Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The sparse scrutiny of One Barnet

The blind leading the blind

Dear Councillor,

We are about to hear which company has been awarded one of the two massive contracts that constitute the £1 Billion One Barnet privatisation scheme.

Barely a week after the recommended bid is announced, Cabinet will vote on the proposals, and this borough will surrender control of a huge number of its services to an unaccountable private sector provider, for a minimum period of ten years.

Leader Richard Cornelius has written to a resident of Barnet stating he feels that a week allows sufficient time for the scrutiny by councillors of a contract of this size and significance, one that has taken four years in creation, by a process which has itself cost millions of pounds of taxpayers' money in fees to consultants.

We suggest to you that a week is self evidently a completely inadequate length of time for councillors to inform themselves of the details and full significance of what is clearly a hugely complex undertaking, and one with enormous implications for the future of all residents.

One Barnet is the most ambitious privatisation exercise that has ever been attempted by any local authority.

Despite the unprecedented scale of this project, NO independent assessment has been made of the enormous risks such an enterprise must inevitably present.

Equally astonishing is the fact that the internal assessment, the One Barnet Risk Register, has never been presented to the council's own Audit Committee.

Not only does this represent the most irresponsible disregard for the security of local residents' investment in One Barnet, it quite clearly makes the authority liable to legal challenge on the basis of failing properly to consult with members and residents, as required by the demands of the democratic process.

We ask all councillors to consider the very real concerns we raise: resist the demand to rubber stamp a decision from which, effectively, you have been excluded by the leadership and senior management team of this authority. Ask yourselves why you have been excluded from the process of scrutiny.

And then please have the courage do the job you were elected to do: to protect the best interests of the residents and tax payers of the London Borough of Barnet, and act immediately to call for a suspension of this reckless programme.

Yours sincerely

Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne

(the famous five Barnet Bloggers)

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Listen up councillors

The bloggers of Barnet sent this joint email to every Barnet Councillor today.

This blog also contains a video recorded by John Sullivan explaining why his daughter Susan has launched a legal challenge against Barnet Council over its One Barnet programme.


Dear Councillor,

Susan Sullivan is launching a legal action to secure a judicial review of the One Barnet programme.

As concerned Barnet residents, we believe that it is vital for the financial wellbeing of this borough that this programme is halted. We have seen no evidence that justifies the claims of savings, and plenty of evidence that signing 10-year contracts is highly risky. We do not believe that anyone knows where the economy will be in five years, let alone 10 years.

To illustrate the point, in 2007, nobody would have predicted the Credit Crunch, and RBS were embarking on a reckless takeover of ABN AMRO. The markets and the private sector trumpeted this deal as good value for the shareholders of RBS, but it brought the organisation to its knees, and the company would have gone bankrupt had it not been bailed out by the taxpayer.

BT, Capita and EC Harris, who are bidding for the One Barnet contracts, have nothing like the market capitalisation or financial strength that RBS was perceived to have in 2007; it cannot possibly be claimed that there is no risk.

Gambling, speculation and risk are matters that should not be entertained in the provision of services to vulnerable people. Yet they are precisely the values at the centre of the One Barnet programme. As such, we fully support Susan Sullivan in her action.

Her father John Sullivan has been interviewed and gives his reasons for opposing One Barnet and helping his daughter to launch her action.

We urge all Barnet councillors and every resident of Barnet to listen to John, as he eloquently sums up the reasons why One Barnet should be abandoned.


Link to youtube

Signed,

Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne

Friday, 2 November 2012

Brain Coleman is correct about One barnet!

http://thinkbright.co.uk/

Dear Councillor

We wrote to you recently about the impending vote on the motion of no confidence in Leader Richard Cornelius.

We observed that there was a rising tide of concern in your ranks about the One Barnet programme of outsourcing, and we asked you to act to halt the negotiations for the privatisation of £1 billion worth of our council services.

Now your former colleague Brian Coleman, who has been a senior member of the Cabinet and exerted considerable influence within the party, has chosen to speak out against One Barnet in the strongest terms, calling for its immediate rejection.

In his statement in the Barnet Press, Councillor Coleman refers to the proposed outsourcing as ‘an officer-driven juggernaut’ backed up by a ‘revolving door of endless consultants’ with a ‘promise of savings’. By implication, Cllr Coleman does not believe that One Barnet will deliver those savings.

The council needs to dump this flawed scheme and introduce a proper strategy which assesses where services belong, whether that is the private sector, shared services with other boroughs, the voluntary sector or indeed occasionally in-house - a mixed economy is what is needed.

