Just rushing off to the Cabinet meeting where our Tory councillors were due to sign off the £750 million deal with Capita - and then look: a spanner in the works. Here it is all explained in this press release by Barnet Alliance:
Pre-Action Letter - Proposed Claim for Judicial Review served on Barnet council.
A Barnet resident, Maria Nash, has instructed lawyers to seek Judicial Review of the One Barnet Programme. A pre-action protocol letter was sent to the Council today, prior to the Cabinet meeting tonight which plans to approve the appointment of Capita plc as preferred bidder for the first of the One Barnet contracts, worth £320 million.
The letter details the grounds on which a Judicial Review will be sought:
1. Breach of the Council's duty to consult Barnet residents, businesses and community organisations about its plans, the result of which is that it has spent millions of pounds – the Agilisys contract alone has cost over £4m and is likely to rise to £6m – on professional consultants helping it to run the procurement process, but has not once asked local people for their views.
2. Breach of councillors' duty to the residents in their area, to make sure that their decisions represent the best available value for public money. In order to be sure that they are getting best value out of this or any other contract the Council must compare the costs, benefits and risks of outsourcing with the costs, benefits and risks of retaining services in house but reforming the way they are provided to optimise value. Despite having been urged to do this, and despite the fact that it has been done by other local authorities, like Edinburgh, Barnet has refused to do it.
3. Breach of the public sector equality duty: the Council must take issues of equality into account when making important decisions which affect people’s lives, like making radical changes in the way Council services are run. The “equalities impact assessment” done in the One Barnet case was a pure paper exercise, which took no account of the views of people who would be affected by the changes.
4. Breach of public procurement law, which requires that this contract be awarded to the company submitting the “most economically advantageous tender from the point of view of the public body”, i.e. the provider that gives the “best value for money” , taking into account the council’s responsibilities. Lack of consultation with local people, lack of consideration of equalities and lack of an in-house services comparator means the council cannot state that Capita gives the best value for money. Such a breach of the public procurement rules leads to cases like West Coast Main Line.
5. Breach of councillors’ duty to make up their own minds: Individual councillors must by law make up their own minds how to vote after informing themselves on the issues. They are not allowed blindly to follow the party line. Councillors have been starved of information and have not had the opportunity to understand the highly complex proposals for the contract, so they cannot legally vote to do anything other than defer a decision so that they can inform themselves and come to a proper view.
More later ...