Monday, 21 March 2011

Metpro Rapid Response: RIP

Yes: the curse of Mrs Angry has struck once more.

More deadly than a bite from Himself, An Amadán Mór, and scarier than the gaze of Medusa, her vengeance has been wreaked.

Vengeance? Hmm, well: as you know I was not exactly amused by the antics of Metpro Rapid Response, Barnet Council's private police force, at the recent council meeting - (see earlier posts, Broken Barnet's Secret Army etc) - nor was I impressed by Barnet Council's impenetrable wall of silence, when asked some pertinent questions about their use of this bunch of faceless, blackshirted heavies. But then last week, I heard something which really, really pissed me off.

After the last residents' Forum, it was alleged that someone apparently in charge of this group of glorified bouncers had claimed that, at the infamous budget meeting, he had had his men secretly filming suspected troublemakers and anarchists like me - ha - with hidden cameras.

Not only that, it was alleged he also claimed that all blogs and tweets were being routinely 'monitored' by this company: Mrs Angry is apparently a particular favourite. Glad you are a fan, Mr Metpro: wish I could return the compliment. Or perhaps I just have?

How grotesque it would be if the council which has so shamelessly, if impotently, tried to defy the instructions from ministers Eric Pickles and Bob Neill to allow filming of council meetings, had actually sanctioned the covert filming of ordinary residents, as they attempted to exercise their lawfull right to witness the adoption of the annual budget, paid for by their taxes.

This would mean that rather than follow a government initiative intended to bring greater transparency, scrutiny and accountability to local government by allowing residents to record the actions of their elected representatives, a private security company, acting on the council's behalf, had been encouraged to spy on ordinary citizens, filmed them without permission or notice, and presumably may still be in possession of film footage of them.

This raises some extremely serious questions about Barnet Council's use of private security companies. Was the council aware of the alleged filming? Had it authorised any such action? What are the data protection implications? If such filming did take place, and the council was unaware of it, what investigation is it going to undertake into the matter?

Mrs Angry wrote to the Chief Executive to ask about this allegation on the 16th of March. She has received no response whatsoever, just as she received none to an earlier email on the same subject. Mrs Angry is a non person, in the London Borough of Broken Barnet.

And then today, she hears from journalist and blogger Mr David Hencke, who has been troubling the council with his attentions again, that there may be a pressing reason for the ominous silence from NLBP:

take a look at his blog:

Alas, it seems that Metpro Rapid Response is no more. It is being liquidated, and the security contract will now presumably be up for grabs. Let's hope that the new company is chosen in a careful process, open to the full scrutiny of armchair auditors and all 'respectable' citizen journalists. We live in hope, don't we, readers, even in Broken Barnet?

Let's hope too that Barnet Council will now feel moved to launch a full and honest investigation into the use of this company, and explain to residents and bloggers exactly why it felt the need to control and monitor its own citizens in the manner of a paranoid dictatorship, losing its grip on reality, and teetering on the brink of collapse.



Jaybird said...

This is shocking.

Is it correct that MetPro were also in attendance at Hendon Residents' Forum?

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Mrs A

David Hencke reports that Metpro’s liquidator has put the Barnet contract up for sale. Any organisation that knows what it is doing, would build a clause into a contract of this nature that would immediately terminate the agreement upon the supplier going into administration / receivership / liquidation. Barnet could now find itself using the services of a security company which it has not vetted (not that we know whether Metpro were ever vetted). This is an extraordinarily serious situation.

We still need to know the answers to these key questions:

Who selected Metpro and was there a proper tender exercise?

What financial checks were carried out at the time Metpro were appointed, given that they had not filed their accounts with Companies House?

Were Metpro’s staff CRB checked?

In addition to your question as to who authorised the recording of residents, where are those recordings now and who has ownership of them?

Give the Chief Executive a deadline to respond to your questions or report him to the Ombudsman (BTW, he always replies to my e-mails within 48 hours!)

Please do not drop this issue simply because Metpro have gone bosoms up.

Mrs Angry said...

Jaybird: it was at the Hendon Forum that the claims were allegedly made.

DCMD: bosoms up? Kind of you to mind your f*cking language when commenting on a lady's blog. Mrs Angry is easily shocked, as you know.
All of the points you mention must be answered. All have been raised, and so far ignored? Readers will draw their own conclusions as to why that is.

baarnett said...

Mr Reasonable mentions on his blog that:

DCMD: As for Metpro you are absolutely right. In 25 years of reviewing service contracts I have yet to find one that doesn't have an insolvency clause. As you say, the real issue here is how on earth Metpro were ever awarded this contract in the first place. By the way, Metpro Emergency Response were registered as a new company on 13 January 2011 and their website is almost identical to Metpro Rapid Response with only a subtle change to the logo. I wonder who the council's contract is with?

Mrs Angry said...

so many questions, baarnett, and yet no responses: funny, isn't it?

Mrs Angry said...

Sam: can you email me ?