Monday, 24 August 2009

The poster Brian Coleman didn't want you to see

Brian Coleman FBU poster
The above poster of Brian Coleman has been banned from all London fire stations after it was deemed "offensive", "inappropriate" and a safety risk.

The image (click for full size) was torn down from union notice boards across London after a direct order from management.

In a message to the London Fire Brigade union, LFB Director of Fire and Community Safety Roy Bishop wrote:

"Notice boards have been provided for the FBU and other recognised trade unions in order to facilitate the unions’ proper communications with their members about trade union issues. Management does not seek to interfere with proper trade union communications. However, management does not authorise displaying documents or posters on the notice boards, which it reasonably deems to be inappropriate or offensive, as we work to provide a dignified and safe workplace for all."

"Management regards the posters of the caricature of the Authority Chairman, which have recently appeared on FBU notice boards, as offensive and requires all these posters to be removed from notice boards with immediate effect."

It is not clear how the posters would have caused a safety risk, although they were taken down shortly before one of Coleman's regular tours of London fire stations.

Nevertheless the image does cruelly depict Brian as a greedy, ham-fisted meddler who regularly wastes public money and takes lavish handouts from private contractors.

Highly offensive I'm sure you'll agree!

However, despite all of Coleman's best efforts, another picture of him has found a permanent place in fire stations across the capital.

The now legendary photo of Brian Coleman asleep in his office was first circulated amongst the brigade after I published it here.

However, the image has apparently increased in popularity since Brian Coleman started talking about stripping fire stations of their beds.

Coleman is said to want the beds removed because they make stations look like "Travelodges"

However, while a room at Travelodge can be booked for as little as £19 a night, Londoners are currently paying substantially more to keep Brian in his sleeping quarters.

May I suggest Brian considers a change of address?

Thursday, 13 August 2009


Right I'm off to the Isle of Skye for a bit.

Unfortunately I won't be able to post up this little lot until I get back, but do let me know if you come across anything else I should know about.

As usual you can email me on adambienkov[at]btinternet[dot com] or send me a message over on Twitter.

Comment moderation will be on until I return, but I'll try to update when I can.

See you the other side of the Cuillin...

An open letter to Boris Johnson

The following is written by Jamie Sport (pictured with Boris above) of the Daily Quail blog

Dear Mr. Johnson,

I hope you think it reasonable that I am making this an open letter. I originally raised my objection to your promotion of poorly paid graduate jobs via Twitter in reply to your own tweet encouraging the jobless youth of the Twitterverse to visit

I wanted to discuss the issue of poor opportunities for London graduates using the open forum afforded by London’s favourite social networking tool because your answers would be of value to a great many others, not just myself.

However, having received no reply two days later, I pointed out that the @MayorOfLondon account was, sadly, quite inept at replying to London twitterers wishing to correspond with their elected representative online.

A quick glance through your Twitter stream revealed that it had been three weeks since you last replied to anybody, and that particular tweet actually appeared to be little more than an opportunity to plug news of another City Hall initiative. This seems like quite an oversight to me, and reveals a disappointing unwillingness to engage in an open dialogue with voters – especially given recent news that London is the top Twitter-using city in the world.

The chance to converse with hundreds of thousands of Londoners is passing you by because of your preference (as you told me in a direct message) for direct messages rather than public replies. Does this not undermine one of the most fundamental principles of using Twitter in the first place, that conversations are conducted in public, thereby allowing dialogues that might otherwise be limited to two people to instead be shared with many others? Why set up an @MayorOfLondon account if exchanges are only to take place in private? It would be simpler to send letters.

Corporate Twitter accounts (or those of high-profile individuals such as yourself) can be used to great effect if conducted correctly, permitting quick and easy engagement with the many people to whom you provide a service, fostering a closer bond than usually possible with conventional media, and, ultimately, helping an organisation connect with, and respond to, actual people without the need for a third party. Used incorrectly, Twitter becomes redundant; one-way, old media principles flailing around in a sad attempt to appear modern, closed to the very avenues of communication that have made the service such a success.

What initially compelled me to seek your comment was the ‘Helping graduates into work’ section of your website, which you promoted to your 44,000 followers on the 10th of August. Having graduated last year and struggled to find a job for several months, I know how difficult it is for those who have recently left university to find work, especially faced with the inordinate living costs of our capital.

Upon entering my degree into your job search page I was presented with 10 of perhaps the most inappropriate results I’ve come across on any job site: according to, the first-class degree in English Literature that cost me in excess of £18k to attain would bestow the privilege of being a ‘Sales or retail assistant’, bringing in around £13,666 pa, working in a ‘Customer care occupation’ for £15,666, or as an ‘Educational [?] Assistant at £15,818.

