Today is a big day for the leader of Barnet Council, Mike Freer. This evening there is a cabinet meeting. Item 12 on the agenda is a discussion of the situation concerning investments in Icelandic banks. It has been widely reported that Barnet Council may have lost £27.5 Million because of the failure of several Icelandic banks.
Mike Freer is the man who is ultimately responsible for the running of the council. Now is his big chance to shine. What will he do, what will he say? How will he deal with the crisis and restore confidence in his administration?
I don't know. It will be a tough call and as the cash went down the plughole on his watch, I don't envy him the task. It is a huge sum of money, our money. Mike is the council leader and it the buck stops with him. He is a man with a background in banking. He should have been aware of the issues and risks with these investments. As I understand it, he gets an allowance of £47,000 a year from the public purse in relation to his publically funded jobs (please post a comment and tell me if this is wrong and I'll happily correct it).
Now I've no idea what he'll say. I hope for his sake he has a good story. What I can assure him of is that if he attempts to wash his hands of the whole issue and blame his advisers, then Mr Freer is not a leader, he's a failure. the job of advisers is to advise and leaders to lead. If you get a stonking great allowance from the public purse, you need to justify it. This means scrutinising advice and making decisions.
There is a press release on the Barnet Council website, dated 21st October. On this Mr Freer advises you to give your dog or cat a sedative if it gets nervous when it hears fireworks. It is nice to know Mr Freer is concerned about Fido, Rover and Felix, but what about us poor nervous taxpayers, who are worrying about the prospect of huge tax rises? What about Barnet council workers pensions? What about council house tenants? We're all worried. We don't want a dogdrop, we want to know what is going on and Mike Freer hasn't told us.
Well Mike, there will be a lot of interest in what you have to say. If you duck the issue and blame everyone else, we won't be fooled. Just remember this :-
ADVISORS ADVISE, LEADERS LEAD