Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Banished: Part Two - the deconstruction of Brian Coleman, and hurrah for Richard Cornelius

Les jeux sont faits: rien ne va plus, & everything thrown on the One Barnet gamble

So, where were we? Ah yes, an Extraordinary meeting, and the small matter of a motion of no confidence in the alleged leader of Barnet Tories, Richard Cornelius ... 

Turn for Libdem Jack Cohen to speak: directing withering scorn, in his inimitable way, on the concept of One Barnet, which, as he tactlessly reminded the Tories, squirming in their seats, was referred to last week by their own former colleague and Cabinet member Brian Coleman as 'an officer driven juggernaut'. Mrs Angry nodded at Brian, and winked. We know, don't we, Brian? You and me. But a prophet is honoured everywhere but in his own land, as it says in the good book. And who's listening? No one.

Jack listed some of the other authorities where massive outsourcing has been a costly failure: Sefton, Essex, Somerset, Bournemouth; He raised the example of Barnet's own parking privatisation, which he described as a disaster ... and he warned the empty headed Tories that after the betrayal of One Barnet, the voters of this borough will never trust them again.

The Tory councillors looked on, blankly.

At the beginning of the debate, Mrs Angry had enjoyed the spectacle of the Mayor, Brian Schama, blinged up like a municipal vajazzle in all his mayoral garb,* reading his way through the words of the Labour motion, explaining in detail how the Tories have completely lost their way over One Barnet, wilfully obstructed the process of scrutiny, and not only failed in three years to produce any savings, but worse, lost at least £663,000 as a result of the programme, concluding:

Given the level of risk involved in the procurement of these two enormous One Barnet contracts, NSCSO and DRS, and the gambling of £1 billion of council tax payers’ money that is involved, Council resolves that the Executive Leader be removed from office and that a vote be taken on electing a new Leader who can propose a new way forward for Barnet Council and appoint a new Cabinet.

Time for the subject of the motion to defend himself. Except he did not. Cornelius gave no explanation for his failings in leadership. His speech was ill tempered, lacking the contrived disingenuousness of his usual style. He blamed, oh dear, yes, the Labour government for everything. This excuse, still trotted out by the least intellectually able Tory councillors, will be used by them until the end of time, and beyond, of course.

Outsourcing, said the leader, is not a dirty word.

Wouldn't you like to know, ladies, what Cornelius would think was a dirty word? Whisper in my ear,  ... go on - you know you want to ... yes, yes ... in house comparator ... tut tut ... independent risk assessment  ... oh no: now you go too far ... 

Mrs Angry likes whispering in a man's ear, you know, if the opportunity arises ... Let Mrs Angry whisper in your ear, Richard ... (just pretend, maybe, that she is an (interim) Director, or possibly our new CEO, Andrew Travers ... how about a Joint Venture? Oh. Oops. Sorry. Not your sort of thing. You take a different position. Underneath, with your eyes shut, hoping it will soon be over. Fair enough, so.

I have no ideology, announced Cornelius. We know, Richard, we know. Odd thing for the leader of a Conservative council to admit, though, in the circumstances.

And everything that is going wrong is the fault of no, not just THE UNIONS, because they will insist on objecting to their members' being thrown out of work to be replaced by exploited labour in Bolton, or Bangalore, no it is the fault of that other Daily Mail Tory spectre: the EU, and their appalling procurement laws, you know, the ones that Barnet has ignored on a spectacular scale, until the Barnet blogosphere exposed their gross incompetence and the consequent waste of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money. 

Cornelius hates these EU rules: he sees no need for regulation. Just give the money to the contractors, no questions asked, the Barnet way. And the billion pounds of One Barnet business he wants to give away to BT, or Capita: the only reason he says the savings have not materialised yet are because of the unnecessary restrictions of the law meant to safeguard our money from corrupt practices. Aha. Yes. Ok.

In front if us, the Tory supporters sat very still,  in silence, clearly shocked by the vitriolic atmosphere in the Chamber, and in the mutinous but attentive public gallery. 

Mrs Angry reflected that it is these people, the backbone of the Tory party in Chipping Barnet, who unwittingly do so much damage, by continuing to support and fund the antics of their councillor chums, with their candlelit suppers, and their strawberry teas, without taking a close interest in the policies they pursue, or challenging their own preconceptions by involving themselves in the real engagement of council procedures.

There was an audible groan when Tory boy Tom Davey stood up to speak. A young man with the outlook and prejudices of an embittered old timer: lacking in compassion and mean mouthed, Davey is prone to lambasting the less advantaged members of society for lacking aspiration, and deserving their fate because 'you can't help those who won't help themselves' ... He told us, sneering triumphantly, that he could hear the 'death knell of union power' ... aha, yes, here we are again, *klaxon alert: watch out, it's all the fault of THE UNIONS!

Next up in the queue to defend One Barnet was the Grand Old Man of the party, Councillor John Marshall. He said if we had to have One Barnet, it is all the fault of ... let's see, the unions ... no, no, the Labour Government. Didn't say which one, and of course the veteran ex Hendon MP has seen so many, but Mrs Angry thought he had a faraway look in his eye which seemed to be laying the blame squarely on Ramsay Macdonald, and possibly Zinoviev.

Libdem councillor Lord Palmer spoke now. He said, with some exasperation, that he had not intended to speak, until he heard the speeches made by others ... he compared the One Barnet gamble to a Ponzi scheme (he ain't wrong) and he was incensed by remarks about the Audit committee, of which he is Chair, and the ridiculous comments about European procurement rules: clearly One Barnet has to be subject to such regulations as the programme is so massive ... clear that is, Lord Palmer, to anyone but an idiot/Richard Cornelius ...

Palmer, of course, knows better than any councillor quite how incompetent the management of procurement of so many contracts has been in Barnet. 

After a response from the Labour leader, reminding the Tories that they had refused to countenance the possibility of an inhouse comparator, which would have offered an alternative to the scheme they now say they are compelled to pursue, it was time to vote.

The motion, of course, was defeated, and a last opportunity missed for any of the backbench Tories to reinvent themselves, show some courage, and integrity, and stand up for what most of them know is right - dumping Cornelius, and calling an immediate suspension of the One Barnet competitive dialogue, and an independent review of the whole outdated, over ambitious and recklessly irresponsible programme. They funked it, as you knew they would, incapable of action, even though they know it will lead to a catastrophic future for council services in Barnet, and ultimately the defeat of their party at the next local election.

Mrs Angry was feeling weary, by now, and not terribly well, and decided to leave. Not long afterwards, during the break, Councillor Brian Coleman left too, unwilling to stay and witness the votes to remove his committee membership and posts, and to hear the mention of the report to council regarding his sanction in regard to the highly offensive emails sent to two constituents, and, ah yes: the report noting that Coleman has ceased to be a member of the Conservative group.

Coleman's trial, for the charges of assault by beating, and a motoring offence, both of which he denies, will not take place until February, and the long suspension which will apply during this period will, Mrs Angry predicts, change the dynamic of the Barnet Tory group forever.

Coleman will be sitting on his own for now, with no power, but plenty of opportunities for meddling and mischief, and in the meanwhile, the madness of One Barnet continues to exert its malign influence, and the hapless Tories continue to follow their own path to oblivion.

Not all bad news, then, is it?

My thanks to @BarnetRebel and the very helpful Anon for the pics.

* NB: still waiting Mr Mayor, for you - or any Tory councillor - to apologisefor failing to censure Brian Coleman's insulting comments to the 'sad, bad and mad' and 'old hags' in the public gallery at the last full meeting  ...

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