30 April 2011

Non-job #6.6 ? Head of Insight's empire

There are probably more spare bodies in the Insight empire as the headcount is 6.6 people ! ( see earlier blog )

The Gazetteer Officer has real work to do as follows :-
  • To manage and maintain both the Corporate Land and Property Gazetteer (LLPG) database, the Corporate Street Gazetteer (LSG) and Highway Register, being responsible for both accuracy and currency.
  • To perform duties as required to fulfil the responsibilities of the Council’s LLPG and LSG Custodian roles
  • To build and maintain strong collaborative working arrangements with the Council’s Street Naming & Numbering function, and with relevant services across the council, to ensure standards and conventions for the LLPG are adhered to
  • Work collaboratively across the Insight team support the effective commissioning of services to deliver the outcomes Barnet residents expect
And as if often the case this person has the lowest salary in the department (empire), a mere £25-£30k.

Now as for the Geographic Data Analyst there is a much more BarnetOneSpeak "purpose of job"

To manage the Council’s corporate geographic data and other related datasets through the implementation of a corporate spatial data warehouse in order that data is stored in and accessed from one dedicated source creating efficiencies and allowing more holistic analysis.
To support the Corporate GIS Manager in the management and delivery of the Council’s Corporate Geographic Information Systems (on both the Internet and Intranet) and increase the scope of self service analysis across the Council and its partners to help achieve a one public service agenda and delivery efficiency savings
Use spatial data to support the Head of Insight and Corporate GIS Manager to develop research and analysis which enable effective commissioning of services which deliver the outcomes Barnet residents expect

I hope you followed that Councillors or did you lose your way in the spatial data warehouse ? Is it time you got a bit more interested in the number, salaries and duties of all of the staff that are employed by the Council behind the scenes ? Answers on a postcard ( in the case of the leader.... )

The Insight department costs about £220,000 in salaries alone to run. Adding overheads probably doubles that. It's time for some pruning and the money saved could be spent on Church Farmhouse Museum.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Anyone want to guess how many posts it might be possible to cut from back office without affecting front line services one iota ?

Is this non-job #5 - " Consultation & Insight Officer "

So here is the job description for this "job" with my comments in red as usual.
  • To support staff across the council in developing coherent consultation and engagement activity with residents, to deliver the council’s objective of a ‘New relationship with citizens’ as part of Future Shape ( great, only required to support staff, don't actually have to do any work & you wouldn't develop incoherent consultations now would you ? )
  • To organise and take responsibility for the bi-annual place and staff surveys ( the identity of anyone who leaks these will be kept confidential - the reports will be really interesting )
  • To share best practice in consultation and engagement activities with staff across the council, in collaboration with the Internal Comms Manager ( Internal Communications Manager ! - I feel another non-job coming on )
  • To work in collaboration with other members of the Insight Team to provide qualitative and quantitative data and insight that contributes to Barnet Council’s understanding of its residents, service users and citizens. ( if Barnet Council understood its residents at all it wouldn't take away wardens from old folks, hike parking and allotment charges, remove parking meters, employ bully boy security guards, try and outsource everything, pay officers more than £100k p.a., put up Councillors' allowances etc etc - add your own items in the comments box please )  

So that looks like another £35-£40k that could usefully be saved.

The incumbent appears to have been at Barnet since she left Middlesex University 12 years ago. It might be time for her to go and try the real world ? It would be awful to go through life thinking that the goings on at Barnet Council were normal.

29 April 2011

Is this non-job #4 ? "Head of Insight"

What on earth does a "Head of Insight" do.

According to the Job Description he does the following ( my comments in red ) :-
  • Lead and further develop the strategic Insight Team to create a ‘hub and spoke’ model to deliver insight for the Council and its partners.( why not just employ management with some insight ? and look at the history of services which have been supplied for many years without needing a Head of Insight )
  • Lead a programme of research and analysis to enable effective commissioning of services which deliver the outcomes Barnet residents expect. ( the Council has no intention of supplying expected services; it is only interested in outsourcing everything and hasn't fully considered the cost implications or the lack of flexibility that leads to - just look at the extra costs for items outside of the contract in PFI deals - which are themselves going out of fashion )
  • Act as the professional lead for the Council and partners as appropriate for research, intelligence and analysis. ( always provided that you come up with the correct answer )
and for this he gets about £50,000 p.a.

