30 April 2013

JR - the anticipated result - the council have no mandate for One Barnet

Mr Mustard sat through the entire JR proceedings and had predicted the result. Mr Mustard was very impressed with the Judge, who certainly isn't anything like the Judge Cocklecarrot of Private Eye fame. The result is a different matter but justice is a fickle beast.

The council have issued some of their standard flummery but an organisation with 3,000+ employees and annual revenues of £900m really shouldn't be going around not consulting with the disabled, whom they are meant to help, and mouthing off at what the process has cost. It is the price of democracy Richard (Cornelius) and Mr Mustard is sure it was not money well spent by the council. The cost of consultation would have been far lower and you didn't do it because you were doubtless afraid that the answer would be the opposite of what you were planning?

What were the chances of winning? The answer is in the Guardian here and shows us that it is rare indeed for a JR to succeed. In 2011 out of 2,213 (non criminal and non asylum) applications for Judicial Review only 527 were allowed to proceed. Of those just 87 were found in favour of the applicant and so that is a mere 4% of the applications make it across the winning line. Mr Mustard does believe he has heard Cllr Thomas saying how the council had so far won two JR as if this was a fantastic feat by the council and was a ringing endorsement of everything they have done. Mr Mustard wonders if anyone told him that succesfully defending a JR is the norm? Winning a JR is nothing for a council to be proud of, the opposite in fact as no-one puts themselves through the stress for nothing and the standard of decision-making is pretty poor if a hearing is granted.

Here is the judgment itself.




Mr Mustard has picked out a few snippets for you in case you don't want to read the entire judgment (and they are always hard work).

"Opponents....believe that private-sector organisations cannot evince the public service ethos which is so important in the delivery of the Council's service" (well said Judge Underhill).

"I will also follow the preferred usage of local authorities, though arguably it is not very apt, of describing the other party to an outsourcing arrangement as a 'partner'." (Bang on the money again)

"I am bound to say that I did not find this statement very helpfully structured or written." (This was in relation to a statement by Craig Cooper although he won't have written it all. His i.e. the council's, legal advisers must take most of the blame for this criticism)

The judge quoted from a 2008 Future Shape report. "Fundamentally, the Council should conduct those activities that only the Council can." (That wouldn't leave much).

"this is on any view outsourcing on a very large scale" (masterly understatement from the Judge who is very sharp).

"... the decision to outsource the functions.....have been controversial since they were first proposed."

"The reference to 'contracts with service providers' could be a reference to outsourcing, though it hardly leaps from the page"

"there is no real dispute that it did not constitute consultation about outsourcing as such."

"it is clear in the present case the Council did not make any attempt to consult on the specific question of whether the functions and services covered by the NSCSO and DRS contracts should be outsourced."

"Because here the Council never set out to consult about its outsourcing programme at all, the present case is not a good occasion to offer guidance on the form that such a consultation might have taken. The essential is simply that the representatives should have been given the opportunity to express views or concerns about outsourcing the functions or services in question..."

"It follows that if the application for judicial review had been made in time I would have held that the Council had not complied with its obligations under section 3(2) of the 199 Act in respect of the decisions taken in 2010/11 to outsource the performance of its functions and services, covered by the NSCSO and DRS contracts."

and now contrast what the judge had to say with what Amardeep Gill of Trowers & Hamlins had to say at the Business Management Overview & Scrutiny Committee of 13 December 2012. Mr Mustard has learnt how to fast forward to 07:45 as that is where it gets interesting.



Supposedly all statutory requirements have been adhered to. If Mr Mustard was buying legal advice for a local authority he would start looking around for a choice of legal advisors.

Round 2 is yet to come if leave to appeal is granted. We'll see.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

28 April 2013

Proovfreeder wanted (and a CEO)

Given that we are probably paying £50,000+ to Penna to recruit a new Chief Exec is it too much to hope for materials that are better than the ones we have.

Is it an overview on or an overview of?

The independent councillor didn't get asked?

Shouldn't it be "play the leading role in the implementation"

Shouldn't it be political with a small p?

A key priority (and then list more than one priority and use the word "all"?) for the Chief Executive, as leader of the Board, will be initiating, fostering, encouraging and monitoring a wide range of partners and multi-agency alignment (multi-agency what?) all aimed at the provision of integrated, cost efficient and effective services to the people of Barnet.

and feel able to act as critical friend whilst respecting the democratic process. (sounds like a description of a blogger).

