hundreds, possibly thousands, of people denied their right to vote due to the archaic system we have been using since Victorian times. It is clearly no longer fit for purpose and must be completely overhauled before the next General Election which might only be a few months away.

The system is open to abuse. Postal votes, for example, can be sent to any address in the country rather than the registered address of the voter. Such a lax system allows a fraudster to receive someone else’s postal vote without their knowledge or consent. With the exception of our armed forces serving overseas, postal votes should only ever be sent to the voter’s registered address.

What is worse is that no identification is required for anyone turning up to vote at the polling station. You are asked for your name and address, but do not have to provide any proof of identity. Don’t Call Me Dave is not calling for ID Cards - far from it - but as the electoral roll is a public document, there is nothing to prevent a fraudster checking the details of electors and turning up to vote in their place. In the 21st Century, it surely cannot be beyond the wit of mankind to devise a ballot card containing a unique PIN known only to the elector?

It has been suggested in the media that voting should take place at weekends to allow more people the opportunity to vote and to help prevent bottlenecks at the polling station with a rush of electors after work. This is a very sensible idea and was first proposed some years ago by the Monster Raving Looney Party.

It is time to stop running elections for the convenience of the political parties and instead devise a safe, secure system that allows 100% of the people to vote 100% of the time.

Friday 7 May 2010

Dismal Dismore throws his toys out the pram

Don’t Call Me Dave congratulates new Conservative MP for Hendon Matthew Offord on his victory at the General Election.

The margin of victory was slight - just 106 votes - and defeated Labour candidate Andrew Dismore, pictured hard left, is threatening legal action to try and overturn the result.

In a bad tempered speech, described by the Barnet Times as “vitriolic”, Mr Dismore accused the Conservatives of dirty tricks. It really does not behove someone from the party which includes Lord Mandleson as a senior member, to make such an accusation.

The bottom line is this Mr Dismore. The margin of victory might be small but 57.9% of the electorate made it clear that they didn’t want you. Given your outrageous allowance claims and your despicable stance towards the Gurkas, it is no wonder you lost.

Your party are new converts to PR so accept the decision and go and find yourself a new job. Preferably one which doesn’t involve sponging of the taxpayer.