I think that if this post was simply scrapped the work of Barnet Council would continue without any noticeable effect upon service. If the entire EasyCouncil / OneBarnet / FutureShape teams were sent home I think that services would automatically improve as the focus of management would be on day to day tasks.

The incumbent of this post of "Head of Insight" is Sam Markey. This is how he describes himself on Twitter
"I'm an unashamed idealist, a walking wikipedia and an urgently optimistic man of faith." 
Now that seems a bit arrogant to me and ridiculous. Wikipedia in English contains 3,624,000 articles - older readers will remember Marvo the Memory Man and he didn't work at Barnet Council where people forget to arrange really important contracts ( MetPro anyone ? )

Take a look at his blog.

About Me
I have a masters degree in American Foreign Policy, a wall full of DVDS, an eye for a photo, a beautiful wife, a drummer's soul and a heart for God. I'm an academic, an unashamed idealist, an ambitious leader and a faithful follower. I'm recklessly hopeful, infectiously passionate and undeterably optimistic. I'm a work in progress, a (mostly) quiet revolutionary, an interdependent soul. I'm a fan of films, photography and fiction, a wordsmith (can you tell?), a drummer, a husband, a son, a brother. I'm still finding my way, but I trust that He will be there at every step.

You can add your own comment at the end of this blog. I am saying nothing.

Sadly, Insight doesn't stop at just one person. 6 people report in to Mr Markey as follows :-

Consultation and Insight Officer - £35-40k
GIS Development Manager - £40-45k
Geographic Data Analyst - £30-35k
Gazetteer Officer - £25-30k
Business Intelligence Officer (x2 - 1.6FTE) - £25-30k

I will come on to some of these posts in the next blog.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Looks like the Head of Insight might have been on as the first vote in the poll is in favour of keeping his post rather than Barnet Museum !!!

24 April 2011

Is this non-job #3 ? "Change & Innovation Manager" in E&O

This is the first in a series of non-job blogs ( the first 2 were of course April Fools' jokes )

You might need a double espresso to keep you going until the end of this rather long blog. Its not my fault, its all the Barnet OneSpeak twaddle.

So this post was created in March 2010 on a salary scale of £47,550 to £50,913. You can read the full Role Profile here.

I question why the post was created given that OneBarnet plans to out-source most things ?

It looks like a Herculean task to me. Let us just consider the "purpose of the job" as set out in the Role Profile with my comments added in red:-

The post holder will advise the Strategic Management Board on how to lead the E&O establishment in terms of organisational change and workforce planning, and the development of an operational culture based on the highest professional values. Working closely with the Strategic Management Board and Heads of Service, the manager will be responsible for the highest level advice and support in the implementation of change and innovation throughout the sub-services that fall under E&O. ( So before this post the Strategic Management Board were all at sea ? )

The post-holder will advise the Strategic Management Board and Heads of Service on how to apply creative and innovative thinking across the Council’s E&O service functions. This work will include the development of new ways of working in terms of service planning/delivery and new policies and procedures. In addition, the post-holder will help create new services and functions as well as significantly change existing services and functions within E&O. ( Once everything has been privatised this job will be the ultimate non-job and if I was the office holder I would be looking for a new job )

To lead in the delivery of the system thinking interventions and develop creative and innovative solutions to all aspects of the change and improvement restructuring project. (system thinking interventions - who makes up this guff ?)

If you can stand it, take a read of the Role Specific Responsibilities ( or skip to the end )

Lead for advising the management teams on how to ensure that Environment & Operations’ business systems are fit for current and future service needs (natch)

Advise the relevant senior manager on how to lead change management processes across the Directorate in a collaborative and consultative style with both internal staff and external stakeholders ( don't senior managers know about this stuff ? )

Acting as a catalyst for change through innovation and challenge, help senior managers create development strategies that enable the service to deliver its vision through the creation of a shared sense of purpose and an environment, which motivates and develops skills and transforms the management and quality of E&O service areas. ( do senior managers need a catalyst to get them moving ?)

Lead on the Directorate’s Communication Strategy and its delivery internally and externally ( how many communications people do Barnet need? There's an Assistant Director of this in the Chief Executives Department with 13 people reporting to him ).

Assist the directorate in developing and co-ordinating a transformation programme, which is to be delivered by Heads of Service.  ( Do as you are told ? )

• Undertake both primary and secondary research, apply analytical thinking, draw references and conclusions, which convert into change proposals for E&O services. ( Find justification for the planned privatisations ?)

