28 June 2012

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

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