"Please provide me with a copy of the contract between Barnet Council and Capita for the NSCSO project. If you cannot supply the complete contract in its entirety, please provided me with all those elements that are not strictly commercially sensitive and have already been disclosed or about to be disclosed in the public reports and answers to questions considered at scrutiny or cabinet meetings."
Now we all know a contract exists because it has been much talked about, councillors have inspected it and you can even see a picture of it here.
Waiting until the very last day (I claim it was a day late) Barnet's response was somewhat surprising.
"I am writing to inform you that the information you request is not held by London Borough of Barnet. The contractual agreement for the provision of the New Support and Customer Services Organisation (NSCSO) has yet to be finalised and signed and therefore no final contract currently exists. The contract is expected to be signed between late January and March 2013. Following this, it is our intention to publish the contract on the council's website having redacted any elements considered to be commercially sensitive."
Not only have Barnet refused point blank to discuss this contract with residents, Barnet deny the contract's existence until it is signed and an opportunity to flag up problems has therefore passed.
The New Year is not off to a good start. Next week are the residents forums which will again deny residents the right to ask any questions about One Barnet or any other matter which is about policy. We have the DRS contract coming up which cannot in anyway be described as "back office". There are lots of really important questions that need to be answered about service delivery, transparency, governance, contractor conflicts of interest, charging policy, to name but a few, yet the Council are mute on this and the public have been effectively gagged.
I think that 2013 is the year when many more residents are going to wake up to the huge risks such a radical and complex outsourcing contract will bring and how the details have been hidden by the Council. Sadly by then it may be too late to do anything about it.