30 June 2011

Anyone for tennis ?

Yesterday Mr Mustard's neighbours had tickets for the centre court at Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club. What a lovely day they had.

Next week he is meeting friends in Cambridge for lunch and one of them was in recent years the senior world doubles champion at Real Tennis.
Tonight he had a free ticket in the public gallery for a game of Unreal Tennis at Hendon Town Hall in Committee Room 1 for the quarterly General Functions Committee Challenge Cup. The rules of Unreal tennis are unreal; there isn't a net, there are several players on the Court at once, they all have different coloured balls ( only blue, red or yellow, no green or white ) and the Umpire is likely to be slightly biased as she also plays the game.

Playing tonight with their ball of choice were, in no particular order :

Cllr Hutton - red ball
Cllr Farrier - red ball
Cllr Prentice - blue ball
Cllr Thomas - blue ball
Cllr Rams - blue ball
Cllr Suzette Palmer - yellow ball
Cllr Scannell - extra special blue ball.

It was an evening match of 6 games.

Cllr Palmer had been having some extra coaching in the Rules ( lots of them, there are orders about standing, points about order and all sorts of rules that Mr Mustard does not yet fully understand. He keeps reading the Rule Book but it isn't written in a language he understands ) as she claimed that the first 4 games, she called them games 6,7,8 & 9 ( you see I told you the rules were unreal )  should be part of the Monthly Cabinet Cup. The other players weren't having that, they had come to play and play they would. There was a vote and Cllr Palmer suffered a defeat on the tie-break. The players breathed a sigh of relief and play started.

7.07pm - Game 6 started. The Cash Collector Game.

There is only meant to be one ball in play at once and it lights up when the player hits it. 

Cllr Hutton was quick to serve, she thought this round was being played too early. 

Coach Christofi ( yes the coaches are always there and they think they are really playing the game when they should actually help the Councillors, one day they will realise ) stuck her racket in and said it was only a proposal to sack the ground staff although they were already consulting them for 90 days and then in came Cllr Thomas ( he thinks he has lovely ball control but his play seemed a bit coarse to Mr Mustard ) with a gentle lob that it was only if it was applicable that the ground staff would be sent into the long grass. 

Cllr Rams then played what he thought was his ace, but it hit the net cord; if we wait till later will it cost more money ? 

Coach Christofi then tried to play but she really didn't know which ball she was trying to hit so she missed the point entirely. 

Eventually the game came to an end and only Cllr Prentice hadn't waved her racket at anything but now she threw her blue ball in with the others so that was 4 blues win, 2 reds lose and the yellow ball was kept back. The game had only lasted 4 minutes.

7.12 pm - Game 7 started. The IS & Procurement Cup ( formerly sponsored by MetPro - now looking for a new sponsor )

Coach Craig Cooper explained some new Rules about internal transformation, devolved procurement, centralised unit, transferring out that no-one seemed to understand and that he was going to get the top coach Andre Agilisys in to help so everyone would be able to play in the Procurement Cup ( contract definitely needed to play in that one ).

Cllr Palmer's yellow ball was straight in - foul - the Referee had panned that Cup, no-one had been following the Rules and she needed to know a lot more before that Cup could start. Oh, and the scoreboard is rubbish, its still running XP; will these new Rules help; she certainly didn't think so.

Cllr Thomas played a deflection and blamed a former player called MetPro who no longer played so that was all right then.

Coach Cooper was back; he wasn't trying to hand the Cup over to an outside contractor; this was just a tidy up of the Rules, get all of the team on one set of Courts instead of all over the Borough, oh and the scoreboard was wonderful.

The game had been going for 6 minutes and then the super blue ball came out. This game has to be replayed at a future date and a full set of new Rules is to be scrutinised closely.

7.18 pm - Game 8 starts - The less HR the better Cup

This was a new reduced format Cup after the very difficult Cup of 16 months ago when many players had to retire early from the game due to personnel circumstances. This game was started by Consultant Coach McGeachie. Schools had been saying that the HR Cup was being played too slowly and that they didn't know their basic strokes. To fix this another 7 out of 14 ground staff were going to football or something instead, anything as long as it was outside of these grounds and they would all be gone by 15 July. It didn't seem like long to learn a new sport. 

Coach McGeachie said every effort would be made to help people continue at Unreal Tennis, except for letting some of them continue at Unreal Tennis ( don't blame Mr Mustard if you don't follow the Rules; nor does anyone else ). 

