Saturday 17 January 2015

Exclusive: "So others can get a cut of the business": who is plotting to take over Barnet Libraries?

Well: this was going to be a post dedicated to the rather interesting library cuts meeting on Wednesday night, in Mill Hill, at which Mrs Angry had the great honour of being insulted by the (soon to be ex)Tory MP for Hendon, Mr -no, no, no: DR Matthew Offord ... but there will now be a short interval, and a diversion, because in the course of writing it, a truly staggering tale reached Mrs Angry, from one of her network of spies in the house of horror that is North London Business Park.

The eyes and ears of Mrs Angry, as you should know by now, Tory councillors and senior officers of the London Borough of Broken Barnet, are everywhere, and all seeing. 

And some of the men in suits, the evangelisers of outsourcing who come and go through the open doors of NLBP now need to be a little more discreet, when discussing their plans in public places. 

Remember the time Mrs Angry sat on the tube next to those nice men from Crapita, dismissing criticisms of the poor IT provision for councillors? Tut tut: the humble acknowledgement of  'lessons learnt', it seems, to borrow a phrase from our senior management team, is once more being overlooked.

And so: we must now put aside the discussion on Wednesday night, for this report, which, if confirmed, blows out of the water everything that we have been led to believe, so far, in regard to the planned cuts to our library service.

Forget about the three options, the weasel words of our Tory councillors, and MPs: and forget the farce that is the the public nonsultation, the con-sultation now taking place - which tonight has itself been discredited by this very interesting assessment

And now read this, a reported conversation, forwarded to Mrs Angry from a very reliable source, overheard and carefully noted at the end of this week, in a public area at North London Business Park, a conversation which, if accurate, is, at last, proof of the grubby reality of what is, after all, beneath the big fat lie that is that thing we no longer call One Barnet, but remains, in truth, nothing less than the wholescale privatisation of our council services. 

We don't know who these individuals were, or for whom they work - they may have been outsourcing partners, or consultants, or officers. One at least would appear not to be currently based here, but we can't assume that they are working for a current partner, or contractor.

Both parties were clearly well informed on the current state of the library proposals. As our informant alleges:

"The conversation started by both men having amusing conversations about their wonderful fast cars…….break horse power was mentioned….. 

Selling Barnet libraries as a business – a man was taking about bringing in some of his partners (Starbucks and Waterstones). 

Conversation around whether it should be set up as a franchise. Investment – bringing in partnership so others can get a ‘cut’ of the business. The figure of £100,000 a month was mentioned. This would affect LMS? 

A new system whereby books can be sold or rented – they would have all the latest books. Mini Waterstones, Mini ipad station and starbucks coffee. 

We need to show investment. Revenue opportunities. Cabinet papers. 

We would start with Hendon and Edgware. 

“I will be moving here in June” (said one of the men). 

Of course we want to present them with options, but let’s start planning now. (he started taking about Expats…) 

We can sell this idea. Costa is already doing Camden and Haringey. Starbucks could do Barnet. 

 We can take on the management of the library services for other London boroughs by selling the concept. 

This has strategic buying power by selling the libraries. 

JV companies for Tri Borough arrangements. And we have a JV, they (Barnet) have to deliver statutory services. 

It’s a business idea to sell to other local authorities. Yes, we could definitely sell it. 

Commissioners have no commercial experience. They are the ones in charge of the money. Let’s keep in touch, lay out some bonds and security. “Here is what we are doing with the borough etc”. 

We can fill in the information gaps. Information gaps helps with the partnerships. We can have a customer focus group of course, but we are the ones who are paid to make the decisions.” 


Well, well. 

Mrs Angry has often used the analogy of prostitution for the predatory exploitation of our public services by outsourcing companies. It seems an apt comparison, does it not? Outsourcing companies, like common pimps, using us, the taxpayers of this borough, and the services we hold in common ownership, in public ownership, for their own purposes. 

Here is a reported conversation which, if true - and there is no reason to believe it is not - demonstrates an attempt to use our library service as a means of generating profit for a private sector company, and other would be contractors: a naked defiance of the pretence of consultation with residents, and indeed any political leadership by elected representatives. 

If you ever doubted that the residents of this borough have had the privatisation of council services foisted upon them by the pressure of private sector contractors, consultants and senior management: think again. 

This was never a direction demanded by political initiative, and here is further evidence of how the whole shabby operation works. Let's look more closely at the reported conversation. 

'Bringing in partnership so others can get a cut of the business ...' 

So others can get a cut of the business. There you have it, in nine words: the reality of outsourcing. 

This is not about providing better services, for less money. 

This is not about savings, or efficiencies, or cuts. 

This is entirely driven by the companies, service providers, consultants and senior officers who are playing games with us, and opening up every available market to create business opportunities for the private sector. 

Who cares if council staff lose their jobs, as a result, and now, that the residents of Barnet lose the library system that serves them so well? 

A reference to 'LMS' ... 

Is this, by any chance, the library software provided by Capita? 

Oh: surely not, Mrs Angry ... Barnet Libraries are currently using Vubis, of course, and over the last year or so have seen an apparently unfixable sequence of problems in IT provision. 

Of course this might just be the solution we have been waiting for: 

'Books sold or rented'

Marvellous idea: why should borrowing a library book be free? Plenty of profit to be screwed out of those who can afford that, and screw the rest who can't. Might be a problem with the notion of charges in a 'public' library: get round that with membership schemes, loyalty cards etc.

'We would need to show investment ...' 

You mean like when Capita showed us a promise to give us £16.1 million in upfront capital investment, to seal the deal with Barnet? Only it turned out, in the end, didn't it, that the taxpayers of Barnet paid £16.1 million pounds to Capita? 

'We would start with Hendon and Edgware ... ' 

So decisions have already been made as to which Tory ward libraries are going to be miraculously saved from the cull? 

'Strategic buying power by selling the libraries ...' 

Really? What has Mrs Angry told you all along, about the plot to flog the buildings?

'A business idea to sell to other boroughs ...' 

Give me back that corporate claptrap book. This is, erm: yes ... blue sky thinking, isn't it? I can just see it now, can't you? Local authorities, queuing up to pay Crapita for One Barnet prototype pop up libraries, probably a couple of self assembly book shelves, and a rubber stamp set. 

'Commissioners have no commercial experience ...'

Well, then: what the f*ck are they doing in their very nicely rewarded jobs? Is it because they are easier to fool? 

 '... we are the ones who are paid to make the decisions.' 

That, at least, is certainly true. Because the decisions to outsource, as we know, are never subject to the safeguarding inherent in a really democratic process, but driven by unelected, unaccountable, faceless senior officers, in circumstances which elude the overview of scrutiny, and defy the need for transparency. 

This conversation took place after the meeting at Mill Hill, footage of which is widely available for anyone to see: Mrs Angry will upload it in the next post. Sounds like certain parties have been watching with interest: or even preparing the way. 

In this debate, mention was made of Waterstones, and Starbucks. 

Mrs Angry commented that it was ironic that someone should advocate a partnership with Starbucks, a company so reluctant to pay the tax which our economy so desperately needs, tax which would not only support our NHS, but keep all our libraries open.

This conversation appears to prove the point that the consultation process is a complete sham, and that our Tory councillors are a bunch of incompetent fools, unable to exercise leadership or authority over the process of privatisation, as we accede further and further to the rule of commercial empire building, lost in a mire of contractual bondage. 

Yes, in case you had forgotten, this is Broken Barnet. 

Time for someone to ask a few questions, I think: open questions, loud questions: and to keep demanding answers, until the whole hidden agenda underlying this latest act of privatisation is exposed, and laid bare before the glare of public scrutiny.

In case you don't get the point, Tory councillors, we never believed in your bogus consultation: and we are not going to fall for, or tolerate, yet another sell out. 

Please leave our libraries alone, we like them as they are, thank you very much. 

And tell the outsourcers standing by with their sweaty palms, and bulging wallets, to clear off out of it, and find someone else to screw over. 

In the meanwhile, if any readers are as appalled as the rest of us by what Barnet Tories are about to do to our wonderful library service: please sign this petition:


baarnett said...

"break horse power"?

It's brake horsepower, Mrs Angry, the measure of an engine's horsepower before the loss in power caused by the gearbox and drive train.