Advise the Service Director and other appropriate officers on relevant issues relating to the transformation project to ensure compliance with the Council’s statutory duties.

Lead the process of creating the Council’s annual improvement plan, articulating E&O’s priorities for change, improvement, innovation and transformation. ( Isn't change another word for transformation ? )

Provide project management assistance to Heads of Service on best value reviews and monitor implementation of best value action plans. ( Best value ? Discuss in-built bias ? )

Lead on the review of quality systems and procedures throughout E&O service areas and in establishing new arrangement including subsequent auditing & monitoring. ( Monitoring, Barnet ? MetPro to you ! )

Lead E&O’s development of appropriate management information to assist Heads of Service in creatively planning and delivering their sub-services efficiently and effectively. ( Was the word standard omitted after sub ? )

Research, disseminate and apply innovative ideas and practices across E&O services, helping senior managers create new services and functions as well as significantly changing existing services and functions To make recommendations on new processes and improvements to existing processes and agree them with the Director of E&O. ( Yeah, great )

Now let's take a look at what the incumbent Mr Jonathan Tunde-Wright thinks. Not the shy and retiring type, he has a personal website. I have cut and paste from it.

I believe in Government but I also believe in community and accountability.
I believe in the wisdom of crowds but also recognise the insanity of the mob
I believe in an empowered networked society shaping its own direction and destiny;  but I also believe in strong and visionary leadership.
I believe in transparency and engagement but also recognise selfish ambitions and agendas.
I believe the workforce of any organisation (at all tiers) is its greatest asset and should be treated and utilised as such.
I believe in the power and importance of emotional intelligence.
I believe a vast majority of UK public sector workers are a noble and hard working breed.
I am persuaded that organisational culture eats strategy breakfast. ( what the f*ck ! )
I believe that true change and innovation stems from organic, grassroot and collaborative effort. ( grassroots, pl )
I believe in the power & potential of social media as a revolutionary concept .
I am a part-time PG student at the Warwick Business School (Masters in  Public Administration) 

I believe you should be thrown out on your ear and £50,000 saved. - MrMustard

I will leave you to form your own opinions about all that guff and if you can stand it you can find more on his website here 

If only Barnet would use Plain English we might understand what they were doing ?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

15 April 2011

Full Council Meeting - 12 April 2011 - more BarnetOneSpeak translations

Here are some more of the questions and answers from the Full Council Meeting of Tuesday evening, before democracy was dealt a further blow this evening in no uncertain terms:-
Question 8                                                                                                     Councillor Kath McGuirk
Would the Cabinet Member confirm if there are any areas which benefit from a free initial period on pay and display in Barnet?
Answer by Councillor Brian Coleman
There are two areas that benefit from a free initial period of 30 minutes. The first is Mowbray Parade in Edgware HA 8 and the second is Hampden Square N14. No other such schemes are envisaged and I am reviewing why we have these two.

Possible translation
There is a big hole in the budget and here is another idea in how to fill it. Local traders will suffer further misery but I've got a permit that lets me park anywhere or I take a taxi at your expense.
 Question 20                                                                                                  Councillor Alex Brodkin
Could the Leader advise if she will support the webcasting of council meetings, as well as a firm policy to enable the public to blog, tweet or otherwise record council meetings in future, and if not, why not?
Answer by Councillor Lynne Hillan, Leader of the Council
The decision not to allow filming in the Council Chamber was taken, not by this Administration, but by this Council. However, we are currently looking at the options and suggestions will be brought back to this Council for full debate.

Possible translation
A1. That's a trick question which I won't answer directly. I suppose that we will have to do what Eric Pickles MP says in the end but in the meantime we will just have to look stupid and then quietly allow it when no-one is looking as if we agreed all along what a good idea it is..
A2. We will spend £250,000 on a web broadcast system that doesn't work very well and for which we forgot to sign a DPR.
Question 22                                                                                     Councillor Alan Schneiderman
Will the Leader confirm: a) what the latest position is regarding Barnet being granted priority status on frozen Icelandic deposits; b) what the financial risk is of not being granted priority status; and c) if the relevant risk reserve fully covers the Council in the event priority status is not granted?
Answer by Councillor Daniel Thomas
On 1st April 2011, the Icelandic courts upheld the priority status of UK Local Authority deposits. This decision is subject to appeal. The budget report suggested that the cost of non-priority
status would be approximately £14m and this is the sum that we are building up in the risk reserve for 2011/12.

