30 June 2012

Chasing the One Barnet cheese ( £1bn special)

Mr Mustard doesn't plan to enter the cheese rolling competition preferring to buy his at Waitrose. The first prize is the cheese weighing 6 or 7lb, the second prize is £10 and the third prize is £5. Lots of info here.

Some large companies have entered for the One Barnet £1bn competition but the course is starting to look a little steep and entrants are starting to worry about damaged reputations and if the prize is worth the candle. On that topic Mr Mustard has a message for you, BT, Capita and EC Harris (no-one else left in the running is there?) that he will be checking your invoices every single month for the entire life of the contract. He will be vetting every single item, doubtless as a double act with Mr Reasonable, and making sure that the client side at Barnet Council do the jobs they are paid for and penalise every single contract breach. You will probably wish you had never bid and won. Stop and think now before you go on. Also remember how incompetent Barnet Council are and how what you supply will be that much more difficult to achieve than what a well run council can manage.

These contracts are complex and Barnet Council haven't even managed to stick to timetable despite being overrun with supposed expert (definitely expensive) consultants to do all the hard work whilst the senior officers struggle on at the same time with business as usual and don't manage to do either properly.

Here is a recent message from Craig Cooper, the unCommercial Director (sorry Craig I have been a bit slow getting this one into print, had other more pressing items to deal with, bloggers have to prioritise as well you know)

From: Barbour, Helen - On Behalf Of Cooper, Craig
Sent: 21 June 2012 - 12:39
Subject: New Support and Customer Services Organisation (NSCSO) and Development and Regulatory Services (DRS) Project Timescales

Dear Colleague

As you will have read already in the fortnightly messages, the project teams have been working hard to finalise the NSCSO and DRS project timetables to make sure that both of these projects run smoothly in the final stages of transfer and that they don't both go live on the same day.

We have now had approval from Council Directors' Group on the new project timings and I would like to update you on what this means for you.

We have tried to set a realistic timetable with some level of flexibility and contingency built in which means we are confident we can work within these timescales. We have planned both projects to allow enough time for a thorough evaluation and a 12-week mobilisation period, to ensure a smooth handover to the new providers. Although the two mobilisation periods will overlap, we have agreed that NSCSO will go live slightly before DRS.

Here is the timetable for awarding the contract to the new provider, the mobilisation period and the final transfer date:


Week beginning 28 November meeting papers for Cabinet Resources Committee, with a recommendation of the preferred bidder for NSCSO, will be published on the council website. This means you will know who the evaluation team are recommending as the new provider. There will be staff briefings on the preferred bidder recommendation during this week.

Week beginning 6 December 2012 Cabinet Resources Committee will make the final decision on the new provider for NSCSO.

Week beginning 12 December 2012 the Overview and Scrutiny Committee will meet and following this, the letter to bidders informing them of the decision will be issued.

Week beginning 8 January 2013 mobilisation of staff will begin. This will include three-way meetings where the new provider will consult the unions on their proposed measures, staff briefings and one-to-one meetings with the new provider. We will tell you more about what the mobilisation period will entail at staff briefings in the autumn.

Week beginning 1 April 2013 all in-scope staff will transfer to the new provider


Week beginning 7 January 2013 meeting papers for Cabinet Resources Committee, with a recommendation of the preferred bidder for DRS, will be published on the council website. This means you will know who the evaluation team are recommending as the new provider. There will be staff briefings on the preferred bidder recommendation during this week.

Week beginning 14 January 2013 Cabinet Resources Committee will make the final decision on the new provider for DRS.

Week beginning 21 January 2013 the Overview and Scrutiny Committee will meet and following this the letter to bidders informing them of the decision will be issued.

Week beginning 11 February 2013 mobilisation with staff will begin. This will include three-way meetings where the new provider will consult the unions on their proposed measures, staff briefings and one-to-one meetings with the new provider. We will tell you more about what the mobilisation period will entail at staff briefings in the autumn.

Week beginning 6 May 2013 in-scope staff will transfer to the new provider.

I hope that having some more clarity on the timescales is useful. We will continue to tell you as much as we can as early as we can, but I do appreciate that this is a period of uncertainty which can be extremely difficult for staff. As we get closer to the decision on the new providers, and to transfer, we will remind you of the key dates above and will continue to communicate with you through the email updates, staff group, staff briefings and the intranet.

