Friday, 7 October 2011

Barnet Councillor Robert Rams wants to privatise Council care of "looked after children"

Nope, it ain't the Friday joke. Full details here. Ramsbottom says in his blog :-

Of particular interest to me was the section about services commissioned by local government, as this closely relates to the council’s transformation programme. As the paper explains, local authorities are usually the most appropriate bodies to decide how local services should be delivered. The Government is keen to encourage the opening up of locally commissioned services in a range of areas, including:
  • customer contact
  • planning
  • property and facilities management
  • back-office transactional services
  • family support
  • support for looked-after children
  • trading standards and environmental services
  • housing management.
 Let me remind you of just what the Bloggers of Barnet exposed back in March.  A security company called "Metpro Rapid Response" had an agreement (no proper contract ever existed) to provide security services to Barnet Council. One of the sites they provided security at was Barbara Langstone House in Finchley. This is a hostel for young people with a variety of issues.

A lengthy investigation by this blog and the other Barnet blogs uncovered these shocking facts :-

Barnet Council hadn't checked whether Metpro had the correct licenses to operate. They hadn't and this only came to light because of bloggers enquiries.

Barnet Council hadn't checked whether Metpro staff dealing with vulnerable people had undergone the correct CRB checks, required to perform such functions.

Barnet Council allowed Metpro to covertly film residents of Barnet. It is still not clear exactly what was done with this footage. It is still unclear whether Metpro handed all copies to Barnet.

Barnet Council was unaware that Metpro Rapid response Ltd had gone into liquidation, owing the taxman hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Barnet Council had no procedures in place to ensure that any of the above situations couldn't happen. They only monitored 10 out of 9,700 suppliers properly (this information was divulged at the inquiry).

Barnet Council paid Metpro over £1.4 million pounds, despite no contract being in place.

Many people also complained about the pseudo paramilitary uniforms of the Metpro staff (including handcuffs and "personal sprays") and the aggressive treatment of residents attending council meetings.

Barnet Council never tendered the contract. When the fiasco was exposed, they sacked the company which had taken over the liquidated Metpro agreement. They then engaged another company which :-

a) Charged less
b) Had proper accreditation
c) Do not wear pseudo paramilitary uniforms

Following on from the Metpro fiasco, the Council commissioned a report for the Audit department. They exposed all manner of failing (which I won't document here, but are well documented elsewhere on this blog and the other Barnet blogs). An action plan was put into place to remedy the issues. As I understand it, this action plan has not been fully implemented at this time.

I discussed the issue with several Barnet Councillors of all parties. The consensus was that these were grave problems and until they were properly rectified, it would verging on criminal negligence to consider outsourcing services affecting vulnerable people. I suggested that a prudent course of action would be to implement the action plan and do a follow up audit maybe six months after the completion to assess whether the plan had worked. This was merely to give the council a clean bill of health as having robust procedures. The councillors I spoke to all agreed that this seemed a sensible way forward and this approach (or a variant of it) would be most prudent.

I am astounded to read Councillor Robert Rams blog today. How on earth can he start "investigating" outsourcing care of "looked after children" and "family support" when the council do not have a clean bill of health on their procurement process. How can such a program be undertaken, when we don't even know if the action plan has worked? Even if it had been fully implemented, which it hasn't, surely a follow up should be done to examine the robustness of the new systems.

Just to illustrate how deluded Rams is, I searched his blog for references to Metpro. There are none. He has cabinet responsibility for vulnerable people, yet he hasn't even acknowledged the problem. You may wonder what job Mr Rams does, which has qualified him for this post. You may wonder what job could possibly convince him that outsourcing services is the only way to run things. It may or may not surprise you to know that Mr Rams doesn't have what I consider to be a proper job at all. He "runs the office" for the Conservative group at the GLA Like many Tories who rant against "benefits recipients", Mr Rams is doing a non job, subsidised by you know who? In this day and age, the way to get on as a politician is to eschew working in the real world and get an insider job. Sadly, sitting round chatting to other people with no experience of the real world, leads you to have no experience and to write blogs just like the idiotic nonsense Rams produced here.

Unlike many on the left, I don't rule out the involvement of private companies in providing services to local authorities, where it can be proven to provide a better service. This is called pragmatism. Sadly rabid ideologues such as Rams are so wrapped up in their cocooned world that they just don't understand that sometimes it isn't the answer. What is even more shocking is that he seems oblivious to the cock up which happened on his watch. 

Lets just finish by summing up recent statements by local Conservative Councillors in Barnet.

Brian Coleman stated that a "law should be passed so we don't have to provide services for THESE PEOPLE"
Richard Cornelius said he wanted to see a Barnet where people didn't claim benefits
and now Robert Rams has said that we should privatise care for "looked after children"

There is a pattern emerging with regards to the views of our local senior Tories. It is one that scares the shit out of me.

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