Following an impromptu public meeting in Chipping Barnet library during councillors’ ward surgeries on 15 September, in which a lively discussion was followed by what seemed like a potential opening for a genuine dialogue between councillors and residents, we are still waiting for a reply from Cllr Cornelius about a joint public meeting to be organised by BAPS and the council. Alternatively, BAPS will be happy to host such a meeting if Cllr Cornelius and other Cabinet members and councillors will accept our invitation to take part in it.

Here are the two emails sent as a follow up to the 15 September meeting:

17 September 2012

Dear Cllr Cornelius, Cllr Longstaff, Cllr Turner and Cllr Strongolou,

First, I’d like to reiterate what Mr Bishop said at the meeting and to thank you all for staying for another hour and a half after your surgery time to discuss the One Barnet Programme with us, residents. We didn’t anticipate this spontaneous ‘public meeting’, which came about when local residents who received our information leaflets and heard about the OBP from our activists around the street stall, chose to take the opportunity of the drop-in councillors’ surgery and come in there and then to talk with their local representatives about it.

I think the lively atmosphere in the first part of the meeting reflected well the fact that residents are feeling very strongly about this crucial matter and have many questions and concerns to bring up, but they simply don’t have opportunities to discuss it. It seemed to us that everyone present appreciated this opportunity, and felt that further discussion between residents and councillors is needed, and more detailed information should be made available to the public, of the various considerations and comparisons on which the decision to embark on the One Barnet programme was based.
 
As suggested in the meeting, both before you came in, Mr Cornelius, and then again directly with you, BAPS will be very happy to organise such a public meeting of residents and councillors, in these wards (High Barnet & Underhill) and in other wards. I dare say that we may consider organising such meetings jointly with the council. These may provide an invaluable opportunity for you to present to residents the alternatives that were considered along the path leading to the decision on OBP, and for residents to hear the reasoning and analyses directly from you as well as from the critics of the programme.

On behalf of BAPS, I am looking forward to working with you on organising such a meeting in the near future.

Secondly, I would like to remind you, Cllr Cornelus, as you requested I shall do, to check whether a Public Sector Comparator was done, in which case I would like to ask you to forward to me the relevant report.

Thirdly, I would like to remind to Cllr Longstaff my request that as a Cabinet member he will instruct the CEO Mr Walkley to open the ‘data room’ to our representatives, so that the data necessary in order to work out an alternative to OBP, may be obtained.
You have rightly pointed out that we should provide an alternative to the one we criticise, and as you may know we have been trying to do just that and we are willing to rise up to this challenge if we are given the tools to do so, assuming your suggestion was made in good faith. To my request you replied that you will try to facilitate it. We are looking forward to receiving this access, without which it is impossible to offer an alternative for our borough.

We are looking forward to hearing from you,

Sincerely,
Tirza Waisel, coordinator
Barnet Alliance for Public Services

PS. This email is being also sent to all those present in the meeting whose emails I have (which is by no means all the attendees, as many of the residents joined us spontaneously and we don’t have their contact details), and to the active members of BAPS.

***

24 September 2012

Dear Cllr Cornelius,

I still didn’t receive a reply from you to my email sent last week, 17 September. I copy it again below. The only one replying to my email was Cllr Logstaff, in an email 18/9.

Mr Longstaff suggests that I will write to the CEO Mr Nick Walkley for an explanation of why we cannot get access to the information necessary for developing an alternative to One Barnet Programme. We have no wish to communicate with Mr Walkley, YOU are our elected representatives, YOU are the policy makers and it is in YOUR hands to decide to allow collaboration with residents and council staff through their trade union, in order to get to the best result for our future.

We have among us the skills and knowledge needed to work out an alternative to One Barnet and we are confident that we can do it, given the access to information and the time, that needs to be the same amount of time that was given to the current bidders.

It is not too late for such a process to be followed, as we learn from the experience of other places in the country. This will provide for you the best way forward, as it will demonstrate to the electorate that you care about us and serve our best interests and no other. It is in your hands to halt the current process for a while, until Our Barnet alternative is ready, so that you can make an informed decision on the best value of providing services in Barnet during the next 10-15 years. Please make this decision and instruct Mr Walkley to allow this process to begin immediately. This will be a step towards getting the Public Sector Comparator which is considered by the LGA the best practice for outsourcing that all local authorities are expected to follow, but Barnet failed to do so far.

In a previous email (9/9/12) you wrote to me indicating that you have met APSE (‘I do not think anything would be gained from a further meeting with them’).

I have to admit that this took me by surprise and I think it is only fair to ask you to tell us, the public, when did this meeting take place, what exactly was discussed in it, what was said and by whom and what was the outcome of it.

I would also like to follow up with you the idea of organising a public meeting of residents with you and with critics of One Barnet, to give you an opportunity to explain to residents your considerations, to hear first hand from residents their grave concerns about One Barnet, and to find together a way forward that will benefit the borough and its residents and workers, and allow for the necessary savings to be made.

We are genuine in our willingness to organise such a public meeting with you, or indeed to work collaboratively with you to get the best deal for Barnet. I hope you are too.
We are looking forward to your reply,

Sincerely,

Tirza Waisel,

BAPS

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