Monday, 7 November 2011

What the hell is wrong with Barnet Council?

Just suppose for one second that you were running a major organisation, funded by the taxpayer. Just suppose you got £200,000 a year salary and a load of other perks. Just suppose that a blogger submitted and FOI request, which exposed your organisation as behaving like a bunch of neo-Stalinist bullies. Just suppose that blogger copied you in on an email, asking a whole set of really embarrassing questions? What would you do?

Well regular readers of this blog will no doubt be asking themselves that question today. They will know that on Saturday I sent such and email. By reviewing my blog statistics, I know that there were over 100 visits to this blog from Barnet Council computers today. Interestingly there were a dozen from the GLA (home of Councillors Brian Coleman and Robert Rams). We had a few from the Evening Standard and a few from Trinity Mirror Group as well. Sadly my cheapo old stats package only holds the last 500 hits, so I can't see the whole day.

Anyway, what does this tell me? That I'm not the only person who finds Barnet Council and it's behaviour to be totally beyond the pale. I have my blog rankings by Alexa listed on the blog. That means that Barnet CEO Mr Nick Walkley, who has all manner of expensive Consultants to advise him, will know that the blog is well read. It also means that Mr Walkley know that he has a choice. Ignore the fact that his organisation has behaved in a despicable manner on his watch and try and tough it out, or he can try and make some sort of amends. Now if I was Mr Walkley, I would have started by apologising to Mr Mustard, the blogger who is organisation tried to stitch up. I would have also written to me, saying that he accepted that Barnet Council had behaved in a despicable manner and that he would appoint an enquiry to investigate exactly how this Stalinist behaviour was allowed to happen. If I was Mr Walkley, I wouldn't have waited. I would have taken the initiative.

Sadly in Mr Walkley, we have a CEO who never takes responsibility. Did he apologise for Metpro? Did he apologise for the appalling revelations about the Barnet IT Infrastructure? Did he hell. All he has ever done is bury his head and hope that the problems will go away.

What about the political leadership in Barnet? Faced with Metpro, what was their priority? You guessed? Attacking the bloggers who had exposed the failings of the Council. Cast your mind back to Metpro. What did the bloggers ask for? Nothing more than an independent open enquiry. Did we get one? No chance. We got a very narrow audit of the purchasing system. Even this exposed all manner of problems, but a systemic review of how the whole sorry Metpro scandal (or any similar scandal) could ever happen was deemed out of scope. Why? Because it is patently clear that Barnet don't want to know. As to my latest FOI. I submitted it on Saturday. I spoke to someone who, shall we say, knows how these things work at Barnet. He said that if they wanted to and it was a priority, they could get me the answers in a week. My guess is that I'll get them two weeks late, on xmas Eve. That way, they will be buried and forgotten by the time everyone gets sobers up. Only they won't, because should Barnet pull that Stunt, I'll sit on them for three weeks, until everyone is back. Two can play at that game. Barnet Council clearly waited until after the cabinet meetings & general Council meeting to release the FoI. They did it on a Friday afternoon. That is why the association of Barnet Bloggers waited until  Monday to release our press release.

I have had an enormous number of hits since the story broke on Friday. There are over 50 different sites linking to this blog currently, including the Guardian. That gives the story huge visibility. I haven't quite figured out what is the problem with Barnet Council. Is it complacency or are they like a rabbit caught in the headlights. I had a rather interesting hit on the blog today.  A recruitment agency URL was looking at my blog. You will never guess who's name they had typed into google to find it? I suspect that a certain fellow at Barnet won't be getting too many calls anytime soon, when they see what a marvellous job he's done here. I suspect we may be lumbered for some time yet.

Please don't try and guess. After all I don't want to get reported to the ICO, do I?

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