Friday, 15 April 2011

Open letter to Councillor Lord Monroe Palmer re MetPro audit

Councillor Lord Monroe Palmer (phew, what a mouthful! I notice that the Times series can got the honorific right but mis-spelled his name - excellent! I might follow that approach...) has moved to reassure the public of Barnet that his audit into Barnet's relationship with the MetPro security companies
"will be done under the full glare of anyone who wants to watch.”

Cllr Lord Palmer, appointed to the House of Lords in January, denied there would be a cover up by council officers looking to protect colleagues.

He said: “At the end of it all somebody’s going to have to say who did this and who made the contract.

“I’ve asked the chief executive whether I’ve got his support for this being done and he’s in favour of that. We’ve got carte blanche to say who or what’s responsible.”
Dear Councillor Lord Monroe Palmer, I have a number of matters for your consideration. Presumably the audit is being undertaken to reassure the public about the nature of the relationship between Barnet council and the MetPro security companies. In that case, it is imperative that you:

hold the audit sooner than June! If that can't be done, any "special meeting[s] to discuss the issue" held earlier should also be in public and widely advertised.

You should tell the public well in advance what is the scope of the audit and invite suggestions on how it might be widened. Leave no stone unturned!

If you do not tackle some aspect that has alarmed residents, eg, who was in charge on the night of the council meeting of 1 March - police, MetPro, council officers, councillors? - we will not be reassured.

And say whether you will be prepared to put this affair in the context of wider politics, namely, admit if it calls into question Barnet's ability - as I'm sure it will - to monitor private contracts properly. This is alarming with the looming prospect of mass outsourcing.

Appoint some truly independent "judges" onto your panel. Having seen Conservative councillors "in action" (to be accurate, that should read "Conservative councillors' inaction") on scrutiny committees in the council, I have no faith that the three Conservative members on the panel can be truly objective. They will be under enormous political pressure to investigate as little as possible, and to spare the administration's blushes.

I have to believe that you - a lord! - can rise above party coalition considerations and be objective. Or I wouldn't bother writing to you. Still, that's three against three at the end of the day, if it comes to any vote that might censure the current administration. The audit bears the risk of being considered, at least to some extent, a whitewash.

You know what would also be nice and honest: some acknowledgement from you, your audit committee, the administration and chief executive Nick Walkley that it was independent public scrutiny by the residents of Barnet, chiefly its often reviled bloggers, that brought any of this to light in the first place. The first lesson that Barnet council needs to learn is to let residents into more of the council processes, not seek to shut them out [see the Broken Barnet blog for Barnet Tories' indefensible attacks on council democracy].

In the absence of all of this, I and I'm sure other residents will continue to call for an independent public inquiry into the MetPro affair.

Best wishes, Vicki Morris


baarnett said...

Good news!

I feel comforted that the liquidator of "Metpro Rapid Response" acted entirely in the best interests of the creditors of the company, which (I understand) includes HM Revenue and Customs.

The liquidator thankfully managed to sell some or all of the assets of the company to, let's see, oh by co-incidence, another company with a similar name.

That must mean the sale of those assets were maximised in value, in terms of price offered and accepted. The second company could not possibly have realized, when it was set up in January 2011, what the cut and thrust of business opportunity would offer, so soon in its existence.

Hip, Hip, Harrah!

Citizen Barnet said...

It's a very good point that you make, Baarnett. No one comes out of this looking good - except, well, us.