4 Minutes later this game was over. All the balls went the same way.

7.22 Game 9 - The TUPE Challenge Cup

The Union representative was allowed 3 minutes in which she was allowed to try and explain why the TUPE rule book couldn't just be torn up the day after people changed league. She had picked up a 2 minute time penalty somewhere which wasn't explained in the Rules but the umpire's word is final so she adjusted her game and served hard. 76% of the ground staff were in favour of downing their tools if these Rule Changes were pushed through. Why couldn't they stay at the same club, go on free transfers to other clubs and remain paid by their home club?

Cllr Farrier was first in with a fine return of serve. She wanted to see a better quality game and that wasn't about ticket prices. She had been out on loan herself in the past and everything had been fine. She accused the Coaches of cack handedness. From the second row Mr Mustard couldn't see the faces of the coaches but he bets they were not a pretty picture.

Cllr Hutton had her racket out. How would the Rules be monitored she wanted to know ?

Coach Amanda Jackson stepped onto the Court. She had overdosed on OneBarnet pills and Mr Mustard heard another member of the audience shout out "gobbledygook" and so he didn't hear what she said. He is sure that doesn't matter.

Cllr Thomas was there arguing the Rules again. Rules questions are not for this committee. The ball was out.

Cllr Palmer also then argued about Rules and agreed that the proposed Rule changes would get changed by the satellite tour later and there was nothing the Unreal committee would be able to do about that.

Coach Sarah Murphy-Brookman chose to step in at this point with a precis of the new TUPE rules which no-one believed.

Cllr Palmer tried a late smash whilst enunciating "remember Connaught Homes" but the ball flew off court. In came the balls, 4 blue, 2 red and the yellow one in the crowd somewhere. That game had lasted 16 minutes; a record.

7.38pm - Game 10 - The School Governing Bodies Cup

Everyone was exhausted from the last game and so for this one all the balls were thrown in. On to the next game.

7.38 pm - Game 11 - The (Redundancy) Management (& Staff) Cup

The coaches were really up for this Cup. The players had seen this sort of Cup before and were nervous as supporters of the game, who provide all the money, had been complaining about unsportsmanlike play.

Coach Murphy-Brookman thought it was a great competition. Not as many ground staff had been knocked out as predicted; only 168 instead of 345 with an initial entry of 900. "How marvellous" she said. Those with the best knowledge had been retained and the worst 168 ground staff had been let go.

Then she tried an ambitious shot and got stuck on the baseline with balls raining down from all directions.

Cllr Rams was uneasy ( he usually makes Mr Mustard uneasy ! but that was a good return he made )

Cllr Harrier played a ball hard at her feet, the coach didn't know how to return it.

Cllr Hutton slammed another ball in the coach's direction and finally Cllr Thomas suggested a Rule change which was no rule change at all - the status quo. Where was Cllr Prentice - sitting very quietly on her chair collecting her Cup appearance money; she hardly played a shot in any game.

Coaches would not be able to send ground staff home against their will; only players could and the players felt that the public who pay for the game should be able to see it played out in all its glory. So an 11 minute game and that was it the match was over and the crowd dispersed.

The coaches escaped ( one had been overheard asking one of the linesmen if he could leave the match as soon as he had played but he was either so fascinated by the new style of play with players being much more aggressive, either that or the ball he took in the groin, that he did actually stay. One would think that a coach earning £130,000 a year could watch his players play a whole match which takes less than an hour. Mr Mustard knows who you are coach ) and then the players who usually have a little secret knock about also put their rackets and balls away.

The next match is expected to be even tougher in September when the players come back refreshed from their break.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

nick walkley

29 June 2011

Where did I put that pension slip (up) ?

Last year the Annual report of the pension scheme for Barnet contained a note as follows :-

Admitted Body, Connaught Partnerships formally entered administration on the 8th of September 2010. Whilst the consequences of the administration are under consideration, the full impact on the London Borough of Barnet Pension Fund is unlikely to be known until the administrators have completed the administration process.
The chickens have now come home to roost. KPMG, the administrators, of Connaught recently wrote to say that the claim by Barnet Council is unsecured. That is accountancy parlance & means that, under Insolvency Law, Barnet Council sit with all other unsecured creditors at the end of the line and what is more will receive at most 1% of their money back.
So here is what the 2011 report says.

