Friday, 23 November 2012

One Barnet, one choice: Mrs Angry writes to the councillors of Broken Barnet

*Updated Saturday - see below

Dear Councillors

As you may or may not know, as well as being a life long resident of Barnet, and indeed a former employee of Barnet Council, I write the Broken Barnet blog in the guise of 'Mrs Angry'. 

I think it is fair to say that I am well informed as to the way in which Barnet Council works, and I am rather sorry to say that I think I understand rather better than many of the elected councillors the complexities and significance of the One Barnet programme, having studied, at some length, and in great detail, the endless background reports which many of you have not bothered to read - and made the point of informing myself of the wider context of privatisation and public sector outsourcing.

In the absence of any real scrutiny by Conservative members, along with other bloggers and local residents I have tried to present challenging questions to the council, for example to the Audit Committee, about the risk factors of the One Barnet proposals, and attempted, with no success, to raise the very serious issue of the conflict of interests that arise from various senior officers who have had associations with companies involved in the competitive dialogues, and I have pursued the equally serious matter of the joint venture decision made by senior officers with no sanction from elected members.

Recently we heard that Councillor Sury Khatri has voiced his deep misgivings about the huge undertaking you have been told to endorse, and stated, entirely correctly, that you have no democratic mandate for the One Barnet programme. Earlier this week, I wrote to my local mp, Mike Freer, and made the same point, reminding him that the 'easycouncil' model which, at the time of his parliamentary campaign, he claimed to have created and promoted with such zeal, bears no resemblance to the monstrous concept of One Barnet, in terms of definition, or scale.

Freer's soundbite structured idea was based on the wish to give residents more 'choice' and 'transparency'. If you recall, he stated that the 'easyjet' model works well because it removes the restrictions of a monolithic business enterprise, as demonstrated by the old style airlines.

Clearly the £1 billion outsourcing of profit from almost all our council services, to a company that is part of a virtual monopoly of a few giant outsourcing providers, moves in exactly the opposite direction to his intended deconstruction and 'liberation' of Barnet Council. Choice and transparency will be removed even further from the reach of residents, and we will be in bondage to Capita for the next ten years, with no escape should problems arise, as they will, except - as you will see if you make the effort to examine the detail they will not want you to read - through the most severe and prolonged financial penalties, which will of course be paid by the local taxpayers.

I am not in the habit of writing en masse to councillors, and I most certainly am not known for agreeing with the views of your former colleague Councillor Brian Coleman, but his political instincts are in this instance perfectly attuned, and I would ask you to think very carefully about the implications of his unprecedented public criticism of One Barnet.

Councillor Coleman described the proposals as 'an officer driven juggernaut' and in this he is completely right. This programme has been hijacked by senior officers and their counterparts in the private sector - both within the outsourcing companies and their allied consultancies, and they are driving this runaway truck with no regard for the safety of those whom you are supposed to represent: the residents of this borough.

You have been given a week to scrutinise an 8,000 page contract with the chosen bidder Capita, an agreement which, if endorsed by you on December 6th, will decide the fate of this borough for years to come.

Please ask yourself how, in all honesty, you can properly scrutinise this massive undertaking in such a short space of time.

Ask yourself why you have been excluded from any real system of scrutiny throughout the long dialogue process.

Ask yourselves why you were not allowed to see the full risk register.

Ask yourselves why there has been no independent risk assessment.

Ask for the hard evidence supporting Capita's 'guaranteed' savings.

Ask why so many other large scale privatisations have gone disastrously wrong.

And ask yourself if you really believe that the senior management team - one which presided over a culture of abject failure in procurement and contractual business - is fit to prepare this borough for a ten year binding agreement worth £750 million of residents' money, in the largest outsourcing of council services that has ever been attempted in the UK.

You may not care about the members of staff, most of them also local residents, with families to support, who now face the loss of their jobs.

Some of you may not particularly care about the impact of the inevitable loss of standard of services that will affect every resident, but will fall the hardest on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our community.

Presumably, however, most of you do want to be re elected in 2014.

If you enter into this contract, there will be no doubt that the Conservatives will lose the next local election in Barnet. I understand that senior Conservative party officers have in fact already written off Barnet, as a lost cause. This is a pretty shaming position to be in, is it not?

Many of you are in marginal wards, and after the disastrous policies of the last couple of years, even those of you who have traditionally enjoyed the luxury of a safe seat will face a real challenge to retain your positions.

One or two of you may have political ambitions beyond the boundaries of Barnet, but rest assured that the catastrophe that is waiting to follow in the wake of One Barnet will pursue you, wherever you go.

Tory councillors of Barnet: you have one last chance to redeem yourselves in the eyes of the electorate, and in the view of your own central party leadership.

Now's the time to act.

Do the right thing.

Yours sincerely, 
Mrs Angry

cc Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

*Update: 6pm

Well, Mrs Angry has so far had the grand total of ... let's see ... ONE reply from all the Tory councillors (& a few out of office messages, of course,it being a  long weekend for some of our hard working members) ... look, hello: an immediate response from eager Councillor Andrew Harper, setting aside the distractions of his portfolio, popped up in Mrs Angry's in box within a gratifyingly short time, although, frankly, on closer inspection, it really wasn't worth the effort:

Thank you for acquainting me with your views, which I note. 


Cllr Andrew Harper

*Update Saturday evening:

Citizens of Broken Barnet: here is some homework for you, to be completed and on my desk by Monday morning, please:

Email all the Tory councillors of Broken Barnet ( and Brian Coleman, so he doesn't feel left out) and tell them exactly why you object to them outsourcing the profits of our council services to Capita, and how you intend to vote, in 2014, should they support this contract. Mrs Angry has helpfully compiled a list for you:


baarnett said...

And thank YOU for acquainting us with YOUR views, Mrs A, which we note a great deal more.

Mr Mustard said...

I think Andrew was suffering from premature emanation. He meant to say

"which I note are nothing like my own, well the leader's"

Mrs Angry said...

No, thank you, baarnett. Always nice to hear from you, even though, Barnet Tory style, I shall take no notice whatsoever of your opinion. Or, as Brian would say, in the old days, I shall inform the police, if you attempt to contact me again.

Yes, Mr Mustard, poor Andrew. I think the unexpected arrival of my email may have caught him at an unguarded moment. You will note that Mr Tichborne received no response, no doubt because Andrew had returned to the pressing demands of his portfolio, and was otherwise engaged.

Anonymous said...

I am totally shocked at the locations, employees with young children, disabled family members how on earth will you travel to blackburn, sheffield, carlisle and as far away as belfast what fly by easyjet.

Its disgusting I have shared all the info with all my Barnet friends and family come 2014 its LABOUR all the way.

Current Barnet employee