We would give far more weight than Cllr Coleman to considering the in-house option fully as services are reviewed, but we are glad that he is prepared to voice publicly the idea that large-scale privatisation of services is not the answer to all our prayers.

He is not alone in this; many senior Conservative politicians in local government are saying the same. He also says of his erstwhile colleagues:

I don't know any councillors who agree we should privatise the planning department.

We invite those of you for whom this is true to speak out! We ask again: who controls the Council, senior officers or the elected Councillors?

We are pleased to see that at last a Conservative councillor is voicing in public the concerns that many of you have about One Barnet, especially since he has had to put aside loyalty to Richard Cornelius in order to do it. (Although, as he points out, Cllr Cornelius had become convinced that One Barnet will save money, he too was angered by the covert moves senior officers took towards adopting a Joint Venture for the DRS outsourcing.)

Cllr Coleman has also put on record the consternation that many of you felt when Nick Walkley pressed the button on his ejector seat out of the Barnet cockpit.

Of course, we have many differences with Cllr Coleman. For example, his suggestion that Conservative councillors have gone along with the One Barnet proposals because the unions had their own separate objections to them seems far-fetched. We find it hard to believe that the Conservative philosophy has as shallow a basis as knee-jerk hostility to anything the unions say.

Notwithstanding that, and our very many differences with Cllr Coleman over the years, there is an indisputable truth in much of what he is now saying about One Barnet. It is only a pity that someone did not speak out publicly before!

A glance at what is happening with the parking contract recently outsourced to NSL shows the dangers ahead if the Council plunges ahead with One Barnet.

The parking contract has been in place for six months and NSL are still experiencing serious difficulties as a result of 'teething troubles'; this contract was for £15 million over five years. If you scale up from a £3 million a year mess to £100 million a year how much havoc will be wrought in the lives of residents?

Opening his article, Cllr Coleman says:

Something has happened in the last few months in Barnet. Residents have been taking an interest in the way Barnet Council is proposing to operate in future, the so-called One Barnet scheme.

He is right, residents are very interested in that, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

Of course, like you, residents are concerned about the fate – for that is what it is – of their council services, and of the money they have paid out in taxes to secure them.

We hardly need to remind you that residents will also take an interest in who was in charge when their services were handed over wholesale to two large companies, and tied up in 10-year contracts. We all know who they will blame when the service delivery falls short of the high standards they have experienced up till now, or when there are contractual wrangles about service levels with the contractors BT, Capita et al.

Cllr Coleman suggests that Barnet Conservative councillors are behaving like lemmings heading for a cliff. That is not a very positive image but we have to believe that his comments do have some valuable insights and that there must be some truth in them that demand your urgent consideration.

We ask you now then to follow the instinct of your own common sense, stop behaving like lemmings, and abandon the reckless One Barnet programme before it is too late.

Yours sincerely

Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Seize your opportunity to halt One Barnet

Here is the draft of joint letter, sent by the famous five Barnet Bloggers to 62 councillors today (we left Richard Cornelius off the distribution list and doubtless another councillor will tell him what we have said)

Ten councillors have already opened their email, which happens to be sent by Mr Mustard on behalf of the famous five Barnet Bloggers because he is probably the one who spends most time glued to his keyboard.

from Cabinet Resources Committee of 18 Oct 12.

Dear Councillors

In the next few days you will be asked to vote on a motion of no confidence in the Conservative party leader Richard Cornelius.

You will no doubt be asked to express your loyalty to Councillor Cornelius and to defeat the motion.

As local residents we would like to ask you to think very carefully about the consequences of such an action.

We know that many of you are now deeply concerned about the future of the Conservative administration, that you have profound misgivings about the viability of the One Barnet programme, and that you are also concerned by the response of the leader to issues arising from the arrest and consequent charging of your colleague Councillor Brian Coleman, in relation to an alleged assault. The announcement today that the much trumpeted Landmark Library plan has fallen through can only add to your sense of misgiving. 

The continuing difficulties felt by residents and traders over the contentious parking policy has caused enormous damage to the relationship of trust between this administration and the residents of Barnet, and now it has become abundantly clear that the massive scale of privatisation of a further £1 billion worth of council services envisaged by the One Barnet project is hugely unpopular not only amongst residents and voters, but within your own ranks.

Last week Andrew Travers,  the newly appointed ‘interim’ Chief Executive of Barnet Council, affirmed to a committee that the ‘Joint Venture’ model was still very much under consideration, despite the fact that elected members have not been involved in the discussions for such a proposal, and that the leader has stated previously that he was being excluded from such discussions.

Councillors must ask themselves why they are being distanced from policy decisions of such vital significance. Who is in control of this council, councillors or the officers of the senior management team?