At the top of the pay scale is ‘Secondary Teachers’ on £25k, but your site neglects to mention a BA would not, in fact, be enough to enter this role as an additional post-grad qualification would also be required. Similarly, I doubt many recent graduates would have any chance of stepping straight into an ‘Editor’ position, as listed on your site.

To suggest that £14k jobs in retail are acceptable for London graduates is faintly offensive. I remember being paid £2,000 more than that in a retail position I held for 2 years before I went to university, and that was nearly six years ago. £14k would barely be enough to live on in London, after income and council tax, rent, and travel expenses (it cost me a little under £200 per month just to get to work in zone 1 from my flat in zone 6) . Equally, it suggests that a degree is virtually useless: Byron’s musings on crossing the Hellespont are pretty superfluous if you can only end up stacking shelves in Tesco.

I, and I imagine many others, would consider £20k about right as a starting point for graduate jobs in the capital. That rules out all but three of the results given on your website – of those, two are woefully unrealistic. That leaves ‘Journalist’ the only viable option for English Lit graduates in London.

All of which leads me to ask why you are promoting such useless career information? This sort of advice is discouraging at best for anyone wanting to find a decent graduate job, and surely puts a great many people off thinking they could ever hope to remain in London once their degree is completed. Do you personally approve of such advice being given to a group of people that, surely, you should be doing everything you can to keep? If so, how (and where) do you propose one might live comfortably for £13,666 in London?

Presumably there are no jobs currently available within City Hall, or they would be listed on the website? Or is the job section simply paying lip service to giving graduates opportunities? Why, instead of disseminating information on how to live in urban poverty, aren’t you promoting fairly paid, respectable, achievable careers for graduates? Why not call on employers to provide an adequate wage for those who have taken the time and spent the money on gaining a degree?

I can’t help but think how valuable your input and support could be in really helping graduates find gainful employment if you were willing to engage with them, and with organisations that value intelligent and responsible young people who wish to enter employment but are unfortunately faced with a great many barriers in doing so.

I look forward to hearing from you (and feel free to contact me on Twitter).

Yours sincerely,

Jamie Sport

Of course if the @MayorOfLondon would like to reply to Jamie here on the blog, then I'd be more than happy to add it to the post.

Your humble servant,


Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Richard Barnbrook's Standards Hearing postponed

Richard Barnbrook's Standards Hearing has been postponed, after he submitted a last minute piece of evidence to the committee.

The joint committee decided to postpone the hearing, meant to take place tomorrow afternoon, in order to "properly consider" evidence submitted to them last night.

Barnbrook had previously failed to submit any of this evidence despite repeated requests over the last few months.

This is the second time that the date of hearing has been moved.

Last month Barnbrook sent a doctors note to the committee, on the morning of the hearing, stating that he was suffering from a "stress-related illness."

He has not been seen at any London Assembly meetings since.

A redacted version of the evidence submitted by Barnbrook yesterday is likely to appear on the GLA website soon.

Friday, 7 August 2009

What happened to the BNP's Great White Hope?

Last month BNP London Assembly Member Richard Barnbrook failed to turn up at his Standards Hearing because of a "stress related illness"

He's due to appear again next week, but has so far failed to submit any evidence, or to confirm that he will attend.

Doubts therefore remain about whether he will ever face the committee.

Since his non-apearance in Dagenham last month, he has been absent from all Assembly meetings, and all entries on his personal website have been removed.

Meanwhile, his suspended assistant Simon Darby seems likely to stay in Brussels, and his other assistant Emma Colgate has already taken up another role within the BNP.

Now rumours of a fallout with Griffin are doing the rounds, as many BNP members lose patience with their self-styled "Richard The Lionheart".

This is all a long way from his victory speech a year ago, where he railed against the 'corruption' of his critics and promised to sweep aside the 'nonsense of political correctness' in City Hall.

So far this has involved little more than putting out three press releases (all within one ten-day period last October) and... well not much else really.

Aside from being told off for eating a banana, wearing silly outfits, and lying on youtube, his year has been a total non-event.

Yet if Richard Barnbrook is suspended next week, there is a danger that he could become the BNP's first ever political martyr.

With the very real possibility of a six month suspension hanging above his head, Barnbrook could pose as the noble victim of a political witch hunt.

Or he could just make a fool of himself as usual.

We'll all find out for ourselves next Wednesday afternoon. If he turns up.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Harry Phibbs Stonewalled by Boris's Deputy Mayor

Dave Hill has a fascinating interview on his blog with Boris's Deputy Mayor Richard Barnes.

Barnes signals that contrary to Boris's statement last month, City Hall *will* in fact be entering the Stonewall Employers list in future years:

Richard Barnes: It is not a decision which is going to stand like a tablet of stone forever. We will certainly be a part of that process in the future.

Dave Hill: Can you just explain a bit more about that? You have opted out of this apparently because it is a devisive thing but you say that you will be been part of it in the future? How does that work?

Richard Barnes: As I say, no decision is vested in stone. We took the decision for very practical reasons both this year and last. There is no point taking the decision if you are going to be coming out on the bottom end because we were not in a position to do it.

And I'm prepared to put our (equality and diversity policies) up to a test for anybody and if we're not prepared to do that then we're not setting the gold standard for London... and that we must be prepared to do.

Right, so is the Stonewall employers list divisive or not divisive? And who's running Boris's cultural policy now, his deputy or his cultural director?

Answers on a postcard for that one I think.

Next Barnes is asked about Harry Phibbs latest auto-rant on Conservative Home.

Dave Hill: I was interested to read a rather provocative article on the Conservative Home website by Harry Phibbs, a Conservative Councillor from Hammersmith and Fulham, expressing alarm that there remains in City Hall a number of diversity officers within the staff. He seemed to think that was a failure on Boris's behalf...

Richard Barnes: Well I think Harry Phibbs has a lot to learn about life really hasn't he? It was drawn to my attention what he said and he also criticises the language we used that it's overly PC. Well when Harry aspires to be a little more than a councillor in Hammersmith and Fulham then I'm sure we can address and sit down and recognise the real issues.

Well I think that counts as a slap down. Anything to add?

Richard Barnes: I represent the Conservative party that David Cameron is promoting across this country and the Conservative party that will win the next general election and I'm not quite sure that Harry Phibbs attitudes will do that...

The days of walking into an organisation with a machete in one hand and a sub-machine gun in the other are long gone.

So that's no swinging machete's in City Hall any time soon. Phew. Let's just hope Phibbs doesn't decide to take matters into his own hands...

Middle-class pensioners (will not) lose free travel

Logging on to Twitter this morning I was directed towards this typically scary story in the Daily Mail:

"Millions of middle-class pensioners face being stripped of their free bus passes. A report by town hall chiefs yesterday said too many people who own cars or can afford tickets are taking advantage of free travel.

It said spending £1billion a year of taxpayers' money on them was a waste and free bus passes should be only for the poor. It called for 'targeting' - or means-testing - to select those who deserve the privilege.

The report, commissioned and published by the Local Government Association, the umbrella body for councils, brought alarmed reactions from pensioner groups."

Seeing this as a big piece of news, I quickly retweeted it without first reading the LGA report for myself.

This was a mistake.

After spending about one minute delving into it, it soon became clear that the report was not drawn up 'by town hall chiefs' at all but by consultants Oxera.

And although Oxera do recommend means-testing for free bus passes in the report, the LGA explicitly rule it out in their response.

All of six pages in, the LGA spokesperson writes that

"This recommendation is problematic as it could suggest an end to the current national concession, which is a popular policy that benefits millions of people and is highly valued by councils and their communities. Means testing for concessionary fares is not the solution." (My emphasis)

Now there are parts of the Oxera report and the LGA's response that are worrying and the clear message is that bus subsidies are likely to be cut.

However, any attempt to means-test pensioners would be electoral suicide, and the Local Government Association must realise that as well as anyone.

-Update- The Daily Mail manage a second day of outrage about a story they made up themselves.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Boris Johnson and Rape Crisis Centres: The Facts

In Boris Johnson's election manifesto he promised to fund one existing rape crisis centre and three new rape crisis centres in the capital.

The centres would be funded "immediately" to the tune of £744,000 each year.

These centres would be paid for by cutting the number of press officers employed by the Mayor.

This would have been a big improvement on the situation left by the current government and by the previous administration at City Hall

Unfortunately this has not happened.

In the Mayor's current budget, only £200,000 extra has been allocated and there has been no notable reduction in press officers.

According to today's announcement, the GLA will provide the following yearly funding.

1. The Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre in Croydon will receive £260,000 over the next three years

· 2009/10 - £60k
· 2010/11 - £100k
· 2011/12 - £100k

2. If plans get the go ahead Ealing Council would receive a £375,000 contribution over the next three years towards delivering a new rape crisis centre.

· 2009/10 – 65k
· 2011/12 - £155k
· 2011/12 - £155k

So that's £619,000 less on rape crisis centres this year than he originally promised, falling to £489,000 less than he promised by the end of his term.

However, speaking on Youtube today Boris pledged that:

"We are of course going to be rolling out more funding for centres in the East and in the North of the city as well."

"So keep fighting everybody who is campaigning on this issue and work with us to give London the rape crisis provision that it needs"

Now I don't know why they should need to "keep fighting", just to get Boris to keep his manifesto promise.

But with any luck, and with some more direct action from campaigners, there's still a chance that he will fund three new rape crisis centres by the end of his term.

So come on Boris, stop spinning this out and fulfill your manifesto promise today.

-Update- Watch Kit Malthouse struggle with this one on BBC London.