The Leader of the London Borough of Barnet is Councillor Richard Cornelius. The deputy Leader is Councillor Daniel Thomas. It may surprise you to learn that on a personal level I quite like both of these gentlemen. They are polite, calm and reasonable. I don't for one second think they have ever made a policy decision with any deliberate ill intent towards anyone else in Barnet ( I can't say that about some of their current and former colleagues). I think they genuinely think they are doing the best job they can in the current climate.
In the title of this blog I called them "Tricky Dicky" and "Desperate Dan". Tricky Dicky was the name given to disgraced former US president Richard Nixon. Nixon was an incredibly shrewd and cunning operator, who saw nothing wrong with "bending rules" when it suited him. Desperate Dan was a comedy figure in the Dandy Comic. He was a jolly character who liked nothing more than to tuck into a big cow pie. In both cases my use of the names is rather ironic. You see I don't think Richard Cornelius is a tricky operator. I think he is a decent enough bloke, who is completely out of his depth as leader and has been lead a merry dance by the officers at Barnet Council. As for his deputy, he seems to be a rather trusting and naive chap, who, it appears, has simply not thought through exactly what is expected of a member of a Leadership team.
The One Barnet contract with Capita was signed a month ago. It is becoming increasingly clear that neither Tricky Dickie or Desperate Dan bothered to read it. Instead they asked officers to assure them that everything was alright. Did the officers read the contract? I am starting to wonder if anyone at Barnet actually read it. I suspect that the boys from Capita simply gave them the potted highlights and said "don't worry, you'll save millions and everyone will think you are marvellous". As a result all manner of nuts and bolts are starting to shake loose, now we actually have to see the process in action.
There are huge conflicts of interest. There are situations where staff work for either Capita or Barnet depending on what side of your front door they are standing on. How this will stand up in a court of law, no one seems to know. This is not trivial stuff, it involves planning and licensing, the things which maintain our Borough as a pleasant green leafy suburb. My worry is that clever lawyers will use this conflict of interest to bypass all manner of regulation that has thus far kept Barnet green and pleasant. When council decisions start being challenged because there is a confllict of interest, with Capita having a vested interest in decisions its staff are making, we can expect all hell to break loose.
Where will this leave us at the end of the ten year conrtact? Well over the coming months I will be going around the Borough and taking pictures of some of the treasures of our natural habitat. In ten years time, I have a horrible feeling, we'll be looking back on these pictures with a nostalgic glow as we look back on pictires of Mill Hill the Hale Station in the 1930's with pretty steam engines pulling carriages through fields.
And why will we be in this impass? Because Dicky and Danny couldn't be bothered to do their job and read the contract properly. They didn't ask the right questions and they didn't put the right checks and balances in place. Once all of the ex Barnet staff have been sacked and the functions moved to geographically distant parts of the UK, we'll be lumbered with Capita and no matter how bad a job they do, we'll be tied in to using their service and paying through the nose for it.