Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The three boomerang skips: Skips and caravans go away! (Updated16 January)


The three boomerang skips:

Skips and caravans go away!

Once upon a time in West Hendon there were three skips.  They were brought to my notice by residents who lived beside them in their roads but wanted them gone.  The skips were full of earth and then filled up and overflowing with any old fly-tipped rubbish: mattresses, rats in mattresses, old cookers, planks of wood, crisp papers, cans, half-eaten sandwiches, anything that was no longer wanted.  I complained to the Council on behalf of the residents and my complaint was sent to Street Scene, Highways and then Highways Enforcement and after lengthy correspondence but with no sign of anything happening I was rung one day out of the blue by a resident to be told rather thrillingly that the skips were no longer there.  A frissant of happiness and jubilation was felt by all.  

Then early one morning about three weeks later another call from the same resident. "You couldn't make it up, Councillor Kay, the skips are back in the same places and they're still full of earth".  I couldn't quite comprehend.  And to add to the problem complaints had been coming in to me that two derelict, abandoned caravans full of rubbish were parked in different roads in West Hendon and in spite of residents' complaints to the Council nothing had been done.

I'd had enough of emails and their ridiculous platitudes.  I wanted action. I resorted to the telephone.  A slight diversion about CCCC (Capita Coventry Call Centre) answering calls for the London Borough of Barnet.  Sadly but not surprisingly little has changed, except that the operators are very polite even though one came back to me saying that she was sorry but forgot what department I'd asked for and please could I tell her again. It happens to us all.  It took at least 15 minutes to get through to someone who could help me.  This is because I first rang the officer whose name and direct line was on my correspondence and was told I needed a particular person in Highways Enforcement, but there was no reply from the extension I was given, no answering machine and no redirection.  This is something Capita assured me would be fixed some months ago at a Performance and Contract Management Meeting .  If Anna Earnshaw is reading this, please take note. So I had to resort to the main switchboard.  Again a polite and lovely lady, but didn't know anything about Highways Enforcement.  I finally got through to someone in Highways who took a message for the person in Highways Enforcement who turned out not to be in Highways Enforcement at all. Nevertheless I did finally speak to her the next day and what she said was refreshingly honest but the last thing I wanted to hear.

The punch line is that there is no facility for the Council or Capita's RE (Highways) to remove either skips or caravans.  They have neither the equipment nor the storage space.  The officer speculated that the skip company must have removed the skips but couldn't understand why they had brought them back. But then it is a bit of a brain teaser.  The skip company is claiming that the skips were stolen and therefore not their responsibility and so will not pay the fine which presumably they have to do if they admit to their ownership and remove them.  So we'd better get used to seeing rubbish-filled skips and caravans as a permanent feature of the Barnet Street Scene because the Council doesn't do skips and neither does it do caravans.

 Update on 16 January from a West Hendon resident who told me that she was told Capita was getting estimates from companies who could remove a caravan. Will check it out.  A mess in every way.

Friday, 9 January 2015


Crash! Arriva! Arriva!

Today my bright blue once shiny little car was carried off to AE (Automobile Emergency) after an 8-day wait for an appointment. Car reflecting life. Hopefully the delay will not prove fatal. I wish it a speedy recovery after an Arriva bus "didn't see" me and veered into my lane leaving my car with its bowels hanging out for everyone to see. The bus driver tried to pretend it had never happened but I embarrassed him into stopping and facing the music by following the bus, exposed bowels and all, pressing my hooter and not letting go. I'm fine by the way.

And now I have courtesy wheels to get me around which I hope will keep me safe at night. For the past few nights I have not felt safe walking everywhere in 50% dimmed streetlighting along dangerous, neglected pavements in desperate need of repair that I have long and loudly protested about on behalf of angry residents, and knowing there is a 31% rise in violent crime in the Borough over the past year (2nd highest in London).  The Council may tell us that with lights at half power you can't tell the difference but we're not daft. Just hope the car withstands the deep ruts in the roads with the exception of course of that royally-named recipient of a huge part of the highways budget, Princess Park Avenue. Yes, you've guessed. I live in the Tory-Capita Borough of Barnet: Barnet in the dark, Barnet on the cheap.

I'm off to strike up a fun, short-term relationship with the temporary car. In the words of Irving Berlin, "No strings and no connections, no ties for my affections, I'm fancy free and free for anything fancy." 

And if any Arriva bus drivers are reading this, please stay in your own lane and do look out of your window. Arriva! Arriva! 

Have a great weekend everyone.