Monday, 29 April 2013

Barnet Council breaks the law on consultation

Mr Justice Underhill (not sure whether that's the right address but I'm sure I can be forgiven) ruled today that Maria Nash's application for Judicial Review of Barnet Council's One Barnet outsourcing programme was made too late and could not therefore be allowed.

For anyone following the case this is not entirely a surprise. Nor should anyone be surprised that we campaigners against One Barnet are not downcast by the decision. For it is clear that Barnet Council have only won - for now, an appeal is still possible - on a technicality.

In court they argued that:
1) the challenge should have been brought earlier
2) they did not, in any case, need to consult.

Well, the Judge has disagreed with them over (2). The Judgment says:
...the Council never set out to consult about its outsourcing programme at all.
...if the application for judicial review had been made in time I would have held that the Council had not complied with its obligations under section 3 (2) of the 1999 Act in respect of the decisions taken in 2010/11 to outsource the performance of its functions and services, covered by the proposed NSCSO and DRS contracts.
He is saying that the Council should have consulted and failed to.

Barnet Council will naturally spin this to their own ends; it's our job to spin it to ours! I don't think our task is hard. We have always tried to run a political campaign against One Barnet - informing residents what is planned when the council wouldn't, questioning the Council, challenging them - the substance of meaningful rather than tick-box consultation in fact. That will not change now.

In fact, I would think that the campaign will hot up. One Barnet's effects are beginning to be seen: ludicrous consultancy spend, no savings as yet, jobs exported out of the borough, and worse services.

That is only going to escalate, and Barnet's ruling Tories are only going to find themselves paying a heavier and heavier political price for the decisions they have taken - without consulting residents!

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