Thursday, 8 May 2014
A great big mess: Tory run Capitaville, two weeks before the election
So: about the election campaign, Councillor Cornelius? All going to plan?
Has your pre-election handout of 23 pence a week for every taxpayer in Broken Barnet done the trick? Are grateful residents rushing up to you in the street and offering you their vote?
Any sign of a Conservative manifesto yet, by the way? No?
It's just that, you know ... people are getting their postal votes and ... it might help, if they knew, when they were making their mark on the ballot paper, what your party stands for, and what you intend to do, in the next four years, should anyone think that you and the rest of your collection of shambling fools who have sold this borough to Capita for a quick buck and a trolleyload of empty promises ought to be rewarded with another chance to shaft us all.
Let's see. Perhaps Mrs Angry can help. No need for a manifesto, really. Look at the evidence, for example, we have seen over the last few weeks, of Barnet Conservative policy in action.
The two massive contracts with Capita, now referred to so coyly by the Barnet Tory leader as 'the change programme', is of course in fact a billion pound privatisation of every council function that wasn't nailed down in some way - the contract for the CSG services alone came to 8,000 pages, and clearly was not properly scrutinised by the elected members, some of whom have broken ranks with the Barnet tradition of omerta, when it was all too late, and admitted they were given only the most limited, token gesture of access to the agreement.
As part of the DRS/Re contract, it emerged, once a redacted version was published, that our council is contractually obliged to tell the world about the 'success' of the Capita arrangement.
Ah but, Mrs Angry, you will be asking: what if the Capita contracts are ... not a success.
This is an impossibility. The Capita contracts are an act of faith. We place our trust, not in the Lord, but in market forces, and the life of the world to come, in Capitaville. Amen.
Anyway, we know that the contracts are a success, and saving taxpayers lots and lots of money, because our dear Leader, Richard Cornelius, has said so, and we believe him.
But how, Mrs Angry, can the dear Leader know that the contracts are a success, when they have only just got going, and there have been lots of problems, and any savings cannot be net gains as we have spent more than £80 million in nine months alone, in setting up the outsourcing programme, in order to make £160 million in savings over ten years, and the upfront capital investment of £16 million we were told by the Leader and his fellow Tories was the whole reason for the privatisation has turned out to be not an upfront capital investment at all, but money we will have to pay Capita from ... the savings we may or may not make from the deal?
And let us look at that evidence of the last few weeks, shall we, of how well our Tory councillors are presiding over an administration that brings savings to the taxpayer, whilst maintaining excellent standards of council services?
An Audit committee meeting which revealed so many serious failings in the management of contracts, not just with Capita, where any issues raised are inevitably dismissed as teething problems, or due to 'historic' causes beyond their control, but with parking contractors NSL, and agency suppliers Comensura.
A school for disabled school children robbed of funding for vital respite care, and told by indifferent Tory councillors to use their reserves to make up the loss. The school is legally unable to use these reserves, and after the matter caused them too much negative publicity, the Tories were forced into a u-turn, and then tried to deflect attention from their own scabrous behaviour by smearing the Labour group which fought to restore the funding.
Yesterday it emerged that the pupils of Mapledown are not the only disabled children designated as the target for Tory cuts. Here in the Barnet Press in we learn that 'Resources for Autism' is losing desperately needed funding, and is expected to remove eight of the 40 children who attend their support schemes as a consequence.
As Director Lisa Dresner says:
We have to lose these kids. I cannot bear it. They are asking us which children shouldn’t be coming any more, but the real answer is none of them should not be coming any more. Our children will find it very difficult to access other things.
Tory leader Richard Cornelius is quoted as saying this scheme, unlike Mapledown, will not be granted a 'reprieve' from his cuts. Well, after all, this is the man who thought the average person in the street would think the Mapledown cuts, in the context of the 23 pence pre-election tax hand out, was perfectly fair.
How many other children's disability charities are paying the price of this election 'gesture', approved by Tory councillors whose enthusiasm for cuts in funding did not prevent them voting themselves big fat rises in their own allowances as soon as they got into power in 2010?
As for the 'success' of the Capita contracts, the One Barnet programme - the 'change programme' ...
Here also in the Press yesterday we find another interesting story about the 'success' - or rather not - of the Capita run payroll and pensions services, which last month underpaid council employees, and in some cases paid them nothing at all, and which in February accidentally put many Barnet pensioners on the highest tax codes, in what one former teacher, a Mrs Renee Kadish, described as 'a great big mess'.
Now Mrs Angry must declare an interest here, Mrs Kadish having known her since she was a mewling baby in a pram, and indeed, Mrs Angry having spent many happy days of her childhood in the Kadish household.
Mrs Angry can confirm that Mrs Kadish is a formidable woman, and a Torygraph reading resident of many years standing, and is not the sort of person to be naturally critical of council policies. Her reaction is, in other words, a good indication of the way in which the Capitalisation of the borough is, like the disastrous parking scheme and other Tory sponsored catastrophes, already raising the political consciousness of otherwise an otherwise complacent electorate.
And then we have the matter of Hendon Crematorium.
The previous post explained what is happening now that Capita has its grasping hands on the many revenue opportunities offered by the death and bereavement of Barnet residents.
In yesterday's local Times we read more about the grossly disrespectful move by the company to remove memorial benches that have been sponsored by grieving relatives of those interred in the Crematorium grounds.
The excuses offered for the insensitive disposal of these benches changes with every statement from the council and the Crematorium managers. First we heard that it was necessary due to 'health and safety'. Then, as Mrs Angry reported, it emerged that the notices on many benches explain the removal is due to 'development' or 'further memorialisation'.
Yesterday we hear they need to 'make changes to the layout' so more people can have memorials. The council tried to claim the decision to take away the benches predates Capita.
Fine: prove it. Let's see when that decision was approved by councillors, and see which of them were involved. Or was it a delegated decision agreed by the Director, Ms Pam Wharfe? Let's see the documentation.
In fact, many of Capita's grubby little plans for extracting profit from our dead relatives is clearly laid out here, in the ludicrously redacted contract - http://www.barnet.gov.uk/downloads/download/1275/schedule_37 … read from page 163 onwards. You will note that several sections just before this page have been redacted in full - and you may like to wonder why that might be.
God knows what follows is bad enough.
Mrs Angry draws your attention to the following example of what Capita refers to a 'Monopolistic Market Penetration Growth Idea'.
This is a form of commercial necrophilia, in truth, in which our loved ones, and our grief, will be targeted for the profiteering pleasure of Capita's shareholders.
In this specific case, it refers to a whizz of a scheme to corner the market on charging for flowers to be laid (where?) to commemorate your dead relatives.
Opportunity Knocks for Capita:
Making it happen:
As you will read, with Capita, 'sensitivity in this area is paramount' ... but this touching concern for the bereaved appears to have been forgotten fairly soon after the ink from the Tory leader's pen dried on those contracts, as we see from the blundering disposal of the benches.
It is absolutely clear from this example that Capita intend to target bereaved families, and wean them off the most regrettable tendency to want to lay their own tributes to their loved ones, and channel them into the correct mode of behaviour, ie one that will return lots of profit to Capita.
Whether it is flowers, or benches, or any other way in which they can interfere with the mourning of the deceased and screw some money out of it, they are likely to have a go.
Read the rest of the proposal, and see for yourself. Capita and our Tory councillors will defend this marketing as offering a service - you may take the view that it is simply an excuse for marketing something that should never be subject to commercial exploitation - the loss of someone you love.
Well, outsourcing the dead is the logical conclusion to the Tory agenda of profit before people, just as taking vital funding from disabled children in order to pay for an election 'gesture' is, in the eyes of Richard Cornelius and his colleagues, perfectly acceptable.
No need for a Tory manifesto, Councillor Cornelius, in fact - the record of the last four years, and the evidence of our own eyes since you signed those contracts is explanation enough of what is to come, if you return to power.
This is Capitaville, and this is Broken Barnet, May 2014.
Two weeks to polling day, and a chance to wrest power from the hands of this lunatic Tory council and their profiteering friends. The consequences should we fail to remove them, and to regain control of the democratic process are plain enough to see.
You know what to do, then, don't you?