Saturday, 14 May 2011
Carry On MetPro - The Thick Blue Line
One sunny lunchtime last week, Mrs Angry was sitting idly with a companion outside the Orange Tree in Totteridge, sipping a glass of nicely chilled Chenin Blanc, and thinking, as she frequently does, about nothing of any significance, when she was distracted by the sight of an oddly familiar vehicle driving by.
Yes, look: MetPro Emergency Response, as bold as you like, driving up and down Totteridge Lane, still on duty, protecting the householders of N20 from, well, from what exactly? From dangerous anarchists, agents provacateurs and potential criminals like Mrs Angry, no doubt. Later on, she noted, there was also a MetPro bike parked outside St Edward's College, further down the lane - MetPro keeping a beady eye on those naughty White Father missionaries, presumably. If there are any left. I have to inform you that as she passed the scene, some covert filming took place, in a brilliantly orchestrated hit and run drive-by manoeuvre. Don't tell Senior Officer Sharkey. If he wants a copy, he can kiss Mrs Angry's a***e.
Over the last couple of weeks, as it happens, Mrs Angry has been contacted by rather a lot of people wanting to know why MetPro, which so recently lost its contract, no, no, sorry, not a contract, what was the word ... its 'arrangement' with Barnet Council, is apparently still very much in business in the Totteridge/Whetstone area.
Many are puzzled by the fact that, although the company has apparently been using unlicensed employees, and illicitly filming innocent members of the public at council meetings, it is still visible on the mean streets of Totteridge, driving around in those fabulous MetPro ANPR facilitated cars and bikes, and its operatives are often to be seen stationed on full alert, in the familiar black shirts, combat gear, stab vests, handcuffs, and trousers still sweetly tucked into boots, chilling outside Costa in Whetstone, guarding their skinny lattes, with impressive dedication, for hours on end.
No sightings of the helicopter recently, but maybe the liquidator kept that?
As we know, working unlicensed as a security employee in most circumstances is illegal. A criminal offence. So why is this company still able to operate? Well, Mrs Angry has made enquiries, and is very happy to tell readers that there have been assurances made by the company that for this sort of work, ie aimlessly driving up and Totteridge lane, trying to look hard, apparently, licenses are not necessary. Only necessary, it seems, is a certain number of worried and affluent householders willing to part with substantial amounts of cash for the privilege of their services.
Oh, are you worrying about the data protection issues of filming people without their consent? No: it's ok. Those cameras you might have seen on the vehicles driving up and down - we are told that they are not plugged in! And we believe this, don't we?
In fact, so impressive is the service offered by this company that Mrs Angry is wondering whether or not to suggest to the senior police officers of Broken Barnet (see above, on a recent visit to Whetstone Police Station) that they should seriously consider outsourcing all safer neighbourhood duties and perhaps even the borough's emergency response to them, in a sort of One Barnet style joint private venture enterprise? Who needs the Met, when you can have MetPro?
After all, according to their website, the company offers to provide services such as crime response: arrest and detention of intruders, emergency medical care, fire attack and evacuation (just like AssetCo): think of the years of training they must undergo - what more could you ask for? This would take a huge burden off our local police, who could, oh I don't know, spend more time sitting with their feet up on their desks, with a nice cup of tea, reading the local blogs, safe in the knowledge that MetPro are doing their work for them.
MetPro also says they will respond to security alarms, as keyholders, with officers - ah, hang on, it says officers equipped with body worn cctv which records everything they see and hear on arrival. Hmm. Obviously they can't do that now, can they? Maybe they could take notes instead.
There might be one or two niggling little details to clear up first. After advice from the Information Commissioner, who is investigating the whole sorry business, Mrs Angry wrote a subject access request from MetPro for the film footage the company has from the infamous council meeting of March 1st. She hasn't had a reply. This is not very good, is it, Mr MetPro?
Perhaps she was given the wrong address by Barnet's Director of Corporate Governance, who, despite the £1.2 million pounds of our money paid annually to the company, claims to have no other contact point other than a generic email address. One might wonder how MetPro's monthly bills used to be settled. In a brown envelope, slid across the table at Costa?
In the meanwhile, citizens of Totteridge Lane, sleeping on your mattresses stuffed with freshly laundered euros and quivering behind your gated driveways, if you have any questions about the company, or need a reference, Mrs Angry suggests you contact your local councillor, Brian Coleman, whom she is confident will be only too pleased to reassure you, in his usual modest and helpful manner. Why not drop him an email?
While you are at it, why not ask him what has happened to the internal audit committee/cover up we were promised into the MetPro affair by the Chief Executive, Nick Walkley, now nearly six weeks ago, in lieu of what is really necessary, ie a full, open and independent inquiry? Absolutely no public statement regarding the date or arrangements for this excuse for an investigation has been made.
Is there some reason, do you think, why Barnet Council is trying to delay any scrutiny of the way in which this company was used, without a tender process, contract, or any regular assessment of its performance in delivery of service?
I cannot think what that might be, can you?