Friday 7 December 2012

Who pressed the self destruct button - Barnet Cabinet

Last night Barnet's cabinet members voted for the award of the NSCSO contract to Capita and in so doing pressed that big red self-destruct button. They have successfully shown their complete disregard for the electorate by their resolute refusal to engage in debate, to inform residents, and involve them in the outsourcing process. When you see polite, knowledgeable, middle aged and mature voters incensed by the arrogance of the people who patronise or ignore them, you start to understand the massive gulf that has opened up in Barnet. Last night the cabinet went a step too far. They could have quite easily put the programme on hold and spent time explaining to residents much more of the detail in the NSCSO contract and listened to the very real concerns of residents. Instead they stuck two fingers up to the residents and pressed ahead with what will be a massive risk. Any references to the DRS contract last night were dismissed as not relevant to the NSCSO contract. However, the two are inextricably linked due to the IT and customer services that will be shared and, as a result, I suspect Capita will be awarded the DRS contract in just a few weeks time. 

I watched the Barnet Bugle's recording of the second half of the cabinet meeting held in private. I got a sense that some of the cabinet members still have some concerns but were subtly covering their backsides by shifting the responsibility to officers and consultants. There is one comment almost at the end (49mins 30 secs) where Cllr Cornelius is drafting a recommendation thanking officers for their help in "providing the information which we have relied on to make an informed decision." My immediate reaction was nice side step Richard, blame shifted to officers if and when it goes wrong. Well sorry but that won't wash because cabinet members rigidly ignored any concerns expressed by residents, unions or external experts such as APSE.

Indeed, over a week ago I wrote to my three ward councillors including two cabinet members, Joanna Tambourides and Robert Rams expressing my concerns and asking what steps they had taken to validate what they had been told by officers and external consultants. I think that it was a perfectly reasonable question and the one non cabinet member (Cllr Barry Evangeli) responded within a couple of hours with a courteous and considered response. However the two cabinet members have simply ignored my email. Such utter disregard for your own ward electors shows that council tax payers have become irreverent. Robert Rams has found plenty of time in the last week to tweet about his various activities including responding to an insulting email yet he has completely ignored the concerns of someone who has spent a great deal of time investigating the issues at stake.

Last night confirmed to me that cabinet members don't give a stuff about the people who voted for them. In so doing they pressed the self destruct button that will see them swept from control in 2014.

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