Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A Cabinet of Animosities: their Barnet - whose Barnet?

Ok, I pinched the title of this post from elsewhere: a serendipitous find on google, a BBC radio feature which led Mrs Angry to an unexpected but suitable destination, for the purposes of this blog, at least: the Museum of Broken Relationships ... yes, there is one, in Croatia. 

Here you may donate mementos, tokens of your failed marriages, romances, and broken hearts, to join a collection of artefacts ranging from a pair of handcuffs, nearly new, to someone's discarded underpants, a winsome teddy bear and an axe, used to destroy a lover's belongings at the end of their affair. Aww.

The purpose of One Barnet, we are often told, was to forge a new relationship with the residents of this borough. Sadly this relationship was always doomed: dysfunctional, inequal: abusive. And like all abusive relationships, in the end, the only thing to do is use the axe, break it up, and move on to something better. Or that is how it is supposed to work, if you have the courage.

Mrs Angry has been reading, on and off today and yesterday, copies of emails sent in response to some residents contacting our Tory councillors about the Capita contract, and their fears over One Barnet. 

After an initial silence it seems the Cabinet members who have been arguing with their own colleagues over the proposals now realise that rather after trying to bully us all into accepting the outsourcing plan, they have to play nice, in order to try and win the hearts and minds of their electors. Rather late in the day. 

The Cabinet of Animosities: launching a charm offensive - no charm, and completely offensive

There is a distinct scent of panic in the air, as our tormentors realise they have lost control, and their victims are finding their own independence.

Some councillors are better at acting out the old hearts and minds thing than others. Take a look at some of the responses received by Cafe Buzz owner Helen Michael. 

Full marks to Cllr Daniel Seal for a polite, courteous and perhaps surprisingly reasonable reply. But uh oh, the rest.

Cheeky Councillor Andrew Harper hasn't quite got the hang of being nice, the concept of debate, or of being accountable to the residents. In fact, maddened as he is by the incessant demands of his portfolio, and more accustomed to the fawning admiration of the millionaire residents of Hampstead Garden Suburb: he was driven to accuse Helen of making 'threats', simply by stating the fact that although traditionally a Tory voter, she would not be inclined to favour the party with her support at the next elections. 

Councillor Joanna Tambourides sent a rather typically hard nosed response:

"Your alternative solutions to the situation we find outselves in are eagerly awaited."  

Helen then provided her with a suitably detailed response, which clearly came as a surprise - another councillor unused to residents answering back ... this is new territory for our Tory councillors, having to explain themselves to residents and justify a decision. Democracy, in other words. 

Dear sleepy headed little Robert Rams appears to be running out of steam: he and Tom Davey repeated the same old mantra about we have no alternative, we need to make savings, this is the only way, dee dum dee dum dee dum, bla bla bla.  

The sheepish Cllr Old gave One Barnet the full thumbs up, saying that Cabinet has his full support. No kidding.

And David Longstaff went to the trouble, as he has with other constituents, to write, at some length, a lot of nonsense about, oh dear, the totally discredited 'Graph of Doom', and asserting that if we didn't sign up with Capita, it would signify the mark of the beast, the end of days, the coming of the apocalyse, and we would have to put council tax up by 38%. Mmm. 

Amusing to recall, isn't it, that when our Tory councillors first returned to power in 2010, the first thing they did was to vote themselves a nice big fact rise in their allowances? No mention of the need to make savings, then, was there? Well, yes Mrs Angry there was, in fact, at the same meeting, but our Tory councillors think they are exempt from such stringent measures, of course.

There are two interesting conclusions to make from the responses sent, and the fact that other Cabinet members have started popping up at local residents' associations meeting, trying to evangelise on the joys of One Barnet - and getting a flea in their ears for their troubles. 

Not only is it clear that the Cabinet members and hard core Tories supporting One Barnet are running scared, it is also apparent that they are either genuinely ignorant of the realities of the One Barnet programme, or cynically pushing this wheelbarrow load of what they know to be a stinking heap of shite.

 Have they read the 8,000 page contract? I doubt it, don't you? Have they read and understood the reports going to Cabinet and scrutiny committee this week? Unlikely. 

Have they noticed that say, in the event we have to withdraw from the contract and give a six months notice of termination, we must continue from there on to pay the 'returns' that Capita would have collected? 

Why are they telling residents dismissively that the contract is only for 'back office' support, implying that no essential services are being outsourced? 

And here is a curious thing: Barnet Council have told the press that the NSCSO deal is for 'only' £320 million. 

In the OJEU issued for the tender, the figure was for around £750 million. Have they mislaid a few million? What has changed? Or have they spun the total figure, for some reason, to make it seem less significant? 

And here is another strange omission. Why are our Tory councillors failing to mention that nearly half the 'savings' they claim will emerge as a result of this deal are due to come from: 'getting a better deal from those areas where the Council currently contracts services from third parties' - in other words, efficiencies in procurement, as well as in council tax collection. 

It is hardly a surprise to learn that Barnet could make savings in procurement, as the Barnet bloggers have exposed the gross incompetence shown in the management of this very activity - but if senior officers were obliged to do their jobs properly, or shown the door when found to have presided over such a large scale cock up, we could make these savings directly ourselves, and without sharing the profits with Capita.

Look at what is happening in Cornwall: just weeks ago they threw out their version of One Barnet, due to public outcry, and the concerns of independently minded councillors. They are now planning to make the savings they need through in house services and other common sense options. 

And this is the heart of the problem. Because the leadership and senior management team in Barnet refused point black even to consider an in house alternative to One Barnet, and the most sensible way of making the savings we need was never an option here. You may care to think about that, and wonder why that is. 

Let's not mess around: the reason is because One Barnet has never been about what is best for residents - Coleman was right, it is an officer driven juggernaut, driven on behalf of the outsourcing industry. 

Just as the directors group were caught out making the decision they have no right to make on switching the other tender to a Joint Venture model, the push for the £1 billion pound gamble has come from senior management, nodded through by a few ideologically obsessed and gullible councillors, and encouraged by wildly overpaid consultants. 

It's not One Barnet, it's not our Barnet: it's their Barnet. 

But it's not too late: keep emailing the Tory councillors, and tell them what you think of the Capita proposal. 

Don't take their platitudes as the final word: challenge their statements, and make them accountable to you. Tell them you are in the driving seat now, and you aren't going to take any more crap from them. 

It's tough love, and the way things have to be now, in this new relationship, in the way we want it to be, rather than as dictated by them. 

We know that the Tory group is tearing itself apart over One Barnet: ironically, some members of the Cabinet of Animosities who are promoting the deal are councillors in marginal wards, and stand a very good chance of losing their seats, in the nest elections. In some cases, the horrible prospect that awaits them is only just beginning to sink in. 

You might like to reinforce the likeliness of this awful fate, with a few words of encouragement for your elected members. And if they won't listen: let's wrap them up in tissue paper, and donate them all, in May 2014, to the Museum of Broken Relationships.

Here are the Cabinet members, who are so keen to hand over control of our borough, and the rich pickings from our council services to Capita, their email addresses below:

Richard Cornelius 
Daniel Thomas 
Andrew Harper 
David Longstaff 
Sachin Rajput 
Joanna Tambourides 
Dean Cohen 
Tom Davey 
Helena Hart 
Robert Rams  


and here are the email addresses of the rest of the culprits:



Thought for the day, for leader Richard Cornelius, courtesy of a local resident:

"Dear Councillor Cornelius

RE: ONE BARNET, I have three quotes from the bible each with a question to you.

Proverbs 27:12  A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.

Question: Are you really the simpleton you are appearing to be?

Matthew 6:24  No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

Question: So which is it Capita or the people of Barnet?

Mark 8:36   What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?

Question: What good is it for you to betray the trust of the people of Barnet AND forfeit your soul?

You and your acolytes have made a mess of running the borough already - a legion of failures and embarrassments weighed up against a couple of pounds off the Council Tax.  Thanks to you, this great and historic borough has been humiliated and is becoming an international laughing stock.

I do not regret the personal tone of this email, because your actions as Council Leader have impacted on the lives of individuals; you deserve the opprobrium.  Maybe the Bible is the wrong book for you; perhaps with your lack of heart, brain and courage you should visit the Wizard of Oz."

Update #2, Tuesday 9pm:

Tory Councillor Hugh Rayner has contacted Mrs Angry with the following plea:

"I am being inundated with emails - all very similar - asking me as a member of the scrutiny committee to recommend that NSCSO be referred to full Council. I try to reply personally to all emails I receive but if I spend my time replying to all these emails then I will have no time to prepare for pre-decision scrutiny on Thursday. Please, through your blog, can you thank everyone for their concerned interest and apologise to them for my not replying personally. I am sure you will understand. Many thanks. And I am content that you pass this on to fellow bloggers if you so wish. Hugh"

Mrs Angry has - sniff - published this out of a sense of deep concern for Hugh, as she would not wish to see him overburdened with emails at such a delicate time.

(Actually this is a fecking lie: Mrs Angry urges all residents to ignore his plea and keep inundating him and his colleagues with emails, and serves them right ...)  

(But don't tell him I said so.)

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