Possible translation

That's £14m up the swanny that could have been spent on maintaining front line services.

Question 24                                                                                                  Councillor Alison Moore
Would the Cabinet Member confirm what the status is of the implementation of the new revenues and benefits system?
Answer by Councillor Daniel Thomas
The new system went live on 18.2.11, it then had to close down for another week in order to recast benefits and set up the 2011/12 billings etc. The system came back on line 14.3.11. We are working with the various partner organisations to clear the issues that inevitably occur with a complete change of systems.
Possible translation

Other Councils have managed to change their systems at short notice without great problems but this is OneBarnet where things are different ( and not better ). Your guess is as good as mine as to when all Council Tax bills will be correct.

Question 28                                                                                                  Councillor Claire Farrier
Would the Cabinet Member please confirm that there is an agreement with out of borough allotment holders, that they pay the same charge for allotments in Barnet as Barnet residents. Would he please confirm the date of this agreement, and that it has not been rescinded.
Answer by Councillor Brian Coleman
The new charges for allotments which will be in effect from the 1st April 2012 include an increased charge for non-Barnet residents. This in line with charges for other services in the borough where residents are charged less than non-residents. I think it is right and proper that Barnet Council tax payers should receive a better deal on allotments than those residents of other Boroughs whose authorities have often sold their allotments for development.
Possible translation
I have increased rents for residents from £6 to £17 per pole and for non-residents, who might just happen to have moved to Potters Bar to retire and kept the allotment they have worked on for 40 years, from £12 to £34 per pole. That will teach them not to be disloyal and move out of Barnet. This is OneBarnet you know. They should have put their name on the 5 year waiting list at their new abode 5 years ago when no-one wanted an allotment and before they knew they were moving.

Question 31                                                                                                  Councillor Alison Moore
Would the Cabinet Member confirm exactly how much money has been lost to the Council as a result of the failure to advertise the correct charges in statutory notices about parking charge increases?
Answer by Councillor Brian Coleman
It is estimated that £93,000 of income will not be achieved due to the delay. The service will need to recover this sum through other efficiencies during the coming year.
Possible translation

We will issue another 930 parking tickets during the year, but none of them to Councillors with their free permits for every zone.

Question 32                                                                                                  Councillor Kath McGuirk
Following the government announcement that Barnet will receive around £420,000 towards the pothole fund, will the Cabinet Member confirm that he will reduce the proposed parking charge increases in proportion?
Answer by Councillor Brian Coleman
No, because the Government’s grant on potholes ( four times greater than that given to us by the last Labour Government) is an entirely separate matter to the need to return the Special Parking Account to the budgeted surplus.

Possible translation
Brilliant I can stuff CPZ residents for extra money and get some of it from the government as well. Double bubble.

Question 39                                                                                                 Councillor Alison Moore
Will the Leader confirm that speaking rights for all councillors at Council will be maintained?
Answer by Councillor Lynne Hillan, Leader of the Council
No. The Special Committee (Constitution Review) is currently considering council procedure rules on the rights of speakers and we await their recommendations.

Possible translation
All Councillors are equal. Some are more equal than others. Oink. ( see Mrs Angry's and Mr Reasonable's blogs on this subject shortly. I have to confess that being in the pub and coming second in the quiz was possibly a better use of time than sitting though yet another council meeting this evening about the Constitution - and boy do you need a strong constitution for Barnet Council meetings  )

Question 40                                                                                                 Councillor Alison Moore
Does the Cabinet Member’s publicly stated prejudice towards the private sector compromise the integrity of the options appraisal process in the One Barnet programme?

Answer by Councillor Robert Rams  

Possible translation
Call the fire brigade as my pants seem to be on fire.

Yours frugally ( with tongue only slightly in cheek )

Mr Mustard

13 April 2011

Cash cow yields to be increased

Yesterday evening at the full Council Meeting item 2.1 is questions to the Leader ( who was absent ) and Cabinet Members ( i.e. the inner circle of Councillors who take the big decisions - if your Councillor isn't one of them then he/she doesn't have much power - think Ikea rather than chippendale ! ). There were 40 questions.

