30 March 2011

Future of the Parking Service - Challenges - OneBarnetSpeak translation service

Para 9.4 of the report dated 29 November 2010 is as follows :-

9.4       Challenges
The service is currently facing a number of challenges.  These include:

·    Lack of available funding to ensure signs and lines are in place to an acceptable standard.
·    Lack of funding to renew pay and display machines, which means that a relatively significant proportion are out of order at any one time.
·    There are high sickness levels among CEOs; in the first quarter of 2010/11 parking lost a total of 379 days due to sickness.
·          Reduced income to the special parking account.

Let's undo the BarnetOneSpeak and see what these mean shall we ?

There isn't a lack of available funding to ensure signs and lines are in place. There is a £2m - £5m surplus every year. The first thing that it is legitimate to spend parking income on is the control of parking - stating the bleeding obvious I know. How can someone write such a whopper and hope that we will swallow it ?

Lack of funding to renew pay & display machines. 
You have a £2m - £5m surplus Barnet. 
Q. How many machines could you buy with that 
? A. More than enough. 

High sickness levels among CEOs.  Well no wonder is it ? It is a very stressful job; no-one likes getting a parking ticket and the back office is in turmoil so it is hardly worth it to turn up and issue more tickets & make the situation worse ? 

42% of the people you meet who have tried phoning the Parkling Centre haven't been able to get through on the telephone and are mad about it. More and more machines are out of order and lines and signs are missing or wrong. Not much job satisfaction and lots of talk about being privatised. 

Perhaps every Councillor should spend a day as a CEO ( Civil Enforcement officer ). I've never found then to be civil; downright insolent in fact but better than some faceless bod from a third party who don't give a hoot about the borough.

Reduced income to the special parking account. Now we have really hit the nail on the head here. The Council view us as cash cows. Really they should be pleased if the number of tickets issued goes down as that means we are all being more law abiding which is a good Big Society aim surely.  But if less money is collected from parking them more needs to be collected from Council Tax. As Council Tax has to be frozen this year then if Parking Income goes down it means that spending on something else has to suffer; maybe Education as the unfortunate Mr Chrysostomou of Highways said at the Chipping Barnet Residents' Forum in February ( I don't think the Council would be wise to wheel him out again ).

So Paragraph 9.4 is written solely to serve the Council's own agenda.

29 March 2011

Don't call us.........

Back on 29 November 2010 the Cabinet met to discuss "The future of the Parking Service". The entire report can be found here

My eye was caught by one particular paragraph :-

9.3.4  The Parking Service still retains control over the contact centre, which has historically suffered from poor performance.  This is in part due to the fact that when  the  contact  centre  was  created,  the  number  of  calls  was  severely underestimated  and  the  team  has  never  grown  to  accommodate  the  call levels.  The table below shows the quarterly figures and that the performance issue is still very real.

Table 3

Calls Received
Calls Answered
Calls Abandoned
% Abandoned

So the hard to contact centre has historically suffered from poor performance due to being under-staffed. 
What would be the proper response of a good manager ?
Assess what the proper staffing level would be and increase the staff accordingly ?

Barnet's response. Leave the contact centre under-staffed and then use it as a reason to justify privatisation.

Of course the "performance issue" ( why not write in plain English "poor performance " would be better understood) is still very real. Management has not taken any management actions. Doh.

"The team has never grown to ..." The team wouldn't grow would it without management action ? and in fact the size of the parking department has recently been reduced from 69 to 47 ( see Delegated Powers Report 1277).

So management think it is OK that 105,206 calls can be abandoned by callers and nothing is done. 

"Putting the Community First" Complete codswallop.

One of the overarching aims of the One Barnet Programme is " a relentless drive for efficiency". You've driven off the road on this one Barnet Council.

New slogan
Barnet Council - Happy to waste the time and money of 105,206 people.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


I have already spent too long reading Delegated Powers Reports which are not written in plain English. Most DPR's are full of


A more informative blog will follow soon.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

25 March 2011

10p or not 10p ; that is the question

I expect you have all seen the 16 page piece of puff called Barnet First magazine which gets shoved through the letterbox of every home in Barnet once a quarter and in Mr Mustard's house then gets recycled immediately into the black box as he is a law abiding citizen who cares about the Big Society.

I suspect its Barnet Council's way of ensuring that paper recycling targets are met.

In the magazine, and I use the term loosely, it says that each one costs "a little over 10p" to produce. Most people would expect that also means a little under 11p ?

