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.