For residents who live in or visit a CPZ there is more bad news. Here is the Q&A for you to read for yourself printed in Barnet Council's corporate colour of "wishy-washy blue".

Item 2.1
Council Questions to Cabinet Members
12 April 2011
Questions and Responses
Question 1 by Councillor Lord Palmer
Can the Cabinet Member explain why in Barnet our parking enforcement officers allow motorists to drive off without being issued a PCN after they have been observed committing a parking offence? 
Why has the legislation allowing our officers to issue the PCN by post, after they have started writing it but after the motorist has driven off not been put into effect? 
I have been informed that ‘’whilst the law has been revised it remains an option that has not been endorsed or adopted by this Authority and as such our procedures or systems do not cater for this aspect of enforcement.”
Answer by Councillor Brian Coleman

Councillor Lord Palmer raises a valid issue and I have asked officers to implement with effect from 15th April following appropriate training for Civil Enforcement Officers.

So will this make the Borough a nicer place to live in or visit; no it won't. Barnet Council are desperate for money from motorists. Squeeze our teets a bid harder why don't you - cows have a well known habit of kicking out when milked too hard and then you will be sorry.

If you are unhappy about this policy then write to your Councillor. You can find a link here.


The Council's time would be better spent in making sure that all ticket machines are working properly, that all signs and lines are correct ( they aren't ) and that they answer the phone in a decent time - it was 20 minutes on Monday. This new policy will simply lead to more appeals ( lines and signs being incorrect, faded or missing is a good place to start ). The parking "service" is already in a mess - try and cut down the number of tickets not put them up. The point of the CPZs is to control parking, not to make £millions out of motorists who overstay by a minute or two.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Allotments - double digging

I really can't do you a better service than link you to the above Freedom of Information request which compares an email from Cllr. Brian Coleman saying that Barnet Council subsidise allotments to the tune of £100,000 a year ( which would be a good thing ) to the figures for 2010/11 which show that Barnet Council made a profit out of allotments of £5,619

Who is wrong ? the FOI officer ( I don't think so ) or Cllr Coleman. Ladbrokes won't take bets on a racing certainty like that.

Being economical with the truth is not good; you get found out. Interestingly the subject of allotments came up at tonight's full Council meeting and all Cllr. Brian Coleman would say there ( in a written answer ) was that residents should be charged less than non-residents whose Boroughs have often sold their allotments for development ( happens all over the place as demand for allotments goes up and down over the decades )

No mention of the £100,000 subsidy Mr Coleman. Very wise as it is not the truth.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

8 April 2011

Barnet Council - They lie, claim to destroy data and have bad manners - Parallels with Metpro

On Saturday 14 November 09 my friend Mr D. received a parking ticket (PCN) despite being legally parked in a "Disabled badge holders only" space. Here is a photograph of the plate at the bay which is near the Alexandra Pub in Wood St ( near Barnet General Hospital )

On 15 November  Mr D. appealed on the grounds that he parked on a Saturday whilst the bay was not in operation.

On 17 November Mr D. sent a further appeal that the road markings & signs were not in accordance with Regulations ( as they are usually wrong ! )

On 7 December LB of Barnet cancelled the ticket as " due to insufficient evidence recorded by the CEO at the time of the contravention I have cancelled the penalty charge on this occasion"

On 15 December Mr D wrote back to check he can park in that particular bay on a Saturday as his friend is still in hospital and as he always tries to follow the rules. He thinks the wording of the sign is possibly ambiguous.

On 14 January 2010 LB of Barnet wrote back as image above. Two grammatical errors, oh dear.

On 3 February Mr D. wrote again.
He pointed out that use of the word contravention is incorrect; he was legally parked as it was a Saturday.
He points out that the ticket was cancelled due to a lack of evidence and now the Council have produced a photograph taken at the time of his parking.

Mr D. asks for a written apology.
Mr D. also asks the Council to refund all other motorists who have been similarly affected.

On 23 February LB of Barnet write again. There is a page of guff about a full investigation and more training of the members of staff involved. It was only one and all he needs to be trained to do is to read a sign. Management will consider the request for automatic refunds to all affected motorists. Then the apology

"Please accept our apology for any convenience that this may have caused"

"May have caused" of course I have been caused inconvenience and worry but Barnet don't give a hoot.. A bit mean as apologies go but at least Mr D. received one, on request.

