21 September 2011

The Arts Centre - An awful venue is just right for the Residents Forum

Mr & Mrs Mustard went to the forum, apparently, but this was news to both parties and could lead to a bigamy charge but more of that later.

Mr Mustard had not been to the All Saints Arts Centre before and was looking forward to it. He had visions of it being like the Old Bull Theatre but more modern somehow. This is what it says about the Arts Centre on their website:

The Arts Centre is situated in All Saints' Church Hall and was converted to Arts use in the 1980s. With a capacity of 365 the large hall...

and this,

Proscenium arch. Performing area 7.23m x 7m. For dance, the Theatrespace has an interior sprung floor and there is a reversible Harlequin floor that can be used here or in the Studio. The Theatrespace seats a maximum of 365, raked. Height to ceiling 6.1m - tab track, and black / brown reversible cyclorama. Lighting is available, with a Zero 88:24 board, 2 x 30A single phase supplies, 5 spots, and 20 fresnels.
The Studio space is suitable for use as dressing rooms for the Theatrespace or for small events in its own right. The performing area is variable, up to 6.71m x 3.66m, with the height to the apex of the ceiling 7.62m. Floor, wood no rake. Seats 50.

There were no photographs on the website which is unusual. Mr Mustard found out why. The parts he saw were a ghastly hovel. Now Mr Mustard knows that it isn't the venue that makes the people

Mr Mustard had a busy evening planned. He didn't really want to be too long at the forum but the timetable went awry from the off. Mr Mustard likes to be on time. He was 20 minutes early. A couple of confused looking council officers were wandering about. They wandered into the church hall and found that the regular weekly Taekwondo class was in progress; they probably thought about staying there as being the soft option, rather than facing a rabble of rebellious residents but they did reappear and found some chairs and set up some tiny uncomfortable chairs in a filthy, dark ( no-one knew where the light switch was ) junk filled room. Mr Mustard thinks that it was in fact the studio space. ( Trading Standards need to pop round and consider whether the Trade Descriptions Act has been broken )

This lady was wandering round in the car park looking lost 

please imagine her wearing red, as she was
and was a bit flustered and saying that she didn't think much of this venue.

Now the next time Mr Mustard saw this lady she was sat on the "top table" ( trestle table actually but let's not be too picky ) and it turned out that she is Cllr Kate Salinger. Mr Mustard accepts that you were disgusted by the venue councillor, as you don't normally hold your meetings quite so close to the gent's urinal, but what the episode told Mr Mustard, and what Mr Reasonable was to complain about later in respect of the sudden closure of leisure facilities in Barnet, is that no-one has done their homework & there has been no forward planning. There cannot have been an equalities assessment carried out. 

By the way Reverend Benjamin there is a trolley from Tesco's round the back of your hall ( among loads of junk that we had to walk past ) that someone has confiscated. Don't you think that their property should be returned to them?

Cllr Salinger is now going off to check the Arkley Village Hall. Save the petrol councillor, just take a look at their website, it looks fine. The only bit that isn't fine with Mr Mustard is that it will cost a minimum of £120 to hire and if there are council buildings that are in effect free then they should be used whenever possible.

The meeting was a little late in starting and a number of people had gone home again as they had better things to do than to wander around a site that houses a church, a school and a church hall trying to find a meeting. 

To the meeting. Cllr Salinger starts well. She apologises for the venue and says we will not be here again ( she didn't say "lessons have been learnt" but that was the gist of it just like on MetPro and the whole question of procurement - it really is not an appealing argument ) but she is prepared to carry on. Carry On at the Forum - the carry on capers actually get the tone of the forums about right. 

Then she reads out the rules for at least 3 minutes. Is it the exercise of democracy to put your residents into a straitjacket councillor? 

A well known activist Julian Silverman then tried to hijack the meeting by saying he wanted to debate stopping One Barnet. Cllr Salinger wasn't having any of that and she attacked ( in a very gentle manner! that famous phrase "like being savaged by a dead sheep" came to mind ) and said it was not for us to decide about One Barnet ( did she mean us the councillors or us the forum on behalf of the residents - no matter - we have no say on One Barnet, never have had a say ad never will have a say - well not until the ballot box comes around again in 2014 ). He could have a private meeting outside and she told him he shouldn't be here as he didn't live in Chipping Barnet ( Mr Mustard would have objected to his ejection, although crammed into the tiny space that we were it would have been like the keystone cops trying to get him out, as the Residents Forums are a public meeting ) and she finished by saying if you don't like the rules to take it up with the Council Leader. I wonder how his deaf ear is today?

On to the business. Handouts were provided of petitions and questions raised. The column was headed "Issue raised" Mr Mustard really does not like the word "issue" - if the list contains questions and petitions why not say so?

Item 1 - Residents of Sellwood Drive don't want to get parking tickets for parking on the pavement. It looks like they aren't going to be ticketed in the future.

#2 - Residents of Milton Avenue want the CPZ extending down their road just for 1 hour per day. They would be delighted to pay £100 each for the pleasure. Be careful what you wish for in Milton Avenue. Next year, unless the judicial review is succesful, the charge might be £250 or £500, whatever number Brian thinks is a good one. This will take months or years to study and implement. However, as was observed, the free bays were taken away overnight. The council can move fast when it suits them. What a cynic was in the audience that night.

#3 - A long debate about taking away the light controlled crossing for pedestrians at the junction of Oakleigh Rd North and the High Rd where the lights are still bagged over which was contrasted with the similar lights on the other side of the High Rd in Totteridge Lane where the lights have been again turned on follwoing intervention by the ward member there. Oh dear, one rule for Totteridge and another one for other wards. Of course that junction does need lights for pedestrians.

#4 - Mr Reasonable complained about QE Girls School lesiure facilities closing with no notice. Cllr Salinger said that was because it was now an academy ( and so has escaped the control of Barnet Council ). Mr R understood that perfectly and pointed out the lack of forward planning., the lousy reputation of Barnet Council for leisure, the lack of public leisure facilities in Barnet, and that things were utterlu unacceptable. Cllr Salinger could do no more than "hope" that access could be arranged. Bob Hope or no hope?

You are wrong Mr R about Barnet being appalling at leaisure - they always make full use of the spa facilities at the Sandbanks Hotel on the teachers' conferences. And the swimming pool, and the beach, and the bar and the fine restaurant.

#5 - Mr R again asking when PayPoint would be ready for use. Another public flogging for the poor Highways Manager, who has had to suffer a drastic cut in the size of his team and still do the same amount of work, and the flogging should probably have gone to the Parking Manager ( not there ) and the legal officer. Lambasted for going off half-cocked and lack of advance planning. PayPoint from October but don't hold your breath.

#5.5 - Mr R asked about his missing question which ahd not been listed because it was said to breach the constitution. Mr R has read the constituion several times and can quoyte from it at will. The councillor has had 3 lots of advice and as they conflict she is going to get a fourth opinion. That will help? Cllr Salinger is going to write to Mr R with an explanation. Then Mr R attacked the badly drafted constituiton and Cllr Salinger agreed ( she didn't say what steps she had taken to improve it though ).

There was then some discussion, started by the lady sitting on my left, Mrs Angry, about the whole structure of the forums. Now this was a complete political hot potato and so having been on a course entitled "Take the Chair" run by Successful Speeches ( Cllr Longstaff wasn't on this course ) Cllr Salinger decided to accuse Mrs Angry of being married to Mr Mustard ( except that she had no idea who either of them were ) and once suitable protestations of innocence ( well at least in that matter ) had been made we got away from our non-marital differences back to the matter in hand. Cllr Longstaff was invited to say a few words and they were "Shut up & listen" - is he in the right job. His apology wasn't very gracious either. Someone will stick the golden boot in one day.

Mr Reasonable stuck his in and pointed out that councillors had ignored the advice from officers about forum structure. Doh. Dr Hines asked how if forums related to just one subject they could possibly deal with cross-cutting matters? They can't and there wasn't an answer. Actually there as an answer, it was "no idea". She is honest is Cllr Salinger. Someone else suggested better webspace for forums. The whoe, site is being rewritten at present which is long overdue and doubtless very expensive. After 10 minutes about democracy we moved on to street lighting which both Mr & Mrs Angry-Mustard are keen on. I'll meet you under the usual lampost tonight Mrs A? pretenting to get your cat down.

#6 -We then had a sensible if somewhat hard to follow talk by the Highways Manager about how not replacing lampposts to save money and then replacing the very same lampposts would not cost anything? Mr Mustard might be in need of another thousand pieces of paper to be convinced about this one. Barnet Council are going to spend £4.9m on energy saving devices to dim or turn off street lights and save £200,000 to maybe £400,000 a year. So breakeven could be 25 years away?

A widow who lived in a cul-de-sac was rightly concerned that the lights would be turned off and it would be unsafe for her to get home at night. Although Enfield Council experimented with turning off some street lights and dimming others they will not be turned off in Barnet, period ( remember you read it here first ). That is until they are of course! The answer is to keep an eye on your streetlights and if they are too dim for your liking to complain to the council.

#7 - Yellow lines to be painted on the corners of Pulle, Calvert & Sebright roads so that the road does not get blocked by parked cars. The problem supposedly is that this will, according to Cllr Longstaffe, take away quite a lot of parking. What nobody thought about, or doesn't know, is that the Highway Code says not to park within 10m of a junction. Safety and access should come before parking. It seems that Cllr Bridget Perry lives in one of these roads and another resident said she is "very anti-everything going on". Great. Clrr Salinger banged it off to the environment sub-cimmitte. No messing.

#8 - Same roads and they want to park on the pavement. A bad idea as it ruins the pavement and you couldn't get a pram or a wheelchair down there. The pavements are very narrow. If you keep pushing for a CPZ down there it will probably end up with you only being able to park on one side of the road but at least ambulances and fire engines will be able to get through which is surely worth the cost of losing some parking spaces? You have purchased houses in a narrow street; it really can't be made any wider than it is.

#9 - Parking in St Albans Rd. This "A" road just outside High Barnet is now getting parked up for hundreds of metres because of the huge increase in parking charges. You can't blame people for parking for free although there are safer suggestions on this blog as to where to aprk for less or for free.

Updates from the previous meeting

Item 1 - Residents want a yellow line outside Barnes Court. No-one had turned up to speak about their question and the answer was "Bollards".

#2 - Monkfirth School want their lollipop team back. The school can have it. They simply have to organise and pay for it.

#3 - A petition to save Friern Barnet Library. The resident who orgainised the petition of 1739 signatures is talking to councillors and Cllr Salinger was delighted about this. To Mr Mustard's mind this is all wrong. We have local councils so that services can be provided in a hopefully cost effective manner for the good of all and paid for by all ( subject to ability to pay ) and to take on work as a volunteer on behalf of the council is to in effect carry out the duties of a librarian and possibly deprive a qualified person of work. If we can perhaps volunteer to do any of the council jobs then the famous five Barnet bloggers would like to share the posts of Chief Executive and Chief Financial Officer between them.

#4 - The safety issue near Friern Barnet Town Hall where schoolchildren do what they do which is to run into the road to catch the bus. It will be years before it gets resolved.

#5 - Please resurface my road and the applicant was not there so we moved swiftly on.

#6 - Residents inbetween Friern Barnet Rd & Colney Hatch Lane have carried out their own traffic survey to prove that their roads are a rat run. Are they near Tesco's Mrs Angry? Once the North Circular is finished ( Mr Musatrd has seen the works on that road continue for over 20 years already ) this will be looked at.

#7 - ASBO behaviour. What are the council doing. Mr Mustard had his pseudo wife Mrs Angry next to him and she is Barnet's leading authority on this subject. Instead we had to listen to a rambling and almost content-less speech from Cllr Longstaff about the 3 year strategy of the multi agency panel as if that would be of any help tomorrow when you are afraid to come out of your home. Perhaps every councillor should be made to go and live for a week on an estate chosen by their electorate to see if they think differently afterwards about Barnet's estates and whether something needs doing today about the problems. 

#8/9 - Speeding. Barnet Council are working closely with the police who apparently cannot afford to calibrate their speed gun except, by some strange quirk of fate, in Totteridge Ward. 

The meeting was over.  Hurrah. Then Julian Silverman told everyone that the next meeting was at the Greek-Cyprio Centre in Britannia Rd N12 on 4 October at 7pm and you can ask what you like and have an unrestricted discussion. Cllr Salinger looked really confused at this point and turned for guidance to the democratic services officer on her left for guidance but none was forthcoming. that's because it's the alternative residents forum clouncillor. You really should keep your ear closer to the ground. It has been organised by the Barnet Alliance for Public Services as they want to debate One Barnet and other matters. You are welcome to go along and see what it is about. Mr Mustard hopes to.. It is nothign to do with Mr Mustard who is compeletly independent of any organisation and has his own agenda.

And then thank goodness at about 7.30 we all went home. Mrs Angry to hers and Mr Mustard to his, honest.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


  1. One thing which interested me last night which I forgot to write about was the remark made by Cllr Salinger that councillors ie the local ones were no longer supposed to speak at Forums. At both Forums this rule has been ignored, whilst residents are still silenced and expected to comply with censorship of the issues they wish to raise.Something wrong here, I think ...

    Oh dear, the word verification is 'clegg'.

  2. Have just looked at the council's rules for the forum which include "Attendance at the Forums is open to anyone". Cllr Salinger owes Mr Silverman an apology for making him unwelcome.

  3. The Members Code of Conduct states (Paragraph 3)

    (1) You must treat others with respect.
    (2) You must not:-
    (a) do anything which may cause your authority to breach any of the
    equality enactments (as defined in section 33 of the Equality Act 2006);
    (b) bully any person;
    (c) intimidate or attempt to intimidate any person who is or is likely to
    (i) a complainant,
    (ii) a witness, or
    (iii) involved in the administration of any investigation or proceedings, in relation to an allegation that a member (including yourself) has failed to comply with his or her authority's code of conduct; or
    (d) do anything which compromises or is likely to compromise the impartiality of those who work for, or on behalf of, your authority

    It would appear that Cllr Golden Arse is in breach of parts 1, 2a, 2b and 2c of the code. Perhaps someone should make a formal complaint?

  4. I think all of these clauses are broken on a corporate scale at all Forums now ...


I now moderate comments in the light of the Delfi case. Due to the current high incidence of spam I have had to turn word verification on.