Thursday, 23 August 2012

Where is Boris Yeltsin when you need him? Or: Who's in charge at Barnet council?

In our bloggers' letter on Monday - by gum, a week is a long time in Barnet politics - we asked Richard Cornelius, the leader of Barnet Council, how come the council had shifted from a full outsourcing model for one of their big 'One Barnet' contracts - worth £275m - to a Joint Venture (JV).

This decision had been announced to the Barnet council workforce on the preceding Friday by Pam Wharfe, a senior council officer - a (well-)paid employee, not a democratically elected councillor.

Council leader Cornelius, apparently returning from holiday, emailed the bloggers back saying:
No decision has been made. No case for a jv has been made beyond the suggestion that there might be such a case. The decisions will be made by elected members in due course.
He said much the same thing to Reema Patel, a new blogger on the Barnet scene:
Contrary to reports this decision has not been taken. Jv remains an option, but no decision as yet. There will need to be a convincing argument for this route.
That to me sounds unenthusiastic about JV.

The reply to us could just be seen as emphasising the point that such decisions have to be approved by the democratic input of councillors (what, in Barnet?!).

But the second response sounds much more like the council leader himself and the senior officers (and a fellow Cabinet member, Daniel Thomas, to judge by his statement to the Barnet Press) are at odds over the future direction of the council and the fate of £1bn of taxpayers' money.

Remind me, who is running Barnet?

For my own reasons, I have been reading about the history of post-communist Russia.

This whole ludicrous scenario puts me in mind of the Communist reformer Gorbachev, holidaying in August 1991, suddenly being imprisoned in his dacha while hard-liners attempt a coup to stem the tide of history while he is away.

On this occasion, Gorbachev is rescued by Boris Yeltsin (probably drunk) bravely climbing on top of a tank before the White House to face down the hardliners.

Gorbachev returns to the capital Moscow and the reform progress continues. The rest, as they say, is history (and what a history).

I don't know where the bloggers fit into all of this, something about glasnost and a free press, I think.

To say nothing of citizen engagement.

I don't want to worry you further, but I should remind you that the hapless Russian people wind up with Putin at the end of all of this.

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