We live in the age of spin and that applies as much to local as national government.

That is the obvious conclusion, as Barnet Council had again set about discrediting a report it doesn't like from Government inspectors.

The latest example, reported in Notebook last week, was the Audit Commission's unflattering verdict on Barnet's refuse and street cleaning operations.

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A few months back we had another critical report from a team of Government inspectors, this time into Barnet's measures against benefit fraud.

The traditional response to such reports is to have a little public hand-wringing before announcing "yes, we've had some problems, but we are now improving dramatically". And it is often true as in this case that the inspection took place more than a year ago, and things may have got a bit better since then.

But Barnet has taken the aggressive line that both reports are largely inaccurate and grossly unfair. And then goes on to claim that, in fact, the council is running quite a good operation.

I think it is only in the last few years that local politicians have had the neck to try and discredit critical reports from Government inspections teams. It shows the politicians' increasing belief in the powers of spin.

Another important issue has been highlighted by the critical report on the refuse service.

And this is the extent to which the Conservative opposition has been sidelined. It is something Notebook has commented on before. Indeed the new cabinet system has succeeded in sidelining councillors of all parties.

The first the Tories knew that the report had been published and the council was attacking it was when contacted by the press for comment.

The official explanation is that it was all a last minute rush; the report was received by the council on the afternoon of Friday, February 2 when the Director of Environmental Services was away, and it was not possible to brief councillors before publishing a response.

Whatever rush there may have been it is remarkable the council simply forgot or ignored the entire opposition.

Tory opposition leader Victor Lyon is infuriated by the episode and drew Notebook's attention to the fact that minutes show the cabinet was talking about a draft version of the report back in October!

He takes the view that he should have been shown the report at this stage. The report had been handled in an undemocratic way he declared. The opposition had been denied the opportunity to respond promptly to what was a financial scandal with loses of more than £1million.

This was money which was desperately needed elsewhere in a borough with crumbling schools and roads.

In what was not the best of weeks for Barnet Council, the critical report on refuse collection and street cleaning had another unfortunate consequence.

It cost the council its much coveted Beacon Status award.

As Notebook students will know, the council leadership has an obsession to win this accolade from the Government.

After considerable effort Barnet was one of 43 councils short-listed for an award this year. In fact Barnet's award was to be for "maintaining a quality environment".

But following the publication of the Audit Commission report, the Government changed its mind and Barnet's name was struck out at the last minute.

You may take it that there are some badly bruised political egos at the town hall this week.