Not good to start a sentence with "But"?

A successful transition and maintaining business as usual will be an initial priority for the new chief executive. Isn't this two priorities?

The values and behaviours play an important part of how they ‘do business’ and (they) would want a chief executive who feels passionately about engaging citizens, employees and partners in an aligned organisation where values and behaviours are lived, not just written on the wall. Shouldn't it be "in" how they do business? Are values and behaviours written on the wall in your office?

The organisational structure in Barnet has recently undergone major change with a number of services outsourced and delivery structured into clearly accountable units the leadership team of the Council has been reorganised to reflect these changes and support the Commissioning Council approach. Might Mr Mustard suggest a full stop after the word "units" and then a capital letter on "The".

The SCB will drive the strategic future of Barnet to deliver the political mandate and ensure that the services delivered, by whatever method are the most effective and cost efficient for residents. How about a comma after "method"?

So that is enough of Penna. A quick note about the timetable. Applications have to be in by 20 May 13. Why have the council been so slow to try and fill the post, anyone would think it is unimportant? The interim appointment of Andrew Travers was approved at Remuneration Committee on 24 October 12. Why is it only 6 months later that recruitment is getting going? An appointment won't be made until after the full council meeting of 16 July.

Any chance of a Barnet person being suitable for the role? Only 350,000 residents to choose from.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Oh Dear

Call Mr Mustard picky if you like but one can't conflate Barnet the place and Barnet Council the council. The first line isn't properly expressed. Barnet is a place not a council.

Hopefully none of the candidates will have been under a stone for the last few years and will know that Barnet is not a sleepy backwater. It is easy to pick out odd areas of success but what we want a CEO to tackle are the areas of failure. For example it was only on Friday that we heard that 6 former parking employees had, with the help of Unison, won their claims for unfair dismissal when their jobs were TUPE transferred to NSL who moved the jobs to Croydon and Lancing such that it was impractical for the employees to retain their jobs. When posts do have to be made redundant the staff are meant to be given details of other vacancies in the council which makes sense for both parties as the employer can perhaps fill a vacancy without paying a recruitment consultant and the employee can use his knowledge of how the council works to help a different department and keep his/her job. The council failed to notify vacancies properly and are having to pay out thousands in compensation, as reported here in the local paper.

So it looks like the new CEO should put the better treatment of staff higher up the priority list but that will rub up against the political decision to sign 10 year contracts with private providers.

Ha Richard "not resting on your laurels" which means "relying entirely on long-past successes for continued fame or recognition" so you admit that any success was a long time ago. I agree that you do take difficult decisions. They are very difficult for the people you make redundant by the hundred and often are also the wrong decisions.

Looking at your statement "our relationship with residents would have to change" Mr Mustard looked at the Residents' Perception Survey 2012 and the question "To what extent does the statement - Is doing a better job now than one year ago - apply to your local council" led to the following responses:

A great deal 79
To some extent 300
Not very much 310
Not at all 238

which leads Mr Mustard to conclude that the relationship of the council with residents is indeed changing, it is getting worse.

The One Barnet programme is not based upon delivering the best possible outcomes for residents. It is mostly based upon privatising services which leads to job losses and pay cuts for staff. Jobs are only kept in-house if that is the cheapest option or if the political fallout from doing otherwise would be too hot to handle. Try asking the residents of Friern Barnet if they think closing their library was the best possible outcome, or the many people who used to like visiting Church Farmhouse Museum or the supporters of Barnet FC whether Copthall being virtually gifted to Saracens was the best outcome? and one is likely to get the answer "No".

You have somewhat accelerated the bringing back in-house of the recycling service Richard. It won't happen until October so you should have used the future tense.

Are we still doing a JV on DRS? It is hard to keep up with changes in the status of any part of the transformation programme; it is as if policy gets made up on the fly.

You are over-egging the pudding with "will allow" when you talk about savings. You might recall you still owe me an answer from November about the parking service outsourcing that went way off the rails and needed a top secret improvement plan to get it back towards the rails.

"Streamlined senior management" does sound lovely and idyllic. Let us take a look at it and see if it looks streamlined.