Once the £1 billion contracts are signed, of course, elected members will effectively lose all control over almost all of our council services, which will then be in the hands of unaccountable private companies for a period of ten years, with huge financial penalties to the authority, that is to say to residents, should any serious difficulties arise, which they inevitably will.

Councillors must also ask why there never been an independent assessment of the risks posed by the One Barnet programme, and why there has been such a clear failure to mitigate the risk of conflict of interest raised by the exchange of senior officers between the council and the private companies bidding for contracts as part of the One Barnet programme.


Such an apparent lack of regulation might reasonably be said to have compromised the whole procurement process, and to have exposed the authority to legal challenge, a prospect already a clear possibility on the basis of the blatantly inadequate consultation with the residents and stakeholders who will be bearing the full impact of the privatisation of almost all our council services.

Another question that must be addressed is the extraordinary level of cost to local taxpayers of Agilysis/iMPOWER, the consultants who are acting as the One Barnet ‘implementation partners’ – newly released figures reveal that their bill for September alone cost us nearly half a million pounds, and spending on all consultants, wildly out of control, is now estimated to reach a staggering total of £9.5 million.

Such extravagance with taxpayers’ money at a time of austerity, with no return in the form of savings is clearly a reckless indulgence, benefiting no one other than the consultants themselves. In combination with the loss in revenue as a result of the newly privatised parking service, it perfectly illustrates the improbability of the delivery of any of the promised savings from the outsourced profit of the One Barnet programme.

Last week Cornwall County Council voted to halt their own Joint Venture proposals at a late stage in the negotiations, due to the extent of concern felt by councillors and residents over the plans for their large scale privatisation of council services. The Conservative leader lost a vote of no confidence, having shown a determination to proceed with the plans in the face of enormous opposition.

Now here in Barnet you, our elected representatives, face the same choice as your Cornish counterparts - and now is the time for you to have the courage to act.
Please use this opportunity to bring a halt to the One Barnet programme and instigate a fundamental review of a commitment which will place the long term future of our borough, our services, our residents, in the hands of unaccountable private sector companies using us for their own profit.

Please take this last opportunity to stand up for what you know is right, what is the sensible thing to do.

Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne




Friday, 5 October 2012

The Resignation of Nick Walkley

This email was sent to all 63 councillors:
 


Dear Councillor

It was announced yesterday that Mr Nick Walkley, the Chief Executive of Barnet Council, is leaving in order to take up a position in Haringey.

This unexpected development immediately raises the most serious questions regarding the progress of the controversial £1billion One Barnet programme which is due to outsource the majority of our council services to the private sector: a hugely over ambitious project which bears the risk of being a spectacular failure, and having a devastating impact on the lives of residents in our borough.

We have a right to know why Mr Walkley, the architect of this programme, is leaving at this crucial point in the proceedings, just as the procurement process reaches its conclusion, and the successful bidders are chosen.

We note that this departure arises in the wake of the revelation that the council leader, Councillor Richard Cornelius, admits that he knew nothing about a decision by the senior officers of the council to change the outsourcing model of the DRS service bid from a strategic partnership to an even higher risk Joint Venture. This is a decision which has been taken by officers acting with consultants and bidders, without oversight from the elected members of this authority, and is therefore an action taken in open defiance of the democratic process which us supposed to safeguard the best interests of residents of this borough.

We question the unrestricted expenditure of millions of pounds on unaccountable consultants acting as "implementation partners" for what is, at best, the biggest risk undertaken by any local authority with the money and trust invested in them by residents and tax payers: a scandalous waste of our money at what is supposed to be a time of austerity, and when we have seen savage reductions in council spending, leading to widespread hardship and the loss of community resources such as the much loved local library in Friern Barnet, and the Church Farmhouse museum.

As residents, tax payers, and local bloggers, we call for an emergency session of the full council in order to discuss the implications of Mr Walkley's resignation and for the immediate suspension of the One Barnet programme pending the outcome of an external and fully independent audit of the risks involved in this £1 billion gamble with our money, our services, Our Barnet.

Yours faithfully


Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Who runs the council



Who runs Barnet Council?
A question for Barnet leader Richard Cornelius from the Barnet bloggers.



Dear Councillor Cornelius

We wrote to you last week in regard to the announcement by Pam Wharfe, Barnet Council’s ‘interim’ Director of Environment, Planning and Regeneration, that a decision has been made to abandon the One Barnet Strategic Partnership proposals for the outsourcing of £275 million worth of our local services in favour of a ‘Joint Venture’.

