Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Barnet council and MetPro: evidence of small victories

Just before Easter, a clutch of Barnet residents, including some of its bloggers, sent off a letter to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles.

We were renewing our call for an independent inquiry into Barnet council's dealings with the MetPro security firms. The reasons outlined, barring a few tweaks and embellishments, were those Rog T outlined in a recent blogpost.

It being Easter and likely a whole fortnight where things would move quite slowly, I expected that interest in MetPro would drop off slightly. However, that doesn't mean the issue has gone away.

Monroe Palmer, chair of the council's audit committee investigation of this issue, tells Roger the committee will meet in June. That's too late. He had hinted to Times series journalists that he would bring the investigation forward to April or May. That idea has been shelved, has it? It shouldn't be! We cannot wait till June!

The most alarming discovery of residents' and supporters' various investigations is that there are no records of any council contracts with MetPro: the council and the company merely had an "arrangement". The second most alarming discovery is that the council seems not to have monitored this "arrangement" once made. Since the council is hurtling into wholesale contracting out of services, any gaping holes in its competence in the matter of contracting need to be exposed as quickly as possible! Not in June!

I am waiting for a response from the Information Commissioner's Office about Barnet's handling of the data issue, when - only through the efforts of others - they found out that MetPro had been filming residents. I am also putting in an official complaint to the council on this matter.

With many of these measures, people tell me "don't hold your breath!", meaning nothing will happen quickly. And, even if it does, any remedy probably won't satisfy you. They could be right. The real value, however, is in propaganda. Going down the official routes yields fruit if accompanied by a publicity campaign.

That's what I and fellow bloggers and other residents intend to keep up.

To remind myself why I'm doing this, I visited the website of MetPro Emergency Response, the company that bought the assets and business of MetPro Rapid Response - you know, the company that went into voluntary liquidation on 14 March with debts of around £400,000, including £245,000 owed to HM Revenue and Customs ("the tax man").

I only had to visit the "Testimonials" page on MetPro's website to remember why it is all worth it. Whereas a few short weeks ago, Barnet council featured prominently as one of MetPro's most satisfied customers, today there is not a word about or from Barnet council. That is as it should be, but how was it possible? Only because of the campaign led by Barnet residents and bloggers. Only because we shone a light on MetPro and shamed the council into ending their relations with them. No one should ever forget that, least of all Monroe Palmer.

1 comment:

David Duff said...

Keep up the good work! Actually, within the confines of party politics I suspect that 'Fatty' Pickles, privately, will be delighted because he detests profligate councils whatever their 'colour'.