Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Barnet CEO Andrew Travers - West Hendon Estate - Another blot on the CV of shame.

Who is the most powerful man in Barnet Council? IF you think it's the Leader of the Council, Richard Cornelius, think again. The real power behind the wheel is the CEO Andrew Travers. The Barnet Council website says of Mr Travers

Chief Executive: Barnet - Andrew Travers

• to lead the strategic management of the Council to ensure quality and best value for money
• to be the Council's principal policy and business adviser
• to be the managerial leader, ensuring that the employees of the Council deliver the agreed objectives and priorities
• to take the statutory responsibilities of Head of Paid Service.

email: andrew.travers@barnet.gov.uk

Mr Travers was appointed to the role, which commands a £180,000 salary in July 2013, having taken over from Nick Walkley as an interim in October 2012. Mr Walkley left Barnet council for a lower paid job at a smaller council, after the Barnet bloggers exposed a string of scandals, such as the Metpro scandal, where the council were using a security force to guard civic buildings and vulnerable people, paying above market rate to a company that wasn't accredited and used unchecked members of staff.

Since Mr Travers took over he's displayed a far lower key style. Wheras Walkley initially thought it was good for his career to be seen as high profile, Travers prefers to sit in the shadows. Sadly for the residents of the London Borough of Barnet, the performance of the council has not improved. Mr Travers term in office has seen the appalling  "Your Choice Barnet" scandal, where adult social care was outsourced to a private company, created by the council, only for the company to become technically insolvent and require a bail out of over a million pounds.

Travers job is to provide effective management, however even before he was confirmed in role and was operating as an interim, the Council lost a landmark case against its own residents, when the hiking of parking charges was shown to be illegal. The writing was on the wall long before the verdict, but Travers agreed to waste tens of thousands of pounds on the case. Despite Mr Travers being in charge of Council operations, not a peep was said by him.

Another cock up in Barnet resulted in the Council having to virtually close down, when it emerged that they had gotten rid of legally qualified staff resulting in a procedural cock up which resulted in all of the councils committees to not be legally constituted. This cock up nearly cost the Leader of the Council his job. The Law Gazette detailed just why it is not acceptable to follow the Travers lead Barnet model where the Monitoring officer isn't properly qualified. In fact, the Travers model means that the council doesn't have anyone left who knows how to do their job. This means that whatever happens, the council is at the mercy of private contractors as their is no in house capability left. 

The Barnet Eye has investigated the subject of outsourcing at length over the years, Most large commercial organisations refuse to outsource too much of their business to a single supplier. In Barnet, Andrew Travers has seen contract after contract go to Capita. Barnet has gained the nickname "Capitaville". Whilst Travers claims this has delivered savings, the council pointedly refused to do a public sector comparitor, to prove it. Canny companies use a range of suppliers and play them off against each other. Barnet simply sign huge monolithic contracts lasting ten years with Capita and hope for the best.

The latest cock up is in West Hendon, where the council is partnering with Barratt homes to demolish and rebuild a large housing estate. There is currently an inquiry running and evidence has emerged showing that leaseholders who'd bought properties under the right to buy legislation have been subject to compulsory purchase orders, forcing them out of their homes and paying them well under the market rate. As you will see from Mr Travers message below to staff, he pointedly ignores the injustice of this situation, failing even to mention the low valuations. He talks about the need to purchase the properties, but doesn't say a dickeybird about treating the victims of the policy fairly.

From: First Team
Sent: 23 January 2015 16:35
To: AllStaff
Subject: Weekly message from the Chief Executive

The story of the week for us has to be the start of the Public Inquiry into the compulsory purchase of homes bought under right to buy on the West Hendon estate. The council is arguing that we need to purchase these properties in order to continue to redevelop the estate.

Part of the reason for the national attention the Inquiry has attracted is that schemes like West Hendon have very much hit the media zeitgeist.  Some of this follows on from the New Era Estate in Newham where local residents were concerned about rent rises for existing tenants.  In West Hendon, the issue we have is how we support the residents who have moved into the estate during the hiatus before regeneration began.

But the central issue is really a discussion happening all around London about how can we transform estates such as this, which pretty much everyone  wants to see rebuilt, with private sector involvement. There simply isn’t the public sector finance available to do so; tens of millions of pounds would be needed in West Hendon.

Much of the national debate is also about how much estates should change. It is generally accepted that the big mass housing schemes of the 60s need replacing.  Built with high hopes, too many have in effect become ghettos of deprivation. But in changing the social mix of these estates, we have to be careful to support existing communities.

For the record, tenants on secure tenancies on the estate will move to the new development, home owners will be able to buy properties with shared equity and, of those who have moved so far, non-secure tenants have been found  homes elsewhere in the borough. Talk of people being sent to Luton are wide of the mark.

There will be a lot more West Hendons in London over the coming months and that debate about transforming the physical and social infrastructure of estates, while supporting existing residents, is set to rumble on for some time. 

Have a good weekend.


Of course to the likes of Mr Travers, making sure that decvelopers like Barratts are kept sweet and can make huge profits is far more important than caring about the effect on little people.

Mr Travers is one of the authors of the One Barnet outsourcing project. Apparently his ambition is to be the first Council CEO to outsource the entire council function. We are seeing plans to even outsource areas such as social work. In his first ever email to staff  after he took over, he said the following and he's been true to his word

"In practice, this means we will need to accelerate the Wave 2 projects in the One Barnet programme and we will publish details of proposals for waste and street scene in Cabinet papers next week"

Mr Travers got the job on the basis that he is an expert in local government. Since he's been in post, Barnet has seen a whole string of well documented cock ups. What is bizarre is that no one ever talks about them being Andrew Travers responsibility. In part this is because it is convenient for the local opposition to "blame the Tories". What I find hard to understand is why the Tories are so keen to persevere with someone who has built a track record of disatsers in the Borough. I don't believe anyone in Barnet believes that it is right and just for the council simply to be able to take your house and  give you less than anyone else would, so that a private company can turn a big profit. Until we have a CEO of Barnet who cares about the people who pay his wages, the hundreds of thousands of ordinary council tax payers, sadly that is exactly what we will see more and more of.

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