Posts Tagged ‘press officer’

Whistleblowers, Ticks, FGM & Barnet

Friday, May 13th, 2022

Whistleblowers, Ticks, FGM & Barnet – four very different events in London on Wednesday 13th May 2015


End Child Abuse, support Whistleblowers – Parliament Square, London

Whistleblowers, Ticks, FGM & Barnet

Adult survivors of child abuse and Whistleblowers United called on parliament to end abuse in the care system, to believe and act upon children’s reports of being abused and to end the covering up of abuse by social services and police.

Many of those at the protest had personal stories of the failure of police to take action, and some who had complained about abuse of their children had found themselves under investigation and their complaints had led to their children being taken away or access to them being refused. But though I am sure many of their personal complaints were justified, they were also promoting some of the widespread conspiracy theories and draconian punishments for child abuse which made me uneasy.

End Child Abuse, support Whistleblowers


Lyme Disease – Urgent action needed -Downing St

Campaigners at Downing St highlight the serious dangers of Lyme Disease from tick bites, calling for public education and for the NHS to abandon useless tests and tackle this killing disease seriously with effective tests and treatments.

Lyme disease, or borreliosis, is becomiing increasingly more common and all who walk or work in woods, parks and even gardens are at risk. Spread by bites from infected ticks, it is hard to diagnose and often goes untreated, with few doctors being aware how serious and widespread it is, often leading to partial or complete disablement.

Prompt proper removal greatly reduces the risk of infection, and is best performed with the aid of a small cheap plastic tool (such as the O’Tom Tick Twister) which could be made very readily available for a few pence – although currently they cost from around £2.60 up. It would be useful for these to be included in commercial First Aid kits. If tick removal is carried out improperly, the risk of infection is high.

In August that year I was on holiday with friends in Silverdale, a truly beautiful area of the country but with woods full of ticks. The tick remover was an essential part of our holiday equipment, removing many of them from various parts of our bodies. It was fortunate that I had met the Lyme Disease campaigners earlier in the year.

Lyme Disease – Urgent action needed


Grant FGM campaigner Maimuna Jawo asylum – Home Office

Maimuna Jawo fled The Gambia in her fight against FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), refusing to take over her family’s duty as her village’s ‘cutter’ when her mother died. In the UK she was held in Yarls Wood, and now her asylum claim has been rejected.

Grant FGM campaigner Maimuna Jawo asylum


Sweets Way & West Hendon at Barnet Council – Barnet Town Hall

People facing eviction as Barnet Council hands their estates to property developers brought petitions with over 200,000 signatures to council leader Richard Cornelius (above). There were angry scenes as security restricted access to the town hall meeting which the protesters wanted to attend.

I showed my UK Press Card and security admitted me with the group carrying the petition into the town hall. But when I started to photograph the handover, a council press officer intervened, looked at my press card and told me I could not take any pictures of the handover. Fortunately by the time he told me I had already taken several. He instructed security to take me out of the building.

That proved to be impossible as a large crowd of protesters was attempting to push its way inside. Another photographer who had been allowed to take photographs of the handover stood in the lobby with me, and we both took pictures, despite the security men telling me I was not allowed to do so. A council officer attempted to block my view of what was going on as they stopped people trying to climb through a window, but there seemed to me to be clearly an attempt to block press freedom in recording events in which there was a clear public interest and I continued to work as best I could.

Eventually the security officers were able to help me out through the crush, which had subsided a little. They had behaved reasonably and I think were not happy at having to carry out the orders they had been given by the council officer. Our disagrements were relatively polite, but they made it clear that I would not be allowed back into the town hall as I had taken photographs when instructed not to do so. By the time they could evict me I wanted to be outside to photograph the protest continuing there.

Protesters are stopped from entering by a window

Barnet had been a leader in the destruction of themselves as local authorities in the application of austerity and outsourcing of services under their ‘Easy Council’ policy, begun in 2008 but reaching its peak in 2013 with huge contracts to Capita – and on which they ended up spending £217million more than orginally agreed . As Aditya Chakrabortty wrote in The Guardian about Northamptonshire and Barnet “Both true blue Tory; both preaching the need for sound finances while raiding their contingency funds and refusing to raise council taxes; both happy to chuck millions at consultants and build themselves swanky headquarters. And, crucially, both adamant that their council’s future lies in smashing itself up and handing out the shards to big companies to provide the bulk of public services… It was cartoonish, it was reckless, it was grotesque.”

Finally I am escorted out and can photograph the protesters outside

And it failed, with the Tories having to admit huge losses and announce that the major contracts would not be renewed when they expired in 2023. And though I was pleased to hear that the recent local elections had resulted in Labour gaining control with 41 seats to the Conservative’s 22, it will give them the problem of picking up the pieces. And London Labour Councils have a notoriously bad record over the demolition of council estates and the treatment of residents and leaseholders.

Sweets Way & West Hendon at Barnet Council


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Barnet Bans Photography

Thursday, May 13th, 2021

Barnet Council tried to stop me photographing the petition handover

I photographed several protests on Wednesday 13th May 2015 before making my way to Barnet Town Hall where campaigners from Sweets Way and West Hendon estates had come to question councillors at a Town Hall meeting and hand over petitions with over 200,000 signatures to council leader Richard Cornelius.

Local residents protest through an open window at the Town Hall

They held a loud protest outside the hall before a small group went inside to hand over the petition, and security on the door let me go in with them when I showed my press card, and I began to take pictures, along with another photographer. But the council press officer intervened, looked at my press card and firmly told me “No Photographs” and called on security to escort me and the other press photographer out of the building.

And people come over to block my view of the protest

I protested but went with the security team who led me towards the door. They couldn’t take me out as the large crowd outside was trying hard to push its way inside to attend the meeting. From the lobby I could see that some were trying to climb in through a window with council staff blocking them and I took a few pictures – through a glass partition – until another council employee moved to block my view, holding up a coat in front of my lens.

After being thrown out I photographed it from the outside

I wasn’t too upset, as in both cases I had managed to take pictures before I was stopped, but did feel that the council were acting in an unreasonable manner in trying to stop reporting of events in which there was a clear public interest about a public authority taking place in a public building. The security men who were following the order to escort me out were behaving reasonably and I think were unhappy at being asked to take me outside – which eventually they did. They and the police on duty had earlier let me inside when I showed my press card.

A councillor coming to the meeting tells me I can’t take his picture

Then I was able to photograph the crowd outside trying to make their way in. Eventually things calmed down after some of them were told they would be admitted, but I was firmly told I could not come in as I had taken photographs earlier. I was actually pleased to leave as I was getting tired and hungry after a rather long day.

Local government here in the UK has become far less transparent, with decisions being taken by small cabals under ‘cabinet’ systems which even leave many councillors unaware of what is going on. Local newspapers have largely disappeared, their place taken by ‘local editions’ of nation-wide organisations which have few if any local staff – and who seldom attend or report on council meetings, relying instead on PR handouts.

Some wore masks showing Barnet Council Leader Cllr Richard Cornelius

Local authorities have a long history of corruption, with various projects and deals which benefit the particular business interests of councillors and officers rather than simply the people they are supposed to serve. Of course what is good for the town should also be good for businesses in the town, and many councillors have been local businessmen – though of course council decisions should not give special favours to their businesses, as so often happened.

The petitions: 64,848 signatures for Sweets Way, 132,939 for West Hendon

But decisions like those to demolish the West Hendon estate involve major property developers and seem to be being taken not about the local residents whose homes are being demolished but about huge profits for developers and some financial advantage for the councils, often with significant personal inducements for those councillors and officers concerned with making the decisions. The West Hendon council estate is being demolished because it is on an attractive site overlooking the Welsh Harp reservoir and new flats will be highly marketable – council and developers see social housing there as a wasted business opportunity.

My treatment at Barnet was in itself of no real importance, but a symptom of the lack of transparency and a culture of secrecy that now pervades local government. If we are to have confidence in our councils we need a much greater openness.

Sweets Way & West Hendon at Barnet Council


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