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.

An open letter to Lord Mandelson

Dear Lord Mandelson

I watched you on television last night complaining about the fiasco at some polling stations. You said it gave an unfair advantage to the Tories because “Conservatives vote earlier”.

Are you pathologically incapable of speaking anything other than complete and utter bollocks? You have lost the election but because you and your deranged, deluded and demented leader are unwilling to accept the will of the people, you are now trying to do some grubby deal which will allow you to keep your hands on the reigns of power and your greedy snouts in the trough.

Do us all a favour Pete. Just fuck off.

Yours sincerely

Don’t Call Me Dave

Regular readers will hopefully forgive DCMD for this uncharacteristic vocabulary malfunction.

The public have spoken!

As predicted, the Conservatives won all three Parliamentary seats in Barnet. Don’t Call Me Dave congratulates Theresa Villiers, Matthew Offord and Mike Freer on their wins.

It has been a very long night and DCMD is far too tired to give a comprehensive analysis of the results but outside of Barnet, the Hampstead & Kilburn vote was fascinating with Glenda Jackson holding on by the skin of her teeth in what is now a three way marginal:
Labour 17,332
Conservative 17,290
LibDem 16,491
Whilst it is clear that the Conservatives have won the most seats (without achieving a majority) and that Cleggmania has hit the buffers, it is also clear that in Scotland the Conservatives have once again been soundly rejected by electors.

It is time to give Scotland independence. Let them go their own way and stop being a sop on the English taxpayer. In return, England would get the majority Conservative Government it has clearly voted for.

Thursday 6 May 2010

A Nation Waits

Council Elections: The Wards to Watch

At long last, the politicians have stopped talking. Now it is our turn to have our say. In Barnet, the media predict that the Conservatives will win all three Parliamentary seats but the Council elections might throw up a few surprise results.

In 2006, the Conservatives under Brian Salinger won the council with a majority of 11 seats - the biggest majority for over 12 years. With a predicted London-wide swing to the Tories of 6%, they will be looking to consolidate that position and perhaps win an even bigger majority.

But there are many factors which suggest that results might not go the way they plan. This is not a happy council. Under Lynne Hillan and her predecessor Mike Freer, the Conservatives have proven themselves to be incompetent, reckless, negligent and unprincipled. It is a party that has become arrogant and self obsessed, which has been at war with itself for 8 years with no sign of hostilities abating.

There are 11 independent candidates standing under the banner of the Resident’s Association of Barnet and they, together the other opposition parties, will be hoping that sufficient number of electors are aware of all the shenanigans at the Town Hall to take David Cameron’s advice and vote for change!

There are a number of key battle grounds.

Mill Hill: The LibDems previously held all three seats in Mill Hill but in 2006, they lost one to the Conservatives. The LibDems have been campaigning vigorously in this ward in an attempt to win the seat back, but the Conservatives hope that the national swing will bring them further gains. Cleggmania could well be a factor here and the council would certainly benefit if Rog T is elected.

High Barnet: This used to be a rock solid Conservative ward, but Duncan Macdonald won a seat for the LibDems in a by-election in December 2005 following the resignation of Kanti Patel. The Conservatives believed this was just a protest vote, but Duncan held the seat at the full election in 2006 with a swing to the LibDems. The Conservatives will be desperate to win that seat back but the LibDems have been campaigning hard in the area and hope to unseat Wendy Prentice and Bridget Perry who have been tainted by the wardens issue. This and Cleggmania could also prove decisive.

Underhill: This is another split ward, with two Conservatives and one Labour councillor. Formerly known as Arkley, it was previously a solid Labour seat but following boundary changes, the Conservatives won two seats in 2002 and held them in 2006. Conservative councillor Fiona Bulmer is not standing this time so there will be a loss of her personal vote. The other Conservative councillor Daniel Webb is barely known locally. Labour councillor and former Mayor Anita Campbell, on the other hand, is very popular in the area and is likely to be re-elected. In 2006 the vote was very close between the two parties and Labour believe that they can defy the national trend and win these seats back.

