Sunday 4 August 2013

Justice denied: the One Barnet appeal fails - what next?

*Updated Tuesday: Cornelius signs us over to Capita - see below

The judgement for the appeal of the One Barnet Judicial Review was not expected until September, but was handed down on Friday afternoon, at 4pm, see here . It was the worst news for claimant Maria Nash, and all those who have supported her legal challenge: a rejection of her case, and a decision which will now allow Capita to take over almost all our local council services, and use them - use us - as a lucrative commodity, a source of huge profit for their shareholders, in a deal estimated to be worth a billion pounds over a ten to fifteen year period.

Mrs Angry can confirm that Maria's legal advisers have submitted an application to appeal which goes first to the Appeal Court, and thence to the Supreme Court.

Barnet Council has already indicated, however, that nothing will now prevent them from signing both of the contracts, and our docile Tory councillors are ready and primed to do this at the first opportunity, in mute obedience to the will of the senior management team, consultants and bidders who have so enthusiastically directed the programme of mass privatisation.

The far reaching political implications of this surrender to the rule of Capita are yet to be seen: the timing of the scheduled takeover has been knocked off course by the legal challenge, and now the dramatic impact of transition from council run services to privatisation will occur in the last few months before next year's local elections. Oh dear: most unfortunate. 

Mrs Angry looks forward with pleasure to seeing how Tory leader Richard Cornelius, already floundering in the reaction to the successful Judicial Review challenge of his catastrophic and unlawful parking policy, will attempt to persuade the already alienated voters of Broken Barnet of the benefits of becoming income generators for Capita - and on a scale that is so far beyond any of the limitations of the NSL parking contract ...

Because Friday was, of course, a very good day to bury good news, and despite having earlier rejected the findings of the parking charges JR judgement, Cornelius has now accepted that the findings give no foundation for appeal, and announced that he will not pursue this further. 

This means that there will now be a need to repay all those residents who have been fleeced by the council through the illegal parking and permit charge increases, a course of action which will happily remind each and every voter of the folly, contempt and arrogance of the Tory councillors who imposed and maintained this scheme, in the face of all reason and opposition by us. 

The long, painful deconstruction of Brian Coleman's last folly, his hapless parking policy, will serve as a warning for what is to come over the next few years, an example on a small scale of the enormous changes that will now ensue as the drive for revenue and profit are put before the needs and wishes of residents, and as local control of not just one but effectively all of our council functions is surrendered and handed over to an unelected, unaccountable private company.  

Capita will not only be intent on using the residents of this borough for the profiteering benefit of their shareholders: the company will, as they freely admit, be using Barnet as a base for the expansion of business opportunities in the wider south east area. 

In the last couple of weeks we have witnessed the spectacle of two disaffected Tory councillors publicly alleging that the procurement process leading to the approval of the contracts to Capita was compromised by a serious failure to allow full and proper scrutiny by elected members.

Former Tory Cabinet member Brian Coleman admitted last year, after his spectacular fall from grace, and only weeks after his grossly offensive  'sad, mad, old hags' speech that blithely informed us there was no alternative, that One Barnet is in fact a catastrophe waiting to happen, describing it thus:   

"this officer-driven juggernaut or as one senior Conservative put it - we are lemmings heading for the cliff ..."

He continued:
"The council needs to dump this flawed scheme and introduce a proper strategy which assesses where services belong, whether that is the private sector, shared services with other boroughs, the voluntary sector or indeed occasionally in-house - a mixed economy is what is needed. For example, I don't know any councillors who agree we should privatise the planning department ..."

Coleman has now boasted in an article in the local Times group paper:

The Tories are scared witless of what I might do because I know where the bodies are buried. I should do – I buried most of them. 

At the last full council meeting, Cllr Coleman claimed that Conservative members had been 'entirely whipped' at all scrutiny meetings dealing with the One Barnet programme. The other night he tweeted to Mrs Angry a series of remarks about the One Barnet appeal:
  1. inevitable end to nasty badly run campaign which turned average Barnet residents off and appeared to be front for trade unions
  2. at least the campaigners had the moral integrity to oppose One Barnet when it mattered, unlike you, who did so after ... you had so consistently supported it
    View conversation
  3. the main reason for the failure of the JR was it was out of time the campaigners didn't oppose it when they should have
  4. and why did you not have the courage or integrity to speak out against One Barnet until it was convenient for you to do so?
  5. actually you have no idea on the history of "One Barnet" and my role in it . I shall put it in a blog when I am ready
  6. A nation waits, with baited breath. In the meanwhile: to remind you, Sept 12 - no alternative to OB. Nov 1st: lemmings?
At last week's Audit meeting, Tory councillor Sury Khatri angrily complained, too late in the day, that there had been no transparency even for elected members over the Capita contracts. 

His colleague Cllr Hugh Rayner admitted that the detailed information was available only in a strictly limited way, and that councillors had relied on officers to pass on the significant material needed for their own involvement. 

Quite why Cllr Rayner thought that he could expect such a service from the senior management team that had taken the decision, despite the lack of executive authorisation, to change the business model of one of the contract tenders, without bothering to ask the leader or Cabinet, is something of a mystery, and perhaps a mark of his naivete.

Quite why our Tory councillors did not have the courage to speak out when it might have made a difference is not so much of a mystery: it is only what we have come to expect from them. They always place the demands of group 'loyalty' and political expediency before the best interests of those whom they have been elected to represent.

Brian Coleman may enjoy the attention he receives by pulling the skeletons out of the Tory closet - or the bodies out of the ground, but his antics distract us from one unpalatable truth: he was intimately involved in - and bears heavy responsiblity for - the endorsement and ruthless imposition of One Barnet, and the Cabinet's refusal to allow any programme of consultation or debate with residents over the proposals. His belated public criticisms of the policy he supported have absolutely no credibility.

The rest of the Tory sheep who voted through their lazy, complacent and uncomprehending approval of the two contracts will now have to face their electors and explain what they did, and why, as everything falls apart over the next few months. 

That promises to be an entertaining sight.

But to return to Coleman's attempt to blame the campaigners organising opposition to One Barnet for failing to take action earlier in the process: here lies the most outrageous insult of all. 

This man, and all of the Tory councillors who secretly know what a terrible, immeasurable risk they have taken, who have opened up the borders to Broken Barnet, and welcomed in our new masters: they cannot deflect the blame for what has happened, and will happen. They let it happen.

The judgement of their Lordships is an interesting read: once again the difficulty is the timing of the application for Judicial Review. Put simply, there is still argument and a total lack of clarity, even in the legal findings, as to when exactly the precise moment was which defines the decision on which a challenge should have been made. Although this period is considered to be earlier in the process, it is still not easy to understand the specific point which marks the relevant decision. 

It is therefore necessary to ask how can any ordinary citizen, with no legal expertise, or easy access to legal advice, be expected to know when and how they may make such a challenge? 

In any given situation the process of applying for Judicial Review is highly complicated: in the context of this case it was practically impossible to know how, when or what to challenge , dealing as we were with a programme whose metamorphosis developed from easycouncil, to Futureshape, and then One Barnet in stealth, duplicity and a cynical campaign of obstruction by our council. deliberately intended to mislead and silence any questions about the outsourcing programme from the residents and taxpayers of this borough.

One thing emerges triumphantly from the process of challenge of the One Barnet programme, and it is a major achievement.

Judge Underhill found that under section 3 of the Local Government Act 1999, Barnet Council was obliged to consult residents in respect of the privatisation proposals, and that it failed to take adequate measures to do so. 

It is important to note that the Court of Appeal did not alter that conclusion, and that this finding therefore has major significance for every local authority in the UK: if they consider any such large scale act of outsourcing, or any similar undertaking, they must consult the residents whose interests they purport to represent. 

It's a shocking development, isn't it? Involving people in the processes of government: smells remarkably like something approaching democracy. 

Don't worry, it'll never catch on here. 

So: to our new masters at Capita, good job you are now directing your attention to the lucrative pleasures offered by the destruction of our National Health Service - and the best of luck with that. Because it won't be so easy playing that old game in the open marketplace of local council services now, will it? 

Ah: and a warning from Mrs Angry: you've had an easy time so far, bedding down so easily in local authorities around the UK, cushioned by the pillow plumping activities of implementation partner consultants and enthusiastic senior officers. 

But never, until you tried your hand here, has a community fought so hard to resist your advances, or so closely scrutinised your activities - or documented your activities. That is perhaps  the lasting legacy of this long running saga: a present from the people of Broken Barnet with which to welcome you ...

And please don't think this will stop now that you are running the shop: Mrs Angry can promise you all the many blessings and benefits that will accompany the most intense campaign of vigilance, audit and investigation, courtesy of the Barnet blogosphere, over the next few years.

Fasten your seat belt, Mr Pindar.

Updated Tuesday: 

Barnet Council has this morning issued a press release to celebrate the signing of the two contracts with Capita. 

Residents can enjoy the moment, caught in the following photograph, as our leader Richard Cornelius happily gives away control of our local services to a company whose appetite for profit from the public sector knows no bounds, and is becoming part of a virtual monopoly of public service provision by a tiny number of predatory outsourcerers. 

You will note that although the council boasted this morning that the surrender to Capita will achieve savings of £150 million, since then around £24 million has already been lost down the back of the One Barnet sofa. 
This will serve as a useful indication of the veracity of the claims being made to residents by the Barnet Tory leadership and Capita as justification for the sequestration of this borough, an act made in defiance of all protest, and in the total and illegal absence of any mandate from the people of this community. 

Nine months to the local elections: remember this moment, and remember who is responsible. 

Tory councillors of Broken Barnet -every time, over the last few years, that you failed to read a report, or ask a question, or kept quiet when you should have spoken up, or silenced us, with such contemptible arrogance, at meetings, when we tried to discuss One Barnet with you - each one of these acts was a betrayal of the trust we placed in you. You are not worthy of the office to which you have been elected.

So - well done: you've fucked us over, good and proper, haven't you?

But now we intend to do the same to you.

Welcome to Capitaville.

Mrs Angry



tw said...

Ah, my dear Mrs Angry, how much I needed this you can only guess...

Bless you for your boost! I feel almost ready for the battle again, alongside my fellow residents in and outside the 'failing' campaign, all of who must be aware of the dangers of One Barnet by now thanks to Maria Nash, her legal team, all of you bloggers and - even Mr Coleman.

Mrs Angry said...

Onwards and upwards, TW ... and erm, Anonymous, about the missing £24 million - you may well be right, but I prefer not to risk publishing that particular comment!