*Updated:appeal date confirmed Tuesday - see below
Look: the doors of the One Barnet House of Fun are wide open now - take a peek inside ...
The house, strictly speaking, is not open for business yet, as the Judge is yet to decide if this particular establishment deserves a licence, but even so, the gentlemen callers are getting a little impatient, and shifting uncomfortably on the sofa.
The house management doesn't want to lose such good customers, so a little discreet entertainment has already been laid on: listen, can you hear the sound of squeaking bedsprings?
And one customer has run right up the stairs, throwing his shoes at the chandeliers, and ripping open the buttons of his flies, unable to wait any longer ...
Yes: Capita is now in Broken Barnet, trousers round its ankles, ready for business: bend over.
The appeal sought by disabled resident Maria Nash in regard to the Judicial Review of the One Barnet programme was expected to take place no later than July.
Many of us have been puzzled by the delay, and wondered about the cause. Then we heard this week that the hearing will not now be heard until the 7th/8th October. Why so long a wait? Because, we understand, the QC for Barnet Council is unavailable that month. It was thought that the authority might be trying to replace their counsel, but now it seems that will not be the case.
You might naturally assume, as many of us did, that this will mean a delay in the signing of the NSCSO contract with Capita.
You would be wrong.
Barnet Council has informed staff that, despite the appeal, the authority intends to sign the deal with Capita on 14th June.
They expect the service commencement date to be July 1st.
The eyes and ears of Mrs Angry are everywhere, and all seeing, and all hearing, of course, and she can reveal that at a recent staff meeting, anxious council employees asked what would happen if the Maria Nash Appeal was successful - and in particular, what would happen to staff if they had been transferred?
The response was :"The staff would be brought back to the Council."
A member staff then responded by saying, but what if I have been made redundant?
Mrs Angry is told that they did not have an answer to this, and that the officers didn't really seemed properly briefed.
Mrs Angry also hears that despite concerns voiced this week by opposition councillors, the council is going ahead with all speed with the lesser value DRS deal (a mere £250 million or so worth), albeit graciously agreeing to wait to sign with Capita Symonds until after the appeal. As the process is unlikely to be complete by then anyway, this is hardly any surprise.
Why the hurry, do you suppose?
Does this indecent haste not smell rather indelicately of an attitude of contempt for the due processes of the law?
Is Capita threatening to pull out? Are Barnet Council panicking?
Or is a rather more clever game being played: by delaying the court case to October, seemingly due to an insistence on retaining the same counsel, the authority will committ itself to a commercial contract which will be all the harder to undo, in the real possibility of a successful appeal.
Should the appeal succeed, as well it might, the issue of being out of time less of a problem at this level, the remedy available to the Judge would be to strike out the deal, but he or she might feel, in some circumstances, that matters had progressed too far. Is this what they are hoping?
Ah: except that that would be a dangerous gamble: the Judge may also consider the matter of indecent haste to sign up, in defiance of the imminent appeal, to be something of an impertinence, and strike out the deal regardless.
The One Barnet House is open for business: but for how long?
*Updated Monday 10th June:
Curiouser and curiouser: after publishing this post last Friday, Capita and LBBarnet spent the entire day visiting, with great enthusiasm. Many readers were and are astonished that Barnet is preparing to sign the NSCSCO contract despite the looming appeal hearing.
Now blogger Mr Mustard has kindly forwarded a correspondance he has just had with Barnet 'Leader' Richard Cornelius regarding the appeal. (Mrs Angry would ask the same questions, but Richard is scared of Mrs Angry, and of course she is only a woman, so not important, and he never replies to her) ...
I don't like to rely on gossip and presumably you know what officers are up to?
Was an undertaking given to not sign the NSCSO contract until after an appeal which we now know will be in October?
Is the contract going to be signed this month?
Dear Mr Mustard
The date is not yet confirmed by the clerks
Ah but, thought Mr Mustard ...
Thank you for your email. I am not sure if you mean the date of contract signing or the date of the appeal?
Is the council still going to wait for the outcome of the Judicial Review appeal before signing
(Nice isn't it, chaps exchanging pleasantries, man to man?)
It is the date of the hearing. The courts do not sit August and September and both QCs have cases in July. The court is also very congested. I do not feel that we could in any way sign a contract without an exit clause should the court order a re-run of part of the the decision making process.
Well: very interesting.
Mrs Angry is not awfully sure that putting the blame on both QCs is a fair representation of the reason for delay ... but two things are significant here: Cornelius accepting only that the court may order a re-run of part of the decision making process (was there one?) rather than accepting the judge may strike out the whole deal ... and then here we have a stated intention not to sign without an exit clause relating to the case.
We look forward to further details from our councillors and senior management team as to the details of this clause, and when it was first suggested. Mrs Angry thinks it might have been last Friday, but then Mrs Angry is a terrible cynic, have you noticed?
*Update no 2:
Can you believe it? Since this post was updated this morning, with Tory 'leader' Cornelius waffling on about exit clauses in the contract in case of a successful appeal, an announcement has been made, as reported here
that in fact the contractsigning will now NOT take place until after the hearing.
Cornelius now tells us that he now understands that "A public body can not play fast and loose with the rule of law ..." and therefore, the decision which was passed on to staff last week telling them the contract would be signed on June 14th has been revoked.
Does anyone know what is happening? In the space of a few days we have gone from all speed ahead, to equivocation, and now to a complete u-turn.
Mrs Angry believes that if the decision to sign regardless of the appeal had not been so widely publicised last week the council may well have gone ahead. To change course at this point means there is something badly wrong somewhere, and suggests there is a degree of disagreement between senior management, our high maintenance private consultants, elected members - and Capita.
Naturally in today's interview, the Tory leader loads blame onto the head of Maria Nash, the disabled resident who is daring to persist in taking this matter to appeal. This jibe at Maria is shameful: she is a courageous woman acting according to her conscience and in the best interests of her community. If only we could say the same about the Tory councillors who have got us into this mess.
Breaking news Tuesday: Mrs Angry has just heard a date has been confirmed for the One Barnet appeal, for July 15th.
After all the talk of delay until October, Barnet has now decided to use a different QC, and agree to the earlier date. The case will be heard by what is described as 'a very serious and heavyweight court', presided over by the Master of the Rolls, the second most senior judge in the country - two other senior judges. This underlines the vitally important principles and issues which this case represents.