Here's what the Jan / Feb 11 issue cost

Design £800 ( in-house estimated cost )
Printing £9,475 ( Woodford Litho - see over £500 list )
Distribution £7,700 ( Impact Distribution - see over £500 list )
Total £17,975
143,000 copies printed = 12.57p each

The June / July 10 issue was for some reason more expensive
Design £800
Print £10,325
Distribution £7,700
Total £18,825 = 13.16p per copy which is 31% more than Barnet Council claim it costs.

I don't think residents sit at home waiting for it to drop onto the doormat ( unless they are short of material to line the budgie or guinea pig cage ) and if it just stopped the London Borough of Barnet would not grind to a halt.

What would happen is that about £70,000 would be saved off the annual budget. A worthwhile saving.

Why not have your say in the poll alongside.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

23 March 2011

King Canute comes to Barnet

Just like me, my friend Mr D. hates money being wasted. He had some thoughts on the cost of democracy in the matter of government approved filming and so he sent me a copy of this email that he has sent to the Councillors who will consider the matter on 30 March.

Dear Councillors

Canute was a Danish King of England who is best remembered for his futile attempt to stop the tide from coming in.

You will be like King Canute on 30 March if/when you attend the General Functions Committee and reach item 15 "Filming & recording of Council Meetings" if you think that you can control filming on the obsolete basis that this was the Council's decision from 1983 to 2008.

The tide of change has already swept past you; accept it.

Let's look at this simply. The Council keep saying how many £million short they are over the next 3 years.
Therefore, any non-essential spending should not take place.
Bloggers, other journalists, trade union representatives, political activists, interested members of the public etc etc already record meetings of the Council and this is free to the Council.
There is no danger of reputational risk to the Council by mis-representation; bloggers' reports simply add some balance to the work of the Council's communications officers ( they don't report bad news or ask searching questions now do they ? ) and question what takes place in a democratic and peaceful manner.
If individual Council officers are worried about being mis-quoted they could buy themselves a dictaphone out of their allowances. There's one at Argos which is a bargain at only £19.99 and records over 500 hours of talk.
I am sure your allowances will cover that ( see link in next blog ).

So please don't waste any residents' money on unnecessary equipment. Simply accept that Council Meetings to which the public are admitted are indeed public meetings and embrace their recording. You will gain some respect for it ( and you do need the public on your side ).

Yours sincerely

Mr D

We only have to wait a week to see if commonsense prevails. Mr Reasonable will be equally pleased to see some.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Buy Alba ET-889 2GB Dictaphone

Buy Alba ET-889 2GB Dictaphone - Black at Argos.co.uk - Your Online Shop for Dictation machines.

17 March 2011

I'm Angry - but I'm not Mrs Angry !

I'm angry with Barnet Council. My view is that they are profligate with money as they think there is an unlimited amount of it. My blogs are largely about money. The CPZ increases really got my goat and the complete lack of democracy at the Residents' Forum finished me off and so my blog started.

If you want more wide-ranging blogs about Barnet Council & Councillors in general then visit Mrs Angry's blog - no relation - she writes the blog I aspire to write - she has such a good sense of humour which has kept her sane despite the best attempts of Barnet Council


Parking charges changes changed = a loss of £118,000

News has reached Mr Mustard through the blogosphere that the exorbitant parking charge increases which would have seen residents of the CPZ paying huge extra amounts of Council Tax under the guise of Windscreen Tax Residents' Permits & Visitor Vouchers have been wrongly advertised. 

All the Council had to do was to advertise in the local press, in all the affected off-street car parks and on a few lampposts ( if they can be bothered - amazingly, posting the Notice in the affected streets is optional ) that from a certain date, at least 21 days in the future, the old charges of £X would be replaced by new ones of £4X. Now we know that the Council don't know the value of money ( Brian Coleman wants us all to be like the Queen and not bother ourselves carrying cash especially in cashless Barnet ) and so its not a surprise that Councillors don't know the value of a Resident's Permit - well why would they when they get them free ( photographs welcomed of Councillors with shopping bags  mis-using the Permit as its strictly for use on Council Business only - of course it is ) but I did think that employees of the Council might know that the first permit costs £40 not £42 ( do any Barnet Council senior employees actually live in the Borough ? - I have my doubts ) and they would then have got the Notices correct.

So the upshot of this is that the second & hopefully correct version of the Notices will be issued next Thursday 24 March 2011. So this notice is exactly one month later than the previous one dated 24 February 2011. Therefore the Council will lose 1/12th of the extra income on which they were counting. 

