Oh dear! Barnet Council have asked the Barnet Eye to remove the leaked document containing details of the Development and Regulatory Services tender shortlisting process. Roger T has complied pending further legal advice and as such I have removed my previous post containing commentary on the document.
What I would ask the Council to consider is just why everyone is so incensed by this process.
1. There is no democratic mandate for this massive outsourcing project. Back in 2010 I do not recall seeing any of the Conservative election leaflets talking about wholesale privatisation of the council to large commercial companies. Indeed Future Shape was actually about working collaboratively with other public authorities such as the NHS or Police. Just read Mike Freer's interview in the Guardian back in February 2010. Compare what was discussed then and what the residents of Barnet have had imposed on them and the difference is quite striking.
2.The lack of openness and transparency. There was one scrutiny committee that tried to hold the process to account but the council simply disbanded it. There is a great deal of concern about the way this whole process is being driven by faceless consultants who have no ties or committment to Barnet. These consultants are being paid millions of pounds yet we know nothing about them, their ties or relationships with other companies or where their loyalties lie. Given the value of the contract I would have liked the opportunity for the public to be able to question these consultants who are allegedly acting on our behalf.
3. The lack of robust evidence that it will actually work. The business case was incredibly weak, full of assumptions and aspiration but incredibly short on hard evidence. Indeed when the business case was reviewed by a independent expert and former Section 151 officer he said,
"During the thirty years that I have worked in local government finance as a local government officer and management consultant, including some time as Finance Director of a Borough Council, I have seen and written many business cases, business plans and options appraisals. This business case is remarkable for the apparent lack of robust evidence to support its main conclusions that £28million of savings and increased income is achievable and that this can only be delivered through outsourcing.”
4. Lack of public engagement. The council are unwilling to allow any public debate on the entire outsourcing project. Not allowed to discuss it at Residents forums, no public meetings on the topic, no scrutiny committee at which public could at least attend and ask questions.
There are 350,000 people in Barnet whose lives will be affected by this outsourcing project yet no more than a handful are privy to the detail or involved in the decision making. What is taking place here is wholly undemocratic so it is not in the least bit surprising that people are leaking details and even less surprising that there is a desire to make these leaked documents public. Rather than hassling Roger T perhaps the Council should be spending more time engaging with the residents to explain what the hell they are doing and asking why the staff are so unhappy that they feel the need to leak these documents. Doing long term mega-outsourcing deals without public consensus and scrutiny is a both a disgrace and, in the long term, politically unsustainable.