Thursday, 5 July 2012

Open letter to Councillor Richard Cornelius and to Scotland Yard


Helen Michael: open letter to Councillor Richard Cornelius and to Scotland Yard

Since the electoral defeat of former Assembly Member and Barnet Cabinet member Brian Coleman in May, Barnet’s Tory council leader Richard Cornelius and his colleagues have sought to distance themselves from most of the more controversial policies that Coleman promoted.
Most significant among these is the parking scheme, which has caused so much anger among the residents and traders of this borough.
At a meeting with Barnet traders at a North Finchley forum in December last year, Councillor Cornelius was told in no uncertain terms by the shopkeepers and small business owners of this borough about the devastating impact of this ridiculous scheme. He replied:
I’m listening, but I haven’t got any intention to do anything else other than that ... I’ve heard you and it’s obviously affected me. I don’t know what I can do. I don’t know if I can do anything.”
 
Local cafe owner Helen Michael said:

We are wasting our time – you’ve said in no uncertain terms that you’re not going to do anything. We are begging for our businesses, for our livelihoods. Please do something.”
Councillor Cornelius and his fellow Tories sat back and watched as the life of our local high streets ebbed away, in some cases losing up to 40 percent of their usual level of trade.
He refused to do anything for us, so we acted for ourselves.
Bloggers, traders, residents, community activists and trade unions united and voiced their opposition to the changes. Prominent among the campaigners was Helen Michael. As spokeswoman for North Finchley traders she made every effort to focus attention on the injustice and devastating impact of the policy, and hold Councillor Coleman to account for the consequences of his scheme. Her efforts won admiration from London Mayor Boris Johnson – and even Richard Cornelius, who is reported to have suggested she should think of standing as a Conservative candidate for the council.
Only since Brian Coleman lost his seat on the London Assembly, and then his Cabinet post, and in response to two other electoral defeats, has the Tory group on Barnet Council admitted that the parking changes were unfair, and sought to retract them. Councillor Cornelius has now apologised for introducing the policy, and a review is underway.

How ironic it is, therefore, that the woman who did what Councillor Cornelius failed to do, and fought for the best interests of residents and traders, is now being investigated by Scotland Yard, after an allegation of wrongdoing in relation to a poster produced by her in the course of the parking campaign. An omission on this poster was rectified early on in the campaign, and Helen Michael was informed by local police that there would be no further action.

Despite this assurance, Helen Michael is now being investigated by officers from Scotland Yard, and yesterday spent two hours, under caution, being interviewed at a local police station about the poster, and her motivation for its publication.

We believe that this targeting of a local campaigner is a deliberate and politically motivated act of intimidation.
To involve the police in this way is inappropriate, and a serious misuse of their time and resources.
We call on Council leader Richard Cornelius to speak out against the victimisation of a brave, resourceful and admirable woman. We call on Scotland Yard to desist from taking any further action in regard to this matter.
Signed:

Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Diary date - 7 July

I'm not for sale
 Barnet Council Not for Sale Conference  
Saturday 7 July 2012.

Barnet UNISON in partnership with Barnet Alliance for Public Services are hosting a conference on the mass privatisation of Barnet council services this Saturday 7 July 12- 3 pm at the Greek Cypriot Centre, Britannia Road, North Finchley, London N12 9RU

The Council is attempting to become a Commissioning Council whereby it no longer delivers council services. In the last few months Barnet Council has already transferred the following staff and services out of the council to new employers

· Social Care services for adults with disabilities

· Housing Needs & Resources

· Parking services

· All of the Legal Department * (talks on the transfer of staff to Harrow Council are still ongoing)

By the end of May 2013 up to 70% of the council workforce will no longer be working for the Council.

The aim of the conference is to provide information about the scale of risk to the council tax payers of Barnet. The conference will be in two parts.

Part One speakers include:

Professor Dexter Whitfield European Services Strategy Unit (ESSU) recently published a report on the cost and consequences of the Commissioning Council.

Andy Mudd from the well-respected local government research body the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) published a report warning that over the past few years those at the north London Council involved in the awarding and managing of contracts to private contractors, have often ignored both council guidelines and UK competition law.

John Dix resident, one of the infamous Barnet Bloggers recently reported the Council has agreed another £10million be allocated to consultants to deliver the outsourcing One Barnet Programme

The second part of the meeting will include speakers from Aberdeen UNISON, and Edinburgh UNISON. Both of these councils recently decided not to go ahead with outsourcing after taking part in lengthy procurement discussions with a number of private sector contractors. A speaker from Sefton UNISON will talk about why Sefton Council decided to terminate their contract early with Capita Symonds. Capita Symonds is one of the Bidders for one the One Barnet projects.

John Burgess, Branch Secretary UNISON said “We are continuing to seek a meeting with councillors in particular the members of the Cabinet Committee regarding our concerns about the One Barnet Programme. We know from experience that once residents are made aware of One Barnet they are very concerned about the implications. This conference is just one part of a widespread community campaign to bring public scrutiny to the One Barnet experiment.”