If you do have any questions about the timescales, or anything else regarding the NSCSO or DRS projects, please send an email to onebarnet@barnet.gov.uk or speak to your manager or staff group representative.

I would also recommend all staff to attend one of the TUPE workshops and the Change and Me Workshop, if you haven't already done so.

Craig Cooper

Director of Commercial Services

London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP
Tel: 020 8359 7082
Mobile: 07979 973042

So the Commercial Director is pressing on with the bonkers idea of outsourcing two major chunks of work at more or less the same time instead of trying one and sitting back for 6 months to see how it goes before outsourcing the other chunk and also signing up for 10 years which will make getting out very hard (without paying a huge sum of money). 

What Craig doesn't mention in his email is the horrific slippage that has occurred in the timetable. Let us go back to a chart which was produced in October 2010 

This chart is part of a short report which cost £19,000 and you can see that mobilisation should have happened 6 months ago and will be at least a year behind. As Mr Reasonable has just pointed out that just means more fees for consultants.

Perhaps the officers don't know what they are doing. 
Perhaps the expert consultants aren't so expert after all.
Perhaps the councillors don't have a grip on officers and what they are doing(no perhaps needed)

Perhaps we need to call a halt and get someone independent in to do a thorough cost-benefit analysis and see if any money is really going to be saved. Take a look at what has just happened in Bournemouth, 35% of the projected saving has been removed. In Barnet the savings are all lovely projections, will they come to pass? Mr Mustard doubts it. 

Come on councillors, start poking in all the dark corners and challenging all of the figures. Apply some rigorous scrutiny before it is too late.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

The Friday Joke - a day late mind

Mr Mustard bumped into a neighbour at Barnet Market.

He told a tale of how he received a parking ticket because someone put an advertisement flyer under his windscreen wiper which covered the CPZ permit. 

Barnet Council did cancel the ticket but "only this time" which is unreasonable as you can't stand guard over your car 24/7.

Maybe it would be better if the council did something about the scourge of advertisers who shove unwanted leaflets on your car windscreen by passing a by-law making the borough a no leaflets on cars zone perhaps. Leaflets become litter.

The neighbour didn't see the joke either.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

28 June 2012

Footer mania

Something has got to be done about the footers that local authorities use. They are nearly a foot long, is that why they are called footers? What is the point, no-one reads them or takes any notice of them. 

Here is the one from Redbridge; can anyone find a longer one?

I acknowledge your request for information received on 27th June 2012.
Your request is being considered and you will receive the information requested within the statutory timescale of 20 working days as defined by the Freedom of Information Act 2000, subject to the information not being exempt or containing a reference to a third party. If appropriate, the information may be provided in paper copy, normal font size. If you require alternative formats, e.g. language, audio, large print, etc. then please let me know.
Please note that the legislation allows access to information 'held' by the Council and not for the creation of new information or opinion. Therefore, we may only be able to supply documents or data that contain the information we hold in response to your request.
For your information, the Act defines a number of exemptions that may prevent release of the information you have requested. There will be an assessment and if any of the exemption categories apply then the information will not be released. You will be informed if this is the case, including your rights of appeal.
If the information you request contains reference to a third party then they may be consulted prior to a decision being taken on whether or not to release the information to you. You will be informed if this is the case.
There may a fee payable for this information. This will be considered and you will be informed if a fee is payable. In this event the fee must be paid before the information is processed and released. The 20 working day time limit for responses is suspended until receipt of the payment.
If you have any queries or concerns then please contact the Information Officer at London Borough of Redbridge, Town Hall, PO Box 2, High Road, Ilford, Essex, telephone 0208 708 2331, e-mail foi@redbridge.gov.uk
Further information is also available from the Information Commissioner at:
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Telephone: 08456 30 60 60 or 01625 54 57 45
Vartika Sood
HR Business Support Officer
Human Resources Service
Lynton House, 7th Floor
Direct line: 020 8708 3439
Fax: 020 8708 3038
Email: Vartika.sood@redbridge.gov.uk
This communication contains data protected by the Data Protection Act 1998 and may only be used for the purpose agreed with the sender. The data may not be shared or copied without written authorisation and when not required must be securely stored or destroyed.
If you have received this information in error, please destroy it and contact the Human Resources Service on 020 8708 3229, immediately.


