Friday, 15 June 2012
A One Barnet Cockup which will cost the Taxpayer a fortune
The Barnet Bugle reported a cock up at the planning committee on Tuesday night. Councillor Andreas Tambourides allowed the planning meeting to proceed after 10.30pm. The Bugle has videos of the whole process and as you can see, there is a room full of Barnet Council officials, councillors and advisors as well as various other people milling around (as an aside, this vindicates the decision of the Barnet Eye to campaign for the right to video Council meetings. We do however believe that this proves the case for full official video footage of all meetings) - http://www.barnetbugle.com/journal/2012/6/13/whats-the-time-councillor-tambourides.html - with business proceeding until 11pm.
The Bugle correctly reports that decisions taken after 10.30pm are technically null and void. What the Bugle failed to report was the reason for the cock up. Barnet Council is in the process of outsourcing it's legal department to Harrow Council (a Labour Council). Many legal staff will now become employees of Harrow Council and work for Harrow Legal Services. The planning meeting on Tuesday night was the first fruit of this union. As the regular legal officer from Barnet could not make it, one was drafted in from Harrow, who was unfamiliar with the rules and constitution of the committee. At the point where Councillor Tambourides needed to be told to stop, no such instruction was given by the Harrow Officer, unaware of the arcane Barnet rules.
So what does all of this mean? Well Barnet has to decide what to do. The technically legal course of action is to strike out all decisions and reconvene the meeting, making the decisions in a fully lawful manner. This will cost money. This will also incur costs and inconvenience for all residents and businesses who are affected by the cock up. The Barnet Eye understands that Barnet Council may have to seek legal opinion from a Barrister (at huge expense) to see exactly what to do. If for any reason any of the parties has reason to object to any of the decisions, unless a lawful decision is granted, Barnet could face legal challenge (as could the poor people who applied in good faith for planning permission).
The purpose of the takeover by Harrow of Barnet legal services was to save the taxpayer money. It is possible that this cock up could wipe out all of these savings and the process hasn't even officially started.
One other note. Many Barnet staff where discussing what the name of the new "merged" legal service would be called. They were sniggering at the suggestion that it may be JLS (Joint Legal Services). Yesterday, they realised the joke was on them. It isgoing to be HLS. A free pot noodle for the first BarnetEye reader to correctly guess what the "H" stands for. We can see just how much of a "merger" this really is.
I suppose it is worth noting that the reason that Harrow Council have taken on the contract to provide legal services for Barnet, is because they think they can turn in a profit at the expense of the Barnet Council taxpayer. Whilst I don't begrudge the residents of Harrow any decent services, I do not think that this should be at the expense of the residents of Barnet.
Expect more of the same as the One Barnet cost cutting program swings into full force.