Barnet Bloggers Force A One Barnet U-Turn

After a slew of letters sent by a number of Barnet bloggers to Cllr Cornelius, the Leader of Barnet Council, on (a) why the procedure taken to arrive at the decision of a joint venture One Barnet DRS programme was essentially unlawful, and (b) why there were some serious risks inherent to the proposals on the table, Barnet residents moved ever so slightly forward in their conclusion over what exactly was happening with the decision-making process for One Barnet.

In yesterday evening’s Budget and Performance Committee meeting (chaired, incidentally, by the colourful Brian Coleman) – Cllr Cornelius clarified that the proposal to enter joint venture was never on the table to begin with; and that neither Cllr Cornelius or any other councillor had seen any papers relating to a joint venture at all.

This is, frankly, if correct – a mockery of local democracy. It is a mockery of our democracy that a senior council officer had, before this statement was made, communicated to her staff that a decision had been made which was never allegedly on the table for the relevant Cabinet Members at all. It demonstrates a complete absence of genuine leadership from the current administration. As a reminder, that email read as follows;

‘we have decided to form a Joint Venture organisation with the successful bidder’.

The charge against the administration here is either – incompetence or dishonesty.

It is suggested that, worryingly, the latter is the case here. This ‘decision’ has clearly been backtracked upon in the face of significant scrutiny and public pressure from a number of Barnet bloggers; and is evidently a u-turn on what was a very high risk strategy; not least because we had no idea in any real detail about what the strategy  actually was. The joint venture option would have left far  too many variables in the One Barnet programme undetermined and would have ensured that the Council and not the partner organisation would have borne most of the risk for the delivery for a substantial number of public services (including registration, highways and related planning services). The absence of a thought-through business case for the joint venture option, and the absence of any clear business model for the joint venture option (all issues raised in public questions at the committee meeting) demonstrated how close the Council was to entering into a long-term contractual and partnership relationship with an organisation with their eyes entirely shut and with far too much influence exercised by the bidders who are currently in dialogue with the Council.

In short, it would have been impossible to have drawn the lines of accountability accurately on the One Barnet model as a joint venture model.

I’m pleased that for now at least, the joint venture option is dead.

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