Monday 12 November 2012

Legal Challenge to One Barnet launched today (inc Guest blog by John Sullivan)

 A disabled woman living in the London Borough of Barnet has initiated legal action against the Borough, seeking a judicial review of the program on the grounds that the process hasn't given due regard to the needs of disabled people living in the Borough. Susan Sullivan, aged 49, has been forced to take this action, to protect her quality of life. As the disabled are always at the coalface of all cuts and changes to service provision, Ms Sullivan has taken action to protect her human rights, her dignity and her quality of life. Barnet Council have been sent a letter informing them that legal proceedings are commencing, by solicitors acting on Susan Sullivans behalf.

Her father, John Sullivan explains why this action has been initiated in the following blog. Both Susan and John Sullivan appear in the film about One Barnet and the way this is affecting residents and businesses "Barnet - The Billion Pound Gamble".


Guest blog by John Sullivan,
What is the definition of  " A Cover Up ", I would suggest in the democracy free zone of the London Borough of Barnet, the definition would be " The One Barnet Commissioning Programme " most aptly named  " The One Billion Pound Gamble " by Barnet resident John Dix an expert  in and supporter of the  outsourcing of public services in the right circumstances. A name used for the title of the sequel to the film " A Tale of Two Barnet's " namely " The One Billion Pound Gamble " that recently had its Premiere  at the Phoenix Cinema in east Finchley and is currently being shown at venues all over the Borough of Barnet so try to get to see it if you can. It will open your eyes to a Barnet  you probably never thought existed, a Barnet where a family with a daughter with learning difficulties have been trapped in inadequate and temporary accommodation for more than 11 years.

 Yes I know it takes some believing in wealthy Barnet  but it is true,  this family have been neglected for no less than 11 years, and their plight " Covered Up " until exposed by the film. Sadly they are the tip of the iceberg in terms of affordable housing need in Barnet, a problem that continues to be an unmentionable for our uncaring local Tory councillors and covered up ,they have been accused by some of running a Lady Porter style social cleansing of Barnet. However I have no idea whether or not that evil accusation has any foundation in fact, but then again what starts a rumour???, some may say there is no smoke without fire.
A Barnet where  council employees and consultants have forced through outsourcings or to put it in layman language the privatisation of public services without meaningful and open consultation, then joined the boards or the staff of the companies they outsourced public services to such as John McArdie who has now joined NSL and Amada Jackson who is now the  Operations Director of Your Choice Barnet even though she offered no other choices the company was named " Your Choice " it beggars belief.

 The fact these 2 individuals were to join the companies they were engaged in forming or outsourcing public services to , were kept quite whilst they forced through the changes , so in a way I think they come under the heading  " Cover Up ". Who is to say more may not  join the boards or the work force of the company successful in securing the One Barnet contracts, such as BT or Capita ?.    ( since this whole thing began and in addition to the above, there have been the following personnel changes. Sean Powley  Assistant  Director for Customer  Services left on a secondment to BT, he never came back and now works for BT and specialises in local government no doubt with a particular knowledge of the ins and outs of Barnet council. Max Wide Consultant from BT arrived for almost 18 months. Richard Grice Assistant Director of Customer Services left to work for BT ).

The rabid behaviour of Brian Coleman  has been a "Cover Up Extraordinaire " he has spent years abusing the residents of Barnet via emails, abusing disabled people at a council meeting with the silent support of his Tory colleagues and senior council officers, his recent outburst at a council meeting where he referred to  respectable female Barnet residents genuinely concerned about the One Barnet Programme as hags, which was greeted with bursts of laughter from his Tory colleagues and our smiling assassin of a council leader that has recently crowned himself  " Dr Evil ".

 I know plenty of disabled  sick and infirm people along with their support workers and family carers in Barnet that would agree with that title, that have had their lives devastated by his attack on disability services and the introduction of his  "new fairer contributions policy ". That is fair to him and his ilk but totally unfair on those he has forced it upon, and is destroying the quality of life of many vulnerable people in Barnet .
 Yet another sad story that is an unmentionable and  "covered up " with misleading statements and information leaflets from LBB that never ever tell the true story, and meaningless tick box bullshit exercises they claim are meaningful consultations. Even now Coleman has been charged with assaulting a woman who is probably less than half his body weight, Cornelius did not have the bottle to suspend him that task was left to the national party in fear of another pleb-gate scandal.

