Monday 13 October 2014

A Critical Week In Barnet

This week there are a number of meetings which may have an influence on who is running Barnet in the near future.
Tonight there are two committee meetings, the General Functions Committee and the Remuneration Committee. Both quite dull you might assume, but I think otherwise.

First is the General Functions Committee where they will be discussing a senior management restructure. The outcome of this restructure is a proposed saving of £100,000 a year, certainly not enough in my view. There is a great deal re-titling of posts but there are some new posts being created which, to my mind, are both flawed and indicative of the increasing remoteness of senior officers from the residents they are there to serve.

From my perspective we do not need both a Chief Executive and a Chief Operating Officer especially now as so much of the council is outsourced. My recommendation would be to do away with the Chief Operating Officer role, and to make the Deputy Chief Operating Officer the S151 Officer. If the current CEO was made redundant and the COO promoted into that role but on their current salary of £158,464, it would save the council £231,702 per annum, more than double the proposed savings. I also see no need for a new Strategic Director of Commissioning to sit above the four Commissioning Directors. If that new post was deleted that would save a further £195,703 per annum. It would also get the Commission Directors reporting direct to the Chief Executive which to my mind would be a positive step.

There is also a proposal to create a role entitled Director for Strategy and Communications at an annual cost of £140,600 profligate in my view especially as this is in addition to the Head of Communications and Marketing with an annual cost of  £98,129. I think the council has reached strategy saturation - what it needs are people to do front line jobs. Think how many care staff could be employed or nursery funding cuts reinstated with the £568,000 per annum that could be saved if only a degree of common sense was used.

It appear that straight after the General Functions Committee the Remuneration Committee will talk again about this restructure although quite why it needs two separate committees to discuss the same matter is beyond me.

Then on Tuesday we move on to the main feature of the week and the report by Claer Lloyd-Jones and the complete and utter failure of the Monitoring Officer role to actually provide the governance required by the Council. I won't go into the report in detail as Mrs Angry has done a far superior job than I could ever do so I suggest you read her blog here.

All I will say is that evidence continues to percolate out and the more that is revealed the worse it looks for those in charge of Barnet Council, both Leader and Chief Executive. The "has she/ hasn't she gone" debate that went on last week in the press was unedifying made worse by the response from Dan Thomas that Barnet is a super efficient council. Was she the only candidate on the list or were others dissuaded from applying by the deletion of the need for a legal qualification?

The next big question will focus on the decisions that have been made by the former monitoring officer since she was appointed back in 2012 and whether she was sufficiently qualified to make them. Barnet have had some major problems recently with their legal advice such as the parking charge increases being ruled illegal and millions having to be refunded to residents. More recently Andrew Dismore's various complaints to the leaders panel which were ruled out by the former monitoring officer in spite of the advice of the independent person who sits on the panel.

The Council seems to lurch from one crisis to another and from my perspective that stems from weak leadership. A vote of no confidence in both the leader and the Chief Executive is next and that may see both occupiers of those roles seeking new opportunities before the month is out.

No comments:

Post a Comment