Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Nick Walkley's Illy habit

I'm so irritated by the facts revealed in Mrs Angry's latest blogpost concerning the MetPro scandal that I thought I'd at last dish the little dirt I have on Barnet council's chief executive Nick Walkley (because I hold him ultimately responsible for Barnet's handling of the MetPro fiasco).

Walkley earns more than £200,000 a year, paid by you and me. That's annoying, but that's not the dirt. We all knew that.

I've never said anything personally nasty about him before but I think it's now time to share something I've found out about him. It might seem a trivial thing, but I found it quite telling.

Once, as the guest of Maggi Myland, I was standing in the queue for the lunch counter at the Barnet council offices in North London Business Park. Who should join the back of the queue at that moment but Nick Walkley. A bit awkward. We all said "hello", as warmly as we could - we're fellow humans, after all, even if not much else unites us.

Maggi engaged Walkley in a conversation about the fate of people working for Connaught, which had just gone bust. That will be the subject of my next blogpost, and relates directly to the MetPro scandal. But let's get back to the lunch queue...

I couldn't find much to talk to Walkley about except what we might eat. Walkley said it was all very good. The catering operation at NLBP is run at cost, and it's great value.

"And you must try the coffee," Walkley said. "It's Illy, I insisted on that."

Now, I find that a bit rich. A man bent on admitting private companies to run our public services for profit. Yet who will use his position to insist that his own "at cost" lunch is washed down with his favourite coffee.

Of course, the argument will go that the private sector can run services cheaper than the public sector can. One, I don't buy that - the Barnet Future Shape programme only continues to rack up costs; two, when it does, it almost always does that by lowering standards - of employment for the workers, and, often, of the customer experience.

If they ever privatise the lunch counter at NLBP I'll bet you it won't be half as good. Or it will become more expensive to the diner. Walkley will have to pay a premium for his wretched Illy coffee. It would serve him right.

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