Barnet budget infographic

The council has released an infographic to illustrate how money will be spent over the coming year. The image will help people to visualise how the budget is allocated to the different areas of the council.

Of course, the council has also released more detailed spending data, but the infographic has been created to make this complex set of figures easier to digest.

Barnet has made a commitment to be more transparent and providing information in a more visual form is just one way that we can follow through on this promise.

I’m keen to find out what you think of the infographic and to find out what other ways you would like to see information presented.

View the Barnet budget infographic

Kindle library lending

As mentioned previously, the strategic library review was approved by Cabinet on 29 March and is currently going through a second public consultation. As you can imagine, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about libraries recently, so I was particularly interested in this media release from Amazon.

The gist of the release is that later this year US Kindle users will be about to borrow e-books from 11,000 American libraries. If something similar were to happen in the UK, what would it mean for our libraries? Would it encourage library use? Would it boost literacy? What do you think?

Council tax mistake isn’t an argument against privatisation

In the media today, a trade union leader makes the claim that Barnet’s recent council tax mistake is an argument against outsourcing the revenue and benefits service. This seems to me to be a curious position to take.

Last Friday, about 2,500 residents had their monthly council tax payments debited twice. I make no excuse for this, it is unacceptable. But this slip-up was caused by human error. A council officer made a mistake and whilst this is obviously regrettable it has nothing to do with outsourcing or privatisation. A private sector company is no more likely to suffer from human error than the council.

What is important is how quickly an organisation responds to mistakes. My colleague Councillor Daniel Thomas informs me that the council began the process of reimbursing residents within an hour of the error being made. When a private sector organisation runs council tax collection it is essential that their contract stipulates a similarly speedy response time.

AV – Why I will vote ‘No’ in the referendum

I was always told ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ and that’s how I feel about the AV referendum. The first past the post system serves us perfectly well. What is wrong with the person who gets the most votes being elected?

It did make me laugh when I watched the ‘Yes to AV’ broadcast last week. Their main assumption was that the system should be changed because it would mean that Members of Parliament would have to work for ‘all’ of their constituents. I know many Members of Parliament – I have been fortunate enough to have worked for one for seven years – and I have never met an MP that doesn’t work for all of their constituents. They also did not mention once how the new system would work. That is clearly because it is so complicated!

I have spent the last two weekends in and around East Barnet knocking on people’s doors asking for their views on the referendum. Two things are very clear. Most people do not know that there is a referendum taking place and when you explain what it is about most are happy with the current system.

What does worry me is apathy. I predict that the turn out is going to be very low and with that, any result is possible. So, if you believe, like I do, that the best voting system is the one we currently have and that the person who gets the most votes should win, please go out on May 5th and vote no.

Sir Simon Milton

I know that this is not a normal topic for my blog but I felt compelled to write something this morning.

London Politics has lost a great man in Sir Simon Milton. I have had the honour of getting to know him over the last three years working very closely with him on the London Assembly. He was a true gentleman and a scholar. Someone whom I admired and learnt a lot from. He will be missed.

My thoughts are with Simon’s family and his partner Robert at this difficult time.