This email contains proprietary confidential information some or all
of which may be legally privileged and/or subject to the provisions
of privacy legislation. It is intended solely for the addressee. (Confidential! What rot.)

If you are not the intended recipient, an addressing or transmission
error has misdirected this e-mail; you must not use, disclose, copy,
print or disseminate the information contained within this e-mail.

Please notify the author immediately by replying to this email. Any
views expressed in this email are those of the individual sender,
except where the sender specifically states these to be the views of
the London Borough of Redbridge.

This email has been scanned for all viruses and all reasonable
precautions have been taken to ensure that no viruses are present.

The London Borough of Redbridge cannot accept responsibility for any
loss or damage arising from the use of this email or attachments.

The parking cash cow

Cuts down on parasites; not seen one of these in Barnet

A cash cow is the name that is given to a business that just generates cash which then tends to get invested in other businesses.

In the case of Barnet residents we were being milked (bilked even) for all we were worth last year and of course the judicial review is still rumbling along. There is no recent news but it is still a good idea to keep an eye on the CPZ Appeal blog. Now that the previous holder of the parking portfolio, one Brian Coleman, has been replaced by Dean Cohen who appears to be more moderate and prepared to listen, there will doubtless have to be discussions about how the legal proceedings will be settled and they will be going on quietly in the background.

What has happened to parking over the last 2 years?

Here are the figures taken straight out of a report presented to Cabinet Resources Committee on 20 June 2012 (Item 9)

Year 2010/11 2011/12 Increase Note
Item £ £ %
Parking tickets 3,970,934 6,492,115 63% 1
Permits 1,179,924 2,068,269 75% 2
Pay & Display 2,109,547 2,980,090 41% 3
Bus Lane CCTV fines 1,099,820 735,537 -33% 4
Income 8,360,225 12,276,011 47% 5
Costs 6,271,885 6,567,971 5% 6
Net profit 2,088,340 5,708,040 173% 7

Let us look at each line in turn.

1. The number of parking tickets issued went up by 63% or about 50,000. Did residents and visitors suddenly get worse at parking? No. This is attributable to a deliberate push to issue more tickets and the removal of meters which made compliance harder and partly by a £10 increase in bus lane and higher level penalties. Is this an example of putting the community first? No.

2. The first resident permit increased in price from £40 to £100 which is an increase of 150% and yet the income increased by only 75%. This is a demonstration of price elasticity.  The point was found at which demand is dampened even for something that you think you have to have. Many people living near the edge of CPZ zones simply gave up or started parking in their front gardens if they could.

3. Pay & display charges vary greatly but this 41% increase will be due to increased charges not to increased visitors. Car parks were noticeably more empty after the price increases and the removal of parking meters.

4. There was a problem with being able to monitor the cameras for sufficient hours (Mr Mustard thinks) and/or with the software not being able to follow up on people who simply failed to pay.

5. An increased income of 47% in one year is a scandal. It truly is highway robbery. Making up budget pressures by taxing the motorist in this way is frowned on by central government and by voters (not all that long until the next local elections, just 23 months).

6. Costs went up by 5%. Salary levels were not increased but lots of overtime was probably on offer so that more tickets could be issued and there were quite a few agency staff who come with added costs.

7. Overall net profit a whopping 173% increase. Disgusting.

Mr Mustard had to pay the CPZ increase (he only has one 4 wheeled vehicle, the "blogger bus") which was one of the main reasons why he started the blog. He managed not to get any valid parking tickets and he didn't pay to park anywhere in Barnet either on-road or in car parks. He does not drive up the bus lane on the A5 and he recommends that you don't either. It simply is not worth the risk. Stay out of it and let's see if we can make the CCTV income of £735,537 go down yet further. Those cameras would be better used on real crime.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Singing for your supper

Mr Mustard doesn't know if the Barnet Homes contingent were singing on the way home after a fine evening of food and drink at the expense of the council tax payer (leaving the Mayor and his lady out of this question - the Mayor just wouldn't do that sort of thing, tired and emotional singing that is) but what he does know is that the ALMO of the year isn't Barnet Homes but Homes for Haringey and that his King Prawn Curry with egg fried rice only cost £5.10 after the Constitution Committee and Mr Mustard pays his own way.

