4 July 2011

Economical with the truth ? - Glass bottle - bottle glass.

Mr Mustard had the dubious pleasure last week of sitting through Council Committee Meetings on two consecutive nights. He is still shocked by how quickly he is back out of Hendon Town Hall each time and home again with oodles of time to write his blog before bedtime.

Often in advance of the meeting Mr Mustard sends any question he has, or points he would like to make, to Councillors in order to stimulate some debate as he thinks that Committee Rooms should be like debating chambers involving serious intellectual argument.

One of the comments he sent to all the Councillors who were going to Thursday's General Function Committee was that if Procurement was outsourced then the Council would not have full and proper control of the purchasing function and it would still need a layer of management to oversee the outsourced function which has a cost and carries risk.

Sadly Cllr. Thomas did not get the benefit of what a Council Tax Payer thinks about this as someone deleted the message unread from his inbox. You need to have a word with them Cllr. Thomas as the matter was important. Other Councillors have found that if they delete ( unread ) messages from Mr Mustard the postman kindly delivers another copy by snailmail.

Now Cllr. Suzette Palmer does pay attention to what the electorate has to say and she also happened to ask a question about Procurement. I expect she had thought about it as soon as she saw the agenda, and then had Mr Mustard's timely reminder, and what with MetPro procurement having broken every rule in the book she was worried for the Council's sake about what might go wrong. She probably didn't like Lord Palmer having to stay out till mid-night either trying to get all the muck out from under the carpet in the audit room.

So, about 15 minutes into the meeting, after Craig Cooper had presented his rather thin 5 page report she said she needed to know a lot more about these changes to the Procurement team and expressed her concern that OneBarnet was being rushed through without any proper checking.

Cllr. Thomas jumped into action then and he asked Craig Cooper if he would clarify some points ( oh how pleased he must have been to have been fed to the lions ) and then set out the clarification points that he wanted Craig Cooper to say, which were that this paper ( committee agenda ) did not authorise outsourcing, the MetPro problem ( yes, he actually said MetPro - I thought the word had perhaps been banned at Barnet Council )  was devolution of purchasing to the services and that this would just streamline and consolidate Procurement and thus there could be some reduction in posts.

Cllr Thomas had evidently forgotten where he was the previous evening. Mr Mustard had not !

Craig Cooper then said ( I have edited out all the "errs" that nervous people pepper their speech with, there were quite a few. Mr Mustard takes dictation at a fair old lick )

"Yes, I can confirm that this is not seeking authority for any form of outsourcing.

It is starting a process of consolidating the capability.

And yes, creating a capability that can perform these functions effectively for the Council".

Oh how Mr Mustard laughed at that last line. Mr Cooper's fine sleight of hand reminds Mr Mustard of the Tommy Cooper glass & bottle trick. Here it is.

The difference is that Tommy Cooper remembered where everything was.

At the previous night's performance of the Cabinet Resources Committee, the Chairman, one Cllr. Daniel Thomas, had, at act 7, witnessed the unveiling of the "New Support & Customer Services Organisation Business Case" 
Click here
which at the head of page 13 lists the Council Services that are in line to be outsourced. What is the first one listed, yes you guessed it "Procurement".

So although that day's report did not seek permission to outsource, the report of the previous day had done so. Oh, and who is listed as One Barnet Lead Director in the Business Case document mentioned above. Yes, that's right, its Craig Cooper.

So nil points for Cllr Thomas, and as for Craig Cooper, Mr Mustard thinks that from now on the Councillors are going to have to ask you a lot more searching questions including :-

"is there anything you have omitted to tell us in your report that you really should mention"

Mr Mustard is thinking about taking up his 5 minutes next time you are presenting a report Mr Cooper. Who will be laughing then ?

Thank goodness also that the Leader, Cllr Cornelius confirmed that the Customers Services outsourcing had to come back to committee before it could go ahead.
Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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