I will treat this like a business, says Barnet’s new leader

13:00 26 June 2011

Richard Cornelius new leader of Barnet Council

Richard Cornelius new leader of Barnet Council

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

»The new leader of Barnet Council has vowed to use his business acumen to drive “even better value” out of the Town Hall and make it more responsive to the needs of residents.

Richard Cornelius, 55, is the Conservative councillor for Totteridge ward and was elected leader last Wednesday. He pipped acting leader Andrew Harper and councillor Mark Shooter to the post.

Cllr Cornelius is the third generation to work for his family business and has promised to use his experience of managing it to lead an efficient Town Hall.

“I’m a small businessman who’s got this job and I aim to treat it like a business,” he said.

The key to this, he explained, was to understand the council’s accounts.

“The money is the key to any organisation. You follow the money through and watch where it leaks away and then stop that.”

Councillor Cornelius has lived in Totteridge all his life, apart from two years when he and his wife Alison bought a flat in Hampstead while in their twenties – for just £15,000.

She is also a Tory councillor for Totteridge along with their pugnacious ward colleague, Brian Coleman.

Councillor Cornelius attended Highgate School and left when he was 18 to work in the family business.

As a 16-year-old school boy he heard Margaret Thatcher speak while she was the MP for Finchley and, as education secretary, embroiled in the row about stopping free school milk.

Cllr Cornelius said: “I never liked the school milk. It was always stored in the sun and was vile.

“I think she (Margaret Thatcher) was great for British politics. She thought outside the box and she questioned things that had gone on for a very long time.

“She meant what she said. She’s an example to all of us – if she said something, she did it.”

He said that he planned to continue in the direction that the council was going under Lynne Hillan, before she stepped down due to ill health.

“I want to look at everything we are doing and see if there are any tweaks we can make,” councillor Cornelius said.

He said that the decision to change the computer system to allocate housing in the borough had been successful and had made the whole process much fairer.

But the process of procuring contracts could be improved, especially in light of the MetPro case, he said.

The security company was paid £1.4m by Barnet over six years but it did not have a formal contract or the correct licence to operate and was found to have filmed residents at public meetings.

Cllr Cornelius said: “The way the contract was awarded, there isn’t the evidence that it was handled properly and there should have been. The paper trail has broken down along the line. That needs to be looked at very carefully to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

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