Monday, 18 July 2011

Sun, sea and the Sandbanks Hotel

I was on my way to Tolpuddle to take part in the annual celebration of Dorset’s most famous sons, the Tolpuddle Martyrs' Festival.

I needed a break and I thought a couple of days by the coast would set me up nicely. Where then? Why, Poole’s in Dorset, I thought, and it’s also the location for the Sandbanks Hotel, beloved of Barnet council executives for “working breaks”. While I’m in Poole, I’ll have a look, I thought.

I booked a cheap train ticket then checked hotel prices – pretty steep for what you get. After all, Poole has become a playground for the rich, and the Sandbanks peninsula a place where billionaires make their home.

I looked on a late booking site: a single bed at Sandbanks wasn’t a lot more expensive than anything else on offer and I would be able to find out for myself just what is the appeal to Barnet council senior executives. I would find out how the other half live - at our expense!

So what is Sandbanks like? It’s a four-star hotel; it’s nice. It’s got everything you need plus bags of room. But it’s not super-luxurious.

The main point to Sandbanks is its location. Now, obviously, it’s a long way from Barnet in north London – about 120 miles, two and a half hours by train from Waterloo. In that sense, it’s a completely lousy location for a work meeting and particularly for a work meeting that aims to help you think about Barnet and its problems. But, no, it’s an excellent location! Why, it’s bang on top of one of the best beaches in the UK and close to wonderful countryside.

I took some work with me, of course, on my own trip to Sandbanks. A book I’ve been meaning to read for a while, Nudge by Thaler and Sunstein. It’s a favourite read for the likes of Barnet chief executive Nick Walkley, racking their brains for a way to persuade feckless Barnet residents to behave in a more socially responsible manner.

I thought: if I can read that book I can maybe understand how they think, these senior council execs. But, do you know what, once I got down there, got a sight of that lovely sand, the blue sea, the bar by the beach, I just couldn’t be arsed. Nudge stayed unread. Instead, I went for some lovely walks, had a swim in the sea, enjoyed the serene atmosphere of the dining room... (Not like any seaside hotel I’ve ever stayed in before, I’ll admit.)

Our council execs come here to think about Barnet, which they’ve left miles behind them. Frankly, if any of them manages it they must be mad. You would have to be mad to go to Sandbanks and work! To save them from this appalling dilemma, I have hit upon an excellent solution: no more work trips to Sandbanks! It’s simple. I’m submitting a petition to the Barnet council website and I urge you to sign it and get your friends, family, neighbours and workmates to sign.

I’ll share the link here - just as soon as it is approved...

Stalker or investigative journalist?

I felt vaguely creepy coming to Sandbanks, like some kind of stalker, but why? It’s not as though I am following our senior council execs on their private holidays. I don’t give a stuff where they go or what they do on their own time. The point is that Sandbanks trips are done on Barnet time and at Barnet residents’ expense. It’s not a holiday and we have every right to know where they are going and to imagine how much work they do when they slope off down to the South Coast.

If they want to get away from things to do some brainstorming, a suite at the Holiday Inn Brent Cross would be far more appropriate. They’re always telling us how nice Brent Cross is. They can keep tabs on the development plans while they are there!

I have nothing against the Sandbanks Hotel – it’s a nice place and, my goodness, Barnet bloggers have given them plenty of free publicity over recent months! I just think it’s inappropriate for the senior employees of the council to be spoiling themselves using residents’ money and at the same time as they parcel the rest of the workforce up for the private sector where, without guarantees, they are likely to see their pay and leave entitlements severely reduced. Day trips to Bognor more the order of the day, all round, I think, if the One Barnet Programme goes ahead. (And, yes, I have been to Bognor as well so I know what I’m talking about.)

Finally, in my own defence, at least I can say that my trip to Sandbanks was funded solely by me!


baarnett said...

I've been tweeted that Brent Cross is going to be all tarted up, but without any provision for the long-awaited redevelopment.

Presumably the credit crunch, and less money to spend, has killed that off for now.

David Duff said...

"Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness".

Ah, yes, I remember, it's all about how we, the ruling elite will tell you, the great unwashed, what is best for you because you're all too thick to make wise personal decisions. If you fail to take heed of the, er, 'friendly' nudge then stand by for a lead-filled cosh! Needless to say, the definition of "wise" is what we decide is 'wise'. Any questions? I hope not because questioning our thesis obviously indicates that you are in need of urgent re-education and 've haf vays of making you rethink!'

I hope you chucked it in the sea, Vicki.

Mr Mustard said...

Fantastic piece of research Vicki.

I have read Nudge; I can't believe that anyone at Barnet Council has read it. I was going to put it in the Barnet Bloggers Book Club but I won't now.

What happens if you don't recycle, not a nudge, a fine.

Park in the wrong place at the wrong time, nudged along ? no a £100 fine - now targeted at schools & nurseries.

Nudged at Council meetings, no - LBB employed bully boy security guards.


It is always the stick not the carrot at NLBP.

p.s. verification phrase was "subvr" - they missed off the "sive". Google know who you are !

Mrs Angry said...

Brilliant - what fun ... did you see any Barnet officers playing games in the corridors, or tapping at bedroom doors at two in the morning?

As for nudge theory: not sure that Mr Walkley read his way to the end of the book, as he doesn't seem to have quite mastered the art, does he?

Mrs Angry prefers the kick up the a*se school of philosophy, anyway.

Citizen Barnet said...

Mr Mustard has the lowdown on the Barnet elite's latest planned jaunt to Sandbanks. Admittedly it's 'out of season' but Barnet headteachers are invited (to spend a lot of their school's money) to attend a conference there in October:

Citizen Barnet said...

Mr M's story on Sandbanks is here:

Mrs Angry said...

Perhaps, Ms Morris, we should have a lady bloggers conference there at the same time and spy on the headteachers? We could gatecrash. Of course we would have to dress the part and drink like navvies, so as to fit in. Or we could take Duff with us, pretend he was a head teacher and we were his school secretaries?

Citizen Barnet said...

In October I imagine we would be treated to a glimpse of the long johns.

Mrs Angry said...

... or he might go swimming in one of those knitted full length Edwardian bathing costumes that cling to all the wrong places when wet ... oh the thought ...