Monday, 17 November 2014

Winchester and Barnet - rotten to the core

The problem about democracy is that occasionally politicians find themselves accountable to their electorates.  For those of us who are connoisseurs of planning matters, two recent stories have caught my eye.  The eagle-eyed will note that these follow up authorities (and in one case a story) that has appeared in Private Eye.

This is an intriguing example of Tory doublespeak.  In this case, a Tory councillor is insisting that a development that has had all its compliance with the City Council's own development policies fished out in order to make a profit for the developers is thrown out - using the judicial review route available only to the rich or supremely confident.  So how does this undermine democracy?  If it undermines anything, it undermines the ability of Councillors and officers to get away with diluting their now policies.

The second story emerged from a London Borough whose Tories are so rotten that they would probably give themselves planning approval for a cesspit as it would represent a substantial upgrading on their current mire of incompetence, perceived sleaze and arrogance.

What this story does not mention is that the planning service in Barnet is outsourced through a front-veneer of respectability to the well-known outsourcers and moral guardians Capita.  Is there something so congenitally incompetent about local Tory ability to run contracts?  Any commercial business would have extracted indemnities against the errors and omissions made by an outsourced service, and if there was compensation payable for Capita's cock-ups then they should have deducted it from the amount that the taxpayer pays them.

In both cases, there are half-cocked Tories making half-cocked assertions - and further undermining both their own credibility, and, more critically, that of the planning process.  Whoever was responsible for drawing up the Barnet Capita contract deserves both public humiliation and to compensate, personally,  the innocent victims of maladministration.  In Winchester, the Tories ought to go back to consider who the City is run for - residents or developers.

In the meantime, is there a case for new twinning arrangements?  Or could both authorities be merged into Tower Hamlets?

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