Open Letter to Leader of Barnet Council: One BarnetPosted: August 21, 2012
Dear Cllr Cornelius,
This is an open letter in relation to the e-mail disclosed by the Barnet blogger Theresa Musgrove (‘Mrs Angry’). The email I refer to is the one by Pam Wharfe which states that ‘we have decided to form a Joint Venture organisation with the successful bidder’. Theresa has already pointed out some of the significant policy shortfalls of the Joint Venture initiative. I have nothing more to add to this, except to say that I agree.
I would instead like to question the legality of this ‘decision’.
As I am sure you are aware –decisions of such significance are only to be taken by Cabinet Members unless expressly delegated under the scheme of delegations or provided for by statute, to a senior officer.
Both the Local Government Act 2000 and the Council constitution say that matters relating to policy, strategy and budget are the responsibility of the Council Leader and his or her Cabinet. It is therefore worrying to come across this email which suggests that it is your council officers that make the key strategic and policy decisions in Barnet Council; particularly on a matter as important as One Barnet.
This ‘decision’ has not been delegated, as far as I can see, under any scheme of delegations or a valid decision to be taken by a senior officer. Officers are permitted to make administrative and operational decisions.
However, decisions of such strategic significance must be taken by the Cabinet. Therefore your officer’s ‘decision’ is unlawful and vulnerable to judicial review. It should be subject to the same decision-making procedure as the initial set of proposals (for a strategic partnership) were; and the business case/other documentation for this new set of proposals; including a full and thorough equality impact assessment (EIA) should be made publicly available. Public bodies must also, when making a decision, meet a basic duty of procedural fairness which, it is arguable, is being flouted by the absence of any transparency around this decision making.
If the One Barnet programme commences under the new set of proposals outlined by Ms. Pam Wharfe the programme will be judicially reviewable because there has been an unlawful exercise of power. The apparent failure to consult with diverse groups on the impact of the change of decision (Equalities Act 2010) is also another consideration. There are also a number of issues relating to the procurement process – especially relating to the requirements of compliance with the OJEU procurement process in EU law.
I would urge you to reconsider this new course of action; and in particular to reconsider the entire outsourcing exercise which appears to be a structural distraction at a time when we desperately need real leadership. Your time would be better spent concentrating on revitalising the Barnet economy, and getting people into work.