East Barnet: Previously a split Labour/Conservative ward, the Conservatives now hold all 3 seats, but the Residents Association of Barnet (RAB) are fielding 3 candidates and have been campaigning hard on local issues. Cllr Joanna Tambourides is very unpopular and is seen by many locals as arrogant and aloof. Despite having only been on the council since a by-election in 2007, Mrs Tambourides was recently promoted to the Cabinet proving that arse kissing, rather than ability, can get you ahead in life. The seat was formerly held by Olwen Evans who sadly died on Christmas Day 2006. Shortly before she died, Olwen told Don't Call Me Dave that the current Conservative Group was the worst she had ever known in over 25 years. She wasn’t wrong. In 2006, Labour came a very close second in this ward. The question is whether RAB will take votes from the Conservatives or Labour. If they take them from the Conservatives, Labour could re-take this ward.

Edgware: The Residents Association of Barnet are fielding one candidate in this area - Linda Edwards. Edgware is normally considered a safe Conservative seat, but following Brian Coleman’s attack on Mrs Edwards, all eyes will be looking to see whether this will translate into votes for her. If it does, who will be the Conservative to lose out? Will it be Finchley resident Helena Hart or new boy Darrel Yawitch who has upset hundreds of residents over his stance on a particularly sensitive planning issue?

Totteridge: This is a rock solid Conservative seat. They don’t count Conservative votes in this ward, they weigh them! Whilst there is little doubt that the Conservatives will hold this ward, the question is whether there will be a significantly reduced vote for controversial Mayor Brian Coleman. Coleman is planning a leadership challenge to Lynne Hillan but if his vote is reduced significantly, this would certainly dent his chances as it would prove conclusively that he has become an electoral liability.

In 2006, the turnout in Barnet was just 41.65%. Nearly 6 out of 10 residents took the view that voting made absolutely no difference, but the margin of victory in some wards was actually very small. If you want change in the Town Hall, there is only one way to achieve it. Get out and vote!

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Colemangate: The Expenses Cover-Up Deepens

Don’t Call Me Dave has received a deeply worrying e-mail from Barnet Council. Regular readers will be aware that for almost a year he has been trying to obtain details of the expenses paid to councillors since 2006, even though the council is required by law to respond to Freedom of Information requests within 20 working days.

The council intends to provide a response on 7th May - the day after the elections. How convenient!

In February, DCMD posted a blog listing the catalogue of excuses received from the council for not providing the information requested. Two weeks later, a limited amount of information was released but, since then, it has proven impossible to obtain the missing details.

In March, Chief Executive Nick Walkley wrote to DCMD acknowledging that the council’s failure to provide the information was unacceptable and promised an investigation which he said would be quick! A council officer subsequently wrote to councillors on 14th April asking them to check the figures. In response, Mayor of Barnet (who else?) sent an e-mail to the Tory councillors saying:

Is this member of the public Mr David Miller or is it Councillor Salinger continuing to make trouble for colleagues

I understand this process has cost the Borough several thousand pounds to produce these spreadsheets not in my view a sensible use of Council resources”

This e-mail was widely seen as an attempt to obstruct the democratic process and prevent the public from finding out just how much councillors have claimed in expenses. The tactic seems to have worked because despite the council’s Deputy Chief Executive writing to DCMD last week to say that the information would be provided by 30th April, the deadline has suddenly been moved to a date after the election.

It is impossible to underestimate the abuse of process which we are witnessing here. The council has deliberately and unlawfully withheld information from the public which might influence the way they cast their votes tomorrow.

This is an unprecedented scandal which requires an urgent and independent investigation by the statutory authorities. The Chief Executive will need to consider his position and any Councillors who are found to have interfered with the public’s right to information should be prosecuted and barred from ever holding public office again.

