30 December 2011

The Friday Joke - Mr Mustard takes the bus

I would like to share an experience with you all, about drinking and driving.

As you well know, some of us have been known to have had brushes with the boys in blue on our way home from the odd night out over the years. ( Mr Mustard's actually include, many years ago, trying to flag a police car down as a  taxi! Well, it did have a light on. Luckily, it already had a passenger on board )

A couple of nights ago, I was out for a few drinks with some friends and had a few too many glasses of red wine and some rather fine port.

Knowing full well I may have been over the limit, I did something I've never done before - I took a bus home.

I arrived home safely and without incident, which was a real surprise, as I have never driven a bus before and am not sure where I got this one.

Yours frugally
Mr Mustard

Update 5 January 2012
Here is a link to an informative blog about London's bus routes, all of them! ( well eventually it will be )

29 December 2011

The third interesting Christmas Eve DPR - hidden signs

Mr Mustard had to look hard to find this DPR numbered 1498.

DPR 1498 Dollis Valley Walk Signage

Now why was this DPR hidden so far back in the lists? Go to the DPR page here and then page down 3 times and then under the date of 31 October ( which does not appear anywhere on the DPR control sheet ) one finds this DPR. Anyone would think that the council didn't want the public to find it?

The DPR details yet another failure in the directorate of Ms Pam Wharfe, EPR, to follow simple rules and then the attempt to regularise the situation looks, to Mr Mustard, to be inadequate. Here are the rules:

Contract Procedure Rules

So back at the start of 2011 Barnet Council tried and failed to find more than one supplier of signs and map boards ready, willing & able to make signs and maps for the Dollis Valley Greenwalk. This is not the hardest thing to do. There are loads of makers of signs and map boards ( just google those phrases ) and perhaps if the council asked 5+ potential suppliers instead of just 2 ( para 8.4 of the DPR ) then they would get 2 or more positive responses. In Mr Mustard's decades of experience in business there is rarely a shortage of willing suppliers.

Table 6.1 of the rules says that a minimum of 2 quotes must be returned and if not REPEAT COMPETITION which has yet again, as for RM Countryside and the removal of parking meters, not been done.

Ms Wharfe has, the report says, managed to get the "Commercial" Director Craig Cooper to agree that "the market has identified a single supplier for this requirement" so this must surely mean that every single sign in the whole of the countryside has been made by Fitzpatrick Woolmer? No! what really not, are you sure? So this attempt to correct the rule breach by virtue of para 6.11 of the rules is just not playing by the rules; it is a breach of the constitution. Just because you both get paid £132,480 p.a. does not mean you are able to simply do as you please.

What do the rules say? They say that is there is an oversight of this nature caused by urgency that approval should be sought from a Cabinet Committee (Mr Mustard can't see them causing trouble) under rules 5.7 & 5.8. Please could all Directors read this rule and implement it in the future.

One final point. Para 10.1 of the DPR. Should it not be "retroactive" authority rather than "retrospective" authority?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

28 December 2011

The second interesting Xmas Eve DPR

Here is the DPR to implement annual inflation increases for the Environment Planning & Regeneration directorate starting on 1 February 2012.

1508 EPR charges 2012-13

Mr Mustard notices that this increases the price of a Resident's CPZ Permit from £100 to £105 despite Cllr Coleman saying at the recent Cabinet Resources Committee ( 14 December 2011 ) that these were being looked at again. Maybe they are but the proposal to increase them by 5% has still been published. Keep your eyes peeled.

Maybe this is procedurally correct but somehow Mr Mustard doubts it as this DPR is signed by Pam Wharfe who has form for signing DPRs that don't accord with the constitution e.g. RM Countryside and the removal of parking meters.

Barnet Council regulation issue DPR signing kit

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

26 December 2011

£1,000 - well spent or a waste ?

Mr Mustard didn't expect a DPR to be issued on Friday 23 December, the last working day before Xmas, as the world had largely stopped for Xmas. He checked the computer all the same as he thought it would be a good day to bury bad news. He found 3 interesting DPRs and here is the first one.

1494 Queens Diamond Jubilee Music

Having looked at the website for Tim Benjamin, here, he is at least a proper musician ( I have no gripe with you Mr Benjamin although your website is wrong. Barnet is not the UK's largest authority by any measure ) although he is not sure why we didn't use our own composer, the Deputy Chief Executive, Chief Financial & S151 Officer, Andrew Travers, who scores 1,000 notes a day?

