Barnet Council leader admits One Barnet blunders are ‘inevitable’

Leader of the Council Richard Cornelius describes his council as "tax cutters not tax increasers". P

Leader of the Council Richard Cornelius describes his council as "tax cutters not tax increasers". Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

The leader of Barnet Council has admitted that problems arising from the controversial One Barnet outsourcing programme are “inevitable”.

Cllr Richard Cornelius, leader of the Conservative administration that signed the council up to a 10-year contract with outsourcing giant Capita, made the comments in an interview with the Ham&High.

Responding to warnings made about “repeated mistakes” Capita has been blamed for in similar outsourcing contracts with other public bodies, Cllr Cornelius admitted problems are bound to happen.

He said: “It is impossible to imagine that there won’t be mistakes and blunders will happen.

“However, these happen in all fields and it’s a question of how they are rectified quickly.

“Capita have signed on the dotted line to do just that and we believe we’ve made the right level of risk assessment.”

His comments came as the first potential difficulties from the project arose just weeks into the start of the £320million contract.

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Lawyers on behalf of bailiffs providing services to the council since 2005 say they are considering seeking a court order against the council for a potential breach of contract arising from the new deal with Capita.

Opposition councillors are worried such early teething problems could be a sign of things to come.

Leader of the Labour opposition, Cllr Alison Moore, said: “The challenge is that we have no proof that Capita will be able to deliver on the contract they’ve signed.”

Barnet Council published its contract with Capita in full last week – a rarity for dealings with private companies - but several councillors have since admitted to not even reading the whole contract.

Theresa Musgrove, a Barnet blogger who uses the name “Mrs Angry” and has helped expose problems resulting from the council’s outsourcing contracts in the past, said: “The contract wasn’t properly scrutinised and it’s clear it hasn’t been given the time it deserves.

“More worryingly, I know that individuals from other authorities who’ve dealt with Capita have made contact to warn over how careful the wording of the contracts needs to be.

“It’s concerning that our councillors haven’t spent the time to read carefully the huge contract they’ve just signed.”

Cllr Cornelius promises the One Barnet project will save the council £165million over the next 10 years.

Capita said it is confident it is well equipped to deal with any difficulties that may arise.

A spokesman said: “Challenges are likely to arise and Capita will work collaboratively with the council and community to overcome them.”