Mr Mustard hopes you followed all of that as he doesn't and he thinks that tasks are going to be missed because everybody will think it is someone else's responsibility. There was nothing wrong with having silos i.e. departments. Everyone knew what they were responsible for.
"pursuing innovate ways of delivering" is a typically sloppy piece of writing. Mr Mustard guesses that Richard meant "innovative" but that Richard didn't read what was written in his name very carefully, if at all?
"The best future for the people of Barnet." That will be in May 2014. Vote this shower out of the Cabinet.
Yours frugally
Mr Mustard

The message is simple


The message, part of the internet puff for a new CEO to fill a black hole in the management structure, is simple but also simply wrong and meaningless piffle, we are not "your" residents, we will be here for ever and you councillors and officers are transient. Here is what it should have said.

The message is simple:

We work for the residents;
they are more important than us.

a cynical blogger might suggest the following instead:

The messenger is simple.

but that would be unkind and overly personal.

Another question:

Do residents want the council to outsource for 10 years?

Answer: 

No idea as we haven't consulted them.
The big question is what sort of CEO we will end up with? A cast off failure from another local authority still spending their massive pay-off, an acolyte of Common Purpose (and whose purpose are they most interested in?) or a yes man/woman - time will tell. There is always the possibility that we will get a super-efficient, warm and personable highly skilled team leader with an MBA but given that the appointment will be made by committee it is much harder to choose the best candidate and who, in their right mind, would want to be the CEO of Barnet Council.
More on the CEO advert shortly.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

25 April 2013

Transport Committee - Inquiry into Local Authority Parking Enforcement


Traffic wardens on a night out
Firstly thank you to Helen Michael, the North Finchley based Queen of parking (you have visited Cafe Buzz haven't you at 783 High Rd, Tally Ho, London, N12 8QY and tried one of their breakfasts, they really are very good quality and a pretty plateful) as Helen it was who told Mr Mustard that the Transport Committee, a Commons Select Committee, was going to hold an inquiry into Local Authority Parking Enforcement. Great, thought Mr Mustard, and started to formulate his evidence and he told a few other local people who told a few others and so on.

You can find all of the written evidence on the committee website here and unlike some councillors who can't be bothered with paperwork the residents of Barnet can. So much so in fact that of the 65 submissions received from individuals, councils and other bodies thoughout the land some 19, that is 29% of them, were from residents of Barnet.

Mr Mustard is proud of the effort that local residents have made to bring the unique Barnet parking problem to the attention of Parliament. You will all be name checked here along with the reference number of your evidence so that readers can easily find your contribution and maybe a little snippet to whet the reader's appetite. Mr Mustard has permission from Parliament to publish his own evidence and that will be at the end of this posting. Contributions were meant to be limited to 6 pages which is quite hard given the extent of the problems in Barnet.

PE02 - Fraser Mitchell - a man after Mr Mustard's heart:

Caution is needed on CCTV, because all experience since the TMA 2004, is that it has been used to enforce the most trivial of trivial offences, alienating the motorist and making councils appear rapacious and venal. If CCTV is to continue, then severe penalties need to be introduced for its misuse to raise money.

PE12 - Cheryl Kuczynski:

I hope that's helpful; I'd like to add that it's great to be asked one's view - Barnet has never done so and I suspect would not listen to them anyway.

PE14 - Ntina Antonio:

I used to have friends/family visit me almost daily – at £4 a go it is now impossible. I simply cannot afford to pay £20 a week or £80 a month on parking!

PE16 - Daniel Wrightson:

Parking restrictions are socially useful. Used correctly they aid businesses and residents, and make the streets flow better and the high streets more enjoyable. Barnet council has lost this basic concept and is using the inhabitants and the visitors as cash cows, as a medieval fiefdom might - and a short-sighted one at that: think more Alaric the one-eyed, rather than Lorenzo the Magnificent in Florence.

PE17 - Yossi Potash:

They recently took the pay and display machines away. How should I pay if I don't have a phone? I also had some visitors from outside the UK and they found it crazy that they could only pay by phone.

PE18 Antony Jones:


I call on the government to look into these insane charges and convince Barnet council to reduce them.

PE19 - Dino Burbidge:

We had a kids party on a Saturday. 3 of the mums received tickets. All they did was turn up at the end, pick up their kids and grab a party bag. £80 fine? Really? And if we'd have given each of the 15 parents a ticket, that party would have had a £62 bill added to it for 10 minutes of picking up. Why is there no consideration of the basic needs of residents?

PE20 - C A Bylos:

Creating huge financial surpluses as a means of plugging gaps in the council's budget should not be permitted.

PE21 - Harriet Crowe:

Also the requirement to have a mobile phone to park is very restrictive and inconvenient for people, especially the elderly who may not be able to read the signs or work out how to use the system particularly if they do not own a mobile phone.

PE22 - Kathryn Scorza:

But I do feel that just at the point where our local high street needs all the support it can get, the double whammy of expensive meter parking and the fact that one cannot simply pull in and put money into a pay and display ticket machine will mean that shoppers will be put off using our local shops.

PE23 - Barry H White:

It is as if Barnet are deliberately ignoring residents shopholder and common sense in order to increase revenue (partly to pay for their own exorbitant expense allowance rises).

PE25 - Russ Hodgson:

The folly of removing all cash pay and display ticket machines, making the simple act of parking to pop into a shop inconvenient and confusing for many people.

Pe30 - R Leskin:

The unfairness of CPZ residents being held to ransom by huge increases in permit charges, knowing that the council is deliberately creating a huge financial surplus in order to help pay for travel passes and road resurfacing for the whole borough.

PE31 - Paul Pearson of www.penaltychargenotice.co.uk mentions Barnet in his evidence. His website is excellent.

PE35 - David Attfield:

David will be in the Royal Courts of Justice on 2 July for the long awaited judicial review on the parking price increase of April 2011. Mr Mustard has booked his holidays and the gallery will probably be full of bloggers, as usual.

Residential CPZs should not be run for profit.

PE36 - Michael Gaffney:

Parking policies in the borough of Barnet are a disgrace.

PE37 - Jacky Wood

High Street parking charges have been hiked to a level that no longer makes local shopping viable.

PE47 - Gary Shaw:

Penalties for minor traffic contraventions, grossly disproportionate to the offence, are pursued by the local authorities with a degree of vigour that is often absent in matters for which they have responsibility such as the maintenance of signs and the clear explanation of regulations.

PE58 - Ruth Brown:

This is a big £4 “tax” for every visit by a weekly music teacher, window cleaner, repair man, plumber etc.

PE59 - Sarah Ebner;

It all mounts up and we spend well over £1,000 a year on parking. This is crazy.

and now for Mr Mustard's evidence filed at PE 33 on the goverment website:



Now all we have to wait for is to see which witnesses get called to give evidence to the committee. Mr Mustard hopes that NoToMob, evidence at PE27, and David Atffield, are both called.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

23 April 2013

How big is the loss - Your Choice!

The point of asking questions at full Council meetings probably isn't to get answers as just like at committee meetings the answer is something that the questioner has no control over. It was Brian Coleman (quiet at the moment isn't he) who told a questioner you may not like the answer but it is the answer. The knack is to carefully phrase your question to allow no wriggle room and to have a killer follow-up question ready. Here is a recent question which Mr Mustard decided to explore further as he felt the answer was a bit woolly:

Mr Mustard doesn't suppose you are much clearer now? The year in question is the one ended 31 March 2013 in case you were wondering.

So let us go back to 2011 when the idea of putting the social care services into a Local Authority Trading Company was a twinkle in someone's eye. Here are some budgets from 2011 from the "original Business Case".



So you can see that after 4 years of trading Your Choice would still be loss-making.

That must have displeased someone because the numbers got sexed up a bit and by the time they were agreed by Cabinet Resources Committee in February 2012 they looked like this:

Now those projections are whole lot better aren't they? The trouble is they are only on paper and evidently pie in the sky. A projected profit being made of more than 10% in year 2015/16 out of the most vulnerable people in society. What sort of council has been elected in Barnet? Aren't they there to provide a safety net for the vulnerable using the resources given by the better off and the working well? Mr Mustard can't see any excuse for the projections being massively out as this is not a new venture just a spin-off from the council and all the historic financial records would surely be in the "wonderful" SAP system or in spreadsheets kept by managers.