On 27 February Mr D. wrote again. He asked for management to write to him in the next 30 days about the unjust enrichment that the Council had enjoyed. In effect they have demanded money with menaces when none was due and anybody with honour would initiate refunds. Mr D. wrote

In the spirit of your slogan "Putting the Community First " I am sure that the Council will be rushing to prepare refunds.

It was not until 19 April that LB of Barnet stirred themselves again, a question of morality evidently being too difficult for them. And this is what they said:

You have stated that others who have parked in a similar manner be refunded monies already paid. The London Borough of Barnet would of course issue a refund to any vehicle that was incorrectly issued a Penalty Charge Notice. I would state that only the Registered Keeper of a vehicle that has been issued a Penalty Charge Notice may write in to formally contest their liability; thereafter the Council would follow the statutory process. 

So having been made aware of a procedural error and taken money from motorists when they didn't owe it the Council think that it is OK to keep it as other motorists are none the wiser. Tut tut.

So what lessons do we learn from this morality tale.

Barnet Council lied about there being no evidence of where and when Mr D. was parked. He never denied being parked there; he just wanted clarification.

If they lie about evidence having been destroyed and then produce a photograph can we believe they have destroyed the Metpro tapes ( how do Barnet know how many tapes have been made since 2006 ? ) And its only when the pressure builds up that Barnet bother to do anything.

They think of all motorists as contravening even when they haven't. What a bad mindset.

Barnet don't think to apologise automatically when they have made an error. They have to be asked to apologise; bad manners on the part of the Council. I suggest if Barnet had to pay out £100 when in error they might become a bit less slapdash at issuing penalty charge notices.

If you hadn't been so badly behaved Barnet, this blog would not have even started.

Mr Mustard

6 April 2011

Gravy train. Column #1 of 8

Most people know how many chiefs there are at Barnet Council but I still thought it might be worthwhile to blog about them. The snag is that the "corporate structure chart" is so big that it won't fit into one blog. Here is a link to it.


I am going to blog just one column at a time. At the top is Nick Walkley on a mere £200,976 per annum . How does he get by ?

So the first column of the structure is Adult Social Services.

Adult Social Services 
 Kate Kennally 
 Acting Director of
Adult Social Services

Alison Kemp Associate Director – Partnerships and Planning
paid by Barnet PCT

£75,000 - £80,000

Glynnis Joffe 
 Acting Deputy Director of Adult Social Services

Mathew Kendall 
 Assistant Director Transformation and Resources

You would feel transformed by a salary of £91,215 wouldn't you ?

So there we are, just £420,997 for the first column of 8 on the interim corporate structure chart. 

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

4 April 2011

Allotments - Digging for Gold

Barnet Council want allotments to be self managed. Many of them are half-way there already. Allotment holders have to be self reliant as it's not as if the Council do much for them anyway.

In Barnet there are 45 sites and 4,500 plot holders.

Barnet has "consulted" on its ideas for the allotments as per the attached link.

Before the consultation income was £95,000 ( this appears to be just the direct let and self collect sites - as always there is a lack of clarity in Barnet's figures - total income is £140,000 - which is chicken feed - sorry ! ) and expenses were as follows:-

Services £27,500 ( things like a temporary toilet )
Skips £13,500
Repairs £26,000
Improvements £23,000

Total £90,000

Surplus £5,000

The funny thing is that allotments are a recreational activity and are intended to be subsidised. Barnet have other ideas. They have just served on my friend Mr D. a notice to increase his rent from £5.90 per pole ( an ancient measure of 5.5 yards square - most people have 5 or 10 poles ) to £17 per pole, so an increase for 5 poles from £29.50 to £85 p.a. i.e. an increase of 188%

At the same time they want allotments to go self managing = in OneBarnetSpeak - more work for more rent.

So rents across the board will go from £95,000 to £273,728 ( 95000 / 5.9 * 17 ) which the self managed sites will have to pay 50% of,

and costs will fall as follows :

Services to £nil - tenants to be liable
Skips to £nil - tenants to be liable
Repairs to £nil - tenants to be liable - break-ins are frequent
Improvements to £nil - tenants

so for the Council the position will change to

Income £136,864
Expenditure £nil
Surplus £136,864

and for the plot-holders it will probably be cheaper to go to the supermarket. They will have to pay for security, fencing - which is not cheap, water, tree pruning ( lots of those near/on allotments ) renewing the vehicle tracks in allotments, the annual skip for rubbish clearance, the toilet so that people can stay on their allotment for a few hours, insurance and everything else.

The only snag is that allotments are a recreational facility that is meant to be subsidised. The Council simply should not be making a profit from its allotments. The main legal case in respect of allotments is Harwood v Borough of Reigate and Banstead ( see http://tinyurl.com/4x3aes7 )

and this is what the judge said:-

"What does seem to me to be the right approach for the defendants ( the Council ) to take is not to discriminate against this recreational activity as compared with other recreational activities. In other words, unless there are some very special circumstances relating to this particular recreational facility which, if it were some other recreational facility would require that a higher charge should be made for the use of that facility, then in the ordinary case if there is to be an increase in the rent charged then it should be in line with the increases that have been charged for the use of the other recreational facilities."

so unless Barnet have increased all other charges for recreational activity such as tennis, swimming and football by 200%, which they have not, then they need to go back to the drawing board and revise the charges.

The internet suggests that making a profit from allotments is illegal. Mr Mustard will allow the Council 30 days to go back over your decision and make another better one before he enquires too closely into the law ( I know you read the blog ). You have already been dragged through the Courts on wardens and lost. The CPZ review is next and you are definitely on dodgy ground there. Will allotments be the third cause célèbre ?

Please can you start turning into commonsense Council. How many disgruntled residents do you want to have ?

My unanswered question  is - why do Barnet Council make so many bad decisions ? Answers on a postcard to..,.. actually better to email mrmustard@zoho.com

MetPro - an open letter from Barnet's bloggers to Barnet Council

Press release — 4 April 2011

Call for a public inquiry into the relationship between
MetPro Rapid Response/MetPro Emergency Response and Barnet Council

Barnet Council has been engaging private security firms MetPro Rapid Response/MetPro Emergency Response to control residents’ access to council meetings, in particular the council meeting on 1 March 2011. One of the company directors claims the company has also monitored blogs by Barnet residents, and filmed Barnet residents at Council meetings.

Despite holding contracts worth several hundred thousand pounds with Barnet Council, MetPro Rapid Response collapsed recently owing around £400,000, including £245,000 to HM Revenue & Customs. The firm is now in the hands of liquidators; however, MetPro Emergency Response, a company recently set up by the same company directors associated with MetPro Rapid Response, continued for a while to be employed by Barnet after the collapse of MetPro Rapid Response.

As well as providing security for Council meetings, these firms provided security at several council locations, including some housing vulnerable people.

At the meeting on 1 March, it appears that MetPro security staff did not wear visible identification, breaching Security Industry Authority (SIA) regulations, whilst working for Barnet.

Statements made by directors of the company regarding the scope of their work for Barnet have been contradicted by executive officers of Barnet Council.

The full facts regarding Barnet Council’s contract/s with MetPro Rapid Response/MetPro Emergency Response must be revealed to the public. We need to know about the use of data collected by the company (with full consideration for data protection and human rights implications). We need Barnet Council to reveal the extent of the MetPro companies’ activities on behalf of the Council. Residents and Council staff have a right to know what activities their Council undertake. They have a right to expect the Council only to engage firms with a proven track record for such activities and to monitor such, ensuring, for example, that they comply with legislation, eg, SIA regulations.

The only way that trust can be restored in Barnet Council, following the MetPro debacle, is to hold a full public inquiry. We the undersigned call on Nick Walkley, CEO of Barnet Council, and Lynne Hillan, Council Leader, to immediately engage an independent investigator, enjoying the confidence of Barnet residents, to look into the relationship between MetPro Rapid Response/MetPro Emergency Response and Barnet Council. We demand to know what Barnet Council asked MetPro Rapid Response/MetPro Emergency Response to do and what Barnet Council has done with any information about residents it has had access to as a result of MetPro’s work.


Alexander Clayman (N12)
Derek Dishman (EN5)
Adam Langleben (HA8)
Vicki Morris (NW9)
Theresa Musgrove (N3)
Maria Nash (EN4)
Julian Silverman (N12)
Roger Tichborne (NW7)
Adele Winston (EN5)

Contact for more details: Vicki Morris (vickimorris@btinternet.com)

If you want to add your name to this letter please email Vicki Morris

1 April 2011

Pericles - Surrounded by glory - has fallen from grace.

So I've had my little joke with the Blogger themed non-jobs at Barnet Council but I will return to non-jobs very soon as they are no joke. Amazingly, I have had more hits today ( a record ) for the joke blog than for the real ones.

Barnet Council played their own April Fool's Jokes but issued them a bit early in Mid-March in the form of Council Tax bills that it wasn't possible to pay because they were missing the vital barcode. They had a really amusing variant of billing both people ( e.g. husband & wife ) at one address for 100% of the bill each so it is possible that both might pay it; oh how they laughed at that one in the Treasury department, or did the Head of Insight make it up, or one of the vastly overpaid consultants decide to cover his fees by a bit of over-billing.

I also have a sneaking feeling that a number of residents have not been sent a bill at all. The first they may know about it is a red reminder or a summons; how they will laugh when the extra costs hit home.

My advice, and Mr Mustard's informant Mr D is a credit consultant who knows about these things, is not to assume the bill is correct just because Barnet Council have issued it. In fact he suggests the reverse. Check your bill very carefully. Have you still got your 25% single occupier discount or has it been data cleansed out of existence ?

For the full story read The Barnet Times who really have got a grip on the local scene these days.


"Pericles" : meaning - surrounded by glory.

First, a little history. In 2001 Barnet Council signed a Contract for Pericles, from Anite, a software system to manage Council Tax and Housing Benefit. Changeover to Pericles took place in March/April 2006. In August 2008 Northgate purchased Anite. In Jul 2009 Northgate gave notice that they would discontinue the software in 2010. So a new solution had to be found. Barnet wasn't the only Council with Pericles, lots of Councils used it including 10 in the NW led by Blackpool. Search on google for problems with Blackpool's or Rochdale's or Tameside's Council Tax system and you don't find any. Type Council Tax Administration into google and Barnet's problems come up in 5th place after non-problem related sites. You are the leaders in something Barnet Council. You don't seem to have issued a press release about this fiasco on the Barnet website ? I hope that the Internal Communications Manager has let all Barnet staff how things are going as that's his/her job.

So the payments for 3,500 people will be late. There is a cashflow cost to that as well as the cost of handling 3,500 queries. There is also a cost to the council tax paper who has to waste his/her life on hold to the call centre. All good stuff for your reputation; lower than a limbo dancer.

5,000 bills were sent out twice. That would have cost the thick end of £5,000 for print, postage and stationery. I am told that this is called " the relentless drive for efficiency"; sending out 2 bills, doubly efficient, are you sure ?

Goodness knows how many calls there will be to the call centre. Barnet Council think it is OK to have a target of 65% of phone calls answered within corporate ring time ( 5 rings ). They should have a 100% target otherwise the corporate ring time is irrelevant. My neighbour just telephoned the Parking call centre. She waited 12 minutes ( more patient than me ) and was told that was a good response time !! Come on Barnet Council, wake up and smell the roses.

"Data cleansing" is now going to be carried out, said the Council. Mr Mustard says you should have cleansed the data before relying on it. You are relying on the public to tell you about the dirty database.

And the Council blames data migration for the problem. I blame management, or rather the inaction of management.

It seems the Council are surprised about the data migration problems. They shouldn't be. Take a look at the report of the Deputy Chief Executive's Service for Q3 of 2010/11 i.e. quarter to 31 December 2010.

Failure was the forecast for Q4. If I was the Deputy Chief Executive I hope I would have the good grace to fall on my sword. Pericles : surrounded by Glory - a rare commodity in Broken Barnet.

/ Project name

Total allocated Budget

Projected end date

Spend to date

Current status

4 Status

Comments / Risks / Finance






Project end date will not be achieved (27th 
January) as the system will not go live until the week beginning 7th  February.  
The spend to date also is not on target due to the additional work required to cleanse the data with Civica.

Pericles has been closed in the meantime and until the go live date some data can not be processed.  

There will be a significant back log once go live is achieved.

Key words/phrases  : not be achieved, not on target, cleanse the data, not be processed.

So the Deputy Chief Executive ( what's that I hear you cry, that contractor bloke who isn't even on the payroll and you would be right  ) knew in January that progress wasn't going well. Did he earn his payout for the next quarter ( £27,000 to Advance HR Consulting Ltd £63,000 to Halliford Associates Ltd - correction by Mr Reasonable - thank you ) or did he just go home each day £700 richer ( based on 90 days, not sure how many days he "worked" ) and not achieve anything; you can decide.