Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Barnet Council website reveals details of Committee cock up

The following text is reproduced from this page on the Barnet Council website See here http://www.barnet.gov.uk/news/article/529/barnet_council_reviews_committees   
I've been writing blogs for over six years now about Council business in Barnet. This is without doubt the biggest cock up of them all. In effect the democratic oversight of the council has been closed down by sheer incompetence. There has been a concerted attempt by local Conservative loyalist supporters to portray this as a simple failure by officers and nothing to do with the politicians. This is of course a complete load of codswallop. Whilst it is the officers mistake, it was the decision of the Leadership to outsource legal services and run down democratic services. The cock up happened because the Council no longer has anyone around who actually knows the rules. In short, the people running the show put no value on the skills of experienced officers. They didn't recognise the fact that for a large organisation to run, you need people who know what they are doing to be on hand. 

One rather ridiculous line of defence used by local Conservative sympathisers is that blogs such as this misrepresent such stories and blame everything on the Conservative administration. It is quite clear to anyone with any common sense that there are plenty of well run Conservative Councils up and down the country who have not had to close for business due to such cock ups. Many do a good job for their residents. The Barnet Eye has never searched for sticks to hit the council with. In this case a Tory Loyailst and former Councillor, Dan Hope, video'd the meeting and put the footage on line. I am sur eMr Hope will take a different view of the root cause of this problem, but I can see no other explanation than the deskilling of the council as part of outsourcing.

I assumed that after the election, we'd have a period of relative calm. The opposite has been the case. It seems that the council is coming apart at the seams. I had anticipated blogging about the World Cup (and what a fine tournament it has been). The truth is that wheels are coming off the council and people have a huge vested interest. It is not beyond the realms of possibilty that we will see the Mayor of Barnet, Mr Hugh Rayner, step down and cause a byelection. It is also not beyond the realms of possibility that if this happens, Labour will win the byelection and take the council. We live in interesting time. 

Here is the annoucement.
Published Tuesday 17 June 2014
Barnet Council is to review committee membership following advice by a senior legal officer.
Following confusion over the membership of the new Environment Committee of Barnet Council at a meeting last week,  Andrew Travers, Chief Executive of the council, asked Hugh Peart, Director of Legal & Governance Services and Director of HB Law the joint legal service of Harrow and Barnet Councils, to review committee arrangements at the council.
Mr Travers wrote to council members today (June 17) informing them that: “Mr Peart reported to me yesterday that the proportionality report agreed by Council was flawed and could not form the basis of sound decision-making.  I accordingly informed Members of this at the scheduled meeting of Assets, Regeneration and Growth Committee last night (June 16) .
Mr Travers continued: “I subsequently asked Mr Peart to confirm his view by obtaining external legal advice. He has now obtained the advice of James Gaudie QC. Mr Gaudie has confirmed Mr Peart’s view that the proportionality report agreed at Council was flawed.
"Mr Gaudie further advises that the Council should put this right at the first opportunity. He does, however, go on to say that it is open to the Council to continue with scheduled committees in the meantime, and that decisions taken would be valid. 
"I will consult with the Group Leaders on whether scheduled meetings should continue on this basis. In the meantime, I have asked that this evening’s Licensing Committee is postponed.
“The current position is deeply regrettable and I apologise sincerely to all Members.  The move to committee system was always going to be challenging but the change has not been implemented as efficiently as members, or indeed residents, should expect from the council.
“It is important that there is a clear understanding of how this situation has arisen and what action, if any, should be taken. I will be appointing an external reviewer to conduct an urgent investigation into the processes leading to the reports presented to Annual Council on 2 June. This will be published at the earliest opportunity.”


Anonymous said...

Of course we will never know if the Tories forcing their jolly japes of arranging council meetings for the same time as the Labour conference, or ensuring one of their own, Salinger, chaired the scrutiny committee, were a distraction that caused the officers to take their eye off the ball.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Travers says "the move to the committee system "was always going to be challenging". Why? The council ran on the committee system for decades without problems. Travers is an overpaid incompetent fool in charge of other overpaid incompetent fools. If Cornelius had balls (which he hasn't) he'd sack the lot of them.

Anonymous said...

It was challenging, it was challenging to the power of the Officers to exercise power behind the scenes to 'gang up' on those ineffectual Cabinet Members.

Wouldn't most also find that it is very challenging to comply with the Law if you don't actually read the relevant passages of statute but just do things how you think they should be done?

Just a thought.