You have since contradicted her statement, saying:

“No decision has been made. No case for a jv has been made beyond the suggestion that there might be such as case. The decisions will be made by elected members in due course.”

In a subsequent message to staff Ms Wharfe has informed staff that:

“...the project Board recommended to Corporate Directors Group that this be formally advanced in discussion with bidders and indeed is currently our preferred option.”

Neither the DRS project board nor the Corporate Directors Group includes any elected members of the council. Membership of the DRS project board, we understand, is restricted to a small number of senior council officers and two consultants from Agilisys/iMPOWER, the company working as ‘implementation partner’ to One Barnet, at an average cost to local tax payers of £250,000 per month.

It would appear that Barnet Council is preparing to commit the financial security of this borough to a new model of outsourcing – one that its own consultants’ advice identified as more risky and costly than the one originally chosen, and that this decision has been made by senior officers before any consideration or approval by the elected members of the council.

Ms Wharfe’s own comments about the new Joint Venture seem to suggest that senior management are not at all concerned by the increased risk of failure that this new commitment will entail, or the increased responsibilities for the authority that this option would involve, as a result of guaranteeing more favourable terms for the successful bidder at the conclusion of the dialogue process.

As residents, however, we are concerned: and we believe that you should be too.

We would ask you and your colleagues to consider the real possibility that in the event of the new Joint Venture failing, the council will still be left with the duty to provide the affected services, whilst the successful bidder may simply walk away with no obligation.

We believe that councillors have clearly not been fully informed as to the details of the Joint Venture, and that the scale of risk that the One Barnet programme presents is simply not fully understood by members. It seems that the need for members to be fully informed of developments and involved in the formation of policy at all stages of the dialogue process has been deliberately overlooked.

Perhaps as well as a decision to pursue a new model of outsourcing, the council is committing itself to a new form of local government, in which the democratic process is set aside for a bureaucratic dictatorship, entirely controlled by the senior management team.

If Barnet is indeed determined to bypass the democratic process, and to give the role of policy and decision making to senior officers, rather than to the political leadership of the Conservative group and the Cabinet, we would suggest this makes the role of the elected members completely redundant, although of course it may well offer a new opportunity for cost cutting exercises in the withdrawal of members’ allowances.

Failing that, may we ask you to assert your authority as leader of the council, recognise that the outsourcing programme has been totally discredited, and instruct your own officers to follow a course of action which is the result of proper consultation and policy formation rather than one shaped by the motivations of their own agenda.

Yours sincerely

Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne






A personal footnote by Mr Mustard:

When reviewing the agreed draft of their communiqué Mr Mustard noted that the bloggers were using the phrase "Corporate Directors Group" as used by Pam Wharfe. The word corporate suddenly spoke volumes to him. Indeed the Directors are aiming to have the most corporate council in history with their ambition to be a commissioning council and pass the maximum amount of services out to the private sector to be run for profit (Mr Mustard is a company Director and will celebrate 25 years of trading next month so he must know something about profit himself).

The other thing was that he thought that it was called the Council Directors Group (there can't be two damn groups of Directors sitting around doing blue sky thinking can there?) and this is supported by the council's shiny new rusty website, here,and if you search on google for "Barnet Council Directors Group" you find Craig Cooper the unCommercial Director using the term. Needless to say the website page about One Barnet is itself already out of date (this website really was a waste of £700,000) and doesn't yet mention the JV. Or is it up to date because it isn't going to happen. Who knows?

Mr Mustard

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The new One Barnet Joint Venture: a joint statement by the Barnet bloggers, and an open letter to leader Richard Cornelius.

full speed sideways

The new One Barnet Joint Venture: a joint statement by the Barnet bloggers, and an open letter to leader Richard Cornelius.



Dear Councillor Cornelius

At the end of last week, an email was sent by Pam Wharfe, Interim Director of Environment, Planning and Regeneration to employees of Barnet Council in which it was casually revealed that one of the two One Barnet outsourcing projects, the outsourcing of c.£275 million worth of council services, is now to be redesigned as a "joint venture" in a new company comprising the bidder and the local authority.

This remarkable development raises several hugely important questions.

In the email, Ms Wharfe makes the rather disingenuous statement that the new organisation provides "...an effective basis on which the Council can benefit from these opportunities and at the same time it gives the Council greater rights of transparency and control..."

The loss of democratic accountability to the community in the provision of services that would result from the outsourcing of the One Barnet programme is an issue we and other critics have raised repeatedly, yet is an accusation the council has continually rejected.

Whilst we are pleased to see that the authority has now accepted that our concerns are valid, we fail to understand how the creation of a new commercial venture will improve the ability of the council to retain proper controls and transparency in regard to the services outsourced in this way.

