Last night Long serving Barnet Councillor and chair of Audit, Hugh Rayner, chaired his final meeting of the committee. As is the way when a councillor retires, Cllr Rayner said a few words about the committee and the insights he'd gained in his time as chair. Normally these speeches are an exercise in backslapping. Last nights meeting was perhaps the most explosive end of term meeting in the history of the council. As we reported earlier, the Deputy Chair of the Committee, Sury Khatri blasted his own (former) party and stated that residents were being fleeced. In all the excitement of this explosive revealation, many will have forgotten the fact that Councillor Rayner also blasted (albiet in a more calm and measured way) the workings of his own committee. Councillor Rayner claimed that the committee wasn't properly trained for the job, that the committee had skirted over issues. Watch this clip. Here is what Councillor Rayner said.
"The Audit Committee is an important committee. It is important that members get involved in the process and are able to ask the deep questions that are necessary. I sometimes get the impression that we skirt over a little bit, possibly by lack of knowledge, but good training will lead to better auditing"
In short, last night we saw the chair of the Audit committee saying that the committee members lacked proper training and had skirted over issues. When you then consider that his vice chair stated that residents are being fleeced by Capita and other contractors and that the leadership doesn't like difficult questions, there can be no doubt that the administration is out of its depth, badly run and not capable of making sure that anything is being done properly.
The complete mess that the council have made, with a top heavy structure of contractors monitoring contractors and no one being properly accountable was exposed by local blogger John Dix (AKA Mr Reasonable) who asked a question of the committee that reveals why it is almost impossible to get anything done properly in Barnet. Just watch this short clip. Near the end, Hugh Rayner asks whether the structure could be better. The non answer sums up just why we need a new broom.
The Barnet Liberal Democrats are of the view that John Dix should be co-opted onto the Audit committee as an independent peoples representative to ask these robust and difficult questions. He is constantly denied access to documents and fobbed off, yet he asks harder and more searching questions than the rest of the committee. He is just the sort of independent minded person we need to get the council back on track
Whilst we applaud Hugh Rayner for calling out these issues yesterday, it seems that independent minded Conservative councillors are no longer welcome. As Sury Khatri said "As Cllr Dan Thomas (Deputy Leader of the Barnet Conservatives) lays the ground for his right wing and hard Brexit based leadership coup, he only wants yes men in the Conservative group"
Liberal Democrat Candidate for Mill Hill Roger Tichborne was the first blogger to film a meeting in the council chamber, before it was officially allowed. Roger said "Rather amusingly, it was Hugh Rayner who I chose to film. Hugh was not best pleased at the time, but we won the day and I think it is quite appropriate that I was there to film what is perhaps the finest moment from Hugh in the Council Chamber. As a candidate for the Lib Dems in Mill Hill in the elections in May, I absolutely guarantee that I will ensure that Hugh's suggestions are taken up. Like Hugh, the Liberal Democrats believe good scrutiny is the key to success. I will make this vow to every Mill Hill resident. If the Liberal Democrats get in, we will not wait until our final council meetings to make important points that are vital to ensure value for money for residents. We will ask these questions from day one."