Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Piece at last! Hendon Times Future Shape report sees light of day

It looks as though the hapless journalist at the Hendon Times has finally written an article about the Future Shape scrutiny committee that Barnet council leader Mike Freer can live with. The third draft, the article reprinted below has lasted on the Hendon Times website for a full 24 hours, after two earlier articles were pulled because they did not present 'the facts' in a way acceptable to Freer.
Council chiefs questioned on "easyCouncil" Future Shape plans
4:59pm Tuesday 24th November 2009
By Sarah Cosgrove
COUNCIL chiefs have been questioned on their Future Shape plans at a public meeting.
The council's Business Management Overview and Scrutiny Sub-committee at Hendon Town Hall in the Burroughs on November 16 called in the decision to go ahead with the mass reorganisation of council structure, asking for clarity on several issues.
These included a list of what the council would consider core services, what the council would provide as a basic package for all residents and how it intended to create a joint public sector with non council public services such as health.
In response Cllr Freer repeated explanations he has given before and referred councillors back to the Future Shape report.
In formal written responses Cllr Freer said it was not possible to provide definite answers to many of the questions at this stage.
On core services he said: “Without detailed conversation with the private and third sectors, any assumptions about what they are willing to provide are yet to be tested.”
He added that Future Shape wanted to draw a line under the old debate of statutory and non-statutory services and create a new model.
“What's core and non core will change over time.”
But leader of the Labour group, Cllr Alison Moore was not satisfied.
“How are you going to what you're having as a discretionary service is if you have no idea what your basic service is? She asked.
Cllr Freer said talking about a “basic offer” for all residents was “misleading” and the question assumed a reduction in services.
“The services that people get are related to their needs and capabilities,” he said, adding that the authority would seek to provide the same services just in a different way.
Cllr Freer gave the example of a community given a budget and a list of options and deciding how much they would want to spend on services like street cleaning and lighting.
But Cllr Moore questioned the “level of complexity” in the idea.
Cllr Freer spoke about “locking priorities” for a few years at a time and moving from contracts of a few years to “lifetime based” ones where there would be more flexibility without changing the provider.
“Nobody has said this is going to be easy, it's a work in progress, some of it will never see the light of day,” he said.
After calling a decision already made by the cabinet the scrutiny committee can vote to send it back to the cabinet to be reconsidered.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Moore said it would have been an academic exercise to put the motion forward as Tory members of the committee would have voted it down.
Conservative committee members had no questions about Future Shape.

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