And 1 hp = 746 watts.

All of which you obviously knew, being omnipotent.

Mrs Angry said...

I reproduced the notes verbatim, baarnett. And it is a waste of time explaining the mechanics of combustion engines or whatever it is to Mrs Angry, who doesn't care how things work, as long as they do. How can you compare a horse to a lightbulb? No, don't bother. Wasted on me. I speak as someone who has just spent an hour trying to get the batteries out of my smoke alarm with a corkscrew, and stabbing myself in the process.

But yes, otherwise - omnipotent: all seeing, and all knowing.

Anonymous said...

Well done Mrs A. for getting this into the public domain.
Here's a thought. As residents we have been fairly powerless to act against the likes of Crapita. However, I recall a time when the boycott of companies who had dealings with apartheid South Africa were fairly effective. I was recently reminded of this when similar threats to companies sponsoring Sheffield Utd and Oldham Athletic caused those football clubs to re-think signing a convicted rapist.
Now that you have managed to flush out some high street names (Waterstones and Starbucks) perhaps a similar threat to take such action if these concerns become party to the decimation of our library service might cause a re-think. After all the petition now numbers into the thousands and would represent a sizeable lobby.
I would also imagine that these companies are not just talking to Barnet about this so it could become a national campaign where library supportes across the country boycott these companies. Power to the people.

Mrs Angry said...

Difficult for me to boycott Starbucks as I avoid them like the plague anyway, on principle - and because they offer nothing I want to drink, or eat, preferring independent cafes, wherever possible. Difficult to avoid Waterstones (as it is Amazon) if you want to buy a book. But we should send the message that we resent their intrusion into what should be a publicly run, publicly owned private service.

It amuses me to hear the Tory councillors, and other local politicians banging on about the need to move with the times, have cafes in libraries etc: it shows how out of touch they are. Hendon has had one for years, and Barnet libraries have been trying income generation schemes as soon as such concepts were devised. What is needed is not the creation of business opportunities for partners in the private sector, but local services properly funded by our taxes, as a value for money investment, and much needed community resource. The money is there, do we need to keep saying it? It's just that local Tories have no understanding of libraries, or indeed in any quantification of value other than a materialist one, and refuse to prioritise the modest budget needed for libraries over the millions of pounds wasted on consultants' bills, paid to do nothing other than implement more and more privatisation.

Red Sonia said...

Public consultation - anyone recall being consulted on
Starbucks and Waterstones? Thought not!

Perhaps you will move on to Tampax owning Ladies toilets and Durex owning the Gents!

Anonymous said...

I attended the mtg in mill Hill & the msg was perfectly clear from the audience of us voters , Keep your Grubby hands off our Libraries , on an open vote question there was an overwhelming vote for the so called consultation to be scrapped & a forth choice to be included & that was to Leave the Libraries as they are , I think it was a 100% in favour . Councilior John Hart said that in this time of Austerity that we are all in it together & that the council are facing a 50% cut , so Let's see our counciliors in it with us !! If they all take a 50% cut in there Allowences , I will vote for them . But I think there is as much chance of that happening as them telling the Truth . None

Unknown said...

Very well-put: it's an unequivocal 'no' to the pilfering of library services. Could I reblog your post to get the word out among the atheist/freethinker community?

Mrs Angry said...

Well, steady on, Mr Piesplanos. Are you a Catholic atheist, or a Protestant one? I'm not sure I want to encourage free thinking: I want everyone to agree with me.

Unknown said...

How true, on all accounts!

In Ireland (where I hail from), your question is often asked in all seriousness, and I would be considered a Catholic atheist. But I'd much rather see myself as a Protestant one (i.e. willing to nail my grievances on the door of the atheist cathedrals or call for a reformation if need be).

In any event, well done for bringing the libraries sham to everyone's attention. I will simply cite your blog post in my upcoming letters to authors hoping they'll weigh in.

Mrs Angry said...

God bless you, I will pray for the conversion of your soul.

There are a lot of very cross Catholic atheists. I am obviously more angry, than cross, especially with the church - and a very bad Catholic, but still have the vague hope there is someone up there who listens to my pleas for help. Of which there many.