Wednesday, 20 March 2013

One Barnet Judicial Review - Day Two

One of the downsides of being self employed and writing a blog is that sometimes you simply can't cover things that you think are important. Today we had an important video shoot at my studios and sadly I have to put my customers first, because they pay the bills. This meant that I had to monitor the situation as best I could through various tweets. It is a rather surreal way to follow a Court case. Here is an example of why.

  1. Short pause while judge refills his fountain pen - no biros here
  2. Judge recognising that outsourcing core services diff from many decisions/contracts taken & therefore specific consultation needed
As you can see, it can be a rather strange way to follow the case. What is becoming clear is that the Barnet defence is purely that the Judicial Review was conducted to late in the day and should be struck out. It seems that on the actual arguments they have a rather weak case.

I think that the councils defence is scandalous. Given that they have done everything in their power to conceal the nature of what they are doing from the public, how on earth can they say the JR should have been launched at any particular time. The argument that the Council took the decision way back and everything else is fine detail is nonsense. No one knew what the extent of the decision was, how it would affect anyone or what the implications were. Had a JR been launched at the time the council are saying, their would have been no grounds for a Judicial Review because no one had a clue what the council had actually decided to do. I must confess that the legal system is something I singularly fail to understand. I spoke privately to a very senior member of the Cabinet a couple of weeks ago at length. He was supremely confident that the JR would fail. I assume this was because his legal team assured him that the "out of time" argument was a joker (naturally he didn't disclose why he was confident to me).

It is interesting that the Council seem to have given up the ghost on defending the lack of consultation. I sincerely hope that the Judge accepts the arguments of Maria Nash's team that the procedings could only be started after the decision in December 2012. It seems to me to be completely illogical to expect Maria to have launched a JR after the decision to proceed with One Barnet in March 2011, because no one then knew that the Council would fail to meet its responsibility to consult. At the time, no one even knew what exactly would be developed or delivered by One Barnet.

The council is in court because it did not consult properly. This seems now to be beyond argument. If Maria's challenge is thrown out, it will not be on the merits of the case she has made, but because of (in my opinion) highly questionable legal arguments as to exactly when the decision was made. The judge has to follow the law and not be swayed by emotion. My worry is that the technicality Barnet are using may be the achillies heal in Maria's other watertight case. If that is the case, then the council will have "got away" with not consulting. It will be a disgrace, one which could cost the people of Barnet millions if the gamble on outsourcing fails.

The question I keep coming back to is this. Why did Barnet refuse to consult? The more I think about it, the more I realise that there can only be one answer. It isn;t a good one for the people of Barnet.

You can read a report by someone who actually attended the case here

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