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Barnet: a judicial review upsets the council and its privatisation plans

More very good writing by Barnet's Mrs Angry on the problems that a judical review are causing for Barnet council and its plans to start a mass outsourcing of services to Capita. You can read the full post here. There is a lot to encourage other campaigners.

There's also an update from Mrs Angry at the end of this post on the Friern Barnet library occupation.

Mrs Angry's visits to the Town Hall are, as you may know, necessarily often followed by a post-meeting meeting in the blogger's committee room, round the corner at the Greyhound Inn. This is usually the only reason she stays to the end of any meeting, frankly, not being naturally disposed to sit through hours and hours of turgid One Barnet arguments.

Last night, however, she tried the interesting new technique of arriving already nicely anaesthetised for the General Functions Committee by a certain amount of champagne, provided courtesy of birthday girl Helen Michael, at Cafe Buzz, the home of Barnet activism.

The champagne had a miraculous, transformative effect. In fact: the meeting seemed to flash by, in about half an hour, and instead of being irritated beyond words by the smug faces of our Tory councillors and senior officers, last night they had seemed to her to be no more than a collection of small, sulky boys, kicking their legs under the table.

Oh: hold on - Mrs Angry has checked her notes: the meeting did only last half an hour, and those councillors and senior officers were awfully sulky.

Leader Richard Cornelius, deputy John Thomas, little Robert Rams: all in a very bad mood.

And acting interim CEO Andrew 'Black Hole' Travers - he sat throughout the meeting arms folded, grumpy, pursing his lips, and clearly wishing to be elsewhere.

Why is that, do you suppose?

Well, let's see. The first item, then.

Item 6 was about the restructuring of the Revenues and Benefits department, just as it is being trussed up, gagged, and handed over to Crapita for their own private pleasure.

Labour's Barry Rawlings went to the committee room doors, opened them wide, and with the assistance of Mrs Angry, Mr Mustard, and some other helpful friends, pushed a large grey elephant into the room. .

'The Judicial Review ... ' said Barry.

The room fell silent.

'Does this not mean that everything is put on hold?'

The elephant reared up on its hind legs and bellowed so loud, well: you could probably have heard it, say, as far away as the Strand, right in front of the Royal Courts of Justice.

Chair Joan Scannell is one of the few Tory women councillors who are allowed to have some token authority in Barnet Council, in deference to their matronly status, and as reward for their obedience to the dominant male ethos of the group, and she was clearly not keen to pursue this line of discussion.

Leader Cornelius blurted out that it was difficult to be definite until the court decides: but if the Review is successful, he threatened, there will be 'devastating' redundancies ... (presumably these would be devastating in a new and special way, more devastating than the devastating redundancies he has already created ...)

The other Tory councillors looked on, in silence.

If the Review is successful ... the demeanour of our Tory councillors throughout the meeting suggested to Mrs Angry that now they realise they are in big trouble, that the JR may well strike out the agreement with Crapita and the conspiracy of fools which produced the One Barnet scam will be exposed for what it is: hopelessly incompetent, uxoriously fond of the opinion of their privatisation friendly senior officers, endorsed by Tory councillors too lazy to do their jobs, and scrutinise the process which has brought them to this sorry state.

Already Cornelius and his Cabinet chums are preparing for defeat and seeking not to accept responsibility for the failures which will have led to this, but to distract all criticism by frightening everyone with the threat of catastrophe should they lose. The real catastrophe, of course, is what will happen if they win, and we are consigned into bondage with Crapita for the next ten or fifteen years, our public services cut or irrevocably damaged, and our local taxes diverted into the subsidisation of private sector profit.

There is an alternative way, the one they refused to consider: a pragmatic solution based on an in house option, with savings made from greater efficiencies. Remember, for example,  that much of the promised savings from Crapita are in procurement: savings which are possible only due to the incompetent Tory administration of such financial matters over the last ten years. Properly managed, there is no need of a third party to administer such a role: but it provides healthy returns for Capita, if the company is allowed to take over - at our expense.

Libdem councillor Susette Palmer wanted to have a legal opinion.

An officer at the table who was a new face to Mrs Angry, but may well have been a lawyer from Harrow Council, with whom we now share legal services, tried more than once to speak. Eventually she was allowed - by a curiously reluctant Chair - to respond, and pointed out, while Travers stared straight ahead, and gripped his arms across his chest, that the restructuring had already taken place, and until the JR process is completed,and until any decision is made, the programme continues.

Video from General Functions Committee:

 

Watch the video and read more here - especially to find out more about conflict of interest concerns raised during the One Barnet "process"...

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On the Friern Barnet occupation:

Fantastic news.

Here is a press release from Friern Barnet Community Library:

"The trustees of FBCL have now received an amended licence from LBB to allow them to be in the library legally. They will have 2 weeks, with promise of renewal of licence if necessary, to negotiate a lease and other matters. LBB has shown a willingness to amend the licence to their satisfaction.

There was a meeting this week  [Thursday 31 January] at 7 pm where it was agreed that Occupy will hand over the keys to the building Tuesday 5th February 12 midday - EVERYONE WELCOME.

The local residents thanked Occupy for a fantastic occupation. Occupy encouraged Friern Barnet Community Library to continue to fight for a paid librarian and said this victory was not just about a local library but about the national campaign to save libraries everywhere."

The story of Friern Barnet Library is so much more than the tale of one library, one community, or even the library campaign itself.

It is a magnificent example of what ordinary people can achieve, if they just try to stand up for something they feel passionately about, to fight an injustice, to make their voices heard. It might be a library, it might be a hospital, it might be a school: it is a fight going on all over the country: a resistence to the plundering of our communities, the marketing of everything we own, the destruction of our welfare state, our NHS, our educational system.

Our Tory councillors have been well and truly outmanoeuvred, defeated by the determination, hard work and ingenuity of residents who would not sit back and let their elected representatives act in defiance of their wish to retain something they considered to be at the very heart of their community.

Of course heart and community are difficult words for our Tory administration to comprehend: in the end what has forced them into what is really a pretty ignominious defeat is the cold hard political reality of the next election, and the probability of massive loss of seats for the Conservative party in Barnet.

Here is another warning for Capita, and any other interested parties watching from the sidelines: the Battle of Barnet is not over.

Whether the weapon of choice is direct action, or the use of legal challenge, the people of Broken Barnet will continue to fight for their borough, their services, and their future.

Get out while you can, Mrs Angry would suggest: retreat with dignity.   

Or face the consequences.

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