Connaught Partnership, previously an Admitted Body, went into administration with effect from 31/08/2010. A pension fund deficit of £1,492,000 has been calculated by the fund actuaries. The Council’s legal team are currently liaising with Connaught’s Administrators (KPMG) for the recovery of these monies. KPMG have confirmed the pension deficit is classed as unsecured, non-preferential debt. Legal have also queried the position on unpaid employer contributions and are awaiting a response from the Administrators.

So what doesn't the report say ? 
Who was meant to be monitoring the payments, was the bond in place to secure them against insolvency ? 
Has someone right royally messed up ? 
We should be told.

It looks like another glorious day in the annals of Barnet Council.

The shortfall will have to come from somewhere. 

Only three choices look like :-
  1. the Council Tax Payer 
  2. pensioners
  3. current employees in the pension scheme
Why do these catastrophes happen in Barnet. Could it be the eye taken off basics because of the OneBarnet nonsense ?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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

26 June 2011

Residents' forums - a.k.a. Shut up and sit down.

Mr Mustard must firstly apologise to his readers that he has neglected his duties in the last week. He left the mustard alone but had rather too much sauce, red & brown ( beer after wine and you'll feel fine just is not true, mind you there is no mention of quantity ! ) and so at 5pm when he should have been thinking of firing up the motorbike and blasting, MetPro style, on his high powered motorbike at 30mph to Coppetts Wood Primary School for the residents' forum he was instead "sniffing the pillow" as the custom is in Poland apparently.

Having read the other bloggers' reports & the local papers Mr Mustard finds that he made the same contribution to democracy in Barnet that evening as did the Councillors and Officers who were on the top table at the Residents' Forum i.e. none at all.

Mr Mustard had not been idle however. Back in April he saw which way the wind was blowing and as it is a democracy Mr Mustard sometimes manages to find the time in his busy schedule to send helpful letters to Councillors and Officers to let them know how one Council Tax Payer is thinking. 

( He wrote to the Chief Executive, Mr Nick Walkley, once saying that Barnet Council could usefully join the Plain English Campaign and didn't get a reply. Mr Mustard was relieved as the answer would probably have been interminably long and he wouldn't have known at the end whether non-stick Nick was in favour of the Plain English Campaign or not - he suspects not, having heard him holding forth at the Audit Committee. You set out a long list of items that could have been to blame Mr Walkley - you forgot at least one - yourself; please remember at the next crisis that you are in charge and occasionally that means saying that something was your fault. You will find it quite refreshing if you try it. )

Anyway before the meeting of 14 April of the Special Committee (Constitution Review Meeting ) Mr Mustard took the trouble to write to all of the participants with his thoughts. This is what he wrote:-

Dear Sir / Madam

I note that you will also consider the future format of Residents' Forums tomorrow evening.

I have read the relevant papers. I agree that the current format could be improved.

I am shocked. There are 331,000 residents in the borough and you are asked to base your decision on Appendix C which is the result of two 90 minute focus groups with just 16 residents.

This is simply not enough residents to consult. You don't get a proper view of things by asking 16 residents especially amongst 16 of whom it was said "There was very little awareness of Resident (sic) Forums" .

You haven't consulted residents who actually attend the meetings ( and you know who they are as an attendance register is signed  ) you don't seem to have consulted bodies such as the Barnet Residents Association and or any bloggers ?

I think that Residents' Forums do need to be radically changed and that you have not considered a much better way of doing things which would truly be democratic.

I think that the issues that bother people are either local ones that may only affect a few people or major ones that affect the whole Borough or a sizeable minority of residents.

Lets take out the small local issues first. They should simply be dealt with locally by ward Councillors.

Only major issues should be discussed at a monthly borough wide Residents' Forum. The poster for the last meeting is attached " It's your meeting. You can put questions, debate items and set the agenda ". That's not a description of the meeting that I recognise.

My proposal

So here is my proposal. If it truly is the Residents' meeting then let the residents run it; they can organise their own Residents' Council ( with individuals from organisations such as the Barnet Residents Association, The Barnet Society, Friends of Barnet Market and others from across the whole Borough ) set their own agenda and invite the Councillors and Officers that they wish to hear from. A monthly meeting, held in suitable Council premises, which would only cover the 2 or 3 most important issues ongoing in the Borough at that moment.

This would be more cost effective than any of the other proposed changes, requiring only 12 meetings a year and very little cost .

I do hope that you will add this proposal to the ideas being considered.

Please note that I am only interested in attending as an ordinary resident. I am not interested in sitting on any committees ( or in becoming a Councillor !)

Yours sincerely

Mr Mustard

To whom did Mr Mustard send this useful advice; to all the Councillors sitting at the meeting of 14 April or on the reserve list, and the Officers whose names were on the report that was going to be discussed, as follows :-

cllr.j.scannell ( email deleted unread )
cllr.j.cohen ( a polite thank you received from Cllr Cohen )


So there we have it; what Mr Mustard thought was a thoughtful and well thought out idea to increase democracy merited one thank you from a Councillor who was unable to be at the meeting ( and he did pass on the email to his substitute ) one copy deleted unread and absolutely no response from everyone else. Mr Mustard would not have minded if they had all written back picking holes in his idea; that would be constructive debate and an outing for democracy. Well Councillors, you have now seen what happens when you try to stifle simple questions which residents would like an answer to. At the new style forums, see Mr Reasonables' blog,
or Mrs Angry's blog, about Swinging in Barnet
If that was not what you expected I expect you can find the wife swapping site if you just google it; if there is a Councillor swapping site lead me to it, I'd like to swap mine for something useful like a Swiss Army knife for getting stones out of horses hooves, or a bottle opener ( maybe not as I'm only now sober )

So Councillors next time Mr Mustard writes to you, and he is even busier than you are so back off on the self importance please, why not take the trouble to reply with one or two lines picking holes in his argument, assuming you can think of any. Please be aware, if you use numbers, they will be thoroughly checked.

And the bad news is that you are not going to get away with cancelling democracy; the real Residents' Forums will start later in 2011. 

Yours frugally
Mr Mustard

25 June 2011

Are the Council's own bin-men any neater than May Gurney's oppos ? No !

Before the bin men came to call:-

And afterwards, bins all over the pavement, try getting a pram or a wheelchair along the street.

Its this sort of thing which people remember and don't like. They think if the Council can't even put a bin back how can they outsource 70% of the jobs.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Are Contracts monitored ? May Gurney suggests not

Can Barnet Council monitor a simple contract ?

This is an important question in the light of the very complex contracts that are proposed under OneBarnet.

I would say that the contract which exists with May Gurney to collect the recycling in the blue & black boxes is a simple one. The contract also includes running the Summers Lane facility and collecting the recycling banks around the borough.

( as an aside, some idiot decided that the blue boxes don't need lids even though they contain cardboard and after a week's rain or snow, quite possible in England, they contain a heavy & soggy mess. They also chose a box where the drain holes are not at the lowest point in the box so that rainwater collects in the bottom, you pick up your box and then get soaked as a stream of water runs out. Priceless. ) 

Now Mr Mustard recently read the contract with May Gurney. It contains a whole section about when monies will be deducted from their payment for service failures. Mr Mustard has had cause to complain about the lack of service on many occasions. 
The operatives used to walk straight past his box if if was a millimetre too far from the gate for them but he stopped that nonsense by persistent complaining.
Mr Mustard also had a quiet word with one of the operatives to not keep putting the empty box back in the flower bed.
Needless to say his boxes have often been sent on little holidays down the street despite being numbered.
The way in which boxes are returned is dangerous. The postman is unamused on bin collection day as his round is full of trip hazards.

Here are Mr Mustard's bins before collection ( neat and conveniently placed as always ) 

and afterwards on 3 different occasions just to show this is the normal state of affairs.

So a pretty sloppy approach to customer care.

Now these are the reasons why monies can be deducted from May Gurney :-
4.1 The Authority shall be entitled to deduct from each monthly payment of the Annual Service Payment a sum equal to the total Fixed Charges incurred during the previous month in accordance with this paragraph 4.
4.2 A Fixed Charge may be levied against the Contractor on the occurrence of any of the following Fixed Charge Events:

4.2.1 failure by any member of the Contractor's staff to wear the appropriate uniform and/or appropriate personal protective equipment whilst performing the Services under this Contract;

4.2.2 failure by the Contractor to open the Facility at 08.00 hours;

4.2,3 failure by the Contractor to close the Facility to the public later than 16.00 hours;

4.2.4 all material containers of any one type at the Facility are full and therefore unavailable for users of the Facility to use;
4.2.5 failure by the Contractor to empty a Bring Bank that has been reported to it as full within 24 hours of such notification;
4.2.6 failure by the Contractor to resolve a complaint regarding service delivery time or equipment, within two weeks of the complaint being made;
4.2.7 failure by the Contractor to deliver a box or other agreed container within five (5) Business Days;
4.2.8 failure by the Contractor to deliver a box or other agreed container within seven (7) Business Days;

