26 January 2015

PATAS - avoid Saturdays

If Mr Mustard's 10am Appeals are quickly over, he can be found in here, hic
Now here are some interesting statistics (or maybe not?); the success rate of motorists versus Barnet Council by day in the second half of 2014

Mr Mustard's advice is forget Saturday, just don't go to PATAS that day, take a half day off work and go on a week day as things are much more likely to be satisfactory if you do this. It won't turn a no-hope case into a racing certainty but at the margin it seems that adjudicators are more kindly disposed in the week.

Mr Mustard had 85 PATAS cases in 2014, of which 42 were in the second half of the year but of those only 26 were for Barnet and not all went to a hearing (the council might have thrown in the towel just beforehand) and so may not have been marked against Wednesday so he may not have overly distorted the Wednesday statistics. Mr Mustard likes Wednesdays as they are the day when the public hearings usually only go on until lunchtime.

Thursdays are late night opening but not that late; you'll still have time to do some shopping in the West End but this factor probably accounts for the high number of Appeals.

That just leaves Mondays to mention with the highest number of hearings when perhaps more adjudicators sit than on any other day (Mr Mustard will ask at PATAS reception next time he is there to see if that is the case).

So broadly, "any day but Saturday" should be your mantra for a personal hearing, which is better than a postal one by the way as you get a better opportunity to highlight the strong points of your case.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Library consultation research - from the research company themselves

A 540 sq ft library, which the council envisage as good enough for some wards, is the size of this flat in Surrey quays


Mr Mustard can't see how a library of the size of a one bedroomed flat could possibly cater for the needs of 15,000 residents in a typical ward. Imagine if 1% of residents chose the same afternoon to visit the library.

Mr Mustard isn't therefore surprised that a councillor seeks to rubbish valuable free professional research carried out as a public service. It doesn't suit the council's needs. if it did, they would give Denis a civic award.



My attention has been drawn to an article in the Barnet Times containing criticisms of my report from a Councillor Reuben Thompstone, chairman of the children, education libraries and safeguarding committee. So for your information, and for that of the other bloggers with whom you are in contact, let me put the record straight.

1. An ‘odd’ document / commissioning issues.

Councillor Reuben Thompstone called my document "odd" and said: "It not clear who has commissioned it or why. Indeed it is not clear why whoever commissioned it has not put their name to the document.”

The Research Practice ought to be familiar to the Council. The Council already possesses several Research Practice reports in its archives, and had no difficulty in contacting me via our website / London office. The Council should also be aware that historically I have criticised the poor quality of its past public consultations, sent them lengthy papers on this topic, and taken this issue up with my MP. My MP, Theresa Villiers assured me that she would take this issue up with the Council in an attempt to prevent future bogus consultations.

I have been in contact with my ward councillors about the research into the library consultation for some weeks. I have been trying to encourage them to take up the issue as they share the concerns outlined in my report. I have also been in direct contact with the Council and sent them the last report of findings which I suspect Councillor Reuben Thompstone hasn’t read. If news of this hasn’t filtered back to Councillor Thompstone this is not my fault.

The Report clearly states that the research was commenced at the request of ‘Barnet residents concerned with democracy and good government’. I have already explained to the Council that The Research Practice was encouraged to conduct the research by local members of the public who found it difficult to respond to the consultation. They contacted me because they know I have past experience of examining public consultations from Barnet Council. I explained to the Council that these individuals have no connection with any pressure groups currently campaigning on a ‘no cuts’ platform. Indeed to the best of my knowledge they do not have objections to the libraries being reformed or (given the current economic climate) to a cut in the library budget. Their concern was simply that any cuts / reforms should be achieved in a transparent and responsible way. The research and report are thus ‘independent’ of any pressure groups.

2. Contradictions

Councillor Thompstone claims that my report is “full of contradictions -  it says that we are giving people too much and not enough information, and that we are being too open-ended and that we’ve already made up our minds”. I have not made any such assertions. I have said that people find the documentation confusing, badly constructed and close to incomprehensible. The Council’s documentation does not give people the information they seek when they try and fill in the questionnaire and is padded out with irrelevant jargon and nonsense. 

3. Simplistic

Councillor Thompstone claims my report “seems to make the rather simplistic assumption that if we must make cuts we should do so based purely on the number of users of each library, rather than considering location or social need. Again this is a very odd suggestion.”
No, I’m not suggesting that cuts should be made solely on the basis of number of users of each library, but surely this should be a factor. At present people can’t see much evidence of the Council’s proposed reforms being based on end-user concerns. More generally they find it difficult to see what principles have guided the Council’s proposed reforms.

4. 1200 written responses

Councillor Thompstone claims “As for no one being likely to complete the consultation, so far we have had more than 1200 written responses to the libraries consultation with more than a month to go before it closes.”  Does he mean paper responses rather than internet ones?

I have not claimed that no one would submit a response. I have suggested that most who submit won’t have understood the questions clearly and may have been steered towards endorsing proposals with which they don’t agree.  Should some of those people now decide that the questionnaire misled them, there appears to be no way that the Council could cancel or replace their original submission because the questionnaire does not ask respondents to identify themselves. So if some people now requested that their questionnaires should be disregarded wouldn’t this invalidate the whole exercise?  Failure to ask respondents to identify themselves also leaves people free to submit multiple questionnaires in which they have placed crosses in the appropriate boxes in order to achieve the results they seek.

More generally I cannot see that responses to the confusing and leading questions in the questionnaire would have any value. Analysing the answers would surely be a further waste of public money.  

5. Ways of responding other than the questionnaire

Councillor Thompstone says “There have been many ways for residents to feed into the consultation as well as the written survey, including last year’s drop-in sessions at every library, several public meetings with a further three taking place in early February. We are also having presentations and discussion with groups representing potentially vulnerable users including the Disability, Youth, and Older Adults’ Partnership Boards.”

I have confined my research to the consultation document and questionnaire. However my own limited experience of trying to attend a Resident’s Forum on 15th January where ‘members of the public will be welcome to come and share their views’ was that this was also rigged to prevent any free public expression of one’s opinions.

6. Not making sense

Councillor Thompstone claims my report “just doesn’t make sense”. However I would suggest that it is precisely because my report helps people make sense of an otherwise bewildering consultation process that it is being widely disseminated by others and I am receiving so many complimentary responses to it.

Regards

Denis

25 January 2015

Environment Committee - Tuesday 27 January 2015 at 7pm

On Tuesday the Environment Committee will vote on the new Resident Permit charges which are now based on emissions and this is what officers are proposing, for the "first" car (the first one you have to renew under the new arrangements. If you can organise your lowest emissions car to be renewed first that will save you money).

Your electric car permit won't now cost anything (although this is an oddity as it must take the same amount of energy to move you in an all electric car; it's just that the emissions are where the electricity was generated)

Here are some new permits which Mr Mustard predicts there won't be a stampede to purchase. The council really must get away from the idea that they can soak businesses in cost and move towards wondering how they can make the life of businesses easier at reasonable cost in order to attract more businesses to Barnet.

If you want a space for a removals van outside your house try talking to your neighbours to see if you can organise space for the van between yourselves rather than paying these excessive amounts to the council

Mr Mustard doesn't see why teachers should get special treatment over any other type of employee within the borough, you can also have your say soon. If teachers are to be allowed permits then so should every other type of employee within a CPZ.


The latest money spinner is finally arriving, issuing penalties for moving traffic contraventions, or in the case of yellow box junctions, not moving when you should be.

It was back on 1 May 2012 that most of the staff who responded to challenges to PCN were made redundant when their jobs were moved to Croydon. Now 12 roles are coming back to Barnet (hurrah) (and assuming councillors vote in favour which seems likely) and hopefully this increased local knowledge will lead to better decisions being made. 


Mr Mustard promises to put the new team through their paces.

Be warned though, that the council intend to make a packet out of the new contraventions. You will need to up your driving game. Computers will watch your every move and miss nothing.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

p.s. your second car will be a flat rate £70 and not based on emissions at all, so you might as well order that 3.5 litre monster.

24 January 2015

Resident permit - utter chaos & stress



Mr Mustard is professionally very busy so if always pleased when a resident comes up with a blog ready written for him such as this one. It also demonstrates clearly how residents are not being well served by Crapita's Coventry call centre and that their systems are far from cutting edge. Staff attititude also clearly leaves something to be desired which is understandable given that the employee is in a call centre which probably doesn't figure highly on the list of jobs that people want to do as a vocation. This would not happen if permits were issued locally by someone with an interest in helping people and Barnet.

Dear Mr Mustard

Just to pre-warn you of chaos with on-line permit renewal. On 11th January I received an e-mail over a month before expiry, which I thought was the height of efficiency. I went on-line, as instructed, to renew, filled in all the boxes (as you do) entered my card etc details, and pressed PAY. The resulting page stated ‘Your payment has been accepted, however the Parking Office could not fully complete the transaction. Please contact the Parking Office for more information’.

I phoned the parking office, and was told they had problems with their system they could not resolve, and would I phone back next week (if Crapita are providing a service to residents shouldn't they have arranged to call the resident back?). I phoned today, the 21st, and was informed that the Parking Office had no new permit showing on line, which must mean that my payment was not taken (interesting logic there!).

My details were then taken to ‘create’ a new permit. During that process the issue arose as to whether this was a first or second (or third permit). The system only allowed ‘second or third permit’, and (surprise surprise) these were £70. I explained that on-line on the 13th the system had invited renewal at £40.

I was then told my permit had been created, but that I needn’t pay now, I could phone back nearer my existing permit expiry date and pay then. Thinking that I could not endure another lengthy telephone call, and repeating my vehicle and address details for the umpteenth time, I would pay now. An audible sigh issued from the other end of the phone.

After the taking of payment I was told my new permit would be issued nearer the time, which I wait to receive, along with my bank statement to check whether I have in fact paid twice.

My determination was because a couple of years back there was a ticket on my car at 9am the day following permit expiry with no reminder from Barnet. What utter chaos and stress this system produces! I can’t wait for my disabled badge!!!!!!!

Regards

Mr B

What could possibly me easier than renewing a permit for a resident? A child of 10 could do it.

Why can't Crapita manage it?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

19 January 2015

Barnet Libraries Consultation: A Sham

Barnet Libraries Consultation: A Sham

A Joint Letter from the Barnet Bloggers to the Leader of Barnet Council

Barnet Bloggers are appalled by reported plans to outsource libraries and make them available to commercial exploitation to companies such as Starbucks and Waterstones. The real purpose of proposals to cut and shut libraries in Barnet is now clear.

In April 2013, a High Court ruling found that Barnet Council had failed in its obligation properly to consult residents over the imposition of the whole scale privatisation of local public services, known then as ‘One Barnet’.

The Judicial Review which had reached this conclusion found that legal challenge had been brought too late, and therefore the two massive contracts with Capita, agreed by the Conservative administration, are now in place for a period of at least ten years.

After narrowly being returned to power the new administration has, as predicted, rushed ahead with new plans to outsource most of the remaining services, at the same time as launching plans to impose devastating cuts in budget.

As a result, we now face devastating plans to slash the funding of our library service by a staggering 60%, a disproportionate and punitive amount which is clearly agreed as a means of preparing the argument for yet another act of privatisation.

Councillors have been presented with a report with three equally damaging options for the future of Barnet Libraries, and residents encouraged to take part in what we believe to be a deeply flawed and subjective consultation process, one which an independent report has described as not fit for purpose:

https://www.scribd.com/doc/253017634/Topline-Findings-From-Research-Into-Barnet-Council-s-Library-Reforms

Now we are faced with new information which, if true, would suggest that far from learning the lessons of the Judicial Review, the authority’s latest consultation process, as well as being deliberately designed to minimise opposition to the three options, is itself a complete irrelevance, and that the outcome of the council’s consideration of the three options is already agreed in principle, if not in detail.

And if this is dialogue is typical of the way in which potential business partners negotiate with the authority, it would also raise serious and wider questions over the integrity of the procurement process in Barnet, past and present.

http://wwwbrokenbarnet.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/exclusive-so-others-can-get-cut-of.html

Whatever the opinions of residents, it seems that there will be closure and sale of library buildings, and the outsourcing of our library service, engineered so as to provide opportunities for commercial exploitation by private contractors.

Such an outcome would be simply unacceptable, and indeed would be an unlawful decision taken in complete disregard of the democratic process.

We ask Councillor Richard Cornelius, leader of the Conservative administration, immediately to halt the discredited consultation currently in place, remove the library proposals from the budget cuts about to be imposed, and to launch an independent investigation into the alleged subversion of the due process of democratic engagement that should decide the governance of our borough, and hold the authority to account in a way that is fair, and transparent.

Derek Dishman
John Dix
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne

14 January 2015

Losing your freedom (pass)


Click here for the Freedom pass council website

Hi there,

Me again.

I wonder if you can tweet, and get the other bloggers to tweet, that old people’s passes and Disabled Persons Freedom Passes are about to expire at the end of March, and whilst the Council are telling old people, and sending them out renewal forms, they are not sending reminders/renewals out to the disabled.

I only realised that my daughter’s Disabled Persons Freedom Pass was due to expire when my elderly Mother in Law asked me for help with her renewal. I emailed the Council to be told that they are not reminding the Disabled. (Why are the council in existence if not to help the less advantaged in society? Mr M.) Are they hoping the disabled will not realise, saving Barnet some money, as usual to the detriment of the vulnerable, disadvantaged and disabled?

Perhaps this is Barnet’s idea of an April Fool? April 1st is when the disabled (and the bus drivers who will also get the grief) will find out they have been shafted. And of course no cash fares either now.

Kind regards