Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Torrid Tuesday in Barnet (and elsewhere) - Cornwall Conservatives, Barnet Conservatives, and Brian Coleman

Against a backdrop of rumours about necrophilia and Tory paedophile rings (I DID say rumours), Tuesday was possibly even more tumultuous than Manic Monday. I'm only glad I'm out tomorrow being exploited all day - it'll take my mind off things.

In Cornwall, the council voted by 93 votes with 7 abstentions to suspend their move to a Joint Venture outsourcing programme. The bidder, BT, says they'll hang around till spring to see whether the council changes its mind back again. This is a Conservative administration that has decided it must look at an in-house bid before contracting out its back office functions.

In short, great news!

At last night's afterfilm BAPS committee meeting (it's true, we never rest!) we heard a rumour (there we go again!) that the chair of Barnet Council's Budget and Performance Overview and Scrutiny Committee (BPOSC), one Brian Coleman, had consented to BAPS making a presentation about One Barnet at the next meeting.

I emailed the Barnet Council staff member dealing with this committee about it. I got an email back saying the Chair had consented to no such thing.

Oh, well, that was just a rumour, I thought. But I chuckled at the idea that it might have put Brian Coleman's nose out of joint!

Minutes later my phone rang.

'Hello, Vicki Morris?'

'Yes,' I said. That voice is familiar.

'It's Brian Coleman,' the voice said. My immediate thought was, oh, shit, he's rung me up to tell me to stop harassing him (he has form for this sort of thing).

He hadn't. In fact, we had a polite enough and business-like conversation about a misunderstanding. The agenda at this Thursday's BPOSC will not cover One Barnet so BAPS should not come and present at it. However, we can come and present at the special meeting on 29 November, which will be given over to discussing the £750 million NSCSO contract.

At one point during this conversation Coleman said 'trade unions, Barnet Alliance, and other sensible people' could come and speak.

He can't be feeling himself. Mentioning trade unions, Barnet Alliance and sensible people all in the same breath?!

I couldn't get much of a word in edgeways during this conversation, but even if I had been able to I think it was right to play it straight.

As it happens, we might not get to make our presentation after all because Coleman - quite rightly - won't be the BPOSC chair much longer; he looks like he is going to be suspended from Barnet's Tory group - as he should be. The bloke's been charged with 'assault by beating' and a driving offence!

Barnet Council leader Richard Cornelius has evidently been leant on by fellow Tories in Barnet - who aren't all as stupid as they look (if you want to know just how stupid they can look, there is a great passage in Charles Honderick and Roger Tichborne's 'Barnet - The Billion Pound Gamble' film showing Barnet Tory councillors guffawing hammily at the public gallery - that's right, at residents - during a Council meeting). Cornelius has announced this evening that he has begun the process of suspending Coleman from the Tory group.

Or by Conservative Central Office (who aren't stupid at all, just bloody dangerous). Or, probably, both.

What else exercised me today? Oh, a stack of personal chores; I didn't even have time to listen to tonight's Radio 4 'File on Four' programme, 'Public, Private and Profitable'. The introductory blurb says:
Public, Private and Profitable  
The midnight collapse of the Government's plans for the West Coast main railway line once again raises questions about the outsourcing of public services to private providers.

Public bodies of all kinds now face massive budget cuts and are under pressure to deliver savings. As a result, across the country, public services of all kinds are now up for tender in the hope they can be delivered more cheaply by the private sector.

With relatively straightforward things such as refuse collection, there's general agreement that experience to date shows outsourcing can work, and can save the taxpayer money.

But with complex services in education, health or transport, the picture is far less clear.

Michael Robinson investigates the outsourcing of these complex public services and uncovers another, as yet unreported, example of huge profits being earned by major private companies at taxpayers' expense.
The programme will be broadcast again on Sunday afternoon, I think.

I wonder if we here in Barnet would learn anything new? Still it's good to know that the rest of the world out there is finally catching on.

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