Sunday, 9 October 2011

Barnet Council Confidential - More secret legal advice exposed

From : The Barnet Eye mole in the hole.

Rog, here's the next installment of our analysis of the Trowers and Hamlins Legal advice for Barnet Council re outsourcing. Especially relevant following your post regarding Councillor Rams blog.

Can it be any clearer?  The legal advice in relation is clear:  this officer role “cannot be outsourced”. If planners form the majority of staff in the planning department and their role cannot be outsourced,  why are Barnet Council trying to outsource the department at all? Why should Barnet council tax payers have to subsidise political ideologies?
A planner’s job mainly consists of balancing a range of considerations, analyse proposals and decide whether those proposals are compliant with policy. They directly report to planning committees and have strong, transparent and conflict-free working relationships with elected Members.
Their job is not a tick-box exercise.  Judgments to be made. It has been clear from the start of the process that Barnet planners have beeen sceptical whether the Planning services can legally be outsourced in relation to their functions. There are serious concerns about possible conflicts of interest and lack of public accountability if outsourced. Comments have been consistently ignored by the Council and the Leader who used to have Planning under his previous portfolio. Such evidence that their roles simply cannot be outsourced should ring alarm bells with all councillorsm or at least it would if they'd actually seen this legal advice.
When will the Council, especially the planning committee Members, realise that outsourcing this is a huge risk. The consequences of a direct report to Capita-employed planners clearly hasn't been considered. Until such time as the risks and aassociated costs are identified, it is clear that keeping them in-house is the only solution. Anything which fails to maintain democratic and accountable planning decisions and enforcement in Barnet opens the council up to the risk of large and ongoing legal claims.


baarnett said...

It seems amazing that this sort of thing is only cropping up now. Nice of the outsourcing 'management' to eventually investigate what they could outsource.

Still, it's all income for the lawyers.

Jaybird said...

Outsourcing planning reports which will then have to be checked and signed off by in-house staff will increase the number of planners employed in total, whilst reducing the faith that local residents would have in the system. A stupid idea all round.

baarnett said...

I imagine it is not just "the actual analysis and decision must be made by the officer."

If I contact the council, pre-application, because I want to discuss a Velux window, a children's zoo, or a housing estate, who will I be speaking to?