An awful lot of management time must go into submitting awards. The council think it is a good thing because they trumpet the mere fact of being short-listed on the website and here is a little snippet from that page:

Pam Wharfe, Barnet Council’s Interim Director of Environment, Planning and Regeneration, said: “It is great news that the hard work of all the staff at Barnet Homes has been recognised in this way. I am confident that the additional services Barnet Homes will provide into the future will only serve to improve the organisation even further and confirm Barnet Homes as an innovator in the ALMO sector.”

Mr Mustard thinks that being short-listed for an award that you put yourself up for in three categories and then fail to win in the only one for which you are short-listed isn't worth more than the square root of heehaw. Will the failure to win be on the Barnet Council or Barnet Homes website tomorrow? No, I thought not. Why was the council short-listed? So that they would book a table for 10 people (oh you cynic Mr Mustard, but absolutely true. Award ceremonies are a massively profitable business).
How has Barnet Homes done in the last 4 years? 

Well here is a list of the awards that Barnet Homes have entered, sometimes in more than one category.

  • 2009 Sustainable Housing Awards.
  • 2009 National Federation of ALMOs Awards x 3
  • 2009 Housing Heroes Awards.
  • 2009 ASBActionNet awards x 2
  • 2009 CIPRide Awards
  • 2010 National Federation of ALMOs Awards x 3.
  • 2010 Housing Heroes Awards
  • 2010 MoneyActionNet Awards
  • 2011 Housing Heroes Awards
  • 2011 National Federation of ALMOs awards x 3
  • 2012 UK Housing Awards x 3
  • 2012 GO Procurement Awards
  • 2012 Excellence in Recycling and Waste Management Awards 
So that is 22 separate awards that have been entered for. Mr Mustard has not asked how many they were short-listed for and hence how many were attended by a staff party having a good booze-up at the expense of the council tax payer. Needless to say thousands of pounds will have been spent in entering these awards which are just vanity and don't lead to one iota of service improvement.

Here are our two past winners.

2009 National Federation of ALMOs Awards - Joint winner (not even outright) Board Member of the Year (Vi Britchfield)
2010 National Federation of ALMOs Awards - Winner Most Outstanding Young Person of the Year (Rui Jorge Octavio).

A quick look at Vi Britchfield. Violet is hardly going to be the most independent leaseholders' representative is she, having worked previously for Barnet Council? Someone who hasn't had any previous association with the council would surely be better placed to represent the leaseholders' interests. Violet has been on the board of Barnet Homes since 2005 and she isn't exactly in the first flush of youth (Mr Mustard looked at the lady's date of birth on Companies House and hasn't seen a year that low for some time). The constitution of Barnet Homes allows for directors to stand down after a certain number of terms. Violet was around for some years even before that rule came in and really ought to think about giving way to someone a little younger. It looks like Barnet Homes tried to replace her in 2009 but failed, surely out of 15,000 homes one other public spirited person can be found?

Mr Mustard is sure that Rui Jorge Octavio is a fine chap (see Nutmeg here) but very oddly, if you look at his linked-in profile the words "Barnet Homes" do not appear. How can someone who doesn't seem to have worked for Barnet Homes win a prize on behalf of Barnet Homes? Answers on a postcard please.

Who ate at our expense tonight?
Attending will be:
2 members of Barnet Homes Executive Team
3 Board members
2 London Borough of Barnet senior staff
The Mayor and Mayoress of Barnet
1 resident

Let us add some names.

Staff attending on salaries of more than £58.200 are:

Tracey Lees
Derek Rust
Pam Wharfe (LBB)
Kate Kennally (LBB)

The resident is the Chair of the Performance Advisory Group – our resident scrutiny group

You would think that all of these people could afford to buy their own dinner. Someone will have photographs. They would be gratefully received.

So there is only a 1 in 11 chance of picking up an award. Given that there are only 60 ALMOs and not all of them will be vanity driven and entering these awards the awards don't appear to be worth the bother or good value for the council tax payer. Please give them up Barnet Homes (and Barnet Council - your turn next in Building Control).

As for the audacity to enter a Procurement Award, whatever was someone thinking. Mr Mustard has barely looked at the spending of Barnet Homes but from the start he found them paying out £160,000 over the years to one supplier (Dogstar Design) without a contract.

So there we have it. Mr Mustard spends £5.10 on an excellent dinner with friends who also follow Barnet council and subsidises others to float off to the Hilton at his, and other council tax papers, expense. 

Its a dog's life.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

27 June 2012

Murray minted

Stewart Murray was certainly minted when he was made redundant which was reported on 20 June 11 and the redundancy payment was actually made on 30 June 11. Mr Mustard was a bit fast out of the blocks with his FOI request and got it in on 22 June 11 not that it made any difference as it was refused, the review was refused, and the ICO refused on the grounds of planned future publication. This is a valid ground for refusal but if it was good news you can be sure that the tooting twister would have had it up on the front page of the council website before you could unwrap a Murray Mint.

When information is only published once a year it strikes Mr Mustard that the FOI exemption needs reining back a little to perhaps 3 months. We will see if the current review of FOI by the Justice Select committee changes anything. Mr Mustard did put his evidence in for consideration.

So what were Barnet Council so fearful of Mr Mustard finding out? Well the draft annual accounts for March 2012 are now out and on page 75 it shows that the payoff was


No wonder Barnet Council wanted to keep it quiet.

In the previous full employment year ended 31 March 2011, Stewart Murray was "only" paid


so he received 1.2 times his annual salary.

The council policy for redundancy payoffs (March 11 edition) had a maximum payoff equivalent to pay for 30 weeks if you were aged over 61 and had 20 years of service. Not Stewart then.

However there is a cute little paragraph which doesn't say "for senior management only"
a bit like "For New Customers Only"
but it might as well, which says:

In certain genuinely exceptional circumstances, consideration can be given to making a one-off payment, based on the merits of each individual case, up to the maximum permitted under the regulations* (i.e. 104 weeks’ pay calculated on a sum up to the employee’s actual week’s pay) taking into account continuous service with employees listed under the Redundancy Payments Continuity of Employment in Local Government etc) (Modification) Order 1999). There will be no right for employees to access this payment and the decision will be made on the circumstances as they relate to the particular individual. The payment incorporates the employee’s statutory redundancy entitlement.

What was genuinely exceptional? Maybe it is time that the GFC set out very tightly what the certain genuinely exceptional circumstances have to be.

Mr Mustard has only ever seen this applied for the really well paid. Mr Mustard hazards that the parking back office employees paid off by NSL as soon as they were TUPE transferred didn't get over a year's pay. If you are one of them please get in touch.

Update 08.33

It seems that Stewart was not out of work for long & there is a certain lead time to get another job.  It looks more like a seamless transfer to Redbridge than anything else.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

26 June 2012

You can call me Al

Traffic wardens (CEO) like to change their name. You can call me Ade, or Oladokin or Arsen but unfortunately they were not their real names.

Take a look at page 39 in Item 7 of the report pack for the Audit Committee of 21 June 2012 

and you will find that Ade Oresanya was really Adebukonla Alaba Oresanya
that Oladokin Awonusi was really Olalekan Abraham Oduwaye and
that Arsen Fundi was Eddy Nduwimana.

The first two, who were detained by the UK Border Agency as a result of Operation Quest acted as Civil Enforcement Officers for Barnet Council as direct employees. 

The third one, Eddy, has form for Theft and Deception who, whilst a postman, posted anything of value into the boot of his car. That must be what is known as Special Delivery. He was dismissed by Barnet Council when the subterfuge came to light which it did when he had been working through a temp agency and then applied for a permanent post.

The report does not say which agency supplied him although it is most likely to be through the Hays contract which is an umbrella arrangement covering about 100 agencies. In the Hays contract, signed with Haringey Council on behalf of such other public bodies in Greater London as wish to use it, paragraph 4.5 states that is the obligation of the contractor to obtain two professional references for each Temporary Worker. ( There is not a definition of what a professional reference is. In the case of people who are prepared to change their names supplying a professionally forged reference probably won't be that difficult. Mr Mustard recalls that 30 years ago he had a boss, an accountant, who had a stock of blank letterheads for all of his previous employers so that he could type out any reference he fancied!)