Simon Heffer supports Barnet’s Wardens

Daily Telegraph columnist Simon Heffer has written an excellent piece today in support of Yvonne Hossack, pictured right, who is standing as an independent candidate in Stockton South.

Heffer praises Mrs Hossack’s tireless efforts to save the warden service in Barnet and across the country at great personal cost to herself. Readers will recall that Mrs Hossack was reported to the Law Society last year in an attempt to have her struck off. She faced six professional misconduct charges brought following complaints made by several councils after she had challenged their attempts to slash their warden services.

At the time, Mayor of Barnet Brian Coleman sent an e-mail to his fellow Tory councillors:
“PRIVATE AND POLITICAL. Let us hope the dreadful Hossack woman is struck off by the Law Society , in the current climate the sensible nature of Barnet's changes is becoming more evident every day.”
No doubt to Coleman’s chagrin, the Law Society cleared Mrs Hossack of these vindictive and vexatious charges and the warden service has won a temporary reprieve. However, if Lynne Hillan is returned to power tomorrow, the threat to this vital service will sadly become a reality.

Don't Call Me Dave hopes that Mrs Hossack is elected to Parliament so that she can continue to fight the good fight on behalf of Barnet’s vulnerable elderly residents.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Let us all praise Brian Coleman

Mayor of Barnet, Brian Coleman, regularly receives bad press which, for the most part, is fully justified. However, Not The Barnet Times is not afraid to praise Cllr Coleman when he does something right.

The picture below appears in the current edition of the Jewish Chronicle. It was taken at a recent fund raising dinner which raised a staggering £450,000 for Langdon - a charity which supports young Jewish adults with mild to moderate learning difficulties. According to the paper, most of the funds raised at the event will support The Quadrant - a £1.75 million project providing accommodation and a drop-in community centre in Edgware.

Don’t Call Me Dave sends his sincere and hearty congratulations to everyone involved in raising a magnificent amount for such a worthwhile cause.

Pictured with Cllr Coleman are his mother and Mr John Kelmanson, Liquidator of Lynne Hillan’s business Ashurst Direct Marketing Ltd, which regular readers will recall crashed with debts of over £121,000 including more than £10,500 owed to the taxman.

As Liquidator, Mr Kelmanson was required to raise as much money as possible to pay off creditors. Unfortunately, the amount he recovered was precisely nothing. Not even a penny.

According to the Statement of Affairs filed at Companies House, the company had no assets whatsoever which could be sold off to pay creditors. Not even a desk, filing cabinet, table lamp or even a box of paperclips.

If a Liquidator suspects that assets have been hidden from creditors, he can submit a report to the Department of Trade (or whatever it is called this week). Fortunately for Cllr Hillan, Mr Kelmanson did not submit such a report, allowing her to continue running her other company, Silverdale Ltd, from the same location, and possibly sitting at the same desk, leaving everyone else to pick up the cost of her failure. How lucky we are in Barnet that Cllr Hillan is now in charge of the council’s finances.

Monday 3 May 2010

Lynne Hillan - Barnet’s Chief NIMBY

Music for the election, No 5: N.I.M.B.Y. by The Vandals

Dedicated to Cllr Lynne Hillan who wrote in her election leaflet for Brunswick Park:
“We have seen what overdevelopment has done in many areas of London. High rise blocks of flats, over crowded estates and the demolishing of our family houses is not allowed in Brunswick Park.”
Perhaps not in your home ward of Brunswick Park Lynne, but you don’t seem to have a problem with huge high rise flats and massive overdevelopment in Brent Cross, Stonegrove and Grahame Park.

Cllr Lynne Hillan’s shameful hypocrisy is clearly worthy of the Order of the Pot and Kettle.

Excessive Familiarity

The lovely picture above appears on the Chipping Barnet Conservatives web site. It was taken at their Christmas fund raising dinner for East Barnet branch. The newly elected leader of the council, Lynne Hillan, is sitting second from the left. At the far end of the table is Cllr Joanna Tambourides. Sitting second from the right, just in front of Theresa Villiers, is council officer Richard Robeson who is the Cabinet Advisor to the Tory Administration. He took over from former Conservative councillor Dr Vanessa Gearson when she was promoted to the position of senior spin doctor (all paid for by the taxpayer of course).

As you would expect, the council has strict rules governing the conduct of Officer/Member relations. Protocol 9.2 states:
“Officers, apart from political assistants, should not attend party group meetings, or party political meetings involving party colleagues who are not members of the Council, without the agreement of the Chief Executive.”

Protocol 11.1 states clearly and unequivocally:

“Members and Officers will often work closely together and develop good relationships. This can be beneficial, but there are limits and risks for all concerned in this area and it is not enough to avoid actual impropriety. Members and Officers should at all times avoid any situation which can give rise to suspicion and any appearance of improper conduct. This includes excessive socialising between employees and individual councillors.” (emphasis added)

The National Code of Local Government Conduct for Members states:
“Mutual respect between Councillors and Officers is essential to good local government. Close personal familiarity between individual councillors and officer can damage this relationship and prove embarrassing to other Councillors and Officers.”

As you would also expect, Barnet Council and the ruling Conservative Administration take absolutely no notice of the protocols when it suits their own purpose.

As Leader of the Council, Lynne Hillan knows (or should know) what the rules about socialising with officers are, and even if Mr Robeson was invited to this function without her knowledge, she should have taken action to rectify this breach of the protocol as soon as it became apparent, rather than posing for a photograph which she would have known was likely to be used for party political purposes.

This was not a technical breach of the code as Cllr Hillan and Mr Robeson voluntarily sat close to each other at the dinner table and then posed for a photograph. Don’t Call Me Dave is reliably informed that the council’s Head of Corporate Governance has been aware of this photograph since the beginning of February but has taken no action whatsoever against the individuals involved.

Clearly the rules which other political parties are required to obey, do not apply to Barnet’s Conservatives or their lickspittle lackeys.

Sunday 2 May 2010

Council meeting cancelled because councillors fail to show up

A meeting of the Business Management Overview & Scrutiny sub-committee was cancelled last week because not enough councillors turned up to make it quorate.

There are ten councillors who sit on this committee with six substitutes yet between them not even three could be bothered to turn up - even though they are all paid very generous allowances by the taxpayer.

The party whips also receive a tax payer allowance to ensure that councillors attend meetings.

In the private sector, if workers do not attend the job for which they are paid without a valid reason, they are docked their pay. Don’t Call Me Dave calls for the members of this committee and the party whips to have their allowances docked accordingly.

Saturday 1 May 2010

Expenses Scandal: The Silence is Deafening

As regular readers will recall, the Deputy Chief Executive of Barnet Council had promised to provide Don’t Call Me Dave with details of all councillors’ expenses since 2006 by 30th April. Well, 30th April came and went, but no details were received.

It has now been almost a year since the request for this information was first made and the council’s continuing failure to provide basic details - which should be available at the touch of a button - is worse than incompetent. It is nothing less than an absolute scandal.

The public are being asked to vote for new councillors next week without sufficient information upon which the existing councillors can be judged. Readers will decide for themselves whether this is a conspiracy or cock-up.

Council chiefs claims that they are committed to openness and transparency, but the evidence overwhelmingly proves the contrary. They talk the talk, but they can’t walk the walk. Barnet has consistently failed to comply with its statutory obligations under the Freedom of Information Act. DCMD believes this is due to the obsessive culture of secrecy which permeates throughout every fibre of the council’s being. A culture which is not merely tolerated but actively encouraged by senior officers and leading Members.

DCMD will now request that the Information Commissioner carries out a thorough review of the council’s operations to ensure that, in future, Barnet obeys the law of the land.