4.2.9 failure by the Contractor to clear a spillage or breakage within one hour of notification;

4.2.10 failure by the Contractor to clear a spillage or breakage within twenty-four (24) hours of notification;

4.2.11 failure by the Contractor to leave a contamination card in the box or other agreed container;

4.2.12 failure by the Contractor to collect Recyclable Waste and the Re-usable Waste within twenty-four (24) hours of receipt of a report of non-collection;
4.2.13 failure by the Contractor to collect Recyclable Waste and Re-usable within forty-eight (48) hours of receipt of a report of non-collection;
4.2.14 where the Contractor has placed bagged materials on the surface of a carriageway, footway or footpath for subsequent collection;

4.2.15 failure by the Contractor to comply with paragraph 5.9.1 of the Specification, which results in boxes being dragged along with carriageway, footway or footpath;

4.2.16 where there have been two (2) Missed Collections from the same address in any consecutive period of eight (8) weeks;

4.2.17 failure by the Contractor to comply with clause 8 (Health & Safety);

4.2.18 where there have been forty (40) or more Missed Collections per 100,000 households per month, provided that, in each instance, the notification procedure set out in paragraph 4.3 has been applied.

So take a guess about how many deductions were made from payments to May Gurney in the year ended 31 March 2011. That is right - none at all.

So either May Gurney are perfect, and my photographs would suggest that is not the case, or Barnet Council haven't bothered to monitor the service and reclaim monies on our behalf. If you know any of the Fixed Charge Events have taken place please post a comment below and also write to Barnet Council and ask them why they did not make a financial deduction ( it's our money they are failing to safeguard ).

You might like to know the following about Assisted Collections which is in the contract:-

5.4.1 A number of residents, typically some elderly and disabled residents, are unable to leave their black boxes and other agreed collection containers at the edge of their property. In these cases the Contractor shall make individual arrangements with the resident, known as assisted collections, and maintain these assisted collections for as long as is necessary. The Contractor shall provide these arrangements at no additional cost to the Authority. 

If you need this service then telephone the Council on 020 8359 4600 or email them at first.contact@barnet.gov.uk

Mr Mustard found this interesting. If you put out extra materials in plastic carrier bags then May Gurney should also take the bags and recycle them. They don't. They leave them in your box. Tut tut. 

5.10.3 The Contractor shall collect and dispose of/or recycle all plastic carrier bags used to contain additional recyclable materials. The Contractor shall not leave any carrier bags at the property or on/in the surface of a carriageway, footway or footpath in Barnet following collection.

Oh dear, this section of the Contract certainly isn't being adhered to. Given the propensity of victims of falls to sue for damages these days it would be of great economic benefit if May Gurney were to adhere to this requirement.

5.16.4 Notwithstanding where the residents leave their recycling boxes for collection, the Contractor shall ensure that these recycling boxes are placed within the property boundary, and not on the public footway, carriageway or footpath, on garden walls or in gardens. In complying with this section, the Contractor shall ensure that recycling boxes are not placed where it could impede pedestrian or vehicular access to properties.

If your operative isn't doing this why not politely ask him to or email the Council to complain. You can of course expect that the operative will be polite.

5.17.1 The Contractor shall ensure that all its Staff:

a) Receive induction training, to ensure a thorough understand of the standards of the Kerbside Recycling Collection Services, as well as an appreciation of other issues affecting the Authority.

b) Conduct the Kerbside Recycling Collection Services in as quiet, polite and efficient manner as is possible.

Mr Mustard will be returning to the subject of May Gurney, and their payments, in a later blog.
Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

24 June 2011

Doing the payment hokey-cokey

Mr Mustard couldn't help but notice the number of negative entries in the over £500 spending lists published by Barnet Council. These represent payments made that have been reversed.

