Information about my work as a Labour Councillor for East Finchley in the London Borough of Barnet

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Budget and Performance

We had yet another Budget and Performance meeting tonight. Here is a brief update.

First we started by looking at the Q3 Performance reports. There were a variety of questions relating to One Barnet figures, the at risk savings and agency and consultant costs. These sessions are rarely productive, especially as the figures are out of date, but it's worth catching up with the figures. I was glad to hear that the system for administering the new Council Tax support scheme (replacing Council Tax Benefit) will be running from our current Revs and Bens department. It had been due to be set up and handed over to Crapita on April Fools day, and the delay in the NSCSO due to the judicial review may have threatened the administration of the service.

Cllr Alan Schneiderman called a vote on whether to scrap One Barnet and consider an in house option. Needless to say it didn't have the required votes. Alan also noted that the Council had managed an overspend in Environment because of a reduced problem of wasps. I noted that Barnet was losing the wasps as well as the Bees!

We scrutinised the adoption service, which is doing well under difficult circumstances. Their figures are shown to be worse than they are because of some tough cases. It was good to see an officer who knew her brief well, and was clearly very passionate about her work.

We had the One Barnet Highlights report. More of a lowlight really, we are dealing with the smaller "wave 1" and "wave 2" projects now. The whole project is in limbo, and there is no plan B. They are simply unprepared if a judge agrees with the residents of the Borough, and rejects the contracts. I moved a motion asking Cabinet to delay the One Barnet contracts until a proper in house bid could be assessed, but that failed. It's rather difficult to scrutinize a project as uncertain of its future as One Barnet is. They keep insisting the JR will be unsuccessful, but are clearly extremely worried about it.

We also had an interesting report on CCTV cameras. There is be a much needed investment, they will look at where they are sited, which is important to me, as I feel they need to locate one in Strawberry Vale to combat the anti-social behaviour that goes on there sometimes. I also asked if they planned to have recording devices to catch noise disturbances, or as Cllr Barry Rawlings pointed out, Race hate crimes as well. Cllr David Longstaff said thismight be considered a bit big brotherish, which I agreed with. I am glad to hear they are replacing the cameras and putting in new modern monitors in the control centre, which are desperately needed. The service has been badly neglected in the 11 years of Tory administration, and they haven't invested enough to keep it at its best. Must add some good questions from Cllr Reuben Thompstone, who clearly knew his stuff on the technological side!

The chair, Cllr Anthony Finn made the point of what you do when you record someone hitting someone in the street on the CCTV, to which Barry, quick as a flash, said "you let them sit in your group room allegedly!" which had everyone in stitches.

I'm glad to see the Tories are reading my blog, because after the meeting closed Cllr Finn made an aside of how well he had chaired the meeting, presumably in response to my criticisms last time. I'm glad he has taken them on board, he was much fairer today. There will always be lots of banter, but I thought the meeting was in good spirit tonight, and because of it Councillors from both party were backing each other up and following up on each other. Even when there is banter, it's what you get out of the sessions that's important. The adoption and CCTV sessions I thought were particularly fruitful.