Revival of Joint Venture: The U-Turn from The U-Turn…

John Burgess from Barnet Unison wrote this morning to Cllr Dan Thomas – Deputy Leader requesting clarification on what option had been recommended to the Bidders/was preferred for the One Barnet programme.

Two days ago Cllr Cornelius denied a joint venture was being considered by members and said he had not seen any proposals relating to the option. It now emerges that the joint venture model is still being recommended to members of staff. You can look at the video footage of this here and judge for yourself.

Dan Thomas’s reply to John Burgess is illuminating. It appears to contradict the position set out for the opposition Labour Party and for the Barnet bloggers just two days ago;

My comments on this reply are in italics.

”Dear John,

As I’m quoted in this I feel compelled to respond.

The position is quite clear. [as mud?]

The outcome of the competitive dialogue has not been presented to members therefore no formal recommendation has yet been made to us – that will happen in due course. [shouldn’t the competitive dialogue happen after the decision and not before it? I look forward to a nice shiny judicial review when they announce the decision if this really is the case. I am fairly sure that what the bidders think should be the case is what they call an ‘irrelevant consideration’  which has been taken into account when making a decision…]

Officers, in an effort to keep staff and members updated, have confirmed that the dialogue is pursuing a joint venture option and at this stage that is the officers’ preferred option. As you know, officers advise, members decide.

[This isn’t what Cllr Cornelius said. He seemed to deny knowledge of the joint venture proposal altogether. If true; somewhat problematic at this late stage and currently bidders have more influence over the proposal of what’s happening to public services than members do. That is the very definition of undemocratic!]

The Leader has stated he remains to be convinced about a JV and rightly so given that members have not yet seen a proposal.

This does not contradict my quote in the paper that I would not be surprised if a joint venture was the final outcome – it is one of only a few options when engaging the private sector to run services! I did not say a JV is definitely on the cards (although the paper in its commentary tried to imply that).

[I’m more interested in what the business model of the proposed joint venture would look like. – if still on the table as Dan Thomas suggests. Nobody has seen any detail on this even though we have seen a 160 page business case for the strategic partnership and as a concerned resident I’d really like to. It seems odd that the Council are treating different options very differently in their decision making process. To cut a long story short there can be no substantive discussion or consultation about something that neither members or residents are clued up on. Transparency, and a proper risk register (as the Council committed to in the Budget & Performance Committee meeting) would be much appreciated here.]

Kind regards,

Cllr Daniel Thomas.

So that’s what you have. A joint venture – there you see it! And there you don’t.

The Leader of the Barnet Labour Group, Cllr Alison Moore has said that,

‘there is real chaos at the top of the council. We need to know who is in charge of One Barnet – elected councillors or officers – and the trouble is, it looks like no-one is.

There are real questions that need to be asked about this process, because the more you delve into it, the murkier it seems to get.”

Well, quite.

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