2 November 2012

Brian Coleman is correct about One Barnet!

This is not the second Friday joke of the day. The bloggers have agreed that Brian's recent letter in the Barnet Press about One Barnet contained a lot of truth and therefore agreed the following joint communiqué which has been sent to the conservative group and copied for their information to labour and liberal democrat councillors.

Conservative politicians have a weekend of thinking ahead of them (one hopes)  and hopefully someone is coming forward to lead a new team who will scrap One Barnet and look at providing decent services to all without needing an army of consultants and town hall tax dodgers to do so.

Bring on "Boring Council" as that is what Mr Mustard would like to see. A council so finely tuned, so highly efficient, without waste and without people doing jobs that we don't need (goodbye to the Tooting Twister? he must be in a right spin at the moment) at ridiculous rates of pay / daily rate, that he can retire.


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

No comments:

Post a Comment

I now moderate comments in the light of the Delfi case. Due to the current high incidence of spam I have had to turn word verification on.