Monday, 31 January 2011

Cover up at Barnet

Mr Reasonable has been eagerly awaiting the publication of the last quarter's supplier payments over £500. This evening it was published and it contains a number of surprises. Clearly someone at Barnet Council is fed up with Mr Reasonable and other eagle eyed residents like Mrs Angry exposing waste, so what have they done? REDACTED - a posh phase for covering up the information. Now I can understand that payments to individuals can, in certain circumstances, be confidential. However, this quarter the list has grown dramatically to 756 lines totaling £2.79 million. It includes three payments of £287,005.50 each which are classified as "Other Services" for the Environment and Operations Department. Frankly, I cannot believe that so many payments are personal especially when a number of them are classified as building repairs and maintenance, consult fees, print contract, grounds maintenance, agency staff and even conference expenses. To me this is a two fingered gesture to the residents of Barnet. It makes a mockery of the whole process. Either publish the figures properly or don't bother wasting everyone's time with the illusion that you are trying to be transparent.

Oh and by the way, I hope the council staff who held their conference at the Sandbanks Hotel in Dorset had a lovely time. It cost us a total of £15,288.72. It is a rather posh place.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Another day another £130,000 spent on IT

Yesterday I wrote about the costs of the Pledgebank website. Today I see that the Council are investing another £130,000 on a new content management system for the website. It will allow the council to do new things on the website which may well be a good thing but yet again my question is should this be a priority when front line services are being cut. It seems like there is a big IT budget and people are keen to spend it before the financial year end. The delegated powers report sets out all the details and details of the company they have appointed is here. Judge for yourself if you think it is a priority.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Pledgebank Costs. Is it worth it?

Barnet Council has entered into a strategic partnership with MySociety, the people who run a number of websites including, and The council wants to extend these website for the specific use of Barnet to help improve tranparency. So far so good, something we all want to achieve. What surprises Mr Reasonable is the cost commitments. In the delegated powers report it says that there is a call off contract to the value of £140,000. Now that may not sound like much but given that on the news this evening the reports of the 10 road crossing patrol staff being cut to save £117,000 sets it into some context. Some of the cost is coming from grants, but the costs of the new Barnet Pledgebank website and the petitons website are coming out of council budgets. There still seems to be a culture of spending money on gimmicks while frontline service are being cuts and frankly that offends me!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

New Year New Pledge

As people may know, Mr Reasonable takes a very keen interest in how Barnet Council spends its (residents') money. With the new Council Pledgebank I thought I should try and be constructive. I have therefore submitted the following pledge and I await to see if it gets posted on the Council's website. It is a genuine pledge and something which could potentially help to save the council serious money. I just hope the Council are genuinely open in their response.

"I will pledge to give up 4 hours of my time every month to scrutinise and challenge all invoices over £10,000 to help the Council reduce unnecessary spending so long as five other people will make a similar time commitment to sit on the panel and that Barnet Council will genuinely participate in the process and listen to the advice and opinions given."