Wednesday 25 April 2018

Local MP Mathew Offord defends Capita in the House of Commons rather than sticking up for residents

Sometimes you really couldn't make it up. It seems to me that the local Conservatives have an electoral deathwish. What other possible explanation could there be for the rather bizarre intervention by our local MP for Hendon in the Houses of Parliament today. Liberal Democrat Leader, Vince Cable, at the request of the Barnet Lib Dems, had asked the minister responsible to make a statement regarding the financial position of Capita. As Barnet has a massive outsourcing contract with Capita, it is clear that residents and taxpayers should be sure that the situation regarding Capitas finances is being monitored at the highest levels. As a member of the Barnet Lib Dems and a candidate in Mill Hill, I'd like to thank Vince for raising the topic.

This intervention has rather rattled the local Tories, who it seems are now seeing the local Lib Dems as the main challengers in the London Borough of Barnet. What other possible explanation can their be for the local Tory MP, Mr Matthew Offord to use a precious parliamentary question to try and smear the Lib Dems. Quite bizarrely, he actually attacked the policies of the coalition government, of which he was a member.

Photo of Matthew OffordMatthew Offord Conservative, Hendon

Barnet Council has a significant contract with Capita. It also has a business continuity planning framework that monitors liquidity and indebtedness. It reviewed the situation twice last year, and again after the recent profit warning, and the company was shown to be far from reaching the relevant threshold for triggering any action, but in the local elections, the Liberal Democrats are using the issue to scaremonger. I urge the Minister not to take advice or direction from someone who undersold Royal Mail by £1 billion and then called the loss “froth”.

So lets have a look at Mr Offords charges. He claims that the Local Lib Dems are scaremongering about Capita. So is he correct? Is it scaremongering, or should Barnet residents be worried. Well lets have a look at Capita's share price. The One Barnet contract was signed in 2013. If I'd invested my savings in Capita shares then, I'd be sitting on an enormous loss.  I actually used to be a Capita shareholder. I sold my shares when the One Barnet deal was being mooted, as I thought it was going to be bad for the company. I've seen nothing to change my mind since.

Mr Offord also stated that Barnet Council reviewed the situation twice last year and once this year. I seem to recall that Mr Offord was Deputy Leader of Barnet Council when Icelandic banks went bust. At the time, the response of Mr Offord and his Leader Mike Freer was that "no one could have foreseen the situation". This was in spite of numerous warnings that Offord and Freer chose to ignore. As I said at the time, when dealing with public money, politicians should not be gambling. Let me remind you of what Mike Freer said on his blog at the time and my response in bold

Nobody foresaw the collapse of the entire banking sector either in the United Kingdom or Iceland. Claims that Council’s saw this collapse coming are spurious, and after contacting a number of authorities including Brighton & Hove they have advised that they were lucky, and that their deposits simply matured and were paid back on the due date originally agreed with the banks. They did not make the conscious decision to withdraw and indeed, Icelandic banks remained on their approved list of banks for use well into 2008. 

The independent article makes it quite clear that Councils using Butlers, were far more likely to be affected by the problems. It seems that Councils not advised by Butlers were much luckier than those which were. Who rates the ratings agencies.
It is worth reading the article from the Independent in full. It is clear that Mr Offord has form for missing warning signs and only listening to information that is what he wants to hear. Of course the Capita situation is different to Icelandic banks, but to claim that all is rosy is quite ludicrous. Mr Offord has past form for mismanaging contractors whilst at Barnet Council, in 2008 Mr Offord announced  a £12 million redevelopment of Aerodrome Road rail Bridge. By 2009 the costs had spiralled to £23 Million. It seems that Mr Offord hasn't learned that contractors need to be properly managed. As an MP, he should be making sure his constituents concerns are addressed.

The Barnet Eye is quite shocked that Mr Offord seems to be more interested in sticking up for Capita than making them do their job. The hub of the matter is that Capita are not serving the interests of Barnet residents.  As Wednesday is my day off, I decided to visit my parents grave and pay my respects. Like parents of thousands of other residents, they are buried in Hendon Cemetery, in the heart of Mr Offords constituency. The cemetery is managed by Capita. Prior to Capita taking on management, the cemetery was well maintained and it was always consoling to visit. Now I hardly ever go, because it is heartbreaking to see the state of disrepair. I thought I'd respectfully make a short film to illustrate the lack of maintenance we are seeing from Mr Offords favourite contractor. We'd like to ask Mr Offord why he isn't berating Capita to sort the mess out, rather than indulging in silly point scoring in the Commons.

Have a look at this short film and tell me what you think.

It breaks my heart. My Father flew Wellington bombers for the RAF, was shot down, taken POW, escaped and went on to become a senior air accident investigation officer in the RAF before starting a business in Mill Hill and employing dozens of local people. I believe his memory deserves better.

We have an MP and a council who have no interest in the people they are meant to serve. The state of Hendon Cemetery tells you everything you need to know about what happens when you let private contractors loose on public services without proper monitoring.

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