Sunday, 22 January 2012

Exactly who is in charge of Barnet Council?

"The Devils greatest trick is to convince us all that he doesn't exist"

Who is in charge of Barnet Council? Who has the desk with the sign on it saying "The buck stops here"? Is it council leader Richard Cornelius, the man who says "I'm sorry, I can't do anything about that" to residents when they ask why he can't sort out the mess created by the Councils parking policies. Is it "Non Stick" Nick Walkley, the CEO, who's name never seems to be on any embarrassing document? In Barnet we have the massive One Barnet outsourcing project. Who is the sponsor of this project? Who is the top man who thinks it's a good idea and is prepared to say "This is my baby, I think it will save the people of Barnet a fortune and I think it is the future of local government in Barnet". The strangest thing about such a huge, transformational project, which the council is spending billions on, is the fact that no one is prepared to stand up in public and explain it.

On Friday I had approx 400 different hits on this website from people at Barnet Council. More than half of these arrived through google searches for phrases such as "Barnet Eye". Why? I don't know, but I'll take a wild guess and say that it's because they are interested what is happening to the organisation they work for. Let me tell you something I found out on Friday. "Barnet Council strongly disapprove" of me and my blog. Funny that. All 400 of them who read the blog all thought "I strongly disapprove of Roger Tichborne and his blog". Maybe I should emigrate to Australia to be in the land of my ancestors. I must be so unpopular that I should hide my face behind a mask when I walk the streets of Barnet. If you work for Barnet Council, is that how you feel about this blog? The council have spent 3 1/2 years trying to completely ignore this blog. They routinely reply to the most routine and trivial email late. I have emailed the CEO of Barnet Council on numerous issue, I routinely copy him into every communication and yet he never, ever responds.

Does Mr Walkley believe in the One Barnet project? He has spent millions of pounds  (of our money) promoting it and on consultants to implement it. Nick is an intelligent guy, quite friendly whenever I've chatted to him. Maybe he thinks I'm a complete moron or a fool. Maybe I am not worthy of a response. He's the CEO, he can talk to who he likes, yet he chooses never to respond to my emails. The leader, councillor Richard Cornelius does sometimes if he thinks it's appropriate. Why doesn't Nick. Is he scared of what I'll say? Many of his employees and many of the councillors email me  regularly. If they say "This is in confidence and not for the blog" It stays in confidence and off the blog.

I've offered Nick the opportunity to write a guest blog which would be universally read by his staff, explaining what the whole One Barnet project is all about. I've offered to interview him. He could have persuaded me that it was a good idea. I'm not stupid. I can read a balance sheet or a business case. If the numbers stack up, I'd buy into it if it was good for Barnet. There are many great services in Barnet supplied by other organisations. I'm not implacably opposed to the concept of outsourcing.

Many people may think that I'm opposed to large corporations such as Capita, who are the front runner for the One Barnet contract. Let me let  you into a little secret. I'm not. Several years ago I used to own shares in Capita. I bought them as an investment because I thought the company had an interesting business model and would produce a return on my money. I took an interest as they were the company which implemented the Congestion charge for former Mayor Ken Livingstone. I believed that this was a technology they could resell to cities around the world. I made thousands of pounds when I sold them, they had doubled in value. I sold them to invest the money in my own business. If I had any spare cash to invest right now, I'd probably invest some of it in Capita, because I'm sure they will clean up on the Barnet project. Whilst many people locally are implacably opposed to their business model, Capita as a PLC exist solely to produce a return for their shareholders. I can see no circumstances where the One Barnet project will not deliver a handsome return for them. I may not like what this will mean for many of us in Barnet, but as a cash investment, I really don't think you could argue with it.I wonder how many employees of Barnet Council and consultants working on the project are Capita shareholders? Is this something we should be interested in?

I can see what is in the deal for Capita, but I cannot see how it is in the long term interest of the people of Barnet to have this project proceed. I've read hundreds of documents and none support the proposition as being for the benefit of Barnet. Which brings us back to the proposition "Who runs Barnet Council". Why is this important? Because whoever that person is, they must fully understand the project and the benefits. They must step forward and say "I support this project because it will deliver these benefits". Let's have the conversation and move on. What happens in the absence of leadership? Well as I write this blog, there is a large ship lying on its side in the Med, there are families grieving and a cruise line is likely to disappear, due to the reputational damage of the actions of one man. The captain of that ship allowed a disaster to happen,  letting his personal whim take precidence over doing his job properly. When it was clear that his mistake had caused a disaster, he legged it, leaving the people who were looking to him for guidance and ledership in the lurch. With no one at the helm, making the important decisions, the boat sank and people died. That is what happens when no one knows who is really in charge and what needs to be done.

At the start of the blog I quoted the old maxim that the devils greatest trick is convincing us that he doesn't exist. I suspect that this is the greatest trick of whoever at Barnet Council is responsible for the One Barnet project.

Have a pleasant Sunday.


Mrs Angry said...

good post: and your reference to Capita shares raises an issue which I am writing about for later today ... transparency, that issue which the senior officers and councillors of Barnet find so hard to comprehend.

ainelivia said...

great post Rog. On my way to the Post Office yesterday am was accosted by a terrible tory. i didn't actually recognise him until i clocked his mouse-tache. Ahhhh Mr Hart himself... asking if i would be Backing Boris...because i was gripped by the idea of laughing out loud (at the tache) you don't see those often - i replied Unlikely and went on my way. however i'd only gone a few steps when another tt enquires if i will be backing boris, this time with no cause for humour i replied - that's fecking unlikely and strode into the post office... which nowadays is a great place to meet people and chat, because the queues are so long....

Vicki Morris aka Citizen Barnet said...

Councillor John Hart took a copy of the anti-cuts paper 'Our Barnet' from me on Tuesday night, on the way into the TalkLondon Boris Johnson election roadshow.

He mumbled something about One Barnet privatisation along the lines of: "Don't really understand it... councillors don't... we just have to go along with it, don't we?"

To which I said, you should inform yourselves about what it means, shouldn't you? And he just dumbled off, muttering into his moustache. It hardly inspires confidence.

Mr Mustard said...

One day I will be over the hill and unable to blog sensibly ( no, Mrs Angry, not yet ) and I do hope that one of the new younger breed of blogger will take me aside one day, the pub will be fine, and ask me whether I really am up to the job or if it is time to hang up my boots and just go potter around in the garden.

Would one of the younger councillors please take Cllr Hart off to the pub for a chat.

baarnett said...

The sad thing is - he is including others in
"Don't really understand it... councillors don't... we just have to go along with it, don't we?"

Someone would need a big table in that pub, to have that "chat", Mr M.

And the current Barnet bloggers in the future will no doubt have direct cranial interfacing to their iPad23s, so the thoughts of those silver surfers will still be in demand, still full of anger and Sinapis alba (look it up) as ever.

Alex said...

Well I can not find CEO email address