Tuesday, 27 November 2012

One Barnet - What our councillors had to say

Last week I emailed our local Councillors asking whether they felt that enough time was being allowed to study the One Barnet contract before the decision was taken (http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/urgent-question-for-barnet-councillors.html). I have sent many such emails to our councillors and usually get a sparse reply. This time was different. From each group I received

Labour - 8 replies.
Lib Dem - 2 replies.
Conservatives - 12 replies.

The most interesting aspect of the Conservative group reply was that 8 of the twelve were from Councillors private accounts, requesting I respect confidentiality, but sharing their personal views.

Of those who responded publicly, perhaps the most interesting was from Cabinet member Tom Davey. He said

Dear Roger
As mentioned in previous communication with yourself, both of us have one thing in common- making Barnet and better place and doing so in a sustainable way, but i think we both know each of us has a different view on how to achieve that, and we probably won't be agreeing on that in the near future.
To answer your question on whether there is enough time, the answer is yes. Councillors set policy and it is the responsibility of officers to implement. The consultant costs and legal fees that some people have highlighted are evidence of the precautions the Council has taken in handling the matter. It is the responsibility of officers, together with our consultants to ensure the contracts do what we have asked, and safeguarded against risks we have highlighted, and any we hadn't thought of.
I have asked senior officers several times about how we are safeguarding ourselves, and have received consistent answers from different officers, all of which reasurres me that the policy we are seeking will be delivered as intended.
If all else fails, i hope you will believe in self interest above all else. I enjoy the work i do as a Councillor and want to be re-elected in 2014. If the NSCSO contract is a failure this has a direct impact on my chances of re-election- so as you can see, i have very good reason to make sure everything is as it should be.

Of course I'm pleased Councillor Davey responded. As he points out, I disagree. I will set out my views in a later blog. Another interesting reply was from Councillor Hugh Rayner

I am not in the habit of replying to round robins in particular ones worded in the way that you have worded yours.
Nevertheless to demonstrate that you are not being ignored I will make an exception in this case.
NSCSO - whether to go ahead or not - will be an executive decision to be taken by Cabinet on 6th December.
The B&P O&SC of which I am a member  will pre-scrutinise this decision on 29th November.
I will do whatever I decide is necessary to prepare myself for this meeting.
Please appreciate that the scrutiny committee do not have the power to instruct Cabinet to follow any course of action, only to make comments and recommendations.
For the record I will be chairing BMO&SC on 13th December where we will be reviewing the decision made by the Cabinet on 6th December - assuming of course that the matter is called-in.
Hugh Rayner Cllr

Hugh has been robust in his questioning of One Barnet and has earned respect for this. I not with interest his comments regarding the scrutiny committee. This echoes my view that the process needs beefing up and betrays the democratic deficit in Barnet.

Of the "private" emails, I will only make a couple of quotes. Interestingly these fall into two camps, two were from "One Barnet believers". Here is one comment, which seems to reflect the position.

"I am broadly supportive of the One Barnet program and believe it will deliviver benefits to residents. I do however concede that the time allowed for discussions seems to be insufficient".

Perhaps more worrying are the comments from the sceptics. Perhaps the most disturbing is this.

"Its difficult to read a contract 'Cold' but it helps if one is a party to the processes as matters progress.  There is not sufficient time. Even if I take out time and read the contract, what difference will it make ?"

I suspect the leadership would be surprised at who responded and what they said. It is a sad day when councillors feel that doing their job is pointless. Once these contracts are signed, there will be a lot more feeling like that.

At least the councillors (on both sides) are bothering to answer. I suppose that is progress


radfax said...

Councillors are failing the people, but the problems don't stop their.

UK Government WAR CRIMES

MickeyN said...

There are two serious flaws in Davey's reliance on the executive to advise him. First, many of the "advisers"/consultants are already biased or conflicted in favour of outsourcing (hence no consideration of in-house options); and secondly, surely the abysmal track record of the Council in the last few years should indicate that the quality of advice from senior officers is questionable at best.

Moaneybat said...

@ MickeyN

Can't argue with aything you've said. I'd say the quality of the senior officers has been very questionable going as far back as mid 1990s.