Chipping Barnet Residents Forum on Wednesday evening was a rather poorly attended meeting. 10 people in the audience including two councillors. On the agenda were three questions, two of which we submitted by Mr Reasonable. First question related to the empire building at the council and the recruitment of 8 people to form the new Commercial Directorate which will cost £900k a year to run - was this a good use of money when front line services are being cut. Response from the Council yes but we need to do this to make the savings and it will stop us having to use consultants. In theory not a bad answer except for the fact that on Monday night Mr Reasonable had been at a Scrutiny committee meeting asking awkward questions about the appointment of consultants who will cost in excess of £500k and actually may cost several million pounds. No comment from the panel.
Next question concerned the deputy chief executive and the fact that he is not a direct employee of the council. Yes the council confirmed that he is not a direct employee of the council, he is a contractor and the fact that he gets paid between £15,000 and £17,500 a month through his shell company Halliford Associates is ok because it is within the budget. Mr Reasonable made the point that surely someone who is in such an important position and has a statutory responsibility as the Section 151 Officer should be directly employed by the council to ensure continuity and loyalty. A little debate from the audience noted by the panel - next question! Perhaps if there had been more members of the public there there would have been more debate. perhaps it is only Mr Reasonable who sees this situation as unacceptable. Perhaps people just don't care. We then spent more than 1 hour debating cross overs in High Barnet. Overall a deeply disappointing meeting. I sat there wondering why do I bother.