But the biggest  " Cover Up " of all is the  " One Barnet Commissioning Programme " that is in effect the privatisation of public services in Barnet for a minimum of 10 years. The councillors and council officers along with the outside consultants with their own agenda have seen the full business plan, those seeking to secure the contracts such as BT & Capita have seen the full business plan. Yet a company called APSE respected across the country that represents councils of all political colours that has been engaged by concerned Barnet residents and has publicly expressed some grave concerns about this project, have been denied access to the full business plan.

 As have well informed  local bloggers competent to scrutinise the business plan and Professor Dexter Whitfield of the European Strategy Services Unit (who also has grave concerns about this project) to analyse the business plan at the request of concerned Barnet residents opposed to the privatisation of " One Billion Pounds Worth of Public Services " for a minimum of 10 years.

 Why are these Barnet residents concerned you may ask , the council know what they are doing you might say. However and sadly on both counts you would be way off the mark, virtually every attempt at privatisation of public services to date  ( outsourcing or commissioning ) by LBB  has failed and the information is immediately available to support that comment.  The Your Choice and NSL attempts I refer to above for example  have in no way shape or form met with the projections of the business plans they were launched upon any more than any other attempt at privatisation by LBB. 

Across the country many councils have attempted outsourcing and many now realise it is not working and are taking services back in house ,  no less than 25% of the total to date  have failed to some major or minor degree and have cost the taxpayers of the relevant boroughs many thousands of pounds.  I might even suggest collectively many hundreds of thousands of pounds, and if you add in the huge cost of the consultants it is many millions of pounds.

 For example if you add in the losses to date due to privatisation or outsourcing and contractual problems it is in excess of  20  million pounds to date in Barnet alone and still rising. The question is why would you claim you have to save money then spend millions of pounds on consultants and questionable contracts and business plans, to outsource or privatise public services when you could have invested those millions in improving in house public services. Provided a home for the family I mention above and many other homeless families and created badly needed employment . Creating an annual  saving for Barnet taxpayers by avoiding or reducing expensive bed & breakfast and private landlord accommodation, the borough have to pay out for on an annual basis. There are many secure ways to save Barnet taxpayers money and this is simply one of them, but there is no security whatsoever in the One Barnet Billion Pound Gamble.

More importantly it is a commissioning programme and not an outsourcing programme, which means the company granted the contract has the contract for no less than 10 years whether they run the services well or badly, and local councillors will have little or no ability to intervene in the direction of those services because once the contracts are signed they will become contractually sensitive subjects.

However to add further to the One Barnet lunacy  the council have refused to agree or even consider a constructive responsible in-house comparator, universally accepted by the majority of councils of all political persuasions in Great Britain. That would provide a vehicle to balance the qualified and factual benefits of continuing and improving their current in-house services, against the purely speculative and assumed benefits of a commissioning programme . An in house comparator has  even been condemned by some Tory councillors as being in some way undemocratic or some other such nonsense, yet there own actions challenge the veracity of their objections to an in-house comparator.

For example the council will shortly qualify and confirm for which they must be applauded, that in-house services can be better that outsourcing and commissioning,  by making what appears to be a complete about face on one element of the One Barnet programme already. Just a couple of weeks ago it was reported in the local press that Barnet were going to join forces with Labour Brent and collectively outsource the "Waste & Street Scene Element  Of the One Barnet Programme ". However it has now been recommended at the Cabinet Resources meeting on 7th November , that the "Waste and Street Scene Element "should be kept in house. You could not make this up, these councillors and council officers are making it up as they go along on the back of an envelope, they appear not to know whether they are on their heads or their arses. But this action did give me some hope that they will finally wake up and smell the coffee as so many other councils across the country have chosen to do, and put a hold on this mad rush to sanction and agree this "One Billion Pound Gamble ". Until an in-house comparator has been undertaken, and the full business plan made available to the representatives of Barnet residents concerned about the One Barnet Programme and ensure Barnet residents are meaningfully consulted.

Sadly those hopes were somewhat dashed by the recent pathetic performance of the leader of the council Richard Cornelius, who at an open public meeting arranged by the Barnet Alliance for Public Services on 8th November doggedly and ideologically defended the One Barnet programme, whilst at the same time appearing to demonstrate his complete lack of understanding of what the One Barnet programme is all about. He denies his approach is ideologically or dogmatically driven, but appears reluctantly unable to change direction in the face of both constructive and vociferous public opposition. He might well believe he is telling the truth when he says his approach is neither ideological or dogmatic, his reasoning might well be his ego and the egos of his fellow councillors, who cannot bring themselves to accept the One Barnet Commissioning Programme is a huge risk. Because they would collectively have to admit they have wasted millions on this One Barnet madness , that could have been spent on improving the  quality and efficiency of existing high quality in-house public services, and are prepared to force through this programme to try and save face no matter the obvious risks.

Furthermore why would you spend millions on outside consultants anyway when within your  long term in house public sector staff across all  public sector  departments, and care workers and family carers in Barnet.  That collectively have hundreds of years of coal face experience in their own particular fields, who LBB could have consulted with for nothing. Choose not to meaningfully consult with any of them, I know it beggars belief but Barnet have adamantly refused to enter into any meaningful consultation with any of them. It is simply bizarre but worst of all sends off the stench of Tory ideology and dogma, which is not a good basis for making such massive decisions. Every one of the 63 Barnet councillors have been invited to a meeting to listen to the extremely well informed and researched other side of the One Barnet coin from the APSE expert Andy Mudd, yet to date only 3 Labour and 1 Tory have accepted that invitation, so for me it is right and proper to add the word arrogance to ideology and dogma where Cornelius and co are concerned.
Barnet residents have not been meaningfully consulted on the One Barnet programme in fact the majority do not appear to even know what it is, the public  are  refused access to the full business plan for scrutiny, councillors are distorting the facts of the One Barnet programme in local press statements, the leader Cllr Cornelius in a recent press statement even suggesting that the private sector is 75% more efficient than the public sector, when the most cursory of investigation of every outsourcing programme to date proves that statement to be completely and utterly untrue.

Faced with this atmosphere of "cover up " ,  misrepresentation , arrogance ideology  and dogma the denial of access to the full business plan, the refusal of an in house comparator , and the denial of a referendum on such a major issue, like many other Barnet residents I am concerned about the  " One Barnet Billon Pound Gamble" . Can you imagine the devastation that will be wreaked upon Barnet public services if the proposed business plan runs true to current form and fails by 25%. Can you truly and realistically imagine the devastation this will cause the vulnerable the weak the sick and the disabled such as my own disabled daughter.

 Who or what will be there by way of public services to protect her when I die, what will be left of our current public services I ask. But asking Cornelius and co has proven to be a waste of time , every effort to seek full scrutiny of the One Barnet business plan has been denied and there has been a complete refusal to enter into meaningful consultation with the residents of Barnet or even allow a referendum on such a major issue.

Therefore I have instructed solicitors on behalf of my disabled daughter Susan to seek grounds for a judicial review of the One Barnet programme, out of fear for the impact this unknown and truly risky protect will have on her future life now and when I am gone, and demand her human right of meaningful, clear, open and full consultation.


Mrs Angry said...

John: you are a man of great integrity, and courage, and what you are doing on behalf of your daughter is not just the act of a loving parent, but someone who cares passionately about the impact of the One Barnet scam on the lives of so many vulnerable and disadvantaged residents. We are all grateful to you.

Unknown said...

Mrs Angry has exactly articulated my own feelings, but I would like to express my gratitude, to wish you every success and to offer my support and help of any kind if you need it. This is an historic moment. Good luck and thank you.

Barry Rawlings said...

Very good blog and I wish you success in your battle.
One correction 20 out of 22 Labour councillors have attended briefings with Andy Mudd of APSE.