Friday, 30 November 2012

One Barnet Scrutiny - Too Little Too Late

Last night's Scrutiny Committee meeting was a travesty. Residents asked dozens of questions, many of which failed to elicit a clear response. Conservative Councillors seemed to have come with a series of questions  many of which were left unanswered, but as Cllr Hugh Rayner put it quite succinctly, is this committee here to clarify or is it to scrutinise because actually nothing can be changed now. He is absolutely correct. This was not scrutiny, it was a very feeble attempt to tick a box. Any real scrutiny should have been taking place for the last 2 years but the Conservatives disbanded the committee specifically set up to scrutinize the process. Last night we were told by the lawyer from Trowers & Hamlins that all that can be done now is to clarify and fine tune but no significant changes can be made. So what it boils down to is a fait accompli. Councillors will not get a vote on the decision anyway. It is down to the ten people in the Cabinet to either accept the recommendation or not.

The one highlight of the evening was the speech and follow up by Barbara Jacobson. She gave a clear and impassioned speech but the one message we should all take away is her statement that "If this contract is too big and too complex to scrutinise, it is too risky to sign". She is absolutely right of course but whether cabinet members see it that way is another matter.

A few points that did come out last night which I noted were as follows:

  • If Barnet want to get out of the contract after two years (for example due to a change in control) it will cost approximately £18 million in compensation and refund of unamortised investment.
  • Craig Cooper confirmed that  no redundancy is included in the investment (contrary to what it says on page 44 in the report) and no one knows what will be the cost of redundancy.
  • If Capita fail to meet Council Tax collection targets they will have to make up the shortfall themselves. (note to debt collection companies, it looks like there will be an upsurge in business in Barnet).
  • "The transition to Capita will be seamless", (Craig Cooper)
  • Current council staff are excellent (but we are going to make them redundant anyway).
  • £750 million = the cost of a 15 year contract as published in the OJEU. £320 million = the cost of the 10 year contract. (not sure of the logic in that statement Mr Travers).
  • Barnet have a relatively affluent and educated population and more likely to have internet use and broadband access (so tough sh*t if you are not affluent, not well educated, are part of the 41% of over 65's who are not on line or the 28%  of disabled who are not online).
  • Capita staff are going to turn up to scrutiny committee meetings and answer questions. (oh yeah!)
  • At the end of the contract Barnet will have to take on TUPE liabilities of all of the staff if the contract is brought back in house (but no one knows how much that liability might be).
Overall I came away with the impression that Cabinet Members have completely closed minds to any discussion or reason, many Conservative councillors have some concerns but will go along with the decision anyway. I suspect one or two conservative councillors may publicly express their opposition but they will be punished. The biggest losers however will be the 200+ staff who will be made redundant along with the less able, less affluent and older residents who more dependent on services from the Council.

1 comment:

  1. Good morning Mr Reasonable

    I had a long standing committment at the BFI with friends which I honoured.

    We went to see "The Man in the White Suit" a fabulous Ealing Comedy.

    It seems that you had a comedy evening yourself. You were "The Man in The WhiteWash"