Para 4.5 goes on "The contractor shall, at no additional charge to the council ensure that all checks including, where appropriate, CRB checks on Temporary Workers are carried out prior to the said Temporary Worker being placed with the Council. Subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 the Contractor shall pass the results of such checks to the Authorised Officer."

Now, whether or not it was Hays ( and one would expect the same type of clause to be in any contract with any agency supplying temporary staff ) we have to ask ourselves if the agency, probably Hays, obtained the "professional references" and we have to ask ourselves if the CRB checks were being carried out properly by the agency and also if the documents were passed to the council and/or whether they noticed they hadn't had them. Has there been recruitment of Temporary Workers by Barnet Council in default of good HR procedure and outside of contract because the criminal conviction only came to light when Eddy tried to go from temporary to permanent staff?

Out of a workforce of about 50 Parking wardens to have 3 in one year (6%), who were not who they said they were, get through the recruitment procedures is a pretty dismal performance. It is easy to look good in CAFT, it just tells you how pathetic other departments have been.

HR = hardly rigorous

The big question

Can an illegal immigrant, if that is what they turn out to be, or an employee who wasn't entitled to be an employee, issue a valid parking ticket?

This is a question which has come up a lot around England and which Mr Mustard cannot see has been properly tested unless of course, you know different.

An honest body would of course immediately rescind all tickets that had been issued by someone who should not have been out on the streets issuing tickets at all but we are talking about grasping councils so that is too much to hope for. 

If any reader knows because of a case at PATAS the name of the traffic warden who issued their ticket, because they had to give evidence, and if it was any of the three named above then please get in touch with mrmustard@zoho.com and we will see what we can do.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

25 June 2012

Light the blue touch paper and retire

not the Golders Hill beacon

Mr Mustard likes to email all councillors now and then to give them his views as a resident and council tax payer. He did this last week and sent an email from his alter ego's email address. The content of the email about Freedom of Information needing more importance and more resource can be found in a previous blog post here.

There is sometimes a read receipt on the emails so that Mr Mustard can gauge how many councillors have at least opened the email. Mr Mustard did not need to know that Brian Coleman had opened the email as he received a reply from him after 3h & 33m and here it is (you might want to sit down before reading any further):


Mr Mustard (Mr Mustard's real name was used - the word "Dear" did not appear)

You have repeatedly and politely been told by me to remove me from your e mail lists and cease contacting me; this includes your many round robin e mails to Councillors . You are not a resident of my Ward and have no business contacting me

I have also made it clear to you that I do not wish to receive e mails nor letters to my home or the Town Hall from you on any matter whatsoever.

Any further communication will be treated as harassment and dealt with appropriately

Additionally it has been reported to me that you are the owner of a black transit type van which has been seen parked near Councillors houses on several occasions , I am sure you would agree we are now moving into the realms of stalking and if you are undertaking such activities and I stress if,then perhaps you would desist

I note you have dropped the practise of sending anonymous e mails and at least now write in your proper name no doubt as a result of the recent ruling on "Internet Trolls"

As I understand you have submitted hundreds of FOI requests at the cost to the Barnet taxpayer of ten of thousands of pounds perhaps you might mention that to Mr Pickles and indeed support my view that the rules should be tightened to prevent malicious and obsessive FOI requests

Now let Mr Mustard consider some of the points.

Without prejudice - isn't really relevant to Brian's email but is a more complicated subject than you might think. See the guide which you can find on this page.

Not for publication - in the absence of a legal agreement that a communication is confidential, or some law like the Official Secrets Act applying, publication cannot be prevented.

Mr Mustard has been told by Brian not to contact him. At that time Brian was a member of the Cabinet which makes decisions that affect the whole of the borough and so it seems perfectly reasonable to email him. Brian is still on a committee that overviews and scrutinises budget decisions that affect the whole borough and it still seems reasonable to email him even if he then decides to delete emails unread. Mr Mustard did have business emailing Brian recently because he sent him £10 and a Subject Access Request which is months overdue for a response. This was hand delivered to Hendon Town Hall and the cheque has not been claimed.( Incidentally the separate request & £10 cheque sent to the council has not been answered / claimed either). Both Brian and the council will have to be reported to the Information Commissioner.