The new arrangement also raises the real risk of conflicts of interest regarding the management of the new venture and those who will be involved in the decision making processes of the organisation. Bearing in mind the failure of the council to mitigate the potential risks posed by any senior officers with links to private companies involved in the bidding process, what safeguards will be in place in relation to the membership of the new board?

Most significantly, perhaps, the new venture would appear to move the burden of significant risk from the private sector partner to the taxpayers who will be expected to fund the new company, whilst any profits that may ensue will not return to residents, but will be shared with the commercial partner. If the venture fails, residents will bear the cost of failure, and the need to re establish all in house services – if possible.

In short, the joint venture might fairly be described as nothing less than the outsourcing of profit, and a desperate, last minute agreement to carry the full risk of catastrophic failure in order to sustain, in the face of mounting disquiet from all quarters, the One Barnet outsourcing programme.

We ask why the Conservative administration has decided on this sudden course of action, at such a late stage in the dialogue process, and remind you, Mr Cornelius, that when the original case for outsourcing was made, your own consultants' report stated:

"The costs and risks associated with a JV model are judged at this stage to be higher than for a Strategic Partnership."

As we have so often pointed out, the undoubtedly high risks of entering into a Strategic Partnership have never been subjected to any independent assessment, or indeed any form of real scrutiny, yet here you are now, committing the financial security of our borough to what has been clearly identified as an even riskier and more costly strategy.

We might also speculate to what extent this radical departure, at this advanced stage in the dialogue, has exposed the council to risk from legal challenge by companies who have been excluded from the dialogue at an earlier point in the proceedings.

In respect of the need for democratic accountability, we would also question on what basis, and on whose authority the council has taken this decision: was the change in policy debated within the Tory group, or the Cabinet, or is this another development driven by the senior management team?

The mass privatisation of One Barnet will have a devastating impact on the daily lives of Barnet residents, as the need to make profit inevitably comes into conflict with the provision of public services, that is to say the support on which depend so many of the least advantaged and most vulnerable members of our community. All studies have demonstrated that the savings you imagine will transpire as a result of privatisation simply will not materialise, and indeed the whole enterprise is more likely to cause more cost to the local taxpayer, as well as a sharp decline in the standard of service.

By the time the full extent of the damage to the well being of this borough becomes evident, it will be too late to wrest back control of services without enormous difficulty and an intolerable burden of further cost. The senior officers who have driven the outsourcing agenda will no doubt be far away from Barnet and it is equally likely that you and your Tory colleagues will be voted out of office at the very first opportunity.

As residents of this borough we ask you to come to your senses and call an immediate halt to the One Barnet programme. Stop listening to the self serving advice of the private sector companies and the senior officers who are promoting this agenda, and take a look at the answer right in front of you – the in-house solution. With the support of the staff you employ you can work together to achieve the efficiencies you need and avoid the dangerous gamble of One Barnet: now is the time to act, before it is too late.

Yours sincerely

Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Open letter to Councillor Richard Cornelius and to Scotland Yard


Helen Michael: open letter to Councillor Richard Cornelius and to Scotland Yard

Since the electoral defeat of former Assembly Member and Barnet Cabinet member Brian Coleman in May, Barnet’s Tory council leader Richard Cornelius and his colleagues have sought to distance themselves from most of the more controversial policies that Coleman promoted.
Most significant among these is the parking scheme, which has caused so much anger among the residents and traders of this borough.
At a meeting with Barnet traders at a North Finchley forum in December last year, Councillor Cornelius was told in no uncertain terms by the shopkeepers and small business owners of this borough about the devastating impact of this ridiculous scheme. He replied:
I’m listening, but I haven’t got any intention to do anything else other than that ... I’ve heard you and it’s obviously affected me. I don’t know what I can do. I don’t know if I can do anything.”
 
Local cafe owner Helen Michael said:

We are wasting our time – you’ve said in no uncertain terms that you’re not going to do anything. We are begging for our businesses, for our livelihoods. Please do something.”
Councillor Cornelius and his fellow Tories sat back and watched as the life of our local high streets ebbed away, in some cases losing up to 40 percent of their usual level of trade.
He refused to do anything for us, so we acted for ourselves.
Bloggers, traders, residents, community activists and trade unions united and voiced their opposition to the changes. Prominent among the campaigners was Helen Michael. As spokeswoman for North Finchley traders she made every effort to focus attention on the injustice and devastating impact of the policy, and hold Councillor Coleman to account for the consequences of his scheme. Her efforts won admiration from London Mayor Boris Johnson – and even Richard Cornelius, who is reported to have suggested she should think of standing as a Conservative candidate for the council.
Only since Brian Coleman lost his seat on the London Assembly, and then his Cabinet post, and in response to two other electoral defeats, has the Tory group on Barnet Council admitted that the parking changes were unfair, and sought to retract them. Councillor Cornelius has now apologised for introducing the policy, and a review is underway.

