Tuesday, 28 May 2013

For Sale: The Judiciary. Only one previous owner.

For Sale: The Judiciary. Only one previous owner

Every day there is another surreal, yet all too real, front-page headline that makes you despair before the back of your teaspoon has even begun to crack open your boiled egg.

Today it is the proposed privatization of the Law Courts, the running of part of our Constitution for profit by some inept, money-grabbing private company. It becomes increasingly apparent that we are being governed by a bunch of second-hand car dealers.  Am I being picky when I find Grayling's rhetoric abhorrent? Is he really talking about our Justice System?

"As in other areas we need to look at the way we deliver our services to provide a more efficient service that delivers access to justice quickly and effectively, while delivering value for money for the taxpayer. At the same time, we must preserve the independence of the judiciary which lies at the heart of our constitutional arrangements."

It's Tony Blackburn speak: constitutional arrangement type things.

Perhaps the whole of our Constitution should be privatized, especially Parliament. MPs could pay for tabling questions. The wonderful Parliamentary subsidised food and drink could be hiked up to real-life prices.  Offices and work stations might be rented along with the TVs in Members' rooms like those that patients pay through the nose for in hospitals.  And how about subscriptions for access to Hansard and Erskine May and an annual membership subscription for Strangers Bar, the Tea Room, Pugin Room, Members' Dining Room and access to the Terrace?  Savings could certainly be made if MPs received a pro rata salary taking into account almost a third of a year they have off in recess. And of course, who could do a better job of cocking it up than Capita?  Call them in immediately.  

The solution offered by problem pages in popular magazines seems as good as any here. Write down the pros and cons in two columns and see what evolves.  The pro seems to be a saving of £1 billion a year.  Such forecasted savings promised by profit hungry private companies can never be guaranteed.  Neither can the quality of the services which inevitably fall short of expectations though little remedy can be sought from watertight contracts.  And what a piffling amount of silver the government is talking about to put our fine, independent Justice system in jeopardy.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

'Flat-rate' pension that is not for everyone


'Flat-rate' pension that is not for everyone

Following yesterday's Queen's Speech, I couldn't find any details about the proposed flat-rate pension on the DWP website today so I rang them.  I was told that until it becomes Law, it is still a proposal, hence the reason for no details, even about the exact amount.

From advance publicity it might be assumed that everyone reaching pensionable age from 2016 will receive around £140, but this isn't the case.  And this new innovation is meant to simplify the pension system making individual assessment unnecessary.  This isn't the case either.

Those with 35 qualifying years will get the full flat rate.  Others will get a percentage.  The example I was given was that 26 qualifying years will yield a pension of 26 x 3/55ths.  So it isn't a simple flat rate across the board for all new pensioners, it is still based on what you've put in, or rather what you haven't put in.

I have never seen it stated that the new pension would go up each year at the lower rate of inflation, but I was told that this will be the case.

So now we can watch the proposed flat-rate pension make its way through Parliament.  Shouldn't 'flat rate' mean that the rate applies to everyone? Well in this case the term is misleading and many pensioners, who will in any case be waiting longer for their pensions,  will be getting less than others.  The "flat rate" will still have to be assessed for each individual. Most existing pensioners will be getting substantially less than the flat-rate and will never catch up.  Since April 2013 the current basic state pension is £110.15 after a rise this year of 2.5% which equals £2.70.

Government simplification of the system? Government sorting things out? Government fairness? But why should it be any different from anything else they do?

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Why did it take so long to bring Brian Coleman to justice?

Six Months On: Why did it take so long to bring Brian Coleman to justice?

Six months ago, on 5 November, Brian Coleman was due in court to face the criminal charge of which he was found guilty this week on 3 May.  Revisiting the blog  below from last November reminds me of how things were back then. I remember the reluctance of Richard Cornelius, Tory Leader of Barnet Council, fellow Councillor in Totteridge, to suspend Coleman even though he had a criminal charge against him, and it may never have happened if the national Conservative party had not gone over Cornelius's head and done the job for him. 

On 8 November at the Greek Cypriot Centre in North Finchley there was a public meeting at which Cornelius faced an angry crowd of Barnet residents and traders protesting against the One Barnet privatization programme. I was one of the first to arrive and stood outside in the street with another two or three early arrivals. Then Councillor Cornelius arrived and we walked over to him. He was all smiles and charm. With the charges against Coleman in mind, I asked Cornelius if he thought Coleman had a political future. He smiled and shrugged and gestured with his hands as if he were getting up close and confidential with the three of us and said that he knew Coleman well and that he was a gentle man whom he couldn't believe could be capable of violence.  Cornelius is not known for good judgement. On the contrary.  Did he really believe what he said or was he protecting a colleague, or as the cowardly man he has shown himself to be, was he afraid of Coleman? Whatever the case, Cornelius, as Leader of the Council and of the Barnet Conservative Group dealt badly with the matter.

But all this has now been superceded by Coleman's conviction on Friday.  The CCTV film drew sharp intakes of breath in the courtroom at the ferocity of Coleman's attack. He, of course, had denied it, even attempting to turn the situation around by claiming Helen Michael had assaulted him. But on film was all the evidence needed to convict him, and he was forced to change his plea to guilty.  The courtroom in Uxbridge, a long, long way from Barnet, was packed to over-capacity. The journey had been worth it for so many who have suffered at Coleman's hands or have witnessed the suffering of others. They saw justice done at last.

No Party, No One Barnet, No Shame, November 

La Bloggeuse, 3 November 2012

A week is a long time in politics for former Mayor of Barnet, Brian Coleman 

Former Mayor of Barnet and ex-Chair of the London Fire Authority, Brian Coleman, has weathered many storms in his political career. He is a survivor. But an incident on 20 September may prove to be one storm too many. He is charged with the criminal offence of “assault by beating” which has a maximum custodial sentence of 6 months. Coleman is the architect of the draconian parking regime inflicted on Barnet residents and businesses. So when Helen Michael, the owner of Café Buzz in Finchley High Road http://www.cafebuzzfinchley.co.uk spotted Coleman parking in a loading bay she used her phone to photograph him. He allegedly tried to get hold of the phone and allegedly assaulted her in the process. When he attempted to drive off, Ms Michael tried to prevent him by jumping into the passenger seat of his car, but he allegedly drove off wildly with the car door open and is also charged with “driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a public place without reasonable consideration”. 

Fast forward a month to last Tuesday evening, 30 October. The Barnet Conservative group were getting ready to vote on whether or not to suspend Coleman. The leader of the Council, fellow Tory Richard Cornelius, a weak man, had been dithering. He admitted to finding the whole situation "very difficult to deal with because I know and like Brian". But an hour before the group meeting, Cornelius was informed that Conservative head office had taken matters into their own hands and suspended the disgraced Coleman from the Conservative Party over Cornelius's head. 

On the same day, local residents Mr Ron Cohen and Dr Charlotte Jago received apology letters from Coleman ordered by the Standards Board because of offensive emails sent by him. Cohen and Jago objected to Veolia Water's involvement in the Pinkham Way waste plant bid. Coleman accused Mr Cohen, who is Jewish, of being a disloyal Israeli and told Dr Jago “70 years ago you would have been in the blackshirts [Nazi movement]”.  He sent the following pathetic excuse for an apology, 7 weeks past the deadine, complete with spelling mistakes:
 “In line with the recent standards board rulling (sic). I hereby apologies (sic) for any offence caused by the emails in question.”

Mr Cohen was not impressed.  
No-one could have expected Coleman's next move. On Thursday, in an article in the Barnet & Whetstone Press, Coleman ditched his loyal Tory colleagues to go it alone. He had nothing to lose. Suspended from the Tory Party he was still a Councillor but free of the party whip. Unlike his poorly-written apology letters, he is now able to write articulately that One Barnet, the highly controversial £1billion, ten-year outsourcing plan championed by the Tory council, which is due to come into force on 6 December in spite of public opposition, "should be scrapped". This is the first time he had expressed this view. 
http://www.barnet-today.co.uk/News.cfm?id=38205 headline=BrianColeman:%27OneBarnetshouldbescrapped%27  

"The time has come to dump One Barnet and return to core local government    values and make sure this particular turkey does not see Christmas!"

Adding disloyalty to his other attributes he seems to be making a last-ditch attempt to redeem himself in the eyes of the people.

Remember, remember the 5th of November. I'm sure Brian Coleman will do just that. Next Monday is the day on which a criminal conviction could consign his political career to the bonfire. A legal expert says that if found guilty, as a first offender and having caused no permanent injury, Coleman would most likely be facing a community order. The case begins at 10 am at Uxbridge Magistrates' Court, Harefield Road. Will he survive to fight another day?
Perhaps things have gone too far this time. The week will end with a full council meeting on Tuesday at which the Barnet Conservative group is to propose Coleman be stripped of his chairship of the Budget Overview and Scrutiny Committee. For Cllr Brian Coleman this could be the last time, I don't know. A week is a very long time in politics.