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.