Thursday, 19 January 2012

Trouble at t'Mill: One Barnet outsourcing bids leaked by whistle blower

trouble at t'mill: spanner in the works, courtesy of the Barnet Eye: try spinning that one, Mr Chris Palmer ...

*... and now with added Sunday rant, see below ...

*Update Saturday: see below, and further update Saturday evening.

*Updated with Friday joke: see below ...

The Barnet Eye blog has today published an apparently leaked document which has been sent by an anonymous whistleblower concerned about the enormous repercussions of the One Barnet outsourcing programme.

This document appears to contain details of the bids made for the £250 million DRS package of services being thrown to the private sector, as part of our Tory councillors' feverish adherence to the One Barnet cult and its ruthless agenda of outsourcing council services on a scale as yet unseen in any local authority in the UK.

The amount of secrecy that has surrounded the whole outsourcing project, and the obstinate refusal of the council to be open and transparent about such matters as the declaration of interests of senior officers has made scrutiny of the programme virtually impossible: the council's own One Barnet scrutiny committee was conveniently abandoned, and concerned councillors of all parties have struggled to gain any proper understanding of the process, or to be allowed to monitor its progress.

The £1 billion outsourcing plan will have enormous implications for staff, who will face a transfer to new employers with only the guarantee of one year's job security, and no real protection of pay and working conditions. Loss of so many jobs will have a hugely detrimental effect on the local economy, already struggling in the recession.

Worst of all, however, will be the momentous impact on residents of abandoning vital local services to the private sector.

The desire of the outsourcing companies to make substantial profit from their investments has been demonstrated time and time again elsewhere to lead to falling standards of delivery, and inevitably higher charges too. And long with this comes a total loss of accountability to the community as the council devolves responsibilty to the private service providers.

The massive scale of this project is hard to explain, and almost impossible to grasp. It represents a reckless gamble, pushed through in the face of all criticism of the lack of a proper business plan, or even an adequate understanding of risk management.

Last year's MetPro scandal exposed the shambolic state of Barnet Council's ability properly to manage its procurement, contractual and payment processes. In an action which spoke so eloquently of the determination to ignore the implications of the highly critical findings of the committee's inquiry, and its uncovering of the widespread and serious failures of the council's senior management team, the morning immediately after the Audit meeting saw the publication of the OJEU for an astonishing £750 million pound package of services.

By then the process involving the DRS package was already under way, and later in the year we were informed of a short list of companies bidding for the services on offer. The final list of bidders were:

Enterprise Mouchel
EC Harris and FMConway
Capita Symonds

Let's play a game. Can you guess which one is the favoured candidate, citizens? One lucky company has become the most likely winner of the prize of so many of our vital council services to make profit from at our expense. And it will be at our expense, in all sorts of ways.

One cannot escape the impression that the whole dialogue process which has taken place up to this point, and served to award one lucky applicant with the golden ticket to the chocolate factory is, well, not so much a lottery, perhaps, as a game of poker. Grandiose bids, empty promises, delivered with excessive amounts of bluffing and a good deal of staring out the opposition: and all in secret, with no mechanism to ensure any objective scrutiny.

The real significance of the leaked report, in truth, is not in the financial details it publishes. It is the fact that the report was leaked at all, by someone so close to the highest level of the senior management team. The Barnet bloggers know that there is deep disquiet amongst some senior officers over the monstrous size and enormously dangerous risks inherent in the One Barnet outsourcing agenda, and what would appear to be a remarkably casual approach to the process of dialogue, and now some of them have taken the courageous decision to blow the whistle.

The Tory cabinet and senior management team will be incandescent with rage to see this information leaked to a blog. Mrs Angry would politely remind them that if they had not been so secretive and so contemptuous of the need for an informed process of consultation with residents as to whether they wanted to have their services sold off, and if they had not tried to obstruct the process in every way possible from even the mildest scrutiny of back bench Tory councillors, let alone the community they are supposed to serve, no one would feel it necessary to leak anything in the first place. This is a matter of huge public interest.

The future of our borough is at stake, and those of us who feel that it has been hijacked by private interests are trying to speak out, and encourage everyone else to do the same. This is our borough, and our future, and we need to wrest back into our ownership a properly accountable, democratic control over the way our council services are run, for our benefit, and not for the benefit of predatory outsourcing companies and their friends back here in Broken Barnet.

Update: the Friday joke: the death of One Barnet.

It is with great sadness that Mrs Angry must bring you news of a devastating loss to the Broken Barnet blogosphere.

As Mrs Angry predicted some weeks ago - and here again, citizens, is why you must never doubt the psychic powers of Mrs Angry - it is rumoured that the life of One Barnet has been cut short, taken in the prime of life, ruthlessly culled by the actions of the desperate spin doctors of Broken Barnet.

No, the much loved programme of outsourcing and corporate skullduggery has not died of shame, after the long series of embarrassing revelations by the Barnet bloggers. It lives yet.

What do you do with a toxic brand, expecially in the political world, in the run up to an election? You rename it, and pretend it is something else.

What do you do with a discredited model for local government which seeks not, as the Tory government wants us to believe, to empower the local community to take control of the demcratic process and decide its own destiny, but to empower the globally dominant private sector companies that live off the profits offered by our pimped out council services?

You rename it, and pretend it is something else.

If it is true that One Barnet is no more, and its name, like a disgraced relation, must never be mentioned in this borough again - at least not until after May, what will it be known as now?

Goodbye One Barnet. Hello 'Sustainable Communities Strategy'. Maybe.

Yes, the Friday joke, citizens. Here in Broken Barnet in 1984, the Tory council and its senior management team have produced their finest example of doublespeak yet.

The One Barnet cult is now a 'strategy', and the community which is being f*cked by the outsourcing companies, while our council looks on and counts the used fivers in the jar, is being told it is for its own good, and to pay the rent, and we must just lie there and let them get on with it.

The Friday joke. I'm not laughing - are you?

*Update Saturday:

Living up to their reputation, recognised by Private Eye's Rotten Borough recent award, highly commended, legal bullies category, Barnet Council have now sent a legal letter to Mr Roger Tichborne in regard to the publication of the leaked document. He has withdrawn the document from the Barnet Eye blog while he takes his own legal advice in defence of what he strongly believes to be a matter of vital public interest.

It would be interesting to know what steps the senior management team are taking to establish the source of the leaked information, and to investigate why, yet again, after so many previous serious breaches, they have failed to prevent the loss of data of such apparent significance and sensitivity.

Further update, Saturday evening:

Mrs Angry hears that at the Conservative Group meeting on Thursday evening, apart from a few brave rebels, after a vote was called, the majority of our idiotic Tory councillors voted to continue supporting the catastrophic programme of mass outsourcing.

Mrs Angry informs these Tory councillors that in her view, they are a bunch of cowardly, self serving little shits.

...and Sunday afternoon:

Citizen Barnet has left this comment today on a Barnet Eye post, and I have pinched it to illustrate perfectly the point that our shiftless Tory councillors fail to engage in any meaningful way with the decision making processes of their own administration:

"Councillor John Hart took a copy of the anti-cuts paper 'Our Barnet' from me on Tuesday night, on the way into the TalkLondon Boris Johnson election roadshow.

He mumbled something about One Barnet privatisation along the lines of: "Don't really understand it... councillors don't... we just have to go along with it, don't we?"

To which I said, you should inform yourselves about what it means, shouldn't you? And he just dumbled off, muttering into his moustache. It hardly inspires confidence."

In fact, Councillor Hart, no, you don't have to just go along with it - if you don't understand it, you should not agree to it, and by doing so you are betraying the trust put in you by the residents of this borough, who placed you in office to protect their best interests, not sit mutely in council meetings and pocket your allowance without asking the questions that need to be asked.


Mr Mustard said...

Procurement is still broken Mrs Angry as my blog in the next 30m minutes ( bloggers no longer need any sleep ) will demonstrate

Mr Mustard said...

I don't think that the Sustainable Communities Strategy is a ctachy enough title Mrs Angry. Imagine having to talk about it at every council, it would get inevitably get shorted to SCS and sound a bit like sex ( no, it's not my one track mind speaking ) and we don't want to think about that in the farmyard, sorry, council chamber, now do we.

baarnett said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mrs Angry said...

If you would care to stop thinking for five minutes about your favourite subject, Mr Mustard, and I realise this is challenge for you, perhaps you would care to have a small wager?