The above two sets of figures were from the 14 February 12 board meeting of Your Choice. The next set are from the 12 September 12 meeting. The board meetings are public. You can just turn up at Barnet House at 6pm although Your Choice weren't very welcoming when Mrs Angry and friends turned up for the last one. The next one is on 22 May 13 at 6pm. Do please go along and support any bloggers and carers who just might be there. Barnet House is the old Ever Ready building in the High Rd at the junction of Totteridge Lane, N20. Ignore the suggestion on the Your Choice website to phone first as it isn't as if they provide a buffet and need to sort out the catering arrangements; it is a public meeting which means anyone can wander in off the street without notice.


As ever Mr Mustard finds fault with the figures but only because they are toffee. In para 5.1 it says the loss is £19,000 and in para 5.6 it says it is £58,000 - only one of those figures can be correct. Whichever is correct is is unsurprising that a start-up company is in loss. Mr Mustard wonders if sufficient regard was given to transition costs. On the new arrangements for cctv that are currently being discussed transition costs are more than £200,000 and implementation costs are also over £200,000 and together for the in-house option they come to £556,000 just to replace a few cameras, nothing like as complicated as services to disabled residents.

So here we go with a summary of what year end profits or losses we have been presented with during the last 2 years, profits in black and losses in red. Then you will have to decide for yourself what you believe. The early numbers should have been rounded to the nearest thousand as you can't predict the future to the nearest pound.

Year to March 2013 Profit £
Original business case 282,260
February 2012 minutes 85,337
September 2012 minutes -229,000
Senior managers -209,000
Rajput -60,000

Mr Mustard will hunt down the final position and let you know what it is.

On Thursday 25 April at 7 pm (Greek Cypriot Centre, 2 Brittania Rd, London, N12 9RU with free parking in the road at that time) is the first organising meeting in regard to Your Choice and the significant issues it raises for people with disabilities in our borough. Do go along if you are interested.

If you enjoyed this blog you should also read what Roger has got to say over at the Barnet Eye.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

19 April 2013

Committee Room 1 - Den of Incompetence

Guess which box Mr Mustard thinks the council are in (no prize)
Mr Mustard does to lots of council meetings. He reads lots of rubbish reports which should not have reached the committee. The committee pass them anyway even if they are utter tosh. Mr Mustard decided to do something about it. Here is what he wrote to the leader of the council and copied to very councillor so that they can be in no doubt of the standard he expects to see.

To make sense of it you need to see all the questions and answers from the meeting


and now what Mr Mustard wrote:



Committee Room 1 - the Den of Incompetence

I expect you will recall Richard, from Constitution Committee of 10 April, that I commented for 5 minutes upon the disappointing way in which the previous meeting had been handled.

I also asked 29 questions as there were that many points which required clarification in just 2 sections of the constitution, the ones relating to procurement.

The conclusions I have drawn from attending many meetings are:

1          Chairmen are in too much of a rush.
2          Some councillors make no input whatsoever
3          Not all councillors read all of the papers in advance
4          Reports are strewn with errors

My comment concluded with me asking to see more and longer scrutiny meetings and self evident proof that every councillor has thoroughly read the papers. The way in which I expected that to be demonstrated was by councillors coming to committee meetings armed with questions which they want answering and with the Chairman having gone through the report before it is published so that all glaring errors and inconsistencies are removed. There should be little left for the public to ask about if reports are clear, concise and accurately written in plain English.

Now roll forward to Cabinet Resources of 18 April 2013 and the situation was still dire.

I looked in detail only at the CCTV item. The report had been prepared by James Mass, an iMpower consultant who has been seconded to the council and for whom we are doubtless invoiced a pretty penny.

I asked 9 questions and some need further discussion.

Q1       The answer revealed that the numbering of the appendices was incorrect. Seemingly no councillor attending had noticed this nor had any officer or if they had they couldn't be bothered to do anything about it. Could the reason possibly be that they don't read very carefully, if at all?

Q2       This answer is not exactly clear, accurate or helpful. The document which has now been produced refers to an Options Appraisal undertaken in November 2011 and is the very document I asked to see and should now be sent to me please. The point of my question was to look at the thought process and methodology at the earliest stage so I could see how we had got to where we were. What the document produced shows me is that in procurement the council allows the tail to wag the dog. The final question in the soft market testing report asks the supplier what contract length they would find ideal. What the council should be doing is deciding what length contract the council would find ideal, probably the lifetime of the equipment, and telling the contractor that is the contract period they can bid for. We are nowhere near out of the woods with procurement disasters if this is the typical way of going on.

Q3       The answer should simply have been "No". In answer to my supplementary question, Cllr Thomas had to admit that a one third reduction in staffing was a possibility.

Q4       Councillors should have had this information made available to them in the main report if they want to make considered decisions about options. Now take a good look at the answer given in writing. I only had 2 minutes before the meeting to study these and prepare my supplementary questions. A pity as the answer I have been given is wrong. You only have to glance across the rows and then look at the total for the in-house option to see that it is wrong. It jumped off the page at me today.

No councillor thought to ask why the contingency for the in-house option was £346,385 and £zero for outsourcing. Doesn't a contingency of £346,385 when spending a capital sum of about £947,000 (there is not a clear table of capital costs) strike you as a bit over the top? It is 36% and seriously skews the options in favour of full outsourcing; anyone would think that the report had been deliberately slanted that way with in-house costs over-stated to make the in-house option look unattractive.

You will recall that Mr Mass said that the extra £20,000 on consultancy was to pay an additional expert in specifying the CCTV and setting it up. Surely if we are paying an expert £20,000 we won't need a contingency of £346,385? Once that is taken out of the equation and Table 4 is updated with the correct figure for implementation costs it starts to look rather different, viz:

£
Out-source
Half way
In-House
Transition costs
215,250
215,250
322,875
Contingency
0
0
0
Income
(350,661)
(304,060)
(304,060)
Expenditure
6,577,821
6,881,390
6,552,547
TOTAL
6,442,410
6,792,580
6,571,362
CURRENT COSTS
7,255,920
7,255,920
7,255,920
Implementation costs
247,000
220,000
214,000
NET (BENEFIT) / COST
(566,510)
(243,340)
(470,558)

A 1.5% saving (the difference between projected outsourcing and in-house costs is only £96,000) does not seem enough compensation for the loss of direct control, data security risk and loss of flexibility which goes hand-in-hand with outsourcing.

The answer given by James Mass to my supplementary question was that there were an extra £20,000 of consultancy costs for the in-house option. Now go to page 56 of the report pack (page 18 of the CCTV section) and read this "Option 3: 250,000 additional consultancy costs to support specification of system". No councillor spotted this £230,000 sized error and nor did any officer who touched the report before it was issued. Sloppy work all round I would say.

Mr Mass is on secondment. Can we send him back to iMpower because we don't seem to be getting value for money?

I consulted Mr Dix about this report. This is what he had to say:

I don’t get the reason for the additional £107k transition costs for the in-house team - it is counter intuitive and not supported by any clear evidence. The contingency issue is fundamentally flawed because, subject to the judicial review, Capita will be responsible for procurement and, if anything, they claim to offer the best possible procurement opportunity because of their centralised resources. As such there is absolutely no rational for the contingency. They have also included £250k in option 3 expenditure for system specification yet in the document they have specified exactly what they want. Perhaps a small budget to fine tune the details but £250k seems completely out of proportion. That is the balancing figure with the contingency and transition costs that makes the in house option the least attractive instead of the most attractive. Without a doubt this is the most biased and unsound analysis I have seen and, based on the incorrect figures given at the CRC in reply to questions, incompetent, on the basis that they can't add up. Richard Cornelius should be utterly embarrassed that officers put out this flimsy business case in the name of efficiency and best value.

Q9.      Given that I showed that it might be possible to perform the service Sussex style for about half the cost in-house I think that what councillors should have done at CRC was to have asked for the Outline Business Case to be updated with more accurate figures and have it brought back to the meeting. Is it any wonder that the council ends up in so many judicial reviews when it is so cavalier with the money of residents?

Summary

Now how can councillors be giving due regard to their duties and value for money when they are galloped though an agenda of 171 pages in 44 minutes flat. I wrote down the time from my mobile phone that items 5, 6 & 7 were agreed at. They were all at 20:12

Item 8 at 20:14

Item 9 at 20:17 and so on.

You need to slow that Cllr Thomas down and every councillor needs to start asking questions. The subject matter is more important than an early dinner.

I will tell you this to your face Richard but officers and consultants are incompetent, reports are riddled with errors and councillors aren't doing the job that they get well rewarded for. You all need to pull your socks up to the point where no member of the public, in their spare time, can make you look to be such a blisteringly incompetent shower. I do hope that the next report I study is 100% accurate.

Have a nice weekend.

Best regards

Mr Mustard

16 April 2013

How many lives has the removal of parking meters ruined?

A guest blog by a trader who would rather stay anonymous - it could be any of them, well any of the ones who are still there.

an empty car park one week after meters bagged over
I took the above picture in Moxon St car park in High Barnet one week after the council put bin bags over the meters ( 8 November 2011 ). 

As you can see, the car park is empty. Historically on a Wednesday at this time you were lucky to get a place.

The second picture is from when they actually took away the meters, the reverse of what’s happening this morning – ground has just been broken for the replacement meter 532 days later. From observation, I calculate lost revenue to the council coffers (at  £577 per day) to be over £307,000!

the hokey cokey meter dance
This debacle has cost our towns MILLIONS of pounds. Our business alone has lost tens of thousands of pounds. Many jobs have been lost, partnerships have reached impossible levels of stress and children left in broken marriages. It’s not just the businesses that have closed: those that survived have let go cleaners, laid off full and part-time staff, they have cut back on advertising and charity sponsorships and they themselves cut back in spending amongst their peers in the high street. They have been forced, like us, to work impossible hours. Forget the Working Time Directive, I now work over 78 hours a week and have little time to spend with my children. The knock-on costs have been immense.

Have the council apologised? No
Have they made any attempt at recompense? No
Have they held out a hand and offered to help stimulate the high streets? No

It all leaves you feeling a little sick and disillusioned with those that pretend to be civilised but are simply masquerading as ‘humanity’.


and now back with Mr Mustard. You can feel the personal pain from the above heartfelt words that traders are suffering.

The cash option was removed as it cost about £500,000 a year to employ a team of people who collected the cash from 400 meters. This is about £1,500 a day and when compared to the possible lost revenue from one car park alone it seems that a proper cost benefit analysis was not done. The problem is that the solution was thought to be a simple choice between two options, 400 cash meters or none at all. That was the thinking of closed minds.

The first thing that should have been done was a cull of 25% of the meters that collected the least amount of money and make those bays free with a time limit for parking to balance supply and demand. Then a review of those meters that remained to see if some could be converted to free bays or to stay the same, and those in car parks retained as cash payment machines with pay-by-phone offered as an option for those that wanted to pay by card using an app on their smartphone. In a car park with multiple meters some could have been cash and some for credit card only making them less liable to be vandalised. Cash only machines could be put under cctv and enclosed in a protective metal cage so they are harder to attack.

This could have left an estate of 100 or so machines and a much reduced cash collection cost along with the flexibility that the public wants and needs.

In Barnet the baby was thrown out with the bathwater.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

12 April 2013

We are not watching you - cctv in Barnet



True to recent form Barnet Council want to wash their hands of direct management control over another aspect of council activity - this time, cctv.

It is bad enough that we are so watched by cctv cameras, with one for every 14 people in the country, without the council handing our moving pictures over to a private company over whom they will only have theoretical control.

Here are the documents

 
and the business case
 
 
and for good measure the Equalities Impact Assessment
 
 
they are all verbose and not an easy read but don't blame Mr Mustard for that as they are the council's documents. You can see the originals at this page here which also tells you the date, time and place of the meeting. This meeting deals mainly with money and it follows on from the 7pm meeting of the cabinet which makes the big decisions that matter and it seems they only need an hour to do that in, probably because they decide beforehand in private and the public meeting is just a bit of theatre to placate the masses (and because it is the law).

Mr Mustard has asked permission of the Chairman to comment for 5 minutes but apparently, per Mr Reasonable who knows about these things, the right is never granted. It would make them 5 minutes late for dinner. Mr Mustard also plans to send in a few questions which will then give him the right to ask supplementary questions. You too can send questions in. Do it by Tuesday 10am to andrew.nathan@barnet.gov.uk

Mr Mustard looks forward to seeing you at Hendon Town Hall next Thursday at 8pm (and probably at 7pm for the cabinet meeting)

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard