Saturday, 3 August 2013

The voice of reason and Barnet Council

Sometimes you have to take a step back and clear your head. Sometimes you have to try and see the bigger picture. This is one such time. Two historic court cases have concluded this week. In the first, Barnet Council won a decision that enables them to proceed with the One Barnet outsourcing program. In the second, the Barnet CPZ campaign won their fight to have the CPZ increases declared illegal.

Whilst the first decision appears to be a bitter defeat for the campaigners fighting outsourcing, there is a bigger story. Barnet Council won on a legal issue, that the objection had not been brought in time. The court made it completely clear that the council should have consulted and had the objection been brought in time, the outcome would have been different. 

The second case is a complete disaster for Barnet Council. They have been shown to have been acting illegally and have to refund huge sums to Barnet residents.

There is a much wider issue to consider. At a recent meeting of the Barnet Council cabinet, I raised the issue of why Barnet council is facing so many legal challenges and costing the so much money to the taxpayer. The deputy leader of the council informed me that "all councils face these sort of challenges" I suggested that this was a rather complacent attitude and the facts don't support this viewpoint.

So let us consider who has brought the court cases.

1. Sheltered housing. This case, which Barnet lost was brought by an elderly resident of sheltered housing, worried for his own personal safety. Should a 78 year old man have to take his council to court. 

2. CPZ case. This case was brought by the CPZ Campaign, fronted by David Attfield, a local solicitor. The court found in their favour, declaring the price hikes illegal. 

3. Your Choice Barnet consultation. This was brought by John Sullivan. He is a parent/carer for his disabled adult daughter. The court found in his favour, resulting in a change of policy at Your Choice Barnet. (Your Choice Barnet is a private company, set up to provide care services. It is wholly owned and controlled by Barnet Council, although as a pseudo private company is exempt from Council FoI requests.

4. One Barnet Judicial review. This was brought by Maria Nash, an elderly disabled lady. The Council won on a technicality, although the Judge found that Barnet had failed in its duty to consult. 

Now let me ask one question. Do you think that any of these people started these cases because they had nothing better to do? Do you think any of them undertook the stress of these cases because they were bored and wanted to cause trouble? Of course not. They started these cases because they were put in a completely ridiculous position by ill thought out policies, which were rather badly implemented. 

The Barnet Eye has been portrayed by some councillors as simply an irritating blog written by a serial troublemaker. They ignore the fact that we have been proven right on every occasion. Even the people who disagree with us, have failed to make a compelling argument to illustrate how we are wrong. Councillors such as Robert Rams, a man who has a job as a paid political administrator say we are wrong, but refuse to say why. We email councillors with details fo scandals and get no reply. 

The Barnet Eye is not unreasonable. If I see any of the Barnet Councillors (with 2 notable exceptions) out at social events, I always have a polite and friendly chat. None has ever told me I am unreasonable. They have disagreed with some issues I've discussed. I try not to talk politics at social events, but when the subject has been raised it has been cordial. 

So once again, I will ask the question again, in a most reasonable fashion. Isn't it about time that Barnet Council closed down its war against taxpayers and started involving residents in making Barnet a better place to live. There is a huge wealth of talent. Why don't they use it for positive rather than negative reasons.

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