Here are the figures for the anticipated extra charges in the next Council Tax year:-

Residents' permits £830,000
Visitor vouchers £590,000

so the delay will cost 1/12th of the above i.e. about £118,000

That's without the legal costs if external advice was needed from an expert, the cost of the advert ( small but its all money down the drain that we have to make good ) reprinting & laminating the Notices and going round the Borough putting them all up again.

Occasionally in my business life I make errors. When I do so I apologise to the client and make suitable amends. Do you suppose the legal department of Barnet Council will be publishing an apology ? no, nor do I.

And the judicial review is yet to come which questions the validity of all the other changes to parking charges which together amount to £2,600,000 in a year. Only 5% of Barnet's residents will pay towards this as they live in a CPZ. If this amount were to be put on Council Tax where it properly belongs it would mean an increase of about £18 for each of the roughly 140,000 households which I understand that there are in Barnet.

Q. Do you feel like a cash cow ?
A. Moo

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

11 March 2011

Barnet CPZ Action

4065 residents can't be wrong, can they ?

When the increased parking & CPZ charges were proposed 4,065 residents signed a petition opposing them. When there are only about 10,000 Residents' car permits in issue that's a fairly upset proportion of the voters. Barnet Council know best, apparently; they just ignored the protest and voted the increase through.

Now we are looking for justice.

Tonight I went to the first meeting of the Barnet CPZ Action Group which is going to apply for a Judicial Review of the increases. So I found myself in a house in East Finchley with 40 other concerned residents from several CPZ zones and now we have a plan. We have an experienced litigation Solicitor and an Accountant leading the charge. We have a committee. We have people writing out cheques on the spot to kick-start the legal action. We have a publicity machine. We have fund raisers.

In the year to come owning a car is going to cost me £900 extra than my neighbour outside the zone just two streets away ( £100 for the car plus 200 * £4 per visitor ).

To stop this injustice I am writing out a cheque for £100 to "Barnet CPZ Action" and sending it to 88 Summerlee Gardens, London, N2 9QH

see also http://www.barnetcpz.blogspot.com/
If you have £100 you can spare please send it as above. Its a lot less than you will have to pay Barnet Council in the future.

If only Barnet Council had just increased the CPZ charges by the rate of inflation, all this commotion could have been avoided ( well at least they are bringing us together in a nice warm BigSociety way ). No wonder that barnet Council gets through £2,400,000 in legal fees in a year ?

10 March 2011

Customer Satisfaction Measurement

Part of me hoped that Barnet Council had woken up and that it was going to be hard work to find examples of waste to blog about.

I couldn't be more wrong.

Delegated Powers Report No 1280 has just come to my attention. Its dated 10 March 2011 and its signed by the Assistant Director for Assistant Chief Executive ( AD on a mere £104,673 ) . How many assistants does one Council need. I will now delegate the rest of my blog to the tea-maker's teabag squeezer's assistant to finish off for me - oh no, I forgot, I work for myself and so make my own tea.

Barnet Council must be asleep. They don't know if the residents are happy or not. Let's think about that shall we:-

More blogs starting in Barnet
A packed and dissatisfied Council chamber at the full meeting, bully boy insolvent security guards required to keep Mr Toad from being heckled. Residents being denied the democratic right to attend, never mind to record, the meeting.
A judicial review of the CPZ charges almost ready to go.
Record attendances at Residents' Forums ( please use the apostrophe Barnet Council ) and not to tell Councillors how marvellous they are.
Grant Thornton's negative report on the Council's plans
Largest number of pothole claims in London
Huge protest against the removal of wardens for old people
etc etc

Residents are unhappy. You don't need a survey.

The Council's response. £30,000 set-up cost and then £20,000 per annum for general maintenance.

Let me save you £50,000+ Barnet Council.

You are a bunch of incompetent dunderheads not fit to run a party in a brewery, spending other people's money like drunken sailors, running scared of democracy and about to waste £50,000+.

I have minuted this report to check on in 2 years time when it will have sunk without trace and been replaced by another bone-headed £100k scheme

Don't do it. Councillor Rutter says " The Councillor is your friend" so instead collect the views of Councillors at no cost ( well apart from £1.2m in allowances ) as they are obviously close to residents and then see what needs doing.

Yours frugally
and flipping annoyed

Mr Mustard

Welcome - Economics not politics is my crusade

Hello everyone & welcome

I have had enough of Barnet Council and their profligacy.

I didn't use to be interested in local affairs. I just paid my Council Tax and got on with my life. That has all changed thanks to Barnet Council deciding to put the CPZ charges up by unreasonable amounts ( £40 for my car up to £100 p.a. and what are meant to be concessionary vouchers for visitors from £1 to £4 per visit; and what about next year - another 150% to 300% increase ? ). Now only about 5% of the residents of Barnet are in a CPZ and they are going to be milked for an extra £2.6 million. The other 95% won't pay any extra to park outside their homes or have visitors round. It hardly seems equitable to me. 

I tried emailing the 3 local Councillors ( they are your friend said Cllr Rutter at the Chipping Barnet Residents' Forum last week - with friends like them you don't need enemies I reckon - although it did make me laugh ) about the increased costs and the budget setting process generally. One replied at length with what looked like a template reply to me blaming others, of course, but hey you can read some of it here.

Dear Mr Mustard,

Thank you for your email.

I appreciate you're unhappy with the budget setting. We are faced with this extremely sad and disappointing situation because the public finances are in dire straits.

As a nation, which is over £1.1 trillion in debt, we can't keep borrowing 25% of all we spend. The level of services expected by the public far outstrips the amount of money available to pay for those services.

We, as a Council, are trying to do more with fewer funds. But we either add 20% to the council tax in 2011, 8% in 2012 and 4% in 2012 to balance the existing budget or we make cuts to non statutory or ring-fenced services and increase charges to cover costs.

If we increase the council tax, as suggested above, then groups like the pensioners will suffer.

The penalty for not freezing the Council Tax this year is a reduction in grants from Central Government. Approximately 80% of Barnet Council expenditure is funded by Central Government grants and they decide what is ring-fenced. 70% of Barnet's budgets are ring-fenced and so cuts and increases must be made. 

The costs or running the CPZs, which are installed at the request of the residents, is substantial:
Initial Consultations
Coded street signs
Painted street lines
Salaries for Parking Enforcement Officers to check cars are legally parked in the CPZ. The sanction of a £60 fine has led to a reduction in the number of fines, thereby reducing income, in recent years.
Council Overheads - Uniforms, Equipment, Travelling costs for the Parking Officers, Employers NI (12.8%), Head Office costs (HR and IT)

Please believe me when I say I'm as unhappy and disappointed about the situation as you are.


and more explanations here

Dear Mr Mustard,

You're absolutely right. The voters are unhappy, but what are the choices?

The country was rapidly heading toward a Greek/Irish style financial meltdown. The Government has borrowed £27,000 on behalf of every single person living in the UK. Government debt is still rising. Debts are still coming on-stream from contracts signed three years ago. The annual interest on UK National debt is almost the same amount as the NHS budget.

The Government has no option but to reduce Council grants.

The Borough of Barnet is facing tremendous statutory pressures. For example, in September 2010 Barnet had to find an extra 250+ school places above the annual norm for Year 1. That's over eight classes worth of teachers, teaching assistants and class rooms, which require electricity, maintenance and cleaning. This trend is likely to continue.

Without wishing to draw your invective, what would you suggest to balance the budget and keep everyone on-board?


I thought the reason we had 63 Councillors at a minimum allowance each of £10,597 was to balance the budget and keep everyone on-board. I must have been mistaken ? I do think that one Councillor per ward would be enough and look at all those allowances which could be saved ~ 42 * £10,597 = £445,074 + overheads.

see http://www.barnet.gov.uk/members__allowances_scheme_2010_11_for_publication.pdf

So I didn't think it was my job to sort out the budget. 

I have decided that it is my job to highlight Council spending in a clearer manner than the Council does, so my blog will see a succession of spending items which I think are excessive, or un-necessary and you can challenge your Councillors. Sadly I think you will find they know little about the Council's finances.

Here is the first question you could ask them.

Why are the CPZ & car parking charges due to go up by £2,600,000 in a year ( 2010-2011 ) at the same time that the Spending on Highways is going down by £1,500,000 and efficiency changes in Highways are planned of £864,000. On the other hand an extra £1,000,000 is needed for the Freedom Pass for the over 60's due to Tfl pulling out of the 5 year funding deal after 18 months. So even with that extra cost the anticipated spending decrease is £1,364,000 and yet our pockets are to be picked to the tune of £2,600,000. Why ? Please write to your Councillor and see what answer you get and feel free to tell me what it is. 

If you are in a CPZ and want to protest against the increase in charges please visit the below website.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard