Here is one of my Freedom of Information requests that is one of the 175 that Cllr Thomas claimed cost an average of £225 to answer ( 9 hours work at £25 ). This one should not have taken more than 15 minutes and by having asked it Mr Mustard hopes that someone at Barnet Council will reflect on how much should be spent in the future i.e. smaller sums.
I can confirm the following:
The cost of hall hire for the Finchley & Golders Green Residents' forums on the following occasions
5 January 2011 - Avenue House - £180.00.
9 March 2011 - St Michael’s Church Hall - £50.00
23 June 2011 - Greek Cypriot Neighbourhood Centre - £120.00
14 September 2011 - Trinity Church Centre - £106.00
The cost of hall hire for the Chipping Barnet Residents’ forums on the following occasions -
17 January 2011 - East Barnet School - £105.00
22 February 2011 - Chipping Barnet Library - £168.00
23 June 2011 - Coppetts Wood School - £247.50
20 September 2011 - All Saints Art Centre - £30.00
The cost of hall hire for the Hendon Residents' forums on the following occasions -
18 January 2011 - Sangam Centre - £175.00
15 March 2011 - Barnet Multicultural Centre - £100.00
23 June 2011 - Sangam Centre - £200.00
12 September 2011 - Copthall School - £420.00
So in Hendon the cost varies from £50 to £180 which is quite a large variance. There would need to be a good reason to spend more than £50 if that particular room is adequate.
Mr Mustard attends the Chipping Barnet forums. The All Saints hall was not worth tuppence, never mind £30. What Mr Mustard doesn't get is the complete waste of time of one department of the council charging another department for the use of the meeting room at the library. This is just moving money from one pocket of your trousers to another one. The same goes for schools ( at least until they become academies ) and why does one school charge £105 and the other £247 - it's bonkers.
There is an administration cost on top of the actual payment. Again, interesting variation in the room hire charge from £30 to £247.50
As to the Hendon Residents forum it looks like Copthall School are having a good go at fixing any holes in their budget. £420 for 2 or 3 hours of use - ridiculously expensive. How many council buildings sit empty of an evening that could be used for nothing. Inflation seems to have hit the Sangam Hall with a price increase in 6 months of 14% although you could still have two meetings there for the price of one at Copthall School and indeed 4 at the Barnet Multicultural Centre.
If council officers were spending their own money would they perhaps enquire a little closer into costs and keep them down?