One of the most striking examples is in the case of Agilysys whose payments in the Council tax year to 31 March 2011 are as follows :-

Date paid LBB ref Paid £
14/09/2010 5000272478 57,068
02/12/2010 5000282907 19,900
02/12/2010 5000282909 10,292
02/12/2010 5000282910 77,175
02/12/2010 5000282913 24,523
02/12/2010 5000282914 43,450
02/12/2010 5000282919 16,448
23/12/2010 5000285770 32,146
23/12/2010 5000285771 30,109
23/12/2010 5000285774 21,916
23/12/2010 5000285778 24,760
01/02/2011 5000289778 15,384
01/02/2011 5000289778 15,384
01/02/2011 5000289779 23,548
01/02/2011 5000289783 6,147
01/02/2011 5000289786 4,025
01/02/2011 5000289788 2,240
01/02/2011 5000289788 2,240
01/03/2011 5000294012 -6,500
01/03/2011 5000294013 -102,860
01/03/2011 5000294231 19,900
01/03/2011 5000294232 6,500
01/03/2011 5000294236 102,860
01/03/2011 5000294238 93,250
01/03/2011 5000294240 15,050
01/03/2011 5000294245 11,940
01/03/2011 5000294246 11,975
01/03/2011 5000294248 14,940
01/03/2011 5000294272 30,425
01/03/2011 5000294275 187,150
01/03/2011 5000294276 27,600
01/03/2011 5000294279 53,125
01/03/2011 5000294301 91,050
02/03/2011 5000294465 -93,250
02/03/2011 5000294467 -15,050
02/03/2011 5000294468 -30,425
02/03/2011 5000294469 -187,150
02/03/2011 5000294471 -27,600
02/03/2011 5000294472 -53,125
02/03/2011 5000294473 -91,050
02/03/2011 5000294474 -19,900
02/03/2011 5000294475 -11,940
02/03/2011 5000294476 -11,975
02/03/2011 5000294479 -14,940
02/03/2011 5000294495 5,775
02/03/2011 5000294498 700
02/03/2011 5000294517 15,395
02/03/2011 5000294520 1,700
02/03/2011 5000294521 10,602
02/03/2011 5000294528 14,581
02/03/2011 5000294529 2,375
02/03/2011 5000294531 32,970
02/03/2011 5000294534 4,280
02/03/2011 5000294538 11,975
02/03/2011 5000294539 11,940
02/03/2011 5000294541 18,008
02/03/2011 5000294542 11,979
02/03/2011 5000294569 12,882
02/03/2011 5000294571 14,364
02/03/2011 5000294577 10,314
02/03/2011 5000294580 6,475
02/03/2011 5000294584 8,425
02/03/2011 5000294594 13,890
02/03/2011 5000294609 4,480
03/03/2011 5000294758 2,187
18/03/2011 5000297080 32,970
18/03/2011 5000297080 10,602
18/03/2011 5000297083 2,187
22/03/2011 5000297453 -2,187
28/03/2011 5000298863 -10,602
28/03/2011 5000298863 -32,970

So that is £1,353,574 paid out and then £711,523 clawed back giving a net payment of £642,051

Accounts Payable should not be paying like this.

Something is seriously wrong with the documents they are being fed.

Looking at the whole year a net £762million was paid out to various suppliers and this was after reversals of £6,788,900 so nearly 1% of the payments made were not due.

So there you have it, the payment hokey-cokey which as well as being a dance, you put your invoice in, your invoice out, etc, can also refer to underhand activity. Let's hope there isn't any of that in the morass that is suppliers' invoicing.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Nick Walkley

Council Tax - collection failure

Back in March, Mr Mustard blogged about the new Council tax system - he observed that, following a chat with one of his neighbours, he had the suspicion that a number of Council Tax bills had not been issued at all.

I expect you will recall that a number of bills were issued twice

and now Mr Mustard has confirmation that a number of bills were not issued at all, and some have possibly still not been issued but the answer cannot currently be established. Software problems don't you know.
The first rule of credit control, Mr Mustard's specialist subject, is that if you don't send an invoice out it won't get paid. Now this may seem like absolute commonsense to you dear reader but then your brain isn't full of that fluffy OneBarnet nonsense that leaves no room for day to day rational thinking. 

So 138,424 bills should have been issued.

Only 128,380 bills were issued by 31 March 2011 ( that is just under 93% of them )

So that's 10,044 bills not sent out on time. At an average band charge ( D ) of £1,423 that could be £14million of cash flow in jeopardy.

The Council won't know for 2 more weeks how many bills have still not been sent out.

Sadly, many of the ones that have not been issued relate to benefit claimants. Those are the very bills which should be sorted out on time because the affected people, by virtue of their status of being benefit claimants, won't have spare cash with which to catch up with any arrears that build up that they don't know about.

So there we are: "OneBarnet - NoBrain"

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Nick Walkley