Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Barnet Council urgency committee meeting to address wedding crisis in Barnet!

I was intrigued to notice a meeting of the Barnet Council "Urgency Committee" had popped into the council schedule. This committee is a special committee which meets to discuss urgent matters that have cropped up outside of the normal calendar of events in Barnet. It's chair is the council leader and its deputy chair is the Deputy Leader. As such, it is clear that it only meets when there is highly important stuff that can't be palmed off on lesser minions.

As there are several major crises facing the council, I was not surprised to hear that they were meeting and waited with baited breath for the agenda. Would it be to discuss the £2 million fraud that is currently going through the courts? Would it be to discuss the Capita crisis, as Capita have said the council are not managing their contract properly? Would it be to discuss the local government funding crisis, that every council in London is facing, as a result of the cuts to local government budgets?

Imagine my surprise to find that it was none of these things. When I eagerly opened the reports pack, I found that it was a single item. When I read it I was quite surprised.  Under the section "Why this report is needed" there was the following text

An application has been received from Hendon Town Hall to renew their licence as a venue for marriages and civil partnership registrations in pursuance of Section 46A of the Marriage Act 1949 and the Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005 and in pursuance of Section 6 (3A) (a) of the Civil Partnerships Act 2004. This report seeks approval of the application
So a whole committee was being convened simply to renew the license for the town hall to operate as licensed venue for weddings. Why was this so urgent? The papers revealed more.
The previous approval expires on 13th July 2018. An application for renewal was made on 1 st May 2015 in accordance with the Regulations and the necessary public notice was given on the 1st of May 2018 in the Barnet Press. No objections or other comments have been made. The approval for premises is deemed to be ongoing once an application for renewal has  been received until the application is finally determined. The approval must be expressed as running from the date the previous approval expired.
I was quite astounded. Did the council drop the ball and forget to renew the license in a timely fashion, requiring a special committee of the council to simply process a business as usual license renewal? I have no idea how much it costs to convene a special committee, rather than handle as a regular item with the normal licensing procedure. Of course no reasonable person would seek to block this application, I am sure that with the summer looming, many happy couples are looking forward to celebrating their nuptials in this rather magnificent setting. It is just a bit worrying that the council clearly hadn't done the paperwork in a timely manner to ensure that the renewal was actioned through the usual route. I am intrigued by the urgency committee, it seems that they don't normally do "licensing issues", preferring more important issues like fixing the fallout from the Icelandic Banks cock up, where the council lost access to £27 million of funds, due to dodgy investments.

Chairman's Urgent Late Item of Business - Sale of Claim in Glitnir 

I had missed the fact that the council had resolved the Icelandic bank investments issue by "The sale by currency auction of the investment balance held in escrow from the insolvent estate of the Icelandic bank Glitnir hf., be agreed, subject to receipt of a bid price that is acceptable to the Council" back in 2016. Does it fill you with confidence that the Barnet Conservative administrationn is auctioning off debt to plug holes in its budget? Needless to say, all of the interesting detail in that report was withheld.

Barnet really is a very strange Borough. One gets the feeling that the current administration would have difficulty organising a booze up in a brewery. Mind you, if we look at how the Cabinet is handling Brexit, I suppose they are a shining beacon of Conservative administration. At least none of the Harrumph out when they finally sober up and figure out what they've signed up to.


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