Why do I do it (the Blog)? That's a really easy answer. I've lived in Mill Hill from the day I was born, till today (with a spell of six months in Stockholm in 1981 and a year in Queensbury in 1986/7). My children go to school and I love the place. My kids joke that I know everyone in Mill Hill because I can't walk up the Broadway without saying hello and having a chat. A quick trip to M&S for some plums or Iceland for some sardines will often take 1/2 an hour as I gossip to someone or the other. A night out for a curry invariably leads to a good old chinwag with someone. I write the blog because I passionately believe we deserve better and the best way to get it is to shout from the rafters.Not everyone likes my style of writing. For instance I'm often asked by people why I give people nicknames, such as Matthew Offord who I call Captain Useless. I explain that Matthew Offord has made a big deal of how his nautical exploits have made him ideally suited to "running the ship". He even said so in his blog. I however happen to think he has a track record for being completely useless. I could call him "Matthew Offord, the bloke who reckons he is the ideal choice for Parliament in Hendon, because he sails a boat, but who had a disasterous record as deputy Leader of Barnet Council and had to be moved to a role where his job is to issue press releases advising parents not to let their babies play with plastic bags", but I happen to think "Captain Useless" is more succinct and sums him up equally well. I don't expect everyone to like my style of writing, but it's I write how I think and anything else would be dishonest. I happen to know for a fact that this blog (and the other Barnet blogs) have made a huge impact on Barnet Council and many policy decisions. We've not won every battle, but we're winning more than we are losing. That is why Tory Councillors, Barnet Council employees, The press, residents, pressure groups and tenants contact us and spill the beans on a regular basis. That's why the Guardian, the BBC and countless other organisations link to this blog. I happen to believe that scrutiny makes for better service and I believe that this blog has scrutinised and improved Barnet in a small way, for the benefit of the residents and Council Tax payers.
Having written this blog for well over a year and established a reputation, I ponder what the next thing I should do is. It is clear to me that the current administration running Barnet Council really aren't up to the job. Could I do better? Well I've been pretty successful at the things I've set my mind to in life. I like to think I'm pretty honest and hard working. I'd like to think that I can work with people and get things done. I have a track record for getting the best out of some pretty difficult people and I've made good things happen from some pretty poor starting positions. After the Brian Coleman standards case, many people congratulated me for standing up to Coleman. Many urged me to stand for the Council in the forthcoming elections. I ponder what I could do and what I could add.
In an ideal world, if I was on the group that ran the council, the first thing I'd do is I'd put every scrap of council business (apart from sensitive information such as Child protection issues) online. I'd put all council invoices over £1000 on line (as the GLA do) and I'd publish the results of all tenders for business (in summary). This would make the whole process transparent and I think it would save money.
Secondly I'd make sure that scrutiny committees did their job. These should be chaired by the party in opposition and they should be a complete pain in the bum (in a constructive way) for the party in power. Nothing would make this work better than having a real Tory like "Don't Call Me Dave" Miller or Dan Hope beating us up and makings ure we did our job. Sure they'd grip about some of the policies and we'd ignore them, but if we cocked up, they would spot it and we'd fix the problem. What we have now is a system where the Lib Dem and Labour opposition spot problems and the Tories use their inbuilt majority and chairmanship to ignore valid criticism. I'd spend more money on areas where there would be real benefit for the citizens of Barnet (more trading standards officers to catch rogue traders) and less on politically motivated appointments. I'd sack all of the future shape consultants and concentrate on eliminating waste at ground level. I've got three children of school age. I'd spend more money on recreation facilities, because I believe that the devil makes work for idle hands. My daughter is a national swimming champion and my son is a goalie for a successful under 10 football team. I'd support the volunteers who run these to the hilt, giving small cash grants to help. For example the several thousand pounds Barnet Council spent on their budget simulator for the website, which is a complete joke, could have been parcelled up into small grants of say £200 and bought football kits for all the kids in the borough playing under 10 football who are too poor to afford them. A club such as Watling FC, which my son belongs to could do huge amounts of good with tiny amounts. I would fund all of this out of savings delivered by "open procurement", getting rid of consultants who only ever deliver reports recommending more reports and scrapping all of these money wasting gimmicks such as web budget simulators.
I happen to believe that there are too many stuffed shirts within Barnet Council. They turn up, collect their allowance and do sweet FA. For example, check this website for Brunswick Park Councillors which include Lynne Hillan - who thinks she's the person who should be running the Council. The head of campaigning at Conservative Party HQ said the following 'If you have a website rule no1 is keep it updated' - Checking Hillans website, you have to conclude that they've either done nothing as ward councillors or are too lazy to bother to update their website. Bizarrely, the only item on it is a recipe for Kologassi. From this, can we conclude that all Councillors Tambourides, Rutter and Hillan have been doing is eating dinner. One thing you could be 100% sure of if I was on the Council is that the ward website would be kept up to date!
So what am I trying to say? Well I'm saying that I've given the matter some serious thought. If I thought I couldn't do a better job than the likes of Hillan, Coleman and Offord I most certainly wouldn't bother. I guess though, that the issue isn't whether I think that, it's whether anyone else thinks it.
The Barnet Eye supports everyone in the London Borough of Barnet and beyond who believes in justice, honesty, decency and transparency. If you have been a story which you want the world to hear Just CLICK HERE to email me your story. We will help and support you as best we can.
The Barnet Eye Age UK 10K Challenge Run.
This blog has committed to raising £500 for Age UK Barnet. We are asking our readers to sponsor us donating £2 each to this great cause. Click on this link to donate
If we do not reach our target by 3rd March, we will cease publication of this blog. So if you don't like us, tell all your friends to ignore this appeal !
We the Undersigned, are totally opposed to the closure, sell off or downgrading of the Library service in the London Borough of Barnet.
We believe that Libraries are a vital part of the Borough and recognise the importance of having trained Libraries run by trained librarians. We believe that it is vital to have "quiet space" for students to study.
We believe that closure of the service would cause untold damage to the citizens of Barnet and is totally opposed by the vast majority of the population.
I got into blogging about politics by accident. I had intended to blog about local music.
I've run a music recording & rehearsal studio in Mill Hill, North West London since 1979. I play in a band called The False Dots, over the years we've played all over Europe, but now we mostly just play local shows as we're all too old and lazy. We play up tempo punky tinged rock, tinged with a very dark humour. We've bene joined on stage by various friends over the years such as Boz Boorer (Morrissey's Musical director) and Huw Lloyd Langton of Hawkwind.
I've organised many charity gigs with artists such as Kate Nash, Chris Spedding & Lee Thompson from Madness.
I also help organise many local festivals. I love a good row !!!! Oh and I did a blog on the Edgware Times for a while.
The Barnet Eye is always pleased to publish contributions from guest writers. Just CLICK HERE to email me your story.
This blog contains advertising that generates income for me ! It contains paid links to advertisers and other services (he advertisers pay)
If you have received a penalty fare at a Thameslink Station and you sent an appeal off to the Independent Penalty Fare Appeals Service, did you notice that this says at the bottom of the letter you got back "London and South Eastern Railways T/A IPFAS". In other words, it's not independent, it's an arm of a train company. They actually run Blackfriars station.
I believe that it is a scandal that this service calls itself independent, but there is no right of appeal and it's run by one of the train operators. I believe that the penalty ticket scheme is a scam to generate extra profits for these companies.
A little tool to help you defeat the invisible men
I've added an IP address lookup tool. If you get an email or you have a stats counter on your blog, you can see who it is and where they came from using this. If you've got an email from someone, view the email. Click on File, then click on properties, then click on details. Now click on message source
You will see some text as follows :- X-Originating-IP: [22.214.171.124]
Where I've put 126.96.36.199, cut and paste this number into the IP lookup and hey presto, you know where the email came from.
If it says it's from your bank, but the IP address is Freds chipshop, you know it's a scam.