Thursday 21 January 2010

Barnet Council, Lynne Hillan and a culture of negligence?

I have just read the most unbelieveable press release from a Council that I've ever seen. Barnet Council have just announced their intention to appeal against the High Court ban on their  policy of abolishing wardens for Sheltered Housing tenants. This press release contains the following statement :-
The council expressed concern on publication that: the judgment suggests that a council has to demonstrate that every member,  not just officers, involved in the decision making gave full and stated consideration to all relevant legislation and guidance. This raises profound issues for the working of local government.

Lets get this right. The Council thinks that people making decisions on important issues such as removing wardens from the old and vulnerable shouldn't take account of the law? They shouldn't listen to guidance? How does Council Leader Lynne Hillan think decisions should be made?  There is a word for making decisions without giving due consideration to the law. It's called negligence. If members of committees can't demonstrate that they have given consideration to the law and the appropriate guidance, then they shouldn't be on the committee.

Let me explain how this process should work in a well run council, where committee members discharged their duties with a degree of diligence. The Borough would make their proposals and the legal department would then check them for compliance with the law. The legal department would then set up a briefing session for the decision makers and provide them with a pack detailing all of the relevant points to consider with regards to the law. Councillors would then read this and would confirm their understanding as a minuted item at the meeting where the decision was made. Members of Council committees get a large cash allowance for being a member of the committee. This is to compensate them for the time they spend reading briefing notes. If they don't want to do this, then resign and let someone who is prepared to do the job properly step up. We should note that Hillan herself receives a Special responsibility allowance of £33,000 (I wonder what she thinks "special responsibility allowance" means)

There is another, rather misleading statement from Lynne Hillan contained in the press release :-
Councillor Hillan added: In developing our service we will, as always, consider the needs of disabled people in the borough, but we do need to make sure we are making services open to all disabled people in the borough, not only those in one type of accommodation.
What Hillan doesn't mention is that for every 4 existing site based warden, they are replacing them with only 1 "travelling" warden. Hillan is trying to con us that a quarter of the existing workforce can not only service the needs of the existing tenants, but can cover the entire community outside of Sheltered housing accomodation as well. Does she really believe this? Well her own mother was in a Council operated Sheltered Home. Hillan arranged for her to be moved to a different site where the warden would be retained. Do you trust Lynne Hillan as Council Leader? Do you think that her actions and statements reveal her to be up to the job or out of her depth? Do you think Barnet Councillors should bother to read their briefing papers before making decisions? Do you think that life changing decisions for the elderly and disabled should be made without taking proper guidance?

Let me tell you why Lynne Hillans problems with the law are no surprise to me. I asked a question at a Barnet Council Cabinet meeting. I asked whether a risk assessment had been done for the abolition of sheltered housing wardens for the elderly and disabled. The Council Leader simply replied "Yes". I then asked how many pages long was it. The Council Leader replied "Three paragraphs". Sums it really.

This press release tells me everything I need to know about Lynne Hillan

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