It has been argued by the Conservative Council that the ‘easyJet/Ryanair model’ outsourcing deal will save £111m over 10 years, and is the way to preserve services on a smaller budget. However, Labour councillors hit out about the lack of scrutiny of the bid, alleging that key documents and information about the bids had been withheld from councillors and the public, because they were said to be “commercially sensitive”. Lib Dem peer Lord Monroe Palmer of Barnet’s Audit Committee described One Barnet as a Ponzi scheme.
The ‘One Barnet‘ plan to commission government services from private companies – potentially including BT and Capita – will roll on after the London borough survived a no-confidence vote last night. (1)
For several years now, Barnet residents, bloggers and unions have been fighting the council’s plans to mass privatise council services (a plan called One Barnet). Already, they’ve won a fight to keep the council’s waste and recycling services in-house. (2)
The ‘One Barnet’ plan could see 90% of council staff transferred to the private sector, and carries a 25% risk of failure. Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS) coordinator Tirza Waisel says:
“Barnet Council has never asked residents whether they want up to 90% of services to be outsourced to private companies. If companies such as BT and Capita are allowed to bid for £750m of our money to run our services, why can’t residents put in a ‘bid’ too? Our bid proposes, instead of outsourcing, to keep services inhouse and to improve them in consultation with residents, service users and staff. We believe we can save money, keep control and have better services.” (3)
Big privatisation plans are causing council meltdowns in other parts of the country as well – in Cornwall, as the Guardian’s Patrick Butler reports here, the council leader was recently “acrimoniously ousted” over a £300m plan to part-privatise services including libraries, benefits and payroll to either BT or CSC, the US IT services giant. (2)
Barnet Joint Trade Unions Press Release: 28 Aug 2009:
Public services are accountable to the tax payer and those requiring public services. It is important that those providing services are providing quality and delivering efficiencies which are then reinvested back into frontline services such as schools and social care services…. We have previously been told that Future Shape is not a return to the 1980s (‘Life on Mars’) of CCT which saw the mass sell-off of council services, which subsequently failed to deliver quality or value for money and had to be brought back in-house, all at the expense of the local tax payers. The Trade Unions believe that directly employed staff are best able to provide high quality and accountable public services to residents. We would add that central government needs to allow councils greater financial freedoms to be able to deliver public services. (4)
Residents in Barnet have made this superb short animation to explain the risks associated with Barnet council’s plans to go ahead with a massive one-billion pound outsourcing deal.
Published on Nov 7, 2012 by Mediawaveradio
‘Barnet Council is gambling with our money and we need your help to fight back. Sign the petition now (Don’t worry you can still sign even if you are not a Barnet resident)’ http://barnetalliance.org/
The ‘One Barnet’ plan fundamentally undermines local democracy because these little scrutinised, long-term contracts will lock the council in for 10 or more years with the chosen private contractors, regardless of whichever political party holds control. Furthermore, the past record for such schemes show a high rate of failure, and lack of value for money as compared to in-house services. However, ‘One Barnet’ is unlikely to be the last of many Tory schemes which are inevitably predicated on ‘private is best’.
Nevertheless, the recent Cornwall experience demonstrates that it will not be plain sailing for the Tories. Bob Egerton, the independent councillor for Probus in Cornwall who proposed the motion of no confidence in the Cornish leadership, said the county’s outsourcing programme ceded too much control over key services to the private sector.
“It is handing over public services to a private company where decisions are not being made for the local council tax payer, but for the company,” he said. “Look at the rail franchises. People are beginning to wake up to the fact that the private sector doesn’t necessarily do things better than the public sector. It wasn’t the councils that caused the financial problems, it was the bankers, and it is the councils that are having to bail them out.” (5)
As False Economy ask ‘Could these be turning points for people who are fighting to keep publicly-provided council services?’