29 June 2011

A large cappucino would have taken longer

Mr Mustard prefers tea but occasionally he has a coffee. If he had gone to his local coffee shop and ordered a large cappuccino and then drunk it he suspects that 22m could easily pass by.

Instead at 7pm this evening he found himself in the confines of committee rooms 1/2 at Hendon Town Hall where there was more froth than on the largest cappuccino and it was all deflated by 7.22pm

The Cabinet Resources Committee were having a coffee morning meeting and in charge of the kettle was Cllr Thomas. Boy-o does he talk fast. He also had better things to do as he went at the agenda like a mad thing.

By 7.01 he had signed the minutes, noted the absence of Cllr Coleman at an LGA conference ( no-one seemed to care as nothing was said by anyone about his absence. Mr Mustard has checked what Cllr Coleman is up to and hysterically Cllr Coleman has gone to a conference in Birmingham - oh dear that will be some taxi fare - on the subject of, wait for it, Localism Works. Mr Mustard hopes that Cllr Coleman pays full attention to the theory and then implements the practical.

Needless to say no member had any personal interest in any items on the agenda ( Mr Mustard doubts that they had any interest at all of any sort ) and no questions had been submitted for Public Question Time but then the public are tired of platitudinous replies that don't answer the question so that can be understood.

Then Cllr Thomas had the nerve to say " That brings us on to the substantial items". Public Questions are not insubstantial Cllr Thomas - you would be well to remember that. Without the public questions on MetPro where would be be ?

Then a minor tragedy; some text was apparently missing from page 6 but the whole report is just 200 pages of fluff so no-one had noticed.

When asked for questions Cllr Harper piped up about E&O budgets and then the Director of O&E spoke about parking tickets being issued by enough staff and ensuring that they were enforcing all rules. It's funny isn't it that the public have to follow rules about where they can drive but the Council don't have to follow their own procurement rules. A £60 fine for every transgression would soon have procurement in order. She went on about bus lane contraventions and lots of visitor voucher being purchased at the old price and she meant lots ( well it doesn't take a genius to work out if baked beans go up from £1 to £4 then you are going to lay in enough stock to get you through a few winters ) and then Mr Mustard's notes say "loads of waffle" - to go with the froth and the fluff he supposes.

Cllr Harper was sticking his portfolio about tonight - shame that you were not there to see it Mrs Angry - and he asked about the costs of waste and collection.  The Director of O&E had her answer ready ( was the meeting rehearsed like a bad episode of World Wrestling ) that NLWA had been releasing reserves to meet shortfalls and there will be a report in the autumn; so having avoided the ordure for now, apparently it will hit the fan in the autumn.

The leader mumbled up and asked about waste minimisation and there was the Director again saying that recycling rates were not going up ( despite all the money paid to May Gurney which Mr Mustard is going to blog about soon, honest guv, he just needs to find out which legal idiot signed the Contract ) and that they were looking at Windsor & Maidenhead for aspiration ( I think she meant inspiration but what's an ass between friends ? ) where they recycle 47% ( well done Queenie ) and across the 7 NWLA boroughs they recycle an average of 29% ( Mr Mustard aspires quite heavily when putting his recycling boxes out but knows his limits unlike Barnet council ). The Director was looking ahead - she will go far - hopefully far far away ? The levy - on landfill ? - not specified - is big pressure coming soon.

So 7.09pm the report at item 5 was agreed. Its easy being a Councillor - any idiot could do it - oh, they already do. Sorry.

7.09pm was very busy as item 6 then got agreed, no ifs no buts no nothing.

Cllr Thomas was off waxing lyrical again about item 7 - The New Support & Customer Services Organisation Business Case. He could see the benefits - everyone wins ( the staff can see the benefits coming all right - unemployment benefit, housing benefit - you get the picture ). Most prudent picture shows £2.8m of saving over 10 years ( can this be stood up - no more than a drunk at closing time ) A good piece of work, very thorough. Mr Mustard had an eye problem recently so he has to be careful not to let his eyes roll too far as they were doing at hearing this utter rubbish. No-one will be held accountable when it turns out to cost £5m more.

Now I see what The Barnet Eye means about Ramsbottom to give him the less colourful name. This report highlights what OneBarnet is all about. Council can focus on residents and customers. What by outsourcing customer services - how stupid can one person be ? The Council don't have the money to invest in customer services he said - what none of the £900m you spend every year ? I can't type any more of his idiotic drivel.

I think that it was at this point that the HR consultants quietly left the room writing their P45s as they went.

Cllr Harper then got his portfolio out again - he is always up for a question that man. He was delighted with new lower cost services for schools ( implying that the Council had been overcharging them for years - ooh, bit of an own goal there I think ) and he had no problem whatsoever with the business case ( don't look for problems and you don't find them is Mr Mustard's experience ). It was the right thing to be doing - he had obviously taken his full dose of OneBarnet blue pills that morning. Point 3.2 on page 71 concerned him - Mr Mustard does not know why as it was standard OneBarnet mantra drivel and he wanted Cllr Rams to reassure him that everything would be all right. Cllr Rams duly gave Cllr Harper his personal assurance that is was one of the key things he would keep an eye on ( so that's all right then ? ).

Cllr Cornelius, the Leader of the Council, can any reader tell Mr Mustard of any great leaders who mumbled inaudibly ? then mumbled that he was particularly reassured by points 1.2 & 1.3 that the  "authority to award Contract remains with the Cabinet Resources Committee" which makes Mr Mustard think that he might get OneBarnet nerves and refuse to jump when the fence rears up in front of him. He said the devil will be in the detail ( oh dear officers you are going to have to do some work ) and this needs much greater member scrutiny ( oh dear Councillors you are going to have to do some work ). 

Then just when Mr Mustard was starting to like the way he was talking Cllr Cornelius ruined the illusion of competence by saying that there was a typo on page 60 which proved he had read the report. No-one had doubted it Cllr Cornelius except now Mr Mustard does doubt it. Not be be outdone Cllr Harper then piped up that there was something missing on pages 74-75 and just for a minute all the Councillors got interested in the report and actually started reading it, a pleasure which they had possibly until then denied themselves. There is a sentence missing but it is in the background information section so it will just be a load of old toffee.

Cllr Thomas didn't want to be left out and he had been quiet for at least 5 minutes and so he started to say how few complaints there were about leisure facilities and how well maintained they were - Mr Mustard always wondered whose signature that was in the toilets saying they had been inspected in the last hour and now he knows - and thus Barnet Council had a good history - his visit to the Audit Committee having as permanent a record in his brain as the record of MetPro in the books of the SIA. He then thanked Unison for the critique they had sent - of which much had not even been included in the report presented to the committee meeting - and they will work with the Unions - just like farmers work with turkeys at Christmas maybe ?

So 7.19 pm came and item 7 on the agenda was duly nodded through ( not to suggest of course that Councillors were asleep at their posts - perish the thought ) and at 7.20 pm items 8 & 9 flew past and item 10 about the Grahame Park regeneration, about which Cllr Cornelius started to mumble about big ambitions in response to Cllr Harper's question about big risks led to the report being agreed at 7.22 and the public being ejected ( asked to leave ) before we found out exactly how much of our money, with which the Council are so generous, was being deferred until July 2012 from Choices for Grahame Park Ltd a company with a £20 share capital. Lets hope their finances are more secure than those for Connaught Partnerships Ltd ( in administration.) Mr Mustard has just checked and CfGP, as it is known, was worth negative £69,138 ( i.e. worth less than nothing ) at 31 March 2010. Did you check that Councillors before agreeing to lend money to it ? Schoolboys do more homework than you do.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Nick Walkley


  1. Reading the Pinkham Way blogs, I think Barnet is rattled more than the other six (not eight) boroughs in the North London Waste Authority.

    The other boroughs have it in for Barnet. I can't quite work out why.

  2. I know surrounding boroughs are hardly perfect, but Barnet seems to be in a league of its own, in not replacing its inadequate housing during the Blair boom of the Naughties, - "Repairing the roof, while the sun shone", to use the government's phrase.

    It is now trying to do so in a much harsher climate, of course.

    I have read that it has agreed with a housing association not to be paid until 2012, to allow sale receipts to be used to keep the show on the road. I presume this is legitimate, but you, Mr Mustard, are closer to the action - at least until you got turfed out.

  3. Thank you Baarnett - my handwritten notes did indeed say 7 boroughs and so I have coorected the original. Good to see that you read things so closely.

    I am not sure if a housing association can go bust but if it has a subsidiary that is a Ltd company then of course that can.

  4. How dare you make jokes about Andrew Harper's portfolio (copyright Mrs Angry 2011) ... in fact I think you were showing far too much interest than is healthy. So competitive,you boys.
    Yes, Cornelius as leader is a right old mumbler, isn't he? Needs to take lessons in ranting from Cllr Coleman.
    As for that Dan Thomas, Mrs Angry cannot hear him speak without wishing to give him a kick in the shin, which is shameful, of course, but really, in one so young, such self satisfaction is quite extraordinarily irritating.
    Do you think you should remember to put question marks at the end of your rhetorical questions, Mr Mustard, in future?

  5. I acknowledge the copyright of Mrs Angry to all jokes about Cllr Harper's portfolio. I wouldn't have touched on it but Cllr Harper himself said the word, possibly for the benefit of Mrs Angry although she wasn't at the meeting.

    Dan Thomas has today deleted unread an email from a council tax payer about tonight's meeting. Mr Mustard finds that to be disgraceful behaviour. There will be payback - probably on these pages.

    Will I put question marks at the end of my rhetorical questions in the future I wonder ???


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