Why at a time of service cuts are we throwing £1,000 at this vanity project? Couldn't the £1,000 have been better spent in ameliorating the worst of the service level cuts.

Mr Mustard has been helpfully supplied with this screenshot of Tim Benjamin's twitter page

Look: Yorkshire!
Barnet must now be the South Riding of Yorkshire? ( and before you feel compelled to write in I know that a riding is a third and thus there isn't a South Riding but let's not let that get in the way of Mr Mustard's little joke )

Mr Benjamin's wikipedia entry is here

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

25 December 2011

Mr Mustard's Christmas message

Hello readers and thank you for tearing yourself away from the telly for a moment. Mr Mustard wants to tell you about his year. Once upon a time............

It was January 2011 and Mr Mustard wasn't even a twinkle in anybody's eye and then his Alter Ego heard that the car parking permits were going to go up in price from £40 to £100 and that visitor vouchers would rise in price from £1 to £4 he started to get interested in the workings of Barnet Council ( the law of unintended consequences in action ) as he thought the increases were outrageous and unfairly affected those residents who live inside a Controlled Parking Zone.

Alter Ego would have been badly affected by the price rises as he had managed the rebuild of his house and used 200 vouchers for the many trades who took his house back to a brick shell, added another floor and rebuilt the whole place. The proposed increase would have added £600 to the cost of the job.

Alter Ego had not been bothered by the intransigence of the planning department who do, after all, have to try and preserve the character of the area but that is a blog for another day. Alter ego had to submit 4 planning applications before he got the permission he wanted (it didn't help that for one of the them the architect submitted the wrong plan and it was passed! Alter Ego nearly built the house he thought had been passed; that would have led to an interesting conversation with the building inspector - Alter Ego gets on very well with the building inspectors who are generally sensible and pragmatic although Alter Ego is presently only refurbishing tired houses rather than radically changing them).

So here are the before and after photos of Mustard Mansions

Many local residents stopped to say hello and were very interested in the work and pleased with the improvement that was taking place and looked around the build and then the finished product and couldn't see why the council had been so difficult. Enough of the digression.

As it happened a meeting of the Chipping Barnet Residents Forum was due to take place on 22 February 2011 and in the Chipping Barnet library so only 200m from what is now Mustard Mansions. Alter ego rounded up half of the street and they all went along. The meeting was chaired by Cllr Rutter who is now the mayor. She is a lot better at cutting ribbons and planting trees than she is at chairing meetings. It was a hideous rule bound undemocratic charade of a forum. Look at what the poster advertising the meeting used to say ( funny how it has been changed )

Have your say - but only if we agree with you.

It's your meeting - except it isn't as council wallahs are the ones on the top table.

You can put questions - no not that one you can't.

Debate - they think that to debate means to tell someone what to do at Barnet Council.

Set the agenda - Mr Mustard would like to put scrap OneBarnet on the agenda but magically he won't be allowed to.

So Alter Ego and most of the rest of his street left the meeting and some went home and some went to the pub. Discussion ensued over the next few days about the meeting and what an awful spectacle it was. The good bit of the meeting was that John Dix was in the audience. Alter Ego had borrowed some information about the administrative cost of crossing patrols (a multiple of the cost of the patrols themselves)  from the Mr Reasonable blog and he nodded towards Mr Dix as he delivered the preamble to his question which he chose to cut short as the chair has cut other residents off in their prime.

Alter Ego then spent time looking at the Mr Reasonable blog and this led him to what is now the Citizen Barnet blog ( keeps us all up to date with the trade union view of things ) The Barnet Eye which has a unique and wide ranging view of things and then the one and only Mrs Angry of Broken Barnet and Alter Ego found himself checking that blog every day hoping for another hilarious story. Alter Ego was trying desperately hard not to start a blog because he could see that it would take a lot of time and he has always had a full life and because he knew he could only ever be half as funny as Mrs Angry which is, as it happens, funny enough .Mr Mustard's view of Mr Reasonable is that he is the million dollar man as he looks at the big picture.

So was Mr Mustard born out of annoyance and frustration. Mr Mustard feels he has slotted in nicely between Mrs A and Mr R with half the humour and half the amounts of money. Mr Mustard didn't really expect a lot of visits, his family, his friends and neighbours and has been humbled and surprised by his vast quantity of visitors many of them from within the security fence of the North London Business Park, the spiritual home of OneBarnet.

So Mr Mustard started to blog. His first effort was terrible and was mostly a pathetic cut and paste email response from Cllr David Longstaff, one of his, for now, ward councillors. This councillor is now universally known as Goldenarse, well by the bloggers, am not sure what his fellow councillors refer to him as behind his lower back. He quickly got better, no not goldenarse he got much worse, and daily hits went from single figures into the tens and the usual daily pageviews are now 200+ which leaves plenty of room for improvement.

Mr Mustard discovered that he was public enemy number one at Barnet Council. Always nice to be top of the pops thought Mr Mustard, who can't sing for toffee. Mr Mustard started to attend meetings. He was shocked how quickly they finished. 22 minutes was the record for half a ream of paperwork. That does leave plenty of time for bloggers to have their own committee meeting afterwards and explore areas of interest. Maybe you ought to make your meetings last longer councillors so the famous five Barnet Bloggers, as they became, have less time to pore over that interesting local government detail.

Sadly Mr Mustard missed the bully boy MetPro budget setting meeting (one must have priorities) where the big stick that councillors are fond of wielding was again in evidence. 

Back then Barnet Council didn't know who Mr Mustard was. All they had to do was look at the time and the date of the email sent by goldenarse and they could have worked it out. It became evident later on probably because they could read Mr Mustard's take on the various information he had obtained under FOI legislation.

June was an interesting month and Mr Mustard didn't even know. Barnet Council completely lost their sense of humour and filled in a complaint form and sent it to the Information Commissioner. On Friday in response to an FOI request Barnet Council told him that they didn't file a complaint, they asked for advice. You could have done that in an email Barnet Council, you chose to fill out the complaint form. You did not cross out the word complaint anywhere on the form and signed a declaration about your complaint. Mr Mustard has rejected the FOI answer and requested a proper truthful answer. The question they are avoiding is whose decision it was to send Mr Mustard to the ICO. Mr Mustard will bash on. Some of the FOI officers "get" Mustard and by answering once properly and fully they avoid a lot of grief. Mr Mustard is always polite but is capable of injecting plenty of impetus into his emails.

The ICO showed they had a sense of humour in addition to commonsense and upholding the right to freedom of speech. They referred in an email to BLOG OUTRAGE. They were pleased to see that Roger had redacted their contact details.

If only Barnet Council had stopped to drink a cup of tea and think
July saw Eric Pickles mention Mr Mustard and his fellow Barnet bloggers in his speech to the CIPFA conference and Mr Mustard learnt this from a councillor for another council who is a fan of the Mr Mustard blog. If you have a government minister on your side you cannot be doing much wrong.

The Bloggers' favourite MP - Uncle Eric
September saw the Famous Five Barnet Bloggers write jointly to The Right Honourable Eric Pickles MP about the way in which Barnet Council were failing to answer FOI, were generally obstructive, late, not publishing everything Eric said they should and generally not signing up to his openness and transparency agenda. The outcome of that was that Barnet responded by complaining that one blogger had cost the council £40,000 It didn't take the papers long to ring the other 4 whose numbers they had and work out it was Mr Mustard. Mr Mustard was flinging himself at high speed around the racetrack on 2 wheels at Portimao and one is pretty tired at the end of a day of doing that. He was missing calls on his mobile and getting emails from various journalists ( thank you especially to the Ham & High for coining the term Superblogger for Mr Mustard. All of the famous five Barnet Bloggers are superbloggers. ) and instead of sitting in the bar with his mates he was on his laptop bashing out a riposte. Cllr Thomas's figures were shown later on to be based on an average cost to reply and many of Mr Mustard's questions had been very simple ones and even worse was that Barnet Council kept no log of how long each FOI question took to answer. Governance ( or the Complaints Department as Mr Mustard now thinks of it ) was in a mess because they had laid off some long serving and efficient officers at the same time as workload was increasing. This is what passes for a good decision at NLBP.

One of Mr Mustard's FOI questions was classified as Vexatious - which was really odd as it was such an innocent question. This is the one and only time that Barnet Council have used that trick since the legislation began. They have since answeredthe question and withdrawn the accusation of vexatiousness. Mrs Angry says that Mr Mustard is not vexatious just vexing. I see on her xmas message that she has raided the website of prettyoungblondes.com ( must check if there really is such a website ) for her personal picture.

November saw Roger of the Barnet Eye uncover the story of the complaint to the ICO and it was quickly picked up by other blogs including David Hencke, the Liberal Conspiracy, Crash bang Wallace and then horror of horrors for Barnet Council and joy of joys for the Famous Five Barnet Bloggers, in the Rotten Boroughs section of Private Eye of which Mr Mustard had always been a fan and there he was in black and off white ( Private Eye make a virtue out of their simple printing process and cheap paper which all helps to keep the magazine to an absolute bargain £1.50 an issue, less than the cost of an hour's parking in Broken Barnet and 2 weeks of enjoyment ). David Hencke's blog powered Mr Mustard's blog to a record 499 pageview day.

Mr Mustard thought he had peaked and then on Wednesday out came the Crisismas edition of Private Eye and in bronze position, with a highly commended, were Barnet Council in the category of Legal Bullies of the Year (better update your CV Mr Lustig - do you suppose that anyone in the legal department of Harrow Council reads Private Eye, they might get cold feet about wanting to do Barnet's

So that was Mr Mustard's year. Just in case you think he might be a bit sad with no life, let him tell you he also motorcycled in Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Holland and Italy, worked a 4 day week, grew vegetables, played in and was treasurer of the snooker league, did the pub quiz monthly, the street team even managed to win once despite the high level of beer consumption, drained half of Portugal's red wine lake single handed, started rowing again ( he tries to row 2000m before every blog in order to keep his weight down ) went to or hosted the film supper club monthly, visited a friend every week who had suffered a stroke, had a weekly language lesson and cut his sleeping down by 2 hours a day, finished the refurbishment of one house ( horrible stone cladding removed ) and recently purchased another one at auction which is now half done.

Mr Mustard's new race bike

Mr Mustard would like to wish a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to bloggers everywhere, to all his readers and especially to his moles. Be careful out there.

In summary, for Mr Mustard it was an Annus Mirabilis and for Barnet Council an Annus Horribilis.

What will 2012 bring?

Yours festively

Mr Mustard

p.s. Mr Mustard hopes to bring you a review of 2011 in pictures on 1 January 2012, and now for a glass of Champagne ( blanc de blancs - a Barnet Council special vintage ).

24 December 2011

Happy Christmas - that will be £4 please

Mr Mustard is rather busy writing to do any drawing and as you know he gets a 7 year old to do it anyway. So although Mr Mustard would like to run up a cartoon Xmas card for your enjoyment he believes in recycling and has passed on the one from the Barnet CPZ Action Campaign of which Mr Mustard is a supporter.

Mind where you park your sleigh this Christmas.

Yours festively

Mr Mustard

23 December 2011

Short and to the point but does it motivate you?

Mr Mustard was sent this weekly message ( non-stick off in the sun already? Caribbean maybe? who knows, or cares )  with a covering note which was too rude to repeat and instead he will have to change it slightly.

"What a twit"

From: First Team
Sent: 23 December 2011 13:41
To: AllStaff

Subject: Weekly message from the Deputy Chief Executive

Thank you to everyone for their contribution in 2011. We have achieved a great deal, and we have reason to be proud of what the council has delivered.

I would like to wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year, with a special thank you to those staff working to maintain our essential services over the holiday period.

See you in the new year.


The bloggers are publishing one by one the highlights of what Barnet Council has achieved this year. It hasn't been a "great deal" for motorists, or people receiving care, or back office parking staff, or procurement or Barnet FC fans or...............fill in your own selection here..............

What is the point of these weekly messages? It must be in part to motivate the staff.

It doesn't seem to be working does it?

Other things being equal Mr Mustard will be with you on Xmas Day for his message to Barnet and on New Year's Day with a pictorial review. Citizen Morris has been busy with her camera and Mr Mustard is off to take a look now. Why not come with him, here.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

A target for Impower

When Mr Mustard saw that a survey was being carried out by Barnet Council to try and improve recycling rates he asked a few questions. Here they are along with the answers:

I am writing in respect of your enquiry for information held by the Authority under the provisions of the Environmental Information Regulations.
Please find the information you requested enclosed. If you have any queries concerning the information please contact me at the supplied address.

1       What experience does Impower have in recycling as a search for the word "recycling" on their website brings up no responses?

This is a joint project between Barnet Council and Impower. Impower do not have specific experience in recycling
Mr Mustard thinks that the next answer, which was in response to a question that he didn't ask, actually provides the answer to the problem.
Their experience is primarily with delivering improvements and efficiencies in local government. They have experience of a wide range of projects that relate to understanding the motivations of service users. Let us assume that May Gurney actually collect everything that is put out by residents. Therefore the biggest improvement in recycling rates is to be found from making sure that all residents recycle every possible item.

For this project the knowledge of recycling is provided by Barnet Council officers.
So all that Impower had to do was to make 600 phone calls, presumably using a database from Barnet Council, run through some questions with the 120 residents who had the time or inclination, and then set up a meeting or two. A doddle, and never worth the price paid for such a simple mechanistic job. So Barnet Council officers are providing the knowledge and yet, as noted further down, Impower are leading the project. Sounds like the tail is wagging the dog.

2       What is the cost for the survey to be carried out?
Barnet Council officers on inflated salaries really don't think about what things should cost or how reasonable they are in relation to the workload. 

3       How was Impower chosen for this work?
As part of the One Barnet Programme the Council has commissioned a number of delivery partner organisations and this includes Impower. This project is being led by Impower under these arrangements.
So they were a shoo-in.

4       How many people will be spoken to on the telephone and how many will be met face-to-face?
Over 600 residents were contacted by telephone. Of these 120 completed a telephone survey, and 31 attended face to face discussion group meetings. Mr Mustard wonders if the type of people who can be bothered to complete telephone surveys are the same ones as can be bothered to do their recycling properly? This exercise should be carried out by a council officer walking the streets with the lorry and knocking on the doors of the properties which don't recycle and finding out why and offering some sort of carrot to get started.

There is a bit more to this story yet. On 6 December there was a meeting of the Budget & Performance Overview & Scrutiny committee. Here is the item presented about recycling and waste

Budget & Performance Overview & Scrutiny 6 December 2011 Recycling

Don't worry about the £50 fines that they are so keen on in Harrow if you put the wrong thing in the bin as Barnet are not going to do this ( perhaps they are learning that the stick does not work ) which is fair as you cannot stop anyone who passes your bin in the front garden from putting what they like in it as they pass down the street.

There is a chart on page 42 that Impower doubtless created which one of the councillors wanted to know more about and he wanted a simple explanation. Good on you councillor as charts of this type are pointlessly complicated. You asked how much this report cost. The Assistant Director in EPR might have mumbled the answer, or the room could just have been too noisy as there were 2 or 3 £millions worth of officers in the room, as Mr Mustard heard £5,000 but upon checking the figure he was staggered to find that it was £65,000

Now according to the press release about recycling with Cllrs Old & Rutter in the picture, Barnet residents have generated £1m of recycling in one year ( and May Gurney pocket the same amount for no good reason that Mr Mustard can think of ) so a 1% increase in recycling would generate £30,300 of extra income from the sale of recyclates. Assuming that the same amount of rubbish is kept out of landfill there will be a commensurate saving in landfill tax.

The story is a little more complicated than that though as Barnet council just love making the population bigger every year which they encourage mainly by building, or allowing the building of, more and more properties without, in Mr Mustard's opinion, sufficient regard to the manifold consequences.

The population projections used by the council show Barnet's population rising from 334,600 in 2008 to to 371,150 by 2018 - a rise of over ten per cent.

So a 10% increase in population means that recycling tonnage should go up by 1% every year without even trying.

The amount Barnet Council receives is £33.11 a tonne from recycling ( so it is actually worth £66.22 per tonne). If £1,000,000 is received by Barnet Council, then the total income is £2,000,000 which at £66.22 per tonne means that about 30,200 tonnes were recycled. This is very odd as the report shows 13,000 to 15,000 tonnes being collected per quarter so that should be 52,000+ tonnes per annum and much more income for the tax payers of Barnet to help keep their council tax down. Mr Mustard will take this apparent discrepancy up with the Assistant Director.

The saving from sending another 1% to recycling instead of landfill is 600 tonnes ( £1,000,000 / 33.11 ) at current landfill levy of £56 a tonne = a cost saving of £33,600

Mr Mustard thinks that a 1% increase in recycling rate, from 33% to 34%, would generate an income of £30,300 ( £1,000,000 /33 * 34 ). Add this to the cost saving and 1% = £63,900 which is, by chance, very close to the cost of Impower.

So we need to see at least a 2% improvement in the annual tonnage performance as 1% is just population inflation and 1% is equivalent to the cost of Impower.

It will be at least a year before we know if Impower have been of any use.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Abuse of Position? part 7

This is for now, the final piece in the jigsaw, although Mr Mustard thinks we have had an insight only into the tiniest part of the unbalanced goings on in the parking department. He is sure that in 2012 more information will come to light.

Now all Mr Mustard has to do for you is find out what Jose's plan was. He will. It is obvious that the plan was not to enforce the parking regulations in a democratic and even manner.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

22 December 2011

Perfect Peckham Parking Policy

Try saying that after your office Christmas party!

Look at this screen dump from the Southwark Council website.

Free weekend parking for the month of December in council car parks. Sounds like they are putting the community first. Cash still accepted in Peckham if you do have to pay; how convenient.

Whilst in Southwark please keep an eye out for this statue stolen from Dulwich Park one night this week ( Mr Mustard actually looked at it last Sunday ) 

by Barbara Hepworth ( http://www.barbarahepworth.org.uk/ )
If you see it, or what looks like it could be a piece of it, maybe in a scrap yard casually leaning up against some scrapped parking meters, do please call the police.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Abuse of Position? part 6

So here is an email with a helpful list of the location of all synagogues in Barnet

click to enlarge
sorry about the quality of this image
Mr Mustard went back and looked at an earlier message when Cllr Dean Cohen asked for a "light touch" in relevant locations in Golders Green ( the area for which he is one of the 3 councillors ) and then he mentioned that this "would apply to other parts of the borough as well."

It looks like Cllr Dean Cohen has been instrumental in changes to policy in other wards which ward councillors may not have been consulted about? I see that copies of some emails have gone to his father, Cllr Melvin Cohen, but not to the third councillor for that ward, Cllr Reuben Thompstone.

I do hope that High Barnet, being devoid of synagogues but well stocked with other places of worship, didn't get the benefit of extra visits by Civil Enforcement Officers ( CEO ) who decided it was easier to stay away from "light touch" areas in order to meet that daily quota of PCNs ( the existence of a quota is denied but a document about it is on this blog )

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

21 December 2011

Why not take out a subscription to Private Eye

An annual subscription only costs £28 which is a bargain as is the magazine bought by the fortnight at only £1.50. It will take you nearly a fortnight to read it all. An added bonus is that Barnet Council's disgraceful and shambolic ways of going on means that they are in there sometimes, like today

click to enlarge; back to return
Happy crisismas to the senior management at North London Business Park and if you think I have been hard on you during the last 9 months, here is my Xmas message for you.

Tough, suck it up and behave better in the future.

Bah humbug

Mr Mustard

and to the hard working and long suffering staff, 

Happy Christmas from Mr Mustard

Customer service slides!

Customer service has been on the slide for months and here are some slides prepared by the project manager which tell you all about it ( maybe, hard to say really what some of it is about ).

click to enlarge: back to return

sorry, I have cropped John Hooton. Financial & Commercial

There is only so much nonsense that Mr Mustard can read. He decided to write a shorter version of the above and here it is.

Mr Mustard's Customer Service

A holistic experience is promised. Can't wait. Can you tell me the times that the Summers Lane Recycling Centre is open and can you do a whole body massage on Wednesday please?

Advocate for the customer - so one department will fight the other one for you. Mr Mustard prefers to fight his own battles thank you very much.

You had better mind how you share data with partners as they might not be registered under the Data Protection Act. You will check won't you? No, Mr Mustard means before you give them the data.

Commissioners. Mr Mustard hasn't featured any non-jobs for a while. These posts must duplicate what other managers are, or should already be, doing but doubtless this will lead to another 10 or 20 managers being employed on £70,000 each.

Note that 5 meetings have taken place with 4 bidders so that is 20 talking shops have taken place. Each of the four remaining bidders has submitted an essay "Why our customer service is the best choice - an Outline Solution" in 30,000 words. The 4 are going to be whittled down to 2 or 3 for the final stage.

For 3 months up to 40 staff have been holed up at Trowers & Hamlins, Solicitors, having a bit of a read and a chat. Mr Mustard is there before you. An FOI request for the legal bill has already been submitted.

and now a real treat. The words of the "Service Lead" Kari Manovitch who appears to be a Strategy Manager ( make up your own jokes about strategy and Barnet Council )

From: onebarnet
Sent: 16 December 2011
To: onebarnet (talking to yourself?)

Subject: NSCSO weekly update 16 December 2011

Dear colleagues,

We have reached an important milestone, with four bidders having submitting their four separate proposals for the NSCSO contract, and the evaluation of these proposals commencing at the offices of our legal advisors, Trowers and Hamlins. The evaluation has been a significant logistical effort with hundreds of pages of documentation being securely printed, transferred and allocated to the correct individuals, and a range of security safeguards implemented. More than 40 Barnet officers are participating in this process, and have already spent many hours reading the material and noting strengths, weaknesses and clarification questions. The process will pause at the end of this week and then re-commence in January when the scores will be recorded, challenged and finalised.

The attention being paid to get this right has been really impressive, and I would like to say a big thank you to everyone involved.

Bidders and staff will be notified of the outcome when the report recommending up to three bidders goes to Cabinet Resources Committee on 28 February.

The core project team has also started planning the work that needs to take place before the second phase of dialogue commences in March. This includes updating the business case and the data room contents.

The project manager Alison Woodcraft has been meeting with all the service leads to gather their feedback on the project so far, which is providing useful insights to feed into the planning process.

An important task for us is to refresh the information about the project on the intranet, so if there’s anything you would like to see on there, please respond to this email with your suggestions. One of the things we are planning to add in January is a timetable of key dates for the project so that it is easier for you to keep track of where we are in the process. You might also find it useful to view a presentation that has been recently added to the intranet which sets out the strategic intent for the project as well as some key details about the bidding and evaluation process.

As this is the last message before Christmas, best wishes for a happy holiday break from the NSCSO team. 

Best regards


Kari Manovitch
Service Lead, New Support and Customer Service Organisation project, Commercial Service

London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP
Tel: 020 8359 7628 
Mobile: 07940 913251 (feel free to phone her with any pressing questions about OneBarnet tendering of Customer Services)

So 40 staff are sitting around shuffling paperwork, drinking tea, reading 30,000 word essays at 200wpm = 2.5hours ( what else will they do between 6 December and 28 February ! ) going on the biggest Xmas party that you have ever seen? ( surely Trowers & Hamlins will have forked out for a champagne fuelled extravaganza? any photographs of Assistant Directors the worse for wear would be lovely - please send them to mrmustard@zoho.com  )  and Customer Services itself isn't being left to rot is it? Oh yes it is. Take a look at the Chief Executive's performance report for July to September; it is dismal, especially when it comes to answering the telephone.

See page 4 in particular.

Barnet Council Chief Executive's Service Q2 2011-12

If those 40 people had been in the office answering 50 phone calls a day each then an extra 130,000 phone calls could have been answered ( 50 calls * 40 people * 65 days in 13 weeks) and performance could have been 100% of calls answered within 5 rings or 20 seconds. Now wouldn't that have been more useful?

This contract is going to last for 10 years. What is Kari Manovitch's view on service review? Have a look on page 8
Prototyping Learning - NESTA

So here are her words:

“...it can be difficult to get improvement right the first time...
there’s nothing like doing it to know whether it’s going to work.”

This customer service contract will be signed for 10 years. Let us hope that Barnet Council do get it right first time. 

Do you think they will ? The comment box is below.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

20 December 2011

Abuse of position? Part 5

Here is another email from that nice and helpful Mr John McArdle the interim Parking Manager ( to be fair to the PM he is between a rock and a hard place in his job - or between Scylla & Charybdis for the more educated reader ). Do remember to email him on john.mcardle@barnet.gov.uk if you have any problems with your parking ticket not getting such generous treatment as he is obviously kindly disposed to give. 

The helpful information was the list of holiday dates seen earlier which is evidently going to be used as it was filed away for further reference. Mr Mustard cannot see why cars parked illegally on yellow lines should not be ticketed and as for parking on the footway, that is terrible. The footway is for pedestrians and not for cars ( except when specifically marked out for pavement parking following the necessary strengthening works ).

A marvellous example of councilspeak follows and describes "adjacent to the venue". What Mr Mustard thinks it means is that the council will ignore mass illegal parking close to the venue until they come across some spaces at the edge of this orgy of wrongdoing.

"Appropriate action" wouldn't be to educate drivers to park properly would it? It would be to cancel the PCN.

"Thank you for your assistance in this matter". Don't make Mr Mustard laugh. Cllr Dean Cohen has not assisted you Mr McArdle. You have assisted him and hundreds or thousands of his voters ( Mr Mustard is not claiming that Cllr Dean Cohen took these actions in order to win votes, although it won't have done him any harm, but he probably got asked once and then like Topsy the problem just grew. If only you had told the first person who asked you Cllr Dean Cohen, to pay their ticket as Barnet Council need the money and then you wouldn't be in the soup now ).

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

A Barnet Council house out of order !

Readers will recall that Barnet Council reported Mr Mustard in a cowardly and underhand manner to the Information Commissioner because they claimed he should have been registered under the Data Protection Act, and he wasn't. they were sent away with a flea in their ear, twice.

Naturally, Barnet Council's house was 100% in order ? (well that is what you would expect but it might not be the case?).

Readers will be well aware of the so called Barnet Innovation Bank. It isn't a bank and it isn't really that innovative. Many charitable organisations have seen their budget slashed and instead we have the Innovation Bank which doles out grants to many of the old names that we have seen before. They are, in the main, deserving cases and one, at least, is innovative although how much can be achieved with £4,150 is open to debate.

So, one of the main partners in the "Innovation Bank" is Thinkpublic Ltd. They were instrumental in the Innovation Bank. What do they say on their website ( they registered the website for the Innovation Bank ), click to see. There is no doubt that they have been processing the data of applicants for grants as otherwise they could not do their job.

Mr Mustard assumed they would be registered under the Data Protection Act ( how could they not be with all the works they had been doing. See their own website ). He searched by their name and by their postcode. What did he find.Nothing.

Oh dear he thought. Shall I report Thinkpublic Ltd to the Information Commissioner and try and get them fined £5,000 like a spineless council might? No, he thought, follow the advice on the Information Commissioners website and give them a nudge. So Mr Mustard gave them a nudge as follows.

8 November 2011

Dear Sirs

I think you should be registered under the Data Protection Act as, for instance, you are processing data on behalf of Barnet Council for their Innovation "Bank"

Please let me know if you agree and if you make an application to register.

Yours sincerely

Mr Mustard

Mr Mustard didn't get an answer within 2 weeks so he wrote again.

21 November 2011

Dear Sirs

I think you should be registered under the Data Protection Act as, for instance, you are processing data on behalf of Barnet Council for their Innovation "Bank"

Please let me know if you agree and if you make an application to register.

Yours sincerely

Mr Mustard

Once nudged, Thinkpublic rumbled into life

22 November 2011

Dear Mr Mustard

Thank you for your message.

Thinkpublic is indeed registered with the ICO, although I notice the registration is not appearing on the online public register, which we will look into.

Yours sincerely

Richard Owen

Mr Mustard was pleased that a supplier to Barnet Council was duly registered under the DPA and that this was a simple matter of administrative error. Polite as ever, Mr Mustard wrote back to Thinkpublic

22 November 2011

Dear Mr Owen

Thank you for letting me know that thinkpublic is registered.

When you find out why you don't appear in the on-line register please can you tell me what the problem was as I rely on the register and knowing the reason for the problem will be of assistance.

Yours sincerely

Mr Mustard

Two more weeks passed. Mr Mustard thought that a matter which was so important that EU case law needed to be quoted ought to be cleared up more quickly than this, so he emailed again.

8 December 2011

Dear Mr Owen

is there any news about your registration please as you still do not appear on the Register and I would have thought that if you were properly registered that this omission by the ICO would be fixed in no time at all

Yours sincerely

Mr Mustard

Mr Mustard was not impressed by the correspondence from Thinkpublic Ltd so he thought he would cut out the middleman. He write directly to the ICO; very nicely I think you will agree; certainly not the sort of aggressive behaviour that we have seen from Barnet Council; he merely tries to establish the facts.

8 December 2011

Dear Sirs

You will see what has been said by a representative of Thinkpublic below. They still do not appear on the register.

Have they ever been registered under the Act ( as far as your records go back anyway ) or is there an application now pending please?

The company:
thinkpublic ltd
Studios 38-40, Fruit & Wool Exchange
56 Brushfield Street, London, E1 6EU
0207 247 2255

This is merely an enquiry; not a complaint.

Yours sincerely

Mr Mustard

The ICO took only 7 days to reply, as follows:-

15 December 2011

Dear Mr Mustard

Further to your email below (now above of course), from the information you have provided we are unable to find a registration (current or pending) for Thinkpublic Ltd.


Notification Department

Mr Mustard is keen to see fair play. He sent that reply to Thinkpublic, as there is always the possibility of administrative error, as follows:-

15 December 2011

Dear Mr Owen

Please can you tell me why you think you are registered and why the Information Commissioner says that you are not and haven't even applied?

Yours sincerely

Mr Mustard

OK, so only a week has gone by but if you are innocent and are accused of not complying with some basic legislation, and have had in fact, since 8 November 2011 to come up with the goods, then surely you could manage it by 20 December 2011?

Will you report yourselves to the ICO then Barnet Council, for giving data to an unregistered processor, or will we just let the ICO read this blog and then call you in for a chat?

Your choice Barnet Council, but don't be long about it. Please do copy Mr Mustard into your correspondence with the ICO.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard