Thursday, May 31, 2007

Rescued from censorship

Waldorf is more of a technical person than I and he managed to find the original blogpost that Councillor Richard Weider posted about this website. Nothing, it seems, is lost on the internet courtesy of Google!

Click here to see.

Barnet's favourite weblog is in the news again

Statler and I just received a message on parchment from a nice man on horseback. He came to bring news that we have, again, attracted the attention of the Barnet Times.

They most kindly published a little note that we dispatched to them where we said we'd only be prepared to consider disclosing the names of some of our correspondents if they did the same in their 'Between the Lines' column. They surely wouldn't want to appear to practice hypocrisy? They replied,

"Hypocrisy and double standards, in Between the Lines? What do you think we are here for guys?"
Funnily, Statler and I thought they were either for the fast living, binge drinking and large salaries or there to sell houses, cars and advertise jobs - with a bit of news wrapped around the outside to disguise it. I guess we were wrong.

Statler is very exited about the new all female Big Brother. He has taken a bit of a shine to one of the old scrubbers on there. There may be a domestic over who gets the remote control when Deal or No Deal starts...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Still no reply from Councillor Lynne Hillan

UPDATE: Another two weeks have passed and we have not had a reply from Councillor Lynne Hillan nor from her secretary. No carrier pigeon, telegram or Morse code transmission has been received. Waldorf and I have contacted the Guinness Book of Records to check what the current record is.

ORIGINAL POST: Waldorf and I are upset. We know that Councillor Lynne Hillan must be awfully busy. However it would be nice to have a reply to an email we sent to her over 1 week ago.

Not on really when you're paid a big wheelbarrow of money, is it? We don't get paid for this.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Have Council Officers been instructed to 'snoop' on this blog?

Statler and I have been forwarded the following email (we have removed the Officer's name out of courtesy in case this is someone's idea of a joke):
Date: 29-May-2007 14:21
Subject: FW: Domain Names

Can you tell me how I find the organisation behind a domain name if it is registered by a company providing registration services?

Corporate Governance Directorate
Is it a spoof? We can report that no Officer or Councillor from GDfB has been in formal contact about any of our published posts. And yet public funds and resources, it would appear, are being used to investigate a website placed firmly in the 'political sphere'.

We have asked one of our correspondents to make a comprehensive Freedom of Information Act request.

What happened to Freedom of Speech in Barnet? Seems the Council isn't content with just CCTV in it's 1984 vision of society.

Back to watch the Telly.

It seems some Councillors are allowed to speak their mind!

GDfB's Court Jester Cabinet Member for self publicity, Brian Coleman, is at it again. More anonymous tittle tattle and gossip. Statler and I find it odd that there is one rule for some 'special' Conservative Councillors and one for the rest. Read here.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

UPDATE: GDfB Conservative Councillor gives up the thumbs up!

UPDATE: Statler and I are startled and somewhat upset. A telegram was rushed down our path bearing bad news. We are fearful that Edgware Ward Councillor Richard Weider has been gagged! Whatever happened to freedom of speech?

We can report that the post we detailed below on Richard Weider's weblog has vanished; it's passed on; the post is no more; it has ceased to be; it's expired and gone to meet it's maker!

All that remains is our report of it below. Who can tell us what caused Councillor Weider to take this drastic action. A prize of a glass of sherry to the first one to email or fax us.

ORIGINAL 26/05/07 16:51: Enlightened and articulate Edgware Ward Councillor, Richard Weider, has written a nice blog posting welcoming our humble little blog. You can read it here.

For those too lazy to click, he says:
"The blog takes a humorous and satirical look at politics in Barnet. While it may not be everyone's favourite website, I believe it is good that it is able to bring politicians in Barnet to account by letting the public know what is going on, even if we politicians do not always like these negative stories getting out."
Well said! Statler and I are charging our glasses of sherry.

STOP PRESS: Councillor Robert Rams retires

Edit 27/5: Well not quite, no by-election yet, but it seems from the comments below that Councillor Robert Rams has hung up his keyboard at the ripe young age of 27. A moment's silence will be held for the blog at 11am. Read his retirement statement here.

Original post: Waldorf and I posted a comment on Councillor Robert Rams' blog a couple of weeks ago. We commented on how he hadn't posted anything about his Ward in many months.

That comment has yet to appear. Either:

a) We've been censored
b) Councillor Rams has been distracted and isn't checking his blog

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Will GDfB's Cabinet be awarding, yet more, legal indemnities for the Underhill Enquiry?

Waldorf and I have heard on the grapevine that another £10,000, of Council Taxpayers money, is set to be awarded to some of those who are being investigated by Price Waterhouse Coopers Underhill enquiry.

The papers for the meeting are not yet public but we have learned of their contents. The report is due to go to the 18 June 2007 Cabinet in the name of the Leader of the Council, King Michael Whitney Freer. Statler choked on his bourbon biscuit when hearing that the report states that the solicitors for one, or more, of those under investigation argues:
However, we now need to respond to extracts from the proposed provisional views of the Auditor which have a direct bearing on our clients and which could be critical to decisions reached by the Auditor on the objections.
If our GDfB bureaucratic source is correct, this report will now be agreed in private by the Cabinet at their 'secret' private meeting on 4 June and rubber stamped at their public meeting on 18 June.

Waldorf and I understand there is a furious split in the Cabinet about awarding, yet more, money in legal indemnities. However you can rest assured that any objectors won't be raising their concerns in public.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Silly Comments

Statler and I are very taken aback by the huge interest in our little weblog. It seems we have even caught the attention of that august institution, The Barnet Times here.

We have now recorded over 1000 unique visitors. We would love to give each and everyone of you a big Warm Fuzzy Hug (tm).

However, out there are some silly souls who are seeking to use the comments section to grind their axes. Statler and I want the comments to be as free flowing as possible but we won't be allowing untruthful, defamatory or other offensive postings. Registered uses will see their comments posted immediately. Those posting anonymously will have their's vetted first.

So, get registered.

We're off now for our Tea. Bangers and Mash tonight.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Andrew Dismore and his Parliamentary Colleagues should be ashamed

Councillor Richard Weider v Andrew Dismore MP

Waldorf and I agree. So does David Cameron, now, it seems!

Councillor Jack Cohen helps out his Labour friends and attacks Underhill Enquiry - again...

Statler and I continue to be amused at the Barnet Labour Party's silence over, what is alleged to be, grubby dealings over the sale of land at Underhill. This took place when the Liberal Democrats were propping up the loony left Labour Party in GDfB, even though the Conservatives had the largest number of Councillors.

Labour Liberal Democrat Councillor Jack Cohen has made himself a reputation for being a spokesman for speaking out against the independent enquiry that is slowly getting to the bottom of this. Here he is at the April Council meeting:
Question No. 23 Councillor Jack Cohen
When do you expect the Report of The Inquiry in to the sale of land at Underhill, to be published?
Answer by Councillor Mike Freer, Leader of the Council

The Council had been advised that provisional findings would be made available on 19 March 2007. However, at the last moment PwC were reminded of a commitment they had given to any parties that may be adversely affected that they could first see any relevant extracts. Having been reminded of this commitment PwC are now unable to give a new timescale for publishing their report, but it is not thought likely that the report could be published before the summer.
Supplementary Question No. 23 Councillor Jack Cohen
Councillor Freer, if it wasn’t for the fact that certain individuals are still under a cloud over this investigation the investigation could be described now as a farce. The originating issue is now at least 5, if not 6, years old and surely any findings now arising out of that inquiry certainly would be so dated that no action could be taken and, therefore, wouldn’t you agree that the money spent on this inquiry, which now is approaching I understand £1.5m, has been a complete and utter waste?
Answer by Councillor Mike Freer, Leader of the Council

Thank you Madam Mayor, I don’t. Whatever the outcome of the report, any resident fulfilling their democratic duty whatever the cost cannot be deemed to be a waste, that’s the cost of democracy.
Statler and I fail to see Councillor Jack Cohen's logic. He phrases his questions very carefully but we feel that the intention behind them seems clear: that there should be no enquiry and matters should be left to rest. Surely if the PwC think that they are justified in spending £1.5m of public funds there must be something worth looking at?

This is quite unusual as the Liberal Democrats stock in trade is asking for enquiries here, there and everywhere. Just not in Barnet, we guess.

We are keen to see the outcome of this matter too. It has taken far too long. Statler and I were in shorts, eating iced lollies when this enquiry started and we hope we'll be alive when it comes to fruition.

We do agree with Councillor Jack Cohen that PwC should get their finger out and get this report published, soon.

Barnet does Ken Livingstone's bidding

Statler and I have been impressed at the coup pulled off by GDfB's bureaucrats. From right under the nose of a Conservative Council, GDfB's Planning Boss Mr Stewart Murray, has in place so many of his old boss (Ken Livingstone's) policies that Barnet is now Ken's favourite planning borough.

Statler and I received a glossy document from a correspondent. It is from Mr Ken Livingstone, Labour's Mayor of London and can be viewed electronically here. Mr 'Red' Ken Livingstone goes through the, mainly, Conservative Councils in outer London looking for examples of those who are doing as they are told. There are only a few but Barnet is one of them. He uses Barnet's enthusiastic adoption of his policies to urge other Councils to do his bidding.

Mr Livingstone heaps lavish praise on Barnet's planning policies. Barnet get's star treatment and first mention!
"Barnet: a growth borough

2.49 Barnet is one of the fastest growing Outer London boroughs. The Council has decided to do exactly what it is told in exchange for a big fat government grant accept the reality of long-term growth"
The furious row going on, behind closed doors, about the soon to come 'Gridlock Barnet' has sneaked in to the document though.
"(Barnet) has reservations about the capacity of the transport system to accommodate the projected levels of growth"
That seems to put things a bit mildy! However Mr Livingstone needn't worry too much about this as it is only the Councillors who have these concerns. As long as his chum, Mr Murray and his other Directors are on board all will be fine. In fact Mr Murray's deputy, Councillor Melvin Cohen, was heard at a recent Cabinet meeting boasting how proud he was that Ken Livingstone supported his new policy.

Statler and I do wonder quite how long Brian Coleman can stay part of a Cabinet that is so slavishly toeing Red Ken's line. Must be incredibly embarrassing for him. Being attacked for being a Ken Livingstone toady wouldn't help his re-election campaign!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Farewell Mike, Arise Sir Michael

Waldorf and I don't like abbreviations. We'll take Hertfordshire over Herts and Middlesex over Middx any day.

Lynne Truss is a hero of ours.

Imagine our delight that our old chum, from days of old, Mike Freestone, is now signing off notices as Michael Freestone.

We both feel that Michael suits much better with his new role as Director (and higher pay grade).

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Do you have pretty flowers?

Statler and I have noticed that Councillor Brian Coleman, Cabinet Member for the Great Outdoors, is offering Barnet residents vouchers for pretty flowers.

Waldorf grows some mean Sunflowers. One was once almost as tall as the house.

Read all about is here.

UPDATE - Leo Boland on sick leave. Leo is back... but...

Update: Statler and I are confused. We are heartily warmed to have reported to us that 'Leo Boland is back in the building'. It is good to see he has recovered enough to return to work. However it would seem that Mr Brian Reynolds is still running things as the DPR handing his powers over doesn't seem to have been reversed.

Anyway, back to Fern and Phillip. Tea and toast are getting cold.

We have been passed on the elusive news that the Government Department for Barnet's Chief Executive has signed himself off of work and handed all of his powers to his deputy, Mr Brian Reynolds.

How will the Department run in his absence?!

The report opens,
This report confirms the appointment of Brian Reynolds, the Deputy Chief Executive, as Acting Chief Executive and Acting Head of Paid Service during the Chief Executive’s absence due to ill health...
and continues
Being currently on sick leave and with the doctors unable to confirm the date of my return, I have concluded that it would be appropriate, in good governance terms, to make this delegation explicit and unambiguous for the reasons given above and that Brian Reynolds should also assume the responsibilities of Acting Head of Paid Service.
At the time of posting, Councillors contacted by had not heard of the news as no internal communicated.

We wish Mr Boland a speedy recovery.

Link to DPR

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Are double yellow lines about to appear outside your house?

Waldorf and I, being 'silver surfers', were perusing the Public Notices section of the GDfB's website. We came across something a bit unusual. There is a notice entitled, "Traffic Order Various Roads". Upon opening there is a treacly thick paragraph,

"In order to prevent obstructive parking, improve traffic flow and general road safety, the general effect of the Waiting and Loading Order would be to introduce new waiting restrictions in the borough, as follows.

At any time waiting restrictions would be provided around the junctions of:

Marlborough Gardens and Marlborough Close N20; Mount Pleasant and Bevan Road, Barnet; Bells Hill and Lexington Way, Barnet (by upgrading the existing Monday to Saturday 8am to 6.30pm waiting restrictions); Bells Hill and Lingholm Way, Barnet (by upgrading the existing Monday to Saturday 8am to 6.30pm waiting restrictions); Hadley Road and Hexham Road, New Barnet; Potters Road and Hexham Road, New Barnet; Hampden Way and Arlington Road N14, Alverstone Avenue and Ablemarle Road, East Barnet; Horsham Avenue and Woodhouse Road N12; Foster Street and Foster Walk NW4; New Brent Street and Foster Walk NW4; New Brent Street and North Street NW4; Tenterden Grove and Mills Grove NW4; Tenterden Grove and Brinsdale Road NW4; Green Lane and Green Walk NW4; Finchley Lane and First Avenue NW4; Finchley Lane and Second Avenue NW4; Victoria Road and First Avenue NW4; Station Road and Lyonsdown Road, New Barnet (by upgrading the existing Monday to Saturday 7am to 7pm waiting restrictions); Lyonsdown Road and Somerset Road, New Barnet (by upgrading the existing Monday to Saturday 7am to 7pm waiting restrictions); Torrington Park and Copwood Close N12 (by upgrading the existing Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm
waiting restrictions); Long Lane and Oakfield Road N3 (by upgrading the existing Monday to Friday 2pm to 3pm waiting restrictions); Long Lane and Park View Road N3 (north side of the junction by upgrading the existing Monday to Friday 11am to midday waiting restrictions); Long Lane and Park View Road N3 (south side of the junction by upgrading the existing Monday to Friday 2pm to 3pm
waiting restrictions); Wildwood Road and Raeburn Close NW11; Wildwood Road and Constable Close NW11; Winnington Road and Ingram Avenue N2; Hampstead Way and Farm Walk NW11; Hampstead Way and The Orchard NW11; Chalgrove Gardens and Chessington Avenue N3 (northern side of the junction); Longmore Avenue and Sycamore Close, Barnet; Mountfield Road and Holmwood Gardens N3; Mountfield Road and Windermere Avenue N3"
So Waldorf and I wondered. What will be the open, fair and transparent way the the GDfB will choose to deal with these decisions? A meeting of Councillors where people can have their say in public and see elected representatives debate the issues and come to a decision? It would seem that that is a bit too much democracy, instead,
"Any person wishing to object to the proposed Orders should send a written statement explaining their objection to the Parking Design Team at the above address within 21 days of the date of this Notice."
Good luck.

Waldorf and I regret that it seems things have gone from one extreme to another. From a sometimes over lengthy process to a note on a lamppost, 21 days, and decision in secret by GDfB bureaucrats and technicians.

Keeping it in the Family

Statler and I are good Daily Mail readers. It worries us when we see people increasingly dependent on the welfare state.

A young man on horseback ran up the garden path waving a parchment at us. On it was a note bearing the news that the Council now has FIVE family couples compared to the ONE (the Palmers) before 2006.

March 2007 Council expenses claimed:

Top place: £2,824.69 Harts (John and Helena - Father and Daughter)
Second: £2,711.19 Cohens (Melvin and Dean - Father and Son)
Third: £2,509.37 Tambourides (Andreas and Joanna - Married)
Fourth: £2,446.24 Palmers (Monroe and Susette - Married)
Fifth: £2,320.14 Salingers (Brian and Catherine - Married)

Let's hope these families don't get caught in the poverty trap.

Monday, May 7, 2007

"Who is Andrew Marr"

Statler and I are very envious of Councillor Marina Yannakoudakis. She clearly gets to have a very long lie in on Sunday mornings. A Labour Councillor who attended a recent scrutiny training session whispered in Waldorf's ear that made him chortle.

The trainer was discussing interview styles with this 'class' of politicians and compared the style of Jeremy Paxman to that of Andrew Marr.

From the back of the room, a female voice was heard, "Who is Andrew Marr". Heads turned towards a blushing Councillor Marina Yannakoudakis.

In defence of Tesco

"Today's anti-Tesco campaigners are a gaggle of former blue bloods and small-minded shopkeepers who have joined forces to halt the march of progress".


Sunday, May 6, 2007

"Sympathy, not congratulations"

I've just snuck away from Waldorf, who is snoring in front of the snooker on the telly.

A carrier pigeon arrived with a message from a correspondent this evening. She enclosed a link to an interesting article from Peter Riddell in The Times. He suggests that Councillors need 'sympathy, not congratulations' for being elected to office. We would tend to agree, except for the fact that they get paid large chunks of cash for not very much in the way of results.

See here.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Cabinet papers

Papers for the next meeting of GDfB's Cabinet are here.

We stand corrected!

Statler and I received a telegram this afternoon. This unfortunately disturbed our afternoon nap.

One of our loyal correspondents informed us that a statement we made in a recent posting was inaccurate. We are told that at least two Barnet Councillors do make efforts to ramble on about a load of random nonsense account to electorate on their activities, contrary to our assertion, via an electronic interweb blogger weblog. These are Robert Rams and Richard Wieder.

So we have made some them space, on the right. Any other Councillors who take the trouble to tell their voters what they do for their £15k +, please email in and we'll include them on the list.

Off to watch the snooker and have a cup of tea. Ta ta for now.

Update: Councillor Duncan Macdonut's blog has been added. Thanks for the morse code message folks!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Disabled camera shop owner fights parking fine

Katie Davies, from the Ham&High, reports on a story of a disabled shop owner being put through the mill by the bureaucracy at the GDfB over, what apparently, is a parking ticket issued in error. Read about it here.

What Waldorf and I were very offended by was the harsh and uncaring attitude from the flibbertigibbet GDfB bureaucrats. It is stated that the warden has admitted the ticket was a mistake. So, is the response from the bureaucrats an apology and a bunch of flowers sent to her home address? No. They wouldn't even comment, only asking for sympathy (!?), by eeking out,
"There have been people taking too many sickies and long lunch breaks some vacancies in administrative positions within the service."
Mean whilst, from what the disabled Lady says and is reported, she is put through the full machinery of waiting and having to fight just to get some semblance of justice.

Why is there no one who can just step in and cut the GDfB's losses and save this woman having to go to the papers?

Come on Councillors. Earn your £15,000. Take charge.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Does Barnet have the best value and hardest working Councillors in London (at £15,000 a piece) ?

Sipping a port and lemon on the Porch this afternoon when we heard a 'plop' on the door mat. The Barnet Press had arrived and were making a considerable hullabaloo about the amount of money GDfB's Councillors were claiming in expenses. We had written something about this ourselves recently.

They launched into GDfB's Councillors,
"Councillors in Barnet are some of the most expensive in the country, claiming more than £15,000 on average each in members' allowances last year... this is a rise of 8.7% on the previous year."
(Statler and I reminisced for a few moment about the good old days where men of stature came forward to offer public service for no payment other than the joy of helping out...)

Our eyes then worked their way down the page to Councillor Lynne Hillan's statement in response. We almost choked on our twiglets when reading,
" Barnet councillors attend two (council meetings) per week".
Dear old Councillor Lynne Hillan should be position to know attendance and workload. She is the paid Chief Whip of the Conservatives and Chairman of the Tories in Chipping Barnet. We just can't see how each Councillor is attending eight meetings a month. Have a quick look here for the evidence.

Waldorf had to perform the heimlich manoeuvre when she went on to talk about the comparison in London,
"The basic allowance is £9,082... this puts Barnet's members' allowances at the fourth lowest".
The dislodged twiglet flow across the room. All sounds very fair and reasonable on first reading.

Councillor Hillan seems to have forgotten to mention that Barnet is one of the only Councils that allows Councillors to stack one SRA on top of another. She also seems to omit that three quarters of Barnet Councillors (46 of 63) have an SRA completely breaching the firmly stated position London Councils in October 2006 link (we thank a correspondent for telegraphing this in),
"8. We reiterate that not more than 50% of councillors should receive a Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) and that only one SRA should be paid to a councillor in respect of duties with the same authority."
The independent London Council's report carried on to expect:
"4. In return for the levels of remuneration which we propose, it is important that councillors account publicly for their activities. This will enable the electorate to make an informed judgement on the performance of their elected representatives in liaising with their constituents and representing their interests within the council..."
This does not happen in Barnet. There is nothing on the web site. The GDfB bureaucrats do not even publish attendance records for Councillors which good Councils do. So Councillors, drop us a telegram with your diaries and attendance and we'll publish them here.

And on top of all the above the Conservative Councillors on Barnet Council voted themselves a further rise by scrapping the cap on multiple allowances that had existed.

More scandalously a telegram has reached our veranda that Councillor Hillan herself fought in private and secured to increase her own wages! Barnet's mysterious 'independent' panel had decided,
"Group Whips (Scale 6) - We recommend that these posts remain in their current Scales"
yet the Conservatives sneaked in a motion that Councillor Lynne Hillan's job should be paid more. That she should be on Scale 5, which is higher paid than Scale 6 (by a good £600 a year). Unfortunately most of the Conservative Councillors who voted for this, we are told, didn't even know what they were voting for as it hadn't been discussed by the Councillors before the Council meeting.

We have emailed Councillor Hillan this post and we await her reply. Apparently she is running the shop whilst both the Leader and the Deputy Leader are abroad on Council business.

Nice work if you can get it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Parking tickets - how NOT to get them

Word has been received by carrier pigeon that the GDfB is now helping people NOT to get parking tickets. Here.

It made us chortle somewhat. Next, we expect, advice will come on how to NOT need to pay your Council Tax!