Needless to say no other councillor has found the tone or frequency of Mr Mustard's missives to be bothersome and has asked to be excused PE emails. London Councils published a guide to the job of a councillor, you can find it on this blog as the immediately preceding post. They think differently to Brian so they must be wrong?

Mr Mustard now also notes that Brian is a substitute member of the Chipping Barnet area environment sub-committee where Mr Mustard's alter ego lives. If Brian is not going to listen to the views of a Chipping Barnet resident then he perhaps ought to take himself off the substitute list for that committee (do substitutes get paid for being on call?).

Brian is also a substitute for the East area planning sub-committee. Doesn't that cover Chipping Barnet? 

Mr Mustard thinks that the harassment charge won't stick unless all the other 62 councillors make the same complaint. It's not as if Brian has been singled out for special attention, except on the day he lost his GLA seat and of course he was the only possible recipient of advice that day, which was blogged about on Saturday. Mr Mustard is a bit hit and miss with his round robin emails. It is possible that he might have sent 2 in a week on different subjects but then he might go a month or two without sending anything.

Mr Mustard does have a black Renault Trafic. It is adorned with adverts for the Barnet Bloggers. It is also insured for anyone to drive. So far 2 neighbours have driven it and 3 others want to borrow it. One to collect his son and all his gear from university, one to move a sofa and the other to use on the allotment. Mr Mustard lives in a friendly street where this sort of behaviour is normal and he takes no money for the loan of the van. Mr Mustard does not ask people who borrow his van if they are going to be near a councillor's property.

As it happens Mr Mustard's co-director owns a flat in the same block as a councillor (not Brian, that would be just too awful) and Mr Mustard's van has been there several times recently because the flat is being emptied and decorated and the neighbour who is doing that work lives in the street and he was driving, not Mr Mustard who was busy debt collecting in his office. Mr Mustard has sent an email to that councillor to explain.

Mr Mustard has parked near Brian's Methodist flat twice. He parked in Ballards Lane. Why? It was because he had meetings at Café Buzz and Mr Mustard refuses to register for pay-by-phone parking so he heads south from Tally Ho out of the CPZ until there is a big enough space to park a van in easily. Sadly almost at Brian's but the 1km walk does Mr Mustard good. Mr Mustard was not hiding behind a tree with his binoculars.

Now let us think about Barnet. There are 63 councillors. There are 33 square miles of Barnet. It is probably the case that Mr Mustard is near to the house of a councillor all of the time as is every other resident in the borough. 2 of his 3 ward councillors live within a mile of him, one a mere 200m away. 

Mr Mustard is not stalking councillors (unless you count his regular appearances in the public gallery at Council meetings? - no, good) and has never said a single word to Brian Coleman (and does not intend to). It is interesting the different reactions one gets. When permitgate arose Mr Mustard sent a very stiff email to Hugh Rayner which, after a bit of bluff & bluster, he took on the chin (Mrs Angry tells Mr Mustard that Hugh is a military man so stiff upper lip and all that) and then introduced himself to Mr Mustard at a recent meeting. All very civil. Mr Mustard was a little surprised at the time and only remembered afterwards that he had expressed a forceful opinion as to the actions that Hugh should take and Hugh took them by handing back his permit and giving some money to the Mayor's charity. He did wrong and then he did right which is to his credit. Isn't there still a question hanging about concerning the use of Brain's permit during Boris's visit to Golders Green or has that become waterunderthebridge-gate?

Now as to the use of email addresses. There is little doubt that the council and councillors have known the identity of Mr Mustard almost since he started blogging. When the famous five Barnet bloggers send joint letters they use their real names. Mr Mustard did use his mrmustard@zoho.com address when he wrote to Brian on 4 May but now tends to use his alter ego's email address which contains his name as that one is linked to his Outlook account and it is possible to send to more than 50 recipients which isn't possible on Zoho. That is the explanation as to the change of email address.

Mr Mustard is not a troll (what's that Mrs Angry? - a bit of a trollop though at times) and as his identity is known and is put on the footer of emails in any case this remark is just bluster (someone must surely have told Brian about the Internet trolls case, is he really that up to date with what is going on with social media?)

Mr Mustard accepts that there are hundreds of requests he has made to Barnet Council and a few to other authorities. The law does not limit the number one can send. They were not all on the same subject. The reason is that there are thousands of things that the council hides and which need to be teased out. The One Barnet risk register for a start, of which half was crossed out.

Is Mr Mustard malicious? You will have to judge but he doesn't think so. He is doubtless a thorn in the side of the council but he will stop being so when they drop One Barnet, get rid of all the consultants, adopt sensible policies and become a boring and efficient council. Mr Mustard thinks he will be around for a while.

Is he obsessive? Maybe a little, but you could also say he has simply become very interested in the workings of the council which is a good thing for democracy. Given the choice last Tuesday between the committee that Brian chairs, the one where he objected to a lady filming when she had every right to, and an evening playing snooker, he chose the snooker so not that obsessive, just a man who likes to see things though.

If Brian wants the rules on FOI changing then he will have to lobby Parliament. Mr Mustard has done so on the subject of FOI, you can read it here.

A delicious irony is that the email last week to all councillors about his FOI request being one year old and so headed "Happy Birthday" (Mr Mustard worried it might not get through the spam filter) might just have been opened by Brian rather than deleted because it is in fact Brian Coleman's birthday today.

Happy Birthday Brian!

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

24 June 2012

What London Councils think the role of a councillor is

This is some pre-reading for you in advance of a post that is coming out at 8am tomorrow.

As most readers will know one councillor has had the habit for a long time of refusing to respond to correspondence that does not come from a ward constituent even  though he was on the Cabinet and he was the GLA member for the whole borough. If anyone else had been that councillor they would have been, Mr Mustard expects, prepared to correspond on any topic affecting a council tax payer in Barnet (and Camden).

Mr Mustard has also noted that other councillors have deleted emails unread. This is not an accidental deletion that only happens to Mr Mustard, it has also been noted by Roger at the Barnet Eye.

Mr Mustard has received deleted unread messages from the computers of the following councillors:

Maureen Braun
Daniel Thomas (although he probably reads them on his work system)
Kate Salinger (Brian reads them to her?)
John Marshall
Geoffrey Johnson
Agnes Slocombe
Anita Campbell
Alison Cornelius (just once, Richard could have told her the content)
Julie Johnson

It could be that they read the email on a colleagues machine or for technical reasons appear to delete unread. If that is you do please let Mr Mustard know that you at least read his emails even if you then forget all about them (if you like living dangerously as an email might come back to bite you).

Now Mr Mustard was wondering what support there was for his view that every councillor in every ward should listen to any resident from any ward and then today, whilst thinking about members' allowances he stumbled over the answer in the following report from London Councils from which ruling councillors, with the notable and honourable exception of the Salingers (look, they had tea with Uncle Eric afterwards) were happy to take advice to increase members' allowances.  

Mr Mustard though is more interested in the page giving the job profile of a councillor (some of Barnet's didn't read past the juicy allowances up to page 11)

London Councils Remuneration Report for Councillors

Let Mr Mustard repeat the key paragraph:

To contribute constructively to open government and democratic renewal through active encouragement of the community to participate generally in the government of the area.

Mr Mustard thinks that means that you cannot barricade yourself in your ward, stick your fingers in your ears going "la la la I can't hear you" and refuse to communicate with anyone from the borough of Barnet who is not in your ward.

Hello Mrs Angry. This other section will please you, sort of. It is from page 2 so councillors have surely read it?

A number of authorities have set up appraisal systems for councillors. We commend this initiative and believe that it should be widely adopted.

Widely would include Barnet one supposes. The sooner the council start doing appraisals of councillors the sooner they won't need to be richly appraised by you; do you think they secretly enjoy the fame of appearing in your blog?

Mr Mustard asks very little of councillors; really only that they do the jobs they are paid for.

Now a challenge. This invitation is open to any councillor to write a blog post about One Barnet, as short or as long as you like which Mr Mustard will publish in full, without changes and without sticking his comments in red all the way through. The purpose is to start a much needed debate with the residents of Barnet. Don't all rush at once.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard