Thursday, 14 April 2011

A Convenient Arrangement: MetPro and Barnet Council

Let's update the MetPro story, then.

On Monday, a story appeared in the London Evening Standard confirming what Mrs Angry has been banging on about since day one, that there appears to have been a serious failure to check the licensing accreditation of the MetPro security employees used by Barnet Council. Hello.

On Tuesday, the Labour group at last get their act together and come up with an emergency motion about the issue, (see last post for details) which they have been told about weeks ago, but now have suddenly noticed in the Standard. Hello again.

Fellow blogger Mr Reasonable then notices a new DPR (Delegated Powers Report) document, dated 12th April, signed by Craig Cooper, Barnet's commercial director, regarding the 'urgent' need to substitute Blue 9 for MetPro. Which has already happened, twelve days earlier.

Hmm. Funnily enough, I have just gone to find this document and it has vanished in a trail of One Barnet fairy dust. Another now you see it, now you don't mystery. *I am informed by Mr Reasonable that, on checking, it seems some cheeky chappie at Barnet has done something which stopped his blog link to the document working: isn't that amusing?

Unfortunately for Barnet Council, Mrs Angry has a copy, and has been rereading it with a smug expression on her face, noting that this document is hugely significant.

We see here that, incredibly, there appears to be no reference to any contract with MetPro, and, alarmingly, no reference to any tendering process. No wonder they don't want to answer the FOI questions on these points.

Look at this bit:

6.4 The council, by notice dated 31st March 2011, to Emergency Response Ltd,
terminated the ‘arrangement’ by which the company was providing security services
to the council.

A reasonable assumption, then - no contract, apparently, but something called 'an arrangement', a mutually satisfying casual relationship, with no strings, rather than the holy bond of tendered contracts and marital fidelity. Naughty, naughty Barnet Council, all fur coat and no knickers, yet again, looking for a bit of rough. Tut tut. An expensive bit of rough, high maintainence, as it happens.

And how did this all start: who introduced the happy couple, and then withdrew discreetly to the parlour while they got on with business? I think we should be told, don't you?

Or perhaps there was a formal tender and contract process, once upon a time, but someone has forgotten to mention it? Mrs Angry is happy to clarify the point, although as her FOI request on this point is two weeks overdue, Barnet Council really has had more than enough time to provide such evidence of contracts and tenders.

Oh, and how did Barnet not notice the financial disaster enfolding MetPro Rapid Response? There were plenty of warning signs, notices, in the public domain. The document claims:

8.2 A separate company Metpro Emergency Response Ltd purchased, amongst other
things, the ‘goodwill’ of Metpro Rapid Response and, in the absence of notification
to the council, continued to provide a service to the council along the lines of the,
previous, arrangements with Metpro Rapid Response Ltd.

Ah, More arrangements.

Did nobody at Barnet question the change of company name, even for payments? Why not?

On Tuesday night the Tory councillors of Broken Barnet closed ranks yet again, and added yet another shameful cowardly act to their long list of shameful, cowardly acts by refusing to debate the MetPro scandal and seeking to sit on it by sending it to some toothless in house Audit Committee.

Surely this Audit Committe should itself have already been involved in checking this and other contracts? It is hardly appropriate that it should consider this matter now, apart from the need for any external scrutiny.

And external scrutiny is what we must demand. This is not just a matter of one contract, or rather one arrangement, this is about truth, and transparency, and standards of honesty in public life. If our idiotic easycouncil is set on handing our local services to the private sector with such casual generosity, there is huge risk to our well being and the misuse of tax payers money.

Not only has the council behaved very questionably in the 'arrangement' of the MetPro set up, it is now doing everything it can to avoid the issue being openly investigated by an independent body. This whole thing stinks: enough is enough. If Lynne Hillan cannot bring herself to open the council's actions in this matter up to independent scrutiny, then she is failing to address her own responsibilities as leader. It's time to do the right thing, or stand down.


Jaybird said...

If MetPro Emergency Response purchased MetPro Rapid Response goodwill, maybe the administrator can say how much was paid? The assets of MetPro Emergency Response seemed a little slim for that to be correct, given the value of Barnet's "goodwill".

I do wonder where Barnet got that information.

baarnett said...

Whoever instructed a payment officer to change the Local Authority's payment details from "Metpro Rapid Response Ltd" to "Metro Emergency Response Ltd" has very serious questions to answer (as they would, if it were from "We Are Called This Company Ltd" to "A Completely Different Company Name Ltd").

Furthermore, how is that change compatible with " the absence of notification to the council" of a change of company?

Mrs Angry said...

Indeed, baarnett: so many interesting questions with so many missing answers ...