One Barnet Judicial Review – My Open Letter to Leader of Barnet Council

Dear Cllr Cornelius,

I’m writing again in relation to One Barnet – in particular the so-called legal victory you describe (inaccurately in my view) as ‘clear and complete’. A few questions which I hope you’ll respond to.

I’ve copied in my local  Conservative MP Theresa Villiers as one of my questions is also addressed to her.

1) Firstly, the judge decided that your administration had not consulted, and never intended to consult on One Barnet. Are you, in light of his decision, now going to suspend the signing of the contract until effective and adequate consultation with residents has taken place?

Sarah Sackman and myself wrote the following article outlining why this consultation is so important. Essentially, the proposals to lock down the Council into a 10 year contract flies in the face of democratic governance of public services and will undermine local participation in the shaping of those public services. Residents are at the very least entitled to be aware of, and to have a say in such an important decision about where those services are based, and how they are administered.

The judgement in Nash v Barnet Council specifically tells you what this consultation should include. It says –

‘Because here the Council never set out to consult about its outsourcing programme at all, the present case is not a good occasion to offer guidance on the form that such a consultation might have taken. The essential is simply that the representatives should have been given the opportunity to express views or concerns about outsourcing the functions or services in question that could inform the Council’s decision-taking both on whether to proceed and on matters requiring attention in the arrangements eventually made.

As the council has not yet proceeded with the contract, it therefore follows that consultation is still possible, and in the light of this judgement, Barnet Council should invite residents to express their views or concerns about One Barnet, and should give those residents sufficient time to express those views and any concerns they may have.

2) Secondly, you will recall that  in September 2012 I asked your administration a written question at a public meeting (which was unspectacularly chaired by Brian Coleman) as to when it would comply with its legal duty to consult on One Barnet. Strangely, for the first time in the history of any such public meeting, no written answers were provided, and I was assured by the chair of that meeting, Brian Coleman, that this question would be answered ‘later on’ in the meeting. No measures were taken to ensure this question was answered, and you claimed in that meeting that ‘no decision had yet been taken’

I’m afraid this question remains unanswered. When will you comply with your legal duty to consult on both contracts? That the judicial review was unsuccessful because it was allegedly out of time does not mean you do not have a legal duty to consult. You could consult now if you wished to and it is clear from the judgement that you have a continuing obligation to do so.

3) Thirdly the judgement is extremely critical of Barnet Council’s failure to consult and engage with residents. Some time ago Ms. Villiers endorsed the Council’s decision to enter into the One Barnet programme in a letter to me, citing difficult economic circumstances. What is Ms. Villier’s position on Barnet Council’s failure to consult before entering into the programme; and is it congruent with yours?

4) A number of your councillors claimed that your Conservative administration had consulted.  In the High Court your barrister was reduced to having to claim there was no requirement to consult at all. The judgement is fairly clear that not only did you fail in your duty to consult, you never intended to do so at all.

Are you prepared to accept the ongoing dishonesty on your administration’s behalf which has been exposed by the court process?

I very much look forward to hearing from you on all four of these matters.

Yours sincerely,

Reema Patel

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