Friday 24 August 2012

Exclusive: the latest excuse for the One Barnet Joint Venture fiasco

Mrs Angry has just received the following statement sent by Pam Wharfe, the 'interim' director at Barnet who sent staff, last week, an apparently rather premature notification of the sudden transformation of a £275 million package of DRS council services from a strategic partnership into a 'Joint Venture'.

Mrs Angry's cynical commentary in red.

On Behalf Of Wharfe, Pam (dictated by Nick Walkley?)
Sent: 24 August 2012 16:37

DRS Joint Venture proposal – Staff Update

Following my DRS fortnightly email last week I have set out further details on the joint venture below:- hold on, it's not a fortnight since your last update - something wrong?

What is the decision making process around the joint venture?

The Senior Management Team consults our consultants, who consult our bidders, we pay the consultants an awful lot of money, and then we tell the elected members what to do. In this case, we forgot to tell the elected members what to do before we told anyone else.

The joint venture has been an option considered by the project Board over the last 2 years and has featured in the options appraisal and business case. Although initially our preference was for a Strategic Partnership, the JV has developed as a progressively more attractive option following detailed discussions with bidders.

This is like, say, when you've been sitting in the pub all night & are completely pissed, and no decent looking bloke has looked at you, you end up going home with the one at the bar with sweaty armpits, who suddenly seems more interesting. Or so Mrs Angry imagines. Mrs Angry is more fussy, clearly.

As a result the project Board recommended to Corporate Directors Group that this be formally advanced in discussions with bidders and indeed is currently our preferred option.

AHA! So: the mysterious, obsessively secretive, undemocratically comprised & totally unaccountable project One Barnet Board recommended this brilliant new idea to the senior officers! Now we are getting somewhere ...

Following evaluation the final option, along with the preferred bidder, will be presented as a recommendation to Cabinet in the New Year.

Aha again, in tandem with the preferred bidder - a tailor made option then? Neat.

Cabinet will then take the final decision on whether to award the contract, the preferred bidder and the joint venture approach. Awfully kind of you to pretend to allow the Cabinet a say in the matter.

What does the joint venture approach mean in practice?

It means you are all still going to be f*cked by privatisation, but in a different way. Bend over.

A new organisation would be formed by the Council and the successful bidder. The Council would have a minority interest in this organisation and would appoint a small number of individuals to the senior management team of the new organisation.

Would appoint a small number of individuals ... anyone we know?

This organisation would then contract with the Council to provide the DRS services.

Does this reduce any of my TUPE rights?

No. In scope staff would TUPE into the joint venture organisation, and this would be on the same conditions as have been previously set out. The obligations of the joint venture organisation would be backed up by the successful bidder’s parent company.

Who would my employer be?

The joint venture organisation.

Bidders have made reference to potential career opportunities in their organisations, does the joint venture limit these?

LOL. Potential career opportunities in the bidders' organisations? Of course. There are already marvellous opportunities, and we have already seen the interchange of staff from private companies to the council, and vice versa, with absolutely no conflict of interest.

No. The joint venture organisation would operate in many ways like any other organisation in the successful bidder’s group of companies. There is no reason why the use of a joint venture company would limit the opportunities this could provide to staff.

Why use a joint venture approach for DRS?

Because Barnet's Tory leadership and senior management is desperate to sustain a failing £1 billion commercial project, and will do anything that enables them to cling on to the wreckage, right up until someones prises their slippery hands off the sinking ship.

As a result of being a part owner of the joint venture organisation and through having representation within the senior management team the Council would have more say in the organisation. In addition the joint venture would allow us to share more easily in any commercial success the organisation has. This is important to us as the DRS bidders and ourselves are confident that there are significant commercial opportunities in the delivery of DRS services both within Barnet and outside of the Borough.

Why have you always denied that there is inadequate control and profit in the strategic partnership, and why does the same argument not apply to the even larger £750 million customer service tender?

What if the joint venture organisation is unsuccessful and becomes insolvent

We are f*cked all over again, and will have to pay for the privilege too.

The joint venture organisation will have a contract with the Council for the provision of DRS services, and, as with a non joint venture approach this contract will be backed up by a ‘parent company guarantee’ which provides a legally binding obligation on the commercial parent company to fulfil the performance of the DRS contract. It is likely - IT IS LIKELY - who are you kidding? ... that were the joint venture organisation were unsuccessful that the commercial parent company would provide further resources to the joint venture company to ensure it continues to function to service the DRS contract. Such a situation could reduce the value of any investment by the Council in the joint venture company however the Council is only intending to invest a nominal sum (which could just be £1) (phew, what a relief, only £1 of tax payers money at risk then. Mind you, if you spent another quid, Pam, maybe you could have got some fire engines too ...) and it is not obliged to provide any further assistance in the event of failure, unlike the commercial parent company which would be obliged to deliver the DRS contract.

Kind regards,

Pam Wharfe

Interim Director Environment, Planning & Regeneration

Hmm. Ah: and as it happens, Mrs Angry asked Ms Wharfe yesterday for an explanation of her statement to staff, in the light of not one but two denials from the Leader of the council that such a move had been decided:

Dear Ms Wharfe

Please could you explain to me the apparent contradiction in your recent statement to staff regarding the decision you said had been taken to change the One Barnet strategic partnership planned for the DRS tender into a Joint Venture, and the fact that leader Cllr Cornelius stated twice yesterday that no such decision has been taken?

I look forward to your early response.

Mrs Angry

This afternoon a reply arrived:

Dear Mrs Angry,

The original options appraisal and business case taken by the council included the option of a joint venture. I have copied in Martin Cowie who will detail the dates of the decision making process.

Pam Wharfe

Oh dear: not good enough:

Dear Ms Wharfe

Thank you for your reply.

Yes, the orginal options appraisal and business case did indeed include the option of a joint venture. They also included several other options and all but the strategic partnership were discounted. That is irrelevant to the question I asked you, which I would be very grateful if you would answer: why did you tell staff that the decision to move to a join venture had been taken, when the Leader states that it has not?

Yours sincerely,

Mrs Angry

More later.

*Later .... Update 6.45pm:

Hello: more to update already ... just received this email from Ms Wharfe:

Dear Mrs Angry,

I think the Deputy Leader has clarified this in the local press?
Pam Wharfe
Interim Director Environment, Planning & Regeneration

and Mrs Angry has replied:

Dear Ms Wharfe

Thank you, I am aware of the story in the Barnet Press, which simply suggests that a Joint Venture is now a possible option, and indeed Cllr Thomas has told me:

"The Council is considering running its DRS services as a joint venture. We have always had the option of running a JV as made clear in a report to the Cabinet Resources Committee last December. The final decision of whether or not to proceed with one will be taken when the preferred bidder is confirmed further down the process."

Clearly he believes that the final decision has not been made, whereas last week you told staff that the Joint Venture was already agreed:

'As a result we have decided to form a joint venture'

Really, there could not be a clearer contradiction, and no amount of denial can alter the truth. You have exposed something we have always suspected: that the important decisions which drive this council are made not through the recognised democratic process, but behind closed doors, by unelected and unaccountable officers and highly paid consultants.

Have a nice weekend,

Yours sincerely,

Mrs Angry

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Game, set and match.