How ironic it is, therefore, that the woman who did what Councillor Cornelius failed to do, and fought for the best interests of residents and traders, is now being investigated by Scotland Yard, after an allegation of wrongdoing in relation to a poster produced by her in the course of the parking campaign. An omission on this poster was rectified early on in the campaign, and Helen Michael was informed by local police that there would be no further action.

Despite this assurance, Helen Michael is now being investigated by officers from Scotland Yard, and yesterday spent two hours, under caution, being interviewed at a local police station about the poster, and her motivation for its publication.

We believe that this targeting of a local campaigner is a deliberate and politically motivated act of intimidation.
To involve the police in this way is inappropriate, and a serious misuse of their time and resources.
We call on Council leader Richard Cornelius to speak out against the victimisation of a brave, resourceful and admirable woman. We call on Scotland Yard to desist from taking any further action in regard to this matter.
Signed:

Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Diary date - 7 July

I'm not for sale
 Barnet Council Not for Sale Conference  
Saturday 7 July 2012.

Barnet UNISON in partnership with Barnet Alliance for Public Services are hosting a conference on the mass privatisation of Barnet council services this Saturday 7 July 12- 3 pm at the Greek Cypriot Centre, Britannia Road, North Finchley, London N12 9RU

The Council is attempting to become a Commissioning Council whereby it no longer delivers council services. In the last few months Barnet Council has already transferred the following staff and services out of the council to new employers

· Social Care services for adults with disabilities

· Housing Needs & Resources

· Parking services

· All of the Legal Department * (talks on the transfer of staff to Harrow Council are still ongoing)

By the end of May 2013 up to 70% of the council workforce will no longer be working for the Council.

The aim of the conference is to provide information about the scale of risk to the council tax payers of Barnet. The conference will be in two parts.

Part One speakers include:

Professor Dexter Whitfield European Services Strategy Unit (ESSU) recently published a report on the cost and consequences of the Commissioning Council.

Andy Mudd from the well-respected local government research body the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) published a report warning that over the past few years those at the north London Council involved in the awarding and managing of contracts to private contractors, have often ignored both council guidelines and UK competition law.

John Dix resident, one of the infamous Barnet Bloggers recently reported the Council has agreed another £10million be allocated to consultants to deliver the outsourcing One Barnet Programme

The second part of the meeting will include speakers from Aberdeen UNISON, and Edinburgh UNISON. Both of these councils recently decided not to go ahead with outsourcing after taking part in lengthy procurement discussions with a number of private sector contractors. A speaker from Sefton UNISON will talk about why Sefton Council decided to terminate their contract early with Capita Symonds. Capita Symonds is one of the Bidders for one the One Barnet projects.

John Burgess, Branch Secretary UNISON said “We are continuing to seek a meeting with councillors in particular the members of the Cabinet Committee regarding our concerns about the One Barnet Programme. We know from experience that once residents are made aware of One Barnet they are very concerned about the implications. This conference is just one part of a widespread community campaign to bring public scrutiny to the One Barnet experiment.”

Monday, 14 May 2012

More chances to see the short film "A Tale of Two Barnets"

If you or your neighbours have not seen this short film yet then please go along to one of the following screenings.

Monday 21 May 2pm
Royal British Legion Club
1 St. John's Buildings,
Friern Barnet Road
London N11 3DP
020-8211 9888
Monday 21 May 7 pm
Boyden's Kitchen cafe
61 Friern Barnet Road, London N11 3EH (corner of Beaconsfield Road N11)
Tuesday 22nd May - 11.30 a.m.
Colindale Community Club,
The Hyde United Reformed Church,
Varley Parade,
Edgware Road, NW9 6RR
Tuesday 22nd May - 6.45 p.m.
North Road Community Centre,
230 Burnt Oak Broadway, HA8 0AP
Thursday 24th May 7 pm
Waterfall Tennis Club N11 1DN
R/O (behind) 100 Pymmes Green Road
New Southgate Middlesex
020 8368 5025 (entrance by narrow path to car park corner of 100 Pymmes Green Road; bus 184, 298 on Waterfall Road corner of Hampden Way, then footpath next to 66A Pymmes Green Road, map to be provided).

