Wednesday 22 August 2012

The death of One Barnet: An awfully big Joint Venture -

Updated below Thursday:

Perhaps, like Mrs Angry, due to a series of unfortunate events, you have not been able to escape the boundaries of Broken Barnet this summer, and have been obliged to stay at home while others have escaped abroad or to the seaside, or maybe up to Edinburgh to the Festival. Even Barnet's own movie, a Tale of Two Barnets, has just been up to the fringe for a showing, and a nice break from reality. Back here in Broken Barnet, some of us have had to make our own entertainment, and for the local bloggers, our Tory councillors have laid on a series of summer events to keep us happily occupied.

This morning, Mrs Angry wrote about the recently revealed plan to change the DRS outsourcing project from a strategic partnership to a 'joint venture', a model of outsourcing that is beneficial to the successful bidder, but will expose the council to even greater risk and cost than the previous design. She described One Barnet in terms of a still born concept. It seems now, after further dramatic revelations this afternoon, the concept of the joint venture is itself perhaps a phantom pregnancy ...

News of the joint venture emerged at the end of last week, after Mr Mustard received a copy of an email sent to staff by Mrs Angry's favourite senior officer, Ms Pam Wharfe, the 'interim' Director of Environment,

"... we have decided to form a Joint Venture organisation with the successful bidder, which provides an effective basis on which the Council can benefit from these opportunities and at the same time it gives the Council greater rights of transparency and control.

What this means is that the successful bidder and the Council will form a new organisation in which both have an interest. This new organisation will then contract with the Council to provide the DRS services. The Joint Venture approach does not change the approach to TUPE of staff or weaken any of the commitments given - staff would TUPE into the new organisation rather than to the commercial partner. We shall provide further information on the Joint Venture in the next week however as ever you are welcome to ask any questions you may have regarding this or other elements of the DRS procurement ..."

Clear enough: astonishing, but pretty straightforward. Seems to have taken everyone, including councillors, by surprise, but then that in itself is not unusual in Barnet.

As you may recall, we wrote a joint letter to Richard Cornelius this week asking questions about the joint venture proposal.

Today, back came the most extraordinary answer from him, as follows:

"No decision has been made. No case for a jv has been made beyond the suggestion that there might be such a case.

The decisions will be made by elected members in due course."


Yes. According to the leader of the council, the joint venture, which as a very senior officer has informed staff 'we have decided to form' has NOT been agreed by the appropriate body, ie the Tory leadership and councillors.

If there was ever proof needed to demonstrate that this borough is being run not by the elected members of this council for the best interests of the borough, but by the senior management team for their own purposes, here it is, then.

What the hell are they up to?

This incredible situation has at last exposed the shocking truth about One Barnet and the whole outsourcing scam, and yes, citizens, it is a scam. We are being pushed into a £1 billion sell off of our council services to profiteering private companies, not through any system endorsed by a democratic mandate, through our elected representatives, but by a senior management team determined on this course of action, at all costs. Why that is, you must decide for yourself. It's not hard to work it out.

Mrs Angry has already written to the district auditor to demand that he instigate a public interest inquiry into the One Barnet fiasco, and the failure of the council properly to address the huge scale of risk involved in the project. Earlier this week the request was amended to take on board the recent development regarding the joint venture. Now it seems this further revelation raises even more urgent need for the immediate suspension of the whole tender process, and a full public inquiry into the entire project.

What a mess.

Update Thursday:

The plot thickens. Here is another extraordinary statement from the Tory leadership, this time from deputy leader Daniel 'John' Thomas:

My thanks to reader David Constable for tweeting this story from the Barnet Press:

in which Councillor Thomas states that a Joint Venture -

"had always been an option for the officers and would give the council more control over the DRS ... It doesn't surprise me that the first vendor for this service would be a shared organisation. It gives the council more control."

He also confirms that the other £750 million package of customer services will not be a joint venture. It seems that control of £275 million of DRS services is suddenly required, despite all previous denials, but the council is happy to throw away all responsibility for a three quarters of a billion pounds worth of the rest to the lucky bidder who wins the deal. Mmm.

It is not clear yet when this statement from Thomas was made, but clearly it completely contradicts the two responses from his own leader Richard Cornelius yesterday, to the Barnet bloggers, and to resident Reema Patel, denying that any decision to change to a Joint Venture had been made.

There is something going very, very wrong, deep in the heart of the rotten borough of Broken Barnet.

The shambling Tory leadership is in disarray, their own councillors are completely in the dark, the senior management is struggling to maintain their oily grip on the outsourcing agenda, and the bidding companies are looking on in disbelief.

Our lives in their hands. It's a chilling thought, isn't it?


Mr Mustard said...

Pam Wharfe's phantom Joint Venture Mrs Angry will sit well with Robert Rams's phantom library

baarnett said...

Equally well, the officers may have had verbal sign-off for the joint venture, and so announced it.

Then the political leadership took fright ("Oh, people are upset!") and so rowed back on the matter.

Mrs Angry said...

Hmm, Mr Mustard,well, we all have our fantasies, don't we? When I was small my friend Paula's poodle Gemma had a phantom pregnancy. Doesn't compare to an alternative model for outsourcing, of course, but disappointing, all the same.

baarnett ... I think we have had a revealing insight into the way things work in this authority. Policies devised by officers, rubber stamped by tame councillors. In this case there has been a hiatus in the interval between the thought and the deed.