Barnet Attracts Attention

Let’s hope they’re listening this morning. They’ve ignored previous warnings that they have no authority to ban local bloggers from reporting or filming Council meetings – it’s perfectly legal and doesn’t warrant police or security interference. Eric Pickles has now delivered a broadside about their procurement policies and he’s touched on MetPro in the process:

I was shocked by a recent case in Barnet. The council had hired a private security firm, MetPro, which included “keeping an eye” on local bloggers – at a cost of over a million pounds. The contract had been awarded without a tendering exercise, without a written contract, and no proper invoicing. An internal audit showed there “serious deficiencies in current procurement arrangements”, and there were no guarantees against a repeat of such practices.

Irony of ironies – this misuse of public money was uncovered thanks to the determination of local bloggers and activists, including Barnet Eye, Mr Mustard, and Mrs Angry (as she had every right to be.) Exactly the same people MetPro snooped upon.

I’ve got news for Barnet. Liveblogging from council meetings. Microjournalism. Call it what you like. It’s here to stay. In fact this citizen samizdat – local people reporting on their local council’s triumphs and shortcomings – is the perfect counterblast to town hall Pravdas.

I’d like to see this go further. MetPro went into liquidation but re-formed and were re-hired by Barnet as Security at council meetings. I see no need for any council to employ heavies at public expense to keep the public from attending meetings. It’s certainly double standards and wrong for Barnet to prevent photography by local residents (bloggers or not) when it employs a firm with a remit to secretly film those residents.

Nice quasi-military logo MetPro have.

Barnet Council


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