Saturday 26th May 7 pm
Royal British Legion Club
1 St. John's Buildings,
Friern Barnet Road
London N11 3DP
020-8211 9888
Saturday 21 July 2012
1 – 2.30pm (Doors open Midday)

TUC Congress House, Great Russell StreetWC1B 3LS

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Barnet bloggers' open letter to council leader Richard Cornelius

Barnet bloggers: now sack Brian Coleman from the Cabinet

picture courtesy of Mrs Angry of Broken Barnet

Barnet bloggers' open letter to council leader Richard Cornelius:

For the sake of Barnet, Sack Brian Coleman!

Dear Councillor Cornelius,

The people of Barnet have spoken.


The London Assembly result on 3 May was a resounding rejection of the policies of your administration and of a prominent member of your leadership team.
As you were not leader at the time of the 2010 election, and most of your unpopular polices were not part of the manifesto, we ask you to consider the following proposals, with a view to changing the course of your administration.

1. Dismiss Brian Coleman from your Cabinet. Mr Coleman was decisively rejected by Barnet voters in the London Assembly election and to allow him to continue in post is an insult.

2. Reopen Friern Barnet Library immediately. This well-supported community asset cannot be replaced successfully at the Artsdepot.

3. With local traders, campaigns and stakeholders, create a parking regime that will enhance the environment and restore the fortunes of Barnet’s high streets. Parking charges should manage traffic, not rake in cash. No more hikes in parking charges; reduce charges as necessary, including in CPZs.

4. Cut the rate paid to all freelance consultants employed by Barnet by 25%. Large city firms including JP Morgan and Lloyds TSB have instituted such a policy in response to the harsh economic times. Any consultant not prepared to take a cut would be terminated as per contract terms.

5. Cut the pay of all Barnet Council staff earning more than £150,000 p.a. by 20% and staff on £100,000 - £150,000 p.a. by 10%. The savings in 4. and 5. would generate far more than the sum lost through the parking changes above.

6. Immediately halt the One Barnet outsourcing programme. Dismiss all consultants engaged on the programme.

7. Invite the council trade unions to identify savings and efficiencies within Barnet Council, at the same time protecting services, jobs, and pay and conditions. This exercise should also be opened up to Councillors and members of the public.

8. Invite members of the public to form an oversight panel, to scrutinise contracts and accounts with suppliers. Give the panel access to all council contract information, subject to signing of confidentiality agreements. The panel would report directly to the chair of the audit committee.

9. Cut all councillor allowances by 10%, to show that we really are “all in this together”, and review the excessive allowances paid to Cabinet members and Committee chairs. Learn the lessons of the upset caused to voters by the "Allowancegate" scandal.

10. Stop harassing members of the public involved in protests against discredited council policies. Work with residents, not against them, to improve Barnet. Embrace democracy!
In the year of the 100th anniversary of the Titanic, we ask: do you want to be the political equivalent of the captain who hit the iceberg?

Barnet Council has had two years of unremitting bad press as a result of policies that were not declared to the public during the 2010 election. Now the people have spoken, and we the undersigned believe that you have no choice but to listen and to change course.

Signed:

Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Bloggers' open letter to Richard Cornelius and Barnet councillors: time to get a grip on parking!

Dear Leader and Barnet Councillors,

On 20th March a document was placed upon the Barnet Council website entitled - Bittacy Hill_Introduction_of_Waiting_Restrictions - (
The report).

This document details the mayhem caused by the abolition of free bays in Controlled Parking Zones as part of Councillor Brian Coleman's parking policies.
This document details how the Barnet Police have had their time wasted, congestion has been caused, buses have been delayed, residents inconvenienced, and people's safety has been endangered. In short, it is the most damning indictment of a Council policy possible.
The background information section of this document says:



8. BACKGROUND INFORMATION

8.1 In June 2011 the Council completed a scheme whereby all ‘Free’ parking bays were converted to permit holder or paid for parking bays in the borough’s Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs). As a result of the changes made to the Mill Hill East CPZ, a proportionate level of displaced parking is occurring on both sides of Bittacy Hill on the outskirts of the CPZ boundary.

8.2 The council has been contacted by roads users and local residents, complaining of the congestion being caused as through vehicles are being obstructed by the displaced parking.

8.3 London Buses have reported to the council that the displaced parking is obscuring sightlines and obstructing through traffic, preventing their buses from gaining suitable access through the road, resulting in the delay of their services. They also stated that this situation has caused major congestion in both directions on Bittacy Hill and therefore, have had to temporarily put some of their buses on diversion.

8.4 In addition, the Police have also expressed concerns regarding this location, and have requested for waiting restrictions to be introduced.

8.5 Following investigations including site observations, Officers concluded that major congestion occurs on the hill at this location, and in order to keep traffic moving through the borough considered that the provision of waiting restrictions would be appropriate given the obstructive parking which is taking place.

8.6 Therefore, proposals to introduce lengths of ‘at any time’ waiting restrictions on certain lengths of Bittacy Hill including around its junctions with Bittacy Close and Engle Park, were designed in order to deter obstructive parking and improve traffic flow, sightlines and safety.

8.7 In anticipation of the statutory consultation, Mill Hill Ward Members were consulted on the proposals with all advising of their agreement and support of the measures for the area. In particular, Councillors Khatri and Hart stated that they had also received complaints on this matter or have experienced problems themselves. Councillor Hart did raise the issue that more restrictions may cause more problems to the wider area as did Councillor Schama.

8.8 However, Officers consider that any displaced parking that may occur as a result of the introduction of the restrictions can be absorbed into the local network with minimal impact.

8.9 In mid August it was necessary to introduce emergency temporary waiting restrictions on the eastern side of Bittacy Hill, as nearby Devonshire Road was closed to allow for essential maintenance works to take place, which resulted in an increased traffic flow on Bittacy Hill that exasperated the problems occurring at the location.

8.9 Traffic cones were placed on street to indicate the temporary waiting restrictions, and the location was monitored by Officers. Observations showed that displaced parking was minimal and what did occur had little impact on the area. It was concluded that the removal of the parked vehicles at this location was very effective in relieving the congestion normally experienced.

8.10 Additional supporting evidence underlining the concern via photographs showing buses being obstructed and the congestion experienced were sent to the council and a petition signed by all residents of Bittacy Close was also submitted, asking for waiting restrictions to be implemented at the junction of Bittacy Close and Bittacy Hill.

8.14 Councillor Khatri and Councillor Hart have since also reaffirmed their views and support for the proposals. In particular, they advised of their concerns regarding safety being an issue at this location. Councillor Hart also re-iterated his concerns for residents of Bittacy Close, who suffer from obstruction at the junction of Bittacy Close and Bittacy Hill.



Councillor Brian Coleman ignored all wise counsel in order to introduce these policies.


He ignored all efforts to mitigate the problems caused.

As a result, we have a situation where ever more parking restrictions will be required to fix a problem that did not previously exist.

To what end? To inconvenience and overcharge local residents.

It is time for Barnet Council to have an urgent rethink. It is time to reinstate free bays, cut parking charges on Barnet’s high streets, and, most of all, it is time to put someone in charge of parking who is competent.

There is no way that Barnet Council can pretend that Coleman’s parking policies are anything other than an unmitigated disaster. Your own document says so in black and white.

Signed:

Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne

Monday, 20 February 2012

Finance Matters for Schools Ltd - an open letter


http://www.econintersect.com/index.htm


At 9am on 20 February 2012 the following email was sent with a copy to Lord Plamer in his capacity as Head of Audit


Dear Mr Cornelius and Mr Walkley,

We would like to draw to your attention the following information, and ask you to respond to some questions on a matter that we consider to be of serious public concern.

We have reason to believe that a Private Company registered as FINANCE MATTERS FOR SCHOOLS LIMITED
http://companycheck.co.uk/company/07814930

may have been formed with the intention of securing contracts with schools that currently purchase financial services from the Council.

We understand that all three Directors may be current employees of the Council.

First can you confirm that all three of these Directors are indeed Council employees?

If not, then the rest of our questions are not applicable.


If this is indeed the case, we would like to ask the following questions:

Are these individuals currently employed by the authority?
If one or more of these Directors are Council employees, can you confirm that it is not a breach of any regulations for employees to set up a private company whilst still being paid by the Council that will deal directly with services directly associated with their current employment?

Furthermore please confirm that they may continue to have access to confidential data, and that this would not secure unfair advantage over any other possible bidders for these services?
Do you know how many Barnet schools have given notice that they are terminating their contracts with Barnet Council Financial Services?
When did they give notice of termination?

What reason did they give for termination?
How many schools have signed contracts with FINANCE MATTERS FOR SCHOOLS LIMITED?

Were any senior managers including the section 151 officer aware of this company

Have there been public and private discussions amongst senior managers on the creation of this new company within the Council?

We understand that Financial Services to schools are included in the NSCSO One Barnet bundle of services.

It would seem extraordinary, therefore, to us as residents, that council staff could allegedly be openly touting for business during the Competitive Dialogue process, and we would ask you to confirm that an urgent investigation should take place, and that you can assure us that all four bidders will be informed that such an investigation is in progress.

Yours sincerely,

Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne