This article has been updated. See below.
The Council has just published a report authorising the urgent purchase of three modular buildings (that’s Portakabins to you and me) to provide additional spaces at three Barnet schools. This is due to the demand for school places exceeding supply.
The total cost is £183,705 - £61,235 per school.
The council is using urgency powers to purchase these structures because they have to be installed by September. However, as any fule no, parents applied for school places last February.
So the council has known for nearly 5 months that there was a capacity problem, but did absolutely nothing about it. Instead of organising a formal tender process to ensure that the council obtained a competitive price - and hence best value for taxpayers - they have left everything to the last minute and we are now forced into buying units costing more than £41,000 each, with another £20,000 per school for electrical works.
In the current economic climate, with contractors fighting over each other for business, there are countless suppliers who would have been able to tender for the contract to provide these glorified huts at a much lower cost. But, as usual, the council doesn’t care because we’re the ones who pick up the bill.
Needless to say, none of this elementary cock-up could possibly be the fault of any of our councillors, so perhaps the Director of Children’s Services, Mr Robert McCulloch-Graham (pictured right), could do the honourable thing and resign?
UPDATE: A reader of Not The Barnet Times has e-mailed Don’t Call Me Dave to say that he is a governor at a school in another London Borough. They had the same problem of over subscription that required the purchase of a Portakabin, but because they planned ahead, they were able to conduct a proper tender exercise with several contractors bidding. The cost of the electric works was £15,000 - £5,000 cheaper than Barnet is paying. Multiply by three and Barnet could have saved £15,000 of taxpayers’ money without even breaking into a sweat.
It might not be a huge amount in terms of the council's overall budget, but as the saying goes, every little helps!