Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Burying the bodies in Broken Barnet

News has just reached Mrs Angry of an interesting development in the long running MetPro saga. According to the agenda of tomorrow's council General Functions Committee, our councillors will be considering a proposal to get rid of no less than nine officer posts in the Corporate Procurement team, as well as six others in the related Information Services team.

The proposed redundancies will be handed out by Mr Craig Cooper, Commercial Director, salary £132,480 per annum.. You remember Craig Cooper? Hiding behind Andrew Travers, on the left hand side of the MetPro audit committee meeting, as shown in Mrs Angry's few minutes of fame on youtube. Freeze frame: that's him, staring at the table.

You may recall that it was the spectacular failure of the council's procurement systems that allowed the five year 'arrangement' with MetPro to continue without the benefit of any tender process, or contract, or job specification, or supervision, or properly authorised payments. And as we were told by Lord Palmer's report, MetPro clearly was only one example, the tip of the iceberg. The ship may have sunk as a result of disastrous navigation, but it is the ordinary ratings who are being punished, instead of the Captain and his senior officers.

If any individual employee is guilty of say, fraudulent activities or misconduct, or failing to perform his or her duties, then he or she should be investigated, or disciplined, and the issue properly resolved.

But that is not how they do things in Broken Barnet. In Broken Barnet, senior officers never leave in disgrace, they are paid off and slip out of the back door. Ordinary officers are sacked or are made redundant, as a sacrifical offering to the corporate Gods.

Mrs Angry particularly enjoyed reading the passage of the sacred text, the Corporate Plan, which accompanies this report into the committee meeting. It reminds the faithful:


3.1 The three priority outcomes set out in the 2011/2014 Corporate Plan are:
  • better services with less money;
  • sharing opportunities, sharing responsibilities; and
  • a successful London suburb.
The overarching aim of the One Barnet programme is:
  • to become a citizen centred organisation
3.2 The Council has committed to place the citizen at the heart of services and to
drive for relentless efficiency in everything it does. In relation to our Commercial
Services, this means transforming the way we deliver services to get the best
from our commercial relationships and achieve more efficient and effective use
of Council resources.


4.1 Risk: Failure to take action as set out in this report would impact the Council’s
ability to deliver against its corporate and One Barnet priorities, to address
known weaknesses in its support services through successful delivery of the
Procurement and IS transformation plans and would have significant financial
consequences for the Council.

So our beloved council, holding the citizen at the heart of services - well wherever the heart would be, if our council had one - with relentless efficiency has decided that in order to improve the management of procurement, and deal with, ahem - 'known weaknesses' - the answer is to get rid of a load of ordinary officers and expect the lucky few who survive the cull to do all the work the council didn't bother to do before. Oh: before procurement is handed over to an outsourced company, of course. Marvellous.

And we can only hope that the money saved will be used to create some new, much needed One Barnet friendly posts elsewhere, perhaps in the Insight team, or assistant to the head of Transparency? After all, this council may not be able to run anything with any efficiency, relentless or otherwise, but if they keep telling us often enough that they can, we might start to believe it, mightn't we?


Mr Mustard said...

When the Cabinet met in February 2011 to go through the budget for the stormy waters ahead there was only talk of Better Procurement, nothing about out-sourcing it.

Evidently since then they have bought a plank, or used a senior officer who I thought looked like one and certainly acts like one, or two short ones, and are inviting the ordinary ratings to walk the plank.

Maybe there will be a Mutiny on the OneBarnet and the Captain will be cast adrift in the lifeboat with no food or water and no huge going away cheque.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

There is a more serious consideration here. The council report states that fraud cannot be ruled out. Additionally, there are the public safety issues related to licensing and CRB checks to be considered. These matters are yet to be investigated, but by sacking staff, it will give the council the excuse it needs to accidentally lose vital evidence. “Sorry about that chaps, but all the relevant files were shredded when the officers dealing with the matter left.”

When will the Opposition wake up and do their job properly, instead of making opportunistic demands for an audit investigation which will be a waste of time and public money as it will not tell us anything we don’t already know?

Mrs Angry said...

DCMD: yes - all very interesting, the timing, isn't it?

I would also urge opposition councillors to pull their fecking fingers out and do something NOW about the unresolved issues. Whatever they might be doing behind the scenes it is necessary to be seen to be doing something publicly, and to make their position clear. Dismore is doing something at least, but the safeguarding, data protection and fraud issues must be addressed.