No, not Brent Laboiur councillors I'm afraid but there colleagues in Barnet at an Extraordinary Council Meeting last night in a lively debate on a No Confidence motion tabled by the Labour opposition regarding the Council's One Barnet programme that will see 70% of services out-sourced.
One after another Labour councillors made the case against out-sourcing and privatisation. They pointed to the inadequacy of private providers, the dangers of bankruptcy that had already hit some providers and therefore the uselessness of 'guarantees' provided by such companies, the use of Council Tax to fund private profit, the concealment of financial details of deals and the lack of direct democratic accountability via councillors when services are out-sourced. They pointed to the decision to move waste management 'in-house with a stretch' as an example of the right way to go.
Tory Leader Richard Cornelius, who replaced the suspended Brian Coleman, defended the policy and pointed out the number of Labour boroughs, including Brent, who were also out-sourcing.
Despite the absence of some Tory councillors the No Confidence vote was lost, but the arguments in the motion deserve consideration elsewhere:
‘No confidence’ in Barnet’s Conservative Leader and CabinetIt was interesting to see an Opposition group instigating a passionate and informed debate, something that is missing in Brent with the Lib Dems often caught out on not doing their homework and lying low as they delay two by-election, waiting for more popular times. The Tories are of course invisible for months at a time. It is too often left to community groups and campaigns to provide the real opposition.
Council believes that this Conservative administration has completely lost its way over the One Barnet Programme.
Council believes the process to outsource 70% of council services in two large contracts under One Barnet has been dogged by a lack of transparency. Scrutiny of One Barnet by elected councillors has been severely compromised by the administration scrapping the dedicated One Barnet Scrutiny Panel, and by preventing administration and opposition councillors outside the Cabinet from having sufficient time to scrutinise detailed financial information for the project – information which has been presented to elected members on blue exempt papers at the beginning of committee meetings, and then taken away at the end of the agenda item.
Council notes that the One Barnet Programme has so far not made any net savings, and that we are now in the third year of the programme. In fact the One Barnet Programme has actually incurred a net cost for the Council of at least £663,000.
Council further notes that the Leader and Deputy Leader seem to disagree over the appropriateness of the preferred model for the Development and Regulatory Services contract – Joint Venture – and that therefore the project seems to be in complete disarray.
Given the level of risk involved in the procurement of these two enormous One Barnet contracts, NSCSO and DRS, and the gambling of £1 billion of council tax payers’ money that is involved, Council resolves that the Executive Leader be removed from office and that a vote be taken on electing a new Leader who can propose a new way forward for Barnet Council and appoint a new Cabinet.