Barnet social services chief says Catalyst arbitration result was ‘best value’
THE councillor in charge of adult social services in Barnet has defended the £10m cost of an arbitration case with a care provider.
Barnet Council is expected to pay more than £8m to Catalyst for improvement works and new care homes they built under a contract drawn up under the previous Lib Dem-Labour council administration.
The cost of legal fees for arbitration has topped £2m, meaning £10m is coming out of this year’s reserves to settle the four-year-long dispute.
But Councillor Sachin Rajput said the current administration has got “best value for money” from the arbitration process.
He told the times Series: “I think it’s an appalling situation the previous administration has left us with. “Given the original claim was somewhat frivolous. In the region of £16m, I think we have got best value for money for Barnet residents. We fought very very hard to make sure we minimised the cost.”
He also criticised the old administration for not taking the “changing needs” of the borough into consideration when drawing up the contract in 2001.
He added: “I think Labour and the Lib Dems may have looked at the current situation then, but completely failed to take into account future changes. That’s what’s caused the mess we’re in now.
“We will now need to look at the contract again as neither ourselves or Catalyst will get anything from it in the current format.”
Current Labour leader Councillor Alison Moore admitted the administration had failed when drawing up the contract, but warned the One Barnet project, with the council looking to outsource more departments, could have similar consequences.
She said: “Companies like these employ consultants to squeeze every last penny from these contracts.
“Private companies do not do it for the good of their souls, they will get the last drop out of their contracts.
“The current administration is now going into contracts for all sorts of services, and procurement is not something they have a good record of.”
But Cllr Rajput denied One Barnet, also known as easyCouncil, would fall into the same trap.
He said: “Being realistic what we need to ensure is when we’re drafting contracts we need to take into account the needs of the borough now, but also in the future.
“What we have done for every